Posts Tagged ‘left handed’

Jerry Seinfeld

April 30, 2014

Tuesday April 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Yesterday I mentioned that it was Jay Leno’s birthday and how he was the king of the comedy club boom of the ‘80s – and he was. Today it’s the birthday of the prince – Jerry Seinfeld. Those two ruled the roost in the glory years, and everybody else was choking on their exhaust fumes.

I find it beyond remarkable the two of them were born only a day apart. I don’t know if there’s anything to astrology or not, but this makes me take notice just as the fact that Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh share the same birthday January 12th. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it sure is odd.

Just because Jay was looked upon as the king of that era, there was no shame whatsoever in all Jerry was doing. He was working most if not all the same top level venues Jay was, and raking in hefty coin himself. I never saw any check stubs, but neither was sleeping in his car. They did ok.

Again, just like with Jay I was informed of Jerry’s greatness through my association with Rick Uchwat who owned Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago. Rick was a father figure to comedians of all eras, and Jay and Jerry were like his oldest sons. Both have spoken highly of Rick just as I do, and Rick gushed in return when it came to both of them. Jerry wasn’t that far behind Jay’s status.

Like Jay, Jerry was a meticulous trooper who was relentless about working constantly. The two saw comedy as a business a lot sooner than most of us do, and kudos to them for doing it. If there was one thing that wasn’t a joke to either it was standup comedy. They had the correct mindset.

Just like I think Jay gets unfairly sniped from people that only judge him by the Tonight Show, Jerry gets lumped in with the countless sea of bad comedians that copied his style. I know quite a few people that don’t care for Jerry’s standup, and I always tell them that they should look again.

It’s fine not to care for someone’s individual style, I’m like that too. There are some comedians I don’t enjoy at all, even though they’re huge names. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean I don’t look at what they do and study it. Just because I don’t like a certain act doesn’t mean I don’t respect it.

I happen to really like and respect Jerry Seinfeld’s act, and in fact I use one of his routines as a classic example of a quality comedy bit for my classes. Even those that didn’t like him before are usually converted when I break down what he did and how he did it. The man is an all time great and even if he didn’t have his monster sitcom he’d still have lots to be proud of. He’s a megastar.

And like Jay and me – he is also left handed. I don’t have anything in common with those two financially, but as far as creativity goes I have to believe we are cut from the same cloth. Lefties are wired to have careers based on creativity. It doesn’t mean righties can’t have success too, but they’re the exception. We’re the rule. It makes perfect sense that both of these guys are lefties.

I have been fortunate to have a chance to meet and open for both Jay and Jerry and it was a real treat. Neither would remember me now, but I sure remember them. I learned from watching them both, and I give them the big props they deserve. From a performer’s viewpoint, they are royalty.

Never mind his enormously successful sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld is one of the all time greats of standup comedy. Period.

Never mind his enormously successful sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld is one of the all time greats of standup comedy. Period. That’s no small feat.

Tortured Souls

April 9, 2014

Monday April 7th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still feeling sad about John Pinette’s sudden passing. I wish I could say I was surprised, but unfortunately the only surprise was that he lived as long as he did. The man did have his demons, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he was one of the kindest souls I ever remember meeting.

Tim Wilson passed earlier this year, and there was another gentle soul that was a pleasure to be around. I can’t speak for Tim’s personal life, as I didn’t really know him on that level. Most of us as humans have our struggles, but entertainers – comedians especially – are often tortured souls.

Actors and musicians can fall into that category too I suppose. James Dean or Marilyn Monroe would qualify in acting, as would Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain in music. Sometimes their legend grows a lot larger and faster than they do personally, and it leaves them behind as human beings.

Artists, performers and creative types in general are often loaded with quirks, tweaks and deep seeded issues and are an extremely sensitive lot. I know I am, and have never denied it. Life isn’t easy as a rule, but it seems that the more gifted a creative person is the more problems they have.

