Posts Tagged ‘Pheasant Run Resort’

Networking Is Necessary

May 21, 2010

Wednesday May 19th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/St. Charles, IL

It’s only now that I’m really starting to grasp just how important building a network can be in terms of working in the entertainment business. People really do talk, and when I’ve been able to keep my name in front of someone who can do something for me, it’s usually paid off at least one time or another. The question is, how can I do it the most efficiently?

There’s a fine line between updating someone regularly and being a flat out pest. We’re all bombarded with emails and texts and most of those aren’t important so how can I keep my name and availabilities in someone’s head without bothering them? I wish I could say I knew, but I don’t. Nobody does. Everyone has different ways they digest information.

I’ve built up enough of a reputation with enough bookers around the country that I have people calling me for work. I do a solid job and can handle myself in most situations from a stage standpoint because I’m so experienced. I’ve seen it all and nothing rattles me, so a booker knows I’ll do the job more often than not even if there’s a flood or a wild heckler.

I don’t know how proud of that fact I am, but it’s true. I get calls from bookers all over who are ‘trying something out’ and use me as the guinea pig. It could be anything from a deaf mute biker rally to a gay lumberjack bake sale, or both. In the same weekend. Across the country. In a blizzard. And I have to be squeaky clean. With PowerPoint. In Yiddish.

Somehow, over the years I’ve been able to pull most of those kinds of shows off. That’s probably why I get so many calls for work today, but I’m still painfully lax on keeping the people who could possibly hire me informed I’m even alive. If I did, I bet I’d easily triple the amount of work coming in, and get paid more too because I could afford to be choosy.

Today Marc Schultz held a networking lunch with some of the clients he books through the year. Those are always fun, so I went hoping to meet some new people. Marc is one of the nicest bookers I’ve ever met, and everyone who knows him loves him. He invited Tim Walkoe and me, but we were the only comedians. The rest ran the entire gamut of variety.

There were magicians and jugglers and a ventriloquist and even a couple of other ladies who book entertainment that Tim and I have both worked for in the past. It was a fun time socially, but also a nice chance to network with people from another branch of a business that traditionally hires by word of mouth. This was a good opportunity for each one of us.

Occasionally people ask if I might know any number of different kinds of acts, so if I’m able to recommend someone and get them work I’m more than happy to do it. That’s how networking pays off, and I’ve had it come back to me in the past from other entertainers.

Tonight I went to Pheasant Run in St. Charles to meet in person with a small group that has been interested in a comedy class, but not enough to make an actual class. I met with them personally and answered questions they had, and I could tell they were impressed by my willingness to do so. No problem, that’s networking too. To do it is smart business.

Catching The Dream

March 3, 2010

Tuesday March 2nd, 2010 – St. Charles, IL/Lake Villa, IL

I’m starting to feel some momentum building with all my projects, and I’m really liking how that feels. It energizes me and makes every waking hour exciting and packed with all kinds of fun things to do. The phone is ringing constantly and I feel like I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to be doing rather than drifting through life like a lost helium balloon.

Everything seems to be coming together at once, and as scary as that is, it’s also a thrill. I’ve waited so long and had so many disappointments that I thought this time would never come. I’ve made a lion’s share of mistakes and can’t promise I won’t make more, but that goes with the territory. I’ve managed to hang in there and positive results are finally here.

What’s great about all of this is I hung in there and didn’t give up when that would have been very easy to do. Maybe I was too stupid to quit or didn’t know what else to do, but it didn’t happen and I’m so glad it didn’t. I feel like I’m really poised for something big and it’s not very far away now. This is the most exciting time of my life and I’m loving it all.

Comedy classes are coming together again even though only three students came out for one at Zanies at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. They agreed to wait until next month, so we’ll start on April 6th and be ready to go. We had several other people inquire, but they didn’t attend for whatever reason. That happens. It’s ok, I‘m still very positive.

