Posts Tagged ‘Rodney Dangerfield’

Craig Ferguson BLOWS…

May 6, 2014

Sunday May 4th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

A few days ago, I happened to write an entry in this very diary about Craig Ferguson. Not that it matters, but I happen to be a fan and I wrote some nice things. I meant them all, and I really do think he is a talented and funny fellow. Appearing on his show was truly a highlight of my life.

I didn’t think much of it, other than I wished him well in his new endeavors. I was sorry to hear he didn’t get the David Letterman slot, and again not that it matters what I think I do believe he’d be the natural choice. The guy is second to none in my opinion, and would have been ideal for it.

Part of me wanted him to get it for my own agenda. He likes to work off the cuff as do I, and it has always been a fantasy for me to pair up with a talk show host that I can shoot lines back and forth with like Rodney Dangerfield had with Johnny Carson. They were a tremendous TV team.

Rodney appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny a whopping 70 times, and it helped make his career. I vividly remember looking forward to it as a teenager, and they always delivered the laughs. I would love to have a national TV outlet to do the same, and Craig Ferguson would have been a great pairing. He doesn’t know that, but I would have been able to keep up with his wit.

I only got to do my standup when I was on, and it was a frightening experience in many ways. I made a lot of mistakes I totally wouldn’t do again, but everyone needs to have their first slot on national television to get the experience over with. It’s very intimidating, but it didn’t kill me.

I’d be MUCH more relaxed and prepared a second, seventh or seventieth time, and I’d love to do it. In all likelihood, it won’t be on the show as it sits. The talent coordinator that booked me is not there anymore, and I don’t have any in. It’s not like Craig and I were buddies beforehand, I only opened for him at Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL and killed time when his plane was delayed and the CBS liaison saw me and told me I was hilarious. That started the process of me being on the show.

When I finally did it, he left the room before I went on. That must be their policy, and I think it is to give the comedians the floor and let them work. Personally, I hoped he’d be in the room and call me over to the couch like Johnny used to do. Still, we crossed paths as he was leaving and I was about to go on and he shook my hand and wished me well. I sensed a genuine spirit in him.

What really blew me away most is when I wrote my recent diary and saw how many loyal fans he has. Wow! I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was beyond impressed. I wrote entries about Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld the two days prior, because it happened to be their birthdays. I didn’t get even ONE response to either of those entries – but when I wrote about Craig I was deluged.

And a persnickety lot they were. They corrected me on my facts and informed me of all he had coming up. I could only dream of having such dedicated fans, and that’s why I’m writing about it now. I’m assuming they are going to find it as they seem to scout out anything that happens to be written about their hero. I do know his birthday is coming up on May 17th, so don’t correct me.

I would LOVE a fiercely loyal fan base like Craig Ferguson has, and I am totally fine with it if a lot of them happen to overlap. I’ll take second place, as long as I’m on the radar. Check out my appearance on the show. It’s on You Tube, but it’s not my best work. I have a DVD and a CD as well, and if you’d like a copy send me an address and I’ll ship out whatever you like. Hopefully you will become my fans too. Craig Ferguson blows…everyone else’s fan base away. Kudos!

Craig Ferguson has THE most loyal fan base I've ever seen. If I could have half that much support I'd be doing more than well.

Craig Ferguson has THE most loyal fan base I’ve ever seen. If I could have even half that much support I’d be doing more than well. PLEASE…be my fans too!

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The Birthday Race

March 16, 2014

Friday March 14th, 2014 – Springfield, IL

Another birthday comes and goes, and I’m realizing the rest of my days are now a race against the clock to see if I can manage to accomplish anything of significance. My ego won’t allow me to give up now, but my intelligence tells me it’s going to be a long shot. Either way, here we go.

I’m still holding on to the statistic I read years ago that the average self made millionaire is 53 years old, and has tried 15 different things. I’m getting close to the age, and I think I’ve tried far more than the 15 things already. I’d count, but it would probably depress me. Failure is draining.

It’s inspiring to read the stories of people that made it after a long struggle like an Abe Lincoln or Rodney Dangerfield, but I have to believe there’s a longer list of those that died without a big break ever arriving. My comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis is an example, as is my grandfather.

A lot fewer people than I think they both deserved ever saw how great both of them were and it will irk me as long as I live. Those two were tremendous human beings loaded with giving hearts and master people skills, and despite all their efforts they died in obscurity. That seems so unfair.

Jeffrey Dahmer and Al Capone will be known forever. Gramps and Cardell will not. Why does the world have to be so hardcore and rub salt into the wounds like that? I don’t know, and I don’t know if I want to know. From an onlooker’s point of view it’s a cruel joke – but that’s how it is.

