Posts Tagged ‘Tom Sobel’

Off Stage Overhaul

March 31, 2013

Friday March 29th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   Well, it’s a good thing I’m in such a good mindset because I won’t be winning the contest here at Laughing Skull Festival. While it would have been nice to advance, I’m not upset. There were seven Chicago comedians in the contest that had over sixty entrants, and not one of us made it to the second round. Coincidence? Conspiracy? It doesn’t matter even if it was. We didn’t make it.

Some of the other comics were rather miffed, but I’ve been around long enough to know that a contest of any kind that involves subjective judging of artistic talent is about as easy to predict as which rapper will get shot next. It could be anyone at any time for any reason. There’s no logic.

I came here to showcase myself in a five minute set, and that’s exactly what I did. I thought my set was very representative of what I do on stage, and it was in front of about fifty people off the streets of Atlanta who had never seen me before. I was mixed in with eleven other acts and all of us were trying to get the attention of three judges who like what they like. It’s not complicated.

On this night in this crowd in front of these judges, I was not one of the four finalists the judges liked based on their set of parameters – whatever that may include. I’m not bitter, angry or upset at anyone and I wish the comics who won all the best. There are a lot of really nice people with a lot of talent in this festival and my fingers are crossed that the best person wins and gets noticed.

Just because I didn’t win the contest doesn’t mean this was a wasted trip. On the contrary, there were a pair of useful info packed seminars this afternoon that made it worth coming. I was blown away by the presentation Steve Hofstetter made about the business of comedy. Steve is in charge of the festival, and I’m rapidly becoming a fanatical fan. This guy is on the ball and then some.

Tom Sobel in Louisville is a booker I’ve always liked and respected, and he told me how much respect he had for Steve Hofstetter. He told me I’d be impressed with both Steve’s comedy chops and his business acumen, and he wasn’t kidding. I haven’t seen his act yet, but if it’s half as good as his offstage methods he’s going to be a superstar. I shut my mouth and soaked in what he said.

I’m not sure how many of the other comics attending appreciated it, but I surely did. He threw out some fantastic ideas, and I need to implement a whole lot of them in my own presentation if I ever intend to move ahead in the business. I’ve got work to do, but that’s ok. That’s why I came.

Tonight I did two sets at two very different venues. One was at an alternative rock stage called ‘529’ and the other was at the Atlanta Improv. Both sets were solid, and I enjoyed watching a lot of other acts I hadn’t seen before. The vibe was very supportive, and we all got along all night.

I know my business is severely lacking compared to where my show is, and although it’s never pleasant to admit a fault I freely do so I can find a way to improve. I’m going to implement a lot of what I’ve learned here as soon as I get back and I know I’ll show major improvement within a short time. Tomorrow I have a huge treat. I get to meet with master marketer James Gregory, aka ‘The Funniest Man In America’. James has kindly offered his expertise and I’ll gratefully listen.


Back On Television

January 29, 2013

Thursday January 24th, 2013 – Indianapolis, IN

This year could just end up being my best one after all! I caught a totally unexpected but highly appreciated break this evening by being asked to participate in a television taping just outside of Indianapolis in the town of Danville, IN at a gorgeous historic venue called The Royal Theatre.

Tom Sobel from Louisville, KY suggested me for this gig and I’m thrilled he did. I have a very good relationship with Tom, and I’m flattered he thought of me when he heard there was one last spot available. He asked if I wanted it, and although it didn’t pay I took it to update my resume.

Any time it’s possible to get on a TV show I need to take it. That’s how people get discovered, not only by fans but other TV shows. When I was on ‘The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson’ on CBS it was seen by the producer of Byron Allen’s ‘’ and I got on that show as well.

Tonight’s show was a winner all around, and an absolute joy to be a part of.  It was a taping for Comcast and apparently will be for On Demand viewing. There were nine acts on the bill and we each did an eight minute set along with an interview. There were no weak acts and it was a blast.

It was one of those nights where the right crowd was in the right venue for the right acts and all of us knocked it out of the park in perfect order. Everything went exactly how it was supposed to and when that happens standup comedy can be a wonderful experience. This was worth my trip.

