Posts Tagged ‘radio’

A Cup Of Coffee

July 28, 2014

Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Oh, how time flies. Four years ago today my appearance on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” aired. I’d recorded it the previous March, and by the time it ran I honestly thought it would never air. When it did, it was a tremendous experience – at least for people around me.

For whatever reason, that super short four and a half minutes on national television at 1:30am was a whole lot more impressive to people than the lifetime it took to get there. To me it wasn’t that big of a deal, because it was the easy part. All I had to do was walk out there and do a whole lot less time than I’m used to doing. It was like a night off, but that’s what put me over the top.

As far as credibility is concerned, making it to national television even once is proof of having played in the majors. It’s not a guarantee of a lifetime of problem free bliss, but neither is making the majors in any kind of sport or entertainment genre. Lots of people have more problems after they get there than before they started, and I’m sure more than a few wish they had never started.

There is so much involved to “making it big” in any genre of entertainment, but the one factor nobody can ever gain control over is luck. Things happen good and bad, and that’s just how it is. I freely admit that I got very lucky in a good way to have the door open to get on the show, but I also knew what to do with that luck when I got it. I had to play the game for a while, but I did it.

I went back and forth with the talent booker, and then they changed talent bookers. Then they did it again. Then the original person came back, and I started all over again. It took a couple of years to play out, but I got my spot and no matter what else I ever do nobody can take that away.

Several years have gone by now, and I haven’t gotten anything close to that kind of a break in anything I’ve tried. Did I put forth any less effort during that time? NO WAY. In fact, I probably put in more, but I had a few bad breaks health wise and that took me out. Again, it’s all part of it. That was a bad break just like initially getting the call to open for Craig Ferguson was positive.

After living through this process and seeing it with others I know personally, I totally see why there are one hit wonders in music. If it’s this complicated for a comedian, I can’t begin to think what it must be like for a band. Talent isn’t the only thing that puts an act over the top. It’s many things, and everything has to line up at the right place and time for a career to really take root.

None of this is said with bitterness, but I think it’s important to note that there are a number of ingredients needed to bake a cake. I’ll also be the first to admit I’ve shot myself in the foot more than once, but that happens to others too. Michael Vick is one of the most blatant examples of all time, but he still managed to come back and salvage a decent career. Not everyone gets that shot.

It’s hard to say if I will ever catch another break as big as the ones I’ve already had. No matter what happens from now on though, I did manage to get on national television as a comedian and had a job doing mornings at 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago. In radio, that’s the big leagues as well.

Not many ever make it to one of those much less both, but the key is to stay there and carve out a career. I had a cup of coffee but that was it. So far. Maybe that will be it. Maybe not. We’ll see.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That's harder than it sounds.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

An Extended Mess

July 23, 2014

Friday July 18th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

My life is an extended mess, and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s not messy like a lot of people, and in fact my mess is pretty boring. There are no drug or alcohol addictions or cheating on my pregnant wife with a secretary. But it’s still there. A mess is a mess, and they’re a bitch to clean.

I am flopping around desperately like a fish in a boat, with a giant hook in my mouth. My eyes are bugged out and I’m suffocating – with water just inches away. If someone would remove the hook and toss me back in the water, I would have a chance to start over. I would like that chance.

The hook in my mouth is being an entertainer. I have given up everything else in order to attain a skill level most never come close to, but it has put me in an unstable financial position. I can no longer earn a living like I have all of my adult life and my eyes are bugging out. I’m suffocating.

But water is just inches away. All it would take to turn my life around is one phone call with an extended run of bookings somewhere. It could be comedy clubs, casinos, cruise ships colleges or I could write for a TV show. I could also do radio. It’s not like I’m a total zero. I have a skill set.

The skill set I have is very specialized, and those that are at the top end of the scale are hauling in enormous bank. I don’t need that right now quite honestly. I’d be thrilled with medium money on a steady basis, but entertainment is a feast or famine game. I am smack dab amidst a famine.

There are few if any entertainers that don’t experience this at some point, but many have a nest egg put away to fall back on during the lean times. I had one started, and a nice one at that. Then I had a “worst case scenario” pop up in 2011 and health problems cleaned out every last nickel.

This was after getting blasted out of a radio gig in 2004 that would have paid great money and offered full insurance benefits so the crisis in 2011 wouldn’t have been nearly as devastating as it was. But it was. And ever since then I have been watching everything I have worked so hard for for so long dry up in front of my eyes. I know I’m not the only one suffering, but it’s still a mess.

