Posts Tagged ‘Trevor Burke’

Mentor Magic

July 29, 2014

Friday July 25th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

I love being a mentor. It’s got a lot of the same rewards of fatherhood without having to change any diapers. I have had some tremendous mentees along the way of all ages, and it’s funny when they have been physically older than me. It doesn’t matter, as they are still in the role of student.

I am a student myself of many things, but in comedy I am the mentor. It’s one of the few topics I’m able to speak on with relative authority, even though the entire time I am teaching I remain a dedicated learner. I just happen to be farther along than most, so I can reach back and nurture.

The challenge of figuring out how to bring out the best in each individual is something I never get tired of. Everybody is different, and mentoring is not something that is started and finished in one session. It’s long term, and requires dedication and input from both parties. I really enjoy it.

One of my current favorites is twelve year old Trevor Burke along with his father Joe. Joe took one of my classes at Zanies in Chicago many years ago, and now Trevor is doing comedy. He’s a super kid and I have grown to really like him – even though I would highly recommend that kids don’t do standup comedy for more than fun. There are several reasons for that, and all are legit.

First off, kids don’t have the life experience to be able to draw upon for material. They are in a tough spot, and I don’t think it’s fair to the average kid to put them in a position to be on stage in front of total strangers – especially adults. Too many things can go wrong, and it’s intimidating.

Second, bombing on stage can be an absolutely horrific experience. I wouldn’t want to throw a kid – especially one I like – into such a precarious position with any sort of regularity. If the kid is doing a talent show at school or something for other kids, fine. But as a career path? No way.

Of course there are exceptions to almost every rule, and Trevor is it. Joe has a background with entertainment, as his brother had a band. Joe is fully aware of the pitfalls, and is very good in the way he keeps Trevor grounded. He and his wife Pam are excellent parents, and it all just works.

People frequently ask me, “Is the kid funny?” He’s a KID. He’s still developing as a person, so it’s unfair to put adult expectations on him or any other child. He’s funny enough, and should he decide to stay with standup as he matures, I think he’s got an extremely bright future. What he is loaded with is likeability and experience. He’s been acting for years, and is at home on the stage.

He enjoys performing, and that’s a huge part of it. He’s a novelty right now, and everyone gets that. He’s getting a lot of attention because Joe knows how to play the entertainment game. He is Trevor’s manager, and it’s a chance for them to bond as father and son but still develop a career.

Tonight I rode to Milwaukee with them both and watched Trevor compete in a talent contest at a street fair. It wasn’t the greatest of circumstances, but he went up and did his set anyway. There was a girl about his age that was a singer, and she had a bunch of her family come out so she was the winner because it was based on audience response. Trevor wasn’t disappointed, and we went to dinner at The Safe House afterward. It was fun to hang out, and no matter what happens I will still be his mentor and friend. Comedy is a nasty racket. I want to see him enjoy his childhood.

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he's a really nice kid too. I'm a big fan.

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he’s a really nice kid too. I’m a big fan.


3000 Idiots

March 13, 2014

Wednesday March 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I seem to have gotten out of the gargantuan groove I was in for a few months, but I’m going to do an about face and go right back in that direction. I was riding a major wave there for a while – probably the best one I’ve ever ridden. It was bound to end at some point, but it’s not permanent.

I am going to consciously take my surf board back out in the water and find the next one. I will not let a couple of off days take me out of the ocean. There are a lot more waves to ride, and I am on a limited time schedule. The clock is ticking, and wallowing in mud takes away from the fun.

There was a change in schedule today that I was delighted to hear about. I had recently booked a show outside of Fort Wayne, IN for tonight, but the gig called this morning and said they were going to have to cancel due to bad weather. That made my entire day, as I had no desire to drive.

I ended up being able to get some work done, and also have some time to think. I wore myself out working on the Sharing For Sheri benefit show last night and the weeks leading up to it, but I still feel it was the right decision from a karma standpoint. I don’t regret helping anyone in need.

What I did regret was making a post on Facebook pointing out that every single wannabe in the city should have been lining up to see that show last night. It was a chance to watch SIX full time professional comedians practice their craft, and also donate to a worthy charity. Every one of the acts on last night’s show would have been glad to take time and answer questions from a newbie.

In fact, that would have been the ideal time. Comedians love to talk about comedy – especially in a room full of other comedians. We were all in a good mood last night, and had anyone shown up with even the least interest in being a professional he or she would have had all the time they wanted within reason to fire questions at any of us. What a magnificent opportunity they missed.

When I attempted to point that out logically, I was rewarded with a full smorgasbord of snide remarks aimed at my profanity ridden diatribe. I felt I needed to use strong language, because it was painfully obvious few if any were going to get anything subtle. There were roughly 3000 in the two Chicago Facebook group lists, and you mean to tell me not ONE comprehends this?

