Posts Tagged ‘Lou Rugani’

A Rose Knows

June 15, 2014

Sunday June 15th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

This is one more Facebook post I made earlier this week that I wanted to include in my blog update. It was a satisfying experience to make this lady’s day, and everybody won.

* * *

Kindness really does exist! My film director friend Mark Gumbinger pulled off a wonderful gesture yesterday by arranging a double dose of it for a person that really enjoyed it.

Mark lives in Kenosha, WI where I happened to have a paranormal talk radio show for five years. He is friends with a wonderful lady who was one of my biggest fans, but never called in because she was shy.

The lady’s name is Rose, and her 95th birthday is coming up this week. 95! WOW! She’s a super sweet lady, and Mark asked if I wouldn’t mind going to a surprise birthday dinner her family was throwing. How could I say no to that?

Mark stopped and bought a box of chocolates and a single Rose, and we went to a fantastic restaurant called ‘Michael’s On The Lake’ in Kansasville, WI. Mark introduced me to Rose and her face lit up like a little girl at Christmas. To her, I was a big celebrity, and I gave her a hug and told her how much I appreciated her listening to me all those years. She just GUSHED about how much she loved the show and said how witty and funny I was and how she looked forward to Sunday nights and would never miss it.

I had no idea what to expect quite honestly, and when Mark said 95, I expected a basket case frail old lady with a walker and tubes in her nose. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a wonderful lady that if I had to guess her age would have honestly placed her in her 60s. Her mind was sharp as a tack, and she was vibrant, intelligent and funny.

About 20 of her nieces and nephews showed up as well, and it was her night to shine. I loved seeing her beaming face as everyone told her how much they loved and appreciated her.

Then as the main event, WLIP’s star host Lou Rugani showed up in a tuxedo of all things, and planted a big kiss on her cheek. Rose is a big fan of Lou’s show, and she should be. Lou is a star in Kenosha, and one of the most talented radio broadcasters I have ever met. He’s suave and debonair, and very classy.

Rose was the center of attention, and the look on her face made it worthwhile. I would have driven 1000 miles in a blizzard on a riding lawn mower with a bad wheel to see her have that much joy at 95 years old. What a stellar gesture of kindness on Mark’s part to arrange it. All it cost him was two phone calls, and it made a lady’s birthday one she will NEVER forget.

When I think I am a low life maggot with nothing to hang my hat on, I see how people like Rose look at me like a big star and it keeps me going. What a fantastic positive experience all around. Thanks Mark! YOU are behind all this, and I am proud to call you and Lou – and now Rose – my friends.THIS is the kind of kindness I’m talking about, and it’s my new addiction. Absolutely EVERYBODY won, and I am flattered to be part of the mix.

Mark is a very talented director, and has done feature films, documentaries about shipwrecks like the Titanic and Edmund Fitzgerald, and most recently directed a three camera shoot of my one hour comedy live show called ‘The Dented Can Live’. He did a masterful job, and I would recommend anyone check out his work

Mark Gumbinger made a lady's 95th birthday special. THAT'S the kind of kindness the world needs more of.

Mark Gumbinger made a lady’s 95th birthday party special. THAT’S the kind of kindness the world needs more of. Kudos Mark!


Movie Night

April 2, 2014

Monday March 31st, 2014 – Kenosha, WI

Every once in a while at least a little time off is necessary to charge up the batteries. I’ve been one busy little bumble bee, and hadn’t had a night just to goof off in a long time. Tonight was it, and purpose was well served. It was a relaxing night in the tree house with friends, food and fun.

My director friend Mark Gumbinger has a fantastic man cave in his basement, and I can’t think of a better place to watch sports, movies and just hang out with buddies. He has a TV with one of the biggest screens I have ever seen, full cable and a sound system that rivals any movie theater.

He also has a world class collection of guy stuff like Three Stooges videos, cartoons, and a lot of obscure movies that he likes because he’s a director. The people he invites are usually eclectic entertainment types, and likely to appreciate what’s on the bill. I always enjoy being a part of it.

Tonight’s guest roster included Lou Rugani from AM 1050 WLIP, and one of the biggest fans of film that I know. He knows a lot of interesting trivia, and it’s always an education to hear him throw in little known facts about little known films. I always learn something every time I attend.

Mark is a terrific party host, and there is always an ample supply of freshly popped popcorn and other snacks and ice cold beverages. It’s just a fun time to relax with people that appreciate good entertainment and interesting company, and I’m always flattered to be included on the invite list.

