Posts Tagged ‘McDonald’s’

Numbers Don’t Lie

April 27, 2014

Friday April 25th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

After all of the painstaking effort I have put in over a lifetime feverishly attempting to create an identity that is moderately recognizable to the largest amount of people possible, it’s laughable at how tiny a number that turns out to be. It isn’t even close to 1/1000th of 1% of people on Earth.

It’s not anywhere near 1/100th of 1% of the United States, nor does it approach 1/10th of 1% of the population of the Chicago metropolitan area where I have been based for the majority of my adult life. How’s that for taking some humble pies to the face? It’s like I’ve never even existed.

I tried to figure out as close to a number of people I have performed live for over my entire life, and the closest number I could come up with is somewhere between around 750,000 and an even million. And that took thirty years of hard work. How many of those would remember my name, even if there were cash and prizes involved? Even at 1% – which it isn’t – I am still an unknown.

Even at a million I am still an unknown, but that’s more than enough to make a fantastic living – provided that million is reachable and relatively in a maintainable service area. If they were all over the globe at random, that would make it difficult to serve them by doing live performances.

The people I have performed for are scattered randomly all over North America, and that’s my biggest problem. Other than the Chicago/Milwaukee corridor, nobody has a clue as to who I am – and it’s not all that much there. I can draw a few dozen, but nothing that will define a career.

Most of my work has been done to groups of about 100-200 on average, and often it’s been far lower than average. How many times have I worked some road house honky-tonk hell hole in an obscure town 1000 miles or more from home in front of 50 or far less? I couldn’t begin to count.

And even if they liked me – which often they did – was I smart enough to ask for an address of any kind to stay in touch so maybe they might come back next time I was in town? Even before email I guess I could have sent post cards, but it would have taken time and money I didn’t have.

The truth is, obtaining top of mind awareness with a large group of people is one of the hardest things imaginable. Even McDonald’s has to keep their name pounded into the public’s head, and who hasn’t heard of McDonald’s? They have worldwide presence and a huge advertising budget. I wander all over the country to entertain random people in comedy clubs. I’m a faceless drifter.

I could live with that if the money was there, but right now it just isn’t. It doesn’t matter what I happen to do on stage unfortunately. I used to think that’s all that meant anything, but that’s just plain wrong. All that matters is if one can put butts in seats, and that’s something I have not ever figured out how to do. Mike Tyson is selling out his one man show. I don’t draw flies to manure.

What any of this means I really can’t say, other than I need to have more people become aware of who I am as quickly as possible. I started a newsletter this year, but that only has around 2000 on the list. And how many of those actually read it? I sure won’t be getting cocky any time soon.

Gaining the attention of just 1% of the American public is a lot harder than it sounds. I've been trying for 30 years, and I'm not even close.

Gaining the attention of just 1% of the American public is a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve been trying for 30 years.

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Effective Evolution

February 15, 2014

Wednesday February 12th, 2014 – Gurnee, IL

I feel another tidal wave of overwhelm coming, and there’s not a lot I can do about it. I have all kinds of projects in various stages of completion, and no matter how hard I work or at what there are always a number of other things that get left unattended. There’s just too much on my plate.

My problem is, I don’t know what to clear off. I enjoy everything I’m doing, but there just isn’t time to devote to it all as I’d like. Something has to go, and it’s like deciding which one of one’s children to send packing. I’m having a terrible time deciding what to cut, but it needs to happen.

Here it is six weeks into the new year, and it’s not a new year anymore. I’ve been working hard every single day to the point of exhaustion yet I feel like I’m falling behind more than ever. How can that be? I’m making a solid effort, but more things are piling up than ever. I need to press on.

I know I’m giving it all I’ve got, and if I keep doing that with a plan I know good things are on the way. They already are. I’ve been working a lot lately, and in very nice venues. I am bringing in steady income, and feeling very good about life in general. More of this needs to happen daily.

Despite all that, I know I’m still painfully behind of where I need to be. The only thing that has a chance of changing that is delegating as much as I can to as many as I can. Each one of my pet projects needs to have a solid team in place – even if that team consists of only one other person.

Trust issues or not, this has to take place or I’m never going to get anywhere. My personality is one that has trouble focusing on just one thing, even though that would be a lot smarter than how I’ve been trying to do things all these years. I’m open to change, as if I’m not I’ll never advance.

