Posts Tagged ‘The Tonight Show’

Craig Ferguson BLOWS…

May 6, 2014

Sunday May 4th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

A few days ago, I happened to write an entry in this very diary about Craig Ferguson. Not that it matters, but I happen to be a fan and I wrote some nice things. I meant them all, and I really do think he is a talented and funny fellow. Appearing on his show was truly a highlight of my life.

I didn’t think much of it, other than I wished him well in his new endeavors. I was sorry to hear he didn’t get the David Letterman slot, and again not that it matters what I think I do believe he’d be the natural choice. The guy is second to none in my opinion, and would have been ideal for it.

Part of me wanted him to get it for my own agenda. He likes to work off the cuff as do I, and it has always been a fantasy for me to pair up with a talk show host that I can shoot lines back and forth with like Rodney Dangerfield had with Johnny Carson. They were a tremendous TV team.

Rodney appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny a whopping 70 times, and it helped make his career. I vividly remember looking forward to it as a teenager, and they always delivered the laughs. I would love to have a national TV outlet to do the same, and Craig Ferguson would have been a great pairing. He doesn’t know that, but I would have been able to keep up with his wit.

I only got to do my standup when I was on, and it was a frightening experience in many ways. I made a lot of mistakes I totally wouldn’t do again, but everyone needs to have their first slot on national television to get the experience over with. It’s very intimidating, but it didn’t kill me.

I’d be MUCH more relaxed and prepared a second, seventh or seventieth time, and I’d love to do it. In all likelihood, it won’t be on the show as it sits. The talent coordinator that booked me is not there anymore, and I don’t have any in. It’s not like Craig and I were buddies beforehand, I only opened for him at Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL and killed time when his plane was delayed and the CBS liaison saw me and told me I was hilarious. That started the process of me being on the show.

When I finally did it, he left the room before I went on. That must be their policy, and I think it is to give the comedians the floor and let them work. Personally, I hoped he’d be in the room and call me over to the couch like Johnny used to do. Still, we crossed paths as he was leaving and I was about to go on and he shook my hand and wished me well. I sensed a genuine spirit in him.

What really blew me away most is when I wrote my recent diary and saw how many loyal fans he has. Wow! I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was beyond impressed. I wrote entries about Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld the two days prior, because it happened to be their birthdays. I didn’t get even ONE response to either of those entries – but when I wrote about Craig I was deluged.

And a persnickety lot they were. They corrected me on my facts and informed me of all he had coming up. I could only dream of having such dedicated fans, and that’s why I’m writing about it now. I’m assuming they are going to find it as they seem to scout out anything that happens to be written about their hero. I do know his birthday is coming up on May 17th, so don’t correct me.

I would LOVE a fiercely loyal fan base like Craig Ferguson has, and I am totally fine with it if a lot of them happen to overlap. I’ll take second place, as long as I’m on the radar. Check out my appearance on the show. It’s on You Tube, but it’s not my best work. I have a DVD and a CD as well, and if you’d like a copy send me an address and I’ll ship out whatever you like. Hopefully you will become my fans too. Craig Ferguson blows…everyone else’s fan base away. Kudos!

Craig Ferguson has THE most loyal fan base I've ever seen. If I could have half that much support I'd be doing more than well.

Craig Ferguson has THE most loyal fan base I’ve ever seen. If I could have even half that much support I’d be doing more than well. PLEASE…be my fans too!

Jay Leno

April 30, 2014

Monday April 28th, 2014 – Lake Villa, IL

Today is Jay Leno’s birthday, and I think it’s important to acknowledge exactly how huge of a career he has had. There have been controversial events surrounding him at times, but that’s not what I want to discuss. I don’t have enough information to claim to be able to speak intelligently on the subject. I heard what everyone else heard, but quite frankly none of that is my business.

What is my business is standup comedy, and Jay Leno was the absolute undisputed king of it at the peak of the comedy club glory years. He was in the right place at the right time, and everyone I came up the ranks with spoke his name in revered tones. He was the one everyone aspired to be – or at least his status. He worked the top venues for top dollar, and he worked CONSTANTLY.

I think the majority of the public has no clue what a work ethic Jay Leno has always had. I was privy to it through working with Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago and knowing the owner Rick Uchwat. Rick and Jay were very close, and Rick would always tell the rest of us how far we had to go to even get close to Jay’s work ethic. He figured it out early, and rode the wave to the top.

A lot of people choose to only look at his Tonight Show years, and base their opinion solely on that. That’s not the whole picture, just as people often judge Woody Allen on how he treated Mia Farrow and that whole situation. Again, none of that is my business and I have no right to judge.

