Posts Tagged ‘Vince Maranto’

Nobody Has To Know

March 6, 2014

Tuesday March 4th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Once again I was called in for short term bullpen duty by Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago, and once again I answered the call. For whatever reason, they needed me to fill in for tonight only so that’s what I did. I always enjoy the chance to work, even though the crowd isn’t always stellar.

I’m not talking about Zanies crowds necessarily, but about audiences in general. There are a lot of variables that make up any particular group of random strangers, and each gathering is its own mini lottery with astronomical odds. Like hands of cards, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Sometimes a given group meshes perfectly with the act on stage, and when that happens life is absolute bliss. Depending on the experience of the performer, he or she can make adjustments to find the sweet spot of what the audience is buying on that night. Trying to find what that happens to be is part of the fun of live performing. It all happens in the moment, and it’s a calculated risk.

Inexperienced entertainers have a limited range of where they can go. They give whatever they have, and leave it to chance. Sometimes it’s the correct fit, and sometimes it isn’t. That’s part of the process, and why it takes so long to master the craft of standup comedy. It’s quite involved.

Matching wits with an audience is a tremendous challenge, and I’ve learned to respect it over a lifetime. It’s a constant mental chess game, much like how the quarterback takes on a defense in a football game or a pitcher vs. batter matchup in baseball. It’s a series of guesses and adjusting.

On rare occasions, it all works out right from the start. I’ve had nights I could seemingly do no wrong, and I can’t figure out why. It just clicks, and I run with it. Other nights nothing works no matter what I try, and over time I have amassed quite a stash of tricks to haul out in the moment.

Part of the process includes trying several tactics to obtain the most positive response. One that can be highly effective is interaction. A dead audience can spring into life with crowd work, and I’ve implemented it successfully many times. I’ve also had it blow up in my face too. It’s tricky.

This whole game is tricky – but that’s why I love it. It’s a constant challenge, and even when it goes right there’s always the next audience to figure out and they could be stone faced. I liken it to doing crossword puzzles – something else I really enjoy. There’s always the next one to solve.

Tonight’s crowd on the surface seemed very good. It was quite large for a Tuesday, but I found them to be one of those rare hands of cards that was difficult to play. Vince Maranto was hosting, and he’s one of the most experienced emcees around. They liked him, but he talked to them a lot.

Calvin Evans was the feature act tonight, a younger comic who is very likeable on stage. I saw him have a tough time keeping their attention, and he eventually had to politely ask them to keep the table talk down. He handled it very well, but I knew I would be in for a challenge and I was.

This was one of those shows when every little thing went wrong, and no matter what I tried fell flat. It didn’t help that the whole front row was chatting during the whole show, but that happens. They all clapped loudly at the end, but I’ve had far better audiences. Shhh. Nobody has to know.

Performing for live audiences is never the same twice in a row.

Performing for live audiences is never the same twice in a row. That can be good and bad.

Old Dogs And New Meat

January 25, 2014

Thursday January 23rd, 2014 – St. Charles, IL

There was a fall out tonight at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL and once again I was the one called to fill in. I’m always grateful to get those calls, and I gladly said yes. The temperature was way on the wrong side of zero and my car barely started, but it was a pleasant ride to work.

I have always enjoyed working in St. Charles, and have been doing it with regularity since the club opened in 1989. I’ve seen several managers come and go, and like a lifer in prison I’m now part of the fabric of the walls. I’m a fixture, and there are several others in that category as well.

Vince Maranto is another. I have known Vince from the days of the first place I ever worked in the Chicago area called “The Comedy Cottage” in the mid ‘80s. That was a showcase club where an entire generation of extremely talented comedians cut their stage teeth, and I am honored that I was a part of that scene. What a blast. It was like being a musician in Liverpool in the late ‘50s.

I always liked Vince and thought he was a funny comedian, and we’ve worked together far too many times to count. He’s a headliner in his own right, but frequently works as ‘house emcee’ at Zanies to stay off the road. He was married with a son, and chose to be around. I can’t blame him for that, and in fact I commend him. Vince chose to make comedy work for him and that’s smart.

Mike Preston wasn’t a part of the Comedy Cottage scene, but he came around not all that much longer after. He’s another act everyone likes personally, and is also an excellent comedian that is able to close shows when needed. He also opted for the ‘house emcee’ gig because he helps take care of his mother in Crystal Lake, IL where he grew up. Again, who can blame a guy for that?