McDonald’s is a perfect example of effective evolution. They used to sell hamburgers, French fries and Cokes. Period. They came up with a system that worked, and sold billions of customers a limited product line. Eventually as times changed, they ended up adding many more products.

I kind of did the same thing, but not nearly as efficiently as McDonald’s. I started as a standup comic exclusively, and then I drifted into radio – by fluke. Eventually teaching classes came into the picture, and that wasn’t planned for either. It just happened. Before I knew it I was doing too many things at once, but all of them were working relatively well. Now, I’ve got too much to do.

There was no long range plan going in for any of this, and now all of the haphazard results I’ve gotten are painfully exposing that. I’m all over the place, and there needs to be a total reboot with a plan in place if I ever intend to achieve any kind of stability. Living like a gypsy is getting old.

This is the most challenging time in my life, even though it’s also the most exciting. I feel I am giving my all every day, but one glitch or delay takes me out of my plan and puts me in the trick bag again. If I have someone else to consult and delegate tasks to, it will provide me a safety net.

Eric Feinendegen and I have been working well together on several things in including my new monthly newsletter, but he’s got a family and a life too. We need a few more people to recruit for the team, but not until we get our own schedule hashed out. This life thing is harder than it looks.

Survival in business - and in life - requires constant evolution.

Survival in business – and in life – requires constant evolution.

McDonald's is a business that has evolved dramatically. They don't look like this anymore.

McDonald’s is a business that has evolved dramatically. They don’t look like this anymore.

Desperation Doesn’t Lie

September 21, 2013

Thursday September 19th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

I think I spent the single best dollar I’ve ever spent today. I had a few stops to make in Chicago and one of them happened to be near where I used to live in Andersonville near Clark and Foster. I really enjoyed my time there, but the neighborhood changed quite a bit and rents skyrocketed.

It’s one of THE most diverse neighborhoods I have ever been to much less lived. It’s where the Swedish of Chicago first called home, and there’s still some Swedish influence remaining today including delicious restaurants and a museum. There’s also a large gay population which brings a lot more outstanding restaurants. There are some rough areas nearby, and that brings riff raff too.

It does provide an entertaining mix if nothing else, and I had some time so I walked around on Clark Street to enjoy the show. There’s never a shortage of unique humanity to gawk at, and on a sunny summer day they’re all out. I wasn’t disappointed as I made my way north from Foster St.

As I approached a McDonald’s, I couldn’t help but notice an old woman desperately asking all who passed her for money. I don’t know how else to describe her but one of the ugliest humans I have seen up close in a long time. I don’t claim to be any dreamboat sexpot, but she had a whole face full of ugly going on. She was striking, but not in the good way. Everyone was avoiding her.

My grandfather and I used to take walks when I was a small child, and he’d tell me there were homeless people and there were flat out bums – and there was a big difference. He couldn’t stand bums, as they were just looking for a free ride. Homeless people were an entirely different story.

Gramps told me the sure way to always tell if someone was a bum or really in need was to look them straight in the eye. “You’ll know immediately,” he said. “Desperation doesn’t lie. It will be in their eyes, and you’ll know it when you see it. Always take time to help whenever you can.”

This woman today was a total mess. She looked to be in her 70s, and who knows what sad tale of woe left her in this way? Her clothing was ragged and smelled like she’d just finished a rodeo, and her teeth barely numbered in the single digits. Her skin resembled a well worn catcher’s mitt.

As I got closer to the McDonald’s, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to avoid her pitch. She had persistence if nothing else, and all the rejection she got didn’t seem to bother her. I couldn’t help but see her face as she got a foot from mine and started wheezing her way through her sales pitch asking me for money. She was slow and stammering, and it took her a long time to muster it up.

What those others didn’t hear was, yes she wanted money…to buy a chicken sandwich. They’d long passed before she could get to that part, and she had no takers. I told her I wouldn’t give her money, but if she wanted a chicken sandwich I’d buy her one. That’s when the magic happened.

I saw that look in her eye that Gramps had talked about, and I could tell she was definitely not faking. When I told her I’d buy her that sandwich, her entire face lit up like that giant Christmas tree they decorate at the White House every year. I can’t remember ever feeling such a dynamic pulsating energy of pure and unadulterated gratitude in all my life. It made me step back a little, as it completely took me by surprise. Her entire countenance changed in barely a few seconds.

