Posts Tagged ‘Parliament/Funkadelic’

No Fooling

April 2, 2014

Tuesday April 1st, 2014 – Gurnee, IL

The first quarter of 2014 is now history, and I have no idea where it went. I put in a lot of work on a lot of things, and it went by a lot faster than I expected. It was productive, but I never think I do enough so there’s still some disappointment. I did pull off the benefit show for Sheri Johnson, so that was satisfying. I also reconnected with my siblings, and I’ve waited for that for decades.

Another positive was getting my monthly newsletter restarted. We’ve sent out three editions so far, and each one continues to improve. That’s a big deal, and I don’t intend to let up. I also had a varied array of fun shows, and that always makes me feel good. It’s been a positive three months. I haven’t slacked off, and every day I try to accomplish at least a little. Progress is being made.

Still, I’m nowhere near satisfied with any of it. Surviving is one thing, but I want to kick things into high gear and live life on all cylinders. I’ve had a few flashes, and it feels great. It’s time for me to get my payoff for all the years of struggle, and I need to buckle down and try even harder.

I am sold beyond sold on the Uranus concept, and that’s going to be my main point of focus for at least the next six months. I still have to survive like I always have, but I’m going to set aside a chunk of time each morning to work on all things Uranus. I’ve started and stopped and started all over, but that’s just not good enough. I’ve achieved a few results, but nowhere near what I want.

It’s now or never, and the clock is ticking for us all. My biggest regret in a lifetime packed full of them would be to go to my grave with this idea still in me. I realize it might well be a flaming failure, but that’s never been the issue. Not giving it my best effort would be the worst scenario.

I don’t care who thinks it’s a stupid idea. I like it, and that’s all that matters. I feel it in my soul, and I know exactly what I want to do with it. The King of Uranus is the ring master of a circus of talented people just like George Clinton is the ring master of Parliament/Funkadelic. He oversees everything, and decides what projects get done and who is involved. I will take on the same role.

I want to fan the flames of talent, and encourage people to stretch their boundaries to achieve a result they never thought they could. I’m a great mentor if nothing else, but I think I also have an eye and ear for knowing who can do what and matching them with people that complement them well. My role is that of maestro, and it’s a lot more than just being an idiot in a goofy costume.

That costume will eventually be a trademark, but for now I want to build the gimmick from the ground up, and get myself established with a chunk of the public. It will be a much bigger chunk than I’d ever be able to attain as plain old me, and if that’s what it takes I’ll play along with it.

I had lunch with comedian Dan Morris today, and he’s a very sharp cookie. He is a published author, and I asked him what I’d need to do to create a proposal like an author would. He said he would help me, but I have to get something on paper first. That’s my next order of business to do much sooner than later, and I’ll go from there. I had dinner with speaker Todd Hunt, and I could tell by his stare he isn’t on the same wavelength. That’s ok. I’ll focus for now on those that are.

The King of Uranus role is starting to take shape.

The King of Uranus role is starting to take shape.

Much like George Clinton in music, it will be the role of maestro. He oversees the mix of talented people. I want to do the same.

Much like George Clinton in music, it will be the role of maestro. He oversees the mix of talented people. I want to do the same.

Sun Ra was another 'calculated kook'. Despite his outlandish costume, there was a whole lot of smarts under that Jiffy Pop hat. He was also a master maestro.

Sun Ra was another master maestro. Despite his outlandish costume, there was a whole lot of smarts under that Jiffy Pop hat.

Guitar Greatness

July 25, 2013

Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was taking my exercise walk today, and that’s often when the most off the wall thoughts tend to force their way into my head from unknown places. Maybe it’s due to the shaking up of all the stagnant blood in my brain, but I’ve noticed that some of my freakiest thoughts come to me then.

   Today I was listening to some Parliament/Funkadelic on my iPod in honor of George Clinton’s birthday yesterday, and I got to thinking if I had to choose only ONE song as my very favorite of all time from any artist or musical genre what would it be? I doubt if anyone has a quick answer.

