Posts Tagged ‘Russ Martin’

Pleasant Memories

January 21, 2014

Saturday January 18th, 2014 – Port Washington, WI

I am experiencing a volcanic molten hot streak in life the likes of which I’ve never come close to, and I have to admit I’m loving every single second. I’ve been as low as low gets, but this isn’t it. It feels like I’ve finally found the way to turn my inner magnet around and I’m attracting good things rather than bad. I feel a noticeable turnaround and I want to remain plugged into it forever.

Tonight was quite simply one of the most satisfying nights I have ever had. I was able to make a positive difference in the life of a total stranger, and headline a sold out show in a killer venue for a fantastic audience who got everything I did. Everybody had fun, and I’m still abuzz over it.

Everything came together tonight, and the results were nothing short of electric. I had about as much fun as a live performer can have, and I rode the wave for more than an hour. I was able to find a groove within the first minute, and ride it the rest of the evening. This is how it should be!

Tonight was the benefit comedy show at Memories Ballroom in Port Washington, WI for Tina Rose-Treskow. She is a long time employee of Memories, and was diagnosed with breast cancer while nursing her fourth child. She’s been going through super painful chemotherapy and tonight everyone came together to offer at least a little relief. There was a sold out house in attendance.

Memories has been doing a monthly “Chicken Comedy” show for a couple of years which has become quite popular. They serve all you can eat broasted chicken that’s some of the best I have ever tasted, and follow it with a live standup comedy show hosted by Rob Haswell from the Fox 6 TV show “Real Milwaukee” that I was on yesterday promoting the show. It’s a well run event.

The people show up to laugh, and they pay to get in which always helps weed out the babbling drunken idiots. Also, to owner Rolland Roebuck’s credit he demands that the shows are kept at a very respectable level. He hand picks the acts that perform, and we’re told what he expects of us.

It’s no problem for me whatsoever, and once again I was able to go up and rattle the rafters for an audience that appreciated it. They were all from the Port Washington area, and that’s as close to Milwaukee as I needed. They got every last subtle reference and I gave them everything I had.

After the show, people lined up to tell me how hilarious I was and buy CDs, DVDs and t-shirts – all of the proceeds going to Tina’s fund. How difficult is it to sit around and let people say how much they enjoyed my show? I thanked them all, and meant it sincerely. That’s as easy as it gets.

What Tina is going through is the hell part. Yes, I sacrificed decades of sweat and hard work to get to the point of being able to pull off a killer show like this, but my suffering wasn’t anywhere near what Tina and her family are going through. If I was able to make them feel good, I’m glad.

Before I was about to go on, Tina found me in the back of the room and gave me probably the biggest hug I’ve ever received. She had tears in her eyes and thanked me for “all that I did” as far as agreeing to do the benefit. I didn’t do anything other than what anyone with human feelings at all would know is just the right thing to do. I had the easy job tonight, and if I helped to make life even a little better for her I am thrilled. Donations can be made at

"Chicken Comedy" is a monthly event held at Memories Ballroom in Port Washington, WI.

“Chicken Comedy” is a monthly event held at Memories Ballroom in Port Washington, WI.

Memories used to be known at 'Wyler's', and has been around for 80 years. A lot of big music acts played there including Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more.

Memories Ballroom used to be known as ‘Weiler’s’, and has been around for 80 years. A lot of big music acts played there including Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more. It’s a local landmark.

Rob Haswell from Fox 6's 'Real Milwaukee' show is the host for Chicken Comedy night.

Rob Haswell from Fox 6’s ‘Real Milwaukee’ show is the host for Chicken Comedy night.

Former cop turned comedian Russ Martin opened the show tonight. He wanted to support the cause as well. Thanks Russ!

Former cop turned comedian Russ Martin opened the show tonight. He wanted to support the cause as well. Thanks Russ!


Double Dipping

September 12, 2013

Wednesday September 11th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI/Rosemont, IL

Most of my days end up being hectic in one way or another, but today was the way I like it. If I had my way, it would be like this all the time. I had two comedy shows, and got to hang out with some good friends. This is exactly how I always thought life should be, but so often it falls short.