Cyndi Nelson is my ace in the hole here and she and I had a great meeting. Cyndi works for the resort as Entertainment Director after being promoted from manager of Zanies and she’s a peach pie to deal with. She’s smart and a sweetheart and she sees the benefits of a comedy class to more than just wannabe comics. She knows it’s good for lots of people.

Business types and sales meetings and public speakers of all kinds can benefit from this and she promised to promote it throughout the resort and I know she will. I wrote her up a press release last week, but it was on very short notice and it only got out today. That’s no way to promote something, but now we’ve got a solid month to get interest up for April.

I’ll have plenty to work on if there are classes both downtown and at Pheasant Run on a regular basis, and it’s not nuts to think we could eventually add a third location in Vernon Hills if needed. I’ve done several classes out there before and they’ve all been successful.

I have to watch myself with time management though. While I really do enjoy teaching, I still have a while to go while I can still perform. That’s my first love, and if I can do that I absolutely will. Teaching is close though. Having two classes at once is enough for now.  That should happen next month, and I’ll work on making those two fill up consistently.

The one man show about Milwaukee is getting some attention too. I can feel that begin to heat up, and I did a radio interview today on a station in Fond Du Lac for my March 13 performance at The Railroad Station in Saukville. Richard Halasz is promoting that show and he’s doing an excellent job of it. We’ve got a great chance to experiment and we are.

That’s what all of this is – one big experiment. It’s a crapshoot. I am guessing as to what will sell, and even though I’ve got a lot of experience there’s still no guarantee that any of this will work, at least not to the extent I might think it will. Still, I feel good about it all.

Richard Halasz has been a comedian longer than me, and has been promoting shows in the area for a while now. He can help me get locations in the area, as can Ron Lee. Ron is also working with me on this project and he’s been meeting with potential sponsors of the show lately and he tells me they’re very interested in the concept. I knew I had a winner.

Now it’s a matter of hashing it all out and making it come to life. I’ll work with Richard and Ron and anyone else who wants to put on shows, but the ultimate control in all of this boils down to me. I’ll have to negotiate percentages and define roles for everyone but it’s ultimately my baby here and whether it sinks or swims boils down to me. I’m in charge.

That’s why it’s so much fun. Whenever I’ve been in control in the past, things have had very positive results. It’s when I have to deal with those who don’t share my vision is the time everything has fallen apart. I don’t think I have to let that happen in these situations.

The ‘Schlitz Happened!’ one man show and the comedy classes are my babies and I call the shots in both. I also have Uranus Factory Outlet ready to launch soon and that project is in my control as well. I thought of it and even though it took way too long to get going, it’s finally ready to blast off in a couple of weeks. Those are three projects I love doing.

That doesn’t include my actual standup comedy career either. I’m still interested in that too, even though all these other things are starting to rumble. I took some time today for a review of my comedy material I’ve been working on lately. I’ve got 120 pages of material I need to either polish, rework or add in to what I’ve already got. That‘ll keep me busy.

All this will keep me busy for the rest of my life, even if I live to be 100. These are very solid projects that will take blood and sweat to develop, but I’m up for the challenge and looking forward to it. Nothing is worthwhile that isn’t worth working for, and all this is.

I’m starting to see a bigger picture on all these things too. I know I won’t be able to get anything done totally by myself so I’m working on my delegation skills. Delegating what I need to do is the best way to assure success, and I never really thought that way before.

Now, I totally think that way. Unless I can get quality people to join me I’ll never make any of this come to life. It’s only as a result of a team effort many times over that will be what puts any of this over the top. I’ve been laying the foundations for all of these things, but now it’s time to find the members of my team. I’m doing that, and it’s working well.

One thing I didn’t mention was radio. I’m still involved with Jerry’s Kidders on WGN in Chicago and The Mothership Connection paranormal show on WLIP in Kenosha every Sunday night from 8-11pm Central Time. Those are two more projects I love doing and it would be even more lovable if I was getting paid for them. Time to shake the money tree.