   I thought about it a rather long while, and then on the iPod came the Funkadelic song ‘Maggot Brain’ from the ‘One Nation Under  A Groove’ album. The song was originally released in 1971 as a studio version on a Funkadelic album of the same name, but this version is live and released in 1978. Of all the songs I have ever heard in my life, I can’t think of another that comes close.

   Despite the unconventional title, the song is jam packed with sensitive feelings and raw human emotion. I never get sick of hearing it, and if I was stuck on an island with the ability to hear just one version of one song this would definitely be it. I hope I’m never in that situation, but it’s fun to think about – kind of like what one’s last meal would be before execution in the electric chair.

   That’s a whole other topic entirely, but if I had a ‘last song’ before checking out this one would definitely be it. It’s a slow and at times intense guitar solo that doesn’t have any actual lyrics per se, but the guitar work speaks volumes. I challenge anyone to listen to it and not feel something.  

   The original guitarist was Eddie Hazel, a highly skilled virtuoso who passed away at the age of 42. As the story goes, George Clinton got him alone in the studio and told him to play his guitar like his mother had just died. One take later, the song was recorded and became a band signature.  

   It’s an amazing piece of guitar work, and I’ve heard others cover it from Carlos Santana to The Red Hot Chili Peppers to some guy named Bucket Head. Everyone puts individual flavor into the song and some versions are better than others, but it’s a definite standout as far as a unique solo.

   By all accounts, I really shouldn’t like this song but I can’t get enough of it. There are probably a dozen recorded versions by Funkadelic alone, and they always play it in their live shows for the hardcore fans like me who have come to expect it. Michael Hampton is now the guitarist instead of Eddie Hazel, and he does a magnificent job of recreating it time after time. It’s a masterpiece.

   Many people have said that to truly ‘hear’ Parliament/Funkadelic there needs to be drugs taken by the listener. The band has long admitted their substance dabblings, and George Clinton speaks freely about experimenting with acid for years and how he felt it opened up his mind creatively.    

   I’ve never even smoked a cigarette much less a joint, and the only thing close to acid I’ve taken is an occasional Rolaids to relieve excess stomach acid. I would be afraid to drop acid and put on Maggot Brain only to find out it sounds like a polka. Maybe I’m missing out, but I’ll continue to enjoy it like I have for most of my life. The song still kicks ass – even to a drug free white boy.  

   I’ve tried to listen to The Grateful Dead on occasion, but I don’t hear anything there. It would make sense that one would have to be high to get what they’re doing, but for some reason I get it loud and clear with P-Funk. Keep your Beatles, Stones and Zeppelin too. P-Funk is my favorite.     

Maggot Brain - pure guitar virtuosity

Maggot Brain – pure guitar virtuosity

                                                                                                                                                    

Me And You Tube

July 17, 2013

Monday July 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The advent of You Tube is simultaneously the all time greatest and absolute worst thing to ever happen to the entertainment business. I’m torn right down the middle, as on one hand I have used it often to obtain immense pleasure and information but on the other it’s destroying my business.

   If someone can sit comfortably in their underwear with a dirt cheap pizza in the privacy of their own trailer, hovel or igloo and watch every standup comic living or dead that has ever stepped on a stage – FOR FREE – how can I expect them to show up at one of my shows and buy a ticket?

   It’s pretty much an open and shut case for most people – especially since I’m on You Tube too. If anyone really wants to see me, they can dial me up online and see several of my videos shot in cities around North America. They can see most if not all my national and regional TV spots too.

   I know that’s no comparison to seeing a live show of almost any kind, but not everyone agrees. They’re fine with perusing as many acts as they can take in, and not having to leave home or pay out any cover charge or inflated drink and food prices. It’s the best entertainment deal in history.

   Personally, I love it and can’t get enough. I’m to the point of zero need for any kind of regular or cable television whatsoever. I will often wander in from a gig at midnight or close to it, and before I know it the sun is up and I’m nodding out at the keyboard. There’s a lot to see.

