Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s Day’

No Rape Tonight

February 16, 2014

Friday February 14th, 2014 – Loves Park, IL

Valentine’s Day is usually a pretty strong night for comedy, and tonight I had a booking in of all places Loves Park, IL. It was a country club gig, and those have a tendency to go either way in extremes. They’re impossible to predict, and can be beyond horrific or off the charts fantastic.

Many a night have I toiled in sweat in front of stodgy white people with money who could not relate for the life of them the struggles of Mr. Lucky’s life. They sat there in unimpressed silence as I gave everything I had to entertain them, and then I slinked off the stage to collect my check.

I’ve done golf outings where 95% of the audience is staggering drunk after a day on the course, and the other 5% can’t stay awake for the show. Country clubs have their own set of rules to live by, and it takes a long time to learn them. I’ve had plenty of experience, most of it quite painful.

The good part is, they usually pay pretty well – at least to the person booking it. If that isn’t the actual performer, there is quite often ripe opportunity for downright rape. One of my first gigs at a country club many years ago paid me $250 which was good money for that time. I found out at the end of the night the serpent who booked me had sold me for $1250. Welcome to show biz.

Performing conditions can often be less than primitive as well. They’re not in the entertainment business, so more often than not the lights and sound are of World War II surplus vintage. That’s come to be expected whenever I perform at one now, and much more often than not I am right.

There are often other pitfalls to working country clubs as well – one of the main ones being the serving of food and/or dessert during the show. Live performance is difficult enough. Attempting to perform live standup comedy is harder than that. Doing it while people are eating is insanity.

On the other hand, I’ve had some of my very best shows ever at country clubs. They were full of people who had a sense of humor and wanted to be entertained. They were pillars in the town, and had a clue of how life worked. Most of them owned businesses, and had read a newspaper.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. I booked this show myself through a guy that had used several comedians from Zanies in Chicago, and was originally from there. He was very nice on the phone, but I could tell he wasn’t sure if I could do the job. He was apprehensive.

To make sure it would go well, I hired my friend Jimmy McHugh to open the show. He’s given me all kinds of work in the last few years, so I told him I’d split the money 50/50. I know I didn’t have to do that, but he’s a headliner in his own right, and I wanted everyone to come out happy.

Boy, did we. This was one of those nights when everything went right, and we both knocked it so far out of the park we couldn’t see where it landed. It was the perfect lineup of comedians for the perfect audience. On a scale of 1 to 10 I’d give it a 26 – and I’m always very hard on myself.

This was just one of those nights that a performer lives for. Everything was working, and it was pure fun for everyone. Jimmy had to work to get them focused and he did exactly that. He earned every penny of his pay, but so did I. And I didn’t have to get raped by any booker. What a night!

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as always.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as he always does.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do!


Can’t Stop Now

October 2, 2013

Tuesday October 1st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

October 1st? Already? I haven’t mailed my Valentine’s Day cards yet, but we’re already in the 4th quarter of 2013. I try to stay current, but I’m only fooling myself. This feels like one big April Fool’s prank, but I know it’s real. Time is sliding away like a runaway toboggan, and I feel like it bucked me off a while ago. All I can do is watch it get smaller as it races down the hill. Bye bye.

This has been a very eventful year so far. I’ve done a lot of fun things, but financially it’s been a major bust. I’ve got less money now than I can ever remember, and that is causing major stress on a daily basis. I need to plug into a steady source of income, and I’m looking for it every day.

Emotionally, I’ve become a human yo-yo. One day I’m bullet proof and ready to take on every challenge there is, and the next I’m ready to donate my organs and turn in my keys. Some people might call that bipolar. I call it the life of a dented can entertainer. There are big ups and downs.

I feel like I’m out at sea in a dinghy during a typhoon. I’m at the mercy of the sea – frightening as that may be. I’m bobbing around with no real direction, and whenever I try to find one a force far stronger than me sends me wherever it wants. After a while, it all becomes so overwhelming.

