Posts Tagged ‘Pat McGann’

Friday Fun With Friends

January 25, 2014

Friday January 24th, 2014 – Frankfort, IL

Tonight was another fun night working with long time friends. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I’ve put together a stellar cast of characters that make me laugh and are fun to be around. There are a lot worse ways to make a living, and we all know it. Tonight was a true team effort.

Ken Sevara has booked the comedians at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL for seven years now. He’s a comedian himself, so he understands the process. I’ve become a regular there, and love to work in front of the audiences there. They come to be entertained, and they have always been friendly.

The staff there always treats us like royalty, and if nobody else appreciates it I surely do. It’s an extra perk that doesn’t happen everywhere, and that’s a shame. It happens here, so I look forward to coming back. Dean the owner is into comedy, and the tone has been set from the top on down.

Tonight it was an extra special treat to work with my good friend Jimmy McHugh. The two of us together on one show is hard to beat, and to top it off hosting the show was Brian Hicks. He’s another of Chicago’s best, and doesn’t live far away. The three of us together made it a big night.

The weather was nasty all day, so Jimmy and I rented a car and got a hotel room not far away. I live almost 100 miles one way from Frankfort, and I didn’t want to be dealing with driving home in a snow storm. Jimmy and I are working tomorrow night in Indiana, so this was the right call.

Right before the show started, Tim Slagle walked in. Tim, Ken and I were the original “Jerry’s Kidders” on WLS radio with our friend Jerry Agar. It was nice of Tim to pop in, and I knew we had to find a way to get us all on stage. This was too good of a group in one place not to do that.

I cut my show a few minutes early, and brought up Ken, Tim, Jimmy and Brian for a close out round robin version of “Chicago Style” standup comedy. We each took turns at the microphone, and the audience loved it. The energy in that kind of setting is electric, and we all plugged into it.

The audience got far more than they expected, and everyone had a fantastic experience. I enjoy being able to make things like this happen on the spur of the moment, and it was my call entirely. No matter what problems any of us may have, being on stage together for those few minutes was an escape. It was like we were our own version of the Rat Pack, and the audience came with us.

After our show, we hung around a TV and watched Pat McGann’s debut on David Letterman. I was delighted that there was a crowd there to support, and we were all rooting for him to knock it out of the park. He did exactly that, and spontaneous applause broke out when his set was done.

I’m telling you, that guy has got it. He looked completely at home, and was able to get several applause breaks throughout his set. David Letterman came over to him after he was done and had very complimentary things to say before they went to the commercials. I’d say he hit a home run.

There wasn’t any jealousy among the group of us watching, and I thought it was a great tribute to the character of the people in the room. Pat deserved the shot, and he nailed it. Good for him. I couldn’t be happier for him, or more pleased to have gotten to perform with such a classy bunch.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He's a great pro and an even greater friend. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He’s a great pro and an even greater friend. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. www.funnybrian.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. http://www.funnybrian.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. http://www.timslagle.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show 'Fly By Night' on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show ‘Fly By Night’ on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. http://www.kensevara.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. www.patmcganncomedy.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his network TV debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. Way to go! http://www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Old Dogs And New Meat

January 25, 2014

Thursday January 23rd, 2014 – St. Charles, IL

There was a fall out tonight at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL and once again I was the one called to fill in. I’m always grateful to get those calls, and I gladly said yes. The temperature was way on the wrong side of zero and my car barely started, but it was a pleasant ride to work.

I have always enjoyed working in St. Charles, and have been doing it with regularity since the club opened in 1989. I’ve seen several managers come and go, and like a lifer in prison I’m now part of the fabric of the walls. I’m a fixture, and there are several others in that category as well.

Vince Maranto is another. I have known Vince from the days of the first place I ever worked in the Chicago area called “The Comedy Cottage” in the mid ‘80s. That was a showcase club where an entire generation of extremely talented comedians cut their stage teeth, and I am honored that I was a part of that scene. What a blast. It was like being a musician in Liverpool in the late ‘50s.

