Posts Tagged ‘Mike Preston’

Afternoon Delight And Three Dog Night

March 31, 2014

Friday March 28th, 2014 – Arlington Heights, IL/St. Charles, IL

Today was yet another jam packed super busy day, but all of it was good. In the early afternoon I was asked to give a speech to a team of website telephone consultants that constantly face a lot of rejection in their job. Lucky them, as I can’t think of anyone with as much experience to speak on that subject as me. If there was ever a match made in heaven for me to be an expert, this is it.

There were about thirty people, and it was their quarterly meeting. Most were probably in their 20s or early 30s, and I’d guess there were a few more females than males. I had several weeks to prepare, and I worked very hard on coming up with things to talk about that would be of interest.

For some reason, ‘regular people’ seem to be fascinated with what it’s like to be an entertainer. I guess I don’t think about it that way because I have done it so long, but it has been pointed out to me over and over recently that I have a unique perspective that business clients want to hear.

I’m delighted to share my stories, and I have plenty to go around. I have had interaction with a lot of celebrities through the years, and that never hurts. People love hearing storied about them, and on top of that mine have points. And if it’s rejection they want to know about, I can speak on that subject with just about anyone still able to walk the planet. I’ve earned my master’s degree.

I spoke for about twenty minutes, and I put everything I had into it. I’m still learning how to be a speaker rather than a comedian, and there is a different pace involved. There are also important message points that need to be included, and I’m working on smoothing it all out into a package I can sell over and over just like my act. It will take more work, but today was a very solid effort.

The person that asked me to speak is my friend Vince Carone. He took my comedy class years ago when he was still a teenager, and has really done well. He now closes shows all over and has an unbelievably sharp business head to go along with a tremendous work ethic. I’m proud of him as a student, but he’s an even better person. People like him are why I keep teaching the classes.

Vince knows the owner of the company, and thought I’d be able to add to the mix while having a chance to practice my speech for a live audience. That’s exactly what happened, and it worked out splendidly. It was win/win, and I could tell it was a hit. This was totally worth all our whiles.

Immediately after finishing there, I drove to Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL to meet up with Mike Preston. He was scheduled to have an interview with Jimmy Greenspoon, keyboardist for the band Three Dog Night. Mike frequently calls when he does interviews like this as comics know how to act around celebrity types. Jimmy McHugh and I are usually his first two choices.

Jimmy and I were both available today, and we each ran a camera as Mike interviewed Jimmy Greenspoon – who happens to be a fascinating character. He grew up in Beverly Hills, and he is the son of a silent film star. He told us some fascinating stories, and then we got to see the show at the Arcada Theatre just down the street. I have always wanted to see them live, and it was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Those guys are total pros – the band and Mike and Jimmy.

Vince Carone got me a speaking gig this afternoon. Thanks Vince! He's also a very accomplished comedian in his own right and just recorded a brand new CD. www.vincecarone.com.

Vince Carone got me a corporate speaking gig this afternoon. Thanks Vince! He’s also a very accomplished comedian in his own right and just recorded a brand new comedy CD. http://www.vincecarone.com.

It was a thrill to meet Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night, and see their show as well. www.threedognight.com.

It was a thrill to meet Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night, and see their show as well. http://www.threedognight.com.

3000 Idiots

March 13, 2014

Wednesday March 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I seem to have gotten out of the gargantuan groove I was in for a few months, but I’m going to do an about face and go right back in that direction. I was riding a major wave there for a while – probably the best one I’ve ever ridden. It was bound to end at some point, but it’s not permanent.

I am going to consciously take my surf board back out in the water and find the next one. I will not let a couple of off days take me out of the ocean. There are a lot more waves to ride, and I am on a limited time schedule. The clock is ticking, and wallowing in mud takes away from the fun.

There was a change in schedule today that I was delighted to hear about. I had recently booked a show outside of Fort Wayne, IN for tonight, but the gig called this morning and said they were going to have to cancel due to bad weather. That made my entire day, as I had no desire to drive.

I ended up being able to get some work done, and also have some time to think. I wore myself out working on the Sharing For Sheri benefit show last night and the weeks leading up to it, but I still feel it was the right decision from a karma standpoint. I don’t regret helping anyone in need.

What I did regret was making a post on Facebook pointing out that every single wannabe in the city should have been lining up to see that show last night. It was a chance to watch SIX full time professional comedians practice their craft, and also donate to a worthy charity. Every one of the acts on last night’s show would have been glad to take time and answer questions from a newbie.

In fact, that would have been the ideal time. Comedians love to talk about comedy – especially in a room full of other comedians. We were all in a good mood last night, and had anyone shown up with even the least interest in being a professional he or she would have had all the time they wanted within reason to fire questions at any of us. What a magnificent opportunity they missed.

When I attempted to point that out logically, I was rewarded with a full smorgasbord of snide remarks aimed at my profanity ridden diatribe. I felt I needed to use strong language, because it was painfully obvious few if any were going to get anything subtle. There were roughly 3000 in the two Chicago Facebook group lists, and you mean to tell me not ONE comprehends this?

