Posts Tagged ‘Vicki Quade’

Art Appreciation

October 30, 2013

Sunday October 27th, 2013 – Springfield, IL/Madison, WI

I took a detour home from Springfield, IL today and drove up to Madison, WI to hang out with my friend Art Hinty. Art is a seasoned sportswriter by trade, and has an extremely creative mind. He has done standup comedy for years, and was part of Doug Stanhope’s inner circle for a while.

Like me, Art is originally from Milwaukee. He moved to the suburb of Sussex as a kid, but it’s not all that far from the city so he is very familiar with all things local. He totally gets where I am trying to go with my “Schlitz Happened!” show, and I wanted to pick his brain for my next run.

He’s already been very helpful with input, and I give him total credit. He’s the one that thought of the tag line “An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst” after I told him what my title was. He’s the perfect sounding board to bounce ideas off of, because he gets both comedy and local flavor.

Art came out to see the show when I was at Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino last April, and took the time to write out a detailed three page critique and make suggestions of how I could grow it into a local hit. He was dead on with his observations, and I appreciate his interest.

I never thought I was smart enough to pull this project off by myself. I knew going in I’d need plenty of help and support, and I’ve gotten it from a lot of talented people. Vicki Quade of “Late Night Catechism” and many other successful plays has been very supportive, and she drove up in April from Chicago to not only see the show but bring a friend with clout who could help sell it.

Bob Rech and the entire staff at Northern Lights Theatre have been unbelievably supportive, as has Joe San Felippo from Bonkerz Comedy Clubs. He books the comedy shows in the theatre on Saturday nights, and gave me the thumbs up for the trial run in April. I’m grateful to everybody.

I’m going to need a lot more help and support, but I feel supremely confident that it will come. I have another run set to go in December, and I’m gearing up to make major improvements. I am still in the very beginning stages, and smart decisions need to be made as the show gets rolling.

Eventually I want to have local corporate sponsorship and a line of merchandise to sell, but for now I need to keep fleshing out the show and making it solid. I experimented a lot in April, and I also learned a lot. The audiences were there, and they got what I was talking about. That’s great, but now I need to take it to the next level and craft an actual set show that I can polish for years.

Art is the perfect choice to consult for this, and I bought him dinner at Longhorn Steak House as appreciation not only for his time and ideas, but for a really nice thing he did for me years ago when I was going to do my appearance on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS TV. He passed the hat and asked local comedians to donate for my trip to LA. What a sweet gesture.

Getting money out of comedians for anything is nothing short of miraculous, and I never forgot how kind it was for him to do that. Art is a wonderful and talented person, and that alone made it worth my trip to thank him for doing that. As an added bonus, we watched the Packers stomp the purple out of the nefarious Minnesota Vikings and that was the perfect way to end the day. Steak and football can never go wrong, nor can comedy and friendship. http://www.schlitzhappened.com.

Art Hinty - sports writer, comedian, creative sounding board

Art Hinty – sports writer, comedian and creative sounding board

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

Schlitz Times Six

April 22, 2013

Saturday April 20th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   Tonight was round three of the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ experiment, and things are still looking up in every direction. Both shows were once again well attended, and audiences tonight were better than last week’s by far. These people were exactly who the show was meant for, and they got it.

   A big part of the reason was that I had a lot of friends come out to each show. I’m flattered and grateful they came to support, but unfortunately I can’t depend on that for the long term. If this is going to fly with eagles I will have to find a way to get strangers to come and keep coming back.

   That’s not to say strangers didn’t show up tonight – they totally did. They were into what I was doing, and it gave me hope that I actually do have a winning product that has some legs. I have a very long way to go though, and I know it. But at least I feel all my sweat effort will be worth it. 

   These shows were only numbers 5 and 6, but I could feel significant growth and improvements from the other four and I’m sure I will next week also. There are all kinds of ingredients required to create a finished product of anything, and this is nowhere close to being a finished product yet.     

   This is the time for trial and error and refinement, and that’s what I’m doing. My friends aren’t going to be the ones to put this show over, but unfortunately they’re the ones who have to watch the baby’s first steps. They’re usually not smooth, even though it can be fun to watch it firsthand.  