I can remember being called a genius by some of my teachers in grade school. I’m not trying to brag or flatter myself – I’m just reporting a fact. I had a twelfth grade reading level by about third grade, and I remember my teacher Mrs. Matthews calling my grandparents to tell them I was one of the most creatively gifted students she’d ever taught – and she’d been teaching for fifty years.

At the time I had no idea what any of that meant. It felt like I was getting singled out, and I was uncomfortable about it if anything. I remember my father hearing about it, and he started calling me “The GENIUS” in such a sarcastic way that I learned to hate the word. It’s still embarrassing.

I think creative types often get squelched early, or at least they’re not encouraged to get inside their own head and see what’s under the hood. My grandmother never wanted to see me pursue any kind of creative endeavor. She wanted me to be a clerk typist like my uncle. How torturous that would have been, and had I been forced to do that I would have eaten a bullet lunch by now.

Unfortunately, creative types are human beings as well, and human beings as a rule want to be “normal” – whatever that may be. We just want to fit in, and be part of a family. I know that’s all I ever wanted, but I never had it as a kid. That caused me to stifle a lot of my creativity at certain times, but it runs so deeply that I couldn’t do it very long. It’s just who I am and I can’t help it.

John Pinette was that kind of person too. I’m not sure if he was left handed or not, but he sure had all the attributes. He was brilliantly creative, but unfortunately much of the public only saw him as “that fat guy”. Chris Farley had the same label, but he was a lot more than that as well.

I really could relate to a John Pinette, and I liked the guy a lot. I know what made him tick, and all he wanted was to be happy and see everyone else happy too. He gave his life trying to make it better for others, and I’m trying to do the same. Sometimes it feels like I’m spinning my wheels.

The word 'genius' is often misunderstood.

The definition of ‘genius’ is often extremely misunderstood.

All too often those that are have demons to go with it. It seems to go hand in hand.

All too often those that are have demons to go with it. It seems to go hand in hand.

Speaking of hands, a lot of genius types happen to be left handed. Why? Who knows?

Speaking of hands, a lot of genius types happen to be left handed. Why? Who knows?

Left Out

August 4, 2013

Friday August 2nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

   In my lifetime of being an outsider, I’ve come to know the feeling very well. It’s unmistakable. Time after time in situation after situation, I’ve felt like the odd man out and it’s rarely a pleasant experience. I know everyone has felt that way at some point, but with me it happens a lot more.

   From my earliest memories, I’ve felt like I was the exception. My grandparents sat me down as a very young child and told me my parental situation and how they were raising me instead of an orphanage but if I screwed up they would send me away. I found myself on the wrong end of the freak factor from Jump Street, and it snowballed from there. What’s ‘normal’? It hasn’t been me.

  Being left handed is a perfect example. Nobody else in my immediate family is left handed, and that meant nobody related to my plight. I got no sympathy. Any left hander knows this is a righty world, and that’s just how it is. We’re the unrecognized minority, and we are constantly ignored.

   Everything from scissors to can openers to classroom desks in school are not made with a lefty in mind, and never have been. We make up about 10% of the population, but it’s one of the very few things in life that is truly fair in that we’re spread equally everywhere. Rich and poor, white and black, Jew and gentile, male and female – left handedness is located somewhere in the mix.

   Trying to find a baseball glove as a kid was especially difficult. Lefty gloves weren’t nearly as plentiful as they are today, and it was a real issue. The only place lefties are coveted in baseball is as pitchers, and that’s what I wanted to be. They’ll also let us play first base or in the outfield, but that’s about it. It’s discrimination plain and simple, but who’s going to champion our cause?

   I don’t see the ‘Million Lefty March’ happening any time soon, and in this world of hyper thin skin and political correctness to the point of insanity that surprises me quite honestly. I’d think a group of left handed activists would have sprung up by now looking to overcome our sufferage.

   They put handicapped parking spaces absolutely everywhere, so why aren’t there lefty friendly products as well? Ever try to rent a pair of left handed golf clubs? How about buying a guitar of any kind? Good luck. In the game jai alai there are NO left handed players whatsoever. See if the mighty powers that be would allow leaving some other entire group out of anything these days.