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a poor turnout like this. None of the Milwaukee locals would show up when I did the benefit show for Officer Josh Albert whenever that was. It baffles me to the ends of the Earth why someone that claims to want to be a professional in any field wouldn’t go out of his or her way to network with people that have already done it. Why wouldn’t they?

We laughed about it last night. I was sitting with Larry Reeb and John DaCosse who blew the roof off the joint in less than ideal conditions. That wasn’t a comedy room per se, but when they took the stage it became one in a hurry. Their years of experience were immediately evident, and so were those of Sonya White and Patti Vasquez. Mike Preston had the flu, yet he lit it up also.

Even 12 year old Trevor Burke did a more than journeyman’s job. That wasn’t his audience but he went up and didn’t flinch all the way through his set. He stayed poised, and I was really proud of the way he hung in there and finished his set. It didn’t throw him a bit, and that’s a major feat.

The people who saw that show got their money’s worth and more, and there was a nice chunk of change raised for Sheri. The comedians were superb as a whole, and I felt great about booking the show myself. I put it together, because after thirty years I finally have a clue what I’m doing.

Why out of 3000 alleged wannabe comedians in town, not ONE would take advantage of such a rare opportunity is beyond my comprehension. But I’m not going to dwell on it and will focus on something positive. Those are 3000 of the dumbest apezoids I’ve run across in all my days.

The world is getting stupider and ruder by the minute, but I don’t have to put up with it. I have been above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to helping people and setting up shows to benefit those in need, and I’ll keep my eyes fixed on things like that. Those monkeys are in their own cage and it’s not my job to worry about their laughable lack of sense. I’ve got my own life.

I am thoroughly convinced that what one chooses to focus one’s thoughts on is a direct conduit to the quality of life that person gets to enjoy. Thoughts truly are things, and we are in control of a lot more than we think. I have been wasting my time bellyaching about a few sleazoids of late.

Why am I thinking about them? I don’t know, but it needs to stop. It’s dragging me right down to their level, and I refuse to accept that. I’ve come too far to let something that petty take me out of my groove. I had a little detour glitch these last couple of days, but now I’m back on the road.

I have been seriously contemplating whether or not to continue this daily cyber purge, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to receive several calls and emails in the past 48 hours from people that I haven’t spoken with or seen in years that have been extremely kind to ask me to keep doing it.

I’ve always done it for me since I started, but knowing I have regular readers really blows wind into my sail. It gives me purpose. I know there are a lot of other dented cans out there, and I want to connect with them and give them hope that they’re not alone either on this insane little planet.

Kirk Noland is a guy I heard from today. He’s originally from Michigan, but now lives in L.A. He started as a comedian, and we worked together quite a few times over the years. We’ve never been close friends, but we always got along fine. I remember him as funny and highly creative.

Kirk made a point to call me today not only to say some very complimentary things about my writing, but to also inform me that he too is a dented can and struggles through many of the exact same things I do. I had no idea he was even following, and it was good to hear from him. He has evolved nicely, and now makes videos. See what he does at http://www.theminutewithkirknoland.com.

Tom Mabe is another creative person that I hadn’t heard from in a while. He’s out of Louisville and had some success with his ‘Revenge of the Telemarketers’ idea among other things. Tom has also been following, and I had no idea. He’s a brilliant marketer, and is at http://www.tommabe.com.

I also know that other quality people I like and respect have either consistently shared or given me the ‘like’ thumbs up including Don Reese, Donna Carter, C.J. Vincent, Billy Elmer, ‘Rusty Z’ and many more. I’m grateful for every last one of them, and I will continue writing even if they’re the only ones that ever read it while I’m alive. The 3000 idiots aren’t worth my time, but these people are.

Kirk Noland is a creative man of man talents. I'm flattered to have him as a reader. Check out his videos at www.themintewithkirknoland.com.

Kirk Noland is a creative man of many talents. I’m flattered to have him as a reader. Check out his videos at http://www.themintewithkirknoland.com.

Tom Mabe is another guy I've always respected. What a brilliant marketer he is. Super creative. www.tommabe.com.

Tom Mabe is another guy I’ve always respected. What a brilliant marketer he is – super creative and always thinking. http://www.tommabe.com.

Comedian Don Reese is one of the sweetest human beings I've ever met - and one of the funniest. He shaved his head before it was cool. LOVE that guy. www.donreese.com.

Comedian Don Reese is one of the sweetest human beings I’ve ever met – and one of the funniest. He shaved his head before it was cool. LOVE that guy, and you will too. http://www.donreese.com.

