Posts Tagged ‘Rust Belt’

The Detroit Domino

July 19, 2013

Thursday July 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’m ashamed to admit it, but being an active card carrying member of the human race thrills me less and less by the day. It’s supposed to be my job to find the funny in this world, but with every passing day I’m feeling that desire slip away like virginity in the prison shower. Life disturbs me, and I don’t know where to start. Every direction I look there’s a fire burning out of control. Help!

   The Trayvon Martin case is polarizing the nation. I can’t turn on my TV or radio without being subjected to two alleged ‘experts’ on either side of the argument throwing vicious verbal darts at each other, and I’m completely sick of it. There’s going to be a race war sooner than later in this country, and it’s going to get uglier than it already is. The tension level is rising to a fever pitch.

   In most normal scenarios, this is where humor should ride in like the Lone Ranger and save the day. Humor by its very nature eases tension – or at least it’s supposed to. Try slipping in a joke at the water cooler at work or a party of mixed company and see how it flies. You’ll be barbecued.

   I’m not saying this is a comedic situation, but unless some tension gets released there’s trouble on the horizon. Nobody I talk to is without a strong opinion in this case, and ALL of it has to boil down to race. Try as we might, there’s still a giant gap between races and it’s not just whites and blacks. Hispanics are in it too, and we’re going to eventually clash with China sooner than later.

   And if that weren’t enough – even though for me it’s more than plenty – the city of Detroit has declared bankruptcy. It’s been coming for a while, but today was the day. I’m sure there will be a tidal wave of jokes all over the place about it, and I’m sure there will be many that are hilarious.

   I’m all for a well constructed joke, but there’s a lot deeper significance here and I’m concerned too much to laugh. Detroit was once the symbol of the American manufacturing empire, but now it’s been relegated to laughing stock status. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of our fading land.

   You can’t tell me this will be the last major American city where this will occur. Detroit started the trend of severe urban decay in the ‘60s and other cities followed. I remember Detroit as a butt of jokes as a kid along with Cleveland, aka “The mistake on the lake.” Is it funny? Not anymore.

   Sadly, I don’t see a bright future for my home town of Milwaukee either. I sure wish I did, but I don’t. They’re following the same troubling trend most Midwest rust belt cities are, and people with any financial means whatsoever are moving out in droves. The only ones who stay are poor and can’t go anywhere else. Pretty soon, the Detroit domino will start pushing over many more.

   I hate to be such a gloom slinger, but it’s just how I see it. How the hell can I be funny if these intense problems are flaming out of control? I find it hard – especially since a bad economy kills the entertainment business. If people have no money to spend, they can’t come out and see me.

   Never have I claimed to have any, all or some of the answers. Hell, I don’t even have a single one. But what I do have like everyone else is a need to earn a legitimate living. I’m not looking for handouts or special treatment, I just want to be able to practice my craft and earn my keep.

   That has always been a challenge, but now it’s getting to be downright brutal. This is not what I planned on when I started, and it’s not the same country I grew up in. Change? I didn’t want it in ’08, and I don’t want it now. I thought the America I was born into was working rather well.

In Rust We Trust

January 30, 2013

Saturday January 26th, 2013 – Latrobe, PA

   The ‘King of The Rust Belt’ strikes again! I had a sizzling hot show tonight in Latrobe, PA that was right up there with the best I’ve ever had, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least. This is right in my element, and I can swing a mighty hammer in these situations. I need to find more of them.

Put me in front of a friendly blue collar audience over thirty in a rust belt town and I’m good to go. I know how to touch these people, and make them laugh until they can’t breathe. They totally get the concept of Mr. Lucky, as they can all relate to it in their own lives in one way or another.

I’ve done well in other parts of the country, but The Rust Belt is my wheel house. Anywhere in the vicinity of a Great Lake is usually my bread and butter and I love working places many other comics prefer to stay away from like Buffalo or Detroit or some smaller town that has nasty cold weather and a ravaged economy. I’ll show up. Those are the people that need to laugh the most.

Latrobe, PA is about fifty miles east of Pittsburgh, and they’ve been putting on comedy shows for the Parks and Recreation Department for many years. Jeff Schneider from the Funny Bone in Pittsburgh has been booking the talent, and asked me last summer if I wanted to do it this year.

I wasn’t looking forward to the drive, but he told me it was a good gig and the comics he’d sent in previous years all had fun. I assumed I probably would too, but not to this level. I was at home from the time I stepped on the stage until I got off 55 minutes later. I could have done longer, but those people had laughed enough. It was time for them to go home and they went home satisfied.

Of course like a dummy I didn’t bring any CDs or DVDs to sell, and that was a major mistake I won’t soon make again. There were about 350 people that would have cleaned out any and all of my merchandise inventory, and I blew a fantastic chance to return home with a significant bonus.

Merchandise has never been a strong part of my game, and that needs to change yesterday. I’m leaving well earned money on the table, and that’s just not smart business. Not every crowd buys merchandise, but those that do usually do it in droves. This would have been one of those nights.

Still, it was a wonderful experience all around and I’m glad I came – long drive and all. Doing shows like this is why I got into comedy in the first place, and if I have my way I’ll be doing lots more of them for as long as I’m breathing. There just isn’t anything else that gives me this buzz.

There’s no way I shouldn’t be rich doing this, and I’m going to find out how to achieve that so I don’t have to keep driving ratty cars and living like a lowly bum. I’ve spent my life getting my ‘show’ part down, now it’s time to master my ‘business’. I made a few bucks tonight, but I could be making a whole lot more doing exactly the same thing. I need to tighten up my plan of action.

James Gregory is a comedian from Atlanta who kills in the Southeast. He sells out theatres and his fans adore him. He doesn’t work anywhere else because he doesn’t have to. He’s a huge draw in his area and I find nothing wrong with that. I’d love to be the James Gregory of The Rust Belt.