This week I’m back in Springfield, IL at Donnie B’s Comedy Club. Donnie and I have hit it off from the first few minutes we met, and are big fans of one another. He thinks I’m one of the best acts he’s ever seen, and I think he’s one of the best entrepreneurs I’ve ever seen. We mesh well.

A reason for that may be that Donnie is also a dented can. His family history and mine are cut from the same stained cloth, and he hasn’t seen his twin sister in decades. He’s familiar with my story, maybe that’s why we hit it off so well. There’s a synergy and mutual respect with him that I seldom if ever find with most club owners, and it’s always a pleasure to work here. I enjoy it.

There are precious few comedy club owners I have ever run across that grasp the importance of advertisement and promotion like Donnie B does. The late Jeff Gilstrap is the only other one that I can think of that comes close. He was the owner of ‘Comedy Off Broadway’ in Lexington, KY.

Jeff would constantly run the comedians from radio station to radio station most mornings, and that’s the way it is here. Donnie picks me up at the hotel early, and we make the rounds doing all the important morning shows. Many comedians complain about it, but I get why it’s important. It gives his club a presence in town, even if the people don’t come out the particular week I’m here.

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that will be the case this week. St. Patrick’s Day weekend isn’t the best for comedy, and they have a big parade downtown here. The club isn’t located near that area, so we might have to eat some cheese whether we like it or not. Of course we won’t like it, but Donnie and I are survivors and we’ll keep pressing on. Still, I had a fun birthday anyway.

Another birthday passes, and my cake turns into an official fire hazard.

Another birthday passes, and my cake turns into an official fire hazard.

I'm working in Springfield at Donnie B's Comedy Club - one of my very favorite stops.

I’m in Springfield, IL this week at Donnie B’s Comedy Club – one of my very favorite stops.

My grandfather never got his big break in life. I want to do my best to keep his memory alive.

My grandfather never got his big break in life. I want to do my best to keep his memory alive. His mentoring skills were off the charts.

My comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis deserved more than he got as well. Love ya Cardell!

My comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis deserved more than he got as well. Love ya Cardell! Every time I go on stage, a part of you is with me.

Harold Ramis Respect

February 26, 2014

Monday February 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

It was all over the news today that Harold Ramis has passed away. I wasn’t aware he was sick, and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing. There aren’t many that can hold a candle to his list of accomplishments, and by all accounts I have ever heard he was an extremely nice person.

Where does one start with an industry giant like this? If I could score just ONE of the huge hits he had, I’d be on easy street for the rest of my life. He either wrote, co-wrote, starred, co-starred, directed or acted in several of the biggest and most impactful comedy films of the 20th Century.

The list of his successful projects is staggering, including “Animal House”, “Groundhog Day”, “Caddyshack”, “Ghostbusters”, “Back To School”, “Stripes”, “Meatballs” and quite a few more. Those are all films of my generation, and until I saw the list I had forgotten how impressive it is.

It’s a shame that it takes a person’s passing to get a comprehensive list of all the achievements they managed to attain, but that’s how it works. I knew he was a giant in his field, but until I had heard he passed I never looked at his entire body of work so closely. The man was an all timer.

What I didn’t realize was that he’d moved back to Chicago in 1996. I knew he was from there, but had no idea he came back. I totally should have known that, and I would have loved a chance to meet him even once. I bet he wouldn’t have been difficult to track down, and I wouldn’t have been anything but polite and told him how much I admired his work. I bet we’d have hit it off.

Any time I’ve met someone truly creative, I have always been able to connect instantaneously. That’s who I am too, and it just clicks. Everyone I’ve met from George Carlin to George Clinton to Rodney Dangerfield to any number of others has always been a pleasant experience. I wish I’d had even a few seconds with Harold Ramis, as I bet it would have been a memorable experience.

He might not have remembered it, but I sure would have. I remember meeting Tim Kazurinsky years ago when I opened for his friend Bobcat Goldthwaite. They’d done a couple of the “Police Academy” films together and stayed in touch. Tim was unbelievably nice, and complimentary of my show to boot. Bobcat was great too. I find myself very comfortable around all creative types.

If Harold Ramis was around Chicago all these years, it’s my own fault that I didn’t take it upon myself to cross paths and meet him. It’s not a matter of asking him for anything or pestering him to put me in one of his films, it’s just a matter of professional respect. The man was legendary.

It’s my own fault I didn’t seek him out, and there are all kinds of others that I could have been in contact with as well. Second City is barely a block from Zanies in Chicago, and I’ve worked at Zanies since the late ‘80s. I could have made time to network with those people, but I never did.

I have nothing against improv comedy, but I had all I could handle with doing standup. Still, it would have been smart business to hang out after shows and schmooze with the Second City cast through the years. I was right there, but I blew it. Maybe Harold Ramis would have looked at me as a major schmucko, or maybe we’d have been friends. If nothing else, I would have enjoyed an opportunity to say hello just once. He enjoyed immense success, and I am a huge fan from afar.

