Posts Tagged ‘Tim Slagle’

The Unenviable Fraternity

July 3, 2014

Sunday June 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Since I was already on the far south side of the Chicago area yesterday without a gig, I decided to call some of my friends to see if I could find anybody home. I don’t get that far south as much as I probably should, and I have a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. Why waste the chance?

Tim Slagle was the first to call back, so we got together at his house in Dyer, IN. Tim and I are a lot alike in that we tend to polarize people, and then make it worse by not caring what anybody thinks. We have both burned a few bridges in our time, but that happens with a lot of performers no matter the genre. People with strong opinions who don’t have power tend to become pariahs.

If and when these people happen to catch a break, their past sins are often forgiven because of their newfound success. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon then, and that’s just how the game works. Tim and I are two examples of many who made a living, but never hit our jackpot.

Personally, I really like Tim both onstage and off. He is brilliantly funny, and even though his style is completely different than my own I am a huge fan of his work. He’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, and sometimes more than a few. That takes gargantuan testicles, and I respect him.

We are part of the unenviable fraternity of comedians that came through the boom years of the ‘80s but never got a sitcom. It seemed like everyone did – and there were quite a few – but there were a lot more of us that didn’t find our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and are now in our 50s and 60s wondering how we’re going to pay our bills next month. That’s not the place to be.

At least former athletes have a pension plan if they played long enough. I’ve been around three other genres of the entertainment business in standup comedy, pro wrestling and radio, and none of those three have any kind of financial security. One either makes it big or they starve. Period.

I was trying to figure out the actual number of long time road dog comedians that are now in a similar position, and I would guess it to be maybe three to five thousand. I am not talking about part time weekend warriors, as there are thousands more of those scattered across the continent.

I’m talking about people like Tim and me and all the others that came up during the boom and are now struggling to stay booked every week. That was never a problem before, but times have changed drastically in the last few years and that includes a new generation of wannabe comics.

The newbies of today don’t have the opportunity we did to get out on the road and earn a living at a young age. The work isn’t there for them either, and the whole business is changing. It’s the law of supply and demand in full effect, and unfortunately the demand has gone down while the supply has exploded. There isn’t enough quality work for everybody and there needs to be a cull.

I’m sure this process has happened in other businesses too, but I can’t think of any because this is the one that I have chosen. I was a ring announcer and promoter in wrestling and I’ve seen that business go through changes too. It takes a very specialized set of skills to succeed in that racket. Radio is another business on the slide for many reasons. I guess I just don’t know how to choose a career very well. I’ve had a long run in comedy, but I see the future and know I need a change.

Tim Slagle is a comedian that does comedy for smart people. He's one of my favorites. Check out his hilarious CD 'Europa'. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle does comedy for smart people. He’s one of my all time favorites. Check out his hilarious CD ‘Europa’. It’s a classic! http://www.timslagle.com.

Friday Fun With Friends

January 25, 2014

Friday January 24th, 2014 – Frankfort, IL

Tonight was another fun night working with long time friends. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I’ve put together a stellar cast of characters that make me laugh and are fun to be around. There are a lot worse ways to make a living, and we all know it. Tonight was a true team effort.

Ken Sevara has booked the comedians at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL for seven years now. He’s a comedian himself, so he understands the process. I’ve become a regular there, and love to work in front of the audiences there. They come to be entertained, and they have always been friendly.

The staff there always treats us like royalty, and if nobody else appreciates it I surely do. It’s an extra perk that doesn’t happen everywhere, and that’s a shame. It happens here, so I look forward to coming back. Dean the owner is into comedy, and the tone has been set from the top on down.

Tonight it was an extra special treat to work with my good friend Jimmy McHugh. The two of us together on one show is hard to beat, and to top it off hosting the show was Brian Hicks. He’s another of Chicago’s best, and doesn’t live far away. The three of us together made it a big night.

The weather was nasty all day, so Jimmy and I rented a car and got a hotel room not far away. I live almost 100 miles one way from Frankfort, and I didn’t want to be dealing with driving home in a snow storm. Jimmy and I are working tomorrow night in Indiana, so this was the right call.