I always liked Vince and thought he was a funny comedian, and we’ve worked together far too many times to count. He’s a headliner in his own right, but frequently works as ‘house emcee’ at Zanies to stay off the road. He was married with a son, and chose to be around. I can’t blame him for that, and in fact I commend him. Vince chose to make comedy work for him and that’s smart.

Mike Preston wasn’t a part of the Comedy Cottage scene, but he came around not all that much longer after. He’s another act everyone likes personally, and is also an excellent comedian that is able to close shows when needed. He also opted for the ‘house emcee’ gig because he helps take care of his mother in Crystal Lake, IL where he grew up. Again, who can blame a guy for that?

Vince never chose to make the move to L.A., but Mike did. He lived there for several years but decided to move back like a lot of people do. There’s no shame in doing it but it’s never pleasant to make that long trip home. I’ve done it myself, and so have countless others. It’s a cruel game.

Vince and Mike are two of my favorites to hang out with offstage, and I love their acts too. We have all seen each other’s acts so many times over so many years, we could probably recite them word for word by now. We’re three prime examples of what a working road dog comedian does.

I had no idea who I would be working with when I arrived at Zanies tonight, but was delighted to see Vince and Mike sitting around – and they were happy to see me too. We all knew we could relax and not have to worry about anything as far as the show went. That makes it a total breeze.

I happened to be the headliner tonight, and Mike was the feature. Vince always does a great job as host, but Mike or I could have easily done that role too. Any of us could have effortlessly fit in at any position, and I can’t remember the last time I was on a show like that. What a treat that is.

The audience tonight was mostly a group fundraiser event for a baseball team of some sort that is based in the western suburbs. There were a few others mixed in, but that group was the bulk of the audience. Vince, Mike and I knew exactly how to play it, and it came off without any hitches. The crowd saw a much better show than they realized, as there were decades of sweat equity put in by all three of us, and that just doesn’t happen every day. I’m proud to call those guys friends.

Right before the show started, Vince asked me if I’d heard about Pat McGann. I hadn’t, and he told me that Pat was taping his first David Letterman appearance tonight. I hadn’t heard that and was very happy for him. Pat is a wonderful guy and everyone likes him too – but he’s different.

Pat is not going to be a road dog kicking around for decades like Vince, Mike and me. Pat has big star written all over him, and I predicted that years ago. He’s got all the tools, and has put in his time the right way. There aren’t many that come along that are like him, and he’s on his way.

I’ve only seen it happen a few other times, but I was right each time I saw it. It doesn’t take all that much to see it, as it becomes quite obvious in a hurry. There are some people that show up at the right time with the right equipment, and they shoot up the ranks with little difficulty. It’s rare.

Frank Caliendo was one. He opened for me the first time he ever stepped on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. He was totally raw, but I could clearly see how that audience loved his impressions. I told him that night if he worked hard and stayed with it he’d take it to the big time.

Hannibal Burress was another. That kid has a load of natural ability, and combines it with one of the hardest work ethics I’ve seen since Frank Caliendo. Frank busted his hump and then some to get his name out, and Hannibal is the same. People with both those traits are extremely rare.

Michael Palascak is another. He’s done all kinds of TV, and is well on his way to a long career making big money doing something in the entertainment business. He might get a sitcom or have a movie career, but standup comedy has launched him to a higher level than most of us ever see.

Pat McGann is on that path as well, and tonight was his official launch date. I was told it won’t air until tomorrow, but unless there’s another 9/11 type story I’d say he’s golden. It might not be a big deal with the public, but he’s cementing his place of credibility within the business itself.

Like with pro sports, there are only a few of thousands that are considered legitimate prospects. Once in a while someone slips through the cracks and overachieves, but for the most part it boils down to a precious few at the top of the crop that are talked about and given chances to succeed.

In Pat’s case, he comes from a solid family that’s well connected on the South Side of Chicago where he’s from. I think his father is a judge, but I could be wrong. Whatever the case, he’s been groomed to be socially adept, and he totally is. Everyone likes Pat, and I see why he’ll be a star.

