Posts Tagged ‘Mark Fenske’

Sports Munsters

June 14, 2013

Thursday June 13th, 2013 – Geneva, IL

   I attended a Kane County Cougars baseball game tonight with my friend Mark Fenske. Mark is a fellow comedian, and like a lot of comedians he’s a huge sports fan. There’s usually no middle ground with comedians when it comes to being a sports fan. Either we’re rabid or not interested.

   I have been consumed by sports since early childhood, but nobody in my family other than my grandfather followed it even casually. Gramps liked sports, but he didn’t live and die with it like I did other than with his beloved Green Bay Packers. The other sports weren’t on that same level.

   My father, uncle, grandmother and siblings all couldn’t stand sports and would laugh at me for the way I’d follow my teams so closely. My step mother thought it was funny to taunt me when a team I followed lost, and that was another reason I couldn’t stand her on top of the ones I’d had.

   It was a lonely existence growing up the only sports fan in a family of ‘Sports Munsters’ but as I grew up I met a lot of friends who were into it as much as I was. There’s a bond between sports fans, as we’ve all gone through the same emotions with our teams. There’s also an entire field of knowledge we share that takes a lifetime to acquire that can’t be faked. One knows it or doesn’t.

   It becomes especially personal when we happen to have played any particular sport in question. I wanted to play any sport I could, but was always discouraged by my grandparents because they thought I would get hurt. I don’t think it was so much about me, but the affect on their insurance.

   I wanted to be a baseball pitcher more than living life itself. It was all I trained for as a kid, and being left handed was finally an advantage. I still picture my grandmother and stepmother saying to me one day “You don’t think you can be a baseball player and make a real LIVING, do you?”

   Golly jeepers, NO! What was I thinking? A left handed pitcher would never be in any demand in baseball. Why don’t I just mop floors like the rest of the monkeys who live in our family tree? I couldn’t squeak by on several million dollars a year. I’ll be a total loser like the rest of our clan.

   I never listened to the deluded wisdom of the family, but Gramps was already gone so I had no encouragement in my corner. I played in city leagues in Milwaukee, and eventually had a tryout with the Kansas City Royals. They came to all the Major League cities looking for talent and my coach at the time suggested I give it a shot so I did. It was in Milwaukee, not far from my home.

   I got a second look from the scouting crew, but I didn’t get signed. They told me I could come try out again at one of their other camps in the state, but by that time I was 18 and on my own. It would have been impossible to make it to the camp because I had a job. It wasn’t in the cards.

   Not long after that, I got started on the comedy trail. I wish the rest were history. It’s personal history, but that’s about it. Nobody else cares, and that’s fine. Everyone has broken dreams, but the only time anyone else wants to hear about them is when another comes true. Then it’s legend.

   Mark Fenske talked about how his father never supported him either. He wanted to be an actor, and actually had some success in LA in the 70s. He was on Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley and he said his dad told everyone about it then – but never supported him getting there. That’s so typical of an entertainer and we talked about it as we watched the game. How many of those kids will make the big leagues? Not many. Years from now they’ll look at this as their life’s pinnacle.

Close To Home

May 26, 2013

Friday May 24th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL

   In the best of all worlds, I’d be able to live in a place I’m comfortable but still perform enough to keep my chops and make a decent living. That’s a much more difficult challenge than it might sound, but I’ve been trying to arrange it for the past few years. In theory, it should be attainable.

   In reality, there are still some glitches that need to be worked out. Tonight was a good example as I did a show at the Heather Ridge Golf Course in Gurnee, IL. I am a member of a group called “Visit Lake County” which used to be called the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

   Heather Ridge is a member too, and there’s a really good guy named Matt Nordigan who came to me and asked if I’d be interested in trying a comedy show in their clubhouse facility. They’ve got a cozy little room that seats about 85 people, and again in theory it would be a decent room.

   I booked a show for him probably a year or two ago that I wasn’t able to be on because I must have been on the road or something. Maybe I was on a cruise ship, who knows? It all gets lost in a big blur after a while, but that show went well enough to have him ask me to book another one.

   It was supposed to be last Friday, but I backed out because of the request by Jim Wiggins to do the shows that never happened in Minnesota. My wallet still hurts from that disaster, but Matt is flexible and agreed to delay it a week. It was nice of him to do that, but attendance was very thin.

   I’d guess there were 35 people tops, but every one of them had a great time. I closed the show, but I brought Kay Cammon to open along with Dan Morris and Mark Fenske. They all did really well, and for a sparse turnout it was a fun experience. Still, I feel bad when a venue loses money.

