Posts Tagged ‘Potawatomi Casino’

A Loyal Soldier

March 27, 2013

Tuesday March 26th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   My busy week continues as I had to be in Milwaukee today to promote the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up sooner than later and also help judge the final round of a karaoke contest being held at the Potawatomi Casino Fire Keepers sports bar. I was flattered they asked, and I said yes.

I have an overwhelming feeling of confidence about how this project is going, and I can feel it becoming a big hit. I’ve been involved with more than my share of flops in my time, and this just doesn’t share the same characteristics. I can feel a positive buzz building, and it feels euphoric.

I’m really excited to be working at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. I cannot say enough good things about that venue, and it’s just a perfect fit from all angles. The customers for my show are the exact same group the casino is going for, and this should be a perfect match.

Once word gets out there’s a funny local show that isn’t dirty, I know I’ll be able to stretch this out for years to come should I choose to do so. My biggest issue was getting the word out, but no more. Potawatomi has a very strong media presence, and they are getting behind me all the way.

Today I recorded a radio interview for WTMJ that will air this Sunday. There’s no way WTMJ would put me on the air as some Joe Shmoe local comic who came up with a half baked show in his basement, but with the Northern Lights Theatre behind it I have total and needed credibility.

It also didn’t hurt that the interview was hosted by my friend Jim Peck. Jim is a talented radio and TV host originally from Milwaukee who went on to be a big success hosting game shows on network TV. I have always been a fan of Jim’s, and am a bigger one now that I know him in real life. He’s got a razor sharp wit and is truly hilarious. He’s a pro’s pro and he made me look great.

Also with me in the interview was Bob Rech, the Entertainment Director for Potawatomi. He’s another guy I like and respect, and he totally knows what he’s doing. He’s not just giving me this run because he has nothing better to do though. He sees the potential this has for everyone in it.

Joe San Felippo of Bonkers Comedy Clubs is also someone in the mix. Joe has booked all the standup comedy shows at the theatre for years, and that’s how I got in. Joe and Bob put together solid shows, and have always been fans of mine and in my corner. I couldn’t be more grateful to both of them, and that’s why my first choice is to have the show have a home base here forever.

I’m a loyal soldier, even in a business where that’s not always common. Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago and I have worked together more than twenty years without a hiccup, and I’d love to establish a longstanding relationship with Potawatomi too. I’m not looking to start any turf wars.

All I want is a place to call performing home. I want to make a fair living, and I want the venue to make a fair profit too. This is a team effort, and I’m happy to have Bob and Joe and everybody at Potawatomi on the same team. Judging the karaoke show was a lot of fun, and there were quite a few talented performers on the bill. Now it’s off to Atlanta to be in the Laughing Skull Festival.

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Building A Brand

March 22, 2013

Wednesday March 20th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

Today I needed to be in Milwaukee for a recorded video interview with Jason Evans who owns and runs a website about Milwaukee comedy called www.mkefunny.com. Jason is coming up the ranks as a comic himself, and I like him a lot. He’s a student of the game, and is paying his dues.

Jeff Lampton was also there, and he’s another Milwaukee comic I like and respect. Jeff has his own style and agenda, and it’s not one that most people would have the ‘nads to do. Jeff chooses to do what would probably be labeled as X-rated comedy, and that has always been dangerous.

Lenny Bruce chose that route as did George Carlin, Redd Foxx and a precious few others in the annals of standup comedy. There is an audience for that style of comedy, but more often than not those kinds of performers get blackballed and aren’t able to work places most other comics are.

It’s difficult enough trying to hack out a living as any kind of entertainer, but trying to fit into a controversial niche cranks those odds up past astronomical. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it sure does make the trip more difficult. I respect anyone who sticks to their guns and follows their inner creative vision, which Jeff is choosing to do. Hats off to him, and I wish him only the best.

