Posts Tagged ‘Sandra Bullock’

Lights, Camera, ACTING!

April 16, 2014

Tuesday April 15th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One of the first warnings I heard when I started doing standup comedy was “actor/comedian” = “neither/nor”. I think there’s a lot of truth to that to a certain degree, just as the Confucius saying “He who chases two rabbits, catches none.” The point is to focus on ONE thing and do that well.

I knew I enjoyed standup comedy more than anything, so that’s what I stayed with exclusively and never bothered to look into anything else. I’m not so sure that was the smartest move all this time later as I objectively look back on my life and analyze the decisions I made along the way.

I’m not so sure I’d recommend that to someone starting out now – especially with how life has changed so radically on every level. When I started, I could make a living exclusively in comedy by the time I was in my early 20s. Like minor league baseball, I wasn’t getting rich but I had the opportunity to learn my craft on the job and work my way up the ranks. That’s a lot harder now.

Then there was a time when Hollywood seemed to be passing out development deals to comics like candy at Halloween. Lots of people got off the road and moved to L.A. in hopes of being the next big thing. A few like Jerry Seinfeld and Drew Carey pulled it off, but a lot more struck out.

One of the big things that held a lot of comedians back was that they weren’t good actors. They never made it a point to attempt to learn the craft, and I can totally see why. It takes a lot of effort to be a good comedian, and that’s enough to keep anyone occupied for a lifetime. It sure kept my attention. Still, I don’t think it would hurt any standup to take a few acting classes and vice versa.

They’re very different crafts, and I’ll throw improv in there as well. That’s a whole other thing by itself, but the smart performer in the 21st Century would be wise to at least sample a little taste of all three to get an idea of what’s involved. Even if only for comparison purposes, I’d say do it.

Entertainment doesn’t seem to be so much about craft and skill these days as it is about getting famous. I’m not a fan of that formula, but I can’t fight it. That’s how it is. With the internet now a force that isn’t going anywhere, a lot more unpolished talents are getting exposed far too early.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have talent, I just think it can be a bad thing to be seen too early. It’s like eating green bananas. They haven’t ripened yet, and to eat them will give the one eating them a nasty case of the trots. The same is true with any acquired skill, but everyone is impatient.

I have a friend named Regina Prokop who is a legitimate Hollywood casting agent. She got me a part as an extra in the film “While You Were Sleeping”. Was I an actor? No, I was dressed as a mailman and walked past Sandra Bullock for a few seconds. Was it fun? Sure. Should I have put more effort into pursuing bigger roles? Absolutely. Credits like that can impress when added up.

Regina has put out a very affordable EBook called “Lights, Camera, ACTING!” I recommend it to anyone who wants the real scoop on how to get started correctly. I get nothing from it but to help a friend. It’s a steal at just $2.99. http://store.blurb.com/ebooks/371661-lights-camera-acting

My friend Regina Prokop is a real Hollywood casting agent. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaCast. Here she is on the red carpet at a big event.

My friend Regina Prokop is a real Hollywood casting agent. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaCast. Here she is on the red carpet at some huge event.

Regina got me a part in 'While You Were Sleeping'. If you rent it, I'm in there. Thanks Regina!

Her guidance got me a part in ‘While You Were Sleeping’. If you rent it, I play a mail man – but I didn’t go postal. Thanks Regina!

Regina's new EBook is a great way to get started in on camera work. It's a great bargain and full of useful information.

Regina’s new EBook is a proven way to get started in on camera work. It’s a fantastic bargain and full of useful information.

Day Of Distraction

July 4, 2013

Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 – Arlington Heights, IL/Libertyville, IL

   Every time I try to get a solid day’s work in, my phone rings and I get sidetracked. Today I got two more calls that took me off course. I suppose I could have said no to both, but that wouldn’t have been the right decision. My sky high pile of things to do will have to wait yet one more day.

   My first stop was the studios of WIND radio in Arlington Heights, IL. Ken Sevara hosts a talk show called ‘Fly By Night’ which runs at midnight on Sunday mornings, and he had a fallout for a guest. I’ve done the show before, and it’s a lot of fun. Publicity is always good, and it was also a chance to help someone and I try to do that whenever I can. It’s points on the old karma board.

