Posts Tagged ‘Super Bowl’

Manufactured Mania

February 6, 2014

Sunday February 2nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I have wanted to see a Super Bowl in person since I was a kid, and I still do. My reasons are no longer the same, but if I ever get the chance I’ll definitely go. I used to want to go only to see my beloved Green Bay Packers win the ultimate prize, but now I’d like to observe all the marketing.

It would be great if the Packers happened to be in it, but it’s not necessary. I want to experience the manufactured mania for myself, and see what I can learn. That’s the biggest single event that I can think of, at least in the United States. I’m sure the World Cup and Olympics are also giants, but they’re both spread over time and space. The Super Bowl is a one day shot for a single city.

There are events the whole week, but the main event is the game. I’d like to see how the people in charge run everything, and I’m sure it’s much more complicated since 9/11. As a rule I usually don’t like big crowds, but for that I’d make an exception. That’s an experience I’d like to have.

I went to see the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and I’m still glad I did. I was already working in Nashville anyway, so it wasn’t that far of a drive. I bought a ticket from a scalper to see the track and field events, and it was worth every penny. I don’t remember exactly how much I paid, but it was significant. I think it was maybe $200 as I recall, but the experience I got is with me today.

The $200 would have been long spent on something forgettable like rent or car repairs, so I am glad I made the investment. I had the opportunity to go to a World Series game in Milwaukee in 1982, and I passed it up. The ticket would have cost $50, and I wasn’t about to pay it at the time. I assumed I would have plenty more chances to see my hometown Brewers in the World Series.

Right. And what did I do with that $50? Nothing I can remember, and certainly nothing that is close to experiencing a World Series game in person. Life is to be lived, and I completely wasted that particular opportunity. Should it come up again, I’ll choose more wisely. Who says it will?

I suppose I could go to the World Series any year if I wanted, but I don’t really want to unless it’s to see a team I happen to like a lot. Maybe if I’m in a town that happens to be hosting a game and I get a chance to go, I’ll do it. But it’s only one game. A Super Bowl is THE main attraction.

I really wanted to go a couple of years ago when the Packers were playing the Steelers down in Dallas. It was a brand new stadium, and there were tickets available. The weather was especially nasty and I didn’t have a plane ticket, so I decided not to go. Was it a correct choice? We’ll see.

This wasn’t the year, as I had no interest whatsoever in sitting outside in New York. I can have all the ugly weather I want right out my front door, I don’t have to pay big money for it. I’ll wait until it’s in a warm weather location, and go from there. Hopefully I can rustle up a free ticket or better find a way to get paid to be there. Whatever the case, I’d love to see one before I cash out.

Spectacle and showmanship are extra difficult to pull off effectively because there are all kinds of elements that need to come together at once – not the least important of which is the throng of people required to make anything that big that big. Dress rehearsals are fine, but when the curtain is raised for real there’s no turning back. I’d love to have an opportunity to be part of that energy.

I have wanted to see a Super Bowl live since I was a kid.

I have wanted to see a Super Bowl live since I was a kid. I still do.

In a perfect world, the Green Bay Packers would win by several touchdowns.

In a perfect world, the Green Bay Packers would win by several touchdowns.

The halftime show would be George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic.

The halftime show would be George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic.

Since I'm dreaming already, she'll be my date.

Since I’m dreaming already, she’ll be my date.

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Reference Checks

January 30, 2014

Monday January 27th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

When I first started performing standup comedy, I would go out of my way to study any and all other acts I could find at every level of development. I would watch all the others on any shows I happened to be on, but also seek out TV shows, live performances or anywhere else I could find.

I couldn’t get enough not only of standup comedy, but pop culture as well. I knew that I should familiarize myself with what was happening in the world so if I didn’t do jokes about it myself at least if someone else did I’d know what they were talking about. It took a lot of work but I did it.

Once in a while I’d see an older comedian use some reference that was painfully outdated, and it left a sour impression. It felt like ordering a sandwich in a restaurant and having it be served on really stale bread. It leaves a bad first impression, but it’s too late by then. The damage is done.

An example that still sticks in my mind decades later is a friend of mine from Pittsburgh named John Knight who told me about going to see Shecky Greene. John is of my comic generation and a very funny guy. He’s also a student of the game, and I’ve known him since I started in the ‘80s.

The same brothers that owned the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Pittsburgh where John started opened one in Milwaukee a few years later, and it started an exchange program between the two cities. We were like comedy cousins, and grew to know each other’s towns and each other well.