How does one manage to clean up a life mess? It usually takes a while for one to develop, and it can’t be taken away in one fell swoop – even though that’s what most of us expect. It’s like the dieter that took a lifetime to put on that extra 100 pounds, but expects to take it all off in a week.

It’s not realistic, and in fact it’s dangerous to even try. There has to be a slow steady battle plan in place, and it’s neither pleasant nor easy. But that’s what it takes to achieve desired results, and it gets harder as one gets older because so many other things pop up and become obstacles also.
I’ve got so many problems right now I have no idea where to start. I do a little something every day on as many as I can, but then I look at how high the mountain is and I lose hope. What’s the solution? I sure wish I knew. A steady income would make things a lot easier, but how to get it?

I’m working on getting a resume out to ‘normal’ jobs, but I can’t lie. My heart isn’t in it. I need stability, but I sure don’t want to do it this way. Landing another radio gig that lasts several years would be ideal, but who is passing those out these days? Nobody. Back to cleaning up my mess.

Sometimes I feel like a fish sitting at the bottom of the boat - with water just inches away.

Sometimes I feel like a fish sitting at the bottom of the boat – with water just inches away.

The Unenviable Fraternity

July 3, 2014

Sunday June 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Since I was already on the far south side of the Chicago area yesterday without a gig, I decided to call some of my friends to see if I could find anybody home. I don’t get that far south as much as I probably should, and I have a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. Why waste the chance?

Tim Slagle was the first to call back, so we got together at his house in Dyer, IN. Tim and I are a lot alike in that we tend to polarize people, and then make it worse by not caring what anybody thinks. We have both burned a few bridges in our time, but that happens with a lot of performers no matter the genre. People with strong opinions who don’t have power tend to become pariahs.

If and when these people happen to catch a break, their past sins are often forgiven because of their newfound success. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon then, and that’s just how the game works. Tim and I are two examples of many who made a living, but never hit our jackpot.

Personally, I really like Tim both onstage and off. He is brilliantly funny, and even though his style is completely different than my own I am a huge fan of his work. He’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, and sometimes more than a few. That takes gargantuan testicles, and I respect him.

We are part of the unenviable fraternity of comedians that came through the boom years of the ‘80s but never got a sitcom. It seemed like everyone did – and there were quite a few – but there were a lot more of us that didn’t find our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and are now in our 50s and 60s wondering how we’re going to pay our bills next month. That’s not the place to be.

At least former athletes have a pension plan if they played long enough. I’ve been around three other genres of the entertainment business in standup comedy, pro wrestling and radio, and none of those three have any kind of financial security. One either makes it big or they starve. Period.

I was trying to figure out the actual number of long time road dog comedians that are now in a similar position, and I would guess it to be maybe three to five thousand. I am not talking about part time weekend warriors, as there are thousands more of those scattered across the continent.

I’m talking about people like Tim and me and all the others that came up during the boom and are now struggling to stay booked every week. That was never a problem before, but times have changed drastically in the last few years and that includes a new generation of wannabe comics.

The newbies of today don’t have the opportunity we did to get out on the road and earn a living at a young age. The work isn’t there for them either, and the whole business is changing. It’s the law of supply and demand in full effect, and unfortunately the demand has gone down while the supply has exploded. There isn’t enough quality work for everybody and there needs to be a cull.

I’m sure this process has happened in other businesses too, but I can’t think of any because this is the one that I have chosen. I was a ring announcer and promoter in wrestling and I’ve seen that business go through changes too. It takes a very specialized set of skills to succeed in that racket. Radio is another business on the slide for many reasons. I guess I just don’t know how to choose a career very well. I’ve had a long run in comedy, but I see the future and know I need a change.

Tim Slagle is a comedian that does comedy for smart people. He's one of my favorites. Check out his hilarious CD 'Europa'. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle does comedy for smart people. He’s one of my all time favorites. Check out his hilarious CD ‘Europa’. It’s a classic! http://www.timslagle.com.

It Takes A Champion

June 26, 2014

Tuesday June 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

If I have learned nothing else from my life’s long twisted journey, it’s that making one’s living exclusively as an entertainer for any significant amount of time is nothing less than a big old, icy cold, rock hard, unforgiving, unrelenting, cruel, nasty, fire breathing seven days a week BITCH.

Anyone that has lasted more than ten years has my undying respect, and then there are the lifer types like me that have gone past any and all ‘normal’ boundaries, and find ourselves desperately hanging on for dear life from week to week despite having sacrificed our lives to polish our craft.

