Posts Tagged ‘O’Hare Airport’

Comedian Jimmy McHugh

October 26, 2013

Saturday October 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Today is the birthday of one of my all time favorite comedians, the great Jimmy McHugh out of Chicago. He is also one of my favorite friends, and I can’t say enough good things about him onstage or off. In my opinion, he should have gotten a huge break a long time ago. He’s a talent.

There is also a comedian out of Boston named Jim McCue, but we’ve never met in person. We are Facebook friends, and I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about him onstage and off as well. The two do get confused from time to time, and Jim McCue’s birthday happens to be tomorrow.

I found it kind of odd that two guys who have the same sounding name and are both comedians from two different cities happen to have a birthday a day apart. I don’t think it’s weird enough to make it into the next Ripley’s Believe It Or Not compilation, but it’s close. It adds to the legend.

I first met Jimmy McHugh in the ‘80s at The Comedy Cottage in Rosemont, IL. I used to come from Milwaukee to get stage time when I first started, and that was the showcase club in the area. There were all kinds of comics that went on to much bigger things, and that’s where it all started.

What a vibe there was in that place. The comedy boom was just starting, and audiences were as hot as one could imagine – even on week nights. It was an era that will never be again and I wish I could have recorded some of those shows for the historical value. They were loaded with talent.

The thing I remember most about Jimmy was that his material was very polished. His style is a lot different than most comedians in that he writes in chunks. His stuff is very much his own, and has stood the test of time. Several of his bits are flat out standup comedy classics in my opinion.

He does a hilarious routine about a drunk taking the bus home on New Year’s Eve in Chicago. He plays the character to perfection, and it’s outstanding. He also has one about vacuuming a rug where a piece of lint won’t get sucked up. That might not sound all that funny, but Jimmy brings it to life and gets the crowd roaring every time. Again, it’s unique and he has made it his own.

I’ll bet Jimmy has a dozen chunks of really solid time tested material like that, and even though I’ve seen them literally hundreds of times they still make me laugh out loud even now. He knows what he’s doing, and I love to watch him work. He has been paying dues even longer than I have.

Even more appreciated is his friendship. I thought I was a giver, but Jimmy goes all out. When I was doing cruise ship work a couple of years ago, Jimmy would get up at 3 or 4am to drive me to O’Hare Airport to catch a flight and then let me park my car in his driveway to save all kinds of parking fees. This wasn’t just once either. He did it week after week and never complained.

Too often we wait until someone dies to recall all the great things they did, but I wanted to put it out there about Jimmy while he’s alive so he can be appreciated for the gem that he is. It would be great if the good guy would catch a break for once, and nobody would cheer louder than me if that happened. Jimmy has booked me for shows through the years, and always pays comedians a solid buck to the point of it coming out of his pocket. He puts his money where his mouth is, and nobody I know works harder. Check him out for yourself at http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Chicago's Jimmy McHugh - a great comedian and even greater friend. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com

Chicago’s Jimmy McHugh – a great comedian and even greater friend. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com

International Deadline

October 19, 2013

Saturday October 12th, 2013 – Toronto, ON

Back to the state of perpetual stress. Most of what being a road comic becomes after time is the constant hassle of having to get to the next place. There are deadlines to make, and obstacles that jump up out of nowhere that turn life into one big Cannonball Run. Decades of it wears one out.

My most recent cross country challenge was getting from LaCrosse, WI after a show last night to O’Hare airport in Chicago for an 11am flight to Toronto, ON to visit my friend Jerry Agar for a few days. I haven’t a clue how many miles or kilometers that is, and it’s not worth looking up.

All I know is, there gets to be an ever tightening knot in the bottom of my stomach as I attempt to make each leg of any trip and I never fully know I’m going to make it until I physically arrive. There’s always the chance of some unforeseen glitch, and that’s what keeps the stress level high.

The good thing this time was that I had Bill Gorgo to ride with from LaCrosse to Fox Lake, IL where I live. He’s a road veteran and knows the ropes. He knew we had to duck out immediately after the show in LaCrosse, even though it meant squelching all possibility of selling any CDs.

That stinks because it was a hot show, but that’s part of the road grind. I couldn’t afford to risk the time in case there was a delay getting back. Driving late at night is always a gamble, and I’ve learned it’s best to leave as much cushion as possible. Bill knew it too, so we got right in the car.

