Posts Tagged ‘Steve DeClark’

Something’s Missing

February 21, 2010

Saturday February 20th, 2010 – Racine, WI

Will any work I do ever satisfy me? The older I get, the more I‘m doubting it. I’m trying to enjoy shows more, but sometimes I just can’t lower my standards. When I’m on stage, I want to send people into a new dimension of time and space. I aspire to knock socks off.

Most of it is for the audience, but part of it is for me too. I am a huge fan of all kinds of entertainment, and I know how difficult it is to do it correctly. I’ve seen good and bad and also myself been good and bad, so I know the difference. I want to blow audiences away.

Lately, by all accounts I’ve been doing exactly that. Even more people than usual have come up to me after shows telling me they haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. I love hearing them say that, and I’m sincere when I thank them, but I know I’m still not there.

Last night at CD&ME in Frankfort, IL was a very good example. My friend and fellow Jerry’s Kidder Ken Sevara told me the crowd loved me, and I think they did, but I wasn’t at all satisfied with my show. They loved their part, but mine was not up to my standards. I felt like a couple of cylinders weren’t firing, and I wanted the overdrive gear to kick in.

Sometimes, an audience just can’t laugh any more. They’ve given all they have, and no matter how hard a comedian works, that’s the best anyone can do. I’ve gotten to that point countless times, but I still think I can get more. Hearing a large crowd pop with a big hard   crisp hearty laugh is a drug, and it never gets old. It’s an explosion of energy and I love it.

Tonight was another example. I did a show at the Racine Theatre Guild with my old pal Steve DeClark. It’s a wonderful facility and I was there with Steve last year too. We had a hot audience then, and tonight’s was right there with them. They were polite and listening the whole time and there were no drunken outbursts. In other words, it was a dream night.

Lou Rugani from WLIP came out along with Mark Gumbinger, the director of the film ‘Dead Air’ in which Lou is the star and I have a part. Carol Strempler is a regular listener to WLIP and calls in to both Lou’s show and The Mothership Connection, and she’s also in the movie. They all made it a point to come out and see me and I was very flattered.

The whole staff at the Racine Theatre Guild couldn’t have been any nicer, and these are the kinds of shows I’ve always dreamed of doing. There might not have been jam packed houses of thousands of people, but those who did come were as good as a crowd can get.

I loved performing for them, and I gave them everything I had. I got several pops during the show and at the end a large number gave me a standing ovation. What a rush that was! I knew they meant it and I bowed low in gratitude and meant that too. They were the best.

So why am I still not satisfied? I’m not. Grateful? Yes! Satisfied? Uh uh. I just feel I’m able to improve significantly, and I’m not up to my standards even though those who saw it this weekend enjoyed it. I’m glad they did, but I know I can do better. Time to prove it.

This really bothered me as I drove home tonight, and I know it shouldn’t. I’ve been on a red hot run lately and I should be on top of the world. I’ve had a lot of comedians tell me recently how they keep hearing my name being mentioned and how strong my shows are.

That’s really nice to hear, but it’s even better to hear people say I’ve helped them along the way and given them advice when they started. That means even more. I try very hard to be a quality person, but I know there are still those who think I’m a card carrying wank. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. I’ve tried to right all my wrongs, but a few just won’t let me.

Some of those people are in my own family. My sister lives in Racine, or at least I think she still does. She hasn’t spoken to me in going on 17 years now, and I doubt if I’ll get an opportunity to ever turn that situation around. That’s really sad and in a perfect world she would have been at the show tonight laughing with everyone else. But that didn’t happen.

We should have had a great dinner and some laughs before the show, and all her friends and neighbors could have come out to enjoy themselves also. I’m at the top of my game, and it’s taken a lifetime of sacrifice to get to this point – and I’m still not satisfied with it. Something deep down inside tells me I’m not doing everything I can to be my very best.

Part of it is knowing a lot of the mistakes I made are too late to correct. They’ve helped shape where I am now, and had I known better I’d have chosen differently. Other things I did know better but wasn’t able to choose differently. Living in L.A. is an example. I was out of money when I lived there and it would have been stupid to stay. I never went back.

