Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Healing With Humor

November 13, 2013

Monday November 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

This has been a rough year health wise for more than a few of my friends. It’s been no polka in the park for me either having to deal with my recent kidney stone, but that’s nothing compared to what some other people I know have had to face. Many are comedians, and it doesn’t seem right.

I would think since comedians provide a service to humankind we’d get some sort of free pass, but we aren’t exempt from the same health horrors everyone else faces. Sometimes it even seems like we get it worse, which I could never understand. There are a lot of people I know suffering.

Jim Wiggins had cancer surgery just a couple of months ago, and he’s having to get used to life with no prostate or bladder. He is now cancer free which is something to celebrate, but that came with one hell of a price. He’s recovering nicely from what I hear, and hopes to work again soon.

Scot Wickmann is another comedian friend who has been dealing with health issues for a long time. He has been on kidney dialysis for quite a while, and recently he had triple bypass surgery. That’s serious enough, but apparently there was an infection and he had to have more surgery.

Bill Gorgo has been getting updates from Scot’s wife Jackie, and she said Scot just had one of two more surgeries he needs and everything went smoothly. He had an abscess on an artery, and that sounds frightening. I don’t have details and the last thing I ever want to do is bother Jackie.

The bottom line is, even if his next surgery goes well he’ll be lucky to be out of the hospital by Christmas. Crikey. I thought the eight or nine days I spent in the hospital for my surgery in 2011 was horrific – and it was. I can’t begin to imagine having to be in a hospital bed for six weeks.

Again, my problems really aren’t problems compared to what Jim and Scot and so many others are going through, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of them. There are a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me, and I want to help comfort them if I can. It’s all about human kindness.

All that actually matters in life is what we are able to give – especially to those that truly are in need. What could I do myself or help to organize that will make someone’s life even a little more pleasant when there’s a long road of recovery ahead? There has to be some way of reaching out.

I was delighted to be able to organize the big benefit comedy show last October for Milwaukee Police Officer Josh Albert after he was almost killed by a drunk driver going the opposite way on a freeway on ramp. His injuries were beyond a nightmare, but we were able to assist financially.

Peter Jest of Shank Hall in Milwaukee donated the hall, and the all comedians donated our time to perform. Drew Olson was a fabulous host that night, and Officer Albert’s work partner and my cousin Katie Anderer and her whole family got the word out to make it a success. We received a blanket of media coverage as well, and it ended up being a successful event that helped someone.

That’s what life is about. Period. I know we all need to pay our bills, but after that it’s what we are able to give that has any lasting meaning. Seeing my personal friends having to endure all of the personal hell they’ve been through makes me want to jump up and take action to help them.

But what could that be? I’d like it to be comedy related somehow, but I don’t think doing a live show is the answer. I would gladly volunteer to do it in a second if that would help, but it doesn’t strike me as the solution. I think there needs to be something that is able to reach more shut ins.

Scot Wickmann is going to be laid up in bed for a while. Even if he wanted to see a live show I doubt if he could make it unless they wheeled his bed right into the performance area. I’d be fine with it, but I can’t see it happening. A room full of beds with people from ICU would be silly.

It’s hard enough to be funny in a traditional comedy setting, but this would be off the charts to try and pry laughs out of hospital patients. That’s not what I had in mind. I would like to create a product that could be used to touch people depending on their condition, and that’s a wide scope.

One idea I had would be to interview comedians who have endured health issues, and try to put a comedic perspective on things that as a rule aren’t funny. When I was in the hospital, I couldn’t help but notice there are a lot of potentially funny events that only someone who has experienced them could relate to. I bet it would be of great comfort to have a video for new patients to watch.

There has to be a way to produce a video of comedians telling their hospital stories, and have it run on a constant loop on one of the hospital TV channels. I’d bet there could be several releases over time, as a lot of comedians have stories. I’m sure some celebrities would jump on board too.

David Letterman went through major heart surgery a while back, and I’m sure that gave him an abundance of stories that are a lot funnier now that he’s fully recovered. Sometimes it seems like the situation is overwhelming while in the hospital, and something to offer comfort would help to put a patient’s mind at ease. I remember how I felt when I was laying there and it was a bad trip.

Another idea I’d love to pursue would be establishing a humor library in all hospitals so people could watch and listen to comedy as they recover. It could be standup comedy CDs and DVDs or funny movies or even written publications like Mad magazine or comic books. It could help pass the time for patients, and even the employees could use it. I’m sure a medical staff has stress too.

I realize that these are all pie in the sky dreams, but I want to put it out there in the universe so hopefully someone else will see it and act on it. Even if it’s bouncing an idea back at me, I’ll take whatever I can get and move forward however I can. This is an idea that has no time restrictions.

