Posts Tagged ‘Packers’

Heckling Isn’t Helping

February 16, 2014

Saturday February 15th, 2014 – Indianapolis, IN

The good karma boat has been docking at my port quite often of late, and I’m not complaining. Today I received a call to do a last minute fill in gig in Indianapolis at a place called Latitude 39. It’s a huge entertainment complex with a bowling center, video arcade, restaurants and nightclub.

They book bands in the nightclub space, and have comedy shows on weekends. I worked there last summer, and it was a lot more fun than I expected. I was probably about due for a rebooking anyway, but the call came today because someone wasn’t able to get a flight from the east coast.

Fine by me. I had a super show last night that paid well so my week’s nut was already covered. This was found money, and who these days couldn’t use some of that? Indy is an easy drive, and I was able to get Dan Morris as the opener. It happened to be his birthday, and he wasn’t booked.

I really like Dan, onstage and off. He is very intelligent, even for a comedian. Believe it or not, that’s one trait that is virtually universal in comedians. Some of us may play an idiot character on stage, but very few if any successful comedians are dumb in real life. We might do dumb things – and I’ve tiptoed through those tulips many times – but we’re not dumb people. It can’t happen.

To perform comedy successfully, one must not only grasp a given concept or topic but also put a comedic twist at the end to get the laugh. That requires above average intelligence, even though the public would probably think otherwise. Believe it or not, it takes a smart whip to play stupid.

Dan is a college graduate, and reads a lot of books. He has a good relationship with his parents, and has worked in the corporate world for nonprofit organizations for years. He understands how marketing works, and works hard at it. Those just aren’t the ingredients of the typical comedian.

He started a little late, but he’s only in his 30s and has been doing it five years. He’s funny, but like all of us needs steady work to polish his persona. He’s still finding himself on stage, and that can be a painful process at times. Some nights it just doesn’t go well, and there’s no avoiding it.

Tonight wasn’t Dan’s best night, and I felt bad for him. I know he was giving them everything he had, but they just weren’t buying it. They didn’t hate him, but I don’t think they got anything he was trying to do. He struggled through like a trooper, and I’ve been there many times myself.

I’ve got a lot more experience, so I knew what buttons to push with these people. I was able to get them going up front, as I have a much higher energy level than most openers. That’s just how I work, and nights like tonight it really helps. I was able to take them to a higher level in a hurry.

What Dan didn’t have to deal with was a loud heckler who would NOT shut up. Why he had to wait until I got on is a mystery, but he kept yelling one word things like “CHEESEHEAD!” and “PACKERS!” for no discernible reason. After about twelve interruptions, it got to be a bit much.

I sliced him to shreds without being mean, and that shows how much I’ve grown. At one time I would have gone for the throat, but I knew it wasn’t worth it. This was free money, and I took it. And of course the halfwit had to come up afterward to say how much he’d “helped” me. Thanks!

Latitude 39 is a spectacular entertainment complex with locations in several cities. I happened to be in Indianapolis tonight, and it's a gorgeous facility.

Latitude 39 is a spectacular entertainment complex with locations in several cities. I happened to be in Indianapolis tonight, and it’s a gorgeous facility.

Dan Morris is an up and coming Chicago comedian. He does very intelligent humor, and is a super nice guy. Watch for him!

Dan Morris is an up and coming Chicago comedian. He does very intelligent humor, and is a super nice guy. Watch for him!

If you ever go see live standup comedy, no matter what the beers you've consumed tell you - talking back to the comedian is NOT helping. Can it.

If you ever go see live standup comedy, no matter what the beers you’ve consumed tell you – talking back to the comedian is NOT helping. Can it, or suffer the consequences.


Michael Sam’s Club

February 11, 2014

Sunday February 9th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Well, it had to happen sooner or later and it happened today. The first openly gay athlete came out that will be a current member of one of the ‘Big Four’ professional sports leagues in America. To me it’s no big deal on a personal level, and in fact if anything I’m surprised it has taken this long.

Was anyone naïve enough to think there weren’t any until now in the history of sports? Really? Come on. Please get me a list of those imbeciles so I can sell them some swamp land or a bridge – preferably a two for one deal. Better yet, sign me up as the first straight male flight attendant.

From a life standpoint, I could not care any less about this story. I wish Michael Sam well, and quite honestly before today I’d never heard of him. He’s in for a hell of a ride to say the least, but judging from the interview I heard with him he seems like a sharp kid and will be able to hack it.