Shecky Greene is an old school act, but John was one of the few smart enough to know that it’s possible to learn from anyone so he went to see him. Had I been offered the opportunity, I would have joined him. I still would. I have a great deal of respect for anyone who has braved the wars.

I remember John telling me he enjoyed the show, but then told me of a bit Shecky did that used “The Bay City Rollers” and a song they did called “Saturday Night”. That’s a band that had their very short heyday in the mid ‘70s, and even though John and I both were familiar with them they were long out of the public’s eye by then and it made Shecky look like a big idiot – at least to us.

Cut ahead decades later, and now the performers of John’s and my generation are in exactly the same position. We’re probably close to the age Shecky Greene was John saw him, and the acts of today look at us the same way. John still performs and is a pretty hip guy, but it’s still a concern.

Neither of us have acts directly based on using many current references, and we’ve been smart enough to craft relatively timeless material that can hopefully continue to earn us our livings for the foreseeable future. Those who don’t develop this skill will get burned now more than ever.

For veteran performers it gets easy to ride a reference too long, and I’ve been guilty of it many times. I’ve been around the block quite a bit, and have all kinds of references that used to be hot but are now as laughable as Shecky using The Bay City Rollers. I have to constantly keep track.

Sometimes it’s fixable. I used to do a joke about a “Walkman Radio”. How dated is that? I’ve since changed it to “iPod” and I can milk it a while longer. I hope. Eventually it will be obsolete, but then again so will standup comedy. Some robot will be built to take my place. “Robocomic”.

I can make jokes about it, but I’m only fooling myself. This really is a major issue that needs to be addressed now more than ever. There are just too many things to keep track of, and with all of us going in so many directions on the internet it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with life.

It used to be if someone liked sports for example, there was a relatively limited amount of info available about it to the general public. They could read the same newspapers and magazines and all share basically the same information. It wasn’t in depth, but it was enough to stay informed.

Now there are websites and blogs and a whole new level of scrutiny that has never been around before. If someone likes sports now, it can easily become a full time obsession. Then stories like Alex Rodriguez on steroids or Dennis Rodman in North Korea become actual hard news stories.

Every subject that people used to be able to get away with just a passing knowledge of now has an entire subculture attached to it, and there aren’t enough hours in a day to keep current with all of them. For an up and coming standup comic, it’s harder than ever to have broad based material.

I’ve hosted a lot of showcases in the last few years that feature younger acts, and I admit that I watch a lot of them and have no clue as to what they’re talking about. They’ll go off on a movie I haven’t seen or band I’ve never heard of, and I’m totally lost. They might as well speak Chinese.

It becomes very easy to let this get out of hand, and I totally have. Part of the reason is that I’m just not interested in pop culture of today. I find it extremely boring, and not intended for me. All that I see coming out I’ve seen before, and I wasn’t necessarily all that fond of it then. It stinks.

Other than a very VERY few songs, I find the music of today absolutely horrific. Lady Gaga is a warmed over version of Madonna – and I never liked Madonna with her hairy armpits and gap teeth. I found her derivative, but she was able to carve out a career. Good for her, but I’m over it.

Even sports don’t come close to holding my interest like they once did. I used to easily be able to name every coach or manager of every team in most of the major sports if not current starting lineups. I could also go back at least ten years and name all the teams that won a championship.

Now I bet I couldn’t name who won the last championship – and I don’t really care. Unless the Packers win the Super Bowl, I’m pretty much over that too. And even when that happened just a couple of years ago life went on shortly thereafter. I’m just not into what’s going on in the world as a whole. I have enough to worry about with my own life, and that’s about all I can deal with.

Still, as a professional entertainer I can do better than I have been doing. One of the many wise things my grandfather taught me was to look through the entire Sunday paper. He would open all the sections and look at all the articles from cover to cover. He wouldn’t read all of them, but if a headline grabbed his attention he’d at least skim over some of the article to broaden his life base.

I used to do that for years, but I just lost interest somewhere. That’s just plain not acceptable if I still intend to grow as any kind of creative entity. There has to be more fuel added if I intend to keep the fire burning, and I don’t want to look like Shecky Greene to young audiences. I can still throw some heat, but it’s smart business to have a clue as to what’s current in pop culture today.

Shecky Greene had a tremendous run as one of the top nightclub comics in Las Vegas. Much respect.

Shecky Greene had a tremendous run as one of the top nightclub comics in Las Vegas. That is SO not easy to do. Much respect.