Right before the show started, Tim Slagle walked in. Tim, Ken and I were the original “Jerry’s Kidders” on WLS radio with our friend Jerry Agar. It was nice of Tim to pop in, and I knew we had to find a way to get us all on stage. This was too good of a group in one place not to do that.

I cut my show a few minutes early, and brought up Ken, Tim, Jimmy and Brian for a close out round robin version of “Chicago Style” standup comedy. We each took turns at the microphone, and the audience loved it. The energy in that kind of setting is electric, and we all plugged into it.

The audience got far more than they expected, and everyone had a fantastic experience. I enjoy being able to make things like this happen on the spur of the moment, and it was my call entirely. No matter what problems any of us may have, being on stage together for those few minutes was an escape. It was like we were our own version of the Rat Pack, and the audience came with us.

After our show, we hung around a TV and watched Pat McGann’s debut on David Letterman. I was delighted that there was a crowd there to support, and we were all rooting for him to knock it out of the park. He did exactly that, and spontaneous applause broke out when his set was done.

I’m telling you, that guy has got it. He looked completely at home, and was able to get several applause breaks throughout his set. David Letterman came over to him after he was done and had very complimentary things to say before they went to the commercials. I’d say he hit a home run.

There wasn’t any jealousy among the group of us watching, and I thought it was a great tribute to the character of the people in the room. Pat deserved the shot, and he nailed it. Good for him. I couldn’t be happier for him, or more pleased to have gotten to perform with such a classy bunch.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He's a great pro and an even greater friend. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He’s a great pro and an even greater friend. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. www.funnybrian.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. http://www.funnybrian.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. http://www.timslagle.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show 'Fly By Night' on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show ‘Fly By Night’ on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. http://www.kensevara.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. www.patmcganncomedy.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his network TV debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. Way to go! http://www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Good Deed, Good Day

October 27, 2013

Tuesday October 22nd, 2013 – Wilmette, IL

Any day I’m able to do a good deed is a good day. I know it sounds corny, but I mean it. That’s the only thing that has any lasting meaning, and I love it whenever I’m able to make a difference. Today I had a chance to help someone, and it worked out better than expected. It feels fantastic.

Mark Schiff is a very funny comedian, and I’ve been a fan for years. I first saw him in the early ‘80s, and I loved his style. He has had both an HBO and Showtime special, and he and comedian Ritch Shydner compiled a book of comedy road stories called “I Killed” in which I have a story.

If there’s one resource in which I am rich it’s comedy road stories. I’ve been around the block many times, and the story they chose to use was a time I was in Tuscaloosa, AL and challenged an audience that included some University of Alabama football players. I treaded on holy ground by insulting their dead football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and had to be escorted out of town.

That story is what indirectly got me kicked off of the Bob and Tom radio show in Indianapolis. I had a copy of the book with me, and Tom asked me what it was. I told him it was a compilation of comedy road stories and he asked if I was in it. When I said yes, he asked me to tell the story. I did exactly what he asked, and then everyone became furious and threw me out of the studio.

I still can’t figure out why they got so angry, but that put them over the edge. I have never been treated so poorly by anyone in radio or TV, and apparently I’m still in their doghouse to this day. I’ve tried to apologize several times, but they won’t hear of it. I think the whole thing is insane.

I was fortunate enough to cross paths with both Mark and Ritch when they were in the process of compiling the book, and it was a thrill to meet them both. Both of those guys were part of the generation right before me, and I knew both of their work extremely well. To have them treat me as a peer made me feel great, and both couldn’t have been nicer – the opposite of Bob and Tom.

Mark is the co-author of a funny new play called “Marriage Is A Bout”, which delves into two couples that are friends and all that goes on with their marriages. One couple is Jewish while the other is Gentile. They had a run through with the actors at the Wilmette Theatre in Wilmette, IL tonight, and Mark invited me to be part of it and asked if I knew anyone else that I could invite.