My particular scope of view has been standup comedy, radio and professional wrestling. I have friends in each of those areas that have been at it for decades and are either struggling to hang on even a little bit longer or feverishly looking for something else so they can continue to survive.

And I know there are other fields like actors, dancers, musicians, magicians, film makers and a few more categories I’m sure I missed that are in this same (sinking) boat. We’ve devoted our all to our crafts, but never “made it big”. That term is so unfair, and it’s never about who is the best.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until someone hears me – there are all kinds of talented people at any given craft that are virtual unknowns, and quite often those with minimal talent manage to claw and scratch their way to the top by having razor sharp focus and wanting the spotlight more.

It takes almost a psychotic obsession to hit the big time in any creative endeavor, or a once in a lifetime streak of amazing luck. Or both. That’s rare enough, but now find a way to keep yourself around for more than a few months or even a year. Trust me, it’s NOT easy and most people fail.

In the comedy field, I can easily name dozens of really solid acts that just never found a way to get that break we all need. There are all kinds of reasons for it, but that doesn’t mean they are not talented – and solid citizens as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter in this vicious death race.

Names that pop into my mind off the bat include Dwight York, Don Reese, Dwayne Kennedy, Larry Reeb, Tim Walkoe, Jimmy McHugh, Beth Donahue, James R. Zingelman, Tim Northern, Danny Storts and Ron Ferguson. For every one of those names there are a dozen more, and I will stop naming because I know I’m excluding a friend that I like and respect. But you get the idea.

This all started when I got a phone call today from Rick D’Elia – another highly respected road warrior I love onstage and off. What a classy chap he is, and funny too. He is originally from the Boston area, but has been living on the west coast for years. We met in 2003 at the San Francisco Comedy Competition and have stayed in touch. He’s out there still slugging it out just like me.

He’s driving across the country, and working a week in Oklahoma this week to earn money to get himself home. He’s getting thrown out of his apartment for subletting while he was out trying to make a living in the crumbling comedy business, and he needs to find a place when he returns. I love Rick like a brother, and could totally empathize with his situation. This is why I have zero patience for cocky know-it-alls that have paid zero dues. The show business meat grinder is not for everyone. My heart goes out to Rick and everyone else still in the game. It takes a champion.

Rick D'Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They're ALL great, and deserve a break. www.rickdelia.com.

Rick D’Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They’re ALL great, and deserve a break. They’ve paid big dues. http://www.rickdelia.com.

Craig Ferguson

May 2, 2014

Wednesday April 30th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Craig Ferguson is stepping down from his job as host of “The Late Late Show” on CBS after a ten year run. For some reason, quite a few people took it upon themselves to seek me out because they couldn’t believe anyone would do that. Why they asked me, I have no idea. Maybe I’m their closest conduit to actual show business – even though I’m light years away from Craig Ferguson.

I guess because I was on the show they thought I’d have some inside information. Far from it. I wasn’t in on any staff meetings, and I was only on one time for 4 ½ minutes in 2010. Still, I have some educated guesses why he would quit, and it’s no surprise at all. Show business is a vampire that sucks blood from everywhere and everyone. The higher the level of it, the sharper the teeth.

About as close to corporate show business as I have come would be working in radio. That was a stench ridden ugly nightmare, and dealing with the idiot brigade of management was a draining of dignity. Nobody cares anything about anyone as a human being, and it can be a soulless grind.

I can only imagine how insane it must be to have to deal with the network serpents, and I’d bet Craig Ferguson had more than his share of head butting sessions with all of them. He’s a creative guy and very funny in my opinion, and he knows what he’s doing. The suits don’t like to have to deal with anybody like that, because they’re a threat. They want robots that do what they’re told.

Any creative mind has a vision of how things should run, and often there’s a clash with people that aren’t creative at all. I’ve had those clashes all my life, and it can be ultimate frustration not to mention an incredible energy drain. Being distracted by all these fleas gets under the skin fast.

I would bet that Craig had his fill, even though I thought his show was far better than all of the others of that genre. I don’t watch a lot of those shows, but from what I’ve seen his was the most unique and consistently funny whenever I saw it. I’m not just saying that because I was on it. I’d think that even if I wasn’t or had done another show. I really am a fan of him and what he does.

Another sticking point that may or may not be a factor is that he was bypassed for Letterman’s slot. According to an interview I read he said it wasn’t an issue, but who knows? I thought it was a no brainer to give that job to him, but again I’m not in that circle. Mr. Colbert may do just fine.