She was no longer the prune faced old lady that looked like Alice the Goon from the Popeye cartoons I watched as a kid. I felt a beam of spiritual light emanate from her and I gazed into the deepest part of her soul. I can’t explain it other than I felt a very real jolt of energy in that instant.

I asked if she wanted to eat inside the restaurant or if she wanted me to bring her the sandwich to eat outside. She followed me inside, and when we walked in I could feel every eye in the place staring as she limped her way to the counter behind me. It made me feel totally uncomfortable.

Apparently they had kicked her out of the McDonald’s more than once, and the manager came out from behind the counter to shoo her out once again. I told the manager I was going to buy the lady her chicken sandwich, and we’d both be gone in a minute. He was satisfied with that answer and instructed a counter person to take the order. Everybody in the restaurant was still gawking.

I asked the woman if she wanted anything else, and she shook her head no. All she wanted was a chicken sandwich, but I felt like buying her one of everything on the entire menu. I don’t know when she last had a meal of any kind, but if she wanted a chicken sandwich she’d surely get one.

She sat down at a table, and I watched as she gummed that sandwich with the few teeth she had left. It looked like a comedy sketch Carol Burnett would have done, but she had a look of content on her face as if she was eating the most expensive lobster on the menu at the finest restaurant.

Gramps was right – desperation can’t be faked. She needed that sandwich. This woman has had a rough go in life – a whole lot rougher than most of us ever have to face – and if all it took was a chicken sandwich to make her feel that good, count me in. She might have smelled a little ripe on the outside, but inside there was a whole lot going on there. That energy I felt was unmistakable.

As I watched her gulp down her sandwich, I tried to think of any time in my life when I was as hungry as she must have been and I drew a total blank. I’ve seen some troubled times of my own for sure, but nothing close to what must have put her in this bad of shape. My problems are zilch.

She finished the rest of the sandwich, and I asked if she wanted anything else. She again shook her head no and gave me a giant beaming sincere smile of gratitude that laid me out emotionally. It might have been short of teeth, but there was a major punch packed with her pure gratitude.

There didn’t need to be many words spoken. I felt her raw spirit, and it was a sweet one. There was a lot more to this person than that frightening outer appearance, and it felt like I was touched by a being of higher vibration than usual. I know it sounds goofy, but I can’t make any of this up.

I’m not bringing this up to try and pump myself up by what a wonderful guy I am for buying a homeless person a sandwich. I got a lot more out of her than she got from me. There was a very real and vibrant spirit inside her that I can’t remember being able to see so clearly in a stranger at any time in my life. Maybe it was a coincidence, but it sure felt like it was much more than that.

I was going to snap her picture with my phone, but decided against it. I thought she’d suffered enough, and didn’t want to make her more of a freak show. I don’t know why this happened, but I won’t soon forget it. If nothing else, I made Gramps proud. It was the best dollar I ever spent.

The best dollar I ever spent.

The best dollar I ever spent.

A Friend On Letterman

May 25, 2013

Thursday May 23rd, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   My friend Ross Bennett is in town this week headlining at Zanies in Chicago, and we hung out all afternoon dissecting his recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Ross has been slugging it out in the trenches even longer than me, and getting this break is well deserved.

   I couldn’t be any happier for someone who has been such a good friend and supporter of mine for decades, and we had a lot to talk about. Comedians can be geeks when it comes to the craft of comedy, and we spent the whole afternoon discussing everything that went into the whole event.

   When I was on the Craig Ferguson show, Ross called me and wanted to know everything about that experience and I happily told him. It’s a monumental victory to get one’s national TV debut, but unfortunately the only one who can truly understand what it’s like would be another comic.

   So much goes into such a short appearance, and the only thing an audience sees is five minutes of what looks like effortless comedy. They have no idea of the agony that has gone into honing it over years on the road, and then packaging it into a set that needs to be approved by the network.

   There’s always a talent coordinator to deal with, and he or she dictates what gets to stay in and what gets axed. I had to deal with three or four different ones on the Craig Ferguson show, and in the end it was the first person I ended up dealing with who had quit and come back. Her name is Celia Joseph, and she was a total sweetheart. She approved my set, but it took a while to develop.

   Ross told me how he would record sets on DVD, and then the talent coordinator would look at it and tell him what to keep, change or cut. He kept working at it, and eventually what came out was a killer set. I was so proud when I watched it, as I knew his back story of years of struggle.

