Posts Tagged ‘Steve Purcell’

Piper Payment

December 11, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Comedy Conquers Cancer

September 24, 2012

Saturday September 23rd, 2102 – Sparta, WI

   If life could get any more fun than I had today, I bet I’d have to pay a serious cover charge. It’s days like this that will hopefully put a smile on my face should I be lucky enough to survive long enough to make it into a nursing home. I’ll drool into my yogurt cup thinking about the fun I had on stage working with the people I liked the most. Today will be a day I will use as the standard.

Bill Gorgo, Tim Walkoe and I were booked in Sparta, WI along with our friend Jim Wiggins to do a cancer benefit set up by Jim’s son Josh. It was held at a bowling alley of all places in a very well set up banquet room that had a seating capacity of 330 – and I didn’t see any of them empty.

Josh worked extremely hard organizing the evening, and even hand built the stage we stood on. His wife Amy decorated the stage area with a huge backdrop, and everyone in town pitched in to make the event a huge success. I’ve seen nights like this totally tank it, as everyone drops the ball by not doing what they say they’ll do. Not tonight. This was one of the best run events I’ve seen.

Everyone in the comedy world adores Jim Wiggins. You can’t help but love him, as his energy precedes him into a room like cheap perfume on an ugly stripper. Jim is a giant of a soul, and his warmth is contagious to everyone around him. Everywhere he goes, he’s a magnet for people on all levels from other comedians to wait staff in restaurants to audiences at his shows. It’s magic.

Jim has survived cancer two times now, and has just been informed it’s back. He will be going through the ugliness of chemo yet again, but he’s got the balls of a burglar about facing it. He is an inspiration to everyone, and that’s why we all wanted to be a part of this show out of respect.

This was an absolutely stellar lineup of comedians, and to make it even more fun Steve Purcell drove up from Madison to hang out and be a part of it. Steve has worked with all of us and is on everyone’s list of favorite people. He took my comedy class at Zanies years ago, and is a shining example of why I teach them. He’s funny and classy and having him there added to the evening.

To really put the whole night over the top, Jim was surprised by his daughter who flew in from Colorado Springs to surprise him. Nobody knew she was coming, and it was emotional to watch Jim’s reaction when he saw her. There’s a lot of love there from his kids, and that’s something I just can’t relate to unfortunately. I never experienced anything even close to that with my father.

The vibe in the room was red hot from the start of the show right to the end. Tim and Bill and I rocked the house, but we’ve all got decades of experience and knew what to do. Steve did a guest set and knocked that out of the park as well – but we all knew this was Jim’s night and wanted to let him enjoy his moment. He was magnificent, and he did it in front of his kids, friends and fans.

Hanging out with fellow comedians can be one of the sweetest feelings there is, because we are all tuned in to the same wavelength. We don’t have to edit anything for the public, and the laughs in situations like that are pure and uncut. We had a night of them onstage and off, and I know we all will remember this for a long time to come. Find Jim at He’s worth it.

Packer Persistence

January 4, 2010

Sunday January 3rd, 2010 – Lake Villa, WI

Time to learn a valuable life lesson. Too bad I can’t figure out exactly what that is. My beloved Green Bay Packers finished the regular season today with a solid victory to send their record to a very respectable 11-5. They’re in the playoffs and have a shot to do well.

Just two months ago, they lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa and a lot of furious fans, myself included, wanted the severed heads of coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson put in a bowling bag and dumped into Lake Michigan.

The heat was on, and it looked like the season was over for another year. Last year they went 6-10 and lost some heartbreakers in the later part of games that left a rotten taste in the mouths of the Lambeau legions. 4-4 wasn’t horrible, but not what we were expecting. 4-3 wasn’t all that great, but it was over .500. Then, losing that Tampa game hit a nerve.

I was in the car with my comedian friend Steve Purcell on the way to do a gig up at the Island Casino in Harris, MI as we listened to it on the radio. We both stared blankly at his dash board as we tried to process what had just taken place. We were both quite irked.