   Some of my favorite places to lose myself are vintage Parliament/Funkadelic concerts I haven’t seen, along with old school professional wrestling clips and interviews. I have my favorites of all time like Superstar Billy Graham, Bobby Heenan, Super Destroyer Mark II and many others that I can enjoy for hours at my leisure – and I do. It’s like I’m in charge of a giant electronic toy box.

   Depending on what my mood is, I’ll immerse myself in anything and everything from standup comedy clips of anyone from my friends to past masters to people I’ve worked with that are not living anymore. It’s fascinating, educational and never boring because I choose what I’ll watch.

   That’s a lot of economic horsepower to put in the hands of the public, and I’m not sure most of them realize it. They vote with their wallets, and if enough opt to stay at home times are going to get much tougher for live entertainers than they already are. We soon won’t be able to compete.

   All I can do is what I do, and it’s not going to go away any time soon. There will always be the core of those who enjoy and support live entertainment, but that number is going to take a major hit as time passes – at least in my opinion. Who needs to go out when everything is there online?

   I’m sure this same topic has popped up more than once with network TV people, and there are a lot of them justifiably worried about their jobs. Radio is the same. With podcasts diluting their product, they don’t have the customer numbers they once did either. It’s changing for everyone.

   I wish I knew what to do to position myself in a good spot to be ahead of the game, but I don’t. I’m more than a little concerned, but I’m not the only one. It’s adapt or die, and it’s happening at lightning speed. There’s no manual to follow as to how to succeed. It’s the Wild West all over.

   There needs to be a supply of stages live entertainers can practice the craft they’ve chosen, but if they can’t make a living the craft will eventually die. You Tube is great in many ways, but it’s a monster as far as eating material and nurturing new performers. Like it or not, it’s here to stay.

Summer Synergy

July 10, 2013

Monday July 8th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   The dreaded slowness of summer isn’t turning out to be as bad as I thought. I’ve been getting a lot of calls for shows, classes and even some inquiries for corporate speaking engagements. I was getting a bit stressed there for a bit, but it seems to be much better now. It always goes in cycles.

   With the crazy way the business not to mention the whole world is changing, it’s even more of a challenge to stay on top of things than it ever has been – and it wasn’t easy before. There are so many details to keep track of, it’s easy to lose hold of them all and become totally overwhelmed. 

   I thankfully got a call from Bert Haas at Zanies in Chicago to host both Rising Star Showcases this month. They’re traditionally the first two Mondays of each month, and the call couldn’t have come at a better time. It will help me get through the summer drought, plus I enjoy doing them.  

   Since I was going into Chicago anyway, I arranged a long overdue meeting with James Wesley Jackson to discuss the DVD project that’s been sitting for far too long. This is what I’m referring to when I talk about things falling through the cracks, and it’s time to get this project in motion.

   James deserves this and more, and I feel horrible it’s been on the shelf for so long. Life tends to have too many distractions, and it was totally unintentional. James has had the patience of a saint about it and then some, but now it’s getting to the point of being ridiculous. It’s time for action.

   I’ve said it before and I meant every word – James Wesley Jackson is one of the absolute most delightful human beings I have ever met both in comedy and out. Any comedian who has had the pleasure of working with him feels the same way. I’ve never heard a bad word about him EVER.

   He’s just a peaceful soul and a kind hearted human being – not to mention a really funny comic who happens to have a very unique style. James transcends boundaries much like Bill Cosby has for fifty years, and when you see him perform in person it’s virtually impossible not to like him.    

   We were fortunate to catch a red hot show on video, and I’m really proud of the product we’ve been able to put together. Mike Preston brought two cameras that particular evening, and it looks and sounds excellent.  Pedro Bell’s cover artwork is also very well done, and it’s ready for sale.

    I had money at the time we recorded it, but that’s all gone now. James wanted to do his part so he gave me some seed money to get things started. I am totally grateful and it came at the perfect time, but I was bound and determined to get it going anyway. I think we can sell some product.