   Ross is also a dented can, and his road has been far from paved with gold. He is from a military family, and at one time he considered a career in the military. I’m glad he didn’t go that direction because he’s a fantastic comedian and always has been. He has pissed some important people off through the years just as I have, but he’s never given up and that’s why this is such a major deal.

   We talked of how this validates all the years of extreme effort that’s required to hone this craft, and how nobody can ever take it away – especially those who rejected or never supported him in the first place. It’s a top accomplishment, and reason to celebrate – which is exactly what we did.

   Some people may celebrate by having a drink or going out to an expensive dinner, but we were delightfully satisfied to sit in the McDonald’s across from Zanies as Ross drank a Diet Coke and I drank a bottled water and go over everything about the set from beginning to end. It was a treat for me to hear it, and Ross was ecstatic to relive every moment in detail. I was so happy for him.

   It was also extremely educational, and I wish I’d had a recorder to turn our conversation into a podcast for future comedians making their network TV debut. We went over our experiences and compared notes, and someone could have definitely gotten something out of the whole exchange.

   Ross said they told him he could come back, and they’ll be running his episode again at the end of May apparently. Not only is it great exposure, he gets paid again. I’m not sure if they ever ran a second showing of my Craig Ferguson shot, but I know I never got paid again. Ross deserves it and I’m thrilled for his good fortune. See him live or see the set at http://youtu.be/3fUyhibih7M.

Comedian Ross Bennett

Comedian Ross Bennett

The Funniest Man In America

April 2, 2013

Saturday March 30th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   Sometimes words with big meanings get thrown around carelessly, and that ruins the power of those particular words. Two that come to mind immediately are “genius” and “legend”. There are only a scant few who truly qualify as one of those, and far less that qualify as both. Today I got a chance to spend time with someone who is both, and I will be better for it for the rest of my life.

To me, a legend is a person or thing that comes along that completely changes whatever might be the perceived standard. Better yet, if there’s no perceived standard there is one set and kept up by said legend and it becomes used as the measuring stick for everything that comes along after.

Examples I think of immediately are McDonald’s, Michael Jordan and Zig Ziglar. They’ve all established their brand, and been able to maintain it even when competition has come from a lot of sources. They’re still looked upon as the leader in their field, and everyone else chases them.

In standup comedy, there aren’t many who have been able to change the game. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld have traditionally been recognized as the top two acts of the comedy club era, but a name that never comes up and should is James Gregory aka “The Funniest Man In America.”

James is from Atlanta, and has been performing sold out shows to adoring fans for thirty years. That alone is impressive, but what makes him legendary is the way he markets himself and stays on top of the mountain in a business where backstabbing and throat cutting are par for the course.

I’ve always been a huge fan of James from afar, as I’ve known of him for decades. His name is familiar with anyone who works the road as a comedian, if for no other reason that he’s handled his business so much better than everyone else. He understands the game better than anyone else, but he also executes his plan to perfection. He has a system like McDonald’s does, and it works.

James’ manager is Lenny Sisselman, someone I’ve known for many years. He used to manage the Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville, and I always liked him personally and respected his rock solid integrity. Lenny is as honest and trustworthy as they come, and that’s rare in this business.

I’ve always told Lenny how much I admire James, and always wanted to meet him personally. I got my chance a few years ago when we were both on a comedy TV show taping for Comcast that happened to be shot at Zanies in Nashville. All the comedians went out for dinner after the show, and I got to sit at James’ table as he held court telling great stories that made us all laugh.

James has a larger than life charisma, onstage and off. He’s a true character, and one can’t help but be mesmerized by his magnetic personality. He reminds me of how wrestler Dusty Rhodes is able to grab an audience during interviews. There’s a southern rhythm that hypnotizes listeners.

Dusty is known as a microphone master, and it’s no surprise he and James are personal friends. James loves pro wrestling, and that’s another reason I’m a fan. He understands the way wrestlers create personas to establish their rapport with their audience, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

I happened to be attending the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta this week and I received an email from Lenny saying James would like to invite me to visit him at his house while I was in Atlanta “if I had some time.” If I had some time? Let’s cancel the festival and I’ll just hang out with James for a while. That alone would have made my trip worthwhile. Of course I had time.