The first show was in Milwaukee this afternoon for the Milwaukee Retired Police Association. Someone from their group saw me do my “Schlitz Happened!” show at Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in April and recommended me to the committee. I’m delighted they did.

This is exactly the kind of group this show should be for. These people were city of Milwaukee police officers with a minimum age of over 42, and they got everything I was talking about. I had a bit of a slow start, because I don’t think they had ever had a comedian at their meeting before.

The situation of lights and sound is always an issue, and this was held in a Legion Post with no stage lighting per se. I was on the floor in front of them, and it was an adjustment to get settled in but once I did it went very well. The person in charge Wray Young couldn’t have been nicer, and said he’d like to have me back. I’d love to go back, and I will be much more prepared next time

This audience was a little older, and that’s fine but I should have read them better. I tried to get laughs first, when in fact I should have told more stories. I figured that out part way through, and it made all the difference in the world. They are all from Milwaukee, and the more details I threw in the more they loved it. I don’t often have that luxury in an audience, and I totally exploited it.

There have to be a hundred groups like this of people who grew up in Milwaukee. They’re not necessarily standup comedy fans, but I know I can entertain them and make them laugh with this concept. I am really looking forward to going back to Potawatomi, and today it reignited my fire.

My friend and former student Russ Martin came out and did some time, as he was a former cop himself. He was a County Sherriff at one time, so I thought it would be appropriate for him to do a few minutes. We hung out afterward and had a meal. Russ is a really good guy, and despite the fact he’s older than me he really loves comedy and has the enthusiasm of a kid. It’s refreshing.

After that I drove to Rosemont, IL to headline a show at Zanies Comedy Club. That’s always a treat for many reasons. Not only is it a state of the art facility, the staff is top notch. The manager is Cyndi Nelson, and she’s one of if not the best in the business. Everyone loves her, and she’s an absolute peach to work for. She treats us all like stars, and dented cans always enjoy an ego rub.

Dan Carlson is there too, and that’s another rare treat. Dan is a very funny comedian, but chose to get into club management because he has a family and wants to stay in town. I totally relate to that situation, but it’s great to have him there because he sees things from the comic’s viewpoint.

The show tonight was a two boot ass kicker. There was a large group of construction people up front, and they were there to have fun. They were diverse, and that made it better. Several times I had to stop and let the laughs die down, and that’s about the best problem a comedian can have. I wish every day of life could be like this, but it’s not. Today was, and I loved every minute of it.

Comic Camaraderie

May 12, 2013

Thursday May 9th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL/Fox Lake, IL

   My friend Russ Martin and I hung out for a while today and had a delicious meal at a Chinese buffet in Gurnee, IL. Hanging out with comedians is one of the best parts of the business, as it’s about the only time we truly feel at home. The public doesn’t always get what we do or more so why we do it, but when we hang out together it’s often as much or more fun than actual shows.

   I remember coming up the ranks as a beginner at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Milwaukee in the ‘80s where I was a seater, janitor, answerer of phones and all around gopher in addition to getting random stage time thrown my way from time to time. Hanging out was part of the deal.

   There was a group of us who would hang out every night we were in town, and after watching the shows we would reconvene at a diner called Ma Fisher’s to continue the process. We’d learn from what we saw, and often headliners would join us and impart pearls of wisdom on us as we ate our food and soaked it all in. To this day those are some of my favorite memories of all time.

   One week Robert Schimmel was in town, and it was before anyone had heard of him. He ate it at the club all week, and I remember feeling so sorry for the guy knowing he was going to go up and have a rough set every night. For whatever reason, Milwaukee was just not ready for what he was doing and it was a painful week. We got to be friends at Ma Fisher’s hanging out afterward.

   I remember seeing him years later as he was starting to hit it, and I went up to him and asked if he remembered his week in Milwaukee. Not only did he remember, he sincerely thanked me for taking time to hang with him after the shows. The pleasure was mine, but he thanked me because his daughter was sick at the time, and he was feeling very low. He said I made his whole week.