Vince never chose to make the move to L.A., but Mike did. He lived there for several years but decided to move back like a lot of people do. There’s no shame in doing it but it’s never pleasant to make that long trip home. I’ve done it myself, and so have countless others. It’s a cruel game.

Vince and Mike are two of my favorites to hang out with offstage, and I love their acts too. We have all seen each other’s acts so many times over so many years, we could probably recite them word for word by now. We’re three prime examples of what a working road dog comedian does.

I had no idea who I would be working with when I arrived at Zanies tonight, but was delighted to see Vince and Mike sitting around – and they were happy to see me too. We all knew we could relax and not have to worry about anything as far as the show went. That makes it a total breeze.

I happened to be the headliner tonight, and Mike was the feature. Vince always does a great job as host, but Mike or I could have easily done that role too. Any of us could have effortlessly fit in at any position, and I can’t remember the last time I was on a show like that. What a treat that is.

The audience tonight was mostly a group fundraiser event for a baseball team of some sort that is based in the western suburbs. There were a few others mixed in, but that group was the bulk of the audience. Vince, Mike and I knew exactly how to play it, and it came off without any hitches. The crowd saw a much better show than they realized, as there were decades of sweat equity put in by all three of us, and that just doesn’t happen every day. I’m proud to call those guys friends.

Right before the show started, Vince asked me if I’d heard about Pat McGann. I hadn’t, and he told me that Pat was taping his first David Letterman appearance tonight. I hadn’t heard that and was very happy for him. Pat is a wonderful guy and everyone likes him too – but he’s different.

Pat is not going to be a road dog kicking around for decades like Vince, Mike and me. Pat has big star written all over him, and I predicted that years ago. He’s got all the tools, and has put in his time the right way. There aren’t many that come along that are like him, and he’s on his way.

I’ve only seen it happen a few other times, but I was right each time I saw it. It doesn’t take all that much to see it, as it becomes quite obvious in a hurry. There are some people that show up at the right time with the right equipment, and they shoot up the ranks with little difficulty. It’s rare.

Frank Caliendo was one. He opened for me the first time he ever stepped on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. He was totally raw, but I could clearly see how that audience loved his impressions. I told him that night if he worked hard and stayed with it he’d take it to the big time.

Hannibal Burress was another. That kid has a load of natural ability, and combines it with one of the hardest work ethics I’ve seen since Frank Caliendo. Frank busted his hump and then some to get his name out, and Hannibal is the same. People with both those traits are extremely rare.

Michael Palascak is another. He’s done all kinds of TV, and is well on his way to a long career making big money doing something in the entertainment business. He might get a sitcom or have a movie career, but standup comedy has launched him to a higher level than most of us ever see.

Pat McGann is on that path as well, and tonight was his official launch date. I was told it won’t air until tomorrow, but unless there’s another 9/11 type story I’d say he’s golden. It might not be a big deal with the public, but he’s cementing his place of credibility within the business itself.

Like with pro sports, there are only a few of thousands that are considered legitimate prospects. Once in a while someone slips through the cracks and overachieves, but for the most part it boils down to a precious few at the top of the crop that are talked about and given chances to succeed.

In Pat’s case, he comes from a solid family that’s well connected on the South Side of Chicago where he’s from. I think his father is a judge, but I could be wrong. Whatever the case, he’s been groomed to be socially adept, and he totally is. Everyone likes Pat, and I see why he’ll be a star.

He’s got a razor sharp wit and is very funny naturally. He took a comedy writing seminar that I taught with Bill Gorgo years ago, and we immediately liked him then. It was obvious he was one of those rare ‘naturals’, but he also put in his time and worked at it. This is no surprise to anyone.

I’m thrilled for Pat’s success, but I also have to keep plugging on my road. I wasn’t given all of the gifts Pat was, and neither were most of the rest of us. There are a lot more Mike Prestons and Vince Marantos than there are Frank Caliendos or Pat McGanns. Dobie Maxwells are even fewer than that. My story is so out there, it stands eerily all by itself like Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. It now becomes up to me to play the hand I was dealt correctly and salvage as much happiness as is humanly possible. If I’m lucky, Pat or Frank or Hannibal or Michael will hire me as a pool boy.

Vince Maranto is one of Chicago's very best standup comics - and has been a friend for many years. He's a rock solid professional. www.vincemaranto.com.

Vince Maranto is one of Chicago’s very best standup comics – and has been a friend for many years. He’s a rock solid pro and I’m a lifelong fan. http://www.vincemaranto.com.