We always see photo ops where celebrity athletes go in and meet sick kids in the hospital, and I think that’s a great thing don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see more of it, but what better source of cheering people up who need it is there than comedians. This would be a way to really be of use.

I think this would be a great place to develop the King of Uranus character. It’s so goofy that it can’t help to at least get the attention of somebody in a sick bed and take their mind off their pain for the moment. One way or another, I really want to reach out and make a hurting person laugh.

Hearing of Scot’s current situation and Jim’s recent issues has brought this idea to the forefront of my thoughts. It would be a great opportunity to match comedians with recovering patients and I’m going to keep thinking of what I can do to get this ball rolling. Service is what life is about.

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It's always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It’s always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

Just Like In The Movies

August 3, 2013

Thursday August 1st, 2013 – Mundelein, IL

   I thought I was done with my dalliance in the motion picture industry this week, but I thought wrong. My character in “Killing Poe” of the bumbling security guard is an important part of the plot apparently, and there was a pivotal outdoor scene that needed to be filmed with me in it.

   I was told I’d be needed at 6pm, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have anything planned. I showed up on the set, but they told me they’d reworked the order of shooting and that I’d be the absolute last shot of the entire project. My call time was now 2am, and apologized for any inconvenience.

   What was I supposed to do, quit? This is a great experience for me, and I get how schedules are flexible. Everyone on the crew couldn’t have been nicer, and I guess they thought I was going to flip out or something. When I calmly said I’d do whatever was needed, I saw smiles everywhere.

   It’s no big deal on my end. I hadn’t planned on having any more scenes, so what a great chance to get in front of a camera one more time and gain some more experience. If I had to wait around a few hours to do it, that’s small price to pay. I brought a book along, and was in for the duration.

   Little did anyone know we were in for some nasty weather. I was watching a night scene being shot in the woods, and felt some rain drops on my face. Just then a real security guard who could have easily been mistaken for my role showed up and said there was a storm center on the way.

   That proceeded to throw everything off, and tensions quickly rose around the set. Tonight was the very last night of filming, and scenes needed to get done. Period. Everyone was flying back to where they were from – and a lot of people were from all over. The clock was now the enemy.

   It got to the point I could not stay awake anymore, and I assumed they wouldn’t squeeze me in. The sun was coming up, and my scene was supposed to be at night. They finally called me to the set at 5:45 to prep me for what they needed. I felt the tension thicken as they were racing to have everything fall together so they could wrap up the entire production. I was the focus of the scene.

   I felt like a bench warming scrub somehow getting a chance to bat with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning of The World Series when nobody expected it. The fates played out, and he gets the chance to take his swings. The whole team is depending on him, and all eyes are on the field.

   The director gave me some instructions, and I did my best to follow them to the letter. He had a very clear vision of what he wanted, and I didn’t want to screw it up. This was not a time to joke around. I knew it was serious, and all I wanted was to give them what they needed and go home.

   I wasn’t where they needed on the first two takes, and that’s how it goes sometimes. Everyone else knew it too, so nobody was angry but I could feel them counting on me so I wanted to come through. I saw how hard everyone worked, and I wasn’t about to be the weak link and ruin it all.

   The third time was absolutely a charm, and I nailed it. The whole crew went nuts and started to high five and hug both me and each other. They treated me like I’d saved the day, and even if my part was small it felt great to be able to contribute. Spirits were sky high as I floated to my car.

   Halfway there, rain started to pour in biblical proportions. One more blown scene and it would have been a total washout. Literally. In the end, everything worked out. Just like in the movies.

Killing Poe

August 1, 2013

Tuesday July30th, 2013 – Mundelein, IL

   No sleep for me. After my grueling 24 hour marathon return trek from Florida, I was scheduled to be in Mundelein, IL at 10am on the set of the movie “Killing Poe”. I was supposed to film my bit part as a bumbling campus security guard several days ago, but as happens things fell behind.

   I’m fine with being flexible, but it sure would have been nice to get some quality sleep after the serious week of driving I just had. I didn’t get word until last night I would be needed today, and it sucked the wind out of my sail immediately. I did make the commitment though, so that’s that.

   Not showing up was not an option, so after getting to bed at 3am I dragged myself out of bed at 7 to make sure I would get there on time. They told me to “be prepared to kill time”, so I brought a thick book just in case but hoped I could zip in and zip out so I could go straight back to sleep.

   Anyone that has ever been on a movie set knows that absolutely NOTHING ever “zips” in, out or any other direction. It’s a long, slow boring process, and that’s why I’ve never wanted to be an actor. I love the immediate buzz of a live performance, but in retrospect I should have done both.