The Bay City Rollers had a short run of hit records in the mid '70s. I bet they thought they were SO cool when this picture was taken. Times change.

The Bay City Rollers had a short run of hit records in the mid ’70s. I bet they thought they were SO cool when this picture was taken. Times change.

Despite his deadpan look, my friend John Knight from Pittsburgh is one of the funniest comedians working today. I've known him since the '80s. www.comedyknight.com.

Despite his deadpan look, my friend John Knight from Pittsburgh is one of the funniest comedians working today. I’ve known him since the ’80s. He’s hilarious. http://www.comedyknight.com.

Life Begins Today

December 29, 2013

Friday December 27th, 2013 – Flagstaff, AZ/Tucson, AZ

Today was flat out the absolute single happiest day of my entire life to date. How often can one honestly say that? But it was. Knowing that there is a super strong possibility of me meeting with my three siblings after decades of separation and extreme hurt feelings has made me feel like I’m finally alive and on the same playing field as everyone else. It took forever to happen, but it has.

All day today my brother Bruce and I exchanged emails, and every one was more encouraging than the last. We’ve opened up the deep river of communication that has never been there in our adult lives, and I can feel the healing vibes already flow. This is EXACTLY what I’ve hoped for since I was a kid, and it’s a feeling of sweetness I’ve never felt before. This is my biggest dream.

It feels like I personally won the Super Bowl, the lottery and got a key to the Playboy Mansion all in the same day. I feel bullet proof emotionally for the first time ever, and I know I will never have suicidal thoughts like I have in the past. THIS is what was hurting, and I found the source.

The feeling of giddiness that’s racing through me now is pure ecstasy. I seriously doubt a heroin high would be able to make me feel as good as this. It’s like the biggest boil in history has been lanced, and all the pus is draining away forever. For the first time in my life I feel I have hope.

I honestly never expected this to happen, at least not how it has. It seemed to be the impossible dream, even though it’s what I wanted more than anything in the world. This means more to me than getting on The Tonight Show, my own sitcom or a ten picture movie deal. If I had to choose between the Packers winning every game they play from now on or this, I’d take this in a second.

This is where the pain in my life that has hurt so badly for so long has originated. I knew it as a kid, and it has bothered me since then. We’ve never been able to sit down and talk about it in any way, and there have been festering emotions rotting away for eons. I’m sure my siblings feel it as well. For whatever reason, this particular time is turning out to be right for us all. We are in sync.

It hasn’t happened yet obviously, but I’m supremely confident it absolutely will – much sooner than later. Bruce and I are to the point of narrowing down a date in February or March where the four of us can meet for a meal at a restaurant to start the healing wheels in motion. I am ecstatic.

Bruce gets more and more excited with each email, and says Tammy and Larry are up for it as well. We all need this, and it will be a wonderful experience to come together as a – dare I say it – family for the first time. We’ve never ever had that relationship, so this is new ground for us.

I was on an emotional rocket ship as I made the gorgeous drive from the Motel 6 in Flagstaff, AZ to Phoenix to have lunch with my old friend Pete Christensen. Pete is a really good soul and knows me about as well as anyone. He’s had radio and TV shows forever and is also a comedian. He knows my family situation, and could see how excited I was that this is all finally happening.

I got back in the car after lunch and drove the rest of the way to Tucson with the window down and my spirits up. It seemed like every song that came on the radio had personal meaning just for me, and it was uncanny after a while. The first I noticed was ‘Ooh Child’ by The Five Stairsteps.

The lyrics “things are going to get easier” resonated deep into my soul. After that Sister Sledge ‘We Are Family’ came on. I turned the radio up as loud as it would go, and just let the vibes flow through to my innermost core. I wanted to let all that pus from the past drain out, and it totally is.

This doesn’t guarantee everything in life is going to be “Hershey bars and Archie comics” like Gramps used to say, but it puts me on an even playing field for the first time and lets me become as close to a whole person as I’m ever going to become. This was the first step that needed to be taken decades ago, but never happened for whatever reason. Now it is, and I couldn’t be happier.

It’s going to open up so many positive doors. I predict that if I’m allowed to live and continue the life path I’m on I’ll be married or at least have a solid relationship within two years. THIS is what has held me back, because I was in so much pain I was never able to commit emotionally.