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a poor turnout like this. None of the Milwaukee locals would show up when I did the benefit show for Officer Josh Albert whenever that was. It baffles me to the ends of the Earth why someone that claims to want to be a professional in any field wouldn’t go out of his or her way to network with people that have already done it. Why wouldn’t they?

We laughed about it last night. I was sitting with Larry Reeb and John DaCosse who blew the roof off the joint in less than ideal conditions. That wasn’t a comedy room per se, but when they took the stage it became one in a hurry. Their years of experience were immediately evident, and so were those of Sonya White and Patti Vasquez. Mike Preston had the flu, yet he lit it up also.

Even 12 year old Trevor Burke did a more than journeyman’s job. That wasn’t his audience but he went up and didn’t flinch all the way through his set. He stayed poised, and I was really proud of the way he hung in there and finished his set. It didn’t throw him a bit, and that’s a major feat.

The people who saw that show got their money’s worth and more, and there was a nice chunk of change raised for Sheri. The comedians were superb as a whole, and I felt great about booking the show myself. I put it together, because after thirty years I finally have a clue what I’m doing.

Why out of 3000 alleged wannabe comedians in town, not ONE would take advantage of such a rare opportunity is beyond my comprehension. But I’m not going to dwell on it and will focus on something positive. Those are 3000 of the dumbest apezoids I’ve run across in all my days.

The world is getting stupider and ruder by the minute, but I don’t have to put up with it. I have been above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to helping people and setting up shows to benefit those in need, and I’ll keep my eyes fixed on things like that. Those monkeys are in their own cage and it’s not my job to worry about their laughable lack of sense. I’ve got my own life.

I am thoroughly convinced that what one chooses to focus one’s thoughts on is a direct conduit to the quality of life that person gets to enjoy. Thoughts truly are things, and we are in control of a lot more than we think. I have been wasting my time bellyaching about a few sleazoids of late.

Why am I thinking about them? I don’t know, but it needs to stop. It’s dragging me right down to their level, and I refuse to accept that. I’ve come too far to let something that petty take me out of my groove. I had a little detour glitch these last couple of days, but now I’m back on the road.

I have been seriously contemplating whether or not to continue this daily cyber purge, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to receive several calls and emails in the past 48 hours from people that I haven’t spoken with or seen in years that have been extremely kind to ask me to keep doing it.

I’ve always done it for me since I started, but knowing I have regular readers really blows wind into my sail. It gives me purpose. I know there are a lot of other dented cans out there, and I want to connect with them and give them hope that they’re not alone either on this insane little planet.

Kirk Noland is a guy I heard from today. He’s originally from Michigan, but now lives in L.A. He started as a comedian, and we worked together quite a few times over the years. We’ve never been close friends, but we always got along fine. I remember him as funny and highly creative.

Kirk made a point to call me today not only to say some very complimentary things about my writing, but to also inform me that he too is a dented can and struggles through many of the exact same things I do. I had no idea he was even following, and it was good to hear from him. He has evolved nicely, and now makes videos. See what he does at

Tom Mabe is another creative person that I hadn’t heard from in a while. He’s out of Louisville and had some success with his ‘Revenge of the Telemarketers’ idea among other things. Tom has also been following, and I had no idea. He’s a brilliant marketer, and is at

I also know that other quality people I like and respect have either consistently shared or given me the ‘like’ thumbs up including Don Reese, Donna Carter, C.J. Vincent, Billy Elmer, ‘Rusty Z’ and many more. I’m grateful for every last one of them, and I will continue writing even if they’re the only ones that ever read it while I’m alive. The 3000 idiots aren’t worth my time, but these people are.

Kirk Noland is a creative man of man talents. I'm flattered to have him as a reader. Check out his videos at

Kirk Noland is a creative man of many talents. I’m flattered to have him as a reader. Check out his videos at

Tom Mabe is another guy I've always respected. What a brilliant marketer he is. Super creative.

Tom Mabe is another guy I’ve always respected. What a brilliant marketer he is – super creative and always thinking.

Comedian Don Reese is one of the sweetest human beings I've ever met - and one of the funniest. He shaved his head before it was cool. LOVE that guy.

Comedian Don Reese is one of the sweetest human beings I’ve ever met – and one of the funniest. He shaved his head before it was cool. LOVE that guy, and you will too.

OOPS, forgot one. James R. Zingelman - aka 'Rusty Z' is a comedian and hypnotist. SUPER funny, and a great guy.

James R. Zingelman – aka ‘Rusty Z’ is a comedian and hypnotist. SUPER funny is he, and a super guy too.

Sharing For Sheri

March 12, 2014

Tuesday March 11th, 2014 – Hawthorn Woods, IL

Long before I reconnected with my birth family, I was part of the Zanies Comedy Club family. I have worked more than my share of jobs, but have never seen a group of closer knit people than I have at Zanies. There are several Zanies locations in the Chicago area, and the one that recently closed in Vernon Hills, IL had a particularly sweet staff. Those people have always been super.