OOPS, forgot one. James R. Zingelman - aka 'Rusty Z' is a comedian and hypnotist. SUPER funny, and a great guy. www.zingproductions.com

James R. Zingelman – aka ‘Rusty Z’ is a comedian and hypnotist. SUPER funny is he, and a super guy too. http://www.zingproductions.com

Psycho Babbling

March 4, 2014

Monday March 3rd, 2014 – Mt. Prospect, IL

Along with everything else I’ve got going on, I’m still pecking away at the Uranus project on a daily basis. I simply have to force myself to make time, even when there isn’t any. I’ve got more than enough other gnawing gremlins to keep my pea brain busy, but I don’t want to let this die.

If done right, this will be the funding for my golden years – if indeed I’m lucky enough to have any. With all the stress miles placed on my body and psyche until now, I’ll be lucky to make it to St. Patrick’s Day. There are no guarantees for anyone, so I might as well follow my crazy vision.

Actually, it’s not so crazy at all. Everyone else might think so, and that’s good. That’s exactly what I want. It’s an attention getter, and that’s what any business needs. What it also needs is an organization behind it to execute the crazy idea. That’s what I’m working on now and it’s hard.

I am looking to create a trusted brand that makes the most amount of people smile as possible. It would help if they also bought something, but I’ll start with the smile and go from there. I am banking on smiles building trust, and once I have that I would hope sales follow. That’s the plan.

Disney sure did that. Mickey Mouse makes people smile. He’s cute. People trust him, and they pay BIG money to show their allegiance in many ways. I see the King of Uranus and a collection of other characters doing the same. I’m not saying I’m expecting to have a Uranus theme park or movie studio, but I do foresee building a legion of fans that are loyal to my brand. It WILL work.

I know it will work because I continue to test market every day. I have a baseball cap that says “KING OF URANUS” on it, and I’ll wear it on occasion just to see if anyone notices. Many do, and they always at least smile when they notice or once in a while even laugh out loud. It works.

Then there’s my ‘URANUS 1’ license plate. That gets people smiling every single day without exception. I can’t count all the times I have been lost in thought about something at a traffic light and then notice someone in my rear view mirror giggling like a girl scout while taking a picture.

I can only imagine what it would be like if I really went all out and LIVED the gimmick. What would it be like if I had a vehicle completely decked out in Uranus themed garb – whatever that might be – and had it loaded with funny products to sell, or at least catalogs to pass out to people.

I look at the King of Uranus in the same league as Santa. Who doesn’t brighten up when Santa walks into a room? I have to believe even Jews and Muslims get a tingle somewhere. Santa is all about fun and giving and everything good. That’s what I want the King to be too. He’s positive.

Tonight I had another chance to practice on Mike Preston’s ‘Psycho Babble TV’ cable access show. He lets me experiment, and I’m very grateful for the chance. Tonight I got to haul out all of my t-shirt prototypes, along with my ‘I (heart) URANUS’ bumper stickers and promo pics.

I don’t know and don’t care who sees it right now, it’s a chance to get it together. The costume is evolving, as is the character. This is a great way to polish up what I still think is a concept that will be bigger than all the other projects I’ve ever done combined. http://www.psychobabbletv.com.

Psycho Babble TV is a funny cable access show that has been running since 2002.

Psycho Babble TV is a funny cable access show that has been running since 2002.

The cast and crew are talented and hard working people. This is not a joke.

The cast and crew are talented and hard working people. This is not a joke.

Mike Preston is the mind behind the madness. Inspired madman or complete jackass?

Mike Preston is the mind behind the madness. The question: inspired madman or complete jackass? We’re still not sure.

The King of Uranus has appeared on several of the now more than 300 episodes. Most are available to be seen at www.psychobabbletv.com.

The King of Uranus has appeared on several of the now more than 300 episodes. Tonight was another gem. Most are available to be seen at http://www.psychobabbletv.com.

Doesn't EVERYBODY?

Doesn’t EVERYBODY?

Braving The Elements

January 27, 2014

Saturday January 25th, 2014 – Woodburn, IN

Comedy work has been flowing very nicely of late, and January has been an excellent month. I love to stay busy, but it always ends up being part of a cycle. Right now I’m riding the wave on a hot streak, and life is peachy. Then it will be slow again, and then heat back up. That’s how it is.

I would absolutely work every night if I could – seven nights a week each and every week – but that’s a tall order. The performing part is that much fun, but unfortunately that isn’t everything to have to think about. Booking actual dates and dealing with travel become a full time occupation.

Tonight was the last of a manufactured three night run and I was booked with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez for a volunteer fire department fundraiser in a small town near Ft. Wayne, IN called Woodburn. That might not sound very exciting, but these kinds of shows can be electric.

Electricity became an important theme all day, as there was a power outage in the town and we weren’t sure if there would be a show or not. Jimmy and I were booked together in Frankfort, IL last night, so he chose me to be part of this fundraiser to make travel easier. We drove together.

Weather can obviously be an issue this time of year, and we knew that. We expect that driving can cause grief, but we weren’t expecting a power outage. Jimmy called around noon to check on the snow conditions, and was told they weren’t sure if they could get power back in time to do a show. They were worried on their end because they’d sold out and didn’t want to give refunds.