There aren't many that can touch the massive success of Harold Ramis.

There aren’t many that can touch the massive success of Harold Ramis. What a run he had!

Morning Blend, Evening Friends

January 16, 2014

Wednesday January 15th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI/Muskegon, MI

I’m having nothing but fun right now, and life is going exactly how I pictured it. I’m doing the exact things I’ve always dreamed of, and everything is falling into place perfectly. I still have no idea why it took so long to get here, but dissecting the reason is the last thing I should be doing.

I’m going to focus my gaze forward, and enjoy every minute of this run. It’s like I’ve found the biggest wave on the ocean, and I just got a new surf board. I’m in the position I’ve waited for my whole life. The only thing to do is enjoy it and live in the moment. Long delay or not, I got here.

Today was an absolute blast on every level. First I had a television appearance in Milwaukee to plug my show this Saturday at Memories Ballroom in Port Washington, WI. It’s a benefit for one of their employees who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and the media has picked up on it.

This morning I was on “The Morning Blend” on WTMJ Channel 4, and that’s always fun. I’ve been on probably a half a dozen times now, and they’re always super on air and off. Hosts Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle are gorgeous, friendly, sincere and do their homework on the topics. What more could a guest ask for? Driving up from Illinois early in the morning is worth it to be there.

Executive Producer Kim Buchanan and Producer Katie Pinkowski couldn’t be any nicer to deal with, and it really helps my visibility in my home town. Rodney Dangerfield was on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 70 times. That helped his career immensely, and it’s similar for me. It gives me a lot of credibility to be on TV – MUCH more so than radio, and I really appreciate it.

Plus it never hurts to be on plugging a benefit show either. I don’t know the lady we’re doing it for, but I’m sure she and her family and friends saw it and hopefully that gave her some hope and encouragement. I don’t see how this can’t help fill the seats, and I know it will be a red hot show.

After the TV show I got right in my car and drove to Muskegon, MI to do a comedy show for a group at the Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference. That group name would scare off a lot of comedians, but not me. I know how to do a clean show, and that’s why I was hired to be there.

My contact Alina Robinson was also very easy to deal with, and made it a pleasant experience all around. I was a little concerned when I arrived because there was no visible sound system and I had to follow a Mariachi singer that serenaded everyone through dinner, and the guy was great. They all loved him, and I had no idea if they’d like me or not – especially with no sound system.

There was a lapel microphone, but I don’t normally use those. That was what they had, so I had to run with it. Alina introduced me immediately after the singer closed on a high note and owned the audience. It was a difficult situation from which to start – but nothing I haven’t seen before.

It took about ten seconds to get their attention, and they ended up being one of the best crowds I’ve worked for in a long time. They got everything, and I kept it squeaky clean. VERY few acts can pull that off – but I can. I stress to every comedy class I teach that “clean leads to green”, and tonight was living proof. I was paid more money on a Wednesday night doing a clean show than most one nighter comedy shows pay on a Friday or Saturday. This was a terrific day all around.

I always enjoy appearing with Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle on 'The Morning Blend' on Today's TMJ 4 in Milwaukee. www.themorningblend.com.

I always enjoy appearing with Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle on ‘The Morning Blend’ on Today’s TMJ 4 in Milwaukee. http://www.themorningblend.com.

The audience I had at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference was one of the best I've had in a LONG time. It pays to know how to do a CLEAN show.

The audience I had tonight in Muskegon, MI at Maranatha Conference Center was one of the very best I’ve had in a LONG time. It pays to know how to do a CLEAN show. What a fantastic crowd!

Brand New Heroes

December 18, 2013

Tuesday December 17th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I’m finding myself thoroughly enjoying my focused pursuit of improving the marketing aspect of my career, and I predict enormous improvement in 2014. I’ve got a whole new area on which to focus, and it’s one that has been painfully neglected over a long period of time. It won’t take a lot to show significant improvement, but I’m shooting a lot higher. I want to be one of the greats.

That means I need a whole new set of heroes to emulate. When I was focusing on comedy and little else, I studied as many of the greats as I could in that field. I had my personal favorites like Rodney Dangerfield and George Carlin, but even if I wasn’t a fan I’d study anyone that had had even minor success. I watched everyone I could, and learned a lot even from the less than stellar.

The same is going to be true of my pursuit of marketing excellence. I wouldn’t put Dane Cook in the top 500 of comedy acts I’d study. He doesn’t make me laugh in the least and never has, but his marketing prowess fascinates me. He came along at a time where he saw how to use internet tactics to garner a loyal rabid following. He’s a master marketer, and one of my new templates.