    I plan to focus on getting James some positive attention within fans of Parliament/Funkadelic – and I’ve been one of those myself since the ‘70s. There are all kinds of them all over the world and I bet with my own money that more than a few will remember James and want to buy one.

    I could be completely wrong and have it blow up in my face, but even if that happens it’s a lot better than doing nothing. There’s a lot more to do including getting a press release written up to be included with inquiries to media outlets, and then we can see if I was correct with my guess.

   I really hope this project does well not only for James, but financially for us both. We have survived this long, so a little longer might not be convenient but we at least are finally “standing on the verge of getting it on.” That’s a P-Funk reference by the way. That’s where the most paying customers will come from, at least I think so. I think we can book some live shows as well.  

Once upon a time called NOW...the 21st Century Enviromedian is back!

Once upon a time called NOW…the 21st Century Enviromedian is back!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Twice As Funky

June 24, 2013

Saturday June 22nd, 2013 – Country Club Hills, IL

   The only thing I can think of that’s better than a funk fix is a double dose. That’s exactly what I got tonight in Country Club Hills, IL as I attended a live show featuring my two favorite musical acts of all time Cameo and George Clinton. That doesn’t happen often, so I had to see the show.

   I had never even heard of Country Club Hills until quite recently, but it’s a far southern suburb of Chicago that built a really nice outdoor concert facility. The weather could not have been any more perfect, and it was an ideal scenario for one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a long time.

   I’ve seen Cameo at least a dozen times, and they’re headliners in their own right. They’ve had double digit R&B hits, but their biggest crossover by far was ‘Word Up’ in 1986. I have all their CDs, and am a huge fan. They’ve got a strikingly distinct eclectic style, and I’ve always loved it.

   Their lead singer Larry Blackmon is known for wearing a codpiece on stage, and it has become his trademark. I’ve thought about trying it myself, but I don’t think comedy is ready for that just yet. It works for him though, and he and the rest of the band put on a rock solid hour long show.

   Unfortunately it wasn’t a sold out house, but those who were there loved it. I don’t know what the place holds, but I’d guess it was about half full. I had a great seat, ten rows back dead center. I could see and hear everything perfectly, and it made my 70 mile one way drive worth the effort.

   There was some tear down and set up time between the acts, but that’s to be expected. It wasn’t horrible, but by the time the transport vans pulled up behind the stage with George and the band in them, everyone was ready for the main course. It still wasn’t sold out, but we were all into it.

   I’ve seen George live probably 40-50 times now, but I have to say this was one of the very best performances I’ve ever seen. George has always been a master showman, but tonight he cranked it up to the limit and the more he did it the more we loved it. Nobody walked away disappointed.

   I read an article once where George said one thing he was always good at was hiding the fact if anything was going wrong either personally or with the band. It was always about the show. That can be extremely hard to pull off, and I know from plenty of firsthand and personal experience.

   In the last year or two, George has experienced a lot of passings of people close to him. He lost both his mother and one of his sons, along with guitar players Garry Shider and Cordell ‘Boogie’ Mosson. He also lost singers Belita Woods and Mallia Franklin. It has been a very tough stretch, but nobody would have known it tonight. He came out with a vengeance and took no prisoners.

   He made his customary grand entrance with the song ‘Cosmic Slop’, but then took it to another level by going up into the crowd at the outdoor theatre. I’ll bet he went a dozen rows up slapping hands, and it won the crowd over immediately. I’d seen him do similar things before, but not like this. It was like he was a man possessed, and was bound and determined to give us his best show.

   The band was on fire tonight, and they only played the biggest hits. They switched the order of how they usually do it, and that was good to see because I switch my order of bits around when I read the audience. I’m glad it’s not just me. George was soaked in sweat by the end of the night, but he made sure we got our money’s worth and more. He was all over that stage, and on a level I’ve rarely seen. He made everyone forget he’s 72. This was a night to remember. What a show!

"OWWWW!"

“OWWWW!”