From a comedic standpoint, this is going to be a nightmare before it starts. Every no talent hack and his or her grandma’s uncle at open mics and on You Tube is going to jump all over this story and mangle it horrifically, all in the name of “humor”. I shudder to think of it, but it’s inevitable.

Every time there’s a huge story like this with any hint of shock value, count on there being lots of backlash in the form of painfully poorly placed “jokes”. I saw it first hand in Milwaukee when Jeffery Dahmer hit the world media stage like a sledge hammer. It spread everywhere overnight.

It only took a couple of days for a barrage of jokes to start flowing, but that was way before the internet. Life in general is at warp speed these days and this story will explode online and already has. He happens to come from a town called “Hitchcock”. Really. Do I need to go any further?

Hack comics and wannabes everywhere are salivating right now. They can’t wait for their shot to get on stage anywhere to display a lisping limp wristed mean spirited “impression” of Michael Sam, thinking it will be there ticket to the top. There’s blood in the water and the sharks are out.

More than a few somebodies somewhere are breaking their necks to make it to their local malls this very minute to have a number “69” Michael Sam jersey custom made to order. You think I’m joking. I wish I was, but I know it’s true. The latest hack comedy premise has been fully hatched.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sick twisted politically incorrect downright nasty joke. I am all for slicing and dicing any subject imaginable – but NOT on stage. There are just some things that need to be left alone – or at least left to those with experience that know what they’re doing.

I have thirty solid years of hard earned experience, and I have no interest whatsoever in doing any Michael Sam bits or gay jokes in general. It’s not my style, and not what I do. I’m sure there could be some funny stuff there for someone, but for the majority of the herd it’s already passé.

I’ve been accused of being gay for years because I’ve never married. Did it ever occur to them that maybe I’m just an ugly bastard that has been rejected by the entire female species? If I were gay, I’d gladly admit it. I would also be able to dance, cook and my clothes might match at least once in a while. Leave Mr. Sam alone. But if there’s any comedic justice, he’ll be drafted by the Packers.

Michael Sam will be a household name forever because he's the first openly gay athlete to play in a major sport in America.

Michael Sam will be a household name forever because he’s the first openly gay athlete to play in a major sport in America. That’s his business.

That's his business, but unfortunately it will bring along some really bad attempts at humor. I cringe just thinking about it. Ugh.

Unfortunately, it will bring with it some really horrific attempts at ‘humor’. I cringe just thinking of it.

Reference Checks

January 30, 2014

Monday January 27th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

When I first started performing standup comedy, I would go out of my way to study any and all other acts I could find at every level of development. I would watch all the others on any shows I happened to be on, but also seek out TV shows, live performances or anywhere else I could find.

I couldn’t get enough not only of standup comedy, but pop culture as well. I knew that I should familiarize myself with what was happening in the world so if I didn’t do jokes about it myself at least if someone else did I’d know what they were talking about. It took a lot of work but I did it.

Once in a while I’d see an older comedian use some reference that was painfully outdated, and it left a sour impression. It felt like ordering a sandwich in a restaurant and having it be served on really stale bread. It leaves a bad first impression, but it’s too late by then. The damage is done.

An example that still sticks in my mind decades later is a friend of mine from Pittsburgh named John Knight who told me about going to see Shecky Greene. John is of my comic generation and a very funny guy. He’s also a student of the game, and I’ve known him since I started in the ‘80s.

The same brothers that owned the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Pittsburgh where John started opened one in Milwaukee a few years later, and it started an exchange program between the two cities. We were like comedy cousins, and grew to know each other’s towns and each other well.

Shecky Greene is an old school act, but John was one of the few smart enough to know that it’s possible to learn from anyone so he went to see him. Had I been offered the opportunity, I would have joined him. I still would. I have a great deal of respect for anyone who has braved the wars.

I remember John telling me he enjoyed the show, but then told me of a bit Shecky did that used “The Bay City Rollers” and a song they did called “Saturday Night”. That’s a band that had their very short heyday in the mid ‘70s, and even though John and I both were familiar with them they were long out of the public’s eye by then and it made Shecky look like a big idiot – at least to us.

Cut ahead decades later, and now the performers of John’s and my generation are in exactly the same position. We’re probably close to the age Shecky Greene was John saw him, and the acts of today look at us the same way. John still performs and is a pretty hip guy, but it’s still a concern.

Neither of us have acts directly based on using many current references, and we’ve been smart enough to craft relatively timeless material that can hopefully continue to earn us our livings for the foreseeable future. Those who don’t develop this skill will get burned now more than ever.