  These are the memories that keep getting sweeter as time goes by. Robert Schimmel had a lot of obstacles to overcome to say the least, but he did and had a remarkable career. He stayed with his vision, and refused to back down no matter what. I wish everyone could have seen how he took it in the shorts that whole week, and how those same jokes later made him a star. It’s so inspiring.

   Russ mentioned at dinner that he’d just watched a You Tube biography of Rodney Dangerfield and how it had reminded him of me in many ways. He’s not the only one who has said that, and I ended up going home and watching it myself. I had seen it before, but I enjoyed it all over again.

   What really stood out was how much Rodney struggled, and how brutal his childhood was. Just like so many others, comedy was his escape. Robert Schimmel had some nasty struggles too, and I doubt if fans of either of those guys knew or cared. They both made audiences laugh like crazy, but when the show was over who made them laugh? Quite often it was hanging out after shows.

   I’m a huge fan of Rodney’s and always will be. Schimmel too. I wish I couldn’t relate so much to what they were about at their deepest core, but I totally relate to both of them. They made their inner pain become joy for others, but inside that pain was still there. They were both dented cans, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t successful. I hope both of them are in a much happier place.

   As a rule, comedians are both extremely sensitive and intelligent. We hurt easily, and often are from horrific backgrounds that ‘normal’ people can never comprehend. Comedy is our only way to mask that pain, and that’s what keeps us coming back to that stage even in the most difficult of stretches. It’s a moth to a flame – we can’t help it. Hanging with each other helps soothe our pain.

A Smooth Transition

January 2, 2013

Monday December 31st, 2012 – Reno, NV/Rosemont, IL

   Back home for New Year’s Eve. The trip back wasn’t nearly as hectic as I thought it would be, and other than a brief detainment from a pair of TSA chimps it actually went quite smoothly. I’m just not able to hide my disdain for the whole airport ‘security’ process, and I’m sure it shows.

What a scam, and a waste of everyone’s time and money to pay these mookazoids to rummage their way through luggage and clog the toilet of everyone’s day. Have they ever found even ONE life or death situation besides the shoe bomber? That guy looked like a maniac, and that’s exactly my point. Sticking the cattle prod up granny’s poop shoot looking for mortar shells is a complete waste of energy, and that’s exactly what they were doing today. They were bothering everyone.

The two that got to me had Barney Fife attitudes that could be felt across Nevada. I tried to put my smart ass comment urge on hold, and it was all I could do not to let loose on them in front of the entire line of us who just wanted to get where we were going. They were determined to make life miserable for as many weary travelers as they could, and they were being very successful.

My breach of national security was not taking my liquids out of my carryon bag – even though I didn’t do it on the way out. They made a big deal of it and pulled me out of line to go through it so they could find the bazooka I’m sure they thought I was carrying, but all they could find was a bottle of shampoo that was over 3 ounces, or whatever the legal limit is. They took it of course.

Sure they did. I don’t blame them. I guess I forgot about the big rash of terror plots that require four ounces of cheap shampoo to ignite dirty bombs, and of course their training ground is Reno, NV. I know there has to be some kind of monitoring of airports, but the way they do it is stupid.

Stupid or not, that’s how it is after 9/11 and I doubt if it will change any time soon. The whole world is getting more insane by the day, but strangely I am finding myself getting at least a little smarter in my old age. I don’t know how I’ll be able to use it to my advantage, but I’ll surely try.

I spent the flight from Reno to Las Vegas, my two hour layover time and my flight to Chicago making plans for 2013. I don’t know why I haven’t done this my whole life, but for some reason the plans just flowed. I had some kind of cosmic vision that flowed out of me, and I knew what I needed to do. Maybe I always knew it, but I didn’t execute the plan. This time I think I’ll do it.

I made a list of things I should do daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. I’ve had all kinds of to do lists before, but this one flowed out of me through the pen and it felt like it was coming from a source other than me. I knew it was right as I was doing it, and I feel like I have a crystal clear vision of exactly what I need to do this coming year. If I do it, I feel it will be my best year ever.