If there were hatches to batten down, I would. But a dinghy doesn’t have hatches. It’s exposed, and the waves come blasting up over the sides. I could read all the books I want on how to steer, but when those winds start blowing none of it matters. There’s nothing to do but wait things out.

The fact is, I really need a break. I have paid decades of dues and even those who think I’m The Antichrist will admit I have ability. Why it’s been this difficult to land somewhere and stay put is far out of my realm of comprehension. All I want is the opportunity to work in a field where I’ve been given gifts, and earn a decent living. It’s either feast or famine – and right now it’s famine.

All it would take is ONE little break to turn my whole life around, but where is it? In my mind, I should be working as a comedian every week – or at least every weekend – to full houses with people there to see me. I’d also love a steady radio gig and to continue teaching comedy classes.

Charity functions would also be a priority, and I would be the nicest guy anyone has ever seen. I would sign every autograph and pose for every picture, and make people feel special like we all want. It would be The Golden Rule in action, and we would all be better as humanity. Why isn’t it happening? I was ready for it years ago, but I seem to be going farther away rather than closer.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it feels like I’m never going to make it. I work harder than any other comedian I know personally, but it doesn’t pay off. It feels like I’m trying to get a new roll of toilet paper started, but I can’t find the first square to get things going. It’s frustrating me to no end, and I’m trying everything in my power to make something happen. What else is there to do?

The only consoling fact I can think of is that there have been a lot of people that have gotten to the point I am – and that’s when something popped. Lewis Black tells how he’d resigned himself to the fact he wasn’t going to make it, and that’s when he got a break with Comedy Central. I am way past the point of no return, so there’s nothing for me to do but keep on working even harder.

Life can be an emotional yo-yo.

Life can be an emotional yo-yo.

The 4th quarter of 2013 is here.

The 4th quarter of 2013 is here.

Balance Is A Bitch

February 18, 2010

Wednesday February 17th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

It finally feels like I’m starting to make some measurable progress clearing off the huge pile of backed up tasks I set out to do at the beginning of the year. Valentine’s Day is past and time is rounding the corner to my birthday. If I keep it up, I’ll be in full stride by then.

All those quips and slogans motivational speakers use are true, no matter how cliché all of it is. Thoughts ARE things, and inch by inch it IS a cinch. We DO become what we put in our minds, and without goals nothing can be achieved. The hard part is taking action.

I spent most of today sorting through the scattered pile of confusion I’ve allowed to get completely out of control. Books and clothing and scraps of paper with comedy notes and phone numbers and receipts and anything else imaginable are laying around like a tornado went through, and there’s no excuse for it. Yes, I’ve been busy, but this is not acceptable.

I’ve never been a neat freak, but I’m not Oscar Madison either. You wouldn’t know that by walking through the clutter where I live, and it’s to the point of no return. I have to get organized very soon or I’ll never be able to get anything done. It‘s to the boiling point.

I really do have all kinds of things going on, and a lot of them are good, but if I can’t get myself into some sort of order I’ll lose whatever positive momentum I do have. This is an inner tweak which is manifesting itself outwardly and I’m just not going to let it continue.

One thing for sure is that my grandfather was SO right when he used to talk about how the most difficult thing in life to achieve was balance. He said it was even more difficult than getting rich, because many who did get rich sacrificed a lot of other things to do it.

Being balanced in all areas of life is the ultimate challenge. Has anyone done it? I used to think Tiger Woods was pretty close, but then he had his little fender bender and all that ended. Who else is close? Bill Gates? Oprah Winfrey? I guess I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are some people who have found a way to balance.

Extreme wealth isn’t necessary, but some degree of it is. Also, physical health, a family, creativity, continuing education, a chance to give back and all kinds of other things are on that list. Who has time to do all of it? How about even some of it? Most of us stumble our way through life, maybe focusing on a few things we do well because it strokes our ego.

How about taking time to really work at what we’re not good at? That takes total guts to even try, but I totally want to do it. If I never get rich or famous but continue to grow for a lifetime, does that make me a failure or a success? It depends who’s asked on what day.