I happen to know some very talented and creative people, and I got the word out for him. One of those who showed up was Vicki Quade. She’s got several successful productions going on in Chicago and all over including “Late Night Catechism” and “Put The Nuns In Charge”. I was in Vicki’s “You’re On The Air” play with Jerry Agar, Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara and it was fun.

Teme Ring is a gifted comedy writer, and she and her husband Jeff were able to attend along with Rick Young who is an actor in the area. They all enjoyed the show as did I, and afterward Mark and the crew sat around and took input from anyone who wanted to give their opinions.

I know it helped Mark, and I’m delighted I was able to get such a creative bunch to come out and support. It was a fun experience all around, and Mark thanked me profusely. It was no big deal, and I was glad to do it. I learned a lot myself of how the process goes. This was a win/win.

Comedian Mark Schiff - one of the all time greats. www.markschiff.com

Comedian Mark Schiff – one of the all time greats. http://www.markschiff.com

An Impromptu Reunion

October 5, 2013

Friday October 4th, 2013 – Rockford, IL

When I was on the radio with Jerry Agar, Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara as “Jerry’s Kidders”, we had a super fan name Fard (pronounced ‘Fa-RAHD’) Muhammad who we all came to consider a friend. He’s a super guy and very intelligent, and we have all stayed in touch for several years.

Fard is also a rabid fan of Dennis Miller, and managed to score four tickets to Dennis’ show at the gorgeous Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL tonight and asked if the Kidders would join him. Tim, Ken and I all happened to have the night free so we arranged an impromptu Kidder reunion.

The four of us rode in one car and busted balls the whole way there and back. It was a night of big fun and laughs all around, and everyone was in a great mood. This wasn’t something we had planned for very long, it just kind of came together in a couple of days. That made it even better.

We made it to Rockford with plenty of time to spare, and settled in our seats at the spectacular Coronado Theatre. That’s one of the most gorgeous old theatres I’ve ever seen, and being able to see it in person made the trip worthwhile even if there wasn’t a show to go with it. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before. It’s got to be on a list of the top architecture in America. It’s a true gem.

Our seats were eighth row center, and Dennis came out at 7:30 sharp. He might have even been a couple of minutes early, which doesn’t usually happen for any live entertainment. There wasn’t an opening act, and I found that a bit odd too. Usually in larger theatre situations there is a warm up act of some kind to focus the crowd’s attention. Ken, Tim or I would have loved that chance.

None of us were upset, as we were there to relax and enjoy the show. We all happened to enjoy Dennis, and not everyone does. He tends to polarize people, but that’s what great entertainers do. People love Dennis Miller or they can’t stand him – and I can see why. It’s like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers. There are rabid fans in one camp, and those that couldn’t get far enough away.

What I love about Dennis Miller is his unbridled gratuitous use of adjectives. He paints picture after vividly descriptive picture, and does it with distinct rhythm. I love watching him work, and he made us laugh out loud numerous times despite the fact he was fighting a nasty cold all night.

Most of the audience had no clue how difficult that can be, but Tim, Ken and I have all been on stage when we were fighting the crud and knew exactly what he was going through. That made it all the more interesting to watch, but he still delivered and made us laugh. That’s a professional.

After the show we had a world class meal at Franchesco’s Italian Ristorante where Ken books comedy shows of his own. We relaxed and enjoyed a sumptuous meal, and it was a perfect night from start to finish. We had nothing but laughs and fun, and wondered why every night couldn’t be like this. It’s not and never will be, so that’s why it’s important to savor every second of this.

Sometimes things just all work out – even for Mr. Lucky. If every day were like this I probably wouldn’t be a comic, but that’s ok. I’d have a lot less stress in my life, but I’d gladly blaze a new career path accordingly. I’m sure Dennis Miller has stress too, but that’s what comedians do. We help others forget about their troubles for a while, even though we’ve got a full load of our own.

The spectacular Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL. In a word - WOW!

The spectacular Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL. In a word – WOW!

Like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers, people love Dennis Miller or they totally don't. I happen to think he's great, and he made me laugh out loud all night in Rockford. Thanks Dennis!