Before the main attraction, we’re usually treated to some opening entertainment to get us in the mood. Tonight it was some vintage Johnny Carson from before his Tonight Show days, and what a treat that was. He appeared on Jack Benny’s show, and was the host of “Who Do You Trust?”

We also watched a couple of episodes of “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx. Mark likes to pop things in with no particular rhyme or reason other than they’re interesting, and these were tremendous examples. Both Johnny and Groucho were loaded with natural talent and wit, and we were all impressed at how well the content held up. We’re still laughing long after they’re gone.

The main attraction tonight was the 1981 movie “Thief” starring James Caan. That has always been one of my favorite movies, and I saw it when it came out. It’s rather dark, but James Caan is absolutely riveting in his role, and I never get tired of watching it. I’ve probably seen it twenty times, and a lot of comedians happen to like that movie too. I know several, and we quote lines.

James Caan plays an intense bad ass, and those are always the most colorful characters to quote from. Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket” is one, as is just about anyone from “Goodfellas”. Caan has some classic lines in this role, and I’ve quoted them – even on stage – for many years.

I don’t know where Mark found it, but this version happened to be the director’s cut. I’d never seen that version before, and it was fun to see it in a different form. There were some scenes I’d not seen, and some lines that were left out. Lou hadn’t seen it at all, so it was fun to observe how he reacted. We could have gone to a theater and seen a new film, but this was so much more fun.

"Thief" starring James Caan is one of my all time favorite movies.

“Thief” starring James Caan is one of my all time favorite movies.

Tonight I watched it again with Lou Rugani in attendance. He's one of the most talented radio voices in the business. Check him out on 'The Music of the Stars' on AM 1050 WLIP radio in Kenosha, WI.

Tonight I watched it again with Lou Rugani in attendance. He’s one of the most talented radio voices in the business. Check him out on ‘The Music of the Stars’ on AM 1050 WLIP radio in Kenosha, WI.

Thanks to director Mark Gumbinger for hosting movie night at his world class 'man cave'. Here he is with singer Gordon Lightfoot.

Thanks to director Mark Gumbinger for hosting movie night at his world class ‘man cave’. Here he is with singer Gordon Lightfoot.

Worst Case Scenario

March 20, 2013

Monday March 18th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI/Waukegan, IL

   My shredded tire situation is back to at least functional if not normal. I hesitate to use the word “normal”, as I don’t think anything in my life has ever been that. I’m always the asterisk with the exception like “void where prohibited” and “subject to change without notice.” Well, I noticed.

I know I’m not the first person to ever have a flat tire, but having it blow out on a Sunday when nothing is open is that glitch that makes it just a little bit harder. Why couldn’t it happen in front of a Walmart that’s having a tire sale at high noon on a sunny payday? It could, but it never does.

It’s always the worst case scenario, with a wrinkle on top of that. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that’s how it is. It’s very funny…when it’s someone else’s problem. I personally have had my fill. Things like this have happened so often they don’t even faze me anymore. I’m calloused.

I finished my radio show in Kenosha, WI last night at midnight, and then had to deal with all of this whether I wanted to or not. My car was in Waukegan, and that’s about 10 miles away. That’s a significant hike anytime, but especially at midnight when the temperature is in the single digits.

My options were slim at that time of night, so what could I do? I suppose I could have called a cab, but Kenosha isn’t a cab town like Chicago is and it would have cost more money out of my pocket I don’t have. I also could have slept on the couch at the radio station and hoped to catch a ride from someone in the morning, but I didn’t want to do that either. I would feel like a vagrant.

Lucky for me, my friend Lou Rugani happened to stop by the station to work on something for his own show. Lou is one of my favorite people, and a major talent. He’s got one of the absolute best radio voices I’ve ever heard, and could work on any station in America. He’s from Kenosha, so that’s why he works at WLIP. I get that, but the station is lucky to have him. He’s got game.

Lou is also a car guy, and has several antique and collector cars. He knows what it’s like to be marooned with car trouble, so he gladly took me to Waukegan but first we sat at a truck stop for a while and enjoyed some of the best cream of mushroom soup either one of us have ever had.