I never chose to go that route, and it was a conscious business decision. Foul language doesn’t offend me at all. I’ve been around it as long as I can remember, but this style of comedy isn’t just about swearing. It’s about trying to make points about subjects that can be considered volatile or controversial by a large percentage of the public. It takes guts and skill to do that style correctly.

Lenny Bruce and George Carlin got arrested for what they said, and although it was wonderful publicity for both of them I never wanted to rattle those cages. I want to get laughs, and that will hopefully get me paid. Does that make me a sellout? So be it. I’m there to entertain my audience, and there is more opportunity to get work for someone who can work clean if word can get out.

That’s why I drove up for the interview, as it was about my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up in April at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. Hopefully I can attract comedy fans that follow Jason’s site, but I want to take it much farther than that. I want this to be part of the Milwaukee community as much as the subject matter I’m talking about. I want to be a brand.

   In a perfect world, this will be something that will be in demand locally from everything from church festivals to libraries to private parties to a stage at Summerfest or the State Fair. It will be a totally clean show, and I’m consciously choosing not to use any swearing at all. NONE. It’s not a nightclub comedy show. I’ve done that, but this isn’t it. This is designed for a broader market.

I want Milwaukeeans who have never been to a standup comedy show to become loyal fans of what I’m doing so they’ll come back again and again and send others. It will never be exactly the same show twice, as I’m going to allow for some audience input at times which will freshen it up and make each performance unique. It’s taken a lifetime to develop this show, but I am SO ready to make it a success. I’m grateful for this chance, and those who come see it won’t get cheated. 

Ready To Rumble

March 8, 2013

Thursday March 7th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’m really starting to look forward to the run of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows at Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. I am SO ready for this, and I think for once I’m on to a project in the right place at the right time. I’m not fighting the current, but swimming with it.

The timing just seems to be right all around. My generation is getting older as we all are, and is the last generation to remember not having the internet – THE single biggest advancement in the way we communicate as a species since the printing press. We’re the last official link to the past.

None of us had any idea as we were growing up just how much the world was going to change in such a short time, and that can be hard to deal with. Traditions become traditions because of a need somewhere inside us for comfort and security. Passing things down to generations has been part of the human experience since time began. This is the first time we’re changing the standard.

Video games and cell phones weren’t part of our lives as children, but our children not only are comfortable with it all – they have to teach us how to use it. I remember laughing at how out of it my grandparents were when I was growing up, but I’m way farther from hip than they ever were.

This show gives me a chance not only to deal with those issues, but also embrace the city I was so eager to leave for so long. There was a time I wouldn’t admit I was from Milwaukee because I was ashamed of everything about it. Part of that was everything I dealt with growing up, but I’ve matured light years since then and am in the best mental place I’ve ever been and it feels great!

I’m going to rock these shows. I can feel it. I’m not bragging or talking out of school, I am just absolutely positive I’m going to knock it out of the park. I’ve performed on that very stage often, and feel as comfortable on it as anywhere I’ve ever performed. I know the subject matter like the back of my hand, and most if not all the people attending the shows will be on the same page too.

I was going over my material today clearly visualizing myself on that spacious stage in front of a full house talking into that fantastic sound system and feeling a wave of positive energy radiate back at me. I could hear the laughs and see the smiling faces looking back at me the whole time.

Doing the actual shows is not going to be the hard part. I’ll nail those. That work has been done over the entire lifetime I spent learning my craft. The people who come to these shows are going to get FAR more than they expected, and I’m counting on word of mouth to establish a groove.

This will be a work in progress for years, but an interesting one. I will become an authority on all things Milwaukee, and hopefully an ambassador for the city. I want to be active in fundraising for charities, and make this much more than a comedy show. I want to establish a positive brand.

Of course the possibility always exists that this could be a flaming flop, and I will not be asked back after my run in April. I don’t foresee that happening, but it totally could. If it does, I am not going to quit. I really believe in this show, and Milwaukeeans everywhere are going to LOVE it!