I’ve always loved Jeff Foxworthy personally, but his marketing prowess makes me admire him that much more. He’s always been razor sharp in that department, and I am going to revisit what he did to put himself over the top. I respect the guy onstage and off, and there are lessons for me in what he did. I’m studying attributes in people I’ve never really paid close attention to before.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing, and sadly he passed away recently. I was fortunate enough to meet him at my friend Steve Olsher’s “Internet Prophets” event not long ago. I got to spend a few minutes with Jay, and really enjoyed his demeanor. He was charismatic.

Dan Kennedy is another name in marketing gurus. So is Jay Abraham. There are others thicker than bugs on a trucker’s bumper all over the internet, but I’ll start with the top recognized names and work my down from there. I am soaking in all I can, and loading my gun with new bullets.

I’ve always been fascinated by master marketers and promoters, but from afar. Now I’m doing it from a much closer point of perspective, and hope to become one myself. Names 99.9% of the public has never heard of but still became multi millionaires such as E. Joseph Cossman, Melvin Powers, Joe Karbo and others are the ones I’m going to study and model. Those are my heroes.

It honestly doesn’t matter to me if I ever get famous. I’d love to be well known, but that’s not the same animal. Matt Groening of ‘The Simpsons’ is well known. The Unabomber is famous. It doesn’t always pay a dividend to be famous. Infamy is technically fame, but I want no part of it.

Gene Simmons of KISS has always fascinated me. His marketing acumen is off the charts, yet their music is iffy at best. I’ve never been a KISS fan, but I love how they have created a money machine and I’d like one too. It doesn’t have to be as big, but steady cash flow would be sweet.

There are many others I haven’t even heard of yet, but for now I have a giant pile of articles to read and digest, and PDF files I’ve been compiling on my computer for years. I’m going to dig in and get to work. A lot of people have a big head start on me, so I have some catching up to do.

Can you identify this person? It's ok if you can't, he can buy and sell you and me like railroads on a Monopoly board. He's done ok for himself.

Can you identify this person? It’s ok if you can’t, he can buy and sell you and me like railroads on a Monopoly board. He’s done more than ok for himself.

Here's another face you may not recognize, but Jay Conrad Levinson made a huge mark with his 'Guerrilla Marketing' brand. He was a giant in his field.

Here’s another face you may not recognize, but Jay Conrad Levinson made a huge mark with his ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ brand. He was a giant in his field, and his work will live on.

Melvin Powers started the Wilshire Book Company and made millions over a fabulous career in mail order. I bought books from him, and eventually came to know him personally. He's a very generous person and extremely successful, even though most people have never heard of him. www.mpowers.com

Melvin Powers started the Wilshire Book Company and made millions over a fabulous career in mail order. I bought books from him, and eventually came to know him personally. He’s a very generous person and extremely successful, even though most people have never heard of him. http://www.mpowers.com

Temporary Conditions

November 25, 2013

Friday November 22nd, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

Today was one of those days where a lot of things are going on at once, and it’s tough to keep everything in order. It all ends up melting together into one big gooey mess, like leaving crayons or a sundae out in the sun all afternoon. After a while, it becomes difficult to separate the parts.

Everywhere I turned today it seemed like there was another JFK documentary, tribute or recap of events. It was on TV, radio and online, and after a while it becomes a blur. We have all heard the story a zillion times, but nobody can say what really happened. Those who could are all dead.

If there is someone alive who knows, they’re circling the drain and aren’t telling. There will be arguments about it one hundred years from now just like people will still be debating the Lincoln assassination. They can debate all they want, but the results are the same. Both are still deceased.

Today was also the anniversary of Rodney Dangerfield’s birth in 1921. Rodney has been at the top of my all time favorite comedian list since high school, and probably always will be. It would take one hell of an act to knock him off his perch, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I think about Rodney often, because he happened to hit at a time when I was in the wheelhouse of his audience – teenage boys. Woody Allen was a big hit with that group too, but he wasn’t the powerhouse Rodney was, at least where I grew up. Woody was funny, but Rodney was royalty.

I appreciate Woody Allen a lot more now, as I see what a prolific artist he has been throughout his life and still is. Nobody can touch him, but Rodney has nothing to be ashamed of. He put out a lot of product himself, and his fans still love him. I will never tire of watching Rodney’s work.

The point I’m making with all of this is that no matter how big anyone gets in this life, it’s only temporary. Eventually everyone’s day passes, and life moves forward. Was there anybody bigger and more powerful in 1963 than the President of the United States of America? He was the world standard when it came to power and influence, but that obviously didn’t make him bullet proof.

Rodney Dangerfield took a long time to hit the top of his game but he did – and when he did he lasted more than thirty years. What a tremendous thrill ride he had in life, but it eventually ended just like it does for all of us. Win or lose, it all fades away. If so, why not chase all one’s dreams?