We heard back by mid afternoon they could get an emergency generator, but we were keeping our eye on the weather as well and knew we had some rough conditions for driving. It’s not that far from Frankfort, IL to Fort Wayne, IN with ideal conditions, but in the snow all bets are off.

The drive was unpleasantly tense most of the way as we went through everything from slush to sunshine to snowfall and everything in between. It was way more stress than Jimmy or I wanted, but that’s part of the game. Nobody gets to choose when the stress arrives, it’s always random.

Patti was about an hour behind us, as she had a show in Marinette, WI last night and didn’t get home until 4:30am. Jimmy was concerned she wouldn’t make it, and we would have to cover her time. We could have easily done it, but he promised three acts and didn’t want to fail to deliver.

She ended up making it about an hour before the show, and the three of us were frazzled as we drove to Woodburn from our hotel in the Ft. Wayne area. The shows themselves aren’t stressful, but getting there often is. We’d all had all we could stand all day, but we also had a show to do.

The generator was working fine, and there was a jam packed house ready to forget about power outages and bad weather and have some laughs. We gave them exactly that, and they couldn’t be a better audience if they tried. As stressful as it was to get there, they made it worth the trouble.

Jimmy really works hard booking these shows with his “Chicago Comedy All Stars” fundraiser concept. Last year he was here with Mike Preston and James Wesley Jackson, and they rocked as well by all accounts. He’s always looking for new business – http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

The Chicago Comedy All Stars specialize in doing fundraiser comedy shows anywhere that needs to raise them. www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

The Chicago Comedy All Stars specialize in doing fundraiser standup comedy shows anywhere and everywhere that needs to raise them. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

Tonight it was in Woodburn, IN with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez.

Tonight it was at a fire station in Woodburn, IN along with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez.

The show was really fun, but getting there and back in a snowstorm was brutal. Welcome to show business.

The show was really fun as usual, but getting there and back in a snowstorm was brutal. Welcome to real world show business.

Old Dogs And New Meat

January 25, 2014

Thursday January 23rd, 2014 – St. Charles, IL

There was a fall out tonight at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL and once again I was the one called to fill in. I’m always grateful to get those calls, and I gladly said yes. The temperature was way on the wrong side of zero and my car barely started, but it was a pleasant ride to work.

I have always enjoyed working in St. Charles, and have been doing it with regularity since the club opened in 1989. I’ve seen several managers come and go, and like a lifer in prison I’m now part of the fabric of the walls. I’m a fixture, and there are several others in that category as well.

Vince Maranto is another. I have known Vince from the days of the first place I ever worked in the Chicago area called “The Comedy Cottage” in the mid ‘80s. That was a showcase club where an entire generation of extremely talented comedians cut their stage teeth, and I am honored that I was a part of that scene. What a blast. It was like being a musician in Liverpool in the late ‘50s.

I always liked Vince and thought he was a funny comedian, and we’ve worked together far too many times to count. He’s a headliner in his own right, but frequently works as ‘house emcee’ at Zanies to stay off the road. He was married with a son, and chose to be around. I can’t blame him for that, and in fact I commend him. Vince chose to make comedy work for him and that’s smart.

Mike Preston wasn’t a part of the Comedy Cottage scene, but he came around not all that much longer after. He’s another act everyone likes personally, and is also an excellent comedian that is able to close shows when needed. He also opted for the ‘house emcee’ gig because he helps take care of his mother in Crystal Lake, IL where he grew up. Again, who can blame a guy for that?

Vince never chose to make the move to L.A., but Mike did. He lived there for several years but decided to move back like a lot of people do. There’s no shame in doing it but it’s never pleasant to make that long trip home. I’ve done it myself, and so have countless others. It’s a cruel game.

Vince and Mike are two of my favorites to hang out with offstage, and I love their acts too. We have all seen each other’s acts so many times over so many years, we could probably recite them word for word by now. We’re three prime examples of what a working road dog comedian does.

I had no idea who I would be working with when I arrived at Zanies tonight, but was delighted to see Vince and Mike sitting around – and they were happy to see me too. We all knew we could relax and not have to worry about anything as far as the show went. That makes it a total breeze.

I happened to be the headliner tonight, and Mike was the feature. Vince always does a great job as host, but Mike or I could have easily done that role too. Any of us could have effortlessly fit in at any position, and I can’t remember the last time I was on a show like that. What a treat that is.

The audience tonight was mostly a group fundraiser event for a baseball team of some sort that is based in the western suburbs. There were a few others mixed in, but that group was the bulk of the audience. Vince, Mike and I knew exactly how to play it, and it came off without any hitches. The crowd saw a much better show than they realized, as there were decades of sweat equity put in by all three of us, and that just doesn’t happen every day. I’m proud to call those guys friends.

Right before the show started, Vince asked me if I’d heard about Pat McGann. I hadn’t, and he told me that Pat was taping his first David Letterman appearance tonight. I hadn’t heard that and was very happy for him. Pat is a wonderful guy and everyone likes him too – but he’s different.