   We recorded the show and it went very well, as we both knew it would. It’s not a matter of the ability to be entertaining, it’s everything else. Ken brokers the air time from the station, and has to come up with sponsors every week. He’s doing exactly what I was doing with the Mothership Connection on WLIP, only he’s on a bigger station for a shorter time. Still, there are bills to pay.

   Ken is much better suited to do a show like that than I am, as he’s a master salesman. He has a flair for everything I don’t, and this is a good fit for him. Does anyone listen? Who knows? That isn’t always as important as being able to tell a client “Hey, come be a guest on my radio show.”

   I get that, but what if anything actually makes a difference? Ken, Tim Slagle and I were on two major radio stations in Chicago doing our ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ segment, and that didn’t make us one nickel. It was great fun and I have to believe someone heard it, but it didn’t translate into dollars. Was it worth doing? Again, that’s hard to say. On a fun level, yes. On a money level, it bombed.

   I hope Ken’s show is a huge success, and he seems to be doing very well with it. He’s getting a variety of sponsors, but he has to go out and sell them. He has the ideal personality for it, where I don’t. He loves to get out and press the flesh, whereas I like to do my show and keep to myself.

   My next stop was Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL to audition for a speaking role in a film of all things. It’s a small role, but a film role nonetheless. I’ve done a couple of things in the past as far as acting, but nothing major. I’ve had bit parts in two other films, and both were very fun.

   This role is of a pompous but clueless security guard, and I went over my lines most of the day. There aren’t many, but I’ve always been horrible at memorizing lines. Even in my comedy, I’ve always been pretty loose as a rule, and I like to be free to ad lib. That’s not the way acting works.

   I won’t be upset if I don’t get the part, but I think it would be fun and productive to do it. I got the call from David Stuart at Improv Playhouse, and he’s the guy in charge. He’s got his hand in the local acting and improv scenes, and strongly suggested that I get myself a new headshot and register with a talent agency. I’ve never pursued that angle, but it wouldn’t hurt to go that route.

   They film commercials and movies in Chicago all the time, and I’ve heard of other comedians getting hired for bit parts in the past. It just wasn’t something I felt a calling to do. I was an extra in the movie ‘While You Were Sleeping’ with Sandra Bullock, and it was pretty boring actually.

   Acting is mostly a bunch of standing around, and that never thrilled me. I do trust David as far as his credibility, and he strongly suggests I pursue it. We’ll see if I get this part, and then I’ll go from there. I have enough other things I need to do without one more project. I could use a clone.

My movie debut...for about six seconds.

My movie debut…for about six seconds.

Hometown Homecoming

May 21, 2010

Thursday May 20th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Today it was back up to Milwaukee for a lunch with Tom Skibosh, former P.R. director for the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s a super nice guy, and I was hooked up with him through my power network of Milwaukee shaker/baker types. I’m learning it pays to be patient, as eventually good things do happen. It’s taken years to build up this quality people network.

‘Sky’ said can help me put a plan together for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ one man show as far as things like making media contacts and getting an actual program published. He’s an expert on that kind of stuff and has years of experience doing exactly that for the Brewers.

Sky’s assistant was Jon Greenberg, now president of the Milwaukee Admirals. Greenie has always been great to me, and still continues to throw bones my way whenever he can. These are the kinds of people that I want to be around, and in return I’ve done favors for a lot of them as well. Nobody keeps score either, it’s a bunch of friends helping each other.

Some of the best on that list include Drew Olson, Steve ‘The Homer’ True, Ted Perry at Fox 6, Mark Krueger, Art Kumbalek, Gene Mueller, my friend Wade Waugus who works for the Bucks and started there when we were ball boys in high school. These are people I would do anything for, and they’ve proven it time and time again by doing things for me.

I’ve spent so much of my life trying to escape Milwaukee, but that’s where I come from and nothing will ever change it. I had so many painful memories there, and all I wanted to do was get out of town and forget them. I thought that would do it, but I was wrong. I still had them rotting inside. It didn’t matter where I went, all that ugliness was still festering.