Moments like that are surreal. I’m sitting with Lou Rugani at 2am eating cream of mushroom soup at a truck stop in Russell, IL. And it was fun. I sure didn’t expect to be doing it, but as long as I had to kill time anyway it was a pleasant experience. Lou dropped me off in Waukegan right next to where my car was at a Motel 6. I’m broke, but sleeping in my car would have been hell.

I popped for a room, and it was $49.99 plus tax. What? At Motel 6? That has to be the highest priced Motel 6 in America. Is March the height of tourist season in Waukegan or something? Do vacationers from all over come to watch the gangs shoot each other? I had no choice but to pay.

Then it took most of the morning to get my tire fixed. They didn’t have my size in stock – of course – and they called all over looking for one. I ended up having to drive another mile on the shredded donut to a junkyard up the street, but I got my used tire for $28. Life can continue now.

Magnificent Monday

July 6, 2010

Monday July 5th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI/Chicago, IL

Back to the kind of Monday schedule I love. Most people hate Mondays, but when mine are like this it’s my favorite day of the week. It’s jam packed with things I love to do, and I get to hang around quality people who are of a like mindset. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

First it was lunch in Kenosha, WI with Mark Gumbinger’s regular lunch group. Mark is the movie director I worked with in ‘Dead Air’, and he has a regular lunch scheduled at a Chinese buffet for all who can attend. My friend Lou Rugani from WLIP played the main character in the film and he’s a regular along with Mark’s brother Mike. It’s a fun group.

They’ve taken me in their circle of friends and I’m glad to be included. We enjoy each other’s company and laugh a lot, and the food is reasonably priced too. I ate right and was a good boy at the buffet. Lots of vegetables and salad and melon for dessert. Lots of water too. It’s getting easier and easier to eat better, mainly because I want to make it happen.

Tonight it was back to Zanies in Chicago for a double dose of comedy class and hosting the Rising Star Showcase show. Both were absolutely stellar, and that kind of energy will keep me going all week. This is how every day should go, and it’s a great way to start any week. Being around creative people gets my own vibe flowing and it’s a win/win for all.

This was an especially good class, according to Bill Gorgo who taught it. The members were a little older, and had more life experience which is always good. They got their four weeks of lessons as promised, but I like to give bonus classes whenever I can and this was one of them. Since I was going to be there anyway, I wanted to have a session with them.

We talked about the big picture of comedy and some people asked questions and I had a few guests sit in like I usually do. I like to offer people a chance to sample the class as it’s the best commercial I could possibly do. They get to feel the energy that flows when class starts hopping and we had a great one today. Bill and I and the students totally hit stride.

The same rang true with the Rising Star Showcase. WOW, what an audience. It was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, and it was packed all the way to the back of the room. Maybe it was the weather, and people wanted to escape the heat. Zanies is air conditioned and it was comfortable in there all night. Whatever the case, this was a super hot crowd.

My job is easy when it’s like this. All I really had to do was say ‘That was’ and ‘This is’ and sit back and watch them laugh. It’s not always like that, but when it is it’s a night off. Nobody heckled. Nobody left early. I wish these people would all follow me on the road, or at least tell their friends. They had the vibe all audiences should have. It was a blast.

Nights like this give me hope. I love being in class and feeling that energy and to follow it right up with the high of a hot crowd is a combo platter I could handle every night. In a perfect world, I’d be able to do it every night – not just Mondays. I feel productive and on point with my life’s purpose. I wish every day was like this, but I’ll settle for Mondays.

Monday On The Move

June 9, 2010

Monday June 7th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI/Chicago, IL

Looks like it’s back to having super busy Mondays, but under these circumstances I can live with it. The busier the better, when it’s good stuff. First, it was up to Kenosha, WI for lunch with film maker Mark Gumbinger, his brother Mike and the legendary Lou Rugani.

They have regular lunches every Monday at a Chinese Buffet on Highway 50 and I have a standing invitation to join them. They’ve made me a part of their group and it could be a lot worse. They’re all funny guys, and Mark and Lou are always working on movie ideas.

Mark wants to shoot a DVD of my standup show, and we’re trying to come together on an idea of how to do it best. He’s a perfectionist when it comes to things like lighting and editing in short clips of audience members laughing, but not all that concerned at how the packaging looks. I’m just the opposite, and we weren’t able to agree on a plan of action.

Both of us are control freaks in our own way, and each of us have our vision as to what we see being a final product. Maybe we’ll come together on an agreement and maybe we won’t, but neither one of us were angry about it. We kicked around ideas, and that’s what needed to be done. I wouldn’t mind having a DVD out, but I’d want it to be how I want it.