   Have you ever seen a left handed violinist in a symphony orchestra? There aren’t any. Again, it screams of persecution but nobody cares – except maybe the aspiring left handed violinist, golfer or jai alai player. Can your kid become president? Sure – but never ever a left handed shortstop.

   This has always been a nipple twister for me, and I think someone needs to be the Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson for left handers. Every time there’s a new product that lefties have trouble with I want to see that person on TV bitching and moaning how we’ve been kept down one more time.

   Since lefties make up 10% of the population, I want to see 10% of baseball games played with a left handed bent. Instead of running bases as they always have, I want to have third base as the one people run to first and have runners advance clockwise. Why hasn’t this ever been done?

   It would be the exact same rules, but there would have to be left handed catchers and infielders and it would be fair for a change. But it won’t change, and life is not fair. It never was, and never will be – at least not here. Somewhere there’s a planet of lefties, and I’d love to move there soon.

Facing The Music

May 15, 2013

Monday May 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL  

   Here’s another major life’s regret to toss on my ever growing pile: I never made the investment of time and energy to create music. I really wish I would have taken an opportunity at some point to at least learn the basics of music so I could have added it to my repertoire of creative outlets.

   I’m not saying I would have made a career of it or even attempted to, but I really think it would have added all kinds of interesting angles to everything I’ve already done. It would have been the perfect fit for my already ‘out there’ left handed creative mind set, and I think I missed the boat.

   I can’t sing a lick, and I know it. That’s just not in me, but I think playing some instrument and especially writing songs would definitely have been for me. It’s a craft and art form just like joke writing is, and I think a lot of the same brain cells are used to create each. I live for that process.

   I remember reading somewhere that Steve Allen had written thousands of songs throughout his life – even though I can’t think of even one hit. It doesn’t matter I guess, the process is rewarding if nothing else. It can be financially lucrative too, I suppose. Hit songs are what pay royalties for a lifetime. People want to hear them over and over and over again. Who ever wrote a ‘hit joke’?

   The creative side of the music and comedy crafts may be the same, but getting one’s chops are completely different. A comedian has to go up and suffer constant pain in front of live audiences for years until he or she learns the ropes. A musician can haul out the old bassoon or piccolo and practice alone in the privacy of his or her own room. It’s still difficult, but not nearly as public.

   As a kid, I don’t remember being around live music at all. Nobody in my family plays anything but the radio, so it’s not like I was born into the Jackson or Osmond clan and given a tambourine for my first birthday. Plus I’m very Caucasian, so that may have impeded my progress as well.

   My natural inner rhythm may not be there from the start, but I bet I could have learned the craft and fit in on some level had I been offered more of an opportunity. I remember farting around on a cheap used guitar when I was around ten years old, and then my grandfather bought a keyboard organ from Kmart for some reason. I aped around on that too, but never had any formal lessons.

   Being left handed didn’t help with any dreams I may have had of becoming a guitar hero. Left handed guitars are like left handed golf clubs. They’re out there, but really rare. I never did have a chance to even see if I liked it or not. Maybe I would have hated it, or maybe I’d be a star now.

   One thing I would have been is eccentric and eclectic. I’m already that now, but it’s not a bad thing in the creative arts. I adore artistic kooks, and always have. George Clinton is one of those, and I mean it as a sincere compliment. He’s brilliant, but out there. Other names that pop into my head that did or do their own thing are Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Thomas Dolby.

   I bet I would have written some interesting songs by now to say the least. I have a comic style, and I’m sure I’d have a music style as well. I love a well written song, especially one that tells an interesting or unique story. Was (Not Was) writes a lot of songs like that, as does Bernie Taupin.

   I suppose I could start taking some lessons now, but I think it’s way too late to make any noise on a serious level. I’d be just another half baked hack hobbyist, but I don’t need any more speed bumps in my path. I did what I did, now I have to live with it. Comedy keeps me busy enough.