This afternoon I recorded five more King of Uranus rants for the comedy website that is going to feature them exclusively, and it was a lot of fun. I’m starting to feel much more at ease with it on every level, and it will only get better with time. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s great fun.

I’ve got a ton of material to choose from, and the best part is I wrote it back when I was on the morning show at 97.9 The Loop in Chicago in 2004. A lot of it still holds up, and it’s like I have a fresh river of ‘new’ old material to breathe life into as the King. I know there’s potential there.

Tonight I did two strong shows at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL. I practiced my craft, and did it well. There will come a time when I’m gone just like JFK and Rodney, but for as long as I’m here I’m going to do what I truly enjoy. Super success or flaming flop, it’s all temporary.

Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. That's longer than he was alive. Everything is temporary.

Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. That’s longer than he was alive. Everything is temporary.

Today was also the anniversary of Rodney Dangerfield's birth in 1921. He got a lot more respect than he admitted, and deserved every bit of it.

Today was also the anniversary of Rodney Dangerfield’s birth in 1921. He got a lot more respect than he admitted, and deserved every bit of it.

Front Row Treatment

September 24, 2013

Sunday September 22nd, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

I can die now. I’m sure there are those that have been wishing that for years, but now I can deal with it with a smile on my face. My personal Mt. Rushmore of heroes to meet is complete, and it was a raging success each and every time. Most people never get to meet one of their heroes, but I hit a grand slam. I’ll have pleasant memories forever, and there’s nobody else I need to chase.

Yes there are all kinds of famous and/or interesting people I wouldn’t mind crossing paths with in person, but as far as super elite status there have only been four – Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, George Clinton and Bob Uecker. I don’t care if anyone else doesn’t agree with those four as having super elite status, it’s my list and I’ll decide who gets on it. Those four are my biggies.

Today I rounded out my awesome foursome in high style as I got to hang out with Bob Uecker for a good 20-25 minutes – on the field at Miller Park no less. Wow, what a dream come true for a native cheese head and it couldn’t have gone any better. Everything was right, and it was great.

I can’t thank my friend Drew Olson enough for making this happen. He knows everyone at the stadium, and although it was no big deal for him he knew it was a big deal to me so he took time to make the call and walk me through the process. I like to do nice things like that whenever and however I can, and when it comes back my way it’s extra sweet. I’ll remember this day forever.

We were sitting in the dugout at Miller Park – something that by itself was worth my trip – and Bob came out of the other dugout and was standing behind the batting cage before the game. I’ve never been on the field before, so the whole experience was surreal from the start and I loved it.

Drew told me to follow him, and we walked up to Bob and Drew introduced me as a comedian from Milwaukee. That’s all it took. Bob’s eyes lit up, and he shook my hand and started rattling off story after story, and it was like we were buddies for years. It was the right place and the right time, and circumstances couldn’t be better. He had nothing else going on, and had time to hang.

Since I knew of his career highlights so well I was able to keep him talking and recalling funny story after funny story. The guy who was his sidekick in the Major League movies is a comedian friend of mine named Skip Griparis, and that helped forge a bond up front even though we didn’t need it. He was warm right from the start. Everything was laid back, and I loved every second.

What was an even bigger thrill was making Bob laugh a couple of times. I tried to just shut up and let him do most of the talking, but on a few occasions I had a quick story to throw in and his head snapped back with laughter more than once. That’s THE most flattering reaction I can get.

We hit on a lot of topics from sports to show business to being from Milwaukee to professional wrestling of all things. He used to go see it in his younger days and he did a fantastic impression of Dick The Bruiser. Drew and I were bent over laughing, as it really was dead on and hilarious.

I really wanted to get a picture, but things were going so well I didn’t want to ruin the moment. These situations can be very delicate, as it’s almost a peer thing. I don’t consider myself on a par with Bob Uecker, but he and Drew are peers and I didn’t want to put that status into jeopardy.

Another delicate situation was a package I brought for Bob with my DVD, CD and t-shirt from my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show. He if anyone would get the list of jokes on the shirt, but again my wack-o-meter went off and I decided not to force the situation. We were having such a good time I just wanted to enjoy it for what it was. I’ve waited decades to get the chance, so I dialed it back.

As we were walking off the field I asked if he’d mind if I sent him a shirt, and he said he’d like to have one but what else would he or anyone say? “No, stick that shirt up your bilge hole. Like I need to wear a cheap t-shirt from some goofus I don’t know to advertise a show I will never see.”

I’m sure he wouldn’t say that and he didn’t. Before we left the stadium, Drew gave the package to one of the longstanding Miller Park staff who said he would deliver it to the broadcast booth – which he did immediately as we watched. I felt a lot better doing that than trying to do it myself.