   We talked on the phone, and James said he was an early riser and I should plan on coming over as soon as I got up. Fine with me. I was a bit nervous in the car because I didn’t want to look like a total goober. Even though we’d met once, we’re not that close. I didn’t want to offend the man.

I arrived at his house, and I immediately knew why James has achieved legendary status. It’s a kind of place a person drives past in stunned awe and asks “I wonder who lives THERE?” It’s an awesome sight, as is the six car garage attached to it. I knew I was in for an amazing experience.   

   James welcomed me like I was an old friend, and led me to his living room to sit down. If ever the Atlanta Falcons need a place to practice in a pinch, there would be plenty of room inside this house. It was immaculately kept, and I was afraid to touch anything but James was a great host.

He made me feel right at home, and then proceeded to tell me some stories of how he started in the business and about his family. He’s incredibly humble, and more than once he apologized for ‘talking about himself’ when in fact that’s exactly why I was there. I wanted to hear all about his life and what he did to be able to stay on top of the game for as long as he has. This was a treat.

He told me about how he’s been working since he was 12 years old, and how his amazing work ethic he learned in sales has transferred over into comedy. He was the first comedian that offered merchandise after his shows – and that includes Leno and Seinfeld. James had cassettes and hats and t-shirts for sale after shows when he was still a feature act, and it’s done him more than well.

Marketing has always fascinated me, and I listened intently as James explained how he worked his way up from being an opening act sleeping on a couch to one of the biggest comedy club acts that ever stepped on a stage in the modern era. He didn’t start until he was in his 30s, and most of the rest of us start in our late teens or early twenties. James made up for lost time and then some.

What I got for my effort was basically a one day one on one seminar from one of the friendliest comics I’ve ever met. I really feel like we hit it off, and I couldn’t get enough of his stories of the way he built his business and career. He’s known as a ‘southern act’, but he really isn’t. Yes he’s from Georgia, but he doesn’t do any typical North/South stuff or anything like that. He’s careful not to go in that direction, and his act is hilarious and clean. That’s why he’s able to sell tickets.

James also has a fantastic hook. He’s billed as “The funniest man in America”, something he’d had written about him by a newspaper reporter years ago. His website is www.funniestman.com, and you can judge for yourself. What a treat it was to spend the day with someone I’ve been such a fan of for so long, only to find out he’s a truly nice person to go along with his legendary status he’s earned in the business. I can’t wait to start implementing the things I’ve learned this week.

Mothership Dilemma

March 4, 2013

Sunday March 3rd, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

   Part of the frustration of the entertainment business is that things run hot and cold. Sometimes a project can suffer simply because it’s not the right time for it, and that’s what I’m feeling with ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. Next week will be our fifth anniversary, and I’m not sure if I should keep the show running or not.

When I started, paranormal themed shows on TV – especially ghost hunters – were all the rage. There’s also ‘Ancient Aliens’ and a whole slew of others that have been on the air for most if not all those five years, and I’m beginning to wonder if they’ve played themselves out. I don’t know.

I’ve always been interested in offbeat topics like this, and I would tend to think a large number of others are too – but there have been all kinds of outlets to watch and hear about it all in media and I’m not sure there’s room for my little show especially if I’m looking to make a buck with it.

‘Coast to Coast AM’ with George Noory is the undisputed grand daddy of the paranormal talk radio world, and deservedly so. They’ve been around for years, and I’m a fan of the show myself when I can listen. I was a huge fan of Art Bell – the one who put this kind of format over the top. He had unbelievable charisma, and like a Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern really carved a niche.

George Noory is fine, but he’s a different personality than Art was. He has many if not most of the same interesting guests Art had, and many of those very same people have been on our show as well. There isn’t all that big of a community in those circles, and most are glad to get air time.

‘The Mothership Connection’ is the hybrid cross between ‘Coast to Coast AM’ and a morning show, and it really is fun to do. We’ve got a crew of regulars, whereas George Noory tends to fly solo. He has regular and semi regular guests just like we do, but there’s still a difference in how each show operates. He’s McDonald’s, and we’re the local burger joint. There’s room for both.

I absolutely LOVE doing the show every week, and we’ve got a fantastic crew assembled after five years of constant evolution. This is by far the best crew we’ve ever had, but no offense to all the others who gave of their time to be part of it. Like a band, we’ve evolved in a positive way to the point we are now, and it took the efforts of everyone involved to develop it all to this point.

