Posts Tagged ‘Lucy’

The Self Employment Blues

September 13, 2012

Wednesday September 12th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Oh, the many joys and pains of self employment. The pains seem to outnumber the joys. I’m so frustrated right now I want to kick something, but I know it won’t fix anything. I feel like Charlie Brown after Lucy pulled the football away yet again. It’s a familiar scenario, but it’s still painful.

Here I lay, flat on my ass, staring skyward hoping to get some kind of message from whomever or whatever is out there running this mess called a universe. My little corner of it is out of whack and getting worse, and the harder I try to fix it the wackier it gets. Steady work sure would help.

I thought I had it too, but that house of cards came crashing down today when I got word that a gig for November 3rd I thought was solid got changed to the 10th. I can’t do the 10th, because I’m already booked with the Chicago Comedy All Stars in Iowa that weekend. I’ve had it booked for months, and I’m not about to back out now. Both dates pay well, and losing one is a total killer.

They’re both private shows, and those are the biggest risk. Comedy clubs switch dates as well, but at least there’s that faint glimmer of hope the gig can be made up later. In a private situation, they might just decide not to go with comedy at all. They have no idea we depend on this for our livelihood and it makes a huge difference in our lives. If the boss says switch the date – too bad.

This was a handshake deal, like most shows are. It’s not a huge paying corporate date, but it’s a nice chunk of money for a Saturday night about three hours from home. It’s less than two months out, so replacing it will be next to impossible. This really stings, but what can I do about it now?

This is the downside of self employment, and I’m really getting sick of it. This year has been at the top of my list of all time years of getting stiffed, screwed and bamboozled out of what should have been solid bookings without sufficient notice to be able to replace them, and I’m running on financial fumes because of it. I’m down what would be an entire year’s rent, and it really stinks.

I’m finding that making handshake deals doesn’t mean a lot anymore. It used to be that once an engagement was agreed upon, it was set in stone. Higher paying corporate type work might have a contract to sign, but way more often than not we’re out there on a wing and a prayer hoping we get paid. It used to be a lot more dependable, but not recently. This pisses on my wallet big time.

I have vowed to make Wednesdays my consistent weekly ‘booking day’, and this was a hell of a way to get it started. I’m sure the person who booked me didn’t do it on purpose, but it sure has rocked my world. Anyone wanting to be a full time entertainer better prepare for bombs like this.

Then people wonder why performers cop an attitude. Dates pulled at the last minute, bouncing checks, clubs closing and any number of unforeseen pitfalls is enough to drive anyone to drink, smoke, shoot, snort or whatever else will let them escape this meat grinder of insanity. It’s ugly.

This is really getting old after a lifetime of placing my trust in people who have no reason at all to watch my back. I mean nothing to them, and it shows. I should have learned to drive a forklift.

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.