Posts Tagged ‘Schlitz Happened’

Rock Star In Rockford

June 30, 2014

Friday June 27th, 2014 – Rockford, IL

Ah, a flash of the good old days. For at least one day I got to be in the comedian groove again. I’ve been out of it for a while, and it felt very much at home to be back. This is what I was born to do – at least the performance part. I got to work in a nice venue in front of a receptive crowd, and there were no long drives to make. This is exactly how I picture my comedy future to look.

Long time Chicago comedian Ken Sevara books monthly comedy shows at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Rockford, IL called Franchesco’s. I was the headliner for their opening night a few years ago, and it’s been a while since I’ve been back. I never bugged Ken about it, and that’s one of my problems. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get lost in the mix because there are so many comics.

He knew I did a killer job, and so did the staff. That was never the question. Quite a few of the staff that remembered me from that night walked up and said hello within ten seconds of walking in the door. I know they weren’t faking, because it’s a busy restaurant with lots of people coming and going all the time. They were sincere, and it felt very satisfying to have them remember me.

There was also a table of people that were there a full 45 minutes before the show that had seen me perform at a place called L.T.’s that ran weekly comedy shows for years. They said they had been waiting for me to come back to town, and didn’t want to miss it. I almost felt like a big star.

I also got to be on the radio this morning with “Stone and Double T” on WXRX, and they have always been fans and treat me great. Their station is probably not my demographic, but it’s still a lot of fun to be on with them so I always say yes whenever they ask. They’re both real people on the radio, and that is SO refreshing. If they were Bob and Tom, I would be a millionaire by now.

They’re not Bob and Tom, and Rockford isn’t Las Vegas – even though the actual room where they do the shows could easily be in Vegas. It’s a gorgeous facility, and has a separate and sound proof entrance from the bar and restaurant area so as to keep the showroom quiet during shows.

They have big screen TVs all over the room that say ‘Comedy Night’, and it’s a perfectly sized and proportioned room that seats probably 150ish. They can show clips of upcoming acts if they like, or list drink and food specials. Everything about this particular space is how it should be for all standup comedy shows, but rarely is. It’s a pleasure to work rooms like this whenever I can.

It’s EXACTLY the kind of venue I’d want to promote my own shows on a consistent basis, but they’re almost nonexistent. This one has just about everything anyone could want, including tons of free parking and a liquor license plus full menu of delicious food. There’s a lot to work with.

I would never infringe on Ken’s room, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just saying it has all the features I’d be looking for to do my own shows. Rockford may be a bit small to shoot for a weekly show anyway, and that’s important to know. It’s easy to burn out in a smaller town.

I’d love a place similar to this in Milwaukee to do ‘Schlitz Happened!’ more regularly, and one in the Chicago area wouldn’t hurt either. Even if I did weekends once a month and promoted the hell out of them I bet I’d develop a following sooner than later. This is the future of the business.

Franchesco's Ristorante in Rockford, IL is a great place to have dinner and see a comedy show. If it's a 'bistro' or a 'ristorante', it's hard to go wrong. www.franchescos.com.

Franchesco’s Ristorante in Rockford, IL is a great place to have dinner and see a comedy show. If it’s a ‘bistro’ or a ‘ristorante’, it’s hard to go wrong. http://www.franchescos.com.

Ken Sevara books the shows, does comedy himself and also hosts a radio show on WIND called 'Fly By Night'. Find him at www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara books the shows, does comedy himself and also hosts a radio show on WIND called ‘Fly By Night’. Find him at http://www.kensevara.com.

'Stone and Double T' are two of the nicest - and most competent - radio people I have ever met. I'd do anything for those guys. www.wxrx.com.

‘Stone and Double T’ are two of the nicest – and most competent – radio people I have ever met. I’d do anything for those guys anytime. http://www.wxrx.com.

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My Own Space

June 24, 2014

Sunday June 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m back from my bittersweet weekend in Sparta, WI and am ready to move forward. It’s fun to visit good friends, and Jim Wiggins and Bill Gorgo are as good as they get. Jim’s family treats Bill and I like we’re in the will, but on the down side doing difficult shows for tiny audiences is a self esteem sucker and a dignity drainer. At this time in my life I just don’t need to be doing this.

Jim and Bill get it. They’ve been doing comedy for decades just as I have, and they know how I feel. Bill has been a high school teacher for years now, and has already made his transition into being able to do comedy when he feels like it. It works for him. I’m not so sure it works for me.