Dr. Funkenstein - still funky at 72

Dr. Funkenstein – still funky at 72

Still Funky

April 30, 2013

Sunday April 28th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   I received last minute word that George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic were performing in Chicago tonight, so of course I had to rearrange my schedule so I could attend. It’s impossible to ever know for sure when the last time will be for me to see them live, so I always go when I can.

   George always has been and still is a master showman, and I never get sick of watching him do what he does. He’s a world class entertainer and a master of his craft. Even into his 70s he takes command of the stage from the second he walks onto it, and never lets go the rest of the evening.

   I hadn’t seen the P-Funk in a while, and even though I had a lot of other things I could’ve done instead, I made it a point to catch the show. It was too late to reach out to George’s manager who has always been nice enough to put me on the guest list, so I knew I would have to pay to get in.

   There aren’t many acts I’d pay to see, but George will always be one of them. He’s my favorite of all time, and I can’t see anyone knocking him off that perch at least in this lifetime. I have yet to see any live music act come within three planets of touching them when they’re on their game.

    I tried to count in the car the exact number of times I’ve seen them live, but there’s no way I’d ever be able to figure that out now. I do remember the first time I saw them was in 1989, and that was a magnificent show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before or since. I loved it.

   Since then, I’ve seen them at both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes they are other worldly, and once in a while they’re painfully human. But even at their worst, I’d still prefer them to any other band of all time. Keep your Beatles and your Rolling Stones. Even Led Zeppelin. I love the funk.

   It’s got to be hard to keep it together for such a long time though. If you’ve never seen George, he’s the leader of a musical circus. There are probably 30-35 people on stage at any time, and it’s an amazing experience when everyone is on the same page. There are an army of super guitarists plus slick horn players and enough backup singers to start another band, and George leads it all.

   I have a hard enough time keeping myself on track as a comedian. I can’t imagine what George deals with on a daily basis. He has had to deal with a lot of loss of late as well. Just last week one of his longtime bass players Cordell ‘Boogie’ Mosson passed at the age of 60. Before that, Garry Shider died last year. He was a talented guitarist known for appearing on stage in only a diaper.

   It’s beyond belief they’re still touring, and that’s why I catch them whenever I can. They aren’t playing the greatest of venues these days, and that’s an absolute shame in my opinion. I wouldn’t have wanted to work in the venue they played tonight, but if he was upset George didn’t show it.

   The sound was horrific and the stage was tiny, but that didn’t stop George and the P-Funk from proceeding to scorch the paint off the walls. Wow, were they on tonight. George has dropped his wild multi colored hair look in favor of a suit and tie, but it didn’t matter. He was on red hot fire, and we all got our money’s worth and then some. That was a lesson and a half in showmanship.

   Every time I think I have my own thing figured out, I see something like this and it informs me I’ll never be finished learning no matter how long I hang in there. If George or the group was not happy about anything, none of the audience could tell. They came out like it was a Carnegie Hall debut. Who knows if or when I’ll get to see them again? If this was it, it was sure worth my time.

Dr. Funkenstein Before

Dr. Funkenstein Before

George Clinton After

George Clinton After

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Catching Up Late

December 23, 2012

Wednesday December 19th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   It sure didn’t take much for technology to pass me by. For as geeky and nerdy as I can be about a lot of things, gadgets have never been of much interest to me. I couldn’t care less about playing video games, even though it’s a multibillion dollar industry worldwide. It just never grabbed me.

‘Pong’ was my first exposure to that world, and I have to say I was less than impressed. I know that was the dark ages and they’re light years ahead of that now, but I have absolutely no interest in getting caught up. My time is limited as it is, why do I need to blow away virtual space aliens?

I probably should also know a lot more about computers than I do, but that doesn’t interest me very much either unfortunately. I could have probably made a nice side income fixing computers or designing websites, but I just never went in that direction. I chose something stable – comedy.

It’s laughable how dumb that choice seems now, but that was what interested me so I chased it and excluded everything else to the point of being embarrassingly deficient in having knowledge about things millions of others have known of and used for years. I’m a self made ‘techno-tard’.

