Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee Comedy Festival’

Respect

August 5, 2013

Saturday August 3rd, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

    Respect. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Aretha Franklin sang a hit song about it. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t get any, and made a career of letting everyone know why not. Mafia members and rappers had better show some to their fellow brethren or they could get a head full of lead. It’s a valued commodity.

   Who doesn’t want to be respected? It’s right up there with oxygen on the importance meter and people will go to great lengths to get it. Some will go as far as to resort to bully tactics, but that’s no way to guarantee getting it. It might gain fear, but that’s not respect. There’s a big difference.

   When I started in standup comedy, all I ever wanted was respect in my home town. I wanted it from my family, audiences, fellow comedians and club owners. I was a punk in my twenties then and hadn’t found my stride in life. I knew I had some ability, but had no clue what to do with it.

   That led to some ugly clashes with all of the exact parties from whom I was looking for respect in the first place, and it left me bitter and disillusioned. Why was I getting exactly the opposite of what I wanted? It felt like my inner magnet was inserted backwards, and I only attracted trouble.

   It still feels that way in some places, but not in my home town of Milwaukee. I’ve been able to slay most all of my local dragons, and it feels really good to know I’ve come full circle. Tonight I did a set at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival at the Act Two Theatre and I totally felt respected.

   I’m no longer the young buck trying to prove myself, and I’ve grown quite comfortable in my own skin. I’ve managed to accomplish a lot of the dreams I had starting out, and the main reason is that I stayed with it for so long. I was too stupid to quit, and a few good things came my way.

   I’ve managed to take standup comedy farther than just about anyone else from Milwaukee, and I’m feeling the respect from the twenty somethings who are coming up the same ladder that I did all those years ago. I had nobody to use as a role model, and they’re using me as one now. Great!

   As I walked back stage at the festival, I had one person after the other walk over and shake my hand and tell me something nice. One saw me on Craig Ferguson, and another reads my diary on a regular basis. Some told me hello from friends of mine they’d seen recently, and it really felt as if I was someone of importance. I haven’t been used to that treatment – especially in Milwaukee.

   It felt absolutely wonderful, and I know they were all sincere. I have zero power over anybody in this group, and not one of them had to even look at me. To them, I’m an old fart who showed up because the festival founder Matt Kemple asked me to. And there’s another perk. That guy is really on the ball, and he’s built a fantastic event with this festival. He’s earned my total respect.

   I always thought this was the way life should work, and I can’t put into words how wonderful it feels to see it come to fruition in real life. I’ve paid a LOT of dues in both life and the business, and to have that recognized by a generation of performers that could be my kids is a major high.

   I’ve felt respected in Chicago for a while now. I have always tried to be kind to comics starting out, and it has paid off repeatedly. I’ll meet some kid for the first time and see their countenance change completely when I tell them my name. That’s respect, and I can’t think of a feeling more rewarding. I am extremely grateful to be thought of so highly by SOMEONE, as I know there are still some who think I’m Satan’s son. We can’t please everyone, so why try? I will be who I am.

A Pleasing Teaser

April 4, 2013

 Tuesday April 2nd, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   My main focus for today was getting to Milwaukee to do a teaser show for ‘Schlitz Happened!’ in the sports bar at Potawatomi Casino. They sent out a press release and invited media, but there were also casino staff and VIP members from their newsletter that got in too. It was a lot of fun.

They even came up with a spectacular spread of “Milwaukee food” which included bratwurst, sauerkraut, beer and cheese soup with gigantic cream puffs for dessert. It was first class from the ground up, and I was thrilled to see it come to life. This is exactly how I pictured it would work.

Everyone at Potawatomi has been a peach to work with. Kim Mitschke is razor sharp with her attention to detail, and she’s also great at keeping me in the loop of what’s happening. She was a wonderful hostess, and brought me on stage for my performance with a top notch introduction.

The timing wasn’t great as far as getting all of the media to come, but that’s not a problem. I’d much rather have word spread organically, and then get media coverage later. I know in my heart I have a marketable product, and this was a test run. It was great fun to do, and it passed the test.

The reason I know it passed the test is that people stayed after the event to ask questions about the actual shows, as they plan on bringing friends with them. That’s exactly what I want to hear! I want word to get out, and build a recognizable brand. I finally have my chance to be a draw.

One lady made a point to track me down and tell me how much she related to my mention of a Milwaukee television icon from the ‘60s and ‘70s named “Albert the Alley Cat”.  It was a puppet that was a nightly sidekick for a local weatherman named Ward Allen. The puppet would mangle certain words and it was very funny. ‘Humidity’ became ‘humidery’, and it was of local legend.

The lady who came up to me said she moved to Milwaukee from Spain at age 16. She thought it was crazy to have a puppet giving the weather, and she took a picture of her TV screen to send back to Spain to show her family how crazy they were in Milwaukee. Her face lit up like a kid’s as she told the story, and I knew right there this will be a big hit. I touched her on a special level.

There are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people that have memories like that of local lore in Milwaukee, and I want to entertain each one of them. This show could run for years before I’d run out of fresh customers, and I’d be delighted if it does. I’ve hit a nerve here, and I’m beyond excited.

There’s no way I’ll ever be able to get to all of the localized talking points I have come up with in any one show, and that’s the beauty of this whole idea. I want people to keep coming back and bringing friends with them. The show will grow and evolve, and it will constantly refresh itself.

For once in my life, I really feel I’m in the right place at the right time. Everything fits together perfectly, and I know if I get people to come out they’ll LOVE this whole concept. I’ve been off the radar for so many years with so many projects, I know a hit when I see one. It feels different.