I have no delusions that he’s going to listen to or watch my act or wear the t-shirt, but if he had a chance to look at the shirt I’m sure he had a chuckle or two. That’s good enough for me, and he hopefully gave it to someone or even left it in the booth and someone else may get use out of it.

One thing I noticed immediately as we were talking was how ‘the kid’ in him was out. I always heard that with any great comedian, their inner child is close to the surface and easy to identify. I definitely saw it in Bob, and I think he saw mine too. That’s probably why we hit it off so well.

Another thing I noticed was how he had absolutely nothing bad to say about anyone else. He’d only bring up positives and/or good times they’d spent together. He knows celebrities from many fields, and I’m still not sure if the people in Milwaukee realize just how big of a star he really is.

I listened to him tell a few stories of being inducted into more than one Hall of Fame. How rare is THAT? It’s hard enough to get nominated for even one much less inducted into several, but he is although he doesn’t say it to brag. It was thoroughly enjoyable to listen to everything he said.

He pokes fun at himself for his lack of ball playing prowess, but in fact making it all the way to the Major Leagues is no small feat in itself – especially when he did it. There were only 16 teams then, and he still not only got a cup of coffee but managed to stay in the Major Leagues for years.

That’s a noteworthy accomplishment most people would milk for a lifetime, but he also got on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when that really meant something. Not only that, he was on somewhere around 100 times when people would give up a lung to get on once. It’s amazing.

Then there was a successful sitcom in ‘Mr. Belvedere’ that lasted several seasons. Then he was in two ‘Major League’ movies where he stole the show. He did hilarious color commentary work on ‘Monday Night Baseball’, not to mention rose to become one of the best play by play baseball announcers anywhere. Each one of those would be noteworthy by itself, but Bob nailed them all.

Did I forget anything? Well, he wrote two very funny books and also hosted another funny TV show called “Bob Uecker’s Wacky World of Sports”. And he was part of Wrestlemania for what was then the largest audience ever. I don’t need to go any farther – one is impressed or not. I have always been impressed, and to meet and hang out was a big thrill. I was in the front row for real!

Meeting a hero is a thrill. When he's as nice and funny as Bob Uecker - it's a memory I'll never forget! Thanks to my friend Drew Olson for making it happen. What a great experience!

Meeting a hero is a thrill. When he’s as nice and funny as Bob Uecker – it’s a memory I’ll never forget! Thanks to my friend Drew Olson for making it happen. What a great experience!

Meeting Bob Uecker

September 22, 2013

Saturday September 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I have always admired Bob Uecker. I think he’s one of the absolute funniest humans of our time or any other time, and his multi faceted career of long lasting duration is about as impressive as it gets. He has long surpassed entertainment and is now part of American pop culture. Who hasn’t heard of ‘Uecker seats’? It’s part of our lexicon.

For whatever reason, people like to ask comedians who they think is funny. I’ve gotten that for as long as I’ve been a comedian – and that’s a long time. I don’t know why that should matter to anyone, but apparently it does. I’m a fan of the business and a student of the game, so I like a lot of different people for different reasons and many of those people are not known to the masses.

Anyone not in the business wouldn’t care about those reasons, and I totally get it. It’s an inner circle thing, and nothing is more boring than listening to someone prattle on with shop talk when they’re not in the same business. What the masses always want to hear are names of the famous.

I’ve been very lucky in my time to have either worked or crossed paths with some of the most famous comedians of the modern era including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and that’s not nearly a full list.

I don’t say this to brag, but I’ve been around the block a few times and crossing paths with all kinds of people goes with the territory. I could throw out hundreds of names nobody would care about except me and the people themselves, but that doesn’t capture imagintion like fame does.

Everyone always wants to know “what they’re like”. They’re people, and people are people on all levels. Some are nicer than others, and depending on the day and time you meet them they’re exactly like people are. I’ve rarely been in awe of meeting anyone famous for that exact reason.

As a result, my meetings with celebrities have traditionally gone very smoothly. I’ve treated all of them like people, and that’s how they responded. Only a very few times have I ever been even the slightest bit star struck, and even then in the end it turned out well. Again, they’re just people.

The Holy Trinity of funny people on my personal hero list that I’ve always wanted to meet are (in no particular order) Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and Bob Uecker. I did get my chance to meet Rodney and George, and both were not only extremely warm and gracious but I also was able to make them laugh. The thrill of having that happen will stay with me the rest of my life.

Tomorrow, I am finally going to get my chance to meet Bob Uecker thanks to my friend Drew Olson. Drew was the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for years, and he’s said in the past he’d gladly make it happen. I’ve never liked asking for favors, but this time I did.