All these years later, I’m a completely different person. I’ve worked through my painful family mess, at least to the point where I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I proved it to myself by successfully chasing and catching my dream of being a full time comedian. Family and childhood are things I couldn’t control. Things I could have been successful.

I’m seeing things a lot more clearly than I ever have, and even with the heaping helping of stupid mistakes I’ve made, I’ve also managed to squeeze in a lot of positive things too. My confidence as both a performer and a person is finally growing in the healthy way it’s supposed to. Mommy and Daddy never told me I was good, but audiences always have.

I guess I’m finally starting to believe it, at least a little. I’m not cocky or arrogant, but it does feel good when people come up after a show and tell me they enjoyed it. I know all kinds of comedians who don’t know how to deal with that, and I admit I used to feel very awkward in that situation for a long time myself. Now, I really enjoy it. It makes my day.

I’m also noticing all kinds of women around me lately. I’ve always been streaky in that department, either hot or cold. The tide flows in and out, and now it’s in. I’ve been having all kinds of women I’m interested in either contact me or I’m running into them in droves. I sure wish I knew how to control it, but for whatever reason it’s been raining hot women.
One I absolutely adore is Kristi McHugh. She’s a comic from Iowa living in L.A. and is chasing the big dream. We worked together in Lake Tahoe a couple of years ago and she blew me away with her sharp funny wit. It doesn’t hurt that she’s supermodel hot, either.

Kristi called me today and said she’s doing a set in front of Tim Allen and his manager Rick Messina next week at the Laugh Factory in L.A. Yay, Kristi! I know she’ll nail that and I’ve always predicted big things for her. She was with me back stage when I taped my Craig Ferguson appearance, and I knew then she’d take it a lot farther than I ever would.

She has ‘it’, and I’m thrilled she’s getting her shot. She called out of the blue and asked if I’d help go over her audition set. Of course I will. Maybe she’ll let me be her new pool boy, or designated limo waxer. Maybe she’ll put me in charge of keeping her tofu chilled.

I think she’s a cross between a young Mary Tyler Moore and Sandra Bullock. Not in her looks, she’s blonde. I’m talking about in her attitude. She’s got the independent woman in the big city thing that Mary Tyler Moore had in her sitcom, and also the infamous big star quality of ‘guys want to do her, women want to BE her’. I think she’s going to hit it BIG.

Good for her. I had the same feeling about Frank Caliendo, and he ended up hitting it as big as anyone in recent memory. Good for him too. I can’t do one impression and I’m not a gorgeous blonde with a razor sharp wit. All I can do is plod along with whatever I have.

Maybe it’s not in the cards for me to be a big star, and that’s ok. There are a lot of nasty facets to that whole thing too, and I know it’s not all chocolate cake and limo rides. I have to believe Elvis and Michael Jackson had a lot more painful memories than positive ones, at least after the major fame set in. It seems to get so huge it consumes any one person.

My ego needs are a lot lower than that. I don’t need to be constantly stalked by a lurking  band of carnivorous paparazzi hoping to catch me picking my nose so they can snap off a whole roll of film of it and sell it to the National Enquirer. Some crave all that attention.

I want to DO something in life. I want to help others and do good and be kind to people who can’t pay me back. I want to experience whatever high spiritual level there is to find on a superficial planet filled with psychotic idiots and greedy soulless robots. Can I do it?

That’s the plan. It’s always been the plan, even when I was starting out back in the early days in Milwaukee. I always wanted to be a big deal there, only because it was my home town. Who doesn’t want to be a big deal in their home town? I never got it, and after a lot of years of trying I just gave up and moved on. Now, I‘m reconnecting in a positive way.

I feel good things about to happen in the next few months, and I’ll enjoy every second of every minute of all of it. I’ve come a long way from where I started, and I’m finally in a position to really start enjoying myself. I’m comfortable in my own skin, and am ready to reclaim my Milwaukee roots by being a part of my team of friends like Sky and Drew and Wade and all the rest. I learned a lot of lessons along the way, and I’m ready to rock.