   I don’t know the exact numbers, but I know Matt was disappointed. I hope he was at least able to come close to breaking even, but I seriously doubt it. I didn’t get paid a ton, and I had to shell out for Kay, Dan and Mark out of that budget. Basically, I got some gas money to hang out with friends. As fun as it was – and it was – this is not what I need to be doing this late in the game.

   I really like Matt, and he really likes comedy. There are probably 2000 residents in the Heather Ridge community, and he pumped the show in their monthly newsletter which not many of them read obviously. Again, in theory the place should have been standing room only – but it was not.

   In reality, filling a room with people for any reason is flat out DIFFICULT. It might not appear to be that tough to get 100 people to show up for something, but I encourage anyone to try it and tell me how it goes. People today have too much going on and are getting deluged with messages on Facebook to the point where everything blends together and nobody can keep it sorted out.

   The redeeming factor is that it was close to home. Heather Ridge is only 15 miles from where I live, and there’s no traffic. I don’t even have to get on any freeways, which is rare. I’d love more shows this close to home, and I believe they’re there. There’s no ‘circuit’ per se, and it’ll require some hustling on my part and the part of people like Matt who are willing to try something new.

   Is this the way to build a career? No, it really isn’t. It’s a stop gap measure to pay some bills for a while as I continue to develop shows like ‘Schlitz Happened!’ and work on getting a few more corporate bookings. It saves me those hellaciously long drives I’ve been making most of my life, and now that gas is approaching $4.50 a gallon it’s allowing me to survive when others are not.

A Team Scheme

May 1, 2013

Tuesday April 30th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I haven’t been able to stop thinking about ‘Schlitz Happened!’ since Saturday night. I thought I could let it sit until fall, but that’s not going to be the case at all. There are too many details to be looked after, and even though I won’t do any performances for a while I still need to improve on every aspect of it on stage and off. I’m not going to let myself flub this project like I have others.

   There was a very nice build throughout the entire month of April, but I guarantee the next time it runs I’ll have it at a much higher level in every facet. I have some good people on my team that I know will have input I can use to keep polishing this chunk of raw coal into a shiny diamond.

   In addition to the people I already thanked, I forgot to mention others like Todd Hunt who was kind enough to offer to listen to the recordings of my first shows and make notes. Todd’s insights are always welcomed, and I’m sure his input will take root immediately. That’s just one source.

   Art Hinty came out to the final show this last Saturday, and he’s as sharp as they come when it comes to tweaking and punching up existing ideas. He’s a newspaper reporter by trade, and he’s been a great source of ideas and realistic input on most of the stunts I’ve tried to pull off of late.

   Art has a real grasp of the real world, and he’s another one I listen to with reverence. He’ll put a heaping ladle full of solid ideas into the stew pot, and he already has. We went out to eat after the last show, and he gave me the thumbs up as far as a show concept but also loaded me down with some useful structure details from a writer’s viewpoint and he was dead on with his notes.

   Mark Fenske is another friend that took time to come up from Chicago to see the show. He has lived in L.A. for years, and did some acting as well as standup comedy. He went to school to be a director, and he sat through two shows and made some notes as well. I’ll take all I can from all of these sources, and also keep making my own notes as I go. I already feel a lot of positive growth.

   Then there’s the off stage side of it. I need to keep working with Mark Filwett on website stuff, as content creation is always crucial. I’ll need to create products too, and also keep reading up on all things older Milwaukee so I can expand what I already have going. This will also take work.

   I don’t mind working, but my question is what’s the right work to be doing at a given time? It’s always a time management issue, and I don’t want to waste a second this late into the game. I am always biting off more than I can chew, so I’ll either need to start chewing or spit something out.

   I also need to start delegating a whole lot more or I’ll never get anywhere with anything. I just can’t do everything, and I’m proving that every day. Making myself the project leader of several teams is the way to go, and that’s what I’m going to do. There’s no way I can do it all by myself.

   As of now, ‘Team Schlitz’ is operating pretty smoothly. I have the people I need in place to get what I need for the immediate future, and I have a clear idea of who I need to engage after that to keep things moving. If I didn’t have so much other stuff going, I’m sure I’d be able to pull it off.

   The trick now is to get all the teams running like this, but I’m not there by a long shot. I have a lot of scattered and half baked projects that could be working smoothly but just aren’t because of my admitted lack of focus. I do believe this is all doable though, and it’s a matter of creating one big master plan with a lot of little mini plans woven in. It won’t be easy, but what in life ever is?