I think the public assumes that big time show business runs smoothly, and the people in charge are all competent and benevolent souls that know what they’re doing. They have no reason to put any thought into it, because they have their own problems dealing with their own crop of morons in whatever career path they’re trying to pursue. The fact is that halfwits in charge are universal.

Craig Ferguson is a talented guy and I wish him only the best. He was very genuine when I met him the few times I did, and he had a fabulous run with his show. Ten years is a terrific ride, and I’d have to think he’s ok financially at this point. I’m sure he’ll regroup and come back when he has a new project of some sort. I’d love to cross paths with him again, and being on his show was one of the highlights of my life. I had a blast, and he could not have been nicer. He’s not done yet There’s too much talent there.

Why would Craig Ferguson walk away from a network TV job? One word - IDIOTS. He had a great run, and I wouldn't count him out just yet.

Why would Craig Ferguson walk away from a network TV job? One word – IDIOTS. He had a terrific run. I wouldn’t count him out just yet.

Squishy Man

April 11, 2014

Wednesday April 9th, 2014 – Columbia City, IN

I have said it often, and I will continue to repeat it indefinitely whenever necessary – one of the greatest benefits of being an entertainer in general is being able to cross paths with quality people and kindred spirits I never would have met had I not taken the plunge to pursue my life’s dreams.

There are always leakers added to the mix, but they’re usually in management. I’d have to say for the most part my peers have been unbelievably solid people that I am proud to call more than just acquaintances. If they’re not friends – and most are – they’re brothers and sisters in struggle.

My radio experience is a perfect example. Every radio station I have ever worked for has been a bittersweet experience. I’ve always gotten along fabulously with the others on the air staff, and there isn’t a station I ever worked at that I don’t still maintain contact with someone to this day.

Management is a different story. I didn’t always clash with everyone, but at every station there has been someone that rubbed me the wrong way at some point. There’s a different mindset there so I guess I should expect it, but locking horns with non creative imbeciles grows old in a hurry.

My standup comedy experience has been similar. I know literally hundreds of other comedians I have crossed paths with in my time, and other than a very scant few I think very highly of them all. It takes a certain breed to last for any length of time in this circus of a business and I have the utmost respect for all that manage to hang in there. There’s a high level of guts required to do it.

I have crossed paths with performers of all levels from coast to coast, and I don’t think there is any halfway decent sized city in America I couldn’t find a couch to sleep on if I needed it within an hour of town if I were passing through. As a rule, comedians help each other often because we know how difficult it all is to survive in this game. There’s a lot more to it than just telling jokes.

There is a spirit of adventure that a true comedian has burning brightly inside, and it’s typically fueled by a need to be on stage. It’s nothing short of a drug, and I admit I was addicted for years. We all are, and that’s what keeps us plowing through the insane conditions we often have to face on a daily basis. Migrant workers often have better working conditions than us, but we still do it.

I’m finding myself as I get older really growing tired of the insanity and the grind. Those long drives are getting less and less desirable, and my disdain for the destructive debauchery of many of the bookers is at an all time high. Never all, but far too many are just blood sucking parasites.

Too few realize that we are out in the trenches humping it just to survive every single week of every single year, and every $50 really helps keep it all together. It’s another tank of gas – barely if at all these days – or another bill that gets paid. Our very existence can depend on their whims.

That’s why it can be so maddening to deal with the pettiness and unprofessionalism that often goes along with being an entertainer. Only those that do it for a living truly get how complicated it really is – and that’s one of the main reasons I write about it. Someone needs to bring it to light.

Tonight I had a booking in Columbia City, IN at a place called “The Vault”. It was booked by a comedian named Troy Davis out of Indianapolis who I’ve known for years. He has a daughter named CoLee that is starting out in comedy, and she was the one that asked me to do the show.

CoLee is a dented can, and I couldn’t say no even though by the time I drove all the way there and back I barely broke even at best. I know Troy is a good guy and CoLee said she’d love it if I could make it. I know what it’s like to start out, and this was a big deal to her. I had to show up.

Another reason I came was to meet up in person with a comedian I first worked with years ago named Kevin Barber aka “Squishy Man”. Squish is one of those kindred spirit types I mentioned, and I think the world and then some of the guy. Few if any put in more solid effort, and there are two words that can sum him up – intelligence and passion. He’s absolutely LOADED with both.