Pat is not going to be a road dog kicking around for decades like Vince, Mike and me. Pat has big star written all over him, and I predicted that years ago. He’s got all the tools, and has put in his time the right way. There aren’t many that come along that are like him, and he’s on his way.

I’ve only seen it happen a few other times, but I was right each time I saw it. It doesn’t take all that much to see it, as it becomes quite obvious in a hurry. There are some people that show up at the right time with the right equipment, and they shoot up the ranks with little difficulty. It’s rare.

Frank Caliendo was one. He opened for me the first time he ever stepped on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. He was totally raw, but I could clearly see how that audience loved his impressions. I told him that night if he worked hard and stayed with it he’d take it to the big time.

Hannibal Burress was another. That kid has a load of natural ability, and combines it with one of the hardest work ethics I’ve seen since Frank Caliendo. Frank busted his hump and then some to get his name out, and Hannibal is the same. People with both those traits are extremely rare.

Michael Palascak is another. He’s done all kinds of TV, and is well on his way to a long career making big money doing something in the entertainment business. He might get a sitcom or have a movie career, but standup comedy has launched him to a higher level than most of us ever see.

Pat McGann is on that path as well, and tonight was his official launch date. I was told it won’t air until tomorrow, but unless there’s another 9/11 type story I’d say he’s golden. It might not be a big deal with the public, but he’s cementing his place of credibility within the business itself.

Like with pro sports, there are only a few of thousands that are considered legitimate prospects. Once in a while someone slips through the cracks and overachieves, but for the most part it boils down to a precious few at the top of the crop that are talked about and given chances to succeed.

In Pat’s case, he comes from a solid family that’s well connected on the South Side of Chicago where he’s from. I think his father is a judge, but I could be wrong. Whatever the case, he’s been groomed to be socially adept, and he totally is. Everyone likes Pat, and I see why he’ll be a star.

He’s got a razor sharp wit and is very funny naturally. He took a comedy writing seminar that I taught with Bill Gorgo years ago, and we immediately liked him then. It was obvious he was one of those rare ‘naturals’, but he also put in his time and worked at it. This is no surprise to anyone.

I’m thrilled for Pat’s success, but I also have to keep plugging on my road. I wasn’t given all of the gifts Pat was, and neither were most of the rest of us. There are a lot more Mike Prestons and Vince Marantos than there are Frank Caliendos or Pat McGanns. Dobie Maxwells are even fewer than that. My story is so out there, it stands eerily all by itself like Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. It now becomes up to me to play the hand I was dealt correctly and salvage as much happiness as is humanly possible. If I’m lucky, Pat or Frank or Hannibal or Michael will hire me as a pool boy.

Vince Maranto is one of Chicago's very best standup comics - and has been a friend for many years. He's a rock solid professional. www.vincemaranto.com.

Vince Maranto is one of Chicago’s very best standup comics – and has been a friend for many years. He’s a rock solid pro and I’m a lifelong fan. http://www.vincemaranto.com.

Ditto with Mike Preston. Mike is also the host of a very funny TV show called 'Psycho Babble'. I've been a guest several times, and it's always a blast. www.psychobabbletv.com.

Ditto with Mike Preston. Mike is also the host of an original and funny TV show called ‘Psycho Babble’. I’ve been a guest several times, and it’s always a blast. http://www.psychobabbletv.com.

Pat McGann recorded his first network TV spot tonight. He's on his way to becoming a big star. You heard it here first. I'm thrilled for Pat, he's a true talent and super nice guy. www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Pat McGann recorded his first network TV spot tonight. He’s on his way to becoming a big star. You heard it here first. I’m thrilled for Pat, he’s got talent galore and is a genuinely nice guy. http://www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Frank Caliendo opened for me his first time on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. I told him that night if he stayed with it and worked hard he could easily take it big time. He did, and it worked. Good for him. www.frankcaliendo.com.

Frank Caliendo opened for me his first time on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. I told him that night if he stayed with it and worked hard he could easily take it big time. He did, and it worked. Good for him. http://www.frankcaliendo.com.

Hannibal Burress is another rising star loaded with talent and a rock solid work ethic. I'm a big fan, and it's no surprise he's blowing doors off of everywhere he goes. He's a rare talent. www.hannibalburress.com.

Hannibal Burress is another rising star loaded with talent and a big time work ethic. I’m a huge fan, and it’s no surprise he’s blowing doors off of everywhere he goes. He is absolutely the real deal. http://www.hannibalburress.com.

Michael Palascak is another up and comer with star written all over him. He's also talented and has a super work ethic. www.michaelpalascak.com.

Michael Palascak is another up and comer with star written all over him. He’s also talented and has a super work ethic. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Success leaves clues. http://www.michaelpalascak.com.