Like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers, people love Dennis Miller or they totally don’t. I happen to think he’s great, and he made me laugh out loud all night in Rockford. Thanks Dennis!

Chicago Radio Superfan turned  friend Fard Muhammad

Chicago Radio Superfan turned friend Fard Muhammad

Tim Slagle - his CD 'Europa' is a must for all fans of intelligent comedy. www.timslagle.com

Tim Slagle – his CD ‘Europa’ is a must for all fans of intelligent comedy. http://www.timslagle.com

Ken Sevara - check out his radio show 'Fly By Night' on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. www.kensevara.com

Ken Sevara – check out his radio show ‘Fly By Night’ on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. http://www.kensevara.com

Day Of Distraction

July 4, 2013

Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 – Arlington Heights, IL/Libertyville, IL

   Every time I try to get a solid day’s work in, my phone rings and I get sidetracked. Today I got two more calls that took me off course. I suppose I could have said no to both, but that wouldn’t have been the right decision. My sky high pile of things to do will have to wait yet one more day.

   My first stop was the studios of WIND radio in Arlington Heights, IL. Ken Sevara hosts a talk show called ‘Fly By Night’ which runs at midnight on Sunday mornings, and he had a fallout for a guest. I’ve done the show before, and it’s a lot of fun. Publicity is always good, and it was also a chance to help someone and I try to do that whenever I can. It’s points on the old karma board.

   We recorded the show and it went very well, as we both knew it would. It’s not a matter of the ability to be entertaining, it’s everything else. Ken brokers the air time from the station, and has to come up with sponsors every week. He’s doing exactly what I was doing with the Mothership Connection on WLIP, only he’s on a bigger station for a shorter time. Still, there are bills to pay.

   Ken is much better suited to do a show like that than I am, as he’s a master salesman. He has a flair for everything I don’t, and this is a good fit for him. Does anyone listen? Who knows? That isn’t always as important as being able to tell a client “Hey, come be a guest on my radio show.”

   I get that, but what if anything actually makes a difference? Ken, Tim Slagle and I were on two major radio stations in Chicago doing our ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ segment, and that didn’t make us one nickel. It was great fun and I have to believe someone heard it, but it didn’t translate into dollars. Was it worth doing? Again, that’s hard to say. On a fun level, yes. On a money level, it bombed.

   I hope Ken’s show is a huge success, and he seems to be doing very well with it. He’s getting a variety of sponsors, but he has to go out and sell them. He has the ideal personality for it, where I don’t. He loves to get out and press the flesh, whereas I like to do my show and keep to myself.

   My next stop was Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL to audition for a speaking role in a film of all things. It’s a small role, but a film role nonetheless. I’ve done a couple of things in the past as far as acting, but nothing major. I’ve had bit parts in two other films, and both were very fun.

   This role is of a pompous but clueless security guard, and I went over my lines most of the day. There aren’t many, but I’ve always been horrible at memorizing lines. Even in my comedy, I’ve always been pretty loose as a rule, and I like to be free to ad lib. That’s not the way acting works.

   I won’t be upset if I don’t get the part, but I think it would be fun and productive to do it. I got the call from David Stuart at Improv Playhouse, and he’s the guy in charge. He’s got his hand in the local acting and improv scenes, and strongly suggested that I get myself a new headshot and register with a talent agency. I’ve never pursued that angle, but it wouldn’t hurt to go that route.

   They film commercials and movies in Chicago all the time, and I’ve heard of other comedians getting hired for bit parts in the past. It just wasn’t something I felt a calling to do. I was an extra in the movie ‘While You Were Sleeping’ with Sandra Bullock, and it was pretty boring actually.

   Acting is mostly a bunch of standing around, and that never thrilled me. I do trust David as far as his credibility, and he strongly suggests I pursue it. We’ll see if I get this part, and then I’ll go from there. I have enough other things I need to do without one more project. I could use a clone.

My movie debut...for about six seconds.

My movie debut…for about six seconds.