We stopped half way home to gas up and pee, but Bill brought snacks for the ride because he’s a road vet and knows that saves extra stops. There’s also a stretch of two lane highway along the route that was unavoidable because of where I live. There’s just no other way to get there and it’s filled with speed traps, critters and drunk drivers. It’s like driving through a real life video game.

Sure enough, we got pulled over because Bill’s car had a headlight out. The cop was cool about it, but that could have been a big issue. We were in Wisconsin and Bill has Illinois plates. That is frequently a recipe for disaster, but this time we dodged a bullet and were soon back on the road.

Bill dropped me off at 3am, but of course I was wide awake and couldn’t sleep so I answered a few emails. Then I did a load of laundry, and packed for the trip. I dug out my passport and flight info, and by that time it was 6am. I nodded off for a couple of hours, but it wasn’t sound sleep as I knew I needed to get to the airport and couldn’t blow it. There’s always a level of stress there.

Of course my car’s gas tank was on ‘E’, and when I stopped at the gas station all of the pumps were occupied. There was also some construction on the way, and that caused a delay that made the knot in my stomach tighten even more. Then I got to the airport exit on the freeway and they had it closed for repairs. I was really in a tizzy, and then the parking lot was over full too. Ugh.

I made it to the gate with minutes to spare, but that knot got tighter as my carryon luggage was about an inch too big for the overhead compartment and they made me check it. After all that, we had a bumpy ride due to weather and I thought I was going to throw up on the lady sitting next to me. It was a flying tilt-a-whirl, and I wasn’t expecting it. We eventually ended up in Toronto, but then there was the constipated maze of going through customs. I tell you, it never EVER lets up.

Easier said than done.

Easier said than done.

A common feeling for those of us who travel for a living.

A common feeling for those of us who travel for a living.

A Symphony Of One

September 8, 2013

Thursday September 5th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/Des Plaines, IL/Rockford, IL

   If there’s anyone else anywhere who has as many projects going as I do with little to no payoff, I’d love to meet them belly to belly and have lunch if for no other reason than to assure myself it isn’t just me out here trying to be a one man symphony orchestra. Sometimes I feel totally alone.

   I love doing what I do, but I don’t love the hectic nature of how I do it. At least a little stability would sure be nice, but one of the reasons I have so many things going is to hopefully hit on one idea so I can back off of the others and focus. That’s easier said than done, and I’m wearing thin.

   Today I had another jam packed day as I got up at 4am to work on organizing my comedy class notes and lesson plans for the coming fall schedule. There is still a solid possibility of Bill Gorgo and me getting a publishing deal, and we’ve been working out our sample chapter in the last few weeks. It’s a LOT of work – which I don’t mind – but also a major sucker of valuable free time.

   It’s a gamble, but one that has to be taken. Getting a publishing deal would add immeasurable credibility to what we’re already doing, and allow us to hopefully become the standard bearers in the teaching of standup comedy techniques. I’ve got this much time and energy already invested, why not take it to the absolute pinnacle? That’s what we’re shooting for, but it takes a full effort.

   Next on the list was getting to a location near O’Hare Airport to record some video rants in full regal splendor as The King of Uranus. This was the last thing I wanted to do today, but there was a camera person on the clock and studio set up involved. There was no way I would blow it off.

   What made it much more difficult was that I had problems with my computer printer and could not print out the revisions I made to the material. They’re basically the rants I did on the radio on 97.9 The Loop in Chicago in 2004 reworked and updated, but not having scripts made it harder.

   Even harder than that, there was a power outage at the location where we recorded and that put even more pressure on cranking it out. We’d all invested time and energy to make this date work, so not having anything to show for it would have been a huge downer. Fortunately, we worked it out and ended up putting six rants in the can to be edited for insertion on the site by next month.

    I’ll have my own King of Uranus channel, and will get to crank out content that hopefully will get hits for both the site and the character. Again, it’s a risk for us all but one we agreed was well worth taking. It requires time and energy to roll all these dice, and that’s why I’m spread so thin.

   It was physically and mentally draining to do the rants, as I had to stand in costume in front of hot lights and by the time it was done I was a sweaty pig. We took and retook shots, but felt they turned out well. It’s all part of the process, and today was the day to put in all of the grunt work.

   After that it was back to Rockford to fill in on WNTA from 3 to 5pm. I knew I-90 was going to be brutal with construction, and it absolutely was. That drains more energy, not to mention doing the actual radio show. That went well too, as I continue to feel more comfortable in the talk radio format. It was another full productive day, but I don’t know long I can keep up this manic pace.