Unfortunately, we both share the same trait of having a big mouth and saying what we think to people that we really shouldn’t. Squishy has had some of his own run ins with some of the same people I have, and I totally get where he’s coming from. He can be a little too real for the masses and I know from experience that can be certain death. It’s like we were cut from the same cloth.

Squishy has an even more dramatic story than I do, and not many can say that. He’s originally from Topeka, KS and he’s multiracial. His father is black and his mother is not only white – she was from a family that were members of the Ku Klux Klan. His mother married a black man out of spite, and had a large family of which Squishy is the youngest. How’s that for a dented can?

On top of that, Squishy dropped out of high school and became an alcoholic and a crack addict. Then, he got his G.E.D. and went on to become a licensed psychotherapist. WOW! His life story makes mine look tame, and that’s why I have a mountain of respect for him. He’s a unique man.

Unfortunately, that’s not always good for the comedy business. Many times on the way up the ladder, bookers are afraid to deal with anyone that tends to rattle cages. Squishy tends to be more than just a guy that tells tame jokes about bad hotels and chicken McNuggets. There’s some meat to his act, and he has a lot he wants to say. Not many bookers can grasp that, or even care to try.

As a result…he often gets thrown into the ‘flaming kook’ or ‘hard to deal with’ pile along with others like say…ME. I get what he’s going through, and that’s why I wanted to make it a point to drive out and meet up with him in person. We hadn’t crossed paths in a while, and I thought that I needed to show him the respect he so deserves and if nothing else offer some heartfelt support.

His girlfriend of two years Angie came with him, and I’m glad she did. She sent me one of the sweetest emails I’ve ever received a few weeks ago telling me how much she and Squishy think of my blog, and thanked me for having the guts to write it. That kind of stuff goes beyond words.

Not only that, Squishy went out of his way to bring me a device that accepts credit cards so I’ll be able to sell more merchandise after shows. How thoughtful is that? I’m telling you, this guy is a gem, and more people should know of him. I’m a big fan. Find him at http://www.squishyman.com.

Comedian Kevin Barber - aka 'Squishy Man' can be described in two words: 'intelligence' and 'passion'. I've never seen anyone put forth more effort. www.squishyman.com.

Comedian Kevin Barber – aka ‘Squishy Man’ can be described in just two words: ‘intelligent’ and ‘passionate’. I have never seen anyone put forth more effort. http://www.squishyman.com.

Something Smart

March 1, 2014

Wednesday February 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

The older I get, the more I realize just how poorly I’ve managed my life in so many ways. I did manage to have a generous helping of fun and adventure along the way, but I sure did screw a lot of things up too. When I hear people say “I have no regrets in life,” I can’t relate. I have a bunch.

What’s even worse is that I have to keep living, and try to steer myself in a good direction even though I’m coming from a place I really didn’t want to be. That makes where I am even more of a challenge, and I feel time catching up. I wish I could reboot and start over, but that’s no option.

We all have to play the hands we’re dealt, and we get ONE shot. That seems rather unfair, does it not? Most of us are clueless on our own, and unless we have razor sharp guidance from parents or some sort of mentor figure our lives drift off course like I feel mine did. Now I’m trying to get my bearings in order to make a run to the finish line. I hope I can salvage at least some of a life.

I truly think my first major boo boo was staying with radio after my first job came to an end in Lansing, MI in 1990. It would have been early enough where I could have gone back to standup comedy, and eventually moved to New York or Los Angeles and stayed until something popped.

I did eventually make it to L.A., but totally not how I’d planned it. I had been blown out of yet another radio gig in Reno, NV and it was closer to drive to L.A. than it was to Chicago so I went there. I had a few bucks of severance pay, but not a lot. I lived like a cockroach for about a year, and then started doing road gigs to pay bills. That’s not the smart way to be based in Hollywood.

In retrospect, I should have taken a break from standup and just found a way to do whatever it took to settle in out there. I knew a lot of people, and had some connections. A lot of people that are doing very well now were just arriving, and I could have come up the ranks along with them.

Billy Gardell was there, and he’s doing well now on ‘Mike and Molly’. He’s a super guy, and I remember seeing him at a Sunday football watching get together with comedians. “Are you here now?” he asked. I said that I was, and he said “Cool. I know you’ll do well.” And he meant it.

My friend Keith Leslie was writing for “Grace Under Fire” then, and I hung out regularly with him and the writing staff. In fact, some of my lines ended up making it on the show. Those guys were very fun, and I had no problem fitting in. I just didn’t stay long enough to grow any roots.