Golden Rule Enforcement

February 24, 2013

Thursday February 21st, 2013 – Sault Ste. Marie, MI

   If I can ever help someone else out of a bind, I always make a sincere effort to do it. I know the feeling all too well of needing help myself, so I’m extra sensitive to pitching in when or however I can. It’s never a matter of getting anything back for myself – I just feel it’s the right thing to do.

I know it sounds corny and sappy, but I really mean it. The Golden Rule is a wonderful base on which to build a successful life and I am a big proponent of trying my best to live by it every day of my existence. Today I had a chance to help two people with one action, so I had to get it done.

Joe Nuccio is one of my comedy students who is taking it farther than most and is getting some actual bookings. He’s been a successful professional musician for years, but always wanted to try comedy and is doing quite well despite his short time in the business. He understands the game.

Joe was booked this week on a run of casino shows that started in Sault Ste. Marie, MI tonight and includes Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee on Saturday and the Island Casino in Harris, MI on Sunday. I’ve done that run many times myself, and am familiar with all the driving it entails.

Joe’s brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly earlier this week, and Joe found himself having to participate in the funeral which turned out to be today. He was extremely frazzled, and knew it wouldn’t be a popular decision to cancel on the booker the day before the gig – and it wouldn’t.

I happen to also know the booker, Joe San Felippo from Bonkerz Comedy Clubs. Joe now lives in Orlando, FL but is originally from Milwaukee and I’ve known him for twenty-five years. He’s very down to earth, and we’ve always gotten along very well. He has a human side and has never been unreasonable, unlike a lot of bookers who can really hold grudges. Joe is easy to work with.

I was in the unique position of knowing all sides of this situation, and I knew the consequences should Joe Nuccio back out would not be good. Joe San Felippo doesn’t know Joe Nuccio, so it’s not a matter of calling in a favor. If a professional entertainer books a gig, it’s his or her job to be there as agreed upon. Deaths in any family are unfortunate but inevitable, and work comes first.

Joe Nuccio knows that from being a professional musician, and he was in a real bind. I’ve been in similar situations myself and it’s never fun. I happened to be off this particular week and knew the only solution that would allow everyone to walk away happy would be for me to fill in on the run and make the brutal 500 mile drive to Sault Ste. Marie. I told both Joes I’d volunteer to do it.

I wasn’t thrilled about having to make that drive, but if that was the worst part of it the benefits far outweighed any inconvenience. The Kewadin Casino always treats comics well, and I would be doing the opening slot so that’s like a night off. I wasn’t doing anything, so why not help out?

Everyone involved was delighted I was willing to do this on short notice, and the drive turned out to be a breeze – especially for February. There was no bad weather, and I got there in plenty of time to get my complementary dinner. It felt good to be able to help two people in one pinch.

Late But Still Great

February 6, 2013

Monday February 4th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   When I started in comedy, all that meant anything to me was to be a big deal in my home town. I didn’t know how life or the entertainment game worked, and I didn’t care. All I wanted was the recognition as being a legitimate comedian – even though the reason I wanted it wasn’t healthy.

I’ll embarrassingly admit it now even though I didn’t even know it then that I was out to prove myself and show everyone – mainly my father – that I was indeed worth something even though he constantly told me I would never amount to anything. It was important to me to disprove him and anyone else who happened to have a low opinion of me. I was determined to show them all.

That’s never the right reason to do anything in my opinion, but it took decades of making huge mistakes to figure that out. I fought, clawed and scratched my way up the ranks over those years, learning one painful lesson after the next. It’s only now I feel I’m finally starting to hit my stride.

Someone told me years ago that if I stayed with it long enough, I would eventually acquire that recognition in my hometown I craved so badly but by the time I got it I wouldn’t care. I couldn’t comprehend that concept then, but I totally do now and it was 100% accurate. I understand now.

Still, even though it’s late in coming it feels really good. My reasons have totally changed, and now I can just enjoy it for what it is – big fun. I no longer feel a need to prove myself to anyone, as I have more than proved to myself I could do all the things I’d set out to do when I started out.