I worked at that club frequently from the day it opened until the day it closed. Coincidentally, I was the first comedian to ever step on that stage and the last one to close the last show. That club was my home both in comedy and in life, and I even developed my comedy classes in that space.

The last three places I have lived have all been with former Zanies employees, including where I am now. That’s why when the opportunity arose to have a fundraiser for Sheri Johnson, I knew it was my duty to set the wheels in motion. I had no doubt the others would follow, and they did.

A tremendous turnout of both former Zanies staff and Chicago comedians came out tonight to make a successful event at Hawthorn Hills Country Club – who generously donated their facility for the evening. It was comforting to see all those friendly faces again, and we pulled off a gem.

Liz Long really helped, as she was the manager of Zanies for years. Actually, Sheri was too at one point so it was totally in house. Many of the wait staff showed up early to help set things up, and a few with teenage kids brought them out to help with the heavy lifting. It was a team effort.

The comedians came out as well, and I’m very grateful to Patti Vasquez, Mike Preston, Trevor Burke, John DaCosse, Sonya White and ‘Uncle Lar’ Larry Reeb. They put on a killer evening of comedy, and nobody got paid a cent. All except Trevor knew Sheri, and it was nice of them to be willing to come out and support. The people in attendance got a huge bang for their charity buck.

I didn’t get a final count numbers wise of attendance, but the main area where the actual show was held was standing room only. There were side areas to the left and right of the stage as well, and they had people too. The room looked full, and that’s all that mattered. It wasn’t a flop at all.

Even better, the final total of donations including a 50/50 raffle and quite a bit of donated swag was almost double what I was estimating. It was a raging success, and I couldn’t be happier but I also am not surprised. Those people are givers, and they came together tonight and did it right.

I have to say I’m extremely disappointed in the rest of the Chicago comedy scene. I posted the event on a couple of Facebook groups of younger comedians and got ZERO response. That made my bung hole pucker, as it didn’t shine well for the younger generation. Here national headliners came out and generously donated their time and talent, but open mic piss ants couldn’t show up.

I thought there was NO excuse for that whatsoever, not just from a comedy standpoint but from a humanity standpoint. A vibrant young woman has been struck down in the prime of life with an absolutely horrific health crisis, and not ONE of several HUNDRED aspiring comedians had one ounce of human compassion to come out and support? Even for selfish reasons they should have come out to network with comedians and bookers. They missed out, because it was a great night. If you missed it and still want to donate, here is the link:

The 'Sharing For Sheri' benefit comedy show was a smash, thanks to the efforts of a family of wonderful people. I am proud of them all.

The ‘Sharing For Sheri’ benefit comedy show was a smash, thanks to the efforts of a family of wonderful people. I am proud of them all.

Show Biz Is A Slow Biz

March 7, 2014

Thursday March 6th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

It has only taken three solid decades of traipsing back and forth across North America, but I am finally starting to get strangers seeking me out to perform at their venue. Word is getting out – or at least it’s starting to. I have been trying to get to this point since I started, so what took so long?

Unfortunately, everything takes time. It just does. Showbiz is slow biz, but so are most others. It takes years to build loyal clientele in any business, and I’ve been around long enough that I am starting to get name recognition. It’s not with everyone – at least not yet. But regionally, I feel it.

It took years for me to put an act together, and it’s taking even longer for people to notice that I can blow a room away with the best of them, and am far undervalued for services performed. My rate is a bargain considering all the experience I have, but it will take media exposure to raise it.

If I can find a way to get regular mass media exposure somewhere, it will raise my income by a significant amount in a short time. I can easily see hauling in ten times what I make now or more for doing pretty much the same thing I’ve been doing since 1985. It has taken that long to build.

Of course there are always exceptions to everything. My friend Trevor Burke is just twelve, but he is far from the norm. And when it’s all done, I predict he’ll be known for being an actor rather than standup comedy. It seems to be a stepping stone for him, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

I started as a comedian, and just when I’m trying to evolve into being a speaker that’s when the comedy gigs start coming to me. In the last couple of days I have been approached by four places to perform in the next couple of months, and I have no idea where they might have heard of me.

They’re the kinds of places booking agents used to approach about starting a comedy night, but for the first time in my long tenure I see the places approaching individual comics on their own. I can’t say if I like it or not as I haven’t seen the venues yet, but I’m glad to see work come to me.

It’s not huge paying work, but it will help tide me over while I work on the corporate bookings. I haven’t forgotten about that, and marketing is still my number one priority. But that takes time as everything else does, and it’s far too slow for my tastes. Too bad. It’s not going to speed up.

One smart thing I did today was make a phone call to a comedian named Roger Radley who is based in Central Wisconsin. We’ve heard of each other for years, and I even did a holiday party he couldn’t do this past December. We’ve had some email exchanges over time, but that’s all.