Jay Leno was a huge success long before he ever got The Tonight Show, and had he not gotten it he would definitely not have starved to death. Money is one thing he mastered early, and I’m a fan for that alone. He found a way to get paid top dollar, yet he never coasted. He had two jobs at all times since he was young – one that he lived off of and one that he saved. That’s SO unusual.

I read several times where he said he saved every penny he made from The Tonight Show, and lived off the money he made in comedy. I did the exact same thing when I had my radio jobs, but unfortunately none of them lasted long enough to make a difference. I was always able to squeak out a living in comedy while I was doing radio, and I banked the radio cash. I see how he did it.

What’s so fantastic is that he did it for so long. At one point a lot earlier than most, he was at a place where he didn’t have to work if he didn’t want to – but he totally wanted to. He was out on the road constantly either opening for music acts or headlining from coast to coast. He worked it, onstage and off. I saw him live in the ‘80s and it was like nothing I’d ever seen. He was amazing.

I think he did somewhere around two hours, and it was rapid fire JOKES with zero fat. He had the crowd in his pocket the entire way through, and I was in awe. He brought the goods, and did it night after night after night. Young comics coming up the ladder today and those that may not have enjoyed him on The Tonight Show need to realize how great a standup he is and respect it.

What I found odd is that Jay is left handed. Many entertainers are, but he is so mechanical that I was surprised to hear of it. He’s also dyslexic and overcame that quite nicely. I have respect for Jay Leno’s tremendous accomplishments, and I wanted to make it public. He earned his success.

Everyone has their opinion, but the fact is that Jay Leno was THE KING of standup comedy during the boom years of the 1980s. Period.

Jay Leno was the undisputed KING of standup comedy during the boom years of the 1980s. Period. He earned it.

Movie Night

April 2, 2014

Monday March 31st, 2014 – Kenosha, WI

Every once in a while at least a little time off is necessary to charge up the batteries. I’ve been one busy little bumble bee, and hadn’t had a night just to goof off in a long time. Tonight was it, and purpose was well served. It was a relaxing night in the tree house with friends, food and fun.

My director friend Mark Gumbinger has a fantastic man cave in his basement, and I can’t think of a better place to watch sports, movies and just hang out with buddies. He has a TV with one of the biggest screens I have ever seen, full cable and a sound system that rivals any movie theater.

He also has a world class collection of guy stuff like Three Stooges videos, cartoons, and a lot of obscure movies that he likes because he’s a director. The people he invites are usually eclectic entertainment types, and likely to appreciate what’s on the bill. I always enjoy being a part of it.

Tonight’s guest roster included Lou Rugani from AM 1050 WLIP, and one of the biggest fans of film that I know. He knows a lot of interesting trivia, and it’s always an education to hear him throw in little known facts about little known films. I always learn something every time I attend.

Mark is a terrific party host, and there is always an ample supply of freshly popped popcorn and other snacks and ice cold beverages. It’s just a fun time to relax with people that appreciate good entertainment and interesting company, and I’m always flattered to be included on the invite list.

Before the main attraction, we’re usually treated to some opening entertainment to get us in the mood. Tonight it was some vintage Johnny Carson from before his Tonight Show days, and what a treat that was. He appeared on Jack Benny’s show, and was the host of “Who Do You Trust?”

We also watched a couple of episodes of “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx. Mark likes to pop things in with no particular rhyme or reason other than they’re interesting, and these were tremendous examples. Both Johnny and Groucho were loaded with natural talent and wit, and we were all impressed at how well the content held up. We’re still laughing long after they’re gone.

The main attraction tonight was the 1981 movie “Thief” starring James Caan. That has always been one of my favorite movies, and I saw it when it came out. It’s rather dark, but James Caan is absolutely riveting in his role, and I never get tired of watching it. I’ve probably seen it twenty times, and a lot of comedians happen to like that movie too. I know several, and we quote lines.

James Caan plays an intense bad ass, and those are always the most colorful characters to quote from. Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket” is one, as is just about anyone from “Goodfellas”. Caan has some classic lines in this role, and I’ve quoted them – even on stage – for many years.

I don’t know where Mark found it, but this version happened to be the director’s cut. I’d never seen that version before, and it was fun to see it in a different form. There were some scenes I’d not seen, and some lines that were left out. Lou hadn’t seen it at all, so it was fun to observe how he reacted. We could have gone to a theater and seen a new film, but this was so much more fun.

"Thief" starring James Caan is one of my all time favorite movies.

“Thief” starring James Caan is one of my all time favorite movies.

Tonight I watched it again with Lou Rugani in attendance. He's one of the most talented radio voices in the business. Check him out on 'The Music of the Stars' on AM 1050 WLIP radio in Kenosha, WI. www.wlip.com.