The last game of the season is tomorrow, and the Brewers are out of the playoff picture. I don’t like to bother people, but all I want is to shake Bob’s hand and tell him how much I admire what he has accomplished and what a fan I am of his work on so many levels. It would mean a lot, and if I would happen to be able to make him laugh even once it would make my year. Moments like this are what life is all about. I just hope I don’t stumble and stammer and make an ass of myself.

The great Bob Uecker. Thanks to my friend Drew Olson, I get to meet one of my all time heroes tomorrow!

The great Bob Uecker. One of the funniest humans or our time or any other time.

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of 'The D-List' on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of ‘The D-List’ on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

The Chain Breaker

August 23, 2013

Wednesday August 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

    For one million dollars free and clear in unmarked $50 bills, I couldn’t honestly tell you what I did on my 18th birthday. That was such a long time ago now it just blends in to the big blur that is life. One would assume it should be a special event to be cherished forever, but it wasn’t for me.

   I know what I didn’t do. I didn’t get high or drunk, as that’s never been my style. I didn’t have any parties or celebrations either. There was no big family get together or anything like that. My life was never ‘normal’, and by that time it was already going in a different direction than most.

   That direction was south. I was on my own by 17, having to scrape together a living by night as I finished high school during the day. I seriously thought about dropping out, but my grandfather was in the final stages of cancer and made it his last request that I finish. My father dropped out, and Gramps was completely embarrassed by it. I didn’t want to cause him more pain so I did it.

   I started my adult life in a big hole, and I’ve been digging my way out ever since. I had no time to party and chase chicks like most other kids my age, so I did what I had to do to survive. By the time I was 21 I was already getting started in comedy, and it was a long uphill climb from there.

   My birthday is in March, and Gramps died in December of the year I turned 18. That’s when I needed him most, but too bad for me. When he died, the already delicate relationships I had with the rest of the family collapsed immediately and World War III broke out in full bloody combat.

   My belligerent old man who was never there for me suddenly tried to step in and call the shots in my life and that went over like an accordion in Led Zeppelin. At first I tried the polite route to make an attempt at a father-son relationship, but that lasted just a few weeks before it got ugly.

   I don’t take bullies well, and that’s exactly what that bastard was – especially to anyone weaker or smaller than him. He treated all of his children like personal property, and I for one absolutely refused to take it. I got in his face, and the more I stood up to him the more he would back down.

   It’s never a pleasant time to be at war with one’s father, but that was an especially volatile time to be in that situation. Adolescence and puberty and all that goes with them are difficult enough, but not having parental support makes it downright scary. I’m surprised I didn’t turn to booze or drugs or crime, but I didn’t. For whatever reason, that just wasn’t in me. It’s not my personality.

   I vowed I was going to prove to everyone – especially the cantankerous ogre that was supposed to be a nurturing father and not my most hated enemy – that I was better than where I came from, and I wasn’t going to let anyone take my life or my dreams away from me. I chased the showbiz dream thinking I’d ace it in a hurry, but that provided a whole new set of political games to play.

   I made a ton of mistakes in comedy, but there was nobody there to reel me in. Gramps was the one steadying mentor figure in my life, but he was long gone at the time I needed guidance most. I made my choices with very limited perspective, and it launched my life path on an unnecessary detour that diluted my dream. With all of that on my plate, I’m surprised I made it as far as I did.

   What really hurt was the bubbling cauldron of anger I carried with me for so many years. I lost years of productive time I should have been growing and learning to focus on getting revenge on a psychopath who shouldn’t have had children in the first place. What a useless waste of youth.

   The reason I’m trudging up all this ancient mud from the past is my friend Max Bumgardner’s son Dustin turned 18 today. I couldn’t be more proud of Dustin if he was my own son – and Max is as high on my list as anyone can get. He’s one of my closest confidants and has been for years.

   Not only do I think Max is unbelievably talented and one of the smartest people I know – he is also a big time dented can. Max’s father is frighteningly similar to mine, and I knew right away when we first met that we were kindred spirits. Max has fought his whole life to break out of his father’s shadow, and his path has been no easier than mine. It’s like trying to sprint in knee deep sloppy mud while carrying two full bags of groceries and a watermelon. It’s an impossible task.

   Max and I became close when we worked on the morning show at 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago in 2004, but after we got fired we became even closer. He struggled with a lot of the same issues I did, and more than a few times we’d talk each other off a cliff when things got really difficult.

   We kept each other going, and were one of the few people the other could go to when life took a nasty turn. Dented cans can only relate to the pain of other dented cans, much like women trade stories about how painful their pregnancies were. I can sympathize, but I can’t truly empathize.

    I knew exactly where Max’s pain was coming from, and he knew mine. I never met his father, but we talked on the phone a few times on the radio. He actually seemed kind of nice, but that’s a very common trait of psychotic tyrants. Ted Bundy was nice enough to lure his victims to where he could do his deeds, and that was it. It was an act. My father often appeared gentle to outsiders.