Ditto with Mike Preston. Mike is also the host of a very funny TV show called 'Psycho Babble'. I've been a guest several times, and it's always a blast. www.psychobabbletv.com.

Ditto with Mike Preston. Mike is also the host of an original and funny TV show called ‘Psycho Babble’. I’ve been a guest several times, and it’s always a blast. http://www.psychobabbletv.com.

Pat McGann recorded his first network TV spot tonight. He's on his way to becoming a big star. You heard it here first. I'm thrilled for Pat, he's a true talent and super nice guy. www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Pat McGann recorded his first network TV spot tonight. He’s on his way to becoming a big star. You heard it here first. I’m thrilled for Pat, he’s got talent galore and is a genuinely nice guy. http://www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Frank Caliendo opened for me his first time on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. I told him that night if he stayed with it and worked hard he could easily take it big time. He did, and it worked. Good for him. www.frankcaliendo.com.

Frank Caliendo opened for me his first time on stage at a bowling center in Waukesha, WI. I told him that night if he stayed with it and worked hard he could easily take it big time. He did, and it worked. Good for him. http://www.frankcaliendo.com.

Hannibal Burress is another rising star loaded with talent and a rock solid work ethic. I'm a big fan, and it's no surprise he's blowing doors off of everywhere he goes. He's a rare talent. www.hannibalburress.com.

Hannibal Burress is another rising star loaded with talent and a big time work ethic. I’m a huge fan, and it’s no surprise he’s blowing doors off of everywhere he goes. He is absolutely the real deal. http://www.hannibalburress.com.

Michael Palascak is another up and comer with star written all over him. He's also talented and has a super work ethic. www.michaelpalascak.com.

Michael Palascak is another up and comer with star written all over him. He’s also talented and has a super work ethic. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Success leaves clues. http://www.michaelpalascak.com.

Fill In Fun

September 5, 2013

Tuesday September 3rd, 2013 – Rockford,IL/Chicago, IL

   The fill in fairy has been waving a wand in my direction the last few days, and I’m delighted to be included in the mix. I received calls from Jim Stone in Rockford, IL asking me to fill in on the radio at WNTA the rest of the week and from Bert Haas at Zanies in Chicago asking me to fill in tonight as their headliner. There was also a TV appearance included, and I said yes to everything.

   It feels great to be on somebody’s go to list, as I can use some work right about now. The radio gig is easy – only a two hour shift from 3 to 5pm today through Friday. I can do that in my sleep. The hardest part is getting to the station. There’s no easy route from where I live and it’s a hassle trying to guess when to leave. I don’t want to be too early, but I don’t want to cut it close either.

   Today I left at a reasonable hour and had no problems. There’s construction everywhere, but it wasn’t close to being as bad as I’ve seen it at times. I drove west on Illinois Highway 176 all the way to Marengo, and then it’s US Highway 20 all the way to Rockford. I arrived relaxed at 2:40.

   Everyone at the radio station is very laid back and easy to deal with. Howard Bailey Murray is the producer, and about as cool a customer as there is. He’s been there for a long time and knows what he’s doing and knows the town in case I have any questions. He makes my job really easy.

   I’m getting to be a much better talk show host also. I used to be petrified to have zero guests or callers to bounce off of, but today I went right into a solo rant about a couple of things that I was thinking about, and had no trouble whatsoever making it to the commercials with time to spare.

   After the radio show I drove right to Zanies on Wells Street in Chicago’s Old Town. There was a TV show called “Urban Grind TV” that wanted to interview me and film part of my show. I try hard to be an interesting interview, as I’ve been on the other side and know what I’d like to hear.

   The guy in charge is named Wally, and he was extremely professional as he explained what the show was about on the phone. It airs on Chicago’s Comcast three times a week, and they’ve built a loyal following in more than four years on the air. Their website is www.urbangrindtv.com.

   There was a crew of four including Wally, and they went out of their way to make sure it was a pleasant experience. They were thanking me for being willing to do it, and I thanked them for the chance to be on. It all worked perfectly without a glitch, and I wish the rest of life was that easy.

   The crowd tonight wasn’t large, and they weren’t the ideal TV audience but I didn’t mind a bit. I was thankful for the work, and did my best to lean in to it and do what I do. They came around eventually, but they didn’t realize what a solid show they saw all the way through. The host was Vince Maranto who is one of Chicago’s best comedians. He works often as an emcee for Zanies.

