Posts Tagged ‘Nashville’

Thank You David Letterman

April 5, 2014

Friday April 4th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Just as it is in life in general, breaks in show business can come from anywhere at any time. If I could know where to be and when to be there, I would obviously show up. But it’s not that easy, and that’s why this business can be so maddening. Some catch their break early, others never do.

An example of a break I caught years ago was getting a call out of the blue to open for George Miller in Cincinnati. George was a really nice guy, and we became friends. He was also friends with David Letterman, as they had come up the ranks together in L.A. George was in my corner.

The booker that week stressed that I needed to work clean, which was not a problem. George’s act was also clean, and I was a perfect opener for him at the time. He thanked me for doing what I was hired to do, as often comics have no clue where the line is and aren’t able to change styles.

That one crossing of paths led to years of friendship, and I really liked George. He passed away a few years ago, and he was very sick at the end. I was sorry to hear it, but he ended up including me in his will. I was able to get him a New Year’s Eve gig one year when he needed money, and the amount he earned that week was what he left me in his will. I had no idea he would do that.

George had some severe health problems at the end, and David Letterman ended up paying his medical bills. I’m sure Dave didn’t want that to get out, but he’s about to retire now so what does he care? It was an act of kindness and loyalty to his longtime friend, and I think that’s wonderful.

I think it’s even more wonderful because had he not stepped in, there would have been nothing left in George’s will to go to the people he left money to – including me. So indirectly, I owe an extremely big debt of gratitude to Mr. Letterman even though I’ve never met him. Thank you sir!

Unfortunately, I had to spend that money on living expenses when I had my diabetes diagnosis in 2011, but thanks to him and George, I was able to survive. I’ll be eternally grateful to both of them, and it all came about because I happened to get paired up with George all those years ago.

I sure could use another break like that somehow. This week I had a call to go to Nashville and open for Damon Wayans. I had to turn it down because I was already booked in Chicago backing up Jeff Garlin at the locations he wasn’t working. Is that a career move? Nope. It’s just money.

Would Damon Wayans be able to help me? I bet he probably could if he wanted, but there’s no guarantee if I had gone that we’d even cross paths. It would have been a total crap shoot, and I’m not saying I missed out on anything other than a chance to maybe get seen and maybe get a break if we hit it off like George Miller and I did. Again, nothing is a formula. It just kind of happens.

In theory, I should be trying to get as many dates opening for big stars as I can. In reality, that’s not always easy for one but it’s also not a great way to showcase one’s talents. The audience sure doesn’t care about the opening act, and often the star is so worried about everything else that we never get to cross paths more than a quick hello. Where is my break? It’s impossible to predict.

George Miller and I were friends for many years. It all started when I opened for him for a week in Cincinnati.

George Miller and I were friends for many years. It all started when I opened for him for a week in Cincinnati.

George was also friends with David Letterman. At the end of George's life, Dave paid his medical expenses which allowed money George left for me in his will to come to me. Thank you both!

George was also friends with David Letterman. At the end of George’s life, Dave paid his medical bills which allowed me to receive money George left me in his will. Thank you both!

Entrepreneurial Thoughts

January 9, 2013

Monday January 7th, 2013 – Nashville, TN/Chicago, IL

Up early to make the long drive home from Nashville. This used to be a perk of the business in the beginning, but now it’s a painful chore. Eight hours in a car thrills me about as much as eight hours in a gay bath house – maybe less. At least in the bath house I could stretch my legs a little.

In the car, there’s no way to do anything but drive. It’s so many miles to get home, and nothing will change that. I can stop all I want, but that won’t shorten the trip any. I need to get behind the wheel and put those miles behind me – even though I just drove them the other way last Friday.

At least today I had some incentive as I was booked to host the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago. Sometimes I can tend to fart around a little too much on my way home from gigs and that wastes even more time than I need to. It’s helpful to have somewhere to be to provide focus.

I did make a few stops on the way though. I’m still sniffing around the whole antiques thing to see if it could possibly be worth my while to make extra money. I’m still not sure if I want to put my time and effort in to invest in something that won’t pay off. There are no shortages of greedy idiots out there trolling for the million dollar mother lode, but I don’t have delusions of grandeur.

I’m looking to build a network of people who specialize in certain fields of collectibles, and try to be a bird dog and find items they can spin and make a decent profit. I will make a few bucks at it myself, and also educate myself as to what makes a profit. I’m not going into it without a clue.

I dabbled in sports cards on the road for several years. I’m still not sure if that was smart or not but it sure was fun to hunt for treasure all over North America. This time I’ll expand my scope to include anything and everything else I can possibly use to turn a buck. I might find I like it or my instincts will tell me to move on and try something else. I want to see how the current vibe feels.

I stopped at a few thrift stores in Louisville and Indianapolis, but didn’t find anything I thought was worth buying. I’m trying to get rid of stuff rather than stockpile, but if I run across a trinket I think I can spin I’m willing to roll the dice on it. I have to pass through those towns anyway, why not take a few minutes to buzz through the thrift stores and scope them out? I could hit a jackpot.

The main thing is, I’m thinking like an entrepreneur. Like it or not, that’s how most Americans need to be thinking these days. Everyone I know could use a few extra bucks, and the job market is shrinking rather than growing no matter what CNN says. We all have to hustle for ourselves.

Unfortunately, being an entrepreneur is not necessarily for everyone. It’s just like owning one’s own home. I for one am not cut out to be a homeowner, and my brief experience trying it has left a horrible taste in my mouth that will not only last a lifetime but also into the next if there is one.