I’d been meaning to call him for months – probably actually years now that I think about it. He was online today, so I instant messaged him and gave him a call. We talked for about a half hour or so, and we laughed about how long it had taken for us to finally hook up. But now we did it.

It’s smart business for both of us to know what each other does, so we can send each other gigs when we can. If a customer uses one of us, they’ll likely want another act in the future. I sent out a full length DVD in today’s mail, and Roger said he’s sending me one too. It only took this long to hook up, but today was the day. Everything takes a lot longer than people think. It just does.

Building a name in show business or any career takes time. It just does.

Building a name in show business or any career takes time. It just does.

Trevor Burke is a comedian at 12. He's a rare exception.

Trevor Burke is a comedian at 12. He’s a rare exception.

After many years of talking about it, I finally picked up the phone and called comedian Roger Radley today.

After many years of talking about it, I finally picked up the phone and called comedian Roger Radley today. I’m glad I did.

The Unforgiving Wheel

February 24, 2014

Saturday February 22nd, 2014 – Mattoon, IL

Here’s how the unforgiving wheel of show business fortune spins. I’ve been slugging it out for decades in beer halls, road houses and snake pits hoping to find a break somewhere to get me out of the trenches. I’ve honed my craft about as well as anyone in that time, yet I’m still struggling.

Trevor Burke is a twelve year old comedy super sensation, and opportunities are falling out of the sky. He’s got more movie credits than most adults ever get in a lifetime, and today he was in New York recording an appearance on ‘America’s Got Talent’. Is life fair? What do you think?

It’s not that I begrudge Trevor anything. Far from it. I’m thrilled for his opportunity, and hope it goes well. Even if it doesn’t, he’s still got a heavy hitting credit to use for anything else he ever does for the next twenty years. That’s what the business of show business is about – credibility.

Trevor has as much or more credibility with people that don’t know him as I do, and I’ve been doing it more than twice as long as he’s drawn breath on this planet. There’s a major flaw there, and it’s not Trevor. I have caught some bad breaks, but I also made some bad choices. I’m where I am as a result of all of it, and this is just a not so subtle reminder that I’ve misplayed my hand.

While Trevor was being flown – probably first class – to New York City to appear on national television before he’s even old enough to drive a car by himself, I drove 257 miles one way in a 1995 Toyota Camry to do a show at a Days Inn banquet room in Mattoon, IL for their Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner. What I was paid was probably less than Trevor’s airplane ticket.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a rip roaring show in Mattoon, and the people were very friendly all night. These were the movers and shakers of the community and certainly weren’t rubes or hicks. They were down to earth friendly people, and they loved the show. I have no complaints there.

What’s gnawing at me to the inner core of my soul is how much of this entire business is based on anything but logic, and there’s nothing I can do about it. With all of my hopes, dreams, talent and execution, all I could manage after all these years is a banquet at a Day’s Inn in Mattoon, IL for mediocre pay. Was it fun? Yes, but it’s far from a career move. It’s more like a steady hobby.

I was blessed with above average raw ability, but below average raw people skills. I tend to be way too open with my disdain toward idiots, bullies and especially incompetence, but this racket is full of all of that even more than civilian life. It’s taken all this time to figure out the hierarchy.

I’ve been improving tremendously, and I notice a definite uptick in my business and life itself. I’ve been surrounding myself with solid people on purpose, and weeding out weenies whenever I can. The formula has proven to be effective and I see dynamic results – but it has taken decades.

I sure didn’t have anything figured out when I was 12. I would have been thrilled with this kind of a break after I’d been in the business for 12 years, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Trevor’s hand is loaded, and I’m happy for him and his family. He is a special kid, and I know he will make the best of all this. He’s well grounded by his parents. I just think it would be nice if I get some kind of break too sooner than later. Nothing against Mattoon, IL, but it’s not where my rainbow ends.

I did a show in Mattoon, IL tonight for a room full of very nice people.

I did a show in Mattoon, IL tonight for a room full of very nice people.

Trevor Burke is 12 years old, and he was taping an appearance on 'America's Got Talent'. Good for him,  but it makes me wonder what I've been doing these last 25 years. I hope Trevor lets me drive his limo.

Trevor Burke is 12 years old, and he was taping an appearance on ‘America’s Got Talent’. Good for him, but it makes me wonder what I’ve been doing these last 25 years. I hope Trevor lets me drive his limo someday soon.

Trevor Fever

February 8, 2014

Thursday February 6th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One ingredient I’ve never been able to find in the entertainment business is logic. Things go on with no apparent rhyme or reason, and it’s been that way forever. Why are the Kardashians stars? My point exactly. People come along at the right time in the right place, and careers can explode.