   The feature act was another Chicago act named Kevin Williams. I’ve worked with him before, and found him to be both competent and friendly off stage. It’s been several years since I’ve seen him work, and he’s grown by leaps and bounds. He had me laughing out loud several times. That takes a lot from an old battle scarred war horse like me. Today was a fun day from start to finish.

Summer Survival

August 9, 2013

Thursday August 8th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   Christmas came early this week, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I picked up some last minute work in St. Charles, IL at Zanies Comedy Club in Pheasant Run Resort and that will allow me to squeak by and pay yet another month’s bills. That and another last minute add at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake, IL next Friday will get me by. I have survived another summer – but just barely.

   This absolutely needs to stop, even though I have no idea as to how. Comedy in the summer in the North is death, and always has been. This is nothing new, but I should have figured out a way to hedge that bet by now. It’s like a school teacher knowing summer is coming every year. There needs to be a plan in place, but I’ve been too busy surviving all of the other months to make one.

   All I’m asking for is ONE major run somewhere at some point. North America would be great, but I’d settle for anywhere up to and including Helsinki, Hong Kong or the Island of Gibraltar. A successful six month tour of 1000-2000 seat venues anywhere would put me in a far better space financially, but try as I might I haven’t been able to make that happen and it’s frustrating as hell.

   I read where Jim Gaffigan just played a larger venue in Milwaukee tonight, and I have to say it bummed me out. I have nothing against Jim Gaffigan, but he’s of my comic generation and I feel strongly that the people that like him or Louis CK would like me too. But how do I get to them?

   I did a show tonight with Ken Sevara and Vince Maranto at Zanies for maybe 50 people. It was a very solid show and I was glad to get the work on short notice, but it would have been so much nicer to play the venue Jim Gaffigan played. Talent isn’t the issue. This is a matter of marketing.

   Vince and Ken have been doing comedy even longer than me, and we talked about exactly that before our show. They were delighted to get the summer work too, and nobody was complaining about that. We just wanted to know what it takes to get over that hump and be a legitimate draw.

   Jim Gaffigan and Louis CK are big draws, and I take nothing away from either of them. I know what it took performance wise to get where they are, but business wise I don’t know where to get started looking. What do I do, call up managers and ask if they want to handle a potential star?

   I might even be willing to try that if indeed I knew who to call, but alas I don’t have a hint of a clue who that might be. What I do know how to do is give good shows, and I did it again tonight. We all did. I’m hosting this week, and that’s a splendid opportunity to break in some new ideas.

   In reality, I never have to come up with another joke or bit as long as I live. I’ve done that for a lifetime, and can thoroughly entertain most comedy audiences anywhere without a hitch. The rub has been trying to get my name out so at least a percentage of the population will want to see me.

   Jim Gaffigan and Louis CK have their chunk of fans, and it’s enough for them to sell out 2500-3000 seat venues all across North America. I would settle for smaller ones, but that’s still plenty of fan base to provide financial security and artistic satisfaction. How do I make that happen?

   It won’t happen this week, but at least I’m working somewhere and glad to get it. I’ll use every second of stage time at Zanies to improve my act, so if and when my shot at bigger venues does come I’ll be even more ready than I am now – and I am. I may be the only one that knows it, but I definitely am. All I need is just ONE person with power that will take a chance. Who will it be?

What A Week!

February 11, 2013

Saturday February 9th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   This week at Zanies in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort is comedy heaven for several reasons. After spending a lifetime experiencing anything and everything that can go wrong with standup comedy, it was a delicious treat to have everything work out correctly without a glitch.

First, it’s close to home. What a wonderful treat not to have to worry about travel for a change. Anytime I can work a week of comedy shows and sleep in my own bed is a humongous positive. If I never have to stay in a hotel ever again, my life would not miss a beat. I’ve done it too much.

Second, it’s a quality venue. The sound and lights are always great, and since it’s been open for so long there is at least a fighting chance most if not all of the audience at least knows the reason they are there. There is visible security in place to escort the morons who don’t get it out the door but that doesn’t happen often. When it does, Lenny Creagh handles it beautifully. He’s a real pro.

Third, it’s managed well and has been for years. Cyndi Nelson is one of the most respected and beloved comedy club managers anywhere, and she recently moved on to manage the new Zanies in Rosemont, IL. Tracey Whitmer is now in her place and like Cyndi she actually enjoys comedy and treats the comedians with respect. It’s refreshing to show up at a club and feel wanted there.