Summer Synergy

July 10, 2013

Monday July 8th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   The dreaded slowness of summer isn’t turning out to be as bad as I thought. I’ve been getting a lot of calls for shows, classes and even some inquiries for corporate speaking engagements. I was getting a bit stressed there for a bit, but it seems to be much better now. It always goes in cycles.

   With the crazy way the business not to mention the whole world is changing, it’s even more of a challenge to stay on top of things than it ever has been – and it wasn’t easy before. There are so many details to keep track of, it’s easy to lose hold of them all and become totally overwhelmed. 

   I thankfully got a call from Bert Haas at Zanies in Chicago to host both Rising Star Showcases this month. They’re traditionally the first two Mondays of each month, and the call couldn’t have come at a better time. It will help me get through the summer drought, plus I enjoy doing them.  

   Since I was going into Chicago anyway, I arranged a long overdue meeting with James Wesley Jackson to discuss the DVD project that’s been sitting for far too long. This is what I’m referring to when I talk about things falling through the cracks, and it’s time to get this project in motion.

   James deserves this and more, and I feel horrible it’s been on the shelf for so long. Life tends to have too many distractions, and it was totally unintentional. James has had the patience of a saint about it and then some, but now it’s getting to the point of being ridiculous. It’s time for action.

   I’ve said it before and I meant every word – James Wesley Jackson is one of the absolute most delightful human beings I have ever met both in comedy and out. Any comedian who has had the pleasure of working with him feels the same way. I’ve never heard a bad word about him EVER.

   He’s just a peaceful soul and a kind hearted human being – not to mention a really funny comic who happens to have a very unique style. James transcends boundaries much like Bill Cosby has for fifty years, and when you see him perform in person it’s virtually impossible not to like him.    

   We were fortunate to catch a red hot show on video, and I’m really proud of the product we’ve been able to put together. Mike Preston brought two cameras that particular evening, and it looks and sounds excellent.  Pedro Bell’s cover artwork is also very well done, and it’s ready for sale.

    I had money at the time we recorded it, but that’s all gone now. James wanted to do his part so he gave me some seed money to get things started. I am totally grateful and it came at the perfect time, but I was bound and determined to get it going anyway. I think we can sell some product.

    I plan to focus on getting James some positive attention within fans of Parliament/Funkadelic – and I’ve been one of those myself since the ‘70s. There are all kinds of them all over the world and I bet with my own money that more than a few will remember James and want to buy one.

    I could be completely wrong and have it blow up in my face, but even if that happens it’s a lot better than doing nothing. There’s a lot more to do including getting a press release written up to be included with inquiries to media outlets, and then we can see if I was correct with my guess.

   I really hope this project does well not only for James, but financially for us both. We have survived this long, so a little longer might not be convenient but we at least are finally “standing on the verge of getting it on.” That’s a P-Funk reference by the way. That’s where the most paying customers will come from, at least I think so. I think we can book some live shows as well.  

Once upon a time called NOW...the 21st Century Enviromedian is back!

Once upon a time called NOW…the 21st Century Enviromedian is back!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Showing Off Uranus

June 24, 2013

Sunday June 23rd, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   A phone call from Mike Preston usually means some kind of adventure is close behind, and it’s almost always fun. He called yesterday to ask if I’d be available for an impromptu appearance as The King of Uranus for his TV show ‘Psychobabble’. I told him I would help any way I could.

   The assignment today was to cover a comic book show at the Mega Center at Pheasant Run in St. Charles, IL. I was to dress in character, and Mike would follow me with a camera find people to interview for his show. I had nothing else going on, so I hauled out the garb and played along.

   It’s amazing what a strong reaction something as simple as dressing up in a goofy costume gets – even at a comic book show. I felt all eyes on me as I walked, but I’ve done it several times now so I’m starting to get used to it. It was uncomfortable at first, but now I’m starting to play with it.

   Nobody knows what to say, and I just carry on like there’s nothing odd or unusual. Sometimes someone will say a line, and I try to snap off a funny answer if I can. The most common remark people say is “Nice hat!” referring to my Jiffy Pop style “crown”. I don’t know why they would pick that out of the whole wacky ensemble, but that’s the comment I’ve heard the most to date.

   The standard line I now shoot back is “Who’d have believed it was margarine and not butter?” – which almost always gets a solid laugh. I’m getting a whole lot more comfortable in my skin as the character, and even though it’s not all the way there yet it’s getting closer every time I do it.

   Any time there’s a chance to practice, I’ll do it. This was an excellent opportunity to do it with zero risk. What was the worst thing that could happen, I get thrown out of a comic book show for dressing funny? That would be pretty hard to do from comic book shows I have seen in the past.

   One thing that made me feel better was that I dressed in a room with other characters that were walking around as well. I recognized Batman, and there were a few others I didn’t know. It was a funny scene as we all got into our costumes with no fanfare. Nobody made fun of each other, but we all looked pretty crazy walking out one by one in full regalia ready to walk around the show.