I’m not sure Mark and my sense of humor necessarily match up, but it doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a compromise along the way. We both need to make it work as far as selling product goes, and I can’t sell what I don’t have. I need to create a lot more product to sell, of every kind. I’ve got a CD right now and that’s IT. I’m thoroughly embarrassed.

I asked my speaker friend Todd Hunt who he knew of that had either the most or best of products for sale, and he mentioned a lady named Jeanne Robertson from North Carolina who used to be a beauty pageant queen. She’s got SIX different DVD/CD products on her website for sale, and a couple of books too. Very impressive.

It really doesn’t matter if they’re good or not. The point is, she DID them, and I can tell by looking at her website they’re of professional quality. Good for her. It’s not easy to do ONE decent product much less six, and I’m going to shut my pie hole and start working.

Tonight it was back to Zanies in Chicago to start up comedy classes again. This time we have a nice full class with a diverse group of interesting people, and that’s what’s been so much fun for so many years. Bill Gorgo will teach this session, but I’m glad class is full.

There was also a very hot Rising Star Showcase show afterward, and that’s always a fun way to close out the day. Both crowd and comics were into it, and when that happens, my job is easy. I just sit back and watch the show and keep things moving. Tonight was that.

Most people never get a chance to do one thing they enjoy, much less three. Not only do I get to do three things I enjoy, I get to do it on a Monday. It’s not quite there yet, but I’m working feverishly hard on it. I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to Jeanne Robertson.

My Film Debut

April 9, 2010

Wednesday April 7th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

No limousine. No tuxedo. No trophy babe hanging from my arm. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience to attend my first movie premiere in which I had a part. There was a nice crowd on hand at The Brat Stop, even though it wasn’t sold out. The weather was a problem, as it was rainy and cold, and it was a weeknight too. Still, it was an adventure.

Mark Gumbinger is a good guy and worked very hard putting this whole event together. I know how difficult it is to get people in a room for anything, so it was a rousing success just based on that alone. There were a couple hundred people there, and that took effort to get each one of them. Many were there to see the star, Lou Rugani. This was his vehicle.

The program consisted of me opening the show with thirty minutes of standup comedy, then Dr. Destruction’s band The Dead Leathers played for thirty minutes, then it was time for the actual screening of “Dead Air”. That’s a lot of entertainment for a $7 admission.

It was funny to see the mix of people in one place. Dr. Destruction had a part in the film so he brought his audience, many of them punk rock fans with Mohawks, tattoos, pierced parts that don’t normally get pierced and ripped clothing. Lou Rugani’s fans listen to him on WLIP and are mostly over 50. The looks on their faces at the punk fans were priceless.

Mark hosted the evening and brought me up to do my opening set. There was band gear all over the stage but I worked around it and did my time. They started out a little uptight, but I got them rolling after a while. I kept it clean because that was the right thing to do in a situation like that. I don’t get filthy anyway, but for this event cleaner was appropriate.

After me the band went on and the fans that were there enjoyed them, as did I. Dr. D is a true artist, and even though I’m not a huge punk fan, I thought they were entertaining as hell and a lot of fun. Not all of the older people thought that and many got up and walked around in back trying to escape the loud noise. It was a funny scene, and I soaked it all in.

Then it was time for the movie. Mark brought us up one by one and interviewed us for a minute or two, then he told a couple of stories about what went on behind the scenes that added some depth of insight to the experience. It was exciting to be a part of it all. I sat in the back of the room so I could enjoy not only the movie but the reaction of the audience.

Lou was absolutely amazing. He’s a major talent and it was fun watching him play such a lout of a character when in real life he’s such a great guy. He has a presence that attracts attention much like a Gene Hackman or Morgan Freeman and I thought he jumped off the screen with believability. The other actors did a great job too. The crowd enjoyed it too.

As for my part, I’ve always hated watching or listening to myself. I’m my own harshest critic but everyone said they liked it so whether or not they did doesn’t matter. I wasn’t in it for anything else but fun, and there was plenty of that to go around. Now I can say I was in a movie with a real live speaking part, not just an extra with that hussy Sandra Bullock.

Viewer Discretion Advised

April 7, 2010

Tuesday April 6th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

What person’s bucket list doesn’t include attending the glamorous world wide premiere of their very first movie? Everyone dreams of being in Hollywood and climbing out of the limo with a trophy babe and having cameras go off like a strobe light as they proudly strut down that red carpet to be interviewed by Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight.