Memories Of Michigan

July 2, 2013

Sunday June 30th, 2013 – Lansing, MI

   In the old days, it wouldn’t have been out of the question for me to have driven home after my shows in Ann Arbor, MI last night. I gain an hour coming back, so that would probably give me an arrival time at home between 5 and 6am. These aren’t the old days, so I took the night’s sleep.

   There was no reason to rush home, so I didn’t. I’m not doing the Mothership Connection radio show anymore, but even if I was I’d still have been able to make it in plenty of time. It had been a while since I was through Michigan, so I chose to stop and see some old friends along the way.

   My first stop was in Lansing. That was where my first morning radio job was in 1990. It seems like a whole other lifetime ago now, but memories came flooding back as I drove through a town I never did quite take by storm – or any other way. I was only there six months, and it wasn’t fun.

   The circumstances at the radio station I worked for were horrible, and I chose to go back to the ‘stable’ world of standup comedy. They actually wanted to sign me to a return contract, but I had had enough and decided to move on. In retrospect, I wonder how different my life would’ve been had I sucked it up and stayed. The station was eventually sold, so I would have had new owners.

   The other times that has happened in radio I was shown the door, but who knows? Maybe this would have been the one time it would have been different, and I’d have had the long successful run in one town I’ve always wanted. I’ve seen it happen for others, but I’ve never had it myself.

   My news person in Lansing was a sweetheart named Debra Hart. She was new like me, and we were together on the air for probably three months. We hit it off quite well on the air and off, and then she got an offer from the competitor across town. They gave her more money, so how could I be angry? She told me she needed to take the offer, and I totally understood. No hard feelings.

   I ran into Deb just a few years ago, and she’d been on that very same station ever since leaving the job with me. She became a local fixture, and neither of us could have predicted that. We were telling the story on the air as I was a guest on her station, and listeners were calling in disbelief.

   She had become so ingrained on the station she was on, that nobody listening could picture her being on the competition – which was also still on the air. That’s how the cards played out, and I relived the story in my head as I drove past the office building where the radio station used to be.

   I also have some friends located in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo areas, and I drove through those towns after a long time being away. Boy, the years sure have not been kind to either one of those towns and they reminded me of the pathetic decaying rust belt hell hole Lansing was when I was there in 1990. East Lansing is pretty hip with the university, but Lansing itself is a toilet.

   Well, that toilet seems to be overflowing all through Michigan and it’s a shame. It’s indicative of the collapse of America’s greatness, and it’s sad to see it firsthand. The rust belt was the place to be at one time, and everyone had a job who wanted one and life was sweet. That’s over now.

   I stopped in Dyer, IN next to have dinner with Tim and Kathy Slagle. Tim is from Detroit, but moved to the Chicago area years ago. We talked about how the whole state of Michigan has been rotting for years, and how sad it is. We both cut our teeth doing comedy shows all over that state, but now those places are barely hanging on. With radio and comedy, I have deep Michigan roots.

Clearing The Air

May 16, 2013

Wednesday May 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I got up much earlier than I had intended to this morning to do a comedy segment on the ‘Stone and Double T Show’ on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I really like those guys, and we usually do a weekly call in bit on Monday mornings. We missed this week, so they rescheduled it today.

   I have mixed feelings about doing that show, but it’s fun so if they keep calling I’ll keep doing it. The guys themselves are great, but I’m not sure if anyone who listens to that station likes what I do. It’s really hard edged rock, and that’s just not my audience as a rule. I try to be entertaining, but I’ve never once had anyone come to any show I’ve done saying they’d heard me on ‘The X’.

   Does that mean I should stop doing it? That’s a tough call. It doesn’t hurt to get radio exposure, but it’s not helping either. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years on the wrong radio stations, and I think some of my best work has fallen on deaf ears. It’s discouraging, but that’s how it’s been.

    I still can’t believe I’ve worked for THREE country radio stations. Yikes. I’m not a fan of that genre at all, even though I grew to respect it during my tenure. That’s not my audience either, but those are the stations I was able to get jobs so that’s where I went. It makes me have doubts as to the competence of radio in general if they’d hire me three times at country stations, but they did.