   There were plenty of interesting characters to interview, and I’ll bet we did a dozen interviews in an hour’s time. I didn’t so much stress the fact that I was the King of Uranus, but let them talk about what they were there for. I am pretty quick with a joke and have had practice interviewing people, so most of them came off a lot better than I’m sure anyone expected. It was a lot of fun.

    It was a special treat to get rejected for interviews by all the paid autograph celebrities there to sign for fans. The look of fright in their eyes as we walked over with a camera was priceless, and I had a hard time keeping a straight face as they ran in the other direction to avoid talking to us.

   Priscilla Barnes was first, and I wish we could have gotten a picture of her look of disgust. She recovered quickly, and after shrieking “NO!” when asked for an interview she said “But I thank you for asking” to save face with the people around her. I took it in stride and kept on walking.

   Pro wrestlers Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine and Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake were next. The funny thing is, I’d have been able to do great interviews with them with my immense knowledge of wrestling but neither one wanted any part of it. It’s their loss. I know I’m on to something big to get such negative reaction – but I got positive reaction too. We laughed the whole way home.

All hail The King of Uranus!

All hail The King of Uranus!

It's ALWAYS funny when it comes from Uranus!

It’s ALWAYS funny when it comes from Uranus!

Check out Mike Preston's 'Psycho Babble TV' www.psychobabbletv.com

Check out Mike Preston’s ‘Psycho Babble TV’ http://www.psychobabbletv.com

What’s An Enviromedian?

May 28, 2013

Sunday May 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

  Nobody appreciates quality entertainment more than an entertainer. I’m a loyal and rabid fan of anything well done, but obviously standup comedy holds a special place in my heart and always has. I loved it before I did it, and my love for it was what drew me to it. I never grow tired of it.

   I think that makes me a perfect candidate to be a producer of product for other comedians. I am a lifelong fan of the craft, and who better would there be to inject a set of ‘fresh eyes’ into what a comedian does to best showcase his or her talent to the public? I feel as if I’m uniquely qualified.

   I got my chance a while back when I produced a live DVD project for my friend James Wesley Jackson, aka ‘The Enviromedian’. This was a thrill on many levels. First, James used to tour with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years. That alone puts him in my Hall of Fame for life. Anyone who knows me knows I love the PFunk – even though nobody can figure out why.

   For whatever reason, I was sucked in as a kid when I first heard it on the radio and I still love it today. It’s well done entertainment and then some, and I respect the immense effort it must have taken to pull off such a huge project. James got to witness it first hand, and still be a comedian.

   Second, James is flat out one of THE sweetest human beings I have ever encountered. He has a laid back friendliness that shines on stage, and you can’t help but love the guy. He’s got his own unique style, and the first time I met him we hit it off instantly. Part of it was the fact that I knew of his pedigree with the PFunk, and another part was two fellow comedians sharing our histories.

   Whatever the case, I wanted to start producing other performers. I can think of more than just a handful who don’t have top quality recording projects out in my opinion, and that’s not meant to be an insult. Most of us are focused on our performing and just trying to stay alive that taking the time to crank out product never manifests itself. I know how hard it was to do my own products.

    I also suffer from a common ailment of not being able to sell my own stuff well, but can go all out with someone else’s. I believe in James as a comic and a person, and it was my pleasure to be the one to head up this project. It was recorded a couple of years ago now, but my hospitalization fiasco of 2011 has held it up along with other obstacles in my path. It’s been a long time coming.

   Now, I have FINALLY gotten my head out of Uranus and had 100 promo copies made to start sending them out. I don’t know exactly who to send them to, but I have them. I invested my last nickel getting this done, but I felt I owed it to James and myself to finish what I said I would do.

   Fellow comedian Mike Preston was the technical person, and I hired him to record the show at a place called ‘Asbury’s’ in the Chicago area. It’s a country club of all things, but James knocked it so far out of the park it might as well have been Carnegie Hall. It was a very special experience to be there that night, and for once the hot show was the one that got recorded. It came out great.

   I hired legendary PFunk artist Pedro Bell to do the cover art, and fans will be able to recognize it instantly. It took a long time to get this far, but I am proud to say I did it. Now I need to stretch it further and start selling some product. Not only that, I’d love to get a chance to produce several more comedians I’m a fan of. Names that come to mind are talented guys like Bill Gorgo, Jimmy McHugh, Jim Wiggins, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern and so many more. George Clinton produced a lot of music acts beside his own. I’d be delighted to do the same with a variety of comedy acts.

The Enviromedian is BACK!

The Enviromedian is BACK!

James Wesley Jackson

James Wesley Jackson

An All Star Experience

March 25, 2013

Saturday March 23rd, 2013 – Spencer, IA

   What a euphoric experience it was in Holland, MI last night. Who’d ever think a show like that could happen in a place like that? There was no real reason for it, other than everyone showed up at the right place at the right time. That doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s a real treat.