Jim could see that I was less than thrilled with the shows this weekend, and he took me aside at least four or five times to strongly suggest that I find my own space and start promoting my own shows. He said it should be a place where I can live as well so all my energy can stay in one spot. He’s done it himself more than once, and said it can be an exciting experience plus creative bliss.

There’s a comedian named Chris Speyrer that did exactly what Jim speaks of in the small town of Mason City, IL. That’s the home town of another funny comic named John Means – aka “Dr. Gonzo.” John and his wife owned a restaurant on the main drag, and Chris bought a building on the same block and has been able to keep the doors open several years now. I congratulate him.

Mason City is tiny, but it’s within driving distance of Peoria and Springfield and Chris books a lot of his headliners from the Bob and Tom radio show which is on in both of those cities. He has been smart to do that, and kudos to him for taking the plunge. That took a lot of guts on his part.

I’m not sure if a town that small would be to my personal liking, but there are all kinds of other options in a lot of other places. I have been wondering for years now how I could get off the road but still get on stage regularly, and my own place would be a way to do it. It would solve a lot of problems – but create a lot more. I’m fine with that at this point, and would enjoy the challenge.

I don’t know if I can find a place that I can live as well as do shows, as everything would have to be ideal for that to happen. I don’t have any money to buy any buildings, but that’s never been my goal. I just want to do standup comedy shows on a regular basis for people that want to enjoy what I do. I don’t want to have to fight drunks or drive 1000 miles to get there. Does that exist?

Between Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford, I have to believe there has to be at least one facility that would be able to fit my needs. Ideally it would seat around 100 comfortably, and in theory I’d be able to work there every single week of the year for several years if I’d want to.

If I could attract audiences, why would I not want to? I’ve said before that 100 people a night for multiple nights in a week can provide a very nice living. I’m not greedy, and I wouldn’t need anything else to survive quite nicely. In an area that’s populated, it would take years for everyone to see the show in a 100 seat room and I could keep it going indefinitely. Mr. Wiggins was right.

I see this theory both in Milwaukee for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show and somewhere near the Chicago area that’s not near a Zanies club. I wouldn’t attempt to compete with them because for one I couldn’t, and also they have been great to me for a lifetime. There are plenty of other joints in that squared circle, and I’m up for trying to get my own thing going. If I had two dozen in my own audience, there would be only one person to blame. That I could live with. I like Jim’s idea!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought a building and started his own venue. Smart!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought his own building and started his own comedy venue. Smart!

If you are ever near Mason City, IL go see his club. www.mclimits.com

If you’re ever near Mason City, IL visit Chris’s club. http://www.mclimits.com

Exploring Marketing Options

April 21, 2014

Saturday April 19th, 2014 – McHenry, IL/Volo, IL

Improving my marketing skills from the ground up is my mission not only this year but every other year that I am lucky enough to experience from here on out. It’s something all businesses need to succeed, but especially entertainers. We are our own product, and marketing is a must.

I have been lucky enough to have squeaked by for decades, mostly because I was in the correct place at an opportune time. I rode the wave of the comedy club boom of the 1980s, and was able to make enough to at least survive from late 1985 on. Some years were better than others, but my primary source of income other than a few scattered years doing radio has always been comedy.

That’s good and bad, but most people can’t see the bad. “You make your LIVING standing on a stage telling JOKES. How bad can life be?” Well, in a lot of ways that’s true. I always enjoyed the performing part of it, and I was never motivated by money. If I could squeak by, that was ok.

As it turns out, I could have more than squeaked by and it was my fault for not doing it. By all accounts, I should have had at least one recording a full ten years before I did. I actually thought about it, but nobody else I knew had one and I thought it may appear egotistical. What a dummy. Ego shmego. It would have been some financial security I could have used to further my career.

It probably would have been a cassette, but the form doesn’t matter. Maybe it would have been a vinyl record album. Or both. The point is, I would have been able to sell them every week and even at low numbers I could have hauled in a nice chunk of change over a ten year time window.

I was averaging at least 45 weeks of work then, and quite a few years I worked 50-52. It wasn’t always the best work in the best clubs, but say I could have averaged ten units a week sold over a ten year period. That’s 450-500 units per year at what likely would have been a $10 retail price.

On the conservative side, say that’s $45,000 over ten years minus say $2 per unit to make. That still leaves me $36,000 had I not touched any of that money – and knowing me I would not have. I’d have saved it for some kind of stunt nobody else would have done. It may have been a flop of epic stature, but that’s me as well. I’ve never been afraid to go all in. I have tasted defeat often.

