Posts Tagged ‘Steve Sabo’

Grass Roots Support

August 26, 2013

Saturday August 24th, 2013 – South Haven, MI

   The only thing more fun for a comedian than having a smoking hot show on a Saturday night is having it while the person who booked it is in the room. That way there’s absolutely nothing lost in translation, and everyone is on the same page. Tonight I rocked the house in South Haven, MI.

   The guy who books it is a comedian named Jerry Donovan. I’ve worked for him a few times in the last year or so and he’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite contacts. He handles business in the most professional way, and is an absolute joy to work with. I wish all bookers were like him.

   It’s extremely rare for anyone to be proficient as both a performer and booking agent, but there is the occasional exception. Jerry is one as is Keith Stubbs in Salt Lake City. Jim McHugh does a superb job in Chicago as does Steve Sabo in Toledo. After them, I have a hard time naming any.

   Jerry is one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen in a long time. He finds classy venues in the concentrated area of western Michigan where he lives, and then goes about doing a thorough job of promoting them correctly. That’s the difference. He’s not just running half assed hell shows in  sleazy bars. He goes out and finds sponsors and makes sure they’re run properly. And they are.

   He makes sure there is adequate lighting and sound – another important detail too many tend to overlook – and hosts the majority of his shows himself. He’s a funny seasoned pro, so it also adds to the quality of the evening. From top to bottom, Jerry pampers the audience, venue and comics.

   What a treat it is to work for a guy like that. His hard work shows through, and every time I’ve been lucky enough to work for him it’s been a fun experience. Tonight was no different, as they had a sold out show and the biggest crowd they’ve had for a comedy night to date. It was a blast.

   To make the evening even more productive, I was able to bring along one of my students from the Zanies comedy class to do a five minute guest set. He asked to tag along and offered to drive, so that sold it right there. Any time I don’t have to drive, count me in. That was yet another treat.

   This is exactly how the comedy business should be on so many levels. The crowds Jerry brings in – get this – WANT to be there. They didn’t win free tickets by the pound by dropping business cards in a fish bowl at the tanning salon. Jerry promotes it all properly, and books top level acts.

   There’s a fair cover charge, and people either pay or they don’t. Those that choose to are there to be entertained. That’s the formula, but there’s nothing secret about it. It’s HARD WORK, and plenty of it. Jerry is out there busting his ass trying to make a living for himself and his family. If he makes a profit – and I sure hope he does – he earns every last penny. www.jerrydonovan.com.

   As I was getting paid after the show, Jerry told me of one of his venues that has dropped him as booker and is going with one of the greasy ones. They thought he was making too much, and got greedy. The other booker immediately cut the pay for the comics, and began using far lower acts to save money. Cutting corners like that is the beginning of the end before they start. Jerry does it right, and he has my loyalty to the death. It costs a little bit more to go first class, and he does it.

Jerry Donovan - a class act onstage and off!

Jerry Donovan – a class act onstage and off!

Sarge’s Tap

May 5, 2013

Thursday May 2nd, 2013 – Danville, IL

   Danville, IL happens to be the home town of show business brothers Dick and Jerry Van Dyke, actors Gene Hackman and Donald O’Connor, NFL football player Zeke Bratkowski and baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount. That’s quite an impressive lineup for a town of about 33,000 people.

   I had only passed through here to gas up and pee once or twice in all my travels, and never had I performed here until tonight when I worked a delightful joint called “Sarge’s Tap”. It ended up being a super positive experience, and I’m glad I came. Shows like this make it all worthwhile.

   This was a gig booked by fellow comedian Steve Sabo out of Toledo, OH. I’ve worked for him several times before, and quite frankly the shows can go either way. Sometimes they’re great like tonight, but other times they can degenerate into bloody verbal combat with boozed up goobers.

   I don’t blame Steve for that. He books mostly bar gigs to make some extra cabbage, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He busts his ass making posters for his gigs and he brings entertainment to places that normally wouldn’t have any. He works most of the gigs himself at first to get them going, then sends other comics through and takes a commission. That’s a smart business model.

   Anyone who accepts a booking from Steve knows – or at least they should – that anything may happen on a given night without logical reason, and one must prepare to expect the unexpected at all times. I remember working for him one night in Michigan when a ghastly she beast wouldn’t stop taking her t-shirt off and proudly flashing herself alternately between the audience and me.

   Normally I would greatly enjoy large breasts being jiggled my way, but this was the exception. They were large in and of themselves, but in comparison to her mammoth hind quarters they lost any and all sex appeal and just looked freakish. They got everyone’s attention the first time they came out, but by the time we’d all seen them a dozen times even the freak factor had worn off.

   That was my first experience working for Steve, and I must say it made me think twice about a return engagement but I never blamed him personally. He books bar gigs and that kind of stuff is par for the course. Some comedians spend their lives doing those kinds of gigs, but I’m not a fan. I did them in my early years to gain experience, and that I got. Now I do them just for the money.

   I happen to need money right now, so here I am. I’m glad to get this booking, as it fits perfectly with another I have tomorrow in Marion, OH for another comedian named Jeremy Danley. Steve and Jeremy are very similar in that they book quite a few rooms on their own, and good for them for doing it. They’re both honest guys hustling a buck. That’s what built the America we knew.

   Tonight’s show was an absolute sledgehammer. The opening act was a guy named Chris Smith out of the St. Louis area, and he’s been out there for years just like me. He’s a wonderful feature, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. Usually, feature acts try to blow headliners off the stage so they can get booked back as a headliner and get paid more money. I understand the reasoning.