   The live performance is over forever as soon as the show ends, but TV and film work becomes a time capsule and endures indefinitely. I wish I would have realized that a lot sooner, and made the effort to pursue it even a little bit more. But I knew everything and wouldn’t hear of any of it.

   My role in this project doesn’t require much acting talent, but it is an integral part of a complex story line and it’s a fun character to play. I have seven lines, and I must have rehearsed them five hundred times in the last couple of weeks. I’ve never been good at memorizing lines, but I didn’t want to make me or anyone else look bad so I made absolutely sure I was ready when I got there.

   I’ve always respected the magnitude of any filming project, and the last thing I ever want to be is a prima donna or think I’m running the show. There are a lot of people in one place, and it’s not easy to pull everything together. I totally see why schedules fall apart, as glitches are inevitable.

   I made it to the set right on time, and was immediately told there would be a “slight delay” and they’d let me know when they’d need me. Everyone was very friendly, and I wasn’t about to tell them to hurry up because I knew that’s not how this game works. I waited until they were ready.

   Unfortunately, that took until 6:15pm. I felt the entire day slip away, but there was nothing any of us could do but wait it out. I read my book and shut my mouth, knowing in the long run this is a worthwhile opportunity. It’s my first speaking role in a feature film, and it gives me credibility.

   I should have been doing this decades ago, as I see now how the game works. Connections get made in situations like this, much like on a golf course in the business world. I got to chat with a wide array of people from actors to crew, and even got some one on one time with the director.

   Most of them found it fascinating I did standup comedy, and wanted to know more about it. It became obvious that this is how people network, and I should have been doing it all along. I did everything the director told me to do, and all my scenes went smoothly. I’m glad I showed up.

   It wasn’t the most convenient day to do this, but it was a very significant career leap for me. It will be a legitimate acting credit, and hopefully open doors I should have knocked on long ago.

Oscars The Grouch

February 25, 2013

Sunday February 24th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

   It’s Oscar night, and I couldn’t care less. Being in the entertainment business I probably should at least a little, but I can’t fake it. I don’t. I’m not a huge movie watcher, and those I do and enjoy are usually not part of the mix. Did ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ ever get nominated? I rest my case.

I’m not a big fan of any awards shows, even though they draw huge ratings or they wouldn’t be pillars of the broadcast calendar. I heard upwards of a billion people were watching this around a world that can’t agree on almost anything. Other than the Super Bowl, what U.S. event is as big?

I was invited to an Oscar party in Kenosha, WI at Mark Gumbinger’s house, but I couldn’t stay long because I needed to be on the air at WLIP hosting ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show at 8pm. I didn’t want to be rude, so I stopped by to say hello before going on the air.

Mark is a film director himself, and has seen most of the nominated titles. I guess that makes it significantly more interesting, but I don’t have time to see that many movies much less the desire not to mention the money. I’ve got too many other things I really want to do that use up my time.

I also have a difficult time with comparing art. Who can say what the best film out of a laundry list of them truly is? It’s all opinion. I know it’s human nature to compare, but I never had a need to do that. It’s like comparing the best athletes from different eras. Who cares? They’re all great.

Look at all the hard work that went into every one of those projects – and all the other ones that weren’t nominated. Sure, some results were better than others but to single some out as being the best just doesn’t float my boat. And like in every other contest, it sets the table for hard feelings.

The politically correct answer for everyone to say is “It’s just great to be nominated” – and it is. But we’re all human and everybody wants to win. There are a lot more people that go home from any awards show disappointed than those that go home happy. I don’t like those kinds of odds.

That’s a good thing, because I’m not up for any major awards any time soon and that’s another source of disappointment. What’s worse, putting one’s heart and soul into a film project only to have it lose out to some artsy fartsy dung nugget or not having any projects worthy of rejection?

I’ve got all I can handle slinging my little batch of jokes to new people every week. I work just as hard as or harder than the majority of those in the film industry, but there are no awards shows for me nor are there any for single moms or working stiffs out there trying to keep the bills paid.

I will say I’m a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane. What an unbelievable talent that guy is. He sings and writes and does voices and is world class at all of it. I loved his opening monologue, but I’m sure he polarized a lot of people with it and that’s what he wanted. He can afford to do that and I respect him for it. I’ve been polarizing people my whole life, but I’m not Seth MacFarlane. He’s got the power and clout and can creatively do what he wants. Who wouldn’t want that? To have that kind of freedom and get paid millions is what it’s about. Starving artists are way overrated.