That being said, I finally broke down and bought myself an iPod a few weeks ago. I’d meant to do it for years, but I just never got around to it. My music tastes are mostly old school funk, and I have plenty on CDs, cassettes and even 8 tracks. I felt no pressing need to get all 21st century, but I’ve been doing a lot of exercise walking and I wanted to upgrade what I listen to while I do it.

I did it on the cheap as I tend to do, and went to a pawn shop near my house and scored one for $80 with tax out the door that will more than meet my current needs.  The guy who sold it to me was right about my age, so at least I didn’t feel totally humiliated by having a teenager mock me.

I’ve been experimenting with it for a couple of weeks now, and I love it more every day. I like the fact that I can burn only the songs I like and leave the rest off so I never have to hear them as long as I live. Everyone knows what it’s like to buy a CD and like only one song. What a waste.

I have a ton of CDs that I only like a few songs on, and I’ve been feverishly building myself an outstanding collection of tunes tailor made for me. Music radio stations are in trouble because no program director on Earth can choose what you like better than you. I’m enjoying the freedom.

I’ve got all my Parliament/Funkadelic CDs loaded in as well as everything else I like including stuff I really haven’t listened to all that much. I hope to add and subtract over time and develop a broader musical scope. What amazes me most is the amount of songs I can pack onto this thing.

My current count is 2518 songs, even though not all of them are going to stay there forever. I’ll keep farting around until I get more familiar with the process, but that’s a lot more songs than I’ll probably need in about six lifetimes. When I worked at The Loop in Chicago, I was told the play list hovered around 400 songs, with some getting shuttled in and out to freshen the pot from time to time. It may be late, but I’m catching up at my own pace. What’s next, a daisy wheel printer?

Star Child Passes

June 18, 2010

Thursday June 17th, 2010 – Champaign, IL

Fans of comedians pale by far in comparison to fans of musicians. I’ve never had even one fan throw any panties toward the stage or pass out when I walked past them. I haven’t seen it with any other comedian either, and I’ve been around a lot of them. It’s not reality.

Music is different. I’ve seen rabid fans of all kinds of music sleep out overnight in front of a ticket office hoping to see a favorite band. There are packs of nomadic people touring across country hawking cheap trinkets and LSD so they can scrape up scratch to gawk at a remnant of The Grateful Dead. I doubt if even one fan has ever walked a mall to see me.

That being said, I’m a fan too. I like George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, and it’s been a life long pursuit. I’m sure Elvis and Beatles fanatics are the same, as are rabid fans of Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, Kiss, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks or just about anyone.

It almost becomes a way of life. One gets to know the band’s music first, but then it’s a constant piecing together of bits of information, trivia, news, rumor, hearsay and nuggets compiled from various sources that combine to produce a body of knowledge about every facet of someone’s favorite band. I don’t think it’s anywhere close to that with comedy.

I’ve always read up on what’s going on with the P-Funk, and since there’s been such an enormous amount of members constantly going in and out, there’s usually some kind of a storyline going on somewhere. Plus, I’ve seen them live so many times I feel like I’m part of the band myself. Everyone has their favorites in every field, and in music this is mine.

It was especially sad to hear of the passing earlier this week of one of the band’s iconic members who has been highly visible since 1972 named Garry ‘Star Child’ Shider. He is known for appearing on stage dressed only in a diaper, but he was also the music director of the band, and co-wrote some of their biggest hits including ‘Atomic Dog’ and others.

Casual fans knew him only as ‘the diaper guy’, but he was a huge part of the live shows and had a big part in the history of it all. George Clinton is so charismatic that he tends to take most of the attention, but the whole group is loaded with talent. I’ve seen them when they’re ‘on’, and there’s nothing like it. I’m sorry Garry will be gone, and he was only 56.

I did a show tonight in Champaign, IL at a sports bar that has a really nice upstairs stage facility. This was their first night, but nobody planned on a game seven of the NBA Finals when they decided to do comedy a few months ago. That, on top of it being summer drew a crowd of maybe 25 in a room that seats 250. Not only that, they all sat in the back rows.

