Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Will (Durst) Power

January 19, 2014

Thursday January 16th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

2014 is starting off extremely well, and I’m enjoying every second of the ride. I’m trying not to fall behind, but there’s so much going on I can’t help it. Mundane tasks like getting mail, picking up dry cleaning, paying bills and doing laundry tend to pile up, and then everything slows down.

I spent most of today catching up on everything but the laundry, and even though that wouldn’t qualify for anyone’s bucket list it felt great to get it all out of the way. It will clear more room for more of the exciting things I’ve been doing, which is exactly what I’ve always pictured life to be.

What I find most remarkable about this hot streak I’m on is that everything is falling into place both out of the blue and to exact perfection. I’m getting calls for bookings on exactly the nights I happen to be available, whereas it has traditionally been exactly the opposite. I’d get several calls asking for the same date, and had to turn most of them down. Now it’s meshing without a hitch.

Today I picked up two nice bookings in February – both exactly the kind of shows I want to be doing. One is a country club on Valentine’s Day, and the other is a theater I have worked before that I’ve been trying to rebook for several years. Instead of me pestering them, they called me.

Even better about them both is that they’re close to home. I’ll be able to score a pair of paydays and still be home before midnight. These are pure heaven, and they’re coming in frequently from all directions lately. I’m not going to question why, I’m just going to be grateful and take them.

Tonight I happened to have off, but received a personal invitation from the great Will Durst to check out his new one man show “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG” at The Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee. Any time I can see him perform live, I do it. He is one of very few true masters.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Will, if for nothing else his tremendous work ethic. That guy is ALWAYS working on something, and this is his latest incarnation. He had a long run of another one man show about the 2012 Presidential election, but as soon as that was over so was his show.

Will has been known for decades as one of the premiere political satirists anywhere, and that is no easy feat to pull off. Things are constantly changing in that arena, and his shelf life of material is painfully short. He has to continuously keep it all fresh, but he always manages to do just that.

This particular show has gone in the opposite direction – which shows how loaded with ability Will truly is. In many ways it’s like my “Schlitz Happened!” show in that it was made to please a large audience that isn’t being catered to by Hollywood. It was a business decision for both of us.

That doesn’t mean there can’t be passion in it, and I really enjoyed the show. One feature that’s beyond hilarious is Will uses an actual overhead projector which really adds to the theme of what he’s talking about. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s already a high quality product. He nails it.

Will Durst is evolving, and so am I. We both have plenty of show experience, but our business has been lacking through the years. We’re both doing something about it, and I see bright futures for each of us. Any smart fan of standup comedy needs to be a fan of Durst. http://www.willdurst.com.

Will Durst is one of the top standup comics and political satirists of the modern era. www.willdurst.com.

Will Durst is one of the top standup comics and political satirists of the modern era. He is a true master. http://www.willdurst.com.

He wrote and stars in a hilarious one man show aimed at the baby boom generation called "BoomerRaging: From LSD to OMG".

He wrote and stars in a hilarious one man show aimed at the baby boom generation called “BoomerRaging: From LSD to OMG”.

Will performed it tonight in his home town of Milwaukee at Next Act Theatre - a terrific venue to see live entertainment. www.nextact.org.

Will performed it tonight in his home town of Milwaukee at Next Act Theatre – a terrific venue to see live entertainment. Will was terrific too. http://www.nextact.org.

Finding A Coach

April 29, 2013

Friday April 26th, 2013 – Niles, IL/Fox Lake, IL

   I’m getting ready for my last night of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows for the immediate future, but my offstage work is just beginning. This is a project that should last for years, but I don’t intend to rest on my laurels and coast through it. If I’m going to do it – and I am – I want it to be great.

   The only way anything can be truly great is to keep working and improve every aspect. I don’t think I’m above this process, and in fact I want to completely rebuild myself from the ground up. I’m going to examine and reexamine myself from all angles, and build something to be proud of.

   On stage, I need to have a solid structure. I couldn’t be any farther from that if I tried, and it’s a frightening place to be. I have some of the ingredients in place, but none are in any kind of order or set dosage. I’ve been randomly experimenting, and that’s not any way to achieve real success.

   It is the way to get started though – at least for me. I’d much rather get it out there and begin to shape it than leave it in the planning stages forever. I know a lot of people who talk about a lot of projects they’d love to do, but never even test any of them once. Ideas are useless without action.