I have never been able to get those two things right, but few others have either. I’ve been in the right place at the wrong time, and the wrong place at the right time. I have even managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – lots of times. But in all my years, I’ve yet to hit that jackpot.

Frank Caliendo is an example of someone that did. He came along doing impressions of people that were in the news at that time, and there were no other impressionists of his generation doing what he was doing. He had perfect timing and a tremendous work ethic, and things fell together.

I don’t think it’s possible to plan for it, it just happens. Trying to over think things won’t make it any easier, and all one can do is keep throwing things out there. IF something should hit, it’s an indefinite science and there’s no guarantee it will happen. The fates have to be in total alignment.

Someone I see it happening for right now is the 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke. That kid’s ship is about to come in big time and it’s an ark. I’m very happy for him and his family. He’s got all kinds of things brewing in all directions, and I can tell he’s on the verge of something huge.

I’m not at liberty to say exactly what’s going on, but he’s got some big things in the hopper for 2014, and they’re happening sooner than later. I’m in contact with his dad Joe, and I’ve heard the news first hand. For whatever reason, the timing is right and Trevor is about to catch a big break.

I’ll do all I can to help in any way, as I know how rare opportunities like this are. He’s going to experience things most people never get to feel at any age, and I hope things go well and he has a dream life. I always said I’d be happy just knowing someone that made it, and this is my chance.

I could see it happening for Frank Caliendo, and I see it even bigger for Trevor. He’s totally in the right place at the right time, and the powers that be want a 12 year old comedian right now. It has nothing to do with talent, and that’s no insult to anyone. Timing and luck are the main keys.

Does Trevor have comedic talent? That doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. He’s extremely likeable, and looks comfortable on stage. He’ll appeal to the masses, and that’s what counts. He’s unique, and that’s what sells him. I’m anything but that, as adult white males couldn’t be more common.

I don’t do impressions, I have no puppets, and I’m not particularly cute. That takes me out of a lot of categories of show business, and it’s a miracle I’ve been able to stay close to it as long as I have. Trevor has won the lottery, and he’ll surpass me by the end of the year. That’s how it goes, but I’m not angry or jealous in the least. I know how the showbiz game is played, and I accept it.

I really like Trevor, and if anything I’ll do my best to be his mentor. I want to see him keep his dignity and self esteem intact as his star rises. There will be a lot of jealous people who want him to fail, but that goes with the territory. It’s wasted energy though, as it’s in the cards for that kid.

The breaks he is about to get will set him up for life if he plays his cards right, and I’m betting he will because he has a solid family base. His dad Joe is extremely smart, and understands how business works. His brother has two sons that were in a band, and they ended up doing very well. The family has been through this before, and I met the grandfather who is also very grounded.

All the ingredients are in place for massive success, and I’m thrilled to be this close to watch it all pop. It doesn’t happen very often, and it couldn’t happen to nicer people. The whole family is behind Trevor, and that’s how it should be. It will ground him, and he won’t be a Justin Bieber.

How many stories are there of child stars that end up in the gutter? Pretty much all of them. It’s front page news when one doesn’t end up on the cover of the National Enquirer with a mug shot, but I don’t see that for Trevor at all. He’s going to be an exception, much like Ron Howard was.

Ron Howard’s father was around the business as well, and he and his brother Clint got into it at an early age. Clint was the star of a TV series called “Gentle Ben” with a bear, but then he faded away. He’s done a lot of small roles since – mostly cameos in the movies directed by his brother.

Trevor doesn’t have any brothers, or sisters either. He’s a well adjusted only child, and it’s rare to have everything fall into place like it is. He won the lottery, but he won’t end up a derelict like many of those people do. He’s being prepared properly, and if anything he’ll appreciate it more.

The real test will come with time. Will he stay with standup comedy and become a lifer like me or will he graduate into acting and never do it again at a certain point? There’s no right or wrong answer, and it will be an individual choice. Maybe he has been bitten by the bug, but maybe not.

He’s been in a ton of acting and video projects, and has an impressive resume. I saw a video he did for a band, where he played the lead singer as a kid decked out in KISS makeup. He came off really well, and it’s obvious the kid just ‘has it’. I hope he catches his break, and I think he will.

There are two rock solid opportunities on the table for him at the moment, and even one would shoot him past 99% of other comedians in America – including me. I don’t want to see him flop, and he won’t. Like I said, he is in the right place at the right time and it’s obvious that somebody else sees it or they wouldn’t be lining up to put him on TV. He’s got a bright future and it’s here.

If nothing else, I can help him avoid most of the pitfalls I see made and made myself. I’ll point them out to both him and his dad, and hopefully they’ll listen. They’re going to have all they can handle and then some of wacked out advice from strangers and hangers on, and it will be soon.

