Posts Tagged ‘television’

A Cup Of Coffee

July 28, 2014

Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Oh, how time flies. Four years ago today my appearance on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” aired. I’d recorded it the previous March, and by the time it ran I honestly thought it would never air. When it did, it was a tremendous experience – at least for people around me.

For whatever reason, that super short four and a half minutes on national television at 1:30am was a whole lot more impressive to people than the lifetime it took to get there. To me it wasn’t that big of a deal, because it was the easy part. All I had to do was walk out there and do a whole lot less time than I’m used to doing. It was like a night off, but that’s what put me over the top.

As far as credibility is concerned, making it to national television even once is proof of having played in the majors. It’s not a guarantee of a lifetime of problem free bliss, but neither is making the majors in any kind of sport or entertainment genre. Lots of people have more problems after they get there than before they started, and I’m sure more than a few wish they had never started.

There is so much involved to “making it big” in any genre of entertainment, but the one factor nobody can ever gain control over is luck. Things happen good and bad, and that’s just how it is. I freely admit that I got very lucky in a good way to have the door open to get on the show, but I also knew what to do with that luck when I got it. I had to play the game for a while, but I did it.

I went back and forth with the talent booker, and then they changed talent bookers. Then they did it again. Then the original person came back, and I started all over again. It took a couple of years to play out, but I got my spot and no matter what else I ever do nobody can take that away.

Several years have gone by now, and I haven’t gotten anything close to that kind of a break in anything I’ve tried. Did I put forth any less effort during that time? NO WAY. In fact, I probably put in more, but I had a few bad breaks health wise and that took me out. Again, it’s all part of it. That was a bad break just like initially getting the call to open for Craig Ferguson was positive.

After living through this process and seeing it with others I know personally, I totally see why there are one hit wonders in music. If it’s this complicated for a comedian, I can’t begin to think what it must be like for a band. Talent isn’t the only thing that puts an act over the top. It’s many things, and everything has to line up at the right place and time for a career to really take root.

None of this is said with bitterness, but I think it’s important to note that there are a number of ingredients needed to bake a cake. I’ll also be the first to admit I’ve shot myself in the foot more than once, but that happens to others too. Michael Vick is one of the most blatant examples of all time, but he still managed to come back and salvage a decent career. Not everyone gets that shot.

It’s hard to say if I will ever catch another break as big as the ones I’ve already had. No matter what happens from now on though, I did manage to get on national television as a comedian and had a job doing mornings at 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago. In radio, that’s the big leagues as well.

Not many ever make it to one of those much less both, but the key is to stay there and carve out a career. I had a cup of coffee but that was it. So far. Maybe that will be it. Maybe not. We’ll see.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That's harder than it sounds.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

A Friend On Letterman

May 25, 2013

Thursday May 23rd, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   My friend Ross Bennett is in town this week headlining at Zanies in Chicago, and we hung out all afternoon dissecting his recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Ross has been slugging it out in the trenches even longer than me, and getting this break is well deserved.

   I couldn’t be any happier for someone who has been such a good friend and supporter of mine for decades, and we had a lot to talk about. Comedians can be geeks when it comes to the craft of comedy, and we spent the whole afternoon discussing everything that went into the whole event.

   When I was on the Craig Ferguson show, Ross called me and wanted to know everything about that experience and I happily told him. It’s a monumental victory to get one’s national TV debut, but unfortunately the only one who can truly understand what it’s like would be another comic.

   So much goes into such a short appearance, and the only thing an audience sees is five minutes of what looks like effortless comedy. They have no idea of the agony that has gone into honing it over years on the road, and then packaging it into a set that needs to be approved by the network.

   There’s always a talent coordinator to deal with, and he or she dictates what gets to stay in and what gets axed. I had to deal with three or four different ones on the Craig Ferguson show, and in the end it was the first person I ended up dealing with who had quit and come back. Her name is Celia Joseph, and she was a total sweetheart. She approved my set, but it took a while to develop.

   Ross told me how he would record sets on DVD, and then the talent coordinator would look at it and tell him what to keep, change or cut. He kept working at it, and eventually what came out was a killer set. I was so proud when I watched it, as I knew his back story of years of struggle.

   Ross is also a dented can, and his road has been far from paved with gold. He is from a military family, and at one time he considered a career in the military. I’m glad he didn’t go that direction because he’s a fantastic comedian and always has been. He has pissed some important people off through the years just as I have, but he’s never given up and that’s why this is such a major deal.

   We talked of how this validates all the years of extreme effort that’s required to hone this craft, and how nobody can ever take it away – especially those who rejected or never supported him in the first place. It’s a top accomplishment, and reason to celebrate – which is exactly what we did.

   Some people may celebrate by having a drink or going out to an expensive dinner, but we were delightfully satisfied to sit in the McDonald’s across from Zanies as Ross drank a Diet Coke and I drank a bottled water and go over everything about the set from beginning to end. It was a treat for me to hear it, and Ross was ecstatic to relive every moment in detail. I was so happy for him.

   It was also extremely educational, and I wish I’d had a recorder to turn our conversation into a podcast for future comedians making their network TV debut. We went over our experiences and compared notes, and someone could have definitely gotten something out of the whole exchange.

   Ross said they told him he could come back, and they’ll be running his episode again at the end of May apparently. Not only is it great exposure, he gets paid again. I’m not sure if they ever ran a second showing of my Craig Ferguson shot, but I know I never got paid again. Ross deserves it and I’m thrilled for his good fortune. See him live or see the set at http://youtu.be/3fUyhibih7M.

Comedian Ross Bennett

Comedian Ross Bennett