   I’m still very much in the baby steps phase of this project. I see a clear vision in my mind’s eye of where I want it to go, but I’m nowhere close to that now. Right now I’m just trying to increase my stage wind to be able to do a consistently entertaining hour and twenty minutes at one stretch. That alone is a challenge, not to mention trying to establish a well fitting running order for it all.

   I have said it each week so far and I will continue, I am NOT about to get cocky any time soon even though I am very encouraged with the direction it’s all going. All I had to do with anything is come up with the initial concept. I’ve had help from everyone else, and that’s why it’s working so well. Everyone at Potawatomi has been super supportive, as have all my Milwaukee friends.

   Tonight’s shows were especially packed with friendly faces, and I was happy to see every one of them. My godmother Anita Baumann brought some people, and she’s always been supportive of everything I’ve done. She always sent birthday and Christmas cards when I was a kid, and I’ll never forget her for that. How many godmothers and godfathers keep it up for an entire lifetime?   

   Vicki Quade drove up from Chicago to attend, and brought a friend of hers who is in charge of another theatre in the Milwaukee area. Vicki is very successful with her own shows about being Catholic like “Put the Nuns in Charge” and “Late Night Catechism”. Vicki has been there from the start to offer encouragement, and I know she’ll have ideas to make the show that much better. 

   If I start naming all the others who showed up, I’ll leave someone out and I’ll feel embarrassed. I felt like I was at a wedding after the show as I was shaking a long line of hands from David Lee and Mark Krueger and their wives from my old 93QFM days to a lot of people I’d either worked or gone to school with and every one of them was grinning from ear to ear with nothing but great things to say about the show. I really think they meant it too, but even if they didn’t I was glad to hear it all. This is what any performer dreams of, but even though it was a fantastic experience it doesn’t change the fact I’ve still got a lot of work ahead. Six shows in, I’m just getting started.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Paying A Bill

March 29, 2010

Saturday March 27th, 2010 – Dearborn, MI/Novi, MI

Life is still pretty good even though the show last night was weak. We’re booked in the space that used to be occupied by Second City apparently and they’re gone after a several year run. My friend Vicki Quade has her one woman show “Late Night Catechism” in the room and she had mentioned she thought Jerry’s Kidders should try to get a booking too.

I didn’t know that’s what it was when I took the booking, and quite frankly I think I’m getting boned on money. The agency that booked me is in the south, and I don’t work for them all that often unless they have work in the north. They asked me to do this one and I said I would. Mistake. I found out they’re making more than me with their commission.

This kind of thing goes on all the time in show business but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. They asked if I wanted a gig this weekend and I said yes. End of story. If it means they get three times more than they’re paying me, technically it’s none of my bee’s wax. Too bad life isn’t always technical. Sometimes it’s gut feelings and mine got kicked.

Still, if I turned this down, there would have been hundreds of comics proud to take my place so I just shut up and did my job. Last night was not fun at all, but tonight’s audience came out to laugh. They were well dressed and polite and the house was packed out wall to wall. I knew I’d like them in the first ten seconds, and I kept it up throughout my show.

They were fun but the real fun was seeing to it my friend Bill Mihalic got up to do a few minutes to open the show. He’s a comedy writer and has been at it for years, but now he’s trying to branch out a little. I’ve never met a more diligent and sincere person in any walk of life and if I can give the guy hope I’ll always do my best. Bill Mihalic is good people.

In fact, this afternoon he came over to the hotel and drove me to take another tour of the Automotive Hall of Fame. I’ve been there before with Bill because he’s a member and we had fun then. He’s very knowledgeable, and served as a fantastic tour guide for all the ins and outs of the car business for the last 100 years. Bill’s a student of the whole car game.

After that we went to the Henry Ford Museum and looked at that for a while. It’s had to be at least a dozen years or more since I’d seen it and it was totally work the trip just for a chance to tour it again. Bill is a masterful tour host and knows all kinds of inside scoops.

