Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

The Password Is “KINDNESS”

June 15, 2014

Saturday June 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Of all the posts I have ever made and all the writing I have ever done, I’d have to pick this one installment as my definitive work. It sums up who I am and what makes me tick, and when I put it up on Facebook I got unbelievably sincere responses – many from people I hadn’t heard from in years. This is what clicked with me that I am indeed a writer and not some typing schmuck.

It really took the pressure off as well with having to please anyone else with what I’m doing as a comedian. From now on I am calling the shots, and wherever it leads me will be where I go.

– – –

As I get older, I realize that the only thing that really matters in this life is kindness. That’s it. Everything else is pure and utter useless bullshit. We all have hopes and dreams and that’s great, but in the end it’s only what we do for others that really passes the test of time.

I used to think I wanted fame and fortune and all the dreams comedians have when they start out. As time slides away I can clearly see what a waste it is to focus on only that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting – or getting – it, but even if one does it’s no guarantee of happiness or lasting impact.

All too often little gestures or moments are what make the biggest difference, both good and bad. I know the bad side all too well, and there are a few people I have pissed off so badly they want nothing to do with me ever again.

Unfortunately those people are considered big in the comedy world, and it has cost me a lot of work that I could really use right about now. I still don’t know what I did to piss them off that badly, and it was completely unintentional. I said I was sorry, but they wouldn’t hear of it.

I don’t claim now or ever did to be perfect or without fault. My screw ups in life have been many and often. BUT – I like to think there is a heart in there somewhere, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life strengthening that muscle. I don’t know how or what I can do to make people’s lives better, but as long as I’m drawing breath that is going to be my razor sharp focus.

I may not ever get rich, famous or even beloved – but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the giving. My heart is still aching to the core about the passing of Dan Ronan. That kid touched a lot of people in exactly the way I am talking about. He was far from perfect either, but his core was pure.

I have a lot of contacts, and it’s virtually impossible to keep track of everyone. Facebook makes it a little easier, but there are many more that aren’t even on it. And I’m talking about one on one contact – even if it’s just for a minute or two. Planting those positive seeds every day are what life is all about.

When I told Dan’s parents about our road trip, his mother’s eyes lit up and for just a split second Dan was alive again. She smiled broadly as she told of how much that trip meant to him. Well, it must have meant at least a little because he ended up telling her about it.

Quite honestly it was no big deal to me at the time. Road trips are old to me to the point of being an unwelcome grind, but I knew Dan could handle it and he was thrilled to be asked. I remember fondly and vividly how much I was thrilled for my first road work, so I was passing it forward. That’s the kindness I’m talking about. It was little to nothing at the time I did it, and I forgot about it.

But when it came back from her memory at such a horrific time it was healing and cathartic for us both. Little moments like that are what I want to create more of with as many people as humanly possible until the day when I am in a coffin of my own. That could come at any time, and yesterday drove that point home deeply right through my already downtrodden heart.

If I have pissed you off even a little in our dealings – please accept my deepest and heartfelt apology. I was wrong, and I am very sorry. Dave Stroupe, Colleen Quinn and Al Canal from the Funny Bone chain and Bob and Tom think I’m the devil, and try as I might I can’t change it.

I said I was sorry, and I truly am. Nobody can make anyone accept an apology, but even they can’t change what’s in a person’s heart. I know I have one, and all I can do is move on and do the best I can. I’m sorry they’re so angry, but that’s on them. I’m not the dastardly scum bucket they seem to think I am.

My comedy career is going nowhere, and unfortunately that’s true for a lot of people – many with considerable talent. Talent is never the determining factor. It’s nice if one has it, but not the top requirement. Getting to the top echelon of show business is extremely rare for anybody. Hard work and luck are huge ingredients, and talent and timing are in the mix as well.

I’m really sorry to make this long rambling post, but I have so many raw emotions charging through my veins right now I can’t help it. I am still at the house of my friend Sheri who had a stroke before she was 50. She is alive, but every day is a struggle just to get out of bed and get dressed.

Perspective is everything, and I’m finally gaining some in life. The comedy game is brutal, and I fought through it for thirty years only to learn what’s really important – kindness. I hope I can make the most of whatever time I have left, and that time will be spent following my heart rather than trying to please some idiot in Hollywood I don’t respect. I’m playing a much more satisfying game now, and it’s one that everybody can win.

I’m sorry it took the death of such a vibrant soul to hit me this hard, but I don’t intend to make it in vein. Dan’s life has breathed new inspiration into my own, and has given me a razor sharp purpose I only partially felt before. I don’t intend to make long posts like this often, but I felt I needed to do this one and get it ‘out there’. My mistakes sure are, and those that hate me like to tell it to anyone who will listen. I can’t change that, but I can change my inner source of power, and I am doing that now. It’s all about the kindness. Period.

– – –

It may have taken years for me to find my voice, but after this particular post I think I finally have. It flowed out of me when I wrote it, and it got touched people’s hearts. That’s the goal.

Amen!

Amen!

Preach it, Aesop!

Preach it, Aesop!

Touching With Teaching

February 17, 2010

Tuesday February 16th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

I don’t know why I enjoy teaching so much, but I totally do. I hated school. I remember counting down the hours of almost every day, and the days of almost every year, hoping it would all be over. It wasn’t the learning I couldn’t stand, it was what and how I learned.

I wanted to dive in to what I wanted to know, and most of that wasn’t what was on their agenda. Algebra and geometry couldn’t have been any more painful, and biology had only one redeeming quality in that there happened to be all the best looking girls in that class.

Creative things are what I enjoyed, and there weren’t nearly enough of those to begin to satisfy my needs. I remember in seventh grade we had a science project assignment where we had several weeks to complete a presentation on a topic. For whatever reason I picked the human heart, and I really got into it. I wanted to make mine the best presentation ever.

The actual topic didn’t make any difference at all. I wanted to focus on the show part of it. I remember making up all kinds of colorful drawings to show and my uncle suggested I make an audio presentation complete with background music and call it ‘A Tour Of Your Heart’. That was all I needed to hear, and I was totally in. On presentation day, I let it rip.

I’m not sure if it was so much that the other kids enjoyed it, but I remember applause as I finished. It was completely different from what everyone else did, and it entertained the class. I didn’t have to say one word, I just stood there pointing to the graphs and pictures I had arranged, and my voiceover with music behind it sounded great, at least in memory.

Maybe if I heard it now, I’d be embarrassed by how excruciating it was, but at the time I blew everyone away with it. The teacher gave me an ‘A+++’ and I don’t think I ever got a grade like that for anything else I ever did. Isn’t that what they give butter? I don’t know.

The point is, I really loved doing those kinds of things, but put me in front of an algebra book and I was through. I didn’t care then and I don’t now. I’m sure somebody has a need for it, if only algebra teachers to torture future generations. As for me, I’m done with it.

What made me think of all this was that I received several emails today thanking me for the comedy classes and graduation show last night at Zanies. They were a fantastic group and I really enjoyed them because they got what I was telling them. Seeing the light go on in a student’s head is very satisfying and I really enjoy seeing them go up and get laughs.

I guess it’s a lot like a sports coach. I know everyone in my classes doesn’t have to like me personally, and I don’t really care if they do. I want them to LEARN something, and if they do that, the personal part will follow. Seeing the students’ growth is very satisfying.

The mentoring part is satisfying too. I know how much I revere the memories of all my comedy mentors from C. Cardell Willis to Gary Kern to Jimmy Miller, and hopefully I’ll be able to occupy that special place those guys have in my heart in a whole lot of others.