Is this what comedy is coming down to? I sure hope not. I don’t want to see anyone lose money, but I’m sure they did tonight – at least with our show. The downstairs was full for the game, but that’s not the answer. The trick is to get people in the door to make comedy pay for itself and turn a profit. Starting in the summer probably doesn’t help either. It’s an uphill climb in the north. People want to be outside in the warm weather. I know I do too.

As Good As It Gets

April 18, 2010

Saturday April 17th, 2010 – Hudson, MI

Two for two on the tour, but this one was special. Sometimes everything just works out right and rather than try to figure it out, the best thing to do is enjoy it. The entire evening was an overwhelming success, and all of us enjoyed it. We were in our element tonight.

All the stars aligned and for whatever reason the audience was into what we were doing and I could tell we were going to kick major ass from the first thirty seconds Jim McHugh was on stage to host the show. The vibe was in sync and when that happens, life is sweet.

We had the perfect show tonight. Jim McHugh was the host and James Wesley Jackson went on next. James is one of THE sweetest people I have ever met, and is always upbeat and positive. I have a special affinity for him because he used to open for George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years and always has interesting inside memories to share.

I gave him a copy of my new CD and he was blown away by the Pedro Bell cover art on it. If anyone is hip to how cool that is, it’s James. He got it right away and really loves the fact I’m such a big fan of the group. James has always been one of my favorites. He’s just so easygoing and positive all the time. I can learn a lot from him in many ways, and I do.

Jim likes him too and books him whenever he can. The last time the three of us worked together was an Italian restaurant in Cincinnati and we blew the roof off that joint. It was a Christmas party as I remember, and they loved all three of us. It happened again tonight.

James has a very unique style on stage. It’s similar to a Steven Wright in that it’s clever one liners and short bits strung together. When it’s working, it’s a treat to watch. Tonight it was working perfectly, and it’s also a fantastic setup for me. James sits on a stool and is very deliberate and then I come up there and pound them with my machine gun delivery.

After the show people lined up to tell us how much they enjoyed us, and we all thanked them sincerely. The three of us have been around long enough to know when it’s good or bad, and this was definitely good. Those people were as good as any audience anywhere.

This is why we all got into comedy in the first place. Yes, money is nice and everyone’s dream is to play the big rooms but the energy from an audience on a night like tonight is a drug more powerful than heroin. So what if we weren’t in Vegas? This was a super night.

I also sold ten CDs over the two nights. That might not be huge, but it’s income to help pay for the expense I had in getting them made and a also very painful reminder of all the income I’ve lost out on by not having them all this time. It’s probably been at least a year and I’m ashamed of myself for not having anything to sell. I won’t let that happen again.

James and Jim didn’t have anything to sell. People really enjoyed these shows, and now I’ve got ten seeds out there to hopefully grow my name. I realized my mistake but at least I fixed it. A lot of comics I know never do. Nights like tonight need to be capitalized on.
This is the part of the business that’s so difficult to grasp for some people. After a good show, we are in a euphoric mood and want it to last as long as possible. Most comedians I know enjoy that time in different ways. Some have cocktails, others chase women or hang out with the other comics on the show, still others have been known to go the drug route.

What I don’t think most comedians realize is that the audience is in a euphoric mood as well, and in perfect position to make an impulse buy on their way out if there is a product for sale at a reasonable price. The more products available, the better chance of making a sale. It’s very smart business and even if sales are mediocre, they do add up eventually.

I still remember getting lectured about this by James Gregory years ago. James is one of the best marketers I’ve ever seen, and I have nothing but respect for him. He’s an Atlanta based comedian who is king in the southeast and he bills himself as ‘The funniest man in America’. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter in the least. The perception is there.

James has t-shirts, sweat shirts, baseball caps, books, CDs, videos, and combinations of all of the above. His website is http://www.funniestman.com and I’m sure he’s got more things for sale because I haven’t checked it in a while. James Gregory knows show BUSINESS.