What if I had spent that $36,000 on TV commercials somewhere or a full page ad in one of the trade papers? When was the last time you saw a comedian or performer of any kind spend money on self promotion? It just doesn’t happen – at least not without management or a recording deal.

There are obviously taxes in there too, and I realize that. I would report every last penny, as it’s just not worth trying to screw the government. I’d rather have a clear conscience and just pay my fair share. Whatever was left would have still been a nice bit of cash to use on some promo stunt.

I wasn’t forced to think that way then, as work was plentiful and nobody was selling anything other than their comedy act. We were ‘artistes’, and that’s great on paper but most of us are now certified vagrant caliber broke and wish we would have had our marketing chops on the way up.

Too late now, but it’s not too late to change. One thing I have that the newbies don’t is a whole lot of experience in front of audiences coast to coast, and a backlog of polished material that I am able to use whenever I need it. That’s part of what paying dues is about, and I’ve put in my time.

Now I’m looking to sell what I’ve been able to create, but in other ways than just saying it on a stage somewhere. What else can I do to get paid? I suppose I could write columns, and I’ve been doing that for the past few months in a publication called “Scene Magazine” in Fond du Lac, WI. My friend Silk Casper asked me to do it, and he’s been making sure I get a check every month.

It’s not huge, but it’s been steady and I guess I can say I’m a published author. I think. I’m not anywhere close to being a professional, but it’s a solid start and I am grateful for the opportunity. Branching out and creating a new stream of income for being funny comes in very handy now.

But I know there’s more – a LOT more. There’s both a flea market and an antique mall within an easy drive from where I live, and I took a lap in both today just to check out that scene. I have been going to thrift stores, flea markets and rummage sales for decades, but now I’m seeing them all with fresh eyes. I used to go there looking to score treasures. Now I’m looking to be a seller.

The marketing skills of the sellers at flea markets and antique malls are all over the place. Most are very poor from my experience, and have little to no people skills. Just a friendly hello when I walk past their display should be the bare minimum, but I’d guess maybe 10% or less will do it.

I went today just to observe, and I learned a lot. I went to the flea market first, and looked at all the displays to see which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t. Most of the stuff was thrown in an unorganized pile, and was difficult to look at. It took work to sort through all of the clutter to see if there was anything I’d want to buy. They made it hard for people to spend money. Not smart.

Even little things like business cards were missing. What if I was looking to sell something one of the dealers specialized in? Maybe I had a relative pass away that was a big collector, and I was looking for someone to help me appraise the collection. Whatever the case, 99% of these mutants didn’t even say hello and maybe strike up a conversation that could have led to a business deal.

One guy there had some old toys, and his display was a bit sloppy but still interesting. He had a pair of old Schlitz salt and pepper shakers that I bought for $10 and an old pair of Schlitz patches from the ‘60s or ‘70s that their drivers used to wear. I can use all of that for “Schlitz Happened!”

The antique mall was a little better, but not much. Most of the vendors that were there were not very talkative, and I found that appalling. They didn’t have to pester me like the stereotype of an old time used car salesman, but a friendly smile and a hello would have been nice. I didn’t get it.

I ended up buying a collection of 50 old ‘Fate’ magazines from the ‘50s through the ‘70s for $1 each, and that was a steal. They’re a great read, packed with tales of UFOs and the paranormal of all kinds. I’ll scour them for King of Uranus ideas, and keep exercising my marketing muscles to use in the future. I want to go out past Uranus, and find ways to make money when I’m sleeping.

I found some Schlitz salt and pepper shakers at a flea market today. I will use them for my one man show 'Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst" www.schlitzhappened.com.

I found some Schlitz salt and pepper shakers at a flea market today. I will use them for ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst.” http://www.schlitzhappened.com.

The same guy sold me two cloth patches Schlitz drivers used to wear in the '60s and '70s.

The same guy sold me two cloth patches Schlitz drivers used to wear in the ’60s.

I also found some old FATE magazines from the '50s through '70s. The cool cover art alone was worth the $1 each I paid for them all.

I also found some old FATE magazines from the ’50s through ’70s. The cover art alone was worth the $1 each I paid for them all.

Will (Durst) Power

January 19, 2014

Thursday January 16th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

2014 is starting off extremely well, and I’m enjoying every second of the ride. I’m trying not to fall behind, but there’s so much going on I can’t help it. Mundane tasks like getting mail, picking up dry cleaning, paying bills and doing laundry tend to pile up, and then everything slows down.