There are plenty of other boo boos on my resume too, but through all of them I’ve never given up. I’m still out here slugging. I may have my enemies, and I may be my own worst one at times, but I’m still in the game and as long as that’s true I have the chance to win.

Now I have to figure out exactly what I think that would be. I used to think it would be attaining headliner status and working places like The Racine Theatre Guild for people in soft seats who came out to be entertained. That happened tonight, but it wasn’t enough. It was still hollow after the show when everyone was gone and I was by myself in the car.

A feeling of  extreme emptiness came over me as I hoped I haven’t wasted my life. I’ve had to struggle so hard to get where I am that I haven’t had a chance to really take a good long objective look at what I’ve done right. I’ve always been too busy fixing my mistakes.

I’m the first one to admit I’m crazy, but I’m not stupid. My mistakes are part of my past but I’ve done a lot of smart things too. My life has been an odd mix and even I don’t have a clue sometimes as to where I’m going or what will make me happy. That’s pretty dumb.

I’ve always been the happiest when I’m able to give something to someone who enjoys it. If I can help someone by teaching a class or offering encouragement or just being their friend I always try to do it. Maybe I’m not doing it enough, and that’s why I feel so empty right now. Maybe it’s a part of growing as an artist, but I feel I’m not where I want to be.


Goodbye January

February 1, 2010

Sunday January 31st, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

What happened to the new year we just started? It seems like just last week we were all jazzed up about new beginnings and wiping the slate clean and everybody was optimistic about everything. We were all going to eat better and exercise and save money and begin living our dreams and nothing and nobody was going to stop us. So who did? Ourselves.

Maybe I can’t speak for everyone else, but I sure can speak for me. I have been halfway decent about doing SOME of the things I’ve wanted to do, but I’m far from satisfied as to what I want to be doing with my life as a whole. I’ve fallen short of my new year’s goals.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done that, and it’s not the first time I’ve been disappointed. Maybe my standards are too high to achieve realistically, but I’m sure not going to lower them any time soon. If anything, I’ll bump them up even higher. I don’t want second best.

I’ve done some good things in this first month of 2010, but I’ve also let some things fall through the cracks. I suppose I could beat myself up for the things I blew, but they’re still going to be blown. I could also bask in the things I did well, but I still have holes to fill.

The smart thing is to do both. Acknowledge the things I did correctly first, then evaluate what I missed and make plans to improve. Knowing me, I need to start writing everything down in order so I’ll have a plan of action right in front of my face at all times. I need that so I can have a constant reminder what I need to be doing. I have a tendency to fragment.

The highlight of this whole month has been my comedy work onstage. From the shows in Eau Claire, WI on New Year’s Eve to the hot show at The Schauer Center in Hartford, WI with Steve DeClark to the club weeks at Riddles in Alsip, IL and Zanies in St. Charles at the Pheasant Run Resort, it’s been a fantastic month. I’ve been happy with my effort.

I also got a chance to be in the play “You’re On The Air” with Jerry’s Kidders too. That was a positive on many levels. One, it was just plain fun. Also, we brought an idea to life from just a bunch of people sitting around brainstorming to an actual live performance at a legitimate theater. That was a huge step, and it felt great to see it develop from thin air.

I did make steps to get Uranus Factory Outlet up and running by meeting with web guy Mark Huelskamp, and that’s coming along as we speak. I saw his rough draft and it’s not exactly what I want, but that’s the process. My other guy Brian did the same thing, and it isn’t anyone’s fault. I need to learn to communicate how I want it to look. It’ll get done.

That’s about all that I really did well this month. I’ve been running all over the place in a tizzy trying to show up for work, and everything else has fallen by the wayside. My life and everything in it looks like Haiti, but at least they have an excuse. I had no earthquake to put me in this situation, I did it myself. I’ve been so busy chasing around that all of my maintenance chores have fallen way behind. Emails are piled up worse than ever, as are a bunch of phone calls I need to return. I have no real schedule as to when to do that either.