Most other Packer fans I know were ready to torch the locker room and revolt. Then, an amazing thing happened. They started winning, and ended up going 7-1 in their last eight games to give them the 11-5 mark they finished the season with today. What a difference.

Nobody wanted to do any torching today, and everyone I talked to was giddy about their chances of going deep into the playoffs, maybe even to the Super Bowl. Could this be the same mob that wanted McCarthy and Thompson sent packing? Yup. I was one of them.

What happened in two months to turn everything around like this? Granted, they could easily lose next week as they play the same Arizona Cardinals squad they slapped around like a biker’s old lady today, but for now all is well in Packerland. Smiling faces abound.

People seem to think firing a sports coach or manager and getting an entirely new crew in place from top to bottom is how to fix any problem. I’ll admit that I did too. I thought a major change was needed to get the Packers back on track, but apparently I was mistaken. Somehow, the people and system in place was able to correct itself and now it’s working.

Sure, they played a few poor to mediocre teams and they still made some embarrassing mistakes, but the bottom line is a much improved and respectable finish compared to their less than impressive beginning. It was quite a turnaround, and it happened at precisely the right time too. Had they started strong and fizzled, it would be over. Now, there’s hope.

There’s a real lesson to be learned here, and I want to make sure I find it. It’s easy to get angry and point fingers, but sometimes cleaning house isn’t the guaranteed way to fix any problem. It may be the easy way, but sometimes things just take time and they’ll work out in the long run. And, there’s no guarantee the new people will be better than the old ones.

Marriage is that way too. When a few things go wrong, the natural inclination is to pull the plug and get a divorce. That’s the same mentality that firing a coach is, but it looks to be the one and only solution…until the next person gets in there and problems start again.

Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson were brought in as the fresh meat fans clamored for  after the last coach Mike Sherman’s honeymoon ended badly. He was both the coach and general manager, and at first they just took the general manager job away. Then he lost it all and Ted Thompson hired Mike McCarthy to be the answer. That started it over again.

What’s confusing is, sometimes it IS the right call to gas the general manager, coach, all the assistant coaches, half the players and the three ugliest cheerleaders just to be safe. It’s also the right call once in a while to get a divorce too. The key is to know exactly when.

In our own lives, most of us could use a new coach or manager once in a while. I know I for one tend to keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again, and I have to believe I’m not the only one who does that. What am I supposed to do, fire myself? I’m in the driver’s seat, warts and all. I don’t have the option of getting somebody else to do it.

Or do I? I can’t fire myself, but I can fire myself UP by surrounding myself with quality people who are interested in the same things I am and have similar goals. Weeding out all the leakers is a great way to improve my own life, as all they’ll do is bring a person down.

In the last year or so, I’ve weeded out a few of my life‘s leakers. My ex business partner stole money, but more important than that I’m finding out quite a few others didn’t enjoy working with him and only did it out of courtesy to me. I had no idea it was even an issue.

The whole insane incident with the bounced check at Giggles Comedy Club was also an ugly mess, but it weeded them out as well. I’m much better off that both are out of my life and I don’t miss them at all. They were both leakers and losing them was a total positive.

I’m not without blame either though. Some of the stupid things I do keep repeating and I have nobody to blame but myself. I need to find a way to solve those problems, just like Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson circled their wagons and salvaged a winning season.

It wasn’t all just those two guys, but they had a lot to do with it. The players contributed the effort on the field, but the main ones steering the ship were McCarthy and Thompson. They’re both past their honeymoon phases and fans aren’t going to cut either any slack.

I feel like I’m in the exact same place in my own life. My honeymoon is over and I want to win my own personal Super Bowl. I’ve paid my dues, but that doesn’t mean I have any guarantees of anything. I have to play my best game at all times focus on being a winner.

Whether the Packers win the Super Bowl or not, I think they had a great season the way they came back from the mid point when everyone thought it was over. Kudos to all who made that happen. I’m inspired and hope I can hang in there to turn my own life around.