My Film Debut

April 9, 2010

Wednesday April 7th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

No limousine. No tuxedo. No trophy babe hanging from my arm. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience to attend my first movie premiere in which I had a part. There was a nice crowd on hand at The Brat Stop, even though it wasn’t sold out. The weather was a problem, as it was rainy and cold, and it was a weeknight too. Still, it was an adventure.

Mark Gumbinger is a good guy and worked very hard putting this whole event together. I know how difficult it is to get people in a room for anything, so it was a rousing success just based on that alone. There were a couple hundred people there, and that took effort to get each one of them. Many were there to see the star, Lou Rugani. This was his vehicle.

The program consisted of me opening the show with thirty minutes of standup comedy, then Dr. Destruction’s band The Dead Leathers played for thirty minutes, then it was time for the actual screening of “Dead Air”. That’s a lot of entertainment for a $7 admission.

It was funny to see the mix of people in one place. Dr. Destruction had a part in the film so he brought his audience, many of them punk rock fans with Mohawks, tattoos, pierced parts that don’t normally get pierced and ripped clothing. Lou Rugani’s fans listen to him on WLIP and are mostly over 50. The looks on their faces at the punk fans were priceless.

Mark hosted the evening and brought me up to do my opening set. There was band gear all over the stage but I worked around it and did my time. They started out a little uptight, but I got them rolling after a while. I kept it clean because that was the right thing to do in a situation like that. I don’t get filthy anyway, but for this event cleaner was appropriate.

After me the band went on and the fans that were there enjoyed them, as did I. Dr. D is a true artist, and even though I’m not a huge punk fan, I thought they were entertaining as hell and a lot of fun. Not all of the older people thought that and many got up and walked around in back trying to escape the loud noise. It was a funny scene, and I soaked it all in.

Then it was time for the movie. Mark brought us up one by one and interviewed us for a minute or two, then he told a couple of stories about what went on behind the scenes that added some depth of insight to the experience. It was exciting to be a part of it all. I sat in the back of the room so I could enjoy not only the movie but the reaction of the audience.

Lou was absolutely amazing. He’s a major talent and it was fun watching him play such a lout of a character when in real life he’s such a great guy. He has a presence that attracts attention much like a Gene Hackman or Morgan Freeman and I thought he jumped off the screen with believability. The other actors did a great job too. The crowd enjoyed it too.

As for my part, I’ve always hated watching or listening to myself. I’m my own harshest critic but everyone said they liked it so whether or not they did doesn’t matter. I wasn’t in it for anything else but fun, and there was plenty of that to go around. Now I can say I was in a movie with a real live speaking part, not just an extra with that hussy Sandra Bullock.

Acting Like An Actor

January 15, 2010

Thursday January 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

With all the over the top, underfinanced, whacked out, half baked crazy schemes I have been involved in so far in my life, it’s a wonder I don’t have more acting experience. I’ve tried standup comedy, radio, pro wrestling promotion, sports card dealing and other goofy stunts that would have made Lucy and Ralph Kramden wince, but I’ve left acting alone.

Part of the reason is that I respect it as a craft. Anyone has to devote a lifetime to it to be truly skilled, just as in any other craft. Acting is no different than comedy or music or any other craft in that regard, and I was lucky enough to discover comedy early enough on so I devoted my energy to that. It scratched my creative itch and I never needed to be an actor.

That being said, I’ve filmed a part in a movie and am appearing in a play all in the same week. How strange. Up until now my acting experience has been painfully low. Last year I was in a short scene in a film that was directed by my high school friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle, but that was a last minute thing. He did me a favor and allowed me to do a part.

Before that, I was an extra in the movie “While You Were Sleeping”. I was in an actual scene with Sandra Bullock, and I played a mailman of all things. It didn’t take any acting talent to dress in a postal uniform and push a mail cart down the street. The real challenge was not trying to hit on Sandra Bullock as we stood around almost an hour, ten feet apart.