At the very least, I got to be part of a press conference in my honor. How many people can say they got a chance to do that? Jason Evans came from www.mkefunny.com with Brendan O’Day to film an interview and Matt Kemple from The Milwaukee Comedy Festival showed up as well. www.milwaukeecomedy.net  Those guys are supporting the local comedy scene, and I appreciate them both for covering this and making me feel important. My gut tells me this one is a winner.

A Day In Milwaukee

July 31, 2010

Friday July 30th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Back up to Milwaukee for business and pleasure. I’ve been up there so much in the past few weeks it’s starting to feel like I live there again. It’s also starting to feel like Chicago with all the road construction and traffic jams. That isn’t the Milwaukee that I remember.

Lots going on today. First I met with a very nice lady who is producing some television segments for PBS for the fall fund drive. I was referred to her by a gentleman who has an outstanding website about Milwaukee history called http://www.retromilwaukee.com. He and I have had some brief communication about teaming up on the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show.

It’s a fantastic website, and I want to cross promote as much as possible. I’ll gladly plug his excellent site with my shows, and I hope he can plug my shows in return. He gave me the lady‘s email address and we set up a meeting for early afternoon. She‘s hoping to put a segment together about the show to be run in the fall. That would make nice promo.

After that I went to visit my old friend David Rickert. David was a comedian back when the boom hit in the ‘80s, and actually was funny. He’s very smart and performed for quite a few years. I’m sure he probably could have stayed with it, but he loved fire fighting a lot more than comedy, so that’s what he chose. He’s very good at it and that was his destiny.

David has been working as a fire fighter probably as long as I’ve been a comedian. He’s an expert, one of the very best around. His life worked out very well and I’m ecstatic for a lot of reasons. He’s married to a doctor of all things and they have three textbook beauties for children, two girls and a boy. They’re unbelievably sweet kids, not at all dented cans.

David’s family are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They invited me over for all kinds of holiday meals in my early twenties and I’ll never forget it. They knew I was not a fan of the holidays but they took me in as if I was their own flesh and blood. They lived it rather than just talked about it, and all these years later their kindness shines like the sun.

We’re all super busy and I haven’t seen David in a while, and we were scheduled to see a Brewers game a while back, but I blew it and missed the day. People like him and all of his family are what make life worth living, and it was great to hang out and chat for a few hours as his son Adam wiped me out on a video bowling game. He’s four. I’m an idiot.

After that I went over to see the woman I’ve been seeing off and on for so many years it blurs together at this point. I can’t really call her my girlfriend, but that’s as close as what she is at this point. We drift in and out of contact, and she’s got a hefty stack of problems to deal with of her own. She just had surgery for a herniated intestine and is home resting.

She’s a single mom with a seven year old son, and he’s got the energy of a giant swarm of bees. I brought them Cousins submarine sandwiches for dinner so she wouldn’t have to cook, and I know she greatly appreciated it. Her eyes lit up and it was a surprise that I was in town, so it felt good to do a good deed for the day. This is what life is really all about.

There was just a good solid friendly peaceful vibe all day, and I surfed it like a wave. In a perfect world, every day would be like this but it never is. For whatever reason, I didn’t let anything or anyone get to me today but that was never an issue. Good people just kept crossing my path, and I appreciated every one of them. I tried to return the same energy.

The main reason I was in Milwaukee today was to do a ten minute opening set for The fifth annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival at 342 North Water Street. It’s an outstandingly well run event and I stumbled upon it a few years ago. My contact there is a guy named Matt Kemple who, with a few partners, are really growing themselves a very nice event.

They have a website at http://www.milwaukeecomedy.com  and are doing sketch and improv shows the rest of the weekend. Tickets are very reasonable, and there’s a lot of talent that shows up to entertain. I like how they start off the shows with a comedian, and I felt right at home from the first two seconds I was there. I wish them all nothing but big success.

It thrills me that someone is trying to make Milwaukee into a comedy town. It sure isn’t known for that, and anyone who’s tried to perform in Milwaukee will tell you how super difficult it is to get any recognition there. Comedysportz has done alright, and they know the Milwaukee stigma. I respect that whole organization from Dick Chudnow on down.

I’m very flattered that Matt asked me to be part of the festival, and I had a great time for my ten minute set. That space has housed a few of John McGivern’s one person shows in the past and I could definitely see myself doing a few ‘Schiltz Happened!’ performances.

I was out early enough that I still had some time to do something else, and I noticed that the Joan Rivers documentary “A Piece Of Work” was playing at the Downer Theatre. I’ve been meaning to see it for a while, but haven’t had time. I’d heard it was very well done.

I don’t know what to think of Joan Rivers. Part of me respects her work ethic, which is right up there with just about anyone I’ve ever seen, but another part of me is very turned off by her obnoxious personality. She seems very mean spirited, and that‘s hard to watch.

She’s obviously a dented can, but I don’t know why. She’s had a lot of success, but that doesn’t seem to have come close to satisfying her. It seems that nothing will. I was almost sad for her watching the film and seeing her deal with a lot of the same hassles that I do.

One scene that really hit home was her getting heckled at a casino gig in the far north of  Wisconsin of all places, a place I’ve actually worked myself. Some goof didn’t like a joke she did and it was go time. She took charge and handled it, but it brought back a flood of memories of my own dealings with halfwits like that. I guess fame doesn’t prevent it.

Whatever dents Joan Rivers has in her can seem to be a lot deeper than mine. I love the process of creating comedy and hearing the laughs, but she’s obsessed with it to the point of never being able to enjoy it. I hope I never get to that point. I had fun at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, and the whole day was really enjoyable. Fame will never replace that.