   Chris is a funny act, but his style is very easy to follow. He does a super job, and we’ve worked together before. He earns every penny of his pay, and I’d tour with him anytime. He’s a total pro, and the crowd loved him tonight. They loved me too, and the whole time I was on I was grateful to get work this week. The owner Wanda is very nice and said she wants me back. I hope I don’t need the money as badly then, but this is a place I would do again. Let’s see how tomorrow goes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Getting My Schlitz Together

March 5, 2010

Thursday March 4th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI/Ft. Atkinson, WI

It seems like I’m in Milwaukee more now than when I lived there, but that’s where a lot of my business is leading right now. The “Schlitz Happened!” one man show is starting to take shape, but now is when I’m going to have to make some difficult decisions. I need to hash out details and percentages of those I’m working with so there are no ugly surprises.

I’m the first one to admit I have trust issues, and I’m also a pigheaded control freak in a situation where creative control is involved. This is MY baby, and I’m very protective of it – especially right now in it’s infancy. I have a vision of how I see it developing and I’m not going to settle for anything less. I’m not so sure the people on my team see that now.

I had a lunch with Ron Lee, the guy who produced comedy shows in the ‘80s at Teddy’s on Farwell, which is now Shank Hall. I like Ron and we’ve worked together over time on some fun and interesting projects, including a cable TV show and also at 93QFM in 1991.

Ron has booked bands and likes to promote things and we have a history of working on many things together. I wanted to meet face to face and discuss what he saw as his role in this project and if I could meet his expectations. He’s been making some calls and setting up meetings without my approval, and quite honestly it bothers me a little. I’m concerned.

It’s not his fault that I got cleaned out by my last business partner, but that whole fiasco is still a fresh welt on my fanny and that’s just fact. I know everyone needs to get paid for their time, and I’m fine with it – but I’m not so sure I really need any partners right now in a project that hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet. It’s promising, but still only an idea.

I’m going to have final say in this particular project. Period. Meeting with sponsors and potential sponsors is something I’ve never really done before, but I need to get experience sometime and that time is coming soon. I’m a little concerned that things are going ahead with potential sponsors without me having met anyone yet. There’s a fine line to toe here.

I don’t care if it’s Ron Lee or Richard Halasz or Colonel Tom Parker, I’m just a bit wary of people negotiating anything ‘on my behalf’. I just am. Maybe that’s the dented can side of me that will always be there, but it’s there and now is the time to set parameters for the duration of this project. If I establish rules now, I’ll either keep or lose everyone involved.

Now is the time to do that, rather than a year from now when money is involved. I like Ron Lee and I like Richard Halasz too, and both of them are working on promoting some upcoming shows. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page as to what all of our roles are so nobody is taken aback. Better to talk it out now than have lawyers do it later.

Right now I want to do a few smaller shows and work out the bugs. I have an extremely full cupboard of actual material, now I want to shape it into a dynamite SHOW. It will be a work in progress as long as I do it, but I want to hit the ground running when I begin the bigger shows later in the year. I’ve got a plan of exactly how I see the show developing.

The offstage part is where I’m a little shaky, and I fully admit I’ve never enjoyed doing this part of the business. That’s why I’ve worked with the Ron Lees and the other guy for so long. I let them handle as many unpleasant or uninteresting things as I could so I could focus on what I do best – create things. I think I’m going to have to restructure my M.O.

To their credit, those guys worked with me for free on many occasions. None of us had money, and I’ve never hit any huge jackpots, but I have been able to squeak out a meager living for a quarter of a century. I’ve paid people when I could and what I could, and I’ve always tried to be fair and err on the generous side whenever I could. I’m a softie at heart.

When I got cleaned out it really rocked my world. It still hurts, and it didn’t need to take place at all. If the guy would have asked me, I would have given him the money until he’d be able to pay me back. Now we’re not friends anymore and I’m still out a chunk of cash.

Ron has never stolen money from me, but there really hasn’t been much to steal. After a lot of years of working with me for little or no money, I’d like to see him get a payday for his effort. Maybe I’m too soft, but I want to see all the people around me get their reward.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to give away a percentage of the show though. As much as I like both Ron and Richard, neither of those guys wrote one word of the show or had one ounce of creative input in how it all came together. They can promote shows all they want in as many places as they want, and they should be paid for that. But they’re not owners.

I’M the owner of this concept for now. If I decide to sell it, someone will have to put up cash money on the barrelhead to buy it. Sponsors would be great, but let’s get a hot show set and running first. I also need a synopsis of the concept so those sponsors know what it is so they can either sponsor it or not. I need a few chances to run through to polish it up.

This was a great eye opener today, and I’m glad I drove up. I’m going to go with my gut and my gut tells me to hold this close to my chest and do as much of it myself as possible until I really need to cut anyone else in as far as ownership goes. That’s ringing out loudly in my head and I hear it clearly. No offense to anyone else, but I’ve earned this by now.

I’m in the driver’s seat, and I’m sure it will work how it works. I’m not going to worry about it, and let it sit for a couple of days while I go to Pittsburgh to work in Cranberry at the Funny Bone this weekend. I’ll have plenty of time to think all this through in the car.

Tonight I had a show in Ft. Atkinson, WI at a biker bar that I’ve actually worked before for a comic friend of mine name Dan Still. Steve Sabo books it now, and I didn’t know it was the same place until I got there. They expanded and made it bigger, but it’s still a bar in Ft. Atkinson, WI. I did it for the money, but the people were actually pretty friendly.

Still, these are getting very old. The smoke was thick and my clothes smelled in the car like a non filter Pall Mall cigarette that my grandpa used to smoke. I appreciate the money but I’m hoping to weed these out of my schedule. Soon. I want to work the nicer theaters.