I’d love to have it all, but is it in the cards? Is it even possible? I don’t know, but I put a full day’s work in today and in the short run it meant nothing. In the long run, if I keep up daily improvement I’ll be a much better me in not that long of time. I‘m seeking balance.

Romance And Radio

February 15, 2010

Sunday February 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

Valentine’s Day can be the source of a lot of angst. Everyone wants to have that perfect mix of sex and romance with that ultimate partner, which probably doesn’t exist on Earth for anyone. Men want sex, women want romance and Hallmark wants us all to buy cards.

I read somewhere that there are a significant number of those who send themselves mail and/or flowers on significant holidays, especially Valentine’s Day. At first it shocked me, but then I remembered how the Valentine’s Day greeting card system worked in school.

I wonder if they still do that? We used to decorate our little bags and hang them up on a wall in our classroom, and the kids would drop little Valentine’s cards in the bag. My first crush in about third grade was a little blondie named Holly Lueck. I don’t know why I can still remember her name, but I do. It’s like Charlie Brown and that little red haired girl.

My heart ached for Holly, but I never really got to know her at all. I remember she made me stutter and stammer to be around her, and I never felt like that around anyone before. I remember picking out a special Valentine for her and decorating it with my own personal cartoons, as I fancied myself an ‘artiste’ back then. I put the card in her bag and waited.

I waited some more. And some more after that. Every day I’d come to school and scour  my bag, hoping I’d gotten one back from Holly, or even one that MIGHT have been from her. We had them sealed and were not allowed to open them until Valentine’s Day, when the entire class would do it together. No other Valentine meant anything except Holly’s.

Finally, Valentine’s Day came and the teacher let us take our bags off the wall and open our cards. Some kids got more than others, but a couple got shut out completely. That’s a hard pill to have to swallow at age 8 or 9, and I can remember feeling bad for those kids.

I didn’t get the goose egg, but I also didn’t get one from Holly for whatever reason. The smack to the self esteem resonates to this day as I looked over to where she was sitting at her desk and saw her opening her pile of Valentines and stuffing candy into her pie hole.

I wanted to go over there and throw my arms up in the air and say “Forget anything?” If I had to live life over again, I probably would, just to see the look on her face. It’s a funny concept now, but it sure wasn’t then. That pain of being rejected stung down to the soul.

Whatever happened to Holly Lueck is anyone’s guess. Maybe she’s an obese cow with twelve illegitimate kids and no teeth, or maybe she turned out to be a sweetheart after all. I doubt if she’d remember me, and at this point I don’t remember anything about her but that she had blonde hair. Maybe that’s why I’ve had my life long affinity for brunettes.

Anyway, I made a special point today to send Valentines or at least text messages to all the single women I could think of, no matter who they were. Just the thought of receiving something from someone and how nice that can feel made me want to spread some cheer.

As for me, I was in a fantastic mood all day. Three hot shows at Zanies yesterday was as satisfying as it gets, and my comedy itch was scratched thoroughly. Nothing lifts my spirit higher than having good solid comedy shows, and that would include a card from Holly.

Today it was radio. All day. All night too. Jerry Agar was in Haiti this week through his church and didn’t get back until Friday night. We weren’t sure if or when Jerry’s Kidders would be on this week, but it ended up being today from 3pm to 3:50. We met up at 2:00 to go over our stories and prepare as we usually do, and I could feel we were all clicking.

We took that energy right into the studio and kept it going when the little red light came on. It’s always fun when we’re in that groove, and even when the show wandered, we still were able to get some laughs out of it. That’s what makes the concept so much fun. We’re up on the high wire without a net, and everyone knows it. It’s high risk, but high reward.

Not all the jokes hit, but WE were on target as a team. Ken Sevara, Tim Slagle and I are  completely different in almost every way, and it took us a while to gel on the air. Ken is a voice and character guy and Tim is very up on current events and issues. My style doesn’t include any of that, so I’m coming from yet another angle. I’m just a disruptive smart ass.