Mark Roberts is an amazing talent, and he’s now doing extremely well. He’s got his fingers in a lot of pies, one of which is “Two And A Half Men”. I think he’s in charge of that show, and he could have easily hired me to be a writer. A lot of Chicago comedians moved to California right around that same time, and several are still there. In a perfect world, I’d be out there with them.

Maybe in a parallel universe I’m living that dream with all the trimmings, but I think that ship has sailed for this one. I moved back to Chicago to regroup, with full intentions of going back to California when I was ready. I never made it, and now I’m starting to have some regrets. I was in a super position then and didn’t realize just how good it was. I chose the safe route, and it turned out to be more dangerous than if I’d stayed and delivered pizzas for a while until I got settled in.

One year is not long enough to do much of anything well enough to make a lasting impact. One year is barely a radar blip, and that’s generous. There are a lot of of athletes that had one big year and that’s it. Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych and ‘Super Joe’ Charbonneau are two lingering examples from my youth. Both were poised for stardom, but now they’re taking up residence in oblivion.

The same holds true with any skill based endeavor. How many one hit wonder music acts have come and gone? Debby Boone comes to mind. She was hot for about a year – if that – and then it was over. Did she have a ‘career’? How anyone can in that short of a time? It’s just not enough.

Had I stayed out there, who knows what would have come along? I loved everything about the whole idea of living there, and deep in my heart I still do. If I had a reason to be out there I’d get in my car and drive there tomorrow. Again, I think that ship has sailed from a realistic viewpoint. I was living in the right place, but it wasn’t at the right time – yet. I wish I would have waited.

The last thing that will do any good is beating myself up about it. I had reasons for what I did, and that’s how it turned out. There was no way to see the big picture then, but I’m writing about it now in hopes I’ll be able to help someone else with their own personal struggle. I hope what I screwed up will encourage someone else to stay and wait it out. Go where the magic happens.

Not a whole lot of magic has happened anywhere else I’ve been. I thought Salt Lake City was going to be my home, and that blew up in my face worse than anywhere. I chased that radio bug, and it wouldn’t stop biting. Then I came back to Chicago, and it bit me again. When will I learn?

It’s getting a little late in the game now. If something happens, it’s going to have to happen in a hurry. There are a few stories of people who have made it late, but they are always the exception and never the rule. My path has been anything but ‘normal’, so I need to really focus on strategy.

Is what I’m doing now the smartest thing I could be doing? I say yes, but that’s what I thought years ago when I was being so unknowingly stupid. I truly believed I was going to land that huge radio gig and it would set me up for the rest of my life. It didn’t happen, and now I’m struggling.

One thing I do have is a boat load of hands on experience, but who really cares enough to give me a job? I could go on any radio station on the dial and fit in somewhere, but try as I might I’ve not been able to keep a job more than a year and a month. It was always something else but me.

Not many people I know are still out there slugging like I am this far into the game, and I have no idea if it’s the right choice or not. The idea of quitting doesn’t thrill me, but doing it like I’ve been doing it thrills me even less. What can I do to scratch the creative itch, and still be solvent?

Living hand to mouth just isn’t cutting it, but I’m by far not alone. I don’t want to end up at the home for wayward road comedians, and that means I’ll have to figure out something a lot sooner than later that provides an income. Until then, I’m going to work on improving my business skill.

Today I spent three hours sifting through computer and paper files looking for anyone that has ever hired me. I need to come up with a current list of potential hirers, and work them like a sales rep works a client list. For life right now, that’s my smartest move. I could use something smart.

Getting into the radio meat grinder was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I regret it now, but it's too late.

Getting into the radio meat grinder was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I regret it now, but it’s too late. It’s a cruel game.

I lived in Los Angeles for a year in the mid '90s. I loved it there, and wish I would have stayed.

I lived in Los Angeles for a year in the mid ’90s. I loved it there, and wish I would have stayed. Mistakes are clearer in retrospect.

Billy Gardell got there around then, and played the game correctly. Good for him, he's a great guy and everyone loves him - including me.

Billy Gardell got there around then, and played the game correctly. Good for him, he’s a great guy and everyone loves him – including me. Go Billy!

R.I.P. WNTA

February 26, 2014

Tuesday February 25th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I heard sad news from my friend Jimmy McHugh today that radio station WNTA in Rockford, IL has changed formats from news/talk to “classic hits” – and everyone who worked there got the boot from the entire on air staff to the producers. It’s yet another example of the cruelty of radio.