The question now is what do we do with it? We’re on the air every Sunday, and we get a lot of calls from the same people. That’s great, but we’re not growing and that’s just not going to cut it as far as making a living goes. Kenosha is about 100,000 people, and the station’s signal isn’t the 50,000 watt blowtorch Coast To Coast tends to be on all over the country. It makes a difference.

We do have a following on the internet too, but it’s not where it needs to be to start cashing any big checks any time soon. We do well for what we have to work with, but I have enough hobbies to last me the next six lifetimes. I need to make a buck, and this just isn’t doing it right now. I am going to have to make a decision soon, and I really don’t want to quit but that may be the correct answer. Five years has gone by in a blink of an eye. That’s enough warm up. Time to get paid.

No Free Rides

December 5, 2012

Monday December 3rd, 2012 – Chicago, IL

   I’m starting to get a few comedy shows and classes lined up for the next couple of months, and that’s encouraging. I’ve never enjoyed that whole process, but at least I’m making a better effort to get it done even if it is out of necessity. I have to find a way to pay off my taxes and move on.

I’ve got shows lined up at least every weekend for the next six weeks, and that gives me a little breathing room to work even harder at filling the rest of 2013. I’m at my absolute peak right now as far as levels of performance and teaching go, but there’s no guarantee how long that will last.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to stay hungry forever. Eventually, one either starves to death or is full and no longer needs to hunt. I find myself in an odd position that’s right in between. I have experienced the fringes of success, but haven’t had enough to fill me up for a lifetime quite yet.

My goals when I started in comedy were to become a headliner in major comedy clubs all over North America and appear on national television as well. I’ve done that, but it hasn’t been nearly what I had imagined. I assumed that when it happened my life would just work out all by itself.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and now that I’m here I realize that every stage of life comes with its own individual set of difficult challenges and there are no free rides whatsoever at any time. I used to look at the headliners when I started in comedy and thought they lived golden lives completely free of turmoil. I would hear them complain, and could not comprehend why.

Now I’m in their position, and I totally see why they felt like they did. There are hidden things nobody sees until they venture down that path, but by then it’s too late. It’s like a kid wanting to be an adult more than anything, and not being able to understand why adults aren’t totally happy.

A kid sees the benefits they crave at the time but can’t have like being able to stay up as late as they want or the freedom to eat as much McDonald’s or candy as they can hold, but other things like the high pressure responsibility of making a living or dealing with in laws goes unnoticed.

Kids can’t fathom in the least why adults seem to be so boring most of the time and constantly complaining, but eventually they find out soon enough and then it’s too late. There’s no return to childhood, and the next generation of kids are coming up the ladder and the cycle begins again.

I noticed that at Zanies in Chicago tonight as I hosted the Rising Star Showcase as I’ve done on and off for several years now. I hadn’t done it in a while, so it was a nice change of pace. I enjoy seeing the new comics coming up the ladder, and I see that same hunger in their eyes that I had.

Those kids look at me exactly the way I used to look at the headliners as I was clawing my way up the ranks, but they fail to see the advantages of youth just like I did when I had it. I try to give sincere words of encouragement to as many of them as I can, as I know how much that meant to me when I was in their position. I still remember kind words I heard 20 years ago, and those who said them rank high in my book even now. But where did that time go? It seems like last week.

Two Hots And A Not

January 31, 2010

Saturday January 30th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/St. Charles, IL

Three shows today – two on stage, one on radio. The two on stage had a total combined audience of around 400. The radio show had several hundred thousand, if not more. Two out of the three shows came off without a hitch. Guess which one sucked rotten eggs?

I have to admit, I really stunk it up on Jerry’s Kidders today on WGN and I feel horrible about it. Jerry Agar is nice enough to have us on and I never want to embarrass either him or the station. I don’t take that opportunity lightly, and I want to contribute when I’m on.

I feel like I owe it to both Jerry and the other Kidders to step up and be the leader in the room as we’re on the air. I’ve done radio and comedy, and know the timing of both. It’s a total blast when it’s going well, and it usually does. Today I thought we were misfiring on all cylinders, and most of it started with me. For whatever reason, we never hit our stride.

