Posts Tagged ‘music’

Turning Some Pages

June 19, 2013

Monday June 17th, 2013 – Wheeling, IL

   As REO Speedwagon so eloquently sang, “So if you’re tired of the same old story – turn some pages.” That’s exactly what I’m going to do, as in roll with the changes. I am by far not the only one in that position, and people everywhere are having to reinvent themselves on a daily basis.

   My friends Bill Gorgo and Joe Nuccio are at a crossroads in their lives too, and today we had a three way powwow to see how we can help each other. We all think we can, but there has to be a solid plan in place. That’s never been one of my strong points, so I went in with a humble spirit.

   Bill and I have taught a series of comedy classes together for several years at various locations. We have a well formed synergy, and he’s not only a very accomplished and funny comedian – he has been an actual high school teacher for decades at several Catholic high schools in Chicago.

   He decided to opt for a retirement, and wants to focus more on comedy as both a performer and a teacher. We mesh well both on stage and in class, and have the option of giving a client a class, seminar, show or any combination thereof. We both have holes in our calendars, so today was an excellent opportunity to start exploring options. There are many, but will take work to go after.

   That’s where our mutual friend Joe comes in. He just ended a job as a computer programmer at a place he worked for years, and is also on the hunt for new opportunities. Joe is a former student of both Bill’s and mine and is also a professional musician. He is extremely organized, and that’s exactly what Bill and I both need. He brings things to the table we don’t have, plus we like him.

   Joe comes from both a corporate and entertainment background, and is a valuable consultant in what Bill and I would like to do. We met at Joe’s house and spent several hours talking back and forth about what could and couldn’t or should and shouldn’t be done. It was long, but productive.

   One thing we agreed on was that Bill and I need to come up with a book of our lessons on how to write and perform comedy. We’ve both got a ton of experience, and have strong opinions on a variety of subjects pertaining to the craft of comedy. We’ve both written some articles and came up with some worksheets, but we don’t have a well defined product. Joe told us that right away.

   Even though we’ve got vast experience in what we’re doing, now we’ve got to market that to a whole new customer base. This isn’t for comedy club audiences, but a business crowd. We are at the beginning of a huge task, but a necessary one if we’re going to survive in the business jungle.

   After our all day marathon meeting, I drove to Vernon Hills, IL where I oversaw a group of my current students who are going up for a graduation show on Wednesday. They’re a Toastmasters group, and mostly made up of professional types. They’re very nice people, but standup comedy is just not something they’re used to and they’re finding it difficult to put their routines together.

   It’s an especially challenging position as a teacher and mentor, because I know I’m not making their lives difficult on purpose even though they look at me as a vicious taskmaster. They want to improve, and I respect that. I’m only telling them what they need to hear in order to move ahead.

   Still, they’re all really nice people, and I see how badly they want to improve. I can really help people like this – and there have to be a LOT more of them who have money to hire a coach than the upstart punk in comedy clubs that I was. There’s a lot more upside here than comedy clubs.

Facing The Music

May 15, 2013

Monday May 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL  

   Here’s another major life’s regret to toss on my ever growing pile: I never made the investment of time and energy to create music. I really wish I would have taken an opportunity at some point to at least learn the basics of music so I could have added it to my repertoire of creative outlets.

   I’m not saying I would have made a career of it or even attempted to, but I really think it would have added all kinds of interesting angles to everything I’ve already done. It would have been the perfect fit for my already ‘out there’ left handed creative mind set, and I think I missed the boat.

   I can’t sing a lick, and I know it. That’s just not in me, but I think playing some instrument and especially writing songs would definitely have been for me. It’s a craft and art form just like joke writing is, and I think a lot of the same brain cells are used to create each. I live for that process.

   I remember reading somewhere that Steve Allen had written thousands of songs throughout his life – even though I can’t think of even one hit. It doesn’t matter I guess, the process is rewarding if nothing else. It can be financially lucrative too, I suppose. Hit songs are what pay royalties for a lifetime. People want to hear them over and over and over again. Who ever wrote a ‘hit joke’?

   The creative side of the music and comedy crafts may be the same, but getting one’s chops are completely different. A comedian has to go up and suffer constant pain in front of live audiences for years until he or she learns the ropes. A musician can haul out the old bassoon or piccolo and practice alone in the privacy of his or her own room. It’s still difficult, but not nearly as public.

   As a kid, I don’t remember being around live music at all. Nobody in my family plays anything but the radio, so it’s not like I was born into the Jackson or Osmond clan and given a tambourine for my first birthday. Plus I’m very Caucasian, so that may have impeded my progress as well.

   My natural inner rhythm may not be there from the start, but I bet I could have learned the craft and fit in on some level had I been offered more of an opportunity. I remember farting around on a cheap used guitar when I was around ten years old, and then my grandfather bought a keyboard organ from Kmart for some reason. I aped around on that too, but never had any formal lessons.

   Being left handed didn’t help with any dreams I may have had of becoming a guitar hero. Left handed guitars are like left handed golf clubs. They’re out there, but really rare. I never did have a chance to even see if I liked it or not. Maybe I would have hated it, or maybe I’d be a star now.

   One thing I would have been is eccentric and eclectic. I’m already that now, but it’s not a bad thing in the creative arts. I adore artistic kooks, and always have. George Clinton is one of those, and I mean it as a sincere compliment. He’s brilliant, but out there. Other names that pop into my head that did or do their own thing are Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Thomas Dolby.

   I bet I would have written some interesting songs by now to say the least. I have a comic style, and I’m sure I’d have a music style as well. I love a well written song, especially one that tells an interesting or unique story. Was (Not Was) writes a lot of songs like that, as does Bernie Taupin.

   I suppose I could start taking some lessons now, but I think it’s way too late to make any noise on a serious level. I’d be just another half baked hack hobbyist, but I don’t need any more speed bumps in my path. I did what I did, now I have to live with it. Comedy keeps me busy enough.