They told us as extras we weren’t supposed to approach the stars for any reason. I guess I can see that, but in my case it was ridiculous. It was filmed in winter and it was about as cold as I can ever remember, and in fact too cold to snow. They needed snow in the scene so they brought in a fake snow machine to fill in the set, and that took just over an hour.

There we were, Sandra Bullock and me, just feet apart. She stood there and for the life of me, I could NOT get her to look my way and say hello. She looked up, around, over at the snow machine, everywhere but in my direction. After a few minutes it got to be funny.

Usually I’m a pretty good schmoozer and can strike up small talk with most anyone, but not this time. Sandra was not a huge star then, but I love brunettes and I would have loved to at least be able to test my flirting skills on a cold day when there was nothing else to do but stand there and hope my testicles would return by spring. She never even said hello.

I’ve heard since that she’s a very nice person and who knows why she didn’t say hi to a lowly extra, but all these years later I haven’t forgotten it. That pretty much ended dreams I may have had to be in movies, but I really never did. All I ever wanted to be was a solid funny comedian. That’s all that mattered to me. I couldn’t care less if I was a good actor.

Now, it’s a little different. I had fun doing Kyle Richards’ movie and even more doing a few scenes with my friend Lou Rugani in “Dead Air” yesterday. Plus, there was an actress named Tierza Scaccia who was not only really good looking and talented, she actually did speak to me both on camera and off. What a great name that is, too. I hope she hits it big.
I’d love nothing more than to show up at the Oscars with Tierza on my arm and moon Sandra Bullock. Thoughts like this are probably why I’m not only not an actor, but still a single comedian in my 40s. I’ve always been prone to doing things on the maverick side, and the masses just aren’t ready for that yet. Sandra Bullock did things right, good for her.

Actually, I’m glad I chose standup comedy over acting. I suppose I could have done the ‘actor/comedian’ route, but that usually means ‘neither/nor’. No matter how many breaks that didn’t go my way, the fact remains that I have paid my dues and am a solid comedian and NOBODY can ever buy that. It has to be earned, just like the skills of a master actor.

My problem with acting is, I have to be someone else all the time. I guess that’s fun for some people, but I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. It never appealed to me to have to create a new persona over and over again as it takes to be a successful actor. I was fine with shining up the one I had doing comedy onstage. It’s a personal choice for all of us.

Many famous actors kind of just play themselves over and over. Adam Sandler is pretty much the same guy in all his movies as is Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy or a flock of other people who didn’t start out as standups. Does Chuck Norris have stage chops? What about Stallone or Arnold? None of these people are what I’d call craftsman. Would you?

Writing is another craft that looks easy and lots of people aspire to become. That takes a lot of discipline and effort too, but who’s willing to put it in? Not many. Those that do are quite rare, and even rarer are those who put in the effort and have real talent to go with it.

I’ve never considered myself a writer either, BUT – I’ve managed to produce an entry in this diary every single day since March 14th, 2006. Does that mean I’m a GOOD one? No, but it does mean I’m a writer to some degree just because I’ve kept cranking out the pages day after day after day. I may still stink, but I stink less now just because I kept doing it.

Acting is the same way. I bet there are ten times as many unknown mediocre Caucasian wannabes in Hollywood and all over who want to be actors, just as I’ve wanted to get into comedy. I paid my dues and chased the dream my whole life, just as I would’ve done had I chose to be an actor. The hard work requirement doesn’t change no matter the craft.

It was a lot of fun to be in the movie yesterday, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’m some hidden gem that Hollywood is waiting for. If I really want to pursue it I need to be around it and study it. Acting classes wouldn’t hurt, and probably a few books as well. I don’t have time for all that right now, nor do I want to get involved in a whole new gig.

I love comedy, even though it’s an insane business. What, and acting isn’t? It’s a crazy world all around, so I’m glad I chose what I did. Comedy is the best there is, but that’s my opinion. Too bad, as that’s the only one I care about. No offense to actors, comedy is best.

Still, we’re going to have fun with “You’re On The Air” at The Beverly Arts Center this weekend. We had a dress rehearsal today and I had to act like an actor. I hope I fool them.