He’s got a razor sharp wit and is very funny naturally. He took a comedy writing seminar that I taught with Bill Gorgo years ago, and we immediately liked him then. It was obvious he was one of those rare ‘naturals’, but he also put in his time and worked at it. This is no surprise to anyone.

I’m thrilled for Pat’s success, but I also have to keep plugging on my road. I wasn’t given all of the gifts Pat was, and neither were most of the rest of us. There are a lot more Mike Prestons and Vince Marantos than there are Frank Caliendos or Pat McGanns. Dobie Maxwells are even fewer than that. My story is so out there, it stands eerily all by itself like Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. It now becomes up to me to play the hand I was dealt correctly and salvage as much happiness as is humanly possible. If I’m lucky, Pat or Frank or Hannibal or Michael will hire me as a pool boy.

Vince Maranto is one of Chicago's very best standup comics - and has been a friend for many years. He's a rock solid professional. www.vincemaranto.com.

Vince Maranto is one of Chicago’s very best standup comics – and has been a friend for many years. He’s a rock solid pro and I’m a lifelong fan. http://www.vincemaranto.com.

Ditto with Mike Preston. Mike is also the host of a very funny TV show called 'Psycho Babble'. I've been a guest several times, and it's always a blast. www.psychobabbletv.com.

Ditto with Mike Preston. Mike is also the host of an original and funny TV show called ‘Psycho Babble’. I’ve been a guest several times, and it’s always a blast. http://www.psychobabbletv.com.

Pat McGann recorded his first network TV spot tonight. He's on his way to becoming a big star. You heard it here first. I'm thrilled for Pat, he's a true talent and super nice guy. www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Pat McGann recorded his first network TV spot tonight. He’s on his way to becoming a big star. You heard it here first. I’m thrilled for Pat, he’s got talent galore and is a genuinely nice guy. http://www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Frank Caliendo opened for me his first time on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. I told him that night if he stayed with it and worked hard he could easily take it big time. He did, and it worked. Good for him. www.frankcaliendo.com.

Frank Caliendo opened for me his first time on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. I told him that night if he stayed with it and worked hard he could easily take it big time. He did, and it worked. Good for him. http://www.frankcaliendo.com.

Hannibal Burress is another rising star loaded with talent and a rock solid work ethic. I'm a big fan, and it's no surprise he's blowing doors off of everywhere he goes. He's a rare talent. www.hannibalburress.com.

Hannibal Burress is another rising star loaded with talent and a big time work ethic. I’m a huge fan, and it’s no surprise he’s blowing doors off of everywhere he goes. He is absolutely the real deal. http://www.hannibalburress.com.

Michael Palascak is another up and comer with star written all over him. He's also talented and has a super work ethic. www.michaelpalascak.com.

Michael Palascak is another up and comer with star written all over him. He’s also talented and has a super work ethic. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Success leaves clues. http://www.michaelpalascak.com.

The Maven Of Mondays

October 9, 2012

Monday October 8th, 2012 – Chicago, IL

   When things go like they did today, Monday is probably my favorite day of the week. I haven’t had one like this in a while, and it reminded me how much I’ve been missing. I used to have stuff to do lined up on a consistent weekly basis from early morning until midnight, and I loved it all.

I still do some of those things, but the schedule is not as rigid as it once was. Getting home late after The Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI can make it a bit stressful especially if I had a busy weekend doing shows before that. By the time I get home and unwind a little it’s already Monday morning and after only a few short hours of sleep I’m back at it again.

What usually wakes me around 7:30 on Monday mornings is a phone call from the ‘Stone and Double T’ radio show on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. We’ve done a weekly bit for a while, and it’s always fun. They let me do what I want, and it’s refreshing to have someone trust me to know what I’m doing and deliver a weekly bit. I appreciate that. Find them at www.wxrx.com.

After that, I sit down at my computer and Skype Jeff Schneider in Pittsburgh and we record our podcast ‘The Unshow’. We’ve got more than 100 thirty minute episodes in the can, even though we haven’t figured out a way to carve out an audience much less monetize it. Jeff used to be a lot more excited about trying to promote it, but now I think he’s finding out how hard this game is.