Most people never get to experience it, but I have to believe that’s how everyone thinks it would be if it did happen. I know I did. That being said, I will be driving up to the Brat Stop on Highway 50 in Kenosha, WI to participate in the premiere of the film “Dead Air” which was directed by Mark Gumbinger tomorrow night and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Mark is a friend of my radio co-host Dr. Destruction and he brought Mark in to promote his last film “Time-Men”, which also debuted at the Brat Stop. I wasn’t able to attend that one, but I respect anyone who has the guts to hang in there and make a movie. I never for a minute thought it was easy, and I always like to help promote a local artist of any kind.

One thing led to another and Mark asked me to be in his new film “Dead Air”. It has an excellent cast and the main star is Lou Rugani, an amazingly talented guy. Lou has one of the best radio voices on Earth and works at WLIP where I do The Mothership Connection on Sunday nights. He provides the voiceover for the station and our show too. He’s great.

Lou has always been a wonderful person and is about as humble and laid back as a truly talented person can get. His acting is superb as well, as is the entire cast. I got a chance to watch some of the scenes being filmed before I was on and I was impressed. Mark knows what he wants and I thought he was very easy to work with. He directed me and I did it.

The premiere is going to be a fun event, and I sure hope lots of people can attend. Mark is charging $7 which is dirt cheap, and it includes not only a viewing of the film but some standup from me up front and a set from Dr. Destruction’s band The Dead Leathers. I am flattered and honored to be a part of this, and I know how much hard work it took to do it.

If anyone wants to go, I have some discount tickets to get in for $5, and that requires the inclusion of a non perishable food item to give to people in need. I’m going to stop before I get there and bring something myself, as I think that’s a classy thing Mark is doing here.

There are local people in the film like Carol Strempfler who plays Lou Rugani’s wife in the film. She is a regular caller to all the shows on WLIP and she did a great job not only on camera but on the set as well. I’m excited to be a part of the event because I love to see someone’s dream become reality. Mark put his sweat into this as did everyone in the cast.

I was also in my friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle’s movie a while back, but that premiere has been pushed back a little. No worries, I’ll be glad to go to that one too. But for now, it looks like my world premiere in movies is going to be held at the Brat Stop and somehow that seems to be a perfect fit for Mr. Lucky. I’m not complaining at all. It will be big fun.

Something’s Missing

February 21, 2010

Saturday February 20th, 2010 – Racine, WI

Will any work I do ever satisfy me? The older I get, the more I‘m doubting it. I’m trying to enjoy shows more, but sometimes I just can’t lower my standards. When I’m on stage, I want to send people into a new dimension of time and space. I aspire to knock socks off.

Most of it is for the audience, but part of it is for me too. I am a huge fan of all kinds of entertainment, and I know how difficult it is to do it correctly. I’ve seen good and bad and also myself been good and bad, so I know the difference. I want to blow audiences away.

Lately, by all accounts I’ve been doing exactly that. Even more people than usual have come up to me after shows telling me they haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. I love hearing them say that, and I’m sincere when I thank them, but I know I’m still not there.

Last night at CD&ME in Frankfort, IL was a very good example. My friend and fellow Jerry’s Kidder Ken Sevara told me the crowd loved me, and I think they did, but I wasn’t at all satisfied with my show. They loved their part, but mine was not up to my standards. I felt like a couple of cylinders weren’t firing, and I wanted the overdrive gear to kick in.

Sometimes, an audience just can’t laugh any more. They’ve given all they have, and no matter how hard a comedian works, that’s the best anyone can do. I’ve gotten to that point countless times, but I still think I can get more. Hearing a large crowd pop with a big hard   crisp hearty laugh is a drug, and it never gets old. It’s an explosion of energy and I love it.

Tonight was another example. I did a show at the Racine Theatre Guild with my old pal Steve DeClark. It’s a wonderful facility and I was there with Steve last year too. We had a hot audience then, and tonight’s was right there with them. They were polite and listening the whole time and there were no drunken outbursts. In other words, it was a dream night.

Lou Rugani from WLIP came out along with Mark Gumbinger, the director of the film ‘Dead Air’ in which Lou is the star and I have a part. Carol Strempler is a regular listener to WLIP and calls in to both Lou’s show and The Mothership Connection, and she’s also in the movie. They all made it a point to come out and see me and I was very flattered.