Everything is coming together at lightning speed, and there’s no use fighting it. This is not how it happens for most people, so there’s really no precedent. I wish only the best for Trevor, but it’s inevitable that some glitch will happen at some point and that’s when I can be of the most help to him and the family. If there’s anything I’ve experienced a lot of, it’s glitches. I can offer advice.

The Burke family has been unbelievably gracious throughout all of this and has said repeatedly they’d like me to “come along for the ride”. I really appreciate that, but I’m not looking to try to horn in on their territory. IF there’s a spot for me somewhere in the mix, I will be very grateful.

Watch for 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke - coming soon to a TV near you.

Watch for Trevor Burke – coming soon to a TV near you.

His star is rising quickly. He's got more credits at age 12 than most entertainers get in a lifetime. He's a great kid, and his whole family is behind him. I am too. GO Trevor!

His star is rising quickly. He’s got more credits at age 12 than most entertainers get in a lifetime. He’s a great kid, and his whole family is behind him. I am too. GO Trevor!

Justin Bieber allegedly has talent, even though most adults would like to punch him in the face for his punkish attitude. Trevor has none of that. He's a great kid.

Justin Bieber allegedly has talent, even though most adults would like to punch him in the face for his punkish attitude. Trevor has none of that. He’s a great kid.

Close For Comfort

January 12, 2014

Saturday January 11th, 2014 – Wauconda, IL/Island Lake, IL

One of the sweetest treats any long time entertainer can experience is having a booking close to home. The longer the time in the business, the more the closeness to home is greatly appreciated. The road gets old and unforgiving after time, and the excitement of seeing new scenery expires.

There comes a point when we’ve been everywhere, seen everything and all we want is to have a “normal” life – whatever that may be. What it isn’t is being constantly in transit trying to arrive on time for the next show. It is constantly looming over one’s head, and I for one am SO over it.

Tonight – for one of just a handful of times I can ever remember – I had a show literally down the road from where I live. Wow! I was ecstatic beyond words. I’ve worked this place before, but I lived in a different place then. It was still close, but not like this. This one was a stone’s throw.

The venue is a place called The Energee Center in Wauconda, IL. Sally Edwards is a comedian that started booking shows there because she and her husband moved there and saw there was no comedy anywhere close by. It’s a small room, but audiences are friendly and it’s very laid back.

The pay to close the show is comparable with most one nighters on the road, so they can get an excellent quality of acts to work there. It’s in the Chicago area, and like me there are a lot of acts that are less than thrilled with going on the road to make basically the same money. Actually, it’s less after gas and food are subtracted from the total. Working in Wauconda does have its upside.

It has a huge upside for me, as I’m staying in Island Lake which is the next town over. It was a two minute drive to get to work tonight, and I had a smile on my face the whole time. I would be thrilled if I could do that more often, and I totally see the appeal of a Las Vegas or Branson, MO for that exact reason. If an entertainer can get the audiences to come to them, life is but a dream.

The show tonight was a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t have been upset even if it wasn’t. As long as I didn’t have to drive far, a room full of screaming drunken hecklers wouldn’t have caused me to flinch one bit. I was paid immediately upon getting off stage, and that’s the cherry on the sundae.

Trevor Burke’s dad Joe brought Trevor out to do a set, and then they’re going to fly out to Los Angeles tomorrow to talk to a production company about a reality show for Trevor. Good for the both of them. Whether they get it or not doesn’t matter. The fact they’ve got a meeting is terrific.

The feature act tonight was Mike Maxwell – obviously no relation. Mike is an up and comer on the Chicago scene, and I like the guy a lot. Having two guys named Maxwell on a show is a good gimmick I guess, but I’d work with him anytime. He brought a lot of his family out, and that was a large percentage of the crowd tonight. It was a slow night for many reasons and we needed it.

Things are just really going well right now, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The situation with my roommate Sheri is still very sad, but that’s getting better too. They’ve moved her to one of the best treatment facilities in the country, and she’s beginning a long process of recovery that may take up to a year. Her friend Debra told me they want to try and keep the house, and it might entail having me and another person stay here to pay expenses. If that would help Sheri, I’m in.

Wauconda, IL - comedy hotbed? No, but there's a fun one nighter once a month at The Energee Center.

Wauconda, IL – comedy hotbed? No, but there’s a fun one nighter once a month at The Energee Center.

I worked with 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke for the second time this week. The kid is getting more work than I am - and he deserves it. Funny kid.

I worked with 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke for the second time this week. The kid is getting more work than I am – and he deserves it. Funny kid.

Mike Maxwell (no relation) was also on the show. It was "an evening with a couple of Maxwells". As always, it was a lot of fun.

Mike Maxwell (no relation) was also on the show. It was “an evening with a couple of Maxwells”. As always, it was a lot of fun.

Boxcars Bonanza

January 10, 2014

Wednesday January 8th, 2014 – Clinton, WI

I had my first comedy show of 2014 tonight, and it was as close to perfection as it gets in every way and on every level. If it were like this every night, I’d have all my needs met and then some. It painfully isn’t, so I savored every second. It was a clinic on how a comedy show should work.