Entrepreneurial endeavors are different. I’m very intrigued by the process of finding a need and filling it, even if I’ve never had any actual success of note at doing it. The choices I have made in life have put me in this position, so I need to put my energy into making the best of the situation.

What’s In A Name?

January 7, 2013

Sunday January 6th, 2013 – Nashville, TN

   I’m extremely grateful for the work in Nashville this week, but I’m also glad it’s over. This has never been one of my favorite places to work, even though I genuinely like the people who work at the club. They’re very friendly and they always treat me great, but audiences here stare at me.

They did again this week, but I’ve learned to expect it so I didn’t panic. The right thing to do is shut up and know there’s a paycheck involved. I don’t like to do that as a rule, but in these times it’s the correct decision. Work is getting harder to come by, so rather than complain I’ll be quiet.

There are literally hundreds of comedians who would have loved to have this gig, so I’ll take it as a victory and move on. It was a chance to practice in front of a Southern crowd all week, and I know in my heart I did the best I could. It wasn’t the response I’m used to, but that’s how it goes.

I read an interview with Benny Hill once about how he absolutely hated to work in the northern part of England when he started because audiences there stared at him. He said he never did well, but then he became famous and got booked on a Northern tour and they adored him. Go figure.

A major part of the entertainment business or business in general is being a known commodity. If I were known in Nashville I’m sure I’d kick ass. I’m not, so to them I’m just another run of the mill Yankee – and they don’t like Yankees as a rule. To them I’m the one who has the accent and I have to prove myself every single time I step on their stage – sometimes with every single joke.

There’s a definite underlying tension, and some nights it can be thicker than others. I used to be intimidated by it, but now I’ve learned to expect and accept it. It’s nothing personal, and if I want to get paid I’ll shut my mouth and do the best I can which is exactly what I did all this weekend.

Nobody cares if I liked any of the shows – and I didn’t. They were really difficult, but I smiled a lot and was polite to all who came up to say they enjoyed the show. I’m happy to acknowledge the effort of anyone who takes time to come up to me at the end of a show. I appreciate them all.

I think it’s of the utmost importance to be polite in those situations, and I try to do so to a fault. It really doesn’t matter what I think about anything. On this night I was booked here, and nobody in that audience had anything to do with it. Taking my frustrations out on them is unprofessional.

What I need to do is find a way to get booked in places where they come specifically to see me and not just a random comedy show. I’ve been trying to crack that bastard of a nut since day one, but I still haven’t done it and that needs to change. I have a very solid act, but being an unknown dilutes that significantly. There’s only so high of a level I can ever reach with a crowd like this.

I’ve seen comedians work when the audience knows them and it takes everything to a sky high level instantly. The audience loves the comedian before the show ever starts, and that’s the point I have been trying to get to since I started. It’s been a lot harder to reach than I ever imagined, but I still hope to get there before it’s all over. I might not get it in Nashville – but then again I might.

An Inside Job

January 4, 2013

Wednesday January 2nd, 2013 – Niles, IL

I’m hitting the ground running in 2013, and getting myself prepared for a special year on many levels. I truly believe this can be the single most memorable year of my life, and I plan on doing my part to give it a chance to happen. I’ve been working too hard for too long for there not to be a payoff for all my struggles. This is the year something good happens. I’ll bet my pancreas on it.

The reason I believe it is that I’m changing myself from the inside. I’m thinking about all kinds of things I haven’t focused on before, and I can feel it’s the right thing to be doing. Also, over all these previous years I’ve been making mistakes left and right but I’ve learned all kinds of lessons that I can use to make much smarter decisions than I would have then. I’ve reached full maturity.

That doesn’t last forever, and I know that. Boy, do I know that. I feel myself getting older on a daily basis, and now it’s a race against the clock to see if I can do anything positive with this pile of knowledge I’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Every day counts, and I don’t want to waste any.

I realize now more than ever being a one man band just isn’t going to cut it. I’m going to have to team up with all kinds of people on all kinds of projects if I’m going to move myself ahead of where I am now. It’s out of my comfort level, but that’s the only way to grow. Anyone who ever accomplished anything worthwhile got out of their comfort zone, and that’s what I need as well.

My first connection of the year was my friend Marc Schultz. Marc has been in my corner since I met him probably ten years ago, and he’s also looking to move forward with his life and career. He books entertainment acts of all kinds, not just comedians. He’s looking for a way to step up to the next level like I am, and I know we can help each other. It wouldn’t take much to leap ahead.

Both of us are veterans of the business, but for whatever reason haven’t made a big push to get ourselves ahead like we probably could if we made the effort. Maybe it’s because we’re not like a lot of entertainment types and we don’t have an insane desire to get ourselves noticed. For a lot of people, it has been quite successful. I’ve never felt the need to pursue it to a psychotic level.

There’s a fine line between work ethic and psychosis, but I think I’ve got a much better handle on it now. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, and there’s a lot of comfort in that. Knowing I not only have ability but also put in my time developing it gives me a confidence that feels like I’m Yoda. It’s an empowering feeling, yet I don’t feel a need to lord it over anyone. It’s mellow.

I’m going to do what I do, and do it well. I’m going to get in front of people who can help push me to the next level, and it’s going to happen. I know it. I’m going to Nashville to work at Zanies this weekend, and that’s a good place to start. I’ll keep working all year, and something will pop.

Brian Dorfman at Zanies is in contact with most of the top agents in Hollywood, and I’m going to flat out ask him who I can contact who might want to take me on. All I need is ONE, and I am on my way. Marc will help me in the corporate market, and I need someone there too. I could use someone in a lot of places on my behalf, and that’s what I’m building. I just wish it were sooner.