I spent most of today catching up on everything but the laundry, and even though that wouldn’t qualify for anyone’s bucket list it felt great to get it all out of the way. It will clear more room for more of the exciting things I’ve been doing, which is exactly what I’ve always pictured life to be.

What I find most remarkable about this hot streak I’m on is that everything is falling into place both out of the blue and to exact perfection. I’m getting calls for bookings on exactly the nights I happen to be available, whereas it has traditionally been exactly the opposite. I’d get several calls asking for the same date, and had to turn most of them down. Now it’s meshing without a hitch.

Today I picked up two nice bookings in February – both exactly the kind of shows I want to be doing. One is a country club on Valentine’s Day, and the other is a theater I have worked before that I’ve been trying to rebook for several years. Instead of me pestering them, they called me.

Even better about them both is that they’re close to home. I’ll be able to score a pair of paydays and still be home before midnight. These are pure heaven, and they’re coming in frequently from all directions lately. I’m not going to question why, I’m just going to be grateful and take them.

Tonight I happened to have off, but received a personal invitation from the great Will Durst to check out his new one man show “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG” at The Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee. Any time I can see him perform live, I do it. He is one of very few true masters.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Will, if for nothing else his tremendous work ethic. That guy is ALWAYS working on something, and this is his latest incarnation. He had a long run of another one man show about the 2012 Presidential election, but as soon as that was over so was his show.

Will has been known for decades as one of the premiere political satirists anywhere, and that is no easy feat to pull off. Things are constantly changing in that arena, and his shelf life of material is painfully short. He has to continuously keep it all fresh, but he always manages to do just that.

This particular show has gone in the opposite direction – which shows how loaded with ability Will truly is. In many ways it’s like my “Schlitz Happened!” show in that it was made to please a large audience that isn’t being catered to by Hollywood. It was a business decision for both of us.

That doesn’t mean there can’t be passion in it, and I really enjoyed the show. One feature that’s beyond hilarious is Will uses an actual overhead projector which really adds to the theme of what he’s talking about. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s already a high quality product. He nails it.

Will Durst is evolving, and so am I. We both have plenty of show experience, but our business has been lacking through the years. We’re both doing something about it, and I see bright futures for each of us. Any smart fan of standup comedy needs to be a fan of Durst. http://www.willdurst.com.

Will Durst is one of the top standup comics and political satirists of the modern era. www.willdurst.com.

Will Durst is one of the top standup comics and political satirists of the modern era. He is a true master. http://www.willdurst.com.

He wrote and stars in a hilarious one man show aimed at the baby boom generation called "BoomerRaging: From LSD to OMG".

He wrote and stars in a hilarious one man show aimed at the baby boom generation called “BoomerRaging: From LSD to OMG”.

Will performed it tonight in his home town of Milwaukee at Next Act Theatre - a terrific venue to see live entertainment. www.nextact.org.

Will performed it tonight in his home town of Milwaukee at Next Act Theatre – a terrific venue to see live entertainment. Will was terrific too. http://www.nextact.org.

Wasted Worries

December 24, 2013

Saturday December 21st, 2013 – LaGrange, IL/Milwaukee, WI

One of the very best pieces of advice I ever got was from a guy I worked with in radio in Reno in the ‘90s. His radio name was Bob Garrison, but his real name is Marty Beimer. It’s funny how many radio people I know by both their radio and real names, and how totally different they are.

I remember discovering that at my first radio job in Lansing, MI in 1990. We had our checks in envelopes to be picked up at the receptionist desk, and as I was rifling through the pile looking to find mine I saw a bunch of names I didn’t recognize. They were all the real names of everybody.

People ask me all the time if Dobie Maxwell is my REAL name. Well, that’s a tricky question. Is that the name I was born with? No. I don’t hide the fact that I changed it legally in 1991. So, is Dobie Maxwell my “real” name? Absolutely. Actually, it’s Dobie J. Maxwell. I thought it would sound classier, so I added the J. Whenever someone asks what it stands for, I tell them “genius”.

Only about one in fifty get it, but those that do laugh out loud. The other forty-nine idiots think I actually don’t know how to spell the word genius and that ruins the joke. It’s too late to change it again, so at this point I’ll just live with it. The only exception would be to “King Of Uranus”.

How funny would that be to have that on a driver’s license or credit card? I wouldn’t do it until I achieved at least a modicum of fame as that character, or I’d be just another kook bag. I think it would be hilarious to sign a tax return or car title with that name, but that’s a ways off just yet.