The show was produced by a guy out of Indianapolis named Mark Craycraft. He’s been doing comedy since the ‘80s, and we crossed paths early on. I didn’t think he’d remember me from that long ago, but he did and couldn’t have been nicer to not only me but everyone else on the show.

There were no divas on this night, and everything just fell into place perfectly. We all got along splendidly, and I wish I could bottle up the vibe and spread it around the comedy world. This put me in a great mood, and gave me hope for other great things happening this year. It’s about time.

This was a perfect practice run for the Laughing Skull Festival in March, and if it’s any hint of things to come I’m more than ready to be seen by someone who can make things happen. I had a killer set, and Mark put me last because Tom Sobel knew I had experience and could throw heat.

I have a high energy level and it turned out to be the perfect order, but there were some quality veteran acts on the show including Scott Long, Mo Alexander and BT who also brought it home. Even the newer acts were well received. This was just one of those magic nights we all dream of.

It was an extra special treat to get to meet Mack Dryden, formerly of the super successful team of Mack and Jamie. They had a highly rated TV show, and had quite a remarkable run. I’m a big fan, and now Mack is doing corporate work. It was a thrill to hang out and talk before the show.

Mack stayed for my set when he didn’t have to and told Tom I was a ‘force of nature’. What an outstanding endorsement from someone I totally respect and admire. This was a great evening of fun all around, and I wasn’t even planning for it. If this is how 2013 is going to be, I’m loving it.

Three Painful Lessons

January 4, 2013


Thursday January 3rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   The newness of 2013 is rubbing off already, but that’s ok. If anyone has put in more work than me improving themselves and planning for future success in the last three days, I would sure like to meet them and hear what they’ve been doing. As for me, I have been putting in 18 hour days.

There’s only been three of them this year, but I’ve managed to squeeze every bit of whatever I can out of all of them. I know I won’t be able to keep up a pace like this forever, but at least I’m starting out strong. That’s how momentum starts, and I can use all I can get – the positive that is.

I’ve had negative momentum too, and I don’t want to go anywhere near that. It’s easy to revert back to old habits, that’s why I’m attempting to change as much as I can for good. I’ve been on a very encouraging roll for three days, and hope to maintain it as I head to Nashville this weekend.

The hard part is fitting everything I want to do into my waking hours. I’ve had that problem for years, and it’s coming home to roost again. I’ve got a full phone inbox and hundreds of emails to answer, and people are starting to ask “Hey, are you angry at me?” No, sorry. I’m just one guy.

There are a few people I am angry with, and I’m not sure how to handle it. Vince Skolny owes me $2400 for the comedy show/class I was scheduled to do last March in West Virginia, and that really infuriates me. Tom Sobel and I negotiated a deal with him in good faith, and he has treated us as if we don’t exist. A deal is a deal – or at least I thought so. I could really use that cash now.

Another one is Chicago comedian Paul Kelly. I sold him a car for his son on good faith several years ago now, and he still owes me $500. If I owed him $500 he’d have the National Guard out looking for me, and rightfully so. Again, a deal is a deal. I gave him the car, where’s my money?

Still another one is Will Clifton. I trusted him with another car I had years ago that he wanted for his son who turned 16 at the time. He didn’t have money to buy the kid a car, and I sold him a sweet little Mercury Cougar I had for what I paid for it just because I wanted the kid to have a car and to let Will be the hero and a good dad. I didn’t need the money then, but I totally do now.

That was $1500, and he never paid me one cent. I was more than lenient and tried to be nice in all three of these cases, but all three bit me in the ass and it’s festering. That money would go far in paying off my IRS debt, and technically it’s mine but how am I ever going to get it back? The damage is done, and all three of those oil cans are probably laughing that they stuck it to me.

This really makes me lose faith in humanity, and I’m sorry I was so stupid it took not just once but THREE separate incidents to drive this lesson into my cement like skull. I don’t make a habit of treating people like that – especially when they went out of their way to do me a solid favor.

This is why the Mafia wacks people. Who wouldn’t be upset if they were disrespected like this for years? I’ll probably not see my money again, and that’s bad enough. I so should have gotten paid up front in all three instances, and this is a painful lesson I won’t soon forget. It still hurts.