I also predict I’ll have a major career breakthrough in a short time – mainly because I’ve given up caring. My whole mindset has changed, and it’s no longer about ‘proving myself’ or ‘showing someone’. A big reason of why I got into comedy was for approval, but this is the approval I was really after. Why should I care what a room full of drunks in Duluth thought? That was all I had.

Now I have the golden opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with the only three other people on the planet that can truly relate to the source of my pain. It’s the source of theirs as well so this will be a win/win/win/win. I’m as excited as I’ve ever been, but also completely realistic.

We’re all still four broken and hurting people, and that won’t ever change. There will be scars, and deep ones at that. We’re all very different, and we’ve got to get to know each other as adults all over again. We’ll have quirks and soft spots, and we’ll all have to navigate around all of that.

I’m not saying we won’t have disagreements, but what we will have is a chance to heal. That’s the reason I’m feeling so exhilarated, and I know it will be a major turning point in my life. I had a similar experience with my grandmother before her brain was stolen by Alzheimer’s disease.

As warm and uplifting as Gramps was, Grandma was an ice queen. She was German and angry at life in general. She’s the source of a lot of pain and dysfunction too, and at one point we didn’t speak for about ten years. We got back in contact when she was in her mid 80s, and we forged an absolutely amazing relationship that lasted a couple of years – and that’s how I’ll remember her.

I would drive up to Milwaukee from Chicago about once a week and bring her a hamburger or Chinese takeout and she’d act like it was filet mignon. She never drove a car, and to her it was as big a deal as it got. She’d tell me stories of her and Gramps’ early life, and it was our best times.

We’d had years of anguish and sadness, but we ended up on a super high note that stays in my memory even now. I can absolutely see the same happening with Tammy, Larry and Bruce. We are all ready for this, and all on the same page as far as letting the past die and moving forward.

I had two absolutely MONSTER shows at Laffs in Tucson tonight. This will provide me with a secret weapon for the rest of my life. The approval I was seeking for so long I’ve now got, so the laughs I get on stage are pure. My life is about to explode, but finally in a good way. Stay tuned!

It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders. I can't put into words how wonderful it feels.

It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders. I can’t put into words how wonderful it feels.

Packer Pathos

November 30, 2013

Friday November 29th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

The Green Bay Packers are having one of their worst seasons in recent memory, and I find it to be a fascinating case study in human behavior whether someone is a football fan or not. They are completely unraveling as the season goes on, and have slid from heroes to bums in a few weeks.

It all started when their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a fractured clavicle on November 4th in a game against the archrival Chicago Bears. It didn’t appear to be that violent of a hit, and fans weren’t in a panic assuming the usually durable Rodgers would bounce right back.

Then in the next game against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 10th, backup quarterback Seneca Wallace went down in the first quarter with a groin injury. Again, it didn’t look to be that bad but he too was out of commission. That brought in Scott Tolzien, a third stringer that played in college at Wisconsin so a lot of Packer fans were familiar with him. He performed admirably.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to win either of the two games he started, and the spoiled fans of the Packers who have been one of the elite teams in the NFL since the early ‘90s were starting to grumble from within. An entire generation of fans has grown up assuming the Pack would win.

Last week they blew a golden opportunity to beat their most bitter rival of the last twenty years the Minnesota Vikings. They are having a horrific year themselves, but no Packer fan alive feels the slightest bit of sympathy for them. They’ve also had a great run, and when I was a kid they’d traditionally thump the Pack twice a year. Any day the Packers beat the Viqueens is a great day.

Too bad it wasn’t this particular day, as the best they could muster was a tie. They had a shot to win it in overtime, but they weren’t able to pound it into the end zone from a few yards out to get the win. Fans had grown accustomed to them being automatic in those situations in recent years.

Well, this isn’t recent years, and hope is fading like the paint job on a Yugo. Yesterday was the biggest all out ass kicking they’ve gotten in decades, and it looked like they’ve completely given up in every aspect of their game. The offense, defense and special teams played like Girl Scouts.

I have been a loyal (read: stupid) Packer fan my entire life and I have to say I am not pleased to see how this year has unfolded, but on a personal level I can totally relate. I wish I couldn’t, but I absolutely do. It’s very similar to my life, and I find it fascinating to watch how it’s playing out.

Unforeseen circumstances have been the cause of the downfall, mostly devastating injuries that have wiped out their best players. It has been uncanny how many important players were lost this year, but that’s the luck of the draw. It wasn’t planned on, but now they have to suck it up and try to salvage the season with what they have left. It’s not pleasant, but nobody has a choice. It’s life in the NFL, and life in general. The fans are growing restless, and the coaches are on the hot seat.