   I’m also experiencing serious doubts about continuing to host ‘The Mothership Connection’ on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. Again, it’s great fun but who’s listening? It’s a small station in Kenosha, WI with a weak night time signal. We do have a certain amount of loyal listeners every week who hear us live and a few more on the net, but is it enough to keep doing it? I’d think not.

   I wish the show came with a paycheck, but it doesn’t. How can I generate one? I don’t have the slightest idea. I have a meeting with John Perry from the station tomorrow and we’ll either come up with a plan to earn some money or I’ll shake his hand and thank him for the fun opportunity.

   The ultimate goal is to get on a station that fits my personality, and find a way to stay on the air and get paid. That’s proven to be a whole lot easier said than done, but unfortunately being taken off the air has not been my fault. If I could manage to put together a nice run somewhere that has a listener base in my wheel house, I’ll be set for life. But I’d also be set for life if I hit the lottery.

   Unfortunately, the odds seem to be about the same. Every time I get on a station that would be a fit, something happens to end it prematurely. ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was a perfect fit, but just as we were starting to get some legs we got fired. Then I was part of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ with Jerry Agar, Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle on both WLS and WGN in Chicago. That was also a winner.

   Had Jerry not been blown out the door, we’d still be on the air and have that coveted following I’ve not been able to attain no matter how hard I’ve tried. For some reason, I just haven’t had the chance to gel at a place that fits. I love being on with Stone and Double T, but they’re not where I’m ever going to get any mass recognition. If they were Bob and Tom, I’d be a national draw.

   I have a hard time figuring out where the radio business is headed as a whole. It’s always been insane, but there was a certain air of mystery about it. Local programming was plentiful and of a high quality. Now everything is pre recorded in another city and it’s very impersonal. I’d love to have a steady job somewhere, but I don’t know of any that exist. The Stone and Double T shows of the world are becoming rarer and rarer, and that’s a shame. Radio’s best days are behind it.

A Sixty Minute Success

July 4, 2010

Saturday July 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Dyer, IN

Jerry Agar called and asked if I wanted to be on the air with him today as he had a shift on the radio. We weren’t able to do a Kidders show because Ken Sevara’s voice is acting up and Tim Slagle was preparing for his yearly 4th of July weekend party he likes to host.

Any time I have a chance to spend an hour on WGN radio in Chicago, I take it. That’s a monster station, and it’s always worth being on it because of the exposure to hundreds of thousands of people all over the Midwest I’d likely never get in front of any other way.

That truly is a broadcast, going out all over the place to all different types of people. It’s an opportunity to do a sixty minute commercial for myself I’d never be able to pay for, so that’s a chance I had to take. I know I have projects going, but this was worth my time.

Jerry decided it would be a good topic to talk about traveling America for the 4th of July week so he picked the right person to kick it off. I bet I’ve seen more of the United States than 99.999% of anyone other than truck drivers or hitch hikers. I’ve spent my entire life on the road, and seen all four corners of the continent and most every crevice in between.

We had a fun segment, and it lit up the phones. That’s the great thing about a big station like that, virtually ANY subject will light up the phones because it relates to someone that happens to have a radio on. We didn’t need phones though, Jerry and I know what to do.

We used to go off on stuff like this all the time when we first met twenty years ago back at AM 1480 WFXW, the tiny station he worked at in St. Charles, IL. That station isn’t on the air anymore, but we sure had fun while it was. We knew nobody was listening, but we still tried to do entertaining radio anyway. We used to dream of being on WGN someday.

Neither one of us are rich or famous on a large scale, but we sure did live our dreams of being on WGN. Had someone told either one of us twenty years ago we’d achieve that, it probably would have blown our minds right out of our ear. I enjoyed every minute of our time on the air today, even if it wasn’t exactly the way we thought it would be. It was fun.

Jerry has to be back in Toronto and I am doing what I’m doing, but for an hour we were exactly where we dreamed of twenty years ago. Yes, the Kidders were and are a blast, but this is what we both wanted back then – the two of us bantering back and forth on WGN.