Those are the shows that keep us all out there chasing this goofy dream, but in reality I actually caught it last night. It only lasted for a few minutes, but I did catch it. When I started, shows like last night were exactly what I dreamed of. I wanted to hear eruptions of laughter from audiences. Period. Location of those audiences was never part of my dream. Holland, MI works fine for me as does anywhere else. All that matters is there’s a live audience and they’re enjoying the show.

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to be king of Las Vegas or Los Angeles or any other place that’s considered the epicenter of the big time, but I think that’s a big mistake. People in Holland, MI or Spencer, IA don’t laugh any differently than the people anywhere else. Laughs are laughs.

There were a lot more of them tonight in Spencer, IA with the Chicago Comedy All Stars. This was another red hot crowd, but it sure was a major effort to get in front of them. It was 530 miles from my house to Spencer, not counting the drive from Holland, MI to my house. I’m delirious.

In reality I should have said no to the Holland show last night. I always hate to turn down work though – especially when it’s as much fun as that whole experience was. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the effort on a financial level. By the time I pay for gas and wear and tear on my worn and torn car, I will barely break even. I don’t like to admit that, but facts are facts. It was inefficient.

It would have been a lot smarter to have driven to Spencer with the other acts on the show. Jim McHugh, Tim Walkoe and Mike Preston split a rental car and drove out yesterday. We thought we had a Friday in the Des Moines area, but that fell through last week. I was offered the gig in Holland, so I took it without thinking. That was my problem. I should have thought it through.

A quarter of the rental car and gas cost would have been a lot easier than driving by myself like I did. Also, it would have been a blast riding with three of my favorite comedians and having fun busting balls the whole trip. The camaraderie of hanging with comics is a big part of the fun of it.

We did get to do that at the actual show, and it lived up to the billing and then some. Again, the audience was really into us, and we tore it up one more time. All the acts on the show are veteran performers and it was like a night off only having to do about thirty minutes total. They fed us an incredible dinner before the show, and everyone treated us like stars. Is there an issue with that?

Again, people anywhere else wouldn’t have laughed any more or harder than these people this evening. They loved the show, and we loved performing for them. None of us loved the drive we had to make, but that’s just something that goes with the territory. It’s a tradeoff. To get that rush of live performing, we all have to sacrifice our comfort and find a way to make it to the venue so we can get our fix. It’s an addiction. There’s no way around it, and it comes at a very high price.

New Old Material

February 3, 2013

Friday February 1st, 2013 – Frankfort, IL

   Comedians and non comedians alike are constantly obsessed with who has ‘new material’, and it’s a waste of time. It’s natural to want to grow and expand, but there first needs to be rock solid old material on which to build. That takes years of work, and it’s a lot harder than it may appear.

Comedians of the Vaudeville era would often do virtually the same act for forty and fifty years, even though that might be a little obsessive in the other direction for today’s needs. What I mean by getting ‘old’ material is having pieces that are polished and can be performed automatically in any situation without having to think about them. Those don’t come overnight to any performer.

Standup comedy is not natural in that nobody gets up in the morning and plans what they’ll say to their spouse or their boss or the people at work. Conversation is spontaneous. Standup comedy gives the ILLUSION of one just making up one funny line after the next on cue without effort.

Real life just doesn’t work like that, even though when it’s done well standup comedy gives the false impression it does. A good comedian makes it look effortless when in fact it’s anything but. The public doesn’t know that and doesn’t care, but smart eyes and ears know comedy is a craft.

I performed with Mike Preston tonight at ‘CD & ME’ in Frankfort, IL. That’s a gig Ken Sevara has been booking for several years now, and although it’s always fun there are a lot of regulars in the audience. They only do comedy seasonally, and Ken likes to use the same core group of acts.

I totally get what Ken is doing, and it makes perfect sense. It’s not a comedy club per se, and to constantly bring in new people for a one night part time gig would be virtually impossible. It’s an economics thing, and the people he brings in are very good acts. It’s been a win/win for all of us.

That being said, I like to purposely switch my set around in situations like this because I know there will be a certain amount of people who will have seen me before and I like to make it fresh for both them and me. I might do some of the same bits, but I change the order and add new ones whenever possible. When I can keep them on guard it’s good for everyone as it keeps us all alert.

There’s no law that says I have to do that, and some comedians do the exact same jokes they’ll always do in the exact same order, even though they know they’ve done it at the exact same club. There gets to be a fine line between consistency and laziness, and it takes effort to identify where it is. Some acts will walk through their set to get the money. I’ve always tried to be a bit deeper.

I like to know where I am and who may or may not have seen me before. There are people who like to see the same bits again, and I’m to the point where I get requests from regulars to do some bits like ‘Doris The Porkasaurus’ or ‘The Greyhound Bus’. When asked, I’ll always try to oblige.

Tonight I went back into my archives and did some material I haven’t done in years. I can’t say why, but I knew it would work so I did it. And it did. A group who has seen me often came up to me after the show and said how much they enjoyed all of my ‘new’ material. If they only knew.