For veteran performers it gets easy to ride a reference too long, and I’ve been guilty of it many times. I’ve been around the block quite a bit, and have all kinds of references that used to be hot but are now as laughable as Shecky using The Bay City Rollers. I have to constantly keep track.

Sometimes it’s fixable. I used to do a joke about a “Walkman Radio”. How dated is that? I’ve since changed it to “iPod” and I can milk it a while longer. I hope. Eventually it will be obsolete, but then again so will standup comedy. Some robot will be built to take my place. “Robocomic”.

I can make jokes about it, but I’m only fooling myself. This really is a major issue that needs to be addressed now more than ever. There are just too many things to keep track of, and with all of us going in so many directions on the internet it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with life.

It used to be if someone liked sports for example, there was a relatively limited amount of info available about it to the general public. They could read the same newspapers and magazines and all share basically the same information. It wasn’t in depth, but it was enough to stay informed.

Now there are websites and blogs and a whole new level of scrutiny that has never been around before. If someone likes sports now, it can easily become a full time obsession. Then stories like Alex Rodriguez on steroids or Dennis Rodman in North Korea become actual hard news stories.

Every subject that people used to be able to get away with just a passing knowledge of now has an entire subculture attached to it, and there aren’t enough hours in a day to keep current with all of them. For an up and coming standup comic, it’s harder than ever to have broad based material.

I’ve hosted a lot of showcases in the last few years that feature younger acts, and I admit that I watch a lot of them and have no clue as to what they’re talking about. They’ll go off on a movie I haven’t seen or band I’ve never heard of, and I’m totally lost. They might as well speak Chinese.

It becomes very easy to let this get out of hand, and I totally have. Part of the reason is that I’m just not interested in pop culture of today. I find it extremely boring, and not intended for me. All that I see coming out I’ve seen before, and I wasn’t necessarily all that fond of it then. It stinks.

Other than a very VERY few songs, I find the music of today absolutely horrific. Lady Gaga is a warmed over version of Madonna – and I never liked Madonna with her hairy armpits and gap teeth. I found her derivative, but she was able to carve out a career. Good for her, but I’m over it.

Even sports don’t come close to holding my interest like they once did. I used to easily be able to name every coach or manager of every team in most of the major sports if not current starting lineups. I could also go back at least ten years and name all the teams that won a championship.

Now I bet I couldn’t name who won the last championship – and I don’t really care. Unless the Packers win the Super Bowl, I’m pretty much over that too. And even when that happened just a couple of years ago life went on shortly thereafter. I’m just not into what’s going on in the world as a whole. I have enough to worry about with my own life, and that’s about all I can deal with.

Still, as a professional entertainer I can do better than I have been doing. One of the many wise things my grandfather taught me was to look through the entire Sunday paper. He would open all the sections and look at all the articles from cover to cover. He wouldn’t read all of them, but if a headline grabbed his attention he’d at least skim over some of the article to broaden his life base.

I used to do that for years, but I just lost interest somewhere. That’s just plain not acceptable if I still intend to grow as any kind of creative entity. There has to be more fuel added if I intend to keep the fire burning, and I don’t want to look like Shecky Greene to young audiences. I can still throw some heat, but it’s smart business to have a clue as to what’s current in pop culture today.

Shecky Greene had a tremendous run as one of the top nightclub comics in Las Vegas. Much respect.

Shecky Greene had a tremendous run as one of the top nightclub comics in Las Vegas. That is SO not easy to do. Much respect.

The Bay City Rollers had a short run of hit records in the mid '70s. I bet they thought they were SO cool when this picture was taken. Times change.

The Bay City Rollers had a short run of hit records in the mid ’70s. I bet they thought they were SO cool when this picture was taken. Times change.

Despite his deadpan look, my friend John Knight from Pittsburgh is one of the funniest comedians working today. I've known him since the '80s.

Despite his deadpan look, my friend John Knight from Pittsburgh is one of the funniest comedians working today. I’ve known him since the ’80s. He’s hilarious.

Packer Persistence

January 4, 2010

Sunday January 3rd, 2010 – Lake Villa, WI

Time to learn a valuable life lesson. Too bad I can’t figure out exactly what that is. My beloved Green Bay Packers finished the regular season today with a solid victory to send their record to a very respectable 11-5. They’re in the playoffs and have a shot to do well.

Just two months ago, they lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa and a lot of furious fans, myself included, wanted the severed heads of coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson put in a bowling bag and dumped into Lake Michigan.