Jerry had to be on the air until 9pm, but I left and went to Tim Slagle’s house in Indiana for his yearly blowing up of mass quantities of legal fireworks. Ken Sevara also came out with his wife Lori and Jerry showed up after his shift. We had a Kidders reunion anyway.

We all know we could probably be doing better, but we could all be doing worse too. It was great to be together as a group, and we enjoyed blowing up all the heavy artillery Tim bought. Good times with good friends are never a bad investment. I spent this day well.

Kipper And Kidders

June 23, 2010

Tuesday June 22nd, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

Jerry’s Kidders are back together…even if it was only for a single lunch at the Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We hadn’t seen each other in way too long, and even though Jerry Agar wasn’t able to join us, it was still great to see the Kidders. We still have a solid chemistry.

The reason we chose the Brat Stop is because it’s in between Milwaukee where Kipper McGee lives and the far south side of Chicago where Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle happen to live. I’m right in the middle so I had the shortest drive of all, and of course I was late.

The guys started busting my chops before I even got a chance to sit at the table, and that reminded us all of why we had so much fun for two years. We enjoyed being on the radio but the lunches and hanging out were always a huge part of the deal. It was our own little tree house, and everyone felt welcome. We all knew immediately how much we miss it.

Kipper McGee was our program director at WLS, and I told the guys then we’d never have such a supportive situation as far as radio goes. Kipper was in our corner and still is. He gave us the chance to grow as a team on the air, and he never squelched the creativity like way too many other clueless control freak program directors love to do. He got us.

It’s such a shame that radio is so trigger happy to fire competent people and allows the goof balls to remain employed. Kipper McGee is a brilliant radio programmer with a soul to boot, and he gets blown out the door of WLS while the corporate honcho named Farid or Farouk or Farout or Feng Shui or whatever his name is continues to ruin the company.

That story is WAY too common in radio, and I’m sick of it as are Kipper and the other Kidders as well. We got booted off the station when Jerry did, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t still be there. Now he’s had to split up his family and go work in Toronto.

We didn’t dwell too much on the negative though. We knew we don’t get the chance to see each other in one place much anymore so we spent most of our lunch looking back at the fun times we had and laughing uproariously. There were some real moments with us.

We also talked about how we can keep the project going. It’s a lot of fun to sit around a studio and fire off lines about news stories of the week, and when we were on our game it was pure electricity. None of us want it to end like this, but what do we do to reignite it?

Jerry is going to be in Toronto for the foreseeable future, and that’s just how it is. We’re not angry, we all know he needs to turn a buck. We all do. How can we do it with a show that does current events jokes for an hour each week? That’s a tall order and we know it.

Still, there’s no reason we can’t reinvent ourselves and that’s what we bounced around the table. Kipper knows a lot of people in radio, and he still believes in us as a team. He’s of the opinion we should try to stay on in Chicago, and we all agree. But where? WGN is the logical choice, but Jerry hasn’t been on so neither have we. Still, it was a fun lunch.

Monday Money

May 5, 2010

Monday May 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Speak of the devil. Yesterday I read of Jay Leno’s difficulty having to perform in a very awkward situation, and lo and behold today I get to do it myself. Again, nothing new. I’ve been doing it my entire adult life. It goes with the territory of being a full time comedian.

Money comes when it does in comedy, but it’s always welcome. Most shows happen at night in some sort of venue that’s hopefully done comedy before. Even those can be a bit tricky at times, but then there’s the other kind of bookings that have no parameters at all.

Those can and do occur any and everyplace from a flimsy tent to a garage to who knows where? I still recall the time I had to stand on a diving board of a swimming pool in some lawyer’s back yard in Madison, WI for a performance that ended with me walking off the ‘stage’ after a drunken oaf in the pool kept splashing me while I was trying to do my act.

Another time I had to perform in the hallway of a hospital floor so people in the rooms could look out and see the show. One guy started groaning in pain, and they ended up just closing his door and telling me to ‘ignore it and finish my skit’. It was a major disaster for everyone, and I had to do thirty minutes as I remember. I’d rather be in bed as a patient.