   One thing I’m not afraid to do is take action, and so far it’s been a gigantic learning experience. I have enough stage chops that I can pull off an acceptable show with audiences, but I won’t fool myself into believing the array of flattering comments I have gotten mean it’s a finished product.

   It SO totally isn’t – onstage or off. I met with Cathy Rubino for breakfast today. She’s a former comedy class student with a background in acting and theatre and she’s nothing short of brilliant. I could tell she had the creative spark in class, but she never wanted to venture out on the road to chase the standup dream. I can’t blame anyone for that, as the road life is an all consuming beast.

   There are a lot of genuinely talented people who couldn’t last on the road, and it surprises me I made it as long as I did – talent or not. The lifestyle required to be an entertainer is just not made for everyone, but those of us who can manage to survive acquire a callous that helps protect us.

   I know I have a thick one, and sometimes I feel out of touch with ‘normal’ people. They often aren’t on the same wavelength, and that’s why road dogs tend to either be lone wolves or choose to hang around other road dogs exclusively. I don’t think either of those are the smartest choices.

   Why not hang around those who can be a link to actual customers? Cathy is a perfect example of someone who gets both sides. She’s an amazing talent, but she also has a family life and that keeps her grounded. Whatever dents are in her can aren’t noticeable on the surface. I’m not used to being around people like that, but I need to be because she’s exactly like I want my fans to be.

   She’s in the exact right age group, and enjoys entertainment. She didn’t grow up in Milwaukee, but totally understands what I’m trying to do. She offered to coach me from a theatrical point of view, and I gratefully took her up on it. She’s got experience, and I know I can learn from her.

   She drove up with me for the first week, and saw the shows in person. She made notes, but we agreed that we’d hold off until I had a few more shows under my belt to compare and see how it all worked out. I filled her in on how the other shows went, and we went over the notes she made the first week. She had a lot of very solid ideas, and her insights from a theatrical background are something I wouldn’t get from another comedian. This is the correct path for pursuing greatness.

Aching For A Break

November 28, 2012

Tuesday November 27th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Being an entertainer in general comes with all kinds of unexpected difficulties, but comedy has a set of unique problems that go beyond even those. One thing that can be especially tough is the process of staying in a funny mindset when funny is the last place one’s mind is at a given time.

It needs to become a habit, and something that can be turned on and off at will. That’s not easy, especially when life does what it tends to do to upset one’s personal apple cart. I remember very vividly having to do comedy shows as I was going through the horrific process of being prepared to testify against my lifelong best friend in a bank robbery trial. I still don’t know how I did that.

There were weeks of daily preparation for the actual trial, and I had absolutely no choice but to show up and do what I needed to do – which happened to be the most painful experience in a life jam packed with them. I used to have nightmares about that trial, and when it actually took place it was a surreal moment I wish I would have never experienced. Who could be funny after that?

I had to find a way, and I did. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been paid to be able to squeak out the meager existence I’ve been able to squeak. Club owners didn’t care about my personal problems, nor did the audiences. I was paid to get laughs. Period. And I did. But I wasn’t laughing myself.

That’s where I am now on a slightly smaller scale. I’m not facing having to testify in any court trials any time soon, but the stress of keeping myself booked and all the other issues I’m dealing with is keeping me more than occupied. I’ve got the stress of a dozen, and I’m feeling the strain.

The IRS problem is going to be a major issue. I got two letters today telling me I owed a total a lot higher than my accountant told me. With all of those penalties and interest tacked on, I’m in a much deeper hole than I first thought. How the hell am I going to get out of this? It’s a tight spot.

I’m not finding much funny right now, at least not off stage. I was able to pull off strong shows in Springfield last weekend, and the audience would never have known anything was wrong. The way I learned to do that was from having to do it during the bank robbery trial and other times of turmoil throughout my life. But one can only do that so long, and I’m really growing weary of it.

All it would take to really bring my spirits up would be a run of quality shows somewhere. I’ve paid plenty of dues, and I can pull off the shows. Comedy clubs, cruise ships, theatres or a mix of all those venues would be fine. I just want to work and practice a craft I’ve spent my life to learn.

A successful run of quality shows would wipe out my tax debt in no time, put me in a fantastic mindset and also be a treat for the audiences who come to see the shows. I’m ready to give them a great one, as I’ve spent decades on the road polishing it. All they have to do is come and laugh.

It all seems so simple, yet at the same time as far away as scientifically possible. How will I get a chance to make my mark? I don’t know, but when I do I’ll be ready for it. I just need a break to get it all in motion. As the United Negro College Fund says, “All I ever needed was a chance.”