That’s why it can tend to get so frustrating. I’ve been so busy with doing everything else that this stuff piles up. The more I look at it the more it frustrates me, but then I’ll have to leave for a gig or run an errand and it goes even longer. I need to find a way to get better.

Another thing that has fallen off the truck is my feeble attempt at daily exercise. Usually it consisted of a lap or two or sometimes even three through the Gurnee Mills Mall, and I have to say it felt really great when I was in a semi regular groove with it. I start and stop and start again and stop again and then it’s like I never started. That’s how it feels now.

My diet has been pretty bad too. I started out rather strong, but it’s a month later and it’s all over the place again. Whatever plan I did have is gone, and I feel sluggish and way out of anything even close to ‘shape’. Again, that takes any self esteem and kicks it in the ass.

There are a lot more things not up to speed in my life than are, at least how I see it. That makes it difficult to get into any kind of a positive groove. Momentum can work for good if things are going that way, but right now I don’t feel it at all. I feel like I’m wandering.

January is now gone, and it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be. It went way to fast and I pissed some of it away wasting time. I’ll never get that time back, and I can either make it motivate me to make February better or let it smother me and squelch any future dreams.

February is the shortest month, and my birthday month is after that. My birthday is only six weeks away, and if I keep up my current strategy I’ll be very depressed and hollow on that day, as nothing will have gotten done between now and then. I really don’t want that.

So what can I do to make this next six weeks my own personal boot camp? First, I need a plan of action. What’s important? At first thought, it’s balance. I have so many things to work on, I really don’t know where to start. I had some great shows in January, but I have a pretty empty calendar in February by comparison. I have a few bookings, but not many.

I’ll take that as a positive. The bookings I do have will pay my rent and gas, and if I can get myself in motion I can make some dents in what I’ve been letting get away lately. I’ve been putting this all off too long, and it’s time to get to work. No excuses, I’m in a slump.

First and foremost, I want to exercise every day in February. Period. I enjoy taking laps in the mall like an old fart, partly because I’m becoming an old fart. If I’m lucky, I’ll live to really be one. If I keep eating lard, sugar and grease, my heart will pop before Easter.

Second, I need to make time to clean out my paperwork, phone messages, emails, taxes, bookings, website, clutter and anything else that is distracting me. I have six weeks to get ready for my birthday and a truly happy one will be if I can get myself back to square one.

Can I do it? Yes, I probably can. That’s not the question. It’s WILL I do it? I wish I had a way to guarantee that one. I intended to get a lot more done in January than I did, but all bets are now off. I blew it, or at least part of it. February is now here. Time to look ahead.

Cross My Hartford

January 9, 2010

Friday January 8th, 2010 – Hartford, WI

I finally got my car situation taken care of. I hope. I was wrong about the fuel pump, it’s the distributor, wires and plugs. Apparently that’s one of the few things that seem to be an issue with Toyota Camry models from 1993, or at least that’s what the mechanic told me.

The bill came to $550, and that seemed quite high for a distributor and wires, but that’s how it is when you’re living the cockroach lifestyle and take chances like this. Some time or another everyone ends up paying, whether it’s buying a new car or nursing an old one.

I feel like I’m at an animal shelter trying to rescue pets. There aren’t many cute puppies left to choose from, I’m just looking for something that won’t die on the way home. After this whole Cash For Clunkers thing has drained my supply of cheap cars, I’m lucky to get the one I did. Still, it’s a Toyota Camry, and even if it has high miles it’s still a smart bet.

Just because I sprung for the money doesn’t guarantee it will last past tomorrow. I could get stung over and over again but I don’t want to think about that. I need this chariot to be faithful for at least a year, and that’s my plan going in. I’ve still only got $1750 tied up for a total investment, and that’s pretty cheap. But, things can add up quickly. It’s a gamble.

Part of me wouldn’t know what to do with a nice car. I’ve had them before, and paid all my loans off early. Unfortunately, I put so many miles on cars that I never had anything to show for them once I did pay them off. That and the credit nightmare of losing my house in Utah have kept me fishing cars out of the auction for the last ten years. I’m used to it.