Three years ago the same coaches won the Super Bowl and were considered geniuses. That’s a long time ago in football, and now they’re bums. I find this interesting, and it’s a character test to make due every week with depleted resources. This is exactly how my life has been since I was a kid, so I’m finding an even deeper kinship with the team this year. They’re living my existence.

It's been a rough year for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers - but at least they're getting paid. We fans are getting screwed for free.

It’s been a rough year for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers – but at least they’re getting paid. We fans are getting screwed for free.

Building Business Relationships

November 18, 2013

Saturday November 16th, 2013 – LaSalle/Peru, IL

I wrapped up my little homemade three night mini tour tonight in Peru, IL at a place one would not necessarily think would be fun but it totally is. It’s a bowling center called “The Super Bowl” and they’ve been doing regular comedy shows for more than twenty years. I like working there for many reasons, and they like having me. Again, if it were like this every week I’d be golden.

I enjoy working for people I like and respect, and this week was a dream week in that regard. It started out with hosting the new Tuesday night showcase at Zanies in Rosemont, IL. Working for Zanies is always a good time, and that relationship continues to flourish twenty plus years into it.

I then worked two nights in Michigan for Phil Anglin, and he’s another guy I’d go to the limits and beyond for. He only has two little rooms, but he treats comedians so well I’d work for him as many times as he’ll have me. He’s just a classy person and works hard to make an honest living.

He has a heart, and it shows. So does Zanies. They treat me extremely well, and in turn I’ll stay loyal to them to the end – which hopefully is still a ways away. Developing lasting relationships is a key to long term success, and I value every one I’ve built over the years. It has taken effort.

Another that continues to grow nicely is The Super Bowl. It’s owned by brothers Jim and Bob Stubler, and again they’re honest hard working people that extend the effort to treat comics well. I deal with Jim, and he’s as sharp as I’ve ever seen as far as being a businessman goes. Bowling is his main business, but he’s done well with comedy because he has a plan and has executed it.

He knows what his market will bear, and he is really easy to work for. He buys ads on the radio and hires a local DJ to host the shows. Little things like that go a long way, and that’s why he has lasted as long as he has. Other bars in the area have tried comedy shows but they always fade out sooner than later. One approached me recently in fact, but I turned them down. I’m loyal to Jim.

I’m loyal to Phil in his part of Michigan and Zanies in the Chicago area too. We’ve all worked together for years, and built up a mutual synergy. I wouldn’t go across the street – even if it were for more money – if it would jeopardize that relationship. I’ll stay with those I worked for first.

That’s good business in my opinion, even though I’ve seen it blow up in both directions in the past. Sometimes the good people don’t win in the end. I’ve been asked to ‘stay loyal’ and gotten screwed royally, and also stayed with people that ended up getting blown out of the water. That’s a risk every self employed entertainer takes, but I’d rather take that risk with quality individuals.

This far into the game, I’m not going to screw anyone over intentionally. That’s just not how I want to operate. I know not everyone cares as much about stuff like that as I do, but I can’t sleep at night being the selfish snakes some people are because they’re only in it for their own gain.

I’m in it for my own gain too, but if I have to pee in someone else’s pool it’s over. If it can’t be win/win, I don’t want it. Maybe it means I won’t ever hit the big time, but I’ll live with it if I can feel good about myself when nobody is around. This week was hard work, but also rewarding to know everyone I worked for was glad to see me. I wasn’t just a hired gun, and that means a lot.

I can honestly say I'm a favorite at The Super Bowl - a bowling center in Peru, IL. I'm always happy to work for Jim and Bob Stubler. They have great comedy shows. If you're near by, go see one. www.ivsuperbowl.com

I can honestly say I’m a favorite at The Super Bowl – a bowling center in Peru, IL. I’m always happy to work for Jim and Bob Stubler. They have great comedy shows. If you’re near by, go see one. http://www.ivsuperbowl.com

Ross Bennett’s Revenge

April 5, 2013

Thursday April 4th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’ve been keeping a happy secret to myself for the last couple of weeks, and I’m delighted to be able to finally let it out. My long time friend and comedy mentor Ross Bennett got a chance to be on the David Letterman show tonight, and he knocked it out of the park. I am SO happy for him!

Ross is just the best on so many levels, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this killer opportunity. It gives me tangible hope that at least a little fairness exists in this insane world, and a little goes a long way. I was on pins and needles all day waiting to hear from him, and when he texted me saying he killed it I felt like my Packers won another Super Bowl. It was pure ecstasy.