I’ve been weakly mediocre at best, and the only one to blame is me. I am making a solid conscious decision right now to improve my business skills dramatically. There’s no good reason I haven’t had anything to sell either in person or on my website for this long. I only hurt myself by doing that, and I’m in enough pain already. There’s just no excuse. Period.

Maybe it’s a self esteem thing and deep down some of us don’t think we deserve it. I’ve never enjoyed hawking merchandise, but most times I never hawked it. I just mentioned it was available and if people wanted something they could come get it. And they often did.

I remember James telling me that it’s a worthwhile expense to have as much to offer as possible, as eventually someone will buy it. If I’m doing shows anyway, why not have the largest available inventory possible to give people the most choice? I can’t argue with that and why should I? He’s right. Way more comedians than not never master the marketing.

I’m not talking about having one crappy t-shirt or home made CD or DVD available for sale. I’m talking about taking time to have quality merchandise made up and put in a nice package and offered at the end of a show. That takes a lot of effort, and most never do it.

Most comedians now have websites, but that’s not the same. The impulse buying power after a killer show like we had tonight is priceless. They just saw a red hot performance in person and the endorphins are still surging through their body. THAT’S the time to sell.

I’ve been missing out on this opportunity far too long now and that’s going to stop right this minute. I didn’t have to hawk the ten CDs I sold this weekend, and in fact the people thanked me for letting them buy one. They wanted it, and I had it available. It’s a business deal, and everyone wins. It’s taken longer than I thought, but I’m finally getting smarter.

Mothership Maintenance

March 24, 2010

Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Sometimes I look at all the projects I have going on and I see a whole lot of similarities between that and the process of raising children. Some of them share the same things, but most are very different from each other. I totally love each in their own way, but I have to treat them all as individuals and judge each situation that comes up on it’s own merits.

Today the Mothership Connection radio show on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI was what won out for my attention. I’ve stuck with that project over two years now, and that’s the longest I’ve ever lasted on any show I’ve been involved with on the air. I really love it and the little voice inside my head tells me it’s time to devote more time and energy to it.

Since my own resources are stretched pretty thin, I need to delegate tasks to the regulars who keep showing up each week. We’ve got a solid core of quality people and if I put the word out that I need help, I know they’ll all rise to the occasion and make it happen. I feel a very positive vibe from everyone involved, but the show needs to have a total overhaul.

Joey O’Shey has been a very welcome addition, mainly because he’s been on a big time morning show in Boston for years. He understands the concepts of preparation and pacing and his energy on air fits in perfectly with the others in the studio. Diane Ebert has been a radio pro for years and she handles the phones and also takes care of all the social media.

Gary Pansch has really stepped up to the plate. He’s always been very quiet off the mic, but when that red light comes on he’s right there. His weekly ‘Mothership Hall Of Fame’ feature showcases a weekly kook from either past or present and he’s made it his own.

There are several others who drift in and out when they can like Dr. Destruction who’s a TV horror host of a show called “The Crimson Theatre”. He’s a local icon and is a true artist in every sense of the word. I always love having him in, and he shows up whenever it fits his schedule. No pressure either way, and it works. That’s how the whole show is.

Grey Dolan and Shelley Maas Hernandez are former comedy students and they show up when they can too, as do several of my co-hosts like Scott Markus and Lara Shaffer. They are both off doing other projects, but when they’re in town they know they can show up at the studio and I’ll put them on the air. It’s a nice relaxed feeling that’s very rare in radio.

George Clinton created his own situation in the ‘70s with Parliament/Funkadelic. That’s who did the album ‘Mothership Connection’, which is where I got the name for the show and use it as a tribute. George oversaw everyone and had the vision but the musicians put the work in to make it pop. Together they created a whole better than the sum of the parts.

That’s the goal here too and I don’t think it’s that far away. The on air part sounds great, but things like a total website update and coordination of guests and weekly promos and a mailing list and podcast all need to be addressed and put in place. Like a child, this is part of growing up. The Mothership Connection is reaching puberty. It’s a whole new galaxy.