I digress from the point I was trying to make about Bob/Marty. I was going through the hardest stretch of my life, and I was right in the middle of the whole bank robbery fiasco. It looked bleak to say the least, and there were no guarantees that I wouldn’t be doing significant prison time even though I wasn’t the one that robbed the bank. My lawyer told me that really didn’t matter much.

There were all kinds of horrific scenarios playing out in my head, and life was really a bummer on every level. People were giving me all kinds of cockamamie “advice”, but Marty laid it on the line better than anyone I’ve ever heard. He said “I know you’re scared to death, but 95% or more of all the things you’re worrying about will never become reality. Remember that.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear and it really got me through the jungle at that time. He was totally correct, and almost none of the terrible things I had feared ended up happening except that I had to testify against my lifelong best friend in court. That was a bad experience for sure, but it wasn’t nearly as life ending as it looked at first. Worry can add a high level of stress to one’s life.

I have to admit I was more than a little concerned about the possibility of rough weather I’d be facing today as I drove to my gigs, but it ended up coming off 100% hassle free. I made it to the afternoon party in LaGrange, IL and the people were really happy with the show. It was a big hit, and I was able to easily drive up to Milwaukee with plenty of time to spare for the shows there.

The audiences tonight at Northern Lights Theater were terrific, and were really into both of the “Schlitz Happened!” shows. I’m ready to take this to the next level, and excited about what 2014 will bring. Unfortunately it’s not what one prepares for that’s trouble, it’s the surprise problems.

Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman says it best.

Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman says it best.

Weather Worries

December 21, 2013

Friday December 20th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

Hear that sound? That’s my bung hole slamming shut. There’s supposed to be nasty weather on the way, and it’s really scaring me. I know it goes with the territory this time of year living in the place I do, but I happen to have a lot of places I have to be in the next few days and I’m worried.

There are buckets of money in those places, and if I don’t get there live and in the flesh to pick them up I don’t get paid. They’re not huge buckets and they’re not filled with money, but there is enough at stake to make me risk driving through a blizzard to get it. I do hope that’s not the case.

Tomorrow I have to be in LaGrange, IL at 1:30pm to do an afternoon Christmas party show for Marc Schultz. I performed for this group before several years ago, and they were very nice. They hire a comedian every year, and they wanted me back. That’s very flattering, but LaGrange is far from where I’m living and if there’s ugly weather it could be a nightmare getting there on time.

After that I have to be in Milwaukee for two more performances of “Schlitz Happened!” at the Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Casino. On paper in ideal conditions there shouldn’t be a problem and I will make it with plenty of time to spare. Life isn’t lived on paper. I’m concerned.

On Sunday I have a booking at The Island Casino in Harris, MI which is near Escanaba. That’s in the Upper Peninsula, and that’s never an easy trip even in the summer. It’s a two lane highway north of Green Bay, and last time I did it it was winter and it was white knuckles the whole way.

The people at Island Casino are very nice to the comedians, and I enjoy working there. I enjoy working at Potawatomi too. They treat us about as well as anywhere I work, and the last thing I’d ever want to do would be to give them less than my very best show. I want to get there on time so I can relax and do what I was hired to do. Right now, I have no idea how the weather will play out.

Allegedly, the nasty weather is supposed to hit Wisconsin in the early evening and last through the night into Sunday morning. The Chicago area’s weather reports say if anything it will be later on Saturday as well. I’m going to be leaving the Chicago area in the afternoon, so I hope I’m ok.

But nothing says the snow can’t show up earlier, later, or even not at all. Usually they can get it halfway accurate that we’re going to have some kind of snowfall, and that’s what’s making me a nervous wreck. I need all of this money very badly, and I don’t want to miss any of these shows.

The biggest risk looks like on the way to Harris, but then I have to get back and start my drive to Tucson, AZ where I’ve got shows on Friday, Saturday and then New Year’s Eve. I have a few days of a cushion to get there, but not a lot. Who knows what kind of horrors await on the roads?

I wasn’t able to get a cheap enough flight to make it worth my while, and ones I did find were in and out of Phoenix so I’d have to rent a car anyway. I decided to rent a car and make the drive across country so I could spend Christmas by myself and not have to bother anyone. Again, that sounded great on paper but there’s not a lot of paper between Chicago and Tucson. There’s road, and about 1800 miles of it each way. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it by Friday, but there’s not any guarantee. I’ll do my best, but Mother Nature has the final say. I’ll earn every penny I make.

Hopefully this won't be me in the next three days as I have to get to some shows with nasty weather in the forecast.