    The pride of Max’s life has always been his two kids Dustin and Skylar. I have watched them both successfully grow from cute kids to solid young adults. Max has gone out of his way to be a world class father, and he has done a spectacular job. I remember sitting with Max and Dustin at a Bears game in Chicago in 2004, and what a beautiful father-son moment it was for those two.

   Max tells me all the time that Dustin looks up to me as an uncle figure. He plays my CDs over and over and Max told me I’m his ‘personal Rodney Dangerfield’. I remember how much I loved Rodney when I was that age, and to be put in that class is as flattering as it gets. I’m very grateful to have had Max and his family as friends all this time, and to see Dustin turn 18 is a major thrill.

   I don’t see Dustin all that often these days, but through the years we’ve enjoyed all kinds of fun times. I could see at an early age he was a wonderful kid filled to the brim with potential. He has an extremely sharp mind and is a gentle and loving soul – just like his dad. He’s got all the tools.

   He will have problems as we all do, but there won’t be that ugliness that goes with being from a rotten family situation. Any of us who have been through it know how sickening it is, and those who didn’t never truly will. I’m glad they won’t, and wish nobody had to. It’s not how I thought life should be – but for some of us it is. Dustin Bumgardner caught a break, and I’m glad he did.

   Max and I are always going to have deep scars of a painful childhood, but he showed courage to the tenth power for not turning right around damaging his own kids. It takes guts to break the chain of dysfunction, and Max has totally done it. I couldn’t be more delighted to see it happen.

   I called and left Dustin a message wishing him a happy birthday and telling him how proud he has made both his parents and me, and I meant every word of it. Max said it was a special day in his life, and he’s already ahead of ours by light years. Good for him. Dustin is the chain breaker.

Respect

August 5, 2013

Saturday August 3rd, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

    Respect. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Aretha Franklin sang a hit song about it. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t get any, and made a career of letting everyone know why not. Mafia members and rappers had better show some to their fellow brethren or they could get a head full of lead. It’s a valued commodity.

   Who doesn’t want to be respected? It’s right up there with oxygen on the importance meter and people will go to great lengths to get it. Some will go as far as to resort to bully tactics, but that’s no way to guarantee getting it. It might gain fear, but that’s not respect. There’s a big difference.

   When I started in standup comedy, all I ever wanted was respect in my home town. I wanted it from my family, audiences, fellow comedians and club owners. I was a punk in my twenties then and hadn’t found my stride in life. I knew I had some ability, but had no clue what to do with it.

   That led to some ugly clashes with all of the exact parties from whom I was looking for respect in the first place, and it left me bitter and disillusioned. Why was I getting exactly the opposite of what I wanted? It felt like my inner magnet was inserted backwards, and I only attracted trouble.

   It still feels that way in some places, but not in my home town of Milwaukee. I’ve been able to slay most all of my local dragons, and it feels really good to know I’ve come full circle. Tonight I did a set at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival at the Act Two Theatre and I totally felt respected.

   I’m no longer the young buck trying to prove myself, and I’ve grown quite comfortable in my own skin. I’ve managed to accomplish a lot of the dreams I had starting out, and the main reason is that I stayed with it for so long. I was too stupid to quit, and a few good things came my way.

   I’ve managed to take standup comedy farther than just about anyone else from Milwaukee, and I’m feeling the respect from the twenty somethings who are coming up the same ladder that I did all those years ago. I had nobody to use as a role model, and they’re using me as one now. Great!

   As I walked back stage at the festival, I had one person after the other walk over and shake my hand and tell me something nice. One saw me on Craig Ferguson, and another reads my diary on a regular basis. Some told me hello from friends of mine they’d seen recently, and it really felt as if I was someone of importance. I haven’t been used to that treatment – especially in Milwaukee.

   It felt absolutely wonderful, and I know they were all sincere. I have zero power over anybody in this group, and not one of them had to even look at me. To them, I’m an old fart who showed up because the festival founder Matt Kemple asked me to. And there’s another perk. That guy is really on the ball, and he’s built a fantastic event with this festival. He’s earned my total respect.

   I always thought this was the way life should work, and I can’t put into words how wonderful it feels to see it come to fruition in real life. I’ve paid a LOT of dues in both life and the business, and to have that recognized by a generation of performers that could be my kids is a major high.

   I’ve felt respected in Chicago for a while now. I have always tried to be kind to comics starting out, and it has paid off repeatedly. I’ll meet some kid for the first time and see their countenance change completely when I tell them my name. That’s respect, and I can’t think of a feeling more rewarding. I am extremely grateful to be thought of so highly by SOMEONE, as I know there are still some who think I’m Satan’s son. We can’t please everyone, so why try? I will be who I am.