The heat was on, and it looked like the season was over for another year. Last year they went 6-10 and lost some heartbreakers in the later part of games that left a rotten taste in the mouths of the Lambeau legions. 4-4 wasn’t horrible, but not what we were expecting. 4-3 wasn’t all that great, but it was over .500. Then, losing that Tampa game hit a nerve.

I was in the car with my comedian friend Steve Purcell on the way to do a gig up at the Island Casino in Harris, MI as we listened to it on the radio. We both stared blankly at his dash board as we tried to process what had just taken place. We were both quite irked.

Most other Packer fans I know were ready to torch the locker room and revolt. Then, an amazing thing happened. They started winning, and ended up going 7-1 in their last eight games to give them the 11-5 mark they finished the season with today. What a difference.

Nobody wanted to do any torching today, and everyone I talked to was giddy about their chances of going deep into the playoffs, maybe even to the Super Bowl. Could this be the same mob that wanted McCarthy and Thompson sent packing? Yup. I was one of them.

What happened in two months to turn everything around like this? Granted, they could easily lose next week as they play the same Arizona Cardinals squad they slapped around like a biker’s old lady today, but for now all is well in Packerland. Smiling faces abound.

People seem to think firing a sports coach or manager and getting an entirely new crew in place from top to bottom is how to fix any problem. I’ll admit that I did too. I thought a major change was needed to get the Packers back on track, but apparently I was mistaken. Somehow, the people and system in place was able to correct itself and now it’s working.

Sure, they played a few poor to mediocre teams and they still made some embarrassing mistakes, but the bottom line is a much improved and respectable finish compared to their less than impressive beginning. It was quite a turnaround, and it happened at precisely the right time too. Had they started strong and fizzled, it would be over. Now, there’s hope.

There’s a real lesson to be learned here, and I want to make sure I find it. It’s easy to get angry and point fingers, but sometimes cleaning house isn’t the guaranteed way to fix any problem. It may be the easy way, but sometimes things just take time and they’ll work out in the long run. And, there’s no guarantee the new people will be better than the old ones.

Marriage is that way too. When a few things go wrong, the natural inclination is to pull the plug and get a divorce. That’s the same mentality that firing a coach is, but it looks to be the one and only solution…until the next person gets in there and problems start again.

Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson were brought in as the fresh meat fans clamored for  after the last coach Mike Sherman’s honeymoon ended badly. He was both the coach and general manager, and at first they just took the general manager job away. Then he lost it all and Ted Thompson hired Mike McCarthy to be the answer. That started it over again.

What’s confusing is, sometimes it IS the right call to gas the general manager, coach, all the assistant coaches, half the players and the three ugliest cheerleaders just to be safe. It’s also the right call once in a while to get a divorce too. The key is to know exactly when.

In our own lives, most of us could use a new coach or manager once in a while. I know I for one tend to keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again, and I have to believe I’m not the only one who does that. What am I supposed to do, fire myself? I’m in the driver’s seat, warts and all. I don’t have the option of getting somebody else to do it.

Or do I? I can’t fire myself, but I can fire myself UP by surrounding myself with quality people who are interested in the same things I am and have similar goals. Weeding out all the leakers is a great way to improve my own life, as all they’ll do is bring a person down.

In the last year or so, I’ve weeded out a few of my life‘s leakers. My ex business partner stole money, but more important than that I’m finding out quite a few others didn’t enjoy working with him and only did it out of courtesy to me. I had no idea it was even an issue.

The whole insane incident with the bounced check at Giggles Comedy Club was also an ugly mess, but it weeded them out as well. I’m much better off that both are out of my life and I don’t miss them at all. They were both leakers and losing them was a total positive.

I’m not without blame either though. Some of the stupid things I do keep repeating and I have nobody to blame but myself. I need to find a way to solve those problems, just like Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson circled their wagons and salvaged a winning season.

It wasn’t all just those two guys, but they had a lot to do with it. The players contributed the effort on the field, but the main ones steering the ship were McCarthy and Thompson. They’re both past their honeymoon phases and fans aren’t going to cut either any slack.

I feel like I’m in the exact same place in my own life. My honeymoon is over and I want to win my own personal Super Bowl. I’ve paid my dues, but that doesn’t mean I have any guarantees of anything. I have to play my best game at all times focus on being a winner.

Whether the Packers win the Super Bowl or not, I think they had a great season the way they came back from the mid point when everyone thought it was over. Kudos to all who made that happen. I’m inspired and hope I can hang in there to turn my own life around.