My friend Russ Martin was kind enough to pick me up at Midway Airport and take me over to Jim McHugh’s house to get my car. I made it to Zanies in Rosemont, IL to host the two shows as a fallout replacement. I’ll gratefully take the money, and it was a fun night working with Fortune Feimster and Russ Williamson. Another year gone, but I have a positive vibe about 2013. Really.

Piper Payment

December 11, 2012

Sunday December 9th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI/Harris, MI

   Today was the day to pay the piper for all the weather breaks I caught on this week’s run to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I knew when I accepted the booking that the wrath of winter could end up with a starring role as the week unfolded, and that’s exactly what happened. I can’t bitch.

I left a day early on Wednesday to hedge my bet, and I’m glad I did. It eliminated a lot of stress or at least postponed it until today. I had smooth sailing from home to Sault Ste. Marie, and from Sault Ste. Marie to Negaunee. It snowed a bit from Negaunee to Milwaukee, but not a whole lot.

I crossed my fingers and toes before going to sleep after last night’s shows I’d be able to dodge the bullet one more day, but that doesn’t happen to Mr. Lucky. It started snowing about half way to my friend Russ Martin’s house who lives on the south side of Milwaukee. He wanted to come along for the ride and do a guest set at the Island Casino in Harris, MI, and I was happy to oblige.

The scheduled opening act was Steve Purcell, who lives near Madison, WI. He was also on the bill in Milwaukee, but drove home after the shows as comedians tend to do whenever possible. It isn’t a thrill to stay in a hotel past the first few times doing it, and I totally get it. He has a family.

It started snowing about halfway between Russ’s house and Madison, and didn’t let up all day. It got wetter and sloppier, and it was the kind of snow that made lane changes almost impossible and required both hands on the wheel to keep the car on the road. My knuckles were lily white as I kept both hands on the wheel at all times and my eyes glued to the road. This was road combat.

It got even harder as we crossed the border from Marinette, WI to Menomonie, MI with about a 50 mile home stretch to the Island Casino in Harris. It’s all two lane highway on US 41 which merges with US 2, and conditions worsened by the mile. We made it within just a few minutes.

Showtime at this gig is 7pm Eastern Time, which is 6pm Central Time. That’s a lot earlier than most show times, and it’s good and bad. It makes it more difficult to get there on time, especially after doing two shows in Milwaukee the night before, but it also ends early to give us a head start on the drive home. Steve had to get home for work in the morning, and we all knew it going in.

There was a surprisingly large audience waiting for us when we got there, and the show ended up being a lot of fun. There’s a radio personality named Bo Reynolds who hosts the show, and he used to work in Chicago. He’s a great guy and very hip, and sets the tone for a really fun show.

Russ, Steve and I had a blast on stage as is per usual at this gig. It’s a long drive, but the people really enjoy the shows and we love doing them. What none of us loved was the journey home. It kept snowing while we were on stage, and we crawled back to Menominee at 25 miles an hour.

To make it worse, we hit Packer traffic on I-43 from Green Bay to Milwaukee and that slowed us down further. By the time I got home I was ready for a massage or a sedative – or both. I love to perform, but getting there and back can be pure stress. I should be a piper. They get paid well.

Blatz Off!

March 15, 2010

<Saturday March 13th, 2010 – Saukville, WI

It looks like Schlitz really is starting to happen! I didn’t know exactly what to expect on several levels concerning the initial run through of my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee called “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst”, but the overwhelmingly positive response it got gives me extremely high hopes. This is a winner!

It’s not a finished product yet by a long shot, but what’s there is very useable. I do know how to entertain an audience, and my lifetime of experience gives me a huge advantage of being able to go back into the archives and bring out polished standup bits which allows a freedom to experiment few others have. I can take chances because I have a backup plan.

The show was at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI which wouldn’t have been in the top 50 places I would have chosen to get this started. Richard Halasz had booked a couple of previous shows there with Will Durst, so that’s a thumbs up for me. I like Richard and a reputable comedian like Durst wouldn’t work a place twice if there was anything shady.

I knew I needed to work the show through a few times, so where better than here to get a feel for it? The owners were all very nice people and we drew 146 people which is very respectable for a place that doesn’t do comedy on a regular basis. The club had posters up for a couple of months, but it was Richard that really dug in and didn’t let up on promo.