The show tonight was a lot of fun, but getting to put Bill up on stage was the true high point of the trip. Stage time is like Christmas to an aspiring comic and the was a Saturday night full house that paid to get in. I saw Bill’s eyes light up when I said he was going up and that made me feel like I did my good deed for the day. I’ve had that look many times.

He did a fine job, and afterward I could tell he had fun. It’s hard to get someone to give stage time to a beginner, but I know what it’s like so I always try to be generous whenever I can. I had a little clout tonight so I made sure he got up. Not a big deal to me, but to Bill it made his whole week. This is what life is about to me. I want to work for good people.

Fun And Foresight

January 18, 2010

Sunday January 17th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Back for a little hair of the dog that bit us. Last night was a major high and a chance for us to enjoy the sweet fruits of a lot of labor, and we did. After the show we went out for a fantastic meal at a place called Leona’s, which is a chain in the Chicago area. The food is outstanding, but we’d have had just as much fun at Wendy’s. This was about the people.

We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company and buzzed about how much fun this whole project was. Everything fell together exactly how it was supposed to, and that’s not what I’ve been used to in life. Six months ago we had a concept. Now it’s an actual show.

It took major effort from the group, but it was the right effort. The combination of what we brought to the table as the Kidders was the comedy aspect. Jerry brought along a radio outlet and Vicki Quade helped us develop our concept into a play format. We couldn’t do any of this without all these ingredients, and we know it. For once, things fell into place.

Last night was the launch, and it was a good one. Nobody made a fortune and we didn’t set the theater world on it’s ear – but we did DO this. Last night was our night to enjoy the thrill of all this coming together, but that’s over now. As great as it was, we had to return to the Beverly Arts Center today for a matinee performance at 2pm. Time to do it again.

It seemed almost surreal to be right back there so soon after our big night. By the time I dropped Jerry off it was after 2am and he suggested I just sleep on his couch because we needed to get back so soon, so I did. It saved a lot of time and driving but we still had our hands full getting up and showered and headed right back south for another performance.

The audience was again very receptive and we were actually a lot looser as a group. We knew our cues from doing it last night, but this time we had some technical glitches. I had my microphone go out for two of my characters and that threw us all off stride. I covered for it and projected loudly, but it was still a hassle we didn’t expect. Welcome to theater.

This is a whole new experience and there is much to learn. Some of the costume change situations were a little awkward too. None of us are used to that as standup comics, so we struggled a bit with the timing of it all. The first show Ken Sevara had an issue with it and today I did. I had a sleeve turn inside out on a jacket and I’ll be damned if I could fix it.

It’s like a pit crew in a car race. A lot has to be done in a limited time and if one thing is out of place, it screws everything up. I could NOT get that sleeve to pop back in, and that caused me to rip my microphone wire out of the socket and off of the unit that was on my pants. I stuck the unit in my pocket and went on stage to do my bit. I had no time to spare.

Nobody in the audience cared, and actually it was a good learning experience for us all. I have to believe this is all part of live theater, and the bugs will get worked out the more times we do this. We all agreed that standup comedy is THE best performing experience of them all. All we do is show up and talk. Still, nobody regretted doing the play. It’s fun.
Too bad fun doesn’t pay any bills. If it did, I’d make Donald Trump look like a vagrant. I’ve done fun projects my whole life. Once in a while I’ll squeeze a couple of stray bucks loose, but I’ve never come close to hitting the mother lode. I do want to experience that.

I read recently where my funk hero George Clinton’s mother passed away and he didn’t have enough money to pay for her funeral. That was a real wakeup call. George is now 68 years old and should be living the life of the superstar he is, but he’s still out touring so he can pay bills just to survive. That’s not right, and I sure as hell don’t want that to be me.

There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but smart financial planning has got to be a part of the mix at some point. I’m to that point, and if I don’t watch myself I’ll be in the same boat as George Clinton and so many others who either got ripped off or just didn’t plan.

From what I read, George was allegedly ripped off by people who were supposed to put his financial affairs in order after a bankruptcy in 1984. That was after his first big heyday but he would come back and have another big run when rap music sampled his big songs.