I’ve been through that scenario myself, and it’s sickening. It always comes out of the blue, but one day the boss asks to see the air staff one by one and the purge is on. Word spreads around the building, but it’s too late by then. Everyone gets their pink slips, and then it’s all an afterthought.

The people that get shown the door are out of the building within minutes, and the rest of those that kept their jobs feel sad – in a way – but also relieved that it wasn’t them. The radio guillotine can fall at any time, and few are fortunate enough to escape the blade at some point in a career.

This news really hit home, as I had done quite a bit of fill in work on WNTA the last couple of years and learned a lot. I was never a talk radio host before – at least not a news/talk station. I did my Sunday night paranormal show “The Mothership Connection”, but that was a different vibe.

WNTA had a current events format, and it forced me to grow by leaps and bounds from a radio standpoint like no other job I ever had. My first radio gig was a classic rock morning show, and I took to that immediately. I had music to play, and all I had to do was fill in the cracks. I was able to do that without thinking. It’s what I do. Talk radio is a different animal, and one that can bite.

The first hour I did it, I knew I was in for some growing pains. I’m fine with being the side guy and throwing in a smart ass comment when needed. That’s way too easy. I’m great at reacting to situations and adding a punch line, I’ve been doing it since grade school. Hosting is a lot harder.

Most people don’t appreciate just how frighteningly difficult it is to sit alone in a room in front of a microphone and just talk much less be interesting for eight to ten minutes. That can feel like eternity. I thought I was relatively witty and a quick thinker on my feet, but those first few feeble attempts to do talk radio were embarrassing. I flat out stunk, and I’m not too proud to admit that.

But without the chance to stink repeatedly, there can’t be growth. Everyone stinks at first in all creative and artistic endeavors, but those willing to press on and pay dues become masters of the craft. WNTA had a long standing staff of talented professionals, and I was fortunate to fill in for all of them during my tenure. I filled in on every shift, and it was an education. I respect them all.

Doug McDuff was the morning show host, and then there was Ken DeCoster, Mark Mayhew, Paul Youngblood and Dean Ervin. Every one of them treated me great, and made me feel like I was part of the station even though I was just filling in. Producers Howard Bailey-Murray and a guy I only knew as Tim were also easy to work with. My entire experience there was pleasant.

Jim Stone is the Operations Manager, and I feel sorry for him because he had to fire everybody as per company orders. He’s got a heart and is a great guy, and I’m sure it was no picnic for him to have to do that. It was sad news all around, but I wanted to pay respects to all those people for being so nice to me when I was there. WNTA will live on in my heart, and I wish them all well.

I'm, grateful for the air time I had on WNTA in Rockford, IL. I'm very sorry to hear the station is changing formats.

I’m, grateful for the air time I had on WNTA in Rockford, IL. I’m very sorry to hear the station is changing formats.

Effective Evolution

February 15, 2014

Wednesday February 12th, 2014 – Gurnee, IL

I feel another tidal wave of overwhelm coming, and there’s not a lot I can do about it. I have all kinds of projects in various stages of completion, and no matter how hard I work or at what there are always a number of other things that get left unattended. There’s just too much on my plate.

My problem is, I don’t know what to clear off. I enjoy everything I’m doing, but there just isn’t time to devote to it all as I’d like. Something has to go, and it’s like deciding which one of one’s children to send packing. I’m having a terrible time deciding what to cut, but it needs to happen.

Here it is six weeks into the new year, and it’s not a new year anymore. I’ve been working hard every single day to the point of exhaustion yet I feel like I’m falling behind more than ever. How can that be? I’m making a solid effort, but more things are piling up than ever. I need to press on.

I know I’m giving it all I’ve got, and if I keep doing that with a plan I know good things are on the way. They already are. I’ve been working a lot lately, and in very nice venues. I am bringing in steady income, and feeling very good about life in general. More of this needs to happen daily.

Despite all that, I know I’m still painfully behind of where I need to be. The only thing that has a chance of changing that is delegating as much as I can to as many as I can. Each one of my pet projects needs to have a solid team in place – even if that team consists of only one other person.

Trust issues or not, this has to take place or I’m never going to get anywhere. My personality is one that has trouble focusing on just one thing, even though that would be a lot smarter than how I’ve been trying to do things all these years. I’m open to change, as if I’m not I’ll never advance.

McDonald’s is a perfect example of effective evolution. They used to sell hamburgers, French fries and Cokes. Period. They came up with a system that worked, and sold billions of customers a limited product line. Eventually as times changed, they ended up adding many more products.