Good Money After Bad

September 29, 2012

Friday September 28th, 2012 – Morgantown, WV/Charlotte, NC

   Anyone self employed has to wear a variety of hats. Some fit better than others, and there are a few that don’t fit at all. As a comedian, I have things to tend to onstage and off. I am the product, so I am the writer and performer. I also have to be the sales agent to get bookings, and a publicist once I get them. I am the complaint department as well, both from bookers and actual customers.

I also am responsible for taxes, profits, losses and all kinds of other stuff I’m not trained to do and quite frankly am not the least bit interested in doing. But they need to get done, and I have to find a way to address it. My least favorite part of being a comedian is off stage minutia, and I had a heaping helping of hell to deal with first thing in the morning and it gave me all I could handle.

After trying every conceivable way to settle it peacefully, I found the building in Morgantown, WV where small claims court is located. This is about the last thing I want or need right now, but the amount of money in question will equal several months rent should I be able to track it down.

Vince Skolny is the person who hired me for the engagement, and he cancelled with very short notice this past March. I hired Tom Sobel out of Louisville, KY to negotiate the deal, as he’s the agent who booked me for the comedy show where Vince saw me a few years ago and asked if he could hire me for a private engagement. I went through Tom Sobel because it’s proper etiquette.

Tom drew up a contract, and we all agreed on a price. It was a very fair price in my opinion for what I was going to have to do, but I wanted it to be a win/win/win where we all did well. It was an event I was looking forward to doing, and I hoped it would lead to other events in the future.

I’m very sorry the project didn’t go as planned, but I still need to be paid. We made a contract, and everyone knew that if it didn’t come off we were to receive payment for reserving the dates. Entrepreneurial projects fail all the time, but that’s how it goes. I feel bad, but I need my money.

Tom tried to reach Vince time after time and got ignored. I’m glad he handled it professionally, as I would have probably said something I’d be sorry for later. I held my tongue and hoped we’d be able to work it out, but it doesn’t look good so Tom booked me in Morgantown so I could get the papers filed and hopefully cause Vince to have to pay up at some point. This is a huge hassle.

An even bigger hassle is that it costs $70 to file the papers and another $25 to deliver them via sheriff to Vince. That’s 95 more dollars I don’t have, and I am infuriated I have to think about it at all. I should have been paid months ago, and life should be going on more smoothly than it is.

It stuck in my craw all day as I drove from Morgantown to Charlotte, NC for my gig tomorrow in Columbia, SC. Those long lonely hours in a car weren’t so bad on my way up the ladder but at this point it’s like being in a rolling prison. I drove twelve solid hours before crashing in a cheap motel that smelled like disinfectant and curry chicken. Maybe that was the dish being served, but it sure stunk as I laid on a lumpy mattress with a flat pillow wondering why I chose to be a comic in the first place and stayed with it this long. Is the dent in my can that big that I still need this?

College Credit

September 28, 2012

Wednesday September 26th, 2012 – Lexington, KY

   I’m back on the road for a few days, and all the creaks and squeaks of inactivity are there. Even my blood is brittle, and it’s a strong reminder I’m not the bullet proof kid I once was who’d jump at any chance to see someplace new. I won’t be going anywhere this week I haven’t been before.

Part of that is rather comforting, as I’ll know pretty much what to expect. Another part tells me I’m spinning my wheels and I need to implement a much better career plan. I am literally all over the place, and nothing significant is getting done. I’m surviving, but that’s about it. It’s not great.

I took this particular run so I could file a small claim in Morgantown, WV against the guy who unceremoniously backed out of a gig we had booked for March of this year. He totally stiffed me out of a hefty chunk of change, and there’s no good reason for it. We had a contract, and I totally lived up to my part of the bargain. I’m sorry he wasn’t able to fill his event, but it isn’t my fault.

The booking agent I went through to set this up is Tom Sobel out of Louisville, KY. I’ve never had a problem or harsh word in the probably quarter century I’ve known him, and I wish comedy was full of Tom Sobels. It’s full of something, but not him unfortunately. Tom is a professional.