Tonight I watched it again with Lou Rugani in attendance. He’s one of the most talented radio voices in the business. Check him out on ‘The Music of the Stars’ on AM 1050 WLIP radio in Kenosha, WI. http://www.wlip.com.

Thanks to director Mark Gumbinger for hosting movie night at his world class 'man cave'. Here he is with singer Gordon Lightfoot.

Thanks to director Mark Gumbinger for hosting movie night at his world class ‘man cave’. Here he is with singer Gordon Lightfoot.

Carson’s Clout

February 10, 2014

Friday February 7th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Jay Leno’s tenure has ended as host of The Tonight Show, but the only thing that pops into my mind is the amazing run Johnny Carson had. Nobody will ever again come close to the incredible dominance that Johnny achieved, and maintained for thirty years. Today’s world is not the same.

Just as Cy Young’s record of 522 pitching victories will never be threatened much less broken, Johnny’s impact on late night television carries the same enormous presence. Everyone after him will forever be compared, and they’ll lose – especially by those of us who watched him firsthand.

I remember sneaking out of bed as a kid when I was supposed to be sleeping and turning on the TV to see the comedians Johnny would introduce. It was a thrill to be up when I wasn’t supposed to be, and then in the summer when I could stay up I’d watch the whole show almost every night.

This took place over years, as it did with millions of other Americans. He was truly the king of late night TV, mainly because there was no real competition. Today there are not only too many actual shows competing, but that pesky little internet tosses a few ice cubes on the fire as well.

We’re all scattered more than ever, but Johnny came along at a time when the rich got richer to the point of ridiculous, and there was nobody else. Charlie Chaplin had that status in movies, but he was way before my time. Johnny is part of my childhood, and millions of others’ too. He’s the standard bearer, and even though he’s been off the air for 22 years he is still held in high esteem.

Earlier this week I finally picked up the controversial biography aptly titled “Johnny Carson” written by Johnny’s former lawyer and cohort Henry ‘Bombastic’ Bushkin. I remember Johnny talking about him in his monologues, but had no idea until way later it was based on a real guy.

I’d heard a lot about the book for a while, and was looking forward to reading it. I really liked the PBS documentary a while back about Johnny, and I thought they were fair with portraying a no holds barred picture of what he was really like. Johnny had human flaws as we all do, but he also was one of the biggest celebrities of the 20th century. He got to go where few others tread.

The book was an easy read, and I thought it was well written. Like with another book I really liked, “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, it stepped on toes because it painted a real picture of someone the public viewed as super human. Mickey Mantle was a human just like Johnny was. Period.

I don’t look any less at Johnny Carson because of his shortcomings, and in fact that makes the whole story more fascinating. We all dream of attaining that kind of status, but it doesn’t promise a care free existence for those precious few that get there. Mickey and Johnny were both troubled to a certain degree, and fell short of where they probably could have been. It adds to their legend.

Jay Leno is completely different than Johnny. I have nothing bad to say about him, and he was absolutely ‘the man’ when it came to standup comedy in the ‘80s. He was the top banana for sure and Jerry Seinfeld was second. Then there was everyone else. That was no small feat, and neither was hosting a network talk show for 22 years. Jay has had a fabulous career, and I don’t think he is done yet. He’ll surface somewhere else, you watch. But no matter what, Johnny’s still on top.

Jay Leno hosted a successful network talk show for 22 years. That's no small accomplishment.

Jay Leno hosted a successful network television talk show for 22 years. That’s no small accomplishment.

But no matter what, to a generation of Americans Johnny Carson will always be the king.

But no matter what, to a generation of Americans Johnny Carson will always be the king. Period.

A Personal Victory

January 22, 2014

Tuesday January 21st, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Success! Ah, the taste is so sweet. It’s a small taste, but that’s ok. One bite of the highest grade of chocolate or finest cut of steak not only is still delicious – it makes one want more. After quite a few glitches to the point of completely starting over with a different company my new monthly “Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter” has finally been sent out to a handpicked list of recipients.

In the big scheme of life I know it means less than nothing, but to me personally it’s as big of a victory as I’ve had in quite a while. When my business partner embezzled from me a while back it really rocked my world to the core. I totally didn’t expect it, and it jarred my business to a halt.

I had stupidly allowed him free reign of just about everything off stage, and when he pulled his little stunt and I had to fire him it set me back tremendously. We had a nice flow going, and I had a monthly newsletter that was very well received. This was before I started writing a daily diary.