I kind of did the same thing, but not nearly as efficiently as McDonald’s. I started as a standup comic exclusively, and then I drifted into radio – by fluke. Eventually teaching classes came into the picture, and that wasn’t planned for either. It just happened. Before I knew it I was doing too many things at once, but all of them were working relatively well. Now, I’ve got too much to do.

There was no long range plan going in for any of this, and now all of the haphazard results I’ve gotten are painfully exposing that. I’m all over the place, and there needs to be a total reboot with a plan in place if I ever intend to achieve any kind of stability. Living like a gypsy is getting old.

This is the most challenging time in my life, even though it’s also the most exciting. I feel I am giving my all every day, but one glitch or delay takes me out of my plan and puts me in the trick bag again. If I have someone else to consult and delegate tasks to, it will provide me a safety net.

Eric Feinendegen and I have been working well together on several things in including my new monthly newsletter, but he’s got a family and a life too. We need a few more people to recruit for the team, but not until we get our own schedule hashed out. This life thing is harder than it looks.

Survival in business - and in life - requires constant evolution.

Survival in business – and in life – requires constant evolution.

McDonald's is a business that has evolved dramatically. They don't look like this anymore.

McDonald’s is a business that has evolved dramatically. They don’t look like this anymore.

Summer Strategy

January 21, 2014

Monday January 20th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

2014 is going on three weeks old, and I really like the direction it’s going. I’m working all over the place, yet staying close to home. Bookings are lining up exactly how they’re supposed to, but smart eyes need to be looking forward to the summer months. They are always the hardest to fill.

In the North, people don’t want to be inside when the weather is nice. Period. I can’t say that I blame them, as I feel the same way. There aren’t that many friendly weather months around here, so when they’re here the last thing I want is to be missing any fun. This is of significant concern, as I don’t want to be missing any paychecks either. I can’t have it both ways so I need a solution.

The time to think about coming up with a strategy is now – not on the Sunday before Memorial Day like I usually do. By then it’s too late, and all that’s left are scraps. 2013 was beyond terrible and I don’t intend to give an encore performance. June, July and August need my attention now.

One satisfactory solution would be another run on cruise ships. I shudder to think of doing that longer than three months, but I could stand twelve weeks if I had to – especially if I could have it booked soon. Knowing I had my summer nut covered would add confidence to everything else.

Another satisfactory solution would be – gasp – a radio job. I haven’t thought about doing that for a while, but the timing would be perfect. I swore I’d never bark up that tree again, but to say never just isn’t realistic. My needs are changing, and this might be the perfect time to rethink it.

I did manage to book a speaking engagement for the end of the month that will allow me to get some video that I can hopefully use to get more. I will at least have more avenues to scour to line up future work, and that brings hope for the summer as well. Depending on comedy alone for the summer months is a major mistake – at least in these times. I’d feel much better with a backup.

One thing that is going to eventually help immensely is a consistently sent monthly newsletter. Even though I’ve yet to send out the first one, it will get my name in front of as many bookers of paying work as I can find, and by sheer volume alone I’m sure some work will end up my way.

I should have been doing that all along, but I haven’t. There are reasons, but none qualify as an acceptable excuse. I was ‘busy’. Really? Busy doing what – not working? Again, I’m focused on marketing this year and this is one of the first things that need fixing. I’ve been bad far too long.

Having a newsletter start out now will give me at least a couple of chances to grab the attention of somebody who can hire me for the summer months. It will take at least six months before I am able to establish any consistency, and I know that going in. I’m expecting a payoff in December.

I’m looking to cultivate names of bookers, fans and media, and get them to hopefully think of me when an opportunity arises. That doesn’t happen overnight, so I’m starting to work on it now. My pit crew chief Eric had to switch carriers, as he didn’t like the software system of the first.

We knew there would be glitches getting started, and this was a big one. It’s a week after we’d hoped to get it sent, but nobody but us cares so we’re golden. We’ll keep plugging until it’s out.

It may be in the single digits outside, but I'm thinking about summer in my head.

It may be in the single digits outside, but I’m thinking about summer inside my head.

Another run on cruise ships may be a way to survive this summer.

Another extensive run on cruise ships may be a way to successfully survive the summer slow season.

A radio job wouldn't be bad either.

A radio job wouldn’t be bad either.

This doesn't appeal to me, even though the sign is pretty funny.

This option doesn’t appeal to me in the least, even though the guy’s sign is pretty funny.