Everyone involved in the show did their jobs correctly, and the results were outstanding. It was a prime example of how good standup comedy can be when it works well, both as a business and a show. Everyone had fun, and there was enough money to go around at the end of the evening.

Jeremy Danley aka “The Mighty Jer Dog” is a comedian from Iowa that lived in Chicago for a long time. He’s always been able to find out of the way venues that have not tried comedy, and I commend him for his resourcefulness. Some of his venues are brutal, but sometimes they’re hot.

He found a true gem in Clinton, WI at a place called ‘Boxcars Pub & Grub’. I’ve worked there three times now, and every time has been better than the last. That’s due to the owner named Tim Pogorelski. He truly loves comedy and was in a band for years so he understands entertainment.

I can’t say enough good things about Tim or the venue, and he absolutely does it right. He does his shows on the first Wednesday of the month, and keeps them to once a month to make them a special event. He has a side room that’s set up with good sound and lighting that seats about 60.

That’s enough seats to make it worth his while, but also few enough so it always sells out. It’s a pleasure to work in a sold out room, and all the posters in the place had ‘SOLD OUT’ over my picture. How many times have I seen THAT in my career? Not nearly as many as I’d have liked.

Jer Dog trusts me to bring along any opening acts I may care to, or he said I could do all of the time and take all the money. That’s a great option, but I wanted to give stage time to people that I like and respect, and know could use it in front of a hot audience. I’m happy to share the wealth.

I chose to have two acts tonight, and both of them knocked it out of the park. Trevor Burke was first up, and he nailed it. He’s 12 years old, and his dad Joe had asked if I could get Trevor up on stage whenever possible. I’m always happy to help, and it was a fun adventure for them to have a show – on a school night no less. How cool would it have been for me to do comedy at that age?

Next up was Caryn Ruby. Caryn works as hard as anyone I know to polish her chops as both a comedienne and an actress. She lived in LA for years, but is back here helping her father with his real estate business. She really appreciates the stage time, and I like working with her whenever I can. She handles her business impeccably, and I learn from her every time we talk. It’s win/win.

The show was at 7:30, and that meant we were done just after 9pm. The crowd was as red hot as I remembered, and I hosted the show and brought up special guests Trevor and Caryn. That’s how they do it in Boston, and I always liked that format. Tim was all for it, and it was a big hit.

Absolutely everyone was happy at the end of the night, and we all got paid an amount we could live with – especially for a Wednesday night in January. This was a super way to kick off 2014.

Few would believe that Boxcars Pub &  Grub in Clinton, WI would have one of the best one nighter comedy shows around, but it totally does. Owner Tim Pogorelski is on the ball, and does it right.

Few would believe that Boxcars Pub & Grub in Clinton, WI would have one of the best one nighter comedy shows around, but it totally does. Owner Tim Pogorelski is on the ball, and does everything right. What a gig!

Jeremy Danley aka "The Mighty Jer Dog" is a comedian who finds venues to promote shows. He's a hustler, but in the best possible way. He's a terrific marketer, and I love working with him and for him anytime.

Jeremy Danley aka “The Mighty Jer Dog” is a comedian who finds his own venues to promote shows. He’s a hustler, and in the best possible way. He’s a terrific marketer, and I love working with and for him anytime.

12 year old comedy sensation Trevor Burke got to do comedy on a school night. How many 12 year olds can say THAT? He did great too. I'll be driving his limo some day - hopefully soon.

12 year old comedy sensation Trevor Burke got to do comedy on a school night. How many 12 year olds can say THAT? He did great too. I’ll be driving his limo some day – hopefully soon.

Caryn Ruby was on the show too. She works as hard at the business as anyone I've met in a long time. Her success is overdue, but on the way.

Caryn Ruby was on the show too. She works as hard at the business as anyone I know. Her national success is overdue, but on the way. Watch for her.

Trevor Burke

November 23, 2013

Thursday November 21st, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

I don’t have a lot of power in the show business arena – or anywhere else – but that which I do possess I always try to use for good. Tonight I was able to facilitate a good deed that will remain in several dozen people’s memories for decades, and that’s a win/win every time. I’m glad I did.

One of my former comedy students Joseph Burke has a twelve year old son named Trevor who has been doing standup comedy for a while now. I’ve seen kids try standup comedy before, and I always approach it with caution. It’s not really for kids as a rule, but there are always exceptions.

Comedy can be a brutal experience when it goes poorly, and there are countless things that can go wrong on any given night. Putting a kid in the line of fire can be extremely dangerous, and I’d personally recommend against it far more often than I’d encourage it. It has to be the correct fit.