Still, they’re fun to do, and we usually try to crank out at least two episodes if we can. Once in a while if we’re on a roll, we’ll do three. Some are better than others, but they all have a least one riff that I would think is worth listening to. Jeff is a very interesting and well read guy, and we’re both so familiar with each other it’s like two jazz musicians exploring new turf. We have a vibe.

I’m not sure exactly where we’re going with this, but since it’s only an hour a week and all that needs to be invested is sitting at the computer and talking I feel I want to keep going. Who listens to it now, who knows? It’s part of the cosmic foot print I’m leaving to prove I was on this planet.

After the podcast, I got out and took a nice long walk on a beautiful autumn day. I worked up a full sweat, and then had a healthy breakfast at a diner in town. It’s filled with odd characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the continuous freak show as I ate my poached eggs and oatmeal.

After that, I cranked out two articles for my www.maxwellmethodcomedy.wordpress.com blog and it made me feel like I accomplished something worthwhile. One would have been great, but I was on a roll so I kept going. I’ve been very productive with those of late, and I’m not done yet.

To top it off, I received a call late this afternoon from Pat McGann asking if I could fill in as the host of the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago. That was unexpected but appreciated, so I scrubbed up and headed to Chicago. I needed a haircut so I squeezed that in too. It all fell in line.

I wish I’d be able to control this vibe like a thermostat, as that’s where I’d set my life and leave it for good. I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do. I’d call that success.

Three Times A Night

February 14, 2010

Saturday February 13th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Zanies in Chicago is one of the few comedy clubs left that do three shows on a Saturday night. I’ve talked before of how difficult that is, and it is. But I love it. It can be a grueling experience, especially as the headliner. Forty-five minutes of solid standup comedy is one of the most difficult tasks I can think of to do ONCE, much less three times in one night.

When I started, three shows on a Saturday was pretty standard. A few clubs tried it on a Friday too, and if I remember correctly even Zanies did for a while. That’s a lot of shows, but back then comedy was red hot and they could pack them in like sardines so why not?

I’ve read stories where vaudeville performers would have to do six shows a day. I don’t know if that was every day or just Saturday, but that’s still a lot of work for one day. They had a lot shorter time to do, but they still had to stay around the theatre and be ready to go on when it was their turn. Those people really worked hard. It wasn’t a glorious existence.

I’ve always been of the mentality that if I’m going to work, I want to WORK. I’d prefer that all clubs did three shows on a Saturday, and if we could fill it, let’s do Friday as well. There was a club called The Funny Firm in Chicago during the boom years and they ran a brutal schedule every week. They had two shows on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Friday and Saturday had three, and I think they also ran one on Tuesday. Monday was a new talent showcase night so I won’t count that, but all together that’s still 13 shows for a week which is unheard of today. Most people now are happy to get 13 shows in a month.

I was ready for my marathon tonight, and that’s exactly what it is. I’m very physical and jump around a lot on stage, and after forty-five minutes I’m usually soaking with sweat to show for all my effort. The lights can be very hot, but my bouncing around like a jumping bean also adds to it. I definitely work when I’m on stage and when I’m done I’m spent.

Another thing I have to be careful of is how I move my material around. It’s not hard to confuse the shows and not be sure what material I did for what audience. I happen to have a ton of material, and sometimes I’ll bring out an old bit or switch order on the fly and for three show nights that can really put me in the trick bag if I’m not paying close attention.

Tonight was a dream night for many reasons. First, all three shows were totally sold out to the last seat. It was Valentine’s Day weekend and even if it wasn’t me that drew I don’t mind at all. People were in seats, and they paid top dollar to be there. I gave them a show. It’s funny how it works, but the more people pay, the more they pay attention to the show.

The openers were great guys and easy to work with too. Pat McGann is a fresh face that has a really bright future. He’s smart and funny and knows how to network. He’s doing a lot of things right, and he did a fine job as host. Fritz was the feature and he has a style on stage that’s very laid back and low key. It’s a perfect fit for me because then I go up there and blow the dust out of the speakers. Everything fell together and it was a fantastic night.