I first met Ross in the ‘80s when he worked at the Funny Bone in Milwaukee. We hit it off then and have stayed friends through a lot of ups and downs in both of our lives. Ross has not lived an easy life either, but like me he still keeps slugging and tries to play the hand he was dealt in life.

We’re kindred spirits and I’ve always gotten along with him from day one. He’s been like a big brother in many ways, and I’ll never forget his kindness. When I was living in Los Angeles, he’d lived there before I did and helped me get settled in. He didn’t have to do that, but I so appreciate the time he took to show me the ropes. L.A. can be very intimidating to a newbie, at least at first.

Then Ross moved to New York where he lives now, and he helped show me around that scene when I visited a couple of times. He helped me get sets at some of the clubs there, and again was like a big brother at a time when I really needed it. We went to a Yankees game, and saw a lot of amazing places all over Manhattan that I will never forget. Ross has always been a stellar friend.

I’ve tried to be one in return, and many years ago I was able to help Ross get involved in sports cards of all things. He set up at card shows for a few years as he was out on the road doing shows as a comedian, and at the time it gave him focus and structure he needed in his life. He’s thanked me for it numerous times, but it was my pleasure to help a friend who has always had my back.

Ross has really been through some rough stretches in his life. His first wife passed away and he was left to raise his son Nash with the help of his mother. That’s no easy task in a ‘normal’ world but trying to be an entertainer and raise a child is damn near impossible. Still, Ross pulled it off.

He has also had his share of run ins with certain people just as I have. He was kicked off of the Bob and Tom radio show for years, and then managed to get back in their good graces – the very same day I was kicked off of the show. We sat there together for a few minutes, then I was gone.

We laugh about it now, but I was really bummed out when it happened. I still don’t know what I did to make them that upset, and Ross talked me off the cliff that day – again when I needed his help the most. He’s always been there for me, and I can’t say that about most of my own family.

To hear he got a shot on Letterman made me leap with joy. He’s been slugging it out all over in the New York area for years, and has worked like a mule to get this chance. I’m glad he nailed it, but I’m surely not surprised. He’s a world class comic talent, and always was. This is his destiny.

The show will air on Friday April 5th, but I’ll be on my way back from a gig in Indiana. I don’t know how I’ll get to see it, but I’ll make sure I do at some point. This is a special occasion of the highest order, and I hope it launches him into other amazing opportunities. Ross got his revenge!

Comedian Ross Bennett will be on David Letterman Friday April 5th, 2013

Comedian Ross Bennett will be on David Letterman Friday April 5th, 2013! Check him out, he’s very funny and deserves to be there.

Oscars The Grouch

February 25, 2013

Sunday February 24th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

   It’s Oscar night, and I couldn’t care less. Being in the entertainment business I probably should at least a little, but I can’t fake it. I don’t. I’m not a huge movie watcher, and those I do and enjoy are usually not part of the mix. Did ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ ever get nominated? I rest my case.

I’m not a big fan of any awards shows, even though they draw huge ratings or they wouldn’t be pillars of the broadcast calendar. I heard upwards of a billion people were watching this around a world that can’t agree on almost anything. Other than the Super Bowl, what U.S. event is as big?

I was invited to an Oscar party in Kenosha, WI at Mark Gumbinger’s house, but I couldn’t stay long because I needed to be on the air at WLIP hosting ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show at 8pm. I didn’t want to be rude, so I stopped by to say hello before going on the air.

Mark is a film director himself, and has seen most of the nominated titles. I guess that makes it significantly more interesting, but I don’t have time to see that many movies much less the desire not to mention the money. I’ve got too many other things I really want to do that use up my time.

I also have a difficult time with comparing art. Who can say what the best film out of a laundry list of them truly is? It’s all opinion. I know it’s human nature to compare, but I never had a need to do that. It’s like comparing the best athletes from different eras. Who cares? They’re all great.

Look at all the hard work that went into every one of those projects – and all the other ones that weren’t nominated. Sure, some results were better than others but to single some out as being the best just doesn’t float my boat. And like in every other contest, it sets the table for hard feelings.

The politically correct answer for everyone to say is “It’s just great to be nominated” – and it is. But we’re all human and everybody wants to win. There are a lot more people that go home from any awards show disappointed than those that go home happy. I don’t like those kinds of odds.