He mailed flyers and sent email blasts and got me a radio interview in Fond Du Lac and I really give him credit for doing a thorough job in promoting this along with the venue. It isn’t often a comedian does this good a job of behind the scenes detail work but he nailed it and totally followed through. Everyone was happy with the results and it was a big hit.

I brought my friend Russ Martin along, who was kind enough to film the show with his movie quality video camera, even though I don’t need anything that elaborate right now. I just wanted to get it on tape in case I ad libbed something that could be used in the future.

Gary Pansch also came out to support and he lit it up for a few minutes to get the crowd in a good mood. I went up and did an hour and five minutes, trying to squeeze in as many local stories and references as I could. I did some of my regular standup but it still had the local flavor to it. I added in a few things exclusively for this show and they went over too.

Was I thrilled with the show? No, not at all. Was the audience? Absolutely. They loved it, and that was my main concern. I wanted to feel it out a little first since I never worked there before, and didn’t have too much scripted. I wasn’t sure what kind of audience they drew, so trying to force a theater show wasn’t smart. This was more of a bar audience.

The sound system was popping and the stage lights were pretty bad, but other than that it wasn’t horrible at all. The physical layout of the space was nice, even though smoking is still allowed in Wisconsin bars. That was a killer, and my eyes were burning within the first ten minutes. This was a comedy show in a night club, NOT a one man theater show.

Still, the audience was both receptive and very polite. They weren’t pissy drunk and had the courtesy to sit and listen to the show. There were waitresses, but they were also polite and didn’t talk loud while taking orders or distract form the show at all. I was impressed.

I know how to read an audience, and could tell that I had a chance to do well right from the get go. I wanted to get to a lot more subtle and experimental material, but tonight was not the time to try it out. There will be other times, and I’m glad I didn’t force anything.

A few people showed up I hadn’t seen in thirty years or more. Robert Deglau and I went to the Jackie Robinson alternative open classroom school in sixth grade. We were both in the same homeroom and had an interest in radio. We reconnected by email a couple years ago but hadn’t gotten together before tonight. It was great to see him after all these years.

Jeff Phelps and I went to high school together at Messmer High School. He worked for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a photographer for twenty-two years before losing his job last year in a purge that took a lot of other people with him. He is a real pro and takes amazing pictures, and I felt bad he lost his gig. Times are tough for people in many fields.

Jeff and I recalled the story of when Hank Aaron came to Messmer to speak. We loved sports and wanted to get an autograph so we skipped out of class and drove to a sporting goods store and each bought a baseball to get signed. We waited for Hank’s limo to pull up and as soon as we saw it we sprinted out the side door with our fresh white baseballs.

Nobody in the entourage expected us including Hank Aaron, and we politely asked him to sign our baseballs. There wasn’t much he could do but grab the pen and sign. We both had pens with us, and we had our whole plan of attack worked out way before we did it.

After Hank signed for us, someone in his entourage firmly said “Ok, that’s IT. No more autographs.” Jeff and I smiled at each other and went back into school with our prize. We were the envy of the whole school, and we got to meet Hank Aaron before anyone else at school, including the principal. It was the only time I ever skipped out, but it was worth it.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life was selling that ball many years later when I really needed money. Boy, was I stupid. I think I may have gotten $60. Maybe $75 tops. I remember crying when I sold that ball, but at the time I really needed that cash. It’s a huge mistake, but too late to change it. Jeff kept his ball, and I’m glad. I’d love to see it.

This is the end of my fourth solid year of keeping my little diary. It may not be good or even interesting, but at least I’ve been able to keep it consistent. I’ve had experiences all over the board, and hopefully I’ve been able to entertain or inspire at least somebody.

I’m still a dented can, and always will be. I’m improving in many areas, but I still have many more that need a lot of work. Will any of this live on after I’m dead? Who cares? It doesn’t affect me at all. I’ll be dead. Right now, I’m not and I hope whoever reads this at any time gets a laugh or two, or maybe some inspiration. Another year over. What’s next?