I’ve worked on moving buses, floating boats, and on top of a picnic table in 100 degree heat at a sleazy carnival in Tucson, AZ not far from the tilt-a-whirl. Why did I attempt all these insane stunts? I needed the money. Still do. I thought I’d have it figured out by now.

Today I was asked to do a show for the business operators of Orland Hills, IL. They had a luncheon meeting and somehow word got out they wanted to hire a comedian. I heard of it from my friend Dennis Ross who lives in New Jersey of all places. How he got the gig I have no clue, but he asked if I wanted it and of course I said yes. Monday money is sweet.

That’s one day of the week most comedians don’t get paid, so any time anyone can turn a buck on a Monday, life is good. That’s the reason I host the shows at Zanies and also try to schedule comedy classes, so I can save the rest of the week for other work that doesn’t always come as often as I like. It’s a common struggle for all performers to stay working.

The people of Orland Hills were very friendly, from the mayor to the Chief of Police to all the other people who went up before me. The audience was diverse, mostly over thirty and needed to get back to work. I had to hit them hard but keep it very clean and stand on a podium with a short microphone leash and a less than stellar sound system. That’s hard.

I’ve learned to deal with these situations over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to kill every time. I have very high standards and if someone hires me I want to give them as good a show as humanly possible. Yes I like being paid, but I really do want to earn my money. I feel bad if anyone would feel cheated, but in these kind of gigs it’s very difficult to get a true roll going, only because there are too many obstacles in the way from having to deal with bad sound to being in a room where there are windows and sunlight shining.

The person who buys the comedian is always the one I try to please, and this time it was a very nice lady who was very easy to deal with the whole time. I know she had to present the idea to a committee, who in turn had to find some alternate choices, and then they had a vote and I won. That’s usually how it works, and I never want to let those buyers down.

If even ONE person complains, it can be a disaster for those people. I’ve gotten several over the years, but all comedians do. There’s a very fine line with some people as to what is considered entertainment and what is considered offensive. Usually the people who are the most offended are the ones who had nothing to do with the process of hiring anyone.

The mayor of Orland Hills set the tone, and luckily he was a very laid back and likeable gentleman named Kyle Hastings. He wasn’t the typical stodgy boring mayor type and he’s a natural on stage. I was glad that he brought me up, but he attended to local business first so it got to be a little longer than expected. The degree of difficulty was extremely high.

I wanted to represent Dennis Ross proudly, because he’s a good guy and didn’t have to call me for this gig. I wanted to please the lady named Karen who called me because she was very nice and booking entertainers isn’t her job. I’d hate to make her look bad. I also thought the mayor and Chief of Police were good laughers and wanted them to enjoy it.

I saw some blank looks on some of the rest of them, but I kept on going. I know most of them had never been to a comedy show before, and they had no clue I was going to be on the docket for their meeting. I don’t blame them, but I still wanted them to have some fun anyway. Nobody was mean, and I did my best. I closed on my regular closer and got off.

I usually try to stay and at least thank a few people who don’t avoid eye contact with me but today I was in a hurry to attend a meeting with the other guys in Jerry’s Kidders as we haven’t seen each other in a while as Jerry has been filling in on a big station in Toronto.

Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle live way south so as long as I was in the area it was wise for us to reconvene and reassess where we are as a group. We agreed that we’re probably in a position of transition right now and the possibility exists we could be finished as an entity especially if Jerry gets a full time job offer. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to use us up there.

We’ve still got the play “You’re On The Air” we wrote with Vicki Quade and if Jerry is not here we can still rework that, but it will take lots of time and money and effort to get a quality product polished and ready to sell. I don’t think we’re ready to do that at this time, but we definitely could do some standup shows in the WGN listening area as the Kidders.

Ken and Tim are really good guys to work with, and we all have fun doing the Kidders. We all wish we could have a steady local outlet in Chicago like we did at WLS. We were on Mondays at a set time, and even though we didn’t make money it was still a sweet gig.

We put ourselves in a position to earn money, but it never came. We were yanked off the air at WLS when Jerry got fired, and then WGN started moving Jerry all around and that in turn moved us all around. Now we’re sitting around waiting to go back and do it again.