Allegedly we had it up to 2500 recipients, but I can’t confirm that because I never saw any list. I took his word for it, but I have no reason to think he’d lie about that number. On the other hand I had no reason to think he’d steal from me either, but that’s a different story. I think it was right.

When we parted ways, not only did he not give me the mailing list he used it to try and start his own comedy classes using another teacher. I was shocked, hurt and infuriated all at once, and the whole situation degenerated into a big ugly mess. Many of the people on that list were friends of mine outside of comedy and weren’t students at all. I had to explain the situation over and over.

What a nightmare it all turned out to be, and quite honestly I seethed about it for years. I’m not the first person to get scorched by a business partner, but that was personal, messy and took a lot of inner discipline to not track him down and pound a tune on his skull with a monkey wrench.

After dragging everything through the mud for a few years he eventually moved to Australia -which still isn’t far enough away for my tastes but will have to do. I don’t know what he’s into now, and I really don’t care as long as it’s not comedy or comedy classes. The damage is done.

Once in a while I’ll have somebody out of the blue ask “Hey, whatever happened to your old newsletter? I used to really look forward to it.” It makes me cringe inside, but I always tell them I’ll make sure I add their name to the list when I start it up again. Today I fulfilled my promise.

I’ve been compiling email addresses for several years now, and our initial mailing had almost 2000 entries. I know a lot of those will bounce back, and that’s fine. We knew it would take lots of tweaking to get it going smoothly, but we just wanted to get it going. The glitches weren’t fun, and ended up delaying everything by eight days. Our target was the 13th, but we got it out today.

Kudos to my one man pit crew Eric Feinendegen for hanging in there and seeing it through. He knows the situation with the last guy embezzling, and we’ve got a different agreement altogether. Actually, it was almost a good thing I experienced all that because now it’s a much better system and I won’t have that happen ever again. It was a painful lesson, but one well learned. I received all kinds of responses today from people I hadn’t heard from in years. That’s just what I wanted.

This was a long, hard painful road back, but I’m here and it feels ecstatic. I wasn’t sure that I’d ever be able to pull it off, but I hung in there and kept pecking away for years until I could get all the ducks in a row to try again. Today is that day and the sweet taste of victory is extra delicious.

But I know that’s all it is, a taste – and a tiny one at that. This was just the very beginning of an ongoing process that needs to last the rest of my business life. I need to establish a track record to those that don’t know me but could potentially hire me, and there are too many of those to count.

Of the 2000 or so names I have on the list now, a lot of those are personal friends and/or people that aren’t ever going to hire me. There are several hundred comedians for example, and I’m glad to be in contact from a friendship angle but for business they’re not going to do me much good.

I might get an occasional referral or get thought of for a fallout, but that’s not where my target is. I want to get my name in front of bookers of the best paying work available. That’s the reason to do this at all, and that’s why I’m making it such a priority. It’s basically an ad for my services.

Sending out one email is fine, but it’s surely not the end all be all. I heard from several bookers I hadn’t had contact with in a while, and that’s exactly what I was looking to have happen. I have been pathetic at staying in contact consistently, but that ends as of today. I’m already a winner.

I’m sure it will lead to a few bookings at some point, and that’s fantastic. It’s money directly in my pocket just for reminding people I’m still here. Now I have to grow this list and find EVERY person that could possibly book me and get in front of them every month. That will take a while.

I don’t have a clue who books what in the corporate world, and I also need to delve into media as well. Jimmy Fallon is taking over The Tonight Show in a few weeks. Who is the talent booker for comedians? Jimmy Kimmel? Conan O’Brien? David Letterman? I should know all the names and have all the contact info of these people but I totally don’t. And that doesn’t include radio.

Who are the producers of the top national, regionally syndicated and local radio shows all over North America? What about The U.K. or Australia or even the Armed Forces Network? There is a LOT of work to do, and this is just the tip of the tip of a gigantic iceberg. This is where money will come from, and I need to treat this list like the gold mine it will be. It’s my ticket to success.

I know it will take time to get it really humming like I picture, but today was a terrific start and I’m thrilled to be back in the game. Eric did a phenomenal job, and I’m grateful to be teamed up with him. He’s been great to work with, but if he embezzles he’s going to have to work harder to make it happen than the last guy. I’m a lot more wary now, and that’s good. I think we’ll be ok.

It feels tremendous to finally be getting my business chops in gear. I’m going to add all kinds of valuable contacts to my list as the year progresses, and I’m finally going to be smart enough to grow them into relationships. I’m also going to reconnect with people I shouldn’t have let lapse.

The work on this project is only beginning, but today was a major step. To fight back from the lowest point I can imagine feels extra satisfying, and any bitterness I had toward Mr. Embezzler is all gone. He actually did me a favor. Without that experience, I wouldn’t be as ready as I am.