I’m rapidly tiring of having to deal with these surprises. Yes, I do enjoy going to the car auction but not under these circumstances. If I were finding a second car for someone else or a toy for myself, it would be straight fun. When I need dependable wheels, it’s stressful to have one take a splattering poo in the dead of winter. But, that’s how it’s worked out.

All of it seems to be under control, at least for the moment. I ended up making it to my gig last night in Wisconsin Dells and tonight I made it up to Hartford, WI for a really fun show at a place called The Schauer Arts And Activities Center. It was a fantastic night.

My friend Steve DeClark booked this show because he and Jane Matenaer did their play about marriage there. Jane is a long time Milwaukee radio personality who grew up out in Hartford and I’ve know her for years too. She’s very talented and I always respected her.

The venue promoted it well and it was totally sold out. I had to stand way in the back in the corner to watch Steve’s set, and I’m thrilled to have had that problem. Normally, there are seats available when Mr. Lucky is performing, no matter how frustrating that may be.

Not so tonight. This was a big hit from top to bottom. The venue was happy with us and I was thrilled with the venue. The sound was excellent, as were the lights. The whole staff treated us very well and the audience came to laugh. I tried to think of what was missing.

Then, it dawned on me: drunken idiots. There were no drunken idiots at this show and it felt SO good to not have to deal with that for a change. I didn’t realize it until I was up on stage, but when I did I knew I liked this better. I’ve fought drunks in clubs my whole life.

THIS is the kind of venue I need to be working. It was top notch on all levels. The pay I got tonight was more than I got for my entire infamous week at Giggles in Brookfield and there was absolutely zero stress to go with it. The check didn’t bounce tonight because no checks were involved. I got paid in cash, like I’m supposed to. It was very professional.

Those apes at Giggles and Comedy Café both did me a huge favor by pulling those dirty stunts they did. Bouncing checks to comedians is inexcusable, and not only that they were mean spirited in how they handled it. Both of those clubs are run by halfwits, and I’m SO glad I don’t have to go back there anymore. The karma train will see they both get theirs.

Tonight’s experience was nothing at all like that. It was a transformation. I knew it from the first thirty seconds on stage. I was home. The people were there to listen, so I used my local reference lexicon as much as I could and it was a bull‘s eye. I said the name of what I want to call my one man show about Milwaukee and they applauded. They totally got it.

This is all extremely encouraging. If I had to do shows like this every weekend, my life would be a lot less stressful. It was a short drive, I hung with friends and a full house was laughing hard the whole time. I ended up doing exactly one solid hour and that’s another very encouraging accomplishment. I’m really starting to stretch my comedy boundaries.

The normal headliner spot in a comedy club is about 45 minutes. Believe me, that’s NO easy task. It’s especially hard to have to follow two mediocre inexperienced acts and have to deal with a room full of boozed up maniacs who got in for free. I’ve never enjoyed that part and it’s getting worse. Nobody polices the rooms anymore and it’s an absolute zoo.

Nobody had to do any policing tonight, and in fact the ushers all gathered in the back of the room and were watching the show. I could see them from the stage, and they laughed as hard or harder than the paying customers. That’s another thing, people PAID to see the show tonight. They made an investment and were very polite and let me pay them back.

I can’t say enough good things about the whole experience tonight. Steve DeClark is an excellent promoter and every show I do with him gets easier and easier. He gets to keep a finger on performing while still making a few bucks for himself. What’s wrong with that?

I get to show up and go up. In a perfect world, that’s all I ever want to have to do. If any promoter can make a few bucks, I’m all for it. I know Steve isn’t raping me like the clubs used to, but they do it to all the comics. We’re just meat to them. This was our own baby.

More than ever, I know I can pull off a locally based show. The audience for it was here tonight. There are thousands of these people all over the Milwaukee area, and they’ll love the show. This is the most fun I’ve had on stage since…last night. I’m on a positive roll.