Ken Sevara took the week off because he had a gig. Since we’ve been on WGN, each of us has had to bow out at some point, only because Saturdays are our work days. It’s tough for all three of us to make it in every week, but nobody’s angry about it. It’s just how it is.

Dale Irvin filled in for Ken, and he’s a total pro. He has his own individual bit he’s been doing for years called “The Friday Funnies” and it’s basically the same thing we do as the Kidders. He finds goofy news stories of the week and writes jokes. They’re funny jokes at that, and they’re on video. You can subscribe at http://www.daleirvin.com and I recommend it.

Tim Slagle is our other Kidder and he’s usually on point also. In fact, we tend to like to tease Ken because he’s not the strongest ad libber. That’s not a bad thing, he just isn’t. He likes to be prepared and he can do great impressions and voice characterizations that none of the rest of us can, so everyone has their place. Today, that place wasn’t a radio studio.

One would think with three of us who’ve been on the air before and Jerry, we’d be able to get in there and start throwing heat from all directions. Many times we do exactly that, but not today in my opinion. Nobody else said anything, but I felt like it was a train wreck the whole time, and most of it was my fault. The harder I tried to flow, the less it worked.

We fell back on a lot of self effacing humor and made fun of ourselves, but that doesn’t cut it for long. Eventually, someone needs to land on some punch lines. I’ll admit I like to work off the cuff, and this is the danger of what can happen when that doesn’t work out.

I don’t want to overanalyze it, but we weren’t anywhere near where we should be today. This is one of the advantages of radio though. If we did stink, it was diluted and we didn’t have to suffer the torture of having to eat it live on stage in front of a room full of people.

That’s the worst feeling I know. If an audience doesn’t like a show, everybody knows it. And I do mean everybody. Time slows down and it’s a bloody vortex of negative energy. On radio, people either don’t know or care, or if they do they can just change the station.

What probably happened was that nobody noticed. I did, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point. It’s not my show. My name is nowhere on the product at all except for at the top of the show when Jerry introduces us. If I’m going to pick a place to blow it, this is it.

Still, I never want to put Jerry or the guys in a bad way. We’ve all worked way too hard and long to start slacking off now. If we’re going to be on the air, we should be able to be at least a little bit funny for those who take time to listen. I don’t think it happened today.

The good news is, what I think about this doesn’t matter one tiny little bit. Perception is always what matters, and the perception is we’re good enough to be asked to be on WGN radio. We’ve had enough good shows where the powers that be haven’t yanked us off yet.

This one was just a blip. Athletes get into slumps and I’m sure actors and musicians and any other kind of performing artist has to deal with an off day once in a while. This was a show that I didn’t like, but sometimes I can be way too hard on myself. Maybe I am now.

The two shows at Zanies tonight were a completely different story. I didn’t nod out this time and was ready to go from the beginning. There were two nicely packed houses and it felt good to have an opportunity to work a full week of well attended shows at a club. It’s how every week used to be back in the boom years, and I forgot how much fun that was.

The other acts on the show this week were both nice so that also made it fun. Zanies has a smart policy of hiring ‘house emcees’ which are experienced people to host their shows for a month at a time or maybe longer. I’ve house emceed in the past and loved it. It helps the club by making the shows stronger and helps the acts by giving us steady local work.

The house emcee this month is Vince Maranto, a funny guy I’ve known for probably 25 years now. We met when I first started coming to Chicago and have stayed friends all that time. Vince has the distinction of having had only two jobs in his entire life – McDonald’s and comedy. He started working at McDonald’s in high school and climbed up the ladder.

Eventually, he became a manager at the Woodfield Mall location when it was officially the busiest McDonald’s in the world. He started doing comedy and that became his career but he has some interesting stories of his McDonald’s years. Vince is always fun to work with. We make each other laugh off stage because we’ve got so much common reference.

The feature act is a 22 year old Indian kid named Prashanth Venkataramanujam. That’s more than a mouthful, and he just uses his first name on stage. He’s very bright and has a big future if he stays with it. He’s a good looking smart kid, and I hope he does very well. He asked me to grab some food after the show and pick my brain, which is totally smart.

Most kids his age wouldn’t have that foresight, but he totally does. I tried to help him as much as possible, as did Vince. He’s still green and putting his act together, but there’s an absolute spark there, and he was eager to learn from us all week. Working with a pup has a way of rubbing off on two old dogs like Vince and myself. It was a fun week all around.