'Maxwell's Silver Humor Newsletter' is now a reality. If you'd like to get on the list, send a valid email address to bookdobie@gmail.com.

‘Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter’ is now a reality. If you would like to receive it each month, send a valid email address to bookdobie@gmail.com.

Hopefully chicks will dig it.

Hopefully chicks will dig it.

Even if they don't, it should  be good for business.

Even if they don’t, it should be good for business.

Hidden Comedy Gems

October 5, 2013

Thursday October 3rd, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

Once again Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago have come through when I could use some work the most, and gratitude permeates my entire being. I’ve got several random fill in dates scattered through the rest of the year, and I couldn’t be happier. I can pay some bills but still remain local.

The openings are at all three of their Chicago area clubs and at all positions on the shows. One night I might be the headliner, and the very next I might feature or host. Normally that’s not how a club books an act and it’s a dangerous game to play politically, but Zanies and I have a history.

They know I’m a strong headliner, and I have nothing to prove. They also know I am versatile enough to handle any role on any show, and won’t bitch about not headlining. I’m there to earn a living, and also to work on new material in a productive environment. Being an emcee or feature in good rooms is the ideal place to work out new bits, and I’ll take advantage of this opportunity.

Every comedian wants to be the headliner, but it’s not easy to move up the ranks. I could write several articles about this tricky and delicate process, and I intend to in the not too distant future to benefit up and coming comedians. For now suffice to say I’m thrilled to get the local income.

I have several headline dates coming up soon, but this week I’m hosting three shows at the new Rosemont, IL location. I’m thrilled to be working with Carl LaBove, quite simply one of the best standup comedians in America. In my opinion, he should be a lot more well known than he is.

I’m always bitching and complaining about comedians I think should get more recognition, but I can’t help it. I know how difficult it is just to survive in this insidious business, but then there is a higher level of people with tremendous natural ability who are special. Carl is in that category.

I’m sure it’s the same with actors, musicians, athletes or any other competitive endeavor. There are all kinds of people who want to be stars, but very few have the ability, drive and luck to make it happen as they pictured. The magic formula is a combination of all three – and extremely rare.

I have frequently named all kinds of acts I think should be huge stars, and I mean it. My friend James Gregory in Atlanta is one. That guy hustles his business like nobody else, has a rock solid and hilarious stage character and can work clean. He should be on The Tonight Show, Ferguson, Letterman, Kimmel, Conan or any other show immediately. Find him at http://www.funniestman.com.

Steve ‘Mudflap’ McGrew is another hidden treasure. That guy is world class funny, and I can’t figure out why he hasn’t popped on a big time level. Jimmy Shubert is another gem. Then there’s Dwayne Kennedy, Steve Seagren, Tim Northern, Beth Donahue, Tim Walkoe, Larry Reeb and a whole lot of others who are out there making people laugh week after week. They’re all warriors.

Carl LaBove is right there with all of them. I first met him when I was just starting out. He was best friends with Sam Kinison, and part of the ‘Texas Outlaws’ with Bill Hicks, Ron Shock and a few other guys from the ‘80s. Carl has an amazing life story which I won’t delve into, but it sure is worth checking out as is his hilarious act. He’s at Zanies in Rosemont, IL the rest of this week, and I will be watching every minute of every show he does. He’s a master. http://www.carllabove.com.

Zanies is my 'home club'. They have been good to me for decades and I am very grateful.

Zanies is my ‘home club’. They have been good to me for decades and I am very grateful.

Check out my friend James Gregory 'The Funniest Man In America' www.funniestman.com

Check out my friend James Gregory ‘The Funniest Man In America’ http://www.funniestman.com

The great Carl LaBove - quite simply one of THE best standup comics in America today. What a talent - and a great guy too. www.carllabove.com

The great Carl LaBove – quite simply one of THE best standup comics in America today. What a talent – and a great guy too. http://www.carllabove.com

Blockbuster Needed

October 2, 2013

Monday September 30th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I read an article years ago about Mario Puzo, author of “The Godfather”. What I found to be of interest was that he had intentionally set out to write a blockbuster, something he’d be known for to the masses and would bring him money. He’d written some other books that had received high critical praise but hadn’t gotten him anywhere, and he had a wife and five kids he needed to feed.

I also remember seeing an interview with Gene Simmons of KISS, and he talked about both he and Paul Stanley setting out to create the ultimate band they had never seen or heard but wanted to as fans. They wanted to create an ultimate fan experience that would turn them into superstars.