We were both if not shocked at least taken aback that this situation has festered this long and is still an issue. The guy seemed legit, but despite numerous attempts to contact him and resolve the situation like adults he continues to ignore every attempt to settle and move on. It’s been a bitch.

Tom booked me for tonight in Lexington, KY at the University of Kentucky’s ‘Cats Den’. He’s been booking shows there for years, as well as West Virginia University in Morgantown where it all started with this ugly situation. The guy that leaked out on the deal saw me there and asked if I would be able to do the combination show and class for him. I said I would, but through Tom.

I should have listened to my gut when he suggested we go around Tom, but that’s just not what ethical people do. I’d rather cut a booker in on something, and in a situation like that it’s the way to handle it professionally. I’m glad I did, as at least there is now proof we had a deal. Tom never acts any less than with ultimate class, and he has documented all this insanity for several months.

It’s the last thing I want to have to deal with, but it’s too big a payday to just let it go. Tom was nice enough to give me some work so I could pay my way out, and that’s typical of how he does business. He’s great at putting himself in the comic’s shoes and treating us how he’d like to be.

Tonight’s show was really fun. I’ve never been a college act, but this has always been a fun gig and I’ve done it several times now. Tonight we had another packed house, and they were there to enjoy the show. It was run correctly, and part of the reason is that Tom cares about all the details.

For instance, he puts us in a nicer hotel than just the typical faceless flea bag. It’s a few dollars more, but it makes a world of difference. If nobody else appreciates Tom’s courtesy, I surely do. This should be a fun few days, so I’ll sit back and enjoy the ride. Tonight started it with a bang.


June 8, 2010

Sunday June 6th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

For whatever problems, shortcomings or disappointments I’ve had in life, one thing I’m able to say proudly is I’m doing what I want to do. Not many people can honestly say that but I can, and I‘m grateful. I may not be doing it all on a high level, but that’s different.

The fact remains, I’ve been able to survive my entire adult life doing things I enjoy, and I know others wish they could have the guts to do that too. I‘ve heard it over and over my whole life from many people . Sure, there were some bad breaks combined with stupidity to put me in some hellish situations over the years, but through it all I’ve hung in there.

Sometimes I get depressed or discouraged and want to suck a bullet, but then I’ll talk to someone else who’s trapped on the corporate hamster wheel and feel totally good in about ten seconds. There are plusses and minuses to everything I guess, and I’m still slugging it out doing what I enjoy when most others have either given up, lost their passion or died.

I can feel myself coming up on a very good time now. I’ll be working in Louisville this coming week, and I love it there. Tom Sobel and the staff at the club are fantastic people, and it’s always a blast to work there. I’ll do lots of media and also get to teach a class on Saturday, so it will be a full week doing lots of fun things. That’s what life is all about.

This coming week I’m starting up another round of classes at Zanies in Chicago as well. It’s been a long, hard ugly ride to get back to ground zero after all that happened with my ex business partner, but it’s coming around and I couldn’t feel more proud. It’s a feeling I never get sick of, and that’s starting something from nothing. It feels so good to do that.

I’ve got a lot of good seeds planted, and WAY more positive people who like me in life than those who think I‘m a wank. I’m sure there are quite a few who can’t stand me, but I honestly couldn’t care less. I try to be a good person, and if someone has a problem I have always tried to make it right, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. The key is to move on.

The Mothership Connection radio show is another fun thing I’m proud of. I know we’re not making a nickel doing it but the fun is there while we’re on the air. I keep debating at to whether I should keep doing it or not, but after thinking about it for a while I’m leaning toward a very loud yes. It won’t take all that much tweaking to get this ready to be sold.

That’s all part of the challenge I’m facing with everything I’m doing, and I need to have some perspective as I do it all. Not many people ever get the chance to not only chase one of their dreams, but just about anything they can think of. If nothing else, I am doing that.

My comedy shows are better than they’ve ever been, and going to get a lot better. I have the passion and the ability, and my life long sacrifice of becoming a student of everything about the game onstage and off has begun to pay off. I’m up there with anyone as far as a knowledge of comedy goes, and that makes me a better teacher too. I also get to be on the radio too, talking about things I enjoy. When things get low, I need to remember all this.