Asleep At The Meal

January 31, 2010

Friday January 29th, 2010 – St. Charles, IL

This is turning out to be a stellar week of work at Zanies for many reasons. First, we’ve had good numbers for every show so far. I’m not sure if I’m a draw, but it doesn’t matter. I see butts in seats and they’ve walked out smiling and that’s what makes everyone happy.

I’ve been getting great reports on the comment cards, and that never hurts either. Still, I never liked those things and still don’t. The booker of a venue should know what acts are right for that particular room, and not have to consult the unwashed masses for their input on who they want to see in the future. Most of them have no idea what they’re looking at.

That’s no offense to anyone, just fact. Most clubs have some kind of mailing list card to fill out which allows people to suggest who they’d like to see at the club. Most put names like ‘Jay Leno’ or ‘Jerry Seinfeld’ or ’Bill Cosby’ or even some comedians who’ve died.

Sorry comedy fans, Bill Cosby’s career path won’t be leading him to St. Charles, IL any time soon. He has quite a few bigger venues he could sell out in the time it takes to whip up a batch of Jello pudding. He doesn’t need to be working a 300 seat comedy club. I do.

That’s why I don’t need some halfwit marking down bad scores just because he doesn’t like the shirt I’m wearing or the waitress didn’t bring his Long Island Ice Tea fast enough. That kind of thing happens all the time in a lot of one nighters, and it isn’t very fair at all.

But what is? Not much that I know. I just know that Cyndi does her job as the manager and a lot more and tonight she took the comics out to dinner at the world class restaurant called “The Harvest” in the resort. It’s an outstanding experience, from the off the charts food to the amazing service. It’s one of the absolute finest places I’ve ever eaten a meal.

The resort doesn’t have to do that and neither does Cyndi, but they do and we were very grateful for everything. Our server couldn’t have been more thorough and kept our drinks and butter and everything else full the entire meal. We went early enough so it wasn’t that busy yet, and we could enjoy the whole experience. THIS is what makes life worth living.

Hanging out with wonderful friends and eating fantastic food for free is a nice job perk, especially in this day and age. I might not be Donald Trump, but I sure got treated exactly like him tonight. No matter what goes wrong in the next month, this was a total highlight.

After dinner we all went back to the showroom for the start of the first show. I was full from dinner and sat in the back to watch the show like I’m supposed to do. I need to keep track of what happens in case I need to comment on it. Too bad I nodded out in about ten minutes. The host did his time and brought the feature act up, but I slept through all of it.

A waitress woke me up literally right as I was getting introduced. I leapt from my chair and tried to be calm, but I was WAY out of it. There I stood, in front of a full house after just waking up. That’s most people’s worst nightmare. Not me. I enjoyed the challenge.

A Boozy Floozy

January 29, 2010

Thursday January 28th, 2010 – St. Charles, IL

I’m working at Zanies in St. Charles, IL this week which is located in the Pheasant Run Resort. The club is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year and I’ve worked every one of them. How far I’ve come, both personally and as a comedian. It was my training ground.

I still love working there. The manager is Cyndi Nelson, one of the nicest people I have ever met in life, much less the comedy business. She was a waitress and ended up getting the manager’s job when the last one was caught tapping the till, and she’s become one of the best comedy club managers in the country. She lives and breathes everything comedy.

I’ve seen club managers burn out all over the country, and I hope that doesn’t happen to Cyndi. She’s been there for several years and every comic loves working for her. She puts a whole lot of extra effort into her job to make us feel like we’re really in show business.

Most of the old pros really appreciate it and look forward to playing there. I know I do. The physical makeup of the club itself is very good. The stage is roomy and high enough up so everyone in back can see. The sound is crisp and the lighting is good too. It rocks.

The headliners have to do some local suburban radio shows, but that’s ok. Hopefully it helps put butts in seats. A new addition this time through was a pod cast by two guys who call their show “The Greatest Show In The World”, which is an outstanding title, rivaled only by my friend Steve “The Homer” True’s “ The World’s Greatest Sports Talk Show.”