Both Mario Puzo and KISS have done more than well, but I also recall listening to an interview with Quincy Jones not too long ago talking about the creative process behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. He said everybody who ever sets out to make a record thinks they’re going to change the world, but there are factors beyond anyone’s control and if it happens it’s entirely by chance.

I think Quincy Jones is one of the most brilliantly creative minds of our time and what he says has validity, but I’ll bet Michael didn’t look at it that way. He was coming off a wildly successful “Off The Wall” album, and was firing on all cylinders. He was looking to rule the music world.

All of these examples swirl in my head as I sit and think about what I can do to create a similar sensation in the comedy world. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I sure know what it isn’t – plain white males telling randomly assembled jokes and routines. That’s not the way to make an impact these days, even though it worked for many years. Those days are gone and won’t return.

The world has simply changed too much for that model to remain relevant. It used to be if one could manage to get on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or maybe David Letterman, there would be a large enough audience where it could make enough of an impact to launch a career. If Johnny happened to think an act was funny, he or she became the golden child of show business.

It’s no longer that way, as there isn’t any single outlet that can make anyone that quickly – with the possible exception of You Tube. Something can still go globally viral in a short time, but that doesn’t guarantee anyone stardom. Recognition and stardom are not at all the same. Any frat boy can light a bottle rocket out of his poop shoot and film it, but how does that translate into money?

There used to be a circle of industry people that would watch The Tonight Show, and they’d be fighting the next day to get a piece of any new meat that made an impression the night before. In this new setup, it’s everyone for him or herself and no one path is the right one to take anymore.

The good news is, I realize the pickle I’m in and am looking to do something about it. The bad news is I have to survive month to month doing what I’ve done my entire adult life. I might have made a living doing it, but it wasn’t the recipe to be a superstar. I need to revamp my approach.

I don’t think my ego needs to be a superstar, but my wallet could sure use it. I would be able to help so many others, and that would be my ultimate end focus. Mario Puzo and KISS succeeded, why couldn’t I pull it off too? My gut feeling is that my secret of success emanates from Uranus.

Mario Puzo set out to make money first. And he did.

Mario Puzo set out to make money first. And he did.

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley wanted to create "the band they never heard or saw", and they did!

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley wanted to create “the band they never heard or saw”, and they did!

Was it luck? Some, but there was a LOT of talent there too.

Was it luck? Some, but there was a LOT of talent there too.

It's always FUNNY, when it comes from URANUS!

It’s always FUNNY, when it comes from URANUS!

Front Row Treatment

September 24, 2013

Sunday September 22nd, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

I can die now. I’m sure there are those that have been wishing that for years, but now I can deal with it with a smile on my face. My personal Mt. Rushmore of heroes to meet is complete, and it was a raging success each and every time. Most people never get to meet one of their heroes, but I hit a grand slam. I’ll have pleasant memories forever, and there’s nobody else I need to chase.

Yes there are all kinds of famous and/or interesting people I wouldn’t mind crossing paths with in person, but as far as super elite status there have only been four – Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, George Clinton and Bob Uecker. I don’t care if anyone else doesn’t agree with those four as having super elite status, it’s my list and I’ll decide who gets on it. Those four are my biggies.

Today I rounded out my awesome foursome in high style as I got to hang out with Bob Uecker for a good 20-25 minutes – on the field at Miller Park no less. Wow, what a dream come true for a native cheese head and it couldn’t have gone any better. Everything was right, and it was great.

I can’t thank my friend Drew Olson enough for making this happen. He knows everyone at the stadium, and although it was no big deal for him he knew it was a big deal to me so he took time to make the call and walk me through the process. I like to do nice things like that whenever and however I can, and when it comes back my way it’s extra sweet. I’ll remember this day forever.

We were sitting in the dugout at Miller Park – something that by itself was worth my trip – and Bob came out of the other dugout and was standing behind the batting cage before the game. I’ve never been on the field before, so the whole experience was surreal from the start and I loved it.

Drew told me to follow him, and we walked up to Bob and Drew introduced me as a comedian from Milwaukee. That’s all it took. Bob’s eyes lit up, and he shook my hand and started rattling off story after story, and it was like we were buddies for years. It was the right place and the right time, and circumstances couldn’t be better. He had nothing else going on, and had time to hang.

Since I knew of his career highlights so well I was able to keep him talking and recalling funny story after funny story. The guy who was his sidekick in the Major League movies is a comedian friend of mine named Skip Griparis, and that helped forge a bond up front even though we didn’t need it. He was warm right from the start. Everything was laid back, and I loved every second.

What was an even bigger thrill was making Bob laugh a couple of times. I tried to just shut up and let him do most of the talking, but on a few occasions I had a quick story to throw in and his head snapped back with laughter more than once. That’s THE most flattering reaction I can get.