The thing that makes it so much fun is that we all enjoy hanging out together off the air as well as on. It’s like a tree house or a weekly poker game we get to carry on in front of microphones on one of the biggest radio stations in America. I think our sincerity shows. Every joke isn’t always stellar and nobody claims that, but as a team we can get on a roll.

We had that today, and the time went by faster than it usually does. It felt like about ten minutes, when actually it was almost an hour. Then we went out for pizza afterwards and continued the laughs there. We had a new producer this week named Margaret and she’d never worked with us before so we asked if she wanted to join us and she did. It was fun.

I needed to wrap it up a little early as I had to be in Kenosha, WI to do The Mothership Connection from 8 to 11pm on WLIP. Today was double duty, but I didn’t mind. It’s fun to be on the radio, and when The Mothership Connection clicks, that’s a total blast also.

Again, we all like each other as people first, radio partners second. We hang out off the air when we can, and everyone contributes to the show. There may be a group of chumps that can’t stand me, but they can kiss my pale fuzzy arse. My friends and I get along well.

Having one group like this would be great, but I’ve got two. And I’m part of two others with both The D-List on ESPN Radio 540 in Milwaukee and with Stone and Double T on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I don’t do those shows every week, and I don’t run them either, but when I’m on it’s the same feeling. They’re great people and we all click on air.

I didn’t make a nickel today, but I sure had a good time hanging out on the air with a lot of people I like and respect. I hope it leads to something in the future as far as money and contacts go, but for today there was nothing I could think of I’d rather do. That’s success!

Three Times A Night

February 14, 2010

Saturday February 13th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Zanies in Chicago is one of the few comedy clubs left that do three shows on a Saturday night. I’ve talked before of how difficult that is, and it is. But I love it. It can be a grueling experience, especially as the headliner. Forty-five minutes of solid standup comedy is one of the most difficult tasks I can think of to do ONCE, much less three times in one night.

When I started, three shows on a Saturday was pretty standard. A few clubs tried it on a Friday too, and if I remember correctly even Zanies did for a while. That’s a lot of shows, but back then comedy was red hot and they could pack them in like sardines so why not?

I’ve read stories where vaudeville performers would have to do six shows a day. I don’t know if that was every day or just Saturday, but that’s still a lot of work for one day. They had a lot shorter time to do, but they still had to stay around the theatre and be ready to go on when it was their turn. Those people really worked hard. It wasn’t a glorious existence.

I’ve always been of the mentality that if I’m going to work, I want to WORK. I’d prefer that all clubs did three shows on a Saturday, and if we could fill it, let’s do Friday as well. There was a club called The Funny Firm in Chicago during the boom years and they ran a brutal schedule every week. They had two shows on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Friday and Saturday had three, and I think they also ran one on Tuesday. Monday was a new talent showcase night so I won’t count that, but all together that’s still 13 shows for a week which is unheard of today. Most people now are happy to get 13 shows in a month.

I was ready for my marathon tonight, and that’s exactly what it is. I’m very physical and jump around a lot on stage, and after forty-five minutes I’m usually soaking with sweat to show for all my effort. The lights can be very hot, but my bouncing around like a jumping bean also adds to it. I definitely work when I’m on stage and when I’m done I’m spent.

Another thing I have to be careful of is how I move my material around. It’s not hard to confuse the shows and not be sure what material I did for what audience. I happen to have a ton of material, and sometimes I’ll bring out an old bit or switch order on the fly and for three show nights that can really put me in the trick bag if I’m not paying close attention.

Tonight was a dream night for many reasons. First, all three shows were totally sold out to the last seat. It was Valentine’s Day weekend and even if it wasn’t me that drew I don’t mind at all. People were in seats, and they paid top dollar to be there. I gave them a show. It’s funny how it works, but the more people pay, the more they pay attention to the show.

The openers were great guys and easy to work with too. Pat McGann is a fresh face that has a really bright future. He’s smart and funny and knows how to network. He’s doing a lot of things right, and he did a fine job as host. Fritz was the feature and he has a style on stage that’s very laid back and low key. It’s a perfect fit for me because then I go up there and blow the dust out of the speakers. Everything fell together and it was a fantastic night.