That’s a good thing, because I’m not up for any major awards any time soon and that’s another source of disappointment. What’s worse, putting one’s heart and soul into a film project only to have it lose out to some artsy fartsy dung nugget or not having any projects worthy of rejection?

I’ve got all I can handle slinging my little batch of jokes to new people every week. I work just as hard as or harder than the majority of those in the film industry, but there are no awards shows for me nor are there any for single moms or working stiffs out there trying to keep the bills paid.

I will say I’m a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane. What an unbelievable talent that guy is. He sings and writes and does voices and is world class at all of it. I loved his opening monologue, but I’m sure he polarized a lot of people with it and that’s what he wanted. He can afford to do that and I respect him for it. I’ve been polarizing people my whole life, but I’m not Seth MacFarlane. He’s got the power and clout and can creatively do what he wants. Who wouldn’t want that? To have that kind of freedom and get paid millions is what it’s about. Starving artists are way overrated.

Not So Super

February 4, 2013

Sunday February 3rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The Super Bowl without the Green Bay Packers in it is about as interesting to me as an electric guitar is to an Amish musician. I couldn’t care less who wins or loses, and if it were up to me I’d just as soon there be some kind of unplanned power outage or something to get everyone talking.

Oh wait – that’s exactly what happened. I wasn’t going to watch even one play of the game this year until I received an invite from Mark Gumbinger to attend a party at his house and I said yes. He’s got the ultimate man cave in his basement complete with a state of the art sound system and one of the biggest screen TVs of all time, so that was a no brainer. I was flattered to be invited.

We hung out and watched the game, even though none of us had any vested interest in it. None of us had any money bet, and we didn’t do squares or anything like that. Some people I know are not able to watch any sporting event without betting something, but that demon never found me.

One thing I couldn’t help noticing was the pageantry of it all. It’s a manufactured holiday and is now ingrained in the American culture like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Right or wrong, that’s how big it is and we all got to talking about that when the power went out during the game. We’d first thought there was a terrorist incident, and I’m sure we weren’t the only ones guessing that.

Maybe there’s a bigger story behind it, or maybe it was just some minimum wager that pushed a wrong button at the wrong time. Either way it ended up affecting an event hundreds of millions of people were watching and betting on all over the globe and it is now etched in sports history.

Years from now sports fans will bring up “The Power Outage” Super Bowl and it will be a part of the common knowledge between us just as “The Immaculate Reception” in Pittsburgh or “The Ice Bowl” in Green Bay now is. Participants in this game will be interviewed to share memories.

What overwhelming astronomical odds it was also that the coaches were brothers. What are the chances of that happening? It’s ridiculously rare for anybody to make it to the big leagues in any sport much less brothers, and then to have brothers meet as Super Bowl coaches is off the charts.

Life itself is about overcoming tremendous odds. ONE sperm cell makes it out of billions that try, and nobody remembers the others. Nobody remembers the losers of any Super Bowls either, except for that team’s players and fans. People in San Francisco are bumming today, but nobody else really cares. I had no emotion watching the game whatsoever, except not liking Ray Lewis.

I find that guy absolutely reprehensible, both of his belief that ‘God is on his side’ and also for the incident he was implicated in where a double murder happened in his presence. He makes me nauseous whenever he comes on TV, and it seems so wrong that he gets two Super Bowl rings.

But what does it mean what I think? Not a lot. I bet less than .0001 of China’s billions couldn’t care less about Ray Lewis much less pronounce his name correctly. Wars are still going on in too many places and millions are still starving. That should put things into perspective, but it doesn’t.

The Silver Fox

February 1, 2013

Tuesday January 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was saddened today to learn of the passing of a comedian I worked with many years ago from New Orleans named John Schnauder. We only worked together a couple of times, but he remains one of my all time favorite human beings I’ve ever crossed paths with. He was a wonderful soul.

We first worked together in Jacksonville, FL in the mid ‘80s at a club called The Punch Line. It was part of a chain that started from of the original Punch Line in Atlanta, and there were about a dozen clubs throughout the Southeast during the heyday. It was a great run of well paying work.

I was booked as the opening act with John being the feature. Shirley Hemphill from the sitcom “What’s Happening” was the headliner, and the first real celebrity I had ever worked with for an entire week. She was kept in a nice hotel, and John and I shared a week in the ‘comedy condo’.

There could and should be a book written about what goes on in comedy condos, but that’s not the focus right now. All it is is an apartment where comedians stay when they’re in town to work a comedy club. It’s an investment for the club rather than spending money to keep us in hotels.