The whole staff at the Racine Theatre Guild couldn’t have been any nicer, and these are the kinds of shows I’ve always dreamed of doing. There might not have been jam packed houses of thousands of people, but those who did come were as good as a crowd can get.

I loved performing for them, and I gave them everything I had. I got several pops during the show and at the end a large number gave me a standing ovation. What a rush that was! I knew they meant it and I bowed low in gratitude and meant that too. They were the best.

So why am I still not satisfied? I’m not. Grateful? Yes! Satisfied? Uh uh. I just feel I’m able to improve significantly, and I’m not up to my standards even though those who saw it this weekend enjoyed it. I’m glad they did, but I know I can do better. Time to prove it.

This really bothered me as I drove home tonight, and I know it shouldn’t. I’ve been on a red hot run lately and I should be on top of the world. I’ve had a lot of comedians tell me recently how they keep hearing my name being mentioned and how strong my shows are.

That’s really nice to hear, but it’s even better to hear people say I’ve helped them along the way and given them advice when they started. That means even more. I try very hard to be a quality person, but I know there are still those who think I’m a card carrying wank. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. I’ve tried to right all my wrongs, but a few just won’t let me.

Some of those people are in my own family. My sister lives in Racine, or at least I think she still does. She hasn’t spoken to me in going on 17 years now, and I doubt if I’ll get an opportunity to ever turn that situation around. That’s really sad and in a perfect world she would have been at the show tonight laughing with everyone else. But that didn’t happen.

We should have had a great dinner and some laughs before the show, and all her friends and neighbors could have come out to enjoy themselves also. I’m at the top of my game, and it’s taken a lifetime of sacrifice to get to this point – and I’m still not satisfied with it. Something deep down inside tells me I’m not doing everything I can to be my very best.

Part of it is knowing a lot of the mistakes I made are too late to correct. They’ve helped shape where I am now, and had I known better I’d have chosen differently. Other things I did know better but wasn’t able to choose differently. Living in L.A. is an example. I was out of money when I lived there and it would have been stupid to stay. I never went back.

There are plenty of other boo boos on my resume too, but through all of them I’ve never given up. I’m still out here slugging. I may have my enemies, and I may be my own worst one at times, but I’m still in the game and as long as that’s true I have the chance to win.

Now I have to figure out exactly what I think that would be. I used to think it would be attaining headliner status and working places like The Racine Theatre Guild for people in soft seats who came out to be entertained. That happened tonight, but it wasn’t enough. It was still hollow after the show when everyone was gone and I was by myself in the car.

A feeling of  extreme emptiness came over me as I hoped I haven’t wasted my life. I’ve had to struggle so hard to get where I am that I haven’t had a chance to really take a good long objective look at what I’ve done right. I’ve always been too busy fixing my mistakes.

I’m the first one to admit I’m crazy, but I’m not stupid. My mistakes are part of my past but I’ve done a lot of smart things too. My life has been an odd mix and even I don’t have a clue sometimes as to where I’m going or what will make me happy. That’s pretty dumb.

I’ve always been the happiest when I’m able to give something to someone who enjoys it. If I can help someone by teaching a class or offering encouragement or just being their friend I always try to do it. Maybe I’m not doing it enough, and that’s why I feel so empty right now. Maybe it’s a part of growing as an artist, but I feel I’m not where I want to be.

Acting Like An Actor

January 15, 2010

Thursday January 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

With all the over the top, underfinanced, whacked out, half baked crazy schemes I have been involved in so far in my life, it’s a wonder I don’t have more acting experience. I’ve tried standup comedy, radio, pro wrestling promotion, sports card dealing and other goofy stunts that would have made Lucy and Ralph Kramden wince, but I’ve left acting alone.

Part of the reason is that I respect it as a craft. Anyone has to devote a lifetime to it to be truly skilled, just as in any other craft. Acting is no different than comedy or music or any other craft in that regard, and I was lucky enough to discover comedy early enough on so I devoted my energy to that. It scratched my creative itch and I never needed to be an actor.

That being said, I’ve filmed a part in a movie and am appearing in a play all in the same week. How strange. Up until now my acting experience has been painfully low. Last year I was in a short scene in a film that was directed by my high school friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle, but that was a last minute thing. He did me a favor and allowed me to do a part.