Hopefully this won’t be me in the next three days as I have to get to some shows with nasty weather in the forecast.

I'm fine with a White Christmas, but this is a little too white for my tastes.

I’m all for a White Christmas, but this is a little too white for my tastes.

Parallel parking is hard enough. Perpendicular parking is out of the question.

Parallel parking is hard enough. Perpendicular parking is out of the question.

These are the only blizzards I want to see for the rest of 2013.

These are the only blizzards I want to see for the rest of 2013.

Christmas Comedy

December 14, 2013

Friday December 13th, 2013 – Antigo, WI

Who says Friday the 13th has to be full of bad luck only? I caught a major break with a comedy fill in Christmas party booking in Antigo, WI tonight, and I couldn’t be any more grateful. Roger Radley is a comedian from Wisconsin, and he originally got this booking but already had a gig.

These next two weekends are ripe for company Christmas parties, but unfortunately sometimes multiple opportunities come up that aren’t doable and need to be passed on to someone else. I’ve been there myself and it’s frustrating to have to leave money on the table, but there’s no choice.

Once in a great while there are two parties in the same area at different times, but that’s pretty rare. Next week I have an afternoon party on Saturday in the Chicago area, and then I do ‘Schlitz Happened!’ in Milwaukee that night. I get a double payday, and life is sweet when it works out.

More often than not it doesn’t, and that’s why Roger passed this party on to me. He’s working a show somewhere else for more money, and that’s great. I am thrilled he thought of me for this one, and hopefully he can come in next year and get the payday here. They were all nice people.

The company was called Volm Manufacturing, and my contact person was a lady named Tami Stueck who couldn’t have been easier to deal with. She was extremely on the ball, and I wish all contact people were like her. She got back to me immediately with any questions I had, and was always pleasant to deal with. She sent me a contract, and every detail was followed to the letter.

Christmas parties can be difficult for many reasons, a major one being that the company is not in the entertainment business. They know nothing about putting on a show, and often conditions can be downright nasty. Tami made sure I had a sound system and a DJ to give an introduction.

The DJ was a great guy too, and took great pains to get my credits so he could give me a solid introduction. Not many DJs will show that kind of respect, but this guy totally did. His name was Brandon Irish, and goes by ‘DJ Irish’. He gave me a stellar intro, and that always makes it easier.

There were several hundred people in attendance, and it was a wide range of ages. That can be an issue, much like trying to DJ a wedding. No matter what song gets played, someone will hate it. It’s a challenge to grab an audience like this and keep everyone for the whole show, but that’s the job so I did my best. In these situations it’s always best to err on the side of clean vs. dirty.

Indirectly I was representing Roger, but Tami was the person at risk because if I got out of line it would bounce back on her. She was such a sweetheart to deal with that I wouldn’t want to put her in that kind of a spot, so I found myself being extra cautious so I wouldn’t put her in danger.

What ended up helping was a lone Minnesota Vikings fan who’d had a few decide to pipe up at me from the bar. I easily put him in his place, but not in a nasty way and that got the audience on my side. I didn’t have to get ugly, and the crowd loved it. I’m there for them, so I’ll do whatever is necessary to please them. These aren’t career gigs, but they are decent money and every penny of what I made tonight after expenses will go to paying off my credit card. I’ll take bookings like this any time, and shut my mouth. I stayed in a nice hotel and got my check. Thank you Roger!

 Friday the 13th doesn't have to be bad luck only. Today Mr. Lucky caught a break and I'm grateful.

Friday the 13th doesn’t have to be bad luck only. Today Mr. Lucky caught a break and I’m grateful.

Wisconsin comedian Roger Radley had another gig tonight, but he recommended me for a Christmas party in Antigo, WI. Thanks Roger!

Wisconsin comedian Roger Radley had another gig tonight, but he recommended me for a Christmas party in Antigo, WI. Thanks Roger! http://www.rogerradley.com

Tami Stueck and everyone at Volm Manufacturing were both easy and pleasant to deal with.  A sincere thanks to them as well.

Tami Stueck and everyone at Volm Manufacturing were both easy and pleasant to deal with. A sincere thanks to them as well.

Rust Removal

December 1, 2013

Saturday November 30th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

I’m back in my home town of Milwaukee for another four week run of “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst” at Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Casino. I love to perform on that stage, but it’s an adjustment to get myself back in the mode of doing this show.

The biggest obstacle to overcome up front is length of performance. The casino is expecting 80 minutes which is fine, but that’s significantly longer than the 45-50 minutes most standup shows typically are. That’s a lot of time to fill, and it requires a few times through to establish a groove.