Anyway, I got to spend that whole week getting to know John and I liked him more by the day. He was in his 50s then, MUCH older than the average comedian of that day – especially one that wasn’t a headliner. He had raised a family of seven children, and decided he wanted to live out a dream and be a comedian. He was very humble, and absolutely loved everything about comedy.

Most comedians – me included – get into comedy to fill an ugly void we never were able to fill at home with our families or lack thereof. John was completely different. He was no dented can, and that’s probably what I liked about him. He was warm and friendly, and it was contagious not only to me but to audiences too. He was extremely likeable, and loaded with charisma to boot.

He billed himself as ‘The Silver Fox’ of comedy, and his New Orleans accent was up front and a big part of who he was. I’ve often said how much I can’t stand that smelly hell hole personally, but that doesn’t mean I can’t like the people who come from there. They’re extremely friendly.

John Schnauder falls into this category, and we really hit it off that week. We were able to stay in touch for a few years, but this was before the internet when that was a lot more difficult to do. I hadn’t seen him in years, but I thought of him when his beloved New Orleans Saints made it to the Super Bowl. That alone caused me to cheer for them, and when they won I smiled for John.

John’s granddaughter Rhiannon Schnauder Perry informed me of his passing, and I posted my condolences to the family via the guest book. There was a large album of photographs from his life that really touched me, as most of them were him next to his kids or grandchildren and there were smiles on everyone’s faces. His love and radiance just shined through. He was a mensch of epic proportions, and just because he never hit the big time in show business doesn’t mean he is anything less than an outstanding success and winner in the game of life. He lived his dream, but also had a loving family. To me, that’s true success. Much respect to The Silver Fox. I miss him.

A Night In Peru

January 21, 2013

Saturday January 19th, 2013 – Peru, IL

   I had a show tonight in Peru, IL at ‘The Super Bowl’ which has grown to become one of my all time favorite one nighters. On paper, it sounds like a hell gig. Peru is a town near the intersection of I-39 and I-80, and quite honestly before I was booked here I had never heard of it. It’s close to LaSalle, IL and the vicinity is referred to as LaSalle/Peru, but I doubt that helps raise awareness.

The comedy shows are at a bowling center run by brothers Jim and Bob Stubler. They’ve been running shows there probably twenty years or more, even though I’ve been working there ten or less. I can’t remember how I first got into the rotation, but I did and now I’m an annual regular.

Both the Stubler brothers have been unbelievably kind with their compliments, and have asked the booker Harry Hickstein to keep me coming back. Harry is also a great guy, and although he’s a comedian he books a few rooms on the side and this happens to one of them. It’s my favorite.

Sure, it’s a bowling alley in an obscure place and that might not sound like comedy heaven but those people come out to laugh and have supported comedy for twenty years. They’re exactly the same kind of people who go to Las Vegas and see shows there. The average person thinks that to play Vegas is a big deal – and it is – but most of the audiences are from Perus all over America.

I’ve usually done very well here, and it didn’t hurt my cause that the Stubler brothers have both become fans over the years. That’s always nice to achieve anywhere as a performer, but is never guaranteed. Most owners and bookers look at us at interchangeable and replaceable, and couldn’t care less what we do on stage. These guys are different, and if nobody else can appreciate it I do.

Another thing I like about this gig is it’s not a far drive. It’s maybe 100 miles from where I live and any time I can get paid and sleep in my own bed it’s a victory. The opening act bowed out at the last minute because of the flu, and I called Bill Gorgo who was happy to fill in. Another plus.

Bill sets me up perfectly and is a headliner in his own right, so the audience was in for a double dip for their money. The joint was packed to the rafters when we got there, and we assumed we’d have another red hot show. I would have bet my paycheck on it, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was hell.

First off, the sound system was malfunctioning all night and there was no backup. It started for Bill and never recovered, and it affected the whole show. Also, there was a table of women front and center that were having a birthday party and they wouldn’t shut up or stop texting all night.

Bill and I are about as road seasoned as it gets, but both of those obstacles slowed us down. We did our best, but it frustrated us both to the point of distraction. We wanted to give that audience our very best as we always do, but it was a major struggle. My one hour set was jungle warfare.

Afterward, Jim took me in his office and apologized for the conditions and said he would have the sound fixed immediately. He told me how funny and professional I was, and said he thought I should be famous. That’s a classy way to handle it, and it’s why I love working for these guys.