Before that, I was an extra in the movie “While You Were Sleeping”. I was in an actual scene with Sandra Bullock, and I played a mailman of all things. It didn’t take any acting talent to dress in a postal uniform and push a mail cart down the street. The real challenge was not trying to hit on Sandra Bullock as we stood around almost an hour, ten feet apart.

They told us as extras we weren’t supposed to approach the stars for any reason. I guess I can see that, but in my case it was ridiculous. It was filmed in winter and it was about as cold as I can ever remember, and in fact too cold to snow. They needed snow in the scene so they brought in a fake snow machine to fill in the set, and that took just over an hour.

There we were, Sandra Bullock and me, just feet apart. She stood there and for the life of me, I could NOT get her to look my way and say hello. She looked up, around, over at the snow machine, everywhere but in my direction. After a few minutes it got to be funny.

Usually I’m a pretty good schmoozer and can strike up small talk with most anyone, but not this time. Sandra was not a huge star then, but I love brunettes and I would have loved to at least be able to test my flirting skills on a cold day when there was nothing else to do but stand there and hope my testicles would return by spring. She never even said hello.

I’ve heard since that she’s a very nice person and who knows why she didn’t say hi to a lowly extra, but all these years later I haven’t forgotten it. That pretty much ended dreams I may have had to be in movies, but I really never did. All I ever wanted to be was a solid funny comedian. That’s all that mattered to me. I couldn’t care less if I was a good actor.

Now, it’s a little different. I had fun doing Kyle Richards’ movie and even more doing a few scenes with my friend Lou Rugani in “Dead Air” yesterday. Plus, there was an actress named Tierza Scaccia who was not only really good looking and talented, she actually did speak to me both on camera and off. What a great name that is, too. I hope she hits it big.
I’d love nothing more than to show up at the Oscars with Tierza on my arm and moon Sandra Bullock. Thoughts like this are probably why I’m not only not an actor, but still a single comedian in my 40s. I’ve always been prone to doing things on the maverick side, and the masses just aren’t ready for that yet. Sandra Bullock did things right, good for her.

Actually, I’m glad I chose standup comedy over acting. I suppose I could have done the ‘actor/comedian’ route, but that usually means ‘neither/nor’. No matter how many breaks that didn’t go my way, the fact remains that I have paid my dues and am a solid comedian and NOBODY can ever buy that. It has to be earned, just like the skills of a master actor.

My problem with acting is, I have to be someone else all the time. I guess that’s fun for some people, but I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. It never appealed to me to have to create a new persona over and over again as it takes to be a successful actor. I was fine with shining up the one I had doing comedy onstage. It’s a personal choice for all of us.

Many famous actors kind of just play themselves over and over. Adam Sandler is pretty much the same guy in all his movies as is Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy or a flock of other people who didn’t start out as standups. Does Chuck Norris have stage chops? What about Stallone or Arnold? None of these people are what I’d call craftsman. Would you?

Writing is another craft that looks easy and lots of people aspire to become. That takes a lot of discipline and effort too, but who’s willing to put it in? Not many. Those that do are quite rare, and even rarer are those who put in the effort and have real talent to go with it.

I’ve never considered myself a writer either, BUT – I’ve managed to produce an entry in this diary every single day since March 14th, 2006. Does that mean I’m a GOOD one? No, but it does mean I’m a writer to some degree just because I’ve kept cranking out the pages day after day after day. I may still stink, but I stink less now just because I kept doing it.

Acting is the same way. I bet there are ten times as many unknown mediocre Caucasian wannabes in Hollywood and all over who want to be actors, just as I’ve wanted to get into comedy. I paid my dues and chased the dream my whole life, just as I would’ve done had I chose to be an actor. The hard work requirement doesn’t change no matter the craft.

It was a lot of fun to be in the movie yesterday, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’m some hidden gem that Hollywood is waiting for. If I really want to pursue it I need to be around it and study it. Acting classes wouldn’t hurt, and probably a few books as well. I don’t have time for all that right now, nor do I want to get involved in a whole new gig.

I love comedy, even though it’s an insane business. What, and acting isn’t? It’s a crazy world all around, so I’m glad I chose what I did. Comedy is the best there is, but that’s my opinion. Too bad, as that’s the only one I care about. No offense to actors, comedy is best.

Still, we’re going to have fun with “You’re On The Air” at The Beverly Arts Center this weekend. We had a dress rehearsal today and I had to act like an actor. I hope I fool them.