Title is important, but these guys have a really good show too. They’re named “Frankie & The Cheez” and both of them used to be in radio until they got a dose of the old see ya later and never went back. You can hear them at http://www.thegreatestshowintheworld.com.

The shows this week have been well attended so far. Last night there was a late holiday party of Payless Shoes managers from the Chicago area and they were an especially good audience. I tend to go over well to working class audiences, as I don’t talk down to them.

Tonight was even fuller, and 99% of the audience was very good. Unfortunately, it had to be right up front where the 1% sat, and they ruined it for everyone else. Typical. I saw the problem the first ten seconds I was on stage, because it was from a super hot blondie who would NOT shut up. She was distracting by both her looks and drunken babbling.

To make it even worse, she was with some total bag of donuts loser with a shaved head, goatee, chain wallet and attitude to match. Plus, he was a Sox fan and had to let it be said to the point of me having to shut him up to the roaring applause of the rest of the crowd.

This was no easy task, and I had all I could handle to keep the show under control as the evening went on. There was a very full house tonight and it was a fundraiser for some sort of softball league or something, and I could tell they were a bit older than last night and a lot more white collar. I know how to read my audiences after all these years of doing it.

Last night I had a more direct approach to capture them right away, but tonight I needed to be less aggressive up front and gradually ramp it up. Paying attention to these details is what makes a professional entertainer, and it takes years of experience to nail it correctly.

I also knew I had to work ‘big’. The room in Pheasant Run is narrow and long, just like the downtown Zanies in Chicago. This one is about three times as large, so when they are full to the back, the comedian has to be very careful to work to all parts of the audience.

I made sure I did that tonight. I consciously slowed my cadence WAY down, especially in the first few minutes, and used big sweeping animated gestures to punctuate my points. Old school professional wrestlers were great at this, as they had to communicate the story of the match to the people in the cheap seats. It’s a very subtle technique, but effective.

Miss Boozie Boobs started in with her vociferous diarrhea up front, and I could tell I’d be dealing with her the rest of the night. She wanted attention, and I guess her mini skirt and halfway exposed voluptuous knockers weren’t enough. I wanted to dive on her right there, but there were a couple hundred people who wanted to hear jokes. Too bad for me.

She not only would not shut up, she started talking to another woman at the table right behind her. That lady talked back and they started up a conversation right in the middle of  the show. How rude, and I told her that in a way that made the audience laugh but they’d started to get sick of it too, and it was to the point where it could have gotten very ugly.

In the past, I might have really flipped out on her from stage, and I wouldn’t have been wrong in doing it. Cyndi was in the other room because she knows I can handle most any situation on stage and she knows she doesn’t have to baby sit when I’m on. She would’ve had my back no matter what I chose to do, but I made a decision I wasn’t going to snap.

There was a room full of nice people who were enjoying the show and I wanted to give them the very best I could give. I ignored the drunk couple, but DAMN she was sexy. It’s bad enough I have to get heckled by a hottie, but that she was with such an oil can loser is even worse. He gets to have wild sex with her and I get to sit by myself and write about it.

The very worst was that I finally got them relatively quiet enough to launch into my big closer, which is totally a rhythm bit. If I get taken out of my rhythm, it’s shot. It builds up a momentum and the audience gets into it and when it works it’s an ass kicker. When it’s interrupted, it fizzles. Usually, by the time I get to it I’ve got the audience in my grasp.

I almost had them there tonight, but right in the middle of my closer the two love birds got up and left and ruined my flow. They sat right in front and the whole crowd saw them leave. I tried to ignore them but nobody could. Everyone was gawking as they walked out.

This goes with the territory of being a club comic. I did the best I could, and it was still a very good show. I got strong laughs for most of the night, and nobody else in the crowd knows or cares how difficult it was, but I do. I hope those two were too drunk to screw.