I got a call today from Bob Rech, the Entertainment Director at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. We are going to team up on a series of ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst’ shows on Saturdays in April, and I’m delighted to be there.

The Northern Lights Theatre is a spectacular venue, and it’s become my absolute favorite stage since I started working there several years ago. Bob and the entire staff are always super friendly to work with, and it’s far and away the best I’ve ever been treated locally. They’ve won me over.

Even the security and wait staff have been wonderful, and it’s to the point now they invite their friends when I’m there because they enjoy my show. I feel completely at home on that stage, and I have consistently killer shows whenever I work there. Putting this run of shows together will be a grand slam home run and it’s been a long time coming – especially on my end. I am SO ready.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but this will be a total labor of love. I will be ready to deliver a CLEAN but still funny local comedy show, and it will be a perfect fit for that venue. I’m excited beyond words to get this chance. I made my mistakes years ago; it’s time to get what I’ve earned.

I’m not going into this to prove anything to anyone other than I’ve grown up and become a top level entertainer like I set out to do in the first place. My father is dead, and so are the issues that made me feel I needed to get his approval. I got my own approval, and that’s all I ever needed in the first place. This is going to be a wonderful experience, I feel it. The timing couldn’t be better.

Sweet Home Cooking

December 9, 2012

Saturday December 8th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI

   Anytime I get to perform in a first class venue like the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino, I’m in a good mood. No, it’s better than that. I’m ecstatic! I live for places like this, and it fulfills my mental picture of what being in show business is about. This is how it should be.

It’s even better that it happens to be in my home town, and I finally got what I always wanted when I started in comedy – respect. Every performer wants to be recognized in their home town, but ironically that’s the place it’s usually the most difficult to get it. I know all kinds of comedian friends who tell me stories of how they don’t work in their home town due to festering conflicts.

Boy, can I relate to that unfortunately. I’ve had more than my share of unpleasant dealings with slithering serpents and unscrupulous imbeciles over the years, and I thought it would never end. I don’t suffer bullies well and never have, and all too often that’s the type that runs comedy clubs.

They know comedians are hungry to get stage time, and are willing to do just about anything to get it. It’s like crack to an addict, and the club owners know it. They don’t have talent themselves other than being able to sell drinks, and we’re the attraction that brings people in to order them.

Of course there are exceptions, and not all comedy club owners are Satan’s henchmen – but the majority of those I’ve dealt with in Milwaukee over the years are frighteningly close. For reasons I still have never figured out, it’s just never been a town that nurtures the growth of comedians or entertainers of any genre. I hear the same complaint from musicians, singers and most all others.

It saddens me to know my home town doesn’t have a respectable ‘scene’, but that’s just how it is and always has been. Cities like Minneapolis and Boston and San Francisco are comedy towns but Milwaukee just isn’t. That’s why it means so much to perform at such a stellar venue locally.

The sound and lights are fantastic, and there’s a gigantic stage for me to roam around like I like to do. The working conditions are absolutely perfect, and after having to deal with more than my share of squeaky microphones and ‘lighting systems’ that were nothing more than a 40 watt bulb over the years it’s absolute heaven to walk into a situation that has it figured out from the get go.

The people I deal with are also top shelf all the way. The stage manager Steve makes everyone feel at home, and whenever I walk into the dressing room I feel like I’ve arrived. There’s always a refrigerator full of ice cold drinks, and we get a delicious meal either before or after our shows.

If nobody else appreciates these perks, I certainly do. It’s taken a lifetime to earn them, and I’m grateful every time I get to walk out on that stage. Tonight I had two very fun shows, and I had a line of people after each one telling me how much they enjoyed it. Some of them I’ve known for years, but there were also strangers who said they’d heard my name and wanted to see my show.

I totally feel at home working this stage, and I’d love to do my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ Milwaukee themed show here at some point. It would be the ideal location, and I’m ready to try it in 2013.