We hit on a lot of topics from sports to show business to being from Milwaukee to professional wrestling of all things. He used to go see it in his younger days and he did a fantastic impression of Dick The Bruiser. Drew and I were bent over laughing, as it really was dead on and hilarious.

I really wanted to get a picture, but things were going so well I didn’t want to ruin the moment. These situations can be very delicate, as it’s almost a peer thing. I don’t consider myself on a par with Bob Uecker, but he and Drew are peers and I didn’t want to put that status into jeopardy.

Another delicate situation was a package I brought for Bob with my DVD, CD and t-shirt from my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show. He if anyone would get the list of jokes on the shirt, but again my wack-o-meter went off and I decided not to force the situation. We were having such a good time I just wanted to enjoy it for what it was. I’ve waited decades to get the chance, so I dialed it back.

As we were walking off the field I asked if he’d mind if I sent him a shirt, and he said he’d like to have one but what else would he or anyone say? “No, stick that shirt up your bilge hole. Like I need to wear a cheap t-shirt from some goofus I don’t know to advertise a show I will never see.”

I’m sure he wouldn’t say that and he didn’t. Before we left the stadium, Drew gave the package to one of the longstanding Miller Park staff who said he would deliver it to the broadcast booth – which he did immediately as we watched. I felt a lot better doing that than trying to do it myself.

I have no delusions that he’s going to listen to or watch my act or wear the t-shirt, but if he had a chance to look at the shirt I’m sure he had a chuckle or two. That’s good enough for me, and he hopefully gave it to someone or even left it in the booth and someone else may get use out of it.

One thing I noticed immediately as we were talking was how ‘the kid’ in him was out. I always heard that with any great comedian, their inner child is close to the surface and easy to identify. I definitely saw it in Bob, and I think he saw mine too. That’s probably why we hit it off so well.

Another thing I noticed was how he had absolutely nothing bad to say about anyone else. He’d only bring up positives and/or good times they’d spent together. He knows celebrities from many fields, and I’m still not sure if the people in Milwaukee realize just how big of a star he really is.

I listened to him tell a few stories of being inducted into more than one Hall of Fame. How rare is THAT? It’s hard enough to get nominated for even one much less inducted into several, but he is although he doesn’t say it to brag. It was thoroughly enjoyable to listen to everything he said.

He pokes fun at himself for his lack of ball playing prowess, but in fact making it all the way to the Major Leagues is no small feat in itself – especially when he did it. There were only 16 teams then, and he still not only got a cup of coffee but managed to stay in the Major Leagues for years.

That’s a noteworthy accomplishment most people would milk for a lifetime, but he also got on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when that really meant something. Not only that, he was on somewhere around 100 times when people would give up a lung to get on once. It’s amazing.

Then there was a successful sitcom in ‘Mr. Belvedere’ that lasted several seasons. Then he was in two ‘Major League’ movies where he stole the show. He did hilarious color commentary work on ‘Monday Night Baseball’, not to mention rose to become one of the best play by play baseball announcers anywhere. Each one of those would be noteworthy by itself, but Bob nailed them all.

Did I forget anything? Well, he wrote two very funny books and also hosted another funny TV show called “Bob Uecker’s Wacky World of Sports”. And he was part of Wrestlemania for what was then the largest audience ever. I don’t need to go any farther – one is impressed or not. I have always been impressed, and to meet and hang out was a big thrill. I was in the front row for real!

Meeting a hero is a thrill. When he's as nice and funny as Bob Uecker - it's a memory I'll never forget! Thanks to my friend Drew Olson for making it happen. What a great experience!

Meeting a hero is a thrill. When he’s as nice and funny as Bob Uecker – it’s a memory I’ll never forget! Thanks to my friend Drew Olson for making it happen. What a great experience!

Betting On Uranus

August 24, 2013

Friday August 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   “It is impossible to win the great prizes in life without running risks.” – Theodore Roosevelt

   This is not only an inspirational greeting card quote – it has become the virtual blueprint for my life. After too many snake eyed rolls of life’s dice to count, it’s high time for at least one of them to hit the jackpot. I’m beginning to get carpal tunnel syndrome from rolling those dice so much.

   Today I did it again, but I feel great about my chances to win. There are two people I know that are starting a comedy content based website, and are looking to launch next month. They came to me recently and asked if I’d like to be a part of it. I said yes, and today we started the adventure.

   I can’t say who it is or give any details just yet other than it’s a project I feel is timed perfectly for the circumstances of today. They’re putting together original talent and ideas that haven’t had exposure anywhere else, and their chances of something hitting is excellent. It’s a smart gamble.