By all accounts he should be extremely rich, but apparently he isn’t. He truly is a legend in his field, and that’s even scarier. I’m far from legendary in my field and never had even close to the impact George did. If he’s broke and used up, what’s in store for me? I better learn to get my finances straight so when money ever does start rolling, I’ll be prepared.

As fun as doing this play was, I have no idea how long I’ll be involved in it. Fun is fun, but to really do this right it will take paying dues and a total commitment from all of us to keep going in the same direction. It’s like a band, and that’s what scares me. Bands break up all the time and a group of people have a lot more chance to clash than an individual.

I’ll be the first one to admit I have trust issues, and I’ve brought this up to the group. I’ll be a dented can my whole life, and in addition to that I’m a creative control freak. I like to do things the way I like to do them, and I think I’ve earned that right. Getting voted down in a group situation will only last so long with me, and I know it. I am creatively selfish.

I think that’s necessary to be good, and I’ve told this to the other guys. Jerry is fine with it, but I’m not so sure about the other guys. They say they are, but when money flows who knows what bumps in the road will turn into mountains? I don’t want any clashes to come out of nowhere but it’s almost inevitable in a group situation. I want to prepare for it now.

In reality, we’re all too old to put a lot of time and effort into this for years to make it an industry like a Rob Becker did with his play “Defending The Caveman”. He is a marketer like I’ve never seen, and I respect the hell out of what he did with that show. Vicki Quade is brilliant in her own right and has marketed her shows very well also. We need that too.

Now is when the real work starts. We had our fun for a weekend, but now it’s time for a review of everything and see where we all stand. Will we take it farther? Who knows, but even if we don’t just to get it this far was an electrifying experience. I’m delighted I did it.

Working At Our Play

January 14, 2010

Tuesday January 12th, 2010 – Cary, IL

This ‘play’ stuff is anything but. We’ve worked harder as a group on this one project for no guaranteed return than just about anything else I can ever remember doing. This isn’t a play, this is a WORK – and lots of it. I’m learning a lot and having fun, but it’s an effort.

Even though we’re all basically doing bits from our comedy acts, they’ve been divided up into chunks and spread out over the show in the form of characters which we each are working to bring to life. We’ve all done our material as standup comedy. This is different.

Since we’re doing a show about talk radio, the characters we are playing will either be a live in studio guest with Jerry, or a caller. Each of us is playing several characters and it’s a real challenge to define each one clearly with just a jacket, wig, hat or some sunglasses.

We’ve been gradually putting it all together, and everyone sees the mammoth effort that it has taken to get even this far. We haven’t even done our first real show yet and we have already updated and rewritten and improved the whole show countless times. We improve and upgrade something absolutely every time we get together, and nobody thinks it sucks.

We’re all professional entertainers and have been on stage or in front of a live mike for a lifetime. We won’t freeze up and draw a total blank, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be blowing lines and/or forgetting cues. That’s why we’re working so hard to get it smooth.

Vicki Quade has been a real help in guiding us in a theatrical direction. She has a lot of experience in not only putting plays together, but getting them up and running in theaters. I really don’t think we could have gotten close to this far without her, and everyone in the group knows it. This truly has been a group effort and everyone involved has had a part.

We went through another rehearsal at Jerry’s house today, but mostly it was about what each of us was wearing for each scene and where we’d be standing on stage. We did run a few scenes, but not the actual dialogue from top to bottom. We only did a few transitions.

I for one am absolutely sick of my lines by now. I’ll be fine once an audience is there to hear them, but reciting them to each other is a complete drag. I like to be fresh and wing it whenever I can, but the other guys are much more regimented. I have to be very respectful of that, and I try to be even though it’s torture for me. This is a team effort, not my show.

I’ve always read where Jackie Gleason never liked to rehearse for “The Honeymooners“ and just went out and riffed it. He’d apparently drive the rest of the crew nuts, and I never wanted to do that even though I do enjoy working fresh and completely in the moment.

If nothing else, one thing I do have is a new perspective on just how difficult this whole entertainment thing is, at least to pull off correctly. Standup is supposed to be the hardest, but all of us are experienced in it so we can handle that. Doing this play was hard, but we all rolled up our sleeves and put in our time. I sure hope the audience likes it. We’ll see.