I had a four week run in April, and that was my main focus then too. I felt myself get smoother with each performance, and I felt it again tonight. It’s a long way from being anywhere close to a finished product, but I have to go through the process and lay a foundation that can be built upon.

One thing I’ve been doing to prepare for this run is dropping in bits and stories from this show in my standup act over the last few months. They’re personal stories about my life with comedy added, and they fit perfectly with what I was doing. The audiences didn’t know I was practicing, but that’s exactly what I was doing. It paid off tonight as I was able to add those bits seamlessly.

I had people show up tonight that saw me in April, and they said “I saw you threw in some new material since last time. I liked it.” Mission accomplished. I also threw in some old material I had not done in several years, and that worked too. I put a lot of work into tonight, and will continue.

This is an ideal situation to shape this show, and I am not taking it lightly. I would never phone it in and cheat either the audience or the casino, but there has to be a place to experiment with the content and order so I can figure out what works best. This will be a constant process for a while.

It felt really good to pull off the 80 minutes on stage both shows tonight, but that’s just the start of the process. The next six performances over three weeks will involve constant tweaking of the order, and deciding what to add and leave out. This is a workshop, and I’ll do my due diligence.

On top of all that, I need to get myself out there and promote it. There are several media outlets in town to approach, and I’ll contact Kim Mitschke on Monday to get that process in motion. She is the media liaison for the casino, and really easy to work with. I’m sure she’ll have some ideas.

I’m glad we didn’t hit it hard promotionally for this first week back. I hadn’t done the show for eight months, and I wanted a chance to get my legs back. There’s always rust to remove, and that was to be expected. Still, we had a respectable turnout and it didn’t stink. That’s all I can ask for.

The next six shows are going to show significant improvement, and I will do all I can to get out there and put butts in seats. It really is a gorgeous facility, and nobody can complain about ticket prices as admission is free when someone signs up for a Fire Keeper’s card. http://www.paysbig.com.

This is exactly the right fit on so many levels. It’s getting me out of the bar gig scene, and into a theater situation which is always better. I know the audience for this show may be limited, but those that get it really love it. I’m going to enjoy the next six shows. http://www.schlitzhappened.com.

This is a caricature of me done by former Milwaukee Journal political cartoonist Bill Sanders. He gave it to me as a gift, and I'm extremely grateful. It's my logo for my show 'Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst'. It's playing the next three Saturdays in Milwaukee at the Northern Lights Theate. www.paysbig.com

This is a caricature of me done by former Milwaukee Journal political cartoonist Bill Sanders. He gave it to me as a gift, and I’m extremely grateful. It’s the logo for my show ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst’. It’s playing the next three Saturdays in Milwaukee at the Northern Lights Theate. http://www.paysbig.com

The Uphill Journey

November 20, 2013

Tuesday November 19th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

I have a full week of quality work this week, and I couldn’t be happier. This is how every week used to be, and it was like that for so long I got used to it and assumed it would never end. That’s pretty stupid, but I wasn’t the only one. There are a lot of road comics in the same sinking boat.

It’s getting harder and harder to stay booked every week, and less and less comedians are doing it. I personally know comedians who have been at it longer than I have and have more TV credits and they’re working less than I am. It’s getting rough out there, and having a steady run is sweet.

November has been pleasantly busy, and I have some better paying work lined up in December with a run of “Schlitz Happened!” at the Northern Lights Theatre in Milwaukee along with a few holiday parties that have come up lately. Hopefully a few more will pop up, and they just might.

People book their parties late, and some companies even postpone until January. My January is looking ok, but after that it’s a snow white calendar. That’s never good, but something will come up as it always does. I just wish I could snag a stretch of high paid work that would last a while.

A radio gig would be great, and I’ve been pushing that of late. Art Bell has quit his new show on XM Sirius apparently, and word has it they are looking for a replacement. I know I could hit a home run with a gig like that, but I have to convince someone at Sirius. My old radio ally Kipper McGee happens to know a few people over there, and said he’d at least find out what he could.

The point is that the process of looking for work and keeping income flowing inward is never ending. The last several weeks have been good, as is this week. Next week isn’t so hot, and so it goes. Months are like that and so are years. After it’s all added up, self employment is unstable.

Tonight’s assignment was hosting the ’10 Comedians for $10’ show at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL. It’s a lot like the Rising Star Showcase at the Chicago Zanies in that there are a lot of acts trying to work their way up the ranks and make it to that elusive ‘next level’. Not all do it.