   The old way was to hope to get seen in a comedy club, and be asked to appear on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. He was it. David Letterman came along in the ‘80s, but before that it was Carson and a few other lower tier shows like Merv Grifin, Dinah Shore and Mike Douglas.

   There was also “An Evening at the Improv” on A & E, but that came along later too. For a long time, comedians moved to L.A. hoping to get a Tonight Show shot. That was the big prize, but as with most any entertainment genre the chance of getting that one slot was beyond astronomical.

   It’s a completely different ball game now, even though the objective remains the same. An act needs to get in front of as large of an audience as humanly possible in order to become known by name, thereby in theory creating a draw when they appear live. That’s the basic success formula.

   Network television shows have become diluted, and that’s not necessarily the way to do it right now. They don’t hurt, but how much do they help? I did a successful Craig Ferguson shot, but it didn’t put me over the top in one appearance. Nothing does. It takes a consistent plan to attain it.

   If someone can cultivate a steady following on the internet, that can lead to a totally legitimate fan base. There’s a whole subculture of people gaining followings maybe not in the millions, but enough to put butts in seats in places or sell them some trinkets. Jenna Marbles is such a person.

   She does her own You Tube videos, and gets a staggering number of hits – sometimes over one million or more. Wow! I’d be thrilled to get 100,000 paying fans who buy a DVD or t-shirt every year. The potential is right there, now I have to make it happen. I began work today as I recorded a video rant in character as the King of Uranus. I see clearly what needs to be done to develop it.

   I did a daily rant called ‘The Sixty Second Soapbox’ on a few radio morning shows I was part of. It’s a bit that got a lot of attention, and I loved doing it. It’s short but effective, and it’s perfect for the internet world of ultra short attention span. I’m going to rework a lot of those old soapbox rants and the site will be my showcase. This is the perfect idea at the perfect time. I’m pumped!

His Royal Weirdness - The King of Uranus!

His Royal Weirdness – The King of Uranus!

On An Upswing

March 7, 2013

Tuesday March 5th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The entertainment business – and life itself – is a constant series of upswings and downswings. It’s a roller coaster ride, with the only constant being change. I remember meeting Kenny Rogers years ago when I was living in Salt Lake City, and he had the best attitude I’ve ever seen. He had been in the business for decades and learned to keep an even keel no matter what was happening.

“I’ve been around so long, I’ve experienced every possible kind of up and down anyone could ever imagine,” he said. “I never get too cocky when I’m up or depressed when I’m down because I know it never lasts either way. Sooner or later the tide will turn, and change will come again.”

I never forgot that, and meeting him was a real thrill. We got to spend time with him backstage, and it was very educational. I was working at a country radio station then, and we had the typical backstage meet and greet for listeners who had won tickets. Kenny handled it like the total pro he is, and made everyone – including my co-host and me – feel like we’d been his friend for years.

I’m on a major upswing now, and it couldn’t come at a better time. I haven’t experienced all of the amazing ups a Kenny Rogers has, but I’ve had some and they were fantastic. The times I had a radio job and was able to do comedy along with it were the best, as I had plenty of money to go around and that alone has a way of making life better on all levels. I could get used to that again.

I’ve had my share of down times too. Sometimes it seems like more than my share, but that’s a part of life as well. Bad breaks happen to everyone at some point, and it’s how a person reacts to them that determines how life will turn out in the long run. I’m seeing that now, and after all this time I’m finally feeling like I’m at least starting to have a clue as to how this big game is played.

This next little while is going to be crucial in determining how the rest of my life works out. If I play the game correctly – and I think I can – I’ll be able to finish strong and win. All of the ugly mistakes I made can be turned around, and rather than blame them I will use them as education.

Quite honestly, I did a lot of stupid things through the years and most were deeply rooted in my anger and need to ‘get even’ with the hand life dealt me. I was determined to show everyone who doubted (mainly my father) that I was indeed worth something and would show them in person.

What a waste of time and energy that all was, as my father died and never did think I amounted to anything that pleased him anyway. I could have gotten The Tonight Show instead of Jay Leno, and my father still would have thought I should have gotten a tattoo and been a biker like he was.

If there is any real ‘secret’ to life, I think it’s that we all have to please ourselves and hope that at some point we catch that lucky break everyone hopes for and our dreams come true. I’m about to do a run of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows in my hometown at the nicest venue there is. I am also going to get to be ‘The King of Uranus’ at a hockey game next week. If nobody else likes any of that, too bad. I’m ecstatic, and I think I can parlay both into more fun and income in the future if I handle myself correctly now. It’s taken a lifetime to get this far, I want to enjoy every minute.