The situation with Joe and Trevor is far different than most, and I was able to help arrange for Trevor to appear for a ten minute guest spot opening for me at Zanies Comedy Club at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. The Burke family lives about six blocks from the resort, and they were thrilled that I could arrange the appearance. Joe got the word out with friends and family.

Appearing on a Zanies stage for the first time is a big deal for any Chicago comedian, but for a twelve year old kid it’s unheard of. Not only that, but to do it in front of family and friends in the backyard is something they’ll all be talking about decades from now. It was a wonderful night.

I was truly pleased to see how everything unfolded, and Trevor went up and got some very big laughs – not only with his friends and family but with the regular audience as well. He’s a funny kid, and has been working with his dad for a while now. This was not a one time and done fluke.

There are a lot of performers that couldn’t stand that fact that a cute kid was getting the laughs and attention from an audience, but I am secure enough in myself and my ability and I absolutely loved it all. This was a huge night for Trevor, but also for Joe and all the friends that showed up.

Joe asked me to sit down with Trevor a few months ago and give him some pointers. The main thing I told Trevor was that I was in his corner and would always be his friend first before having anything to do with comedy. I will support him in whatever he chooses to do, and if he wants my help or advice I’ll gladly give it. If not, that’s fine too. It’s exactly what I would tell my own son.

Another thing I told him was to just relax and enjoy everything that goes with being a kid. He’s into video games and all the other things a twelve year old of today would like, and that’s what a kid should do. Standup comedy will always be there, and there should be no pressure to fight and claw into a business that can be very unforgiving when one isn’t a cute kid. Look at child actors.

Whatever the case, I was extremely proud of him as he went up there and got to experience the intoxicating thrill of getting laughs on stage. Was his set perfect? Nobody’s is including my own, but I wasn’t there to critique. He did great. That’s all any of those there to see him will remember forever. Who knows how far he’ll go? That isn’t important tonight. Trevor lived what most never get to experience at any age. I’m happy for him. After this, it’s all gravy.

Trevor Burke has done more at age 12 than most comedians do in a lifetime. I hope he lets me drive his limo someday.

Trevor Burke has done more at age 12 than most comedians do in a lifetime. I hope he lets me drive his limo someday.

Weak End Weekend

September 2, 2013

Saturday August 31st, 2013 – Homewood, IL

   This is not a great weekend for comedy, so I arranged a couple of door deal shows to hopefully make the most of the situation. Everyone has to be more entrepreneurial these days, but that’s no guarantee even one paid customer will show up. Making a living performing is harder than ever.

   Not only does one have to have an act worth booking, part of the game is now running events at least from time to time. I’ve never enjoyed that part of it, but there’s little choice if one wants to stay in the game. There are 52 weeks to fill every year, and that’s getting harder all the time.

   It’s a combination of everything from gas prices soaring to too many bad acts bastardizing the business and clogging the toilet, but the entertainer of today needs to develop a whole new set of skills to survive in the ever changing economic jungle. Things just aren’t what they used to be.  

   It’s not just for comedians either. My friend Dave Rudolf is a musician and he’s facing exactly the same situation. He’s always been one to stay working regularly, traditional or nontraditional venues included. Whatever it takes to pay the bills, he does. I respect that, and can totally relate.

   Tonight Dave booked me in Homewood, IL at a venue called ‘The Twisted Q’. It was formerly a bakery, but is now a barbecue joint that has a stage with live music of all kinds. Dave asked if I would like to try a comedy night, and I said I would. It was a roll of the dice, and everyone lost.

   This was just not the right week to be trying indoor live shows. Last night in Libertyville was a sparse turnout and tonight’s was even sparser. The people who did show up had a great time both nights, but there weren’t enough of them to make it financially viable. All our wallets took a hit.

   I was really disappointed, because everyone involved all weekend are people I like and respect. This was the cream of the crop as far as nice people go, and I hate to see nice people take it in the shorts. Unfortunately, those are the ones that seem to do it most. We took a risk, and got burned.

   Dave and I had an agreement that this was a door deal, and we knew from the start this wasn’t a stellar weekend. Still, when it actually happens that there’s a small house it’s a kick in the balls of the heart and hard not to take it personally. It’s even harder to get up for performing for such a small audience, but that was part of the agreement too. My whole time on stage, I felt like crying.

   James Wesley Jackson was there too, and he did a splendid job as he always does. He is one of the nicest human beings walking the planet, and always has a positive attitude about everything. If there was ever a night I needed that, it was tonight. James and Dave are two favorites onstage and off, and if nothing else I wanted the joint full to support them. But it wasn’t. What a letdown.

   Also on the show was former student Joe Nuccio and eleven year old Trevor Burke whose dad Joe took my class many years ago. Again, these are all high quality individuals who came out to support. I felt really bad there was such a small house, but that’s how it is in this fickle business. It all boils down to the ability to put butts in seats, and that’s a puzzle I am still trying to solve.