It’s not always a matter of talent either. It’s a giant numbers game, and there are only so many spots available. The supply greatly outnumbers the demand, and it becomes a log jam. I’ve been lucky to have been on the right end of this particular version of it, but it’s a game I play as well.

A lot of rejection is involved in this game, so I always try to go out of my way to be friendly to the people showcasing. I give them a larger than life stellar introduction, and get the audience to focus on the stage as much as possible. Not every host does that, and it makes the acts feel good.

It’s really not all that difficult to treat people with respect, and I always find it worth the effort. It’s exactly how I’d like to be treated, but too often am not. It’s the old Golden Rule in action and living proof being nice can make a tangible difference. I find it important to set a good example.

It’s funny how the showcasers look at me like I have some kind of power because I’m ‘in’ with Zanies. I’m out there struggling week to week just like them, just on a different level. I hope they aren’t thinking it gets any easier, as it never does. An entertainer’s journey always travels uphill.

The entertainer's road always travels uphill.

The entertainer’s road always travels uphill.

Barbecued Buttocks

November 8, 2013

Thursday November 7th, 2013 – Ft. Atkinson, WI

There has been an incredible fire lit directly under my buttocks, and I am motivated like I can’t ever remember. The main ingredient in that fire is fear. If I don’t get myself making money soon I’m going to have some really rough times ahead – as if I haven’t had to deal with any until now.

I have sacrificed my entire adult life to hone my craft, and now it’s time for a payoff. It’s like a farmer taking his crops to market. Whatever it took to get those crops planted, watered, grown to maturity and then harvested is all history. All that matters is how much he can get for his supply.

I’ve got more than one crop to sell, and that’s a plus. I have a rock solid standup comedy show that I can perform to a wide variety of audiences from clubs to cruise ships to a corporate setting. I have never been a ‘saloon act’, and that’s going to be a huge help. It’s not where the money is.

Theatres and nicer venues have always been what I aspire to, and whenever I’ve been fortunate enough to play them I feel totally at home. I played some sweet venues in 2003 when I competed in the San Francisco Comedy Competition, and that has always stayed with me as what I wanted on a much more regular basis. The mythical smoky nightclub has never been where I want to be.

That’s why I totally love doing my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at Northern Lights Theatre in the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. That’s exactly the kind of venue I picture, and everything that I need comes with it. The lights and sound are as good as it gets, and the staff couldn’t be nicer.

They have an advertising budget, and it’s a venue everyone has heard of. This is where to be in my opinion, but there are a lot of comedians who enjoy the bar gig scene. It’s home to them, and I’ll gladly let them have it. I want to focus on performing in venues where I get paid a lot better.

Another crop I have to sell is radio content. I have paid my dues there too, and can either host a show myself or be a funny sidekick. I’ve got years of hands on experience doing both, and would be able to walk right in to any radio station in North America to start a job tomorrow. I’m ready.

Cruise ships are another arena I’ve had experience and paid some dues. It was a big adjustment at first, but I was able to really improve in a short time, mainly because I had so much experience to draw from. None of it came easy, but sometimes farmers have a hard time nurturing their crop. There might be drought or flood or locusts or who knows what? It doesn’t matter. That’s history.

If I can just hang in there, I have to believe the future looks quite bright. I know I’m able to do the big shows – whatever it happens to be – but now I need someone to give me my shot. That’s the next step, and I’ve been putting the word out with as many people as I can reach in these last couple of days. I’m in touch with a major radio station in Chicago, and a cruise ship booker also.

I’m not going to keep doing what I’ve been doing forever, but I did have a show tonight in Fort Atkinson, WI at a bar called ‘Fat Boyz’. I’ve been there a couple of times before, and had a good time. It’s an older crowd, and they love comedy. There were about 60 people in there, and it was a fun show in addition to being a much appreciated payday on a Thursday night. I’d much rather be doing theatres, cruise ships and radio, and as hot as the fire feels on my buttocks I’ll get there.

There has been a fire lit under my buttocks.

There has been a fire lit under my buttocks.

Like a farmer, I have worked hard to develop my crop. Now it's time to get my payoff.

Like a farmer, I have worked hard to develop my crop. Now it’s time to get my payoff for a lifetime of paying dues.

If you're in Milwaukee in December, come see "Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst" at Northern Lights Theatre! www.paysbig.com

If you’re in Milwaukee in December, come see “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” at Northern Lights Theatre! http://www.paysbig.com