All of these things are the foundation of an outstanding work environment, but what really sent this week into orbit was the solid lineup of comedians. I was extremely fortunate to share the bill with a pair of my all time favorites both onstage and off in Vince Maranto and Jimmy McHugh.

Zanies has used house emcees for years, and I am a big proponent of that concept. It makes the shows far better as a whole, as someone with experience starts the night and maintains an energy that can’t be achieved by putting up a rank amateur like most comedy clubs have done to death.

Vince is one of the Zanies regular hosts, and does a fantastic job. We’ve known each other for at least twenty five years, and he’s a solid headliner in his own right as is Jimmy McHugh. They have both been through the wars just like I have, and it’s a breeze working with guys like that as nothing can rattle any of us at any time. We’ve all seen it before, and our calmness level is high.

The three of us are comedy mercenaries at this point, but that’s not a bad thing. We still love to perform and all do it well, but none of us are big stars and may never be. We’ve all paid our dues and are big leaguers as far as being professional comedians, and we all respect each other’s acts.

I watched Vince and Jimmy this whole week and they still make me laugh out loud even if I’ve seen their bits literally hundreds of times. They’re both well written and well performed, and I’m a fan of them both as people and as comics. Getting to be on a show with them was fun but rare.

Comedy clubs as a rule just don’t book that much talent on one show like a Zanies does. For at least four nights, I had a dream working environment and I enjoyed every second of it as I know how uncommon it truly is. Next week I’m back to the grind, and I will appreciate this even more.

A Saturated Saturday

March 22, 2010

Saturday March 20th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Elkhorn, WI

Today was loaded with surprises, most of them good. The one I didn’t like was waking up to several inches of snow on the ground, which made me have to scrape it off my car, which made me have to hustle faster than I wanted to on slick roads to get downtown for the seminar I signed up for about reinventing my life. Still, I was able to make it on time.

The teacher’s name is Steve Olsher. He wrote a book called “Journey To You” and he’s a life long entrepreneur. He told some interesting stories up front and I liked the guy right away. I respect how hard it is to get people in a room, and he did a lot of things correctly.

It was the weather that screwed us. Nobody expected snow, sleet and slippery roads but good weather has the opposite effect. People want to wash their cars and go outside so the same result happens – they stay away from the event. I’ve had it happen to me quite often, so I felt Steve’s pain. I stayed as long as I could, but wasn’t able to finish the entire day.

I politely excused myself and drove north for my show in Elkhorn, WI at the Evergreen Golf Course. I’d heard it was snowing pretty good and didn’t want to risk it by cutting the drive time too thin. It was white knuckles and brake lights for way longer than I’d hoped.

I arrived at the Evergreen Golf Course at 7:10 for an 8:00 show and was surprised to see a jammed full parking lot. I had to park a ways away and walk in the snow, but I wasn’t at all upset about that. Full crowds mean full payment, usually in cash. The place was really jumping and that’s always a plus. Not only that, I worked with two competent comedians.

The opener was a newer guy named Matt Drufke. I’ve seen him at Zanies a few times at the Rising Star Showcases I host on Monday nights, and he did a fine job then. He’s from a town called Huntley, IL which is not on the beaten path. Getting stage time isn’t easy to do on a regular basis, but I’ve never heard him complain. He’s got some upside potential.

They wanted a two headliner show and my old friend Vince Maranto was the other one. We’ve worked together a ton at Zanies and we both feel comfortable onstage and off. He did an excellent job as he usually does and it was a fun night all around. I went up and did what I do, and the audience loved it. They loved all of us. This was a pleasure all around.

Working with good guys who are professional makes everything a whole lot more fun. I wish it could be like this every night. Not only were the other comedians easy to handle, the guy in charge of the Evergreen was nice too. His name is Russ and he gave us easy to follow directions and let us do our show. He also made sure we were fed and watered too.

The show was booked by a comedian named Jerry Wolski who used to live in Chicago but is now in Los Angeles. He’s been asking me for months to do this show and I’m glad he did. Everything went smoothly and Jerry was about as low maintenance to work for as I’ve ever experienced. Everything was right about tonight, and I’m grateful for every little detail – including being paid in cash a minute after getting off stage. Take THAT Giggles.

Two Hots And A Not

January 31, 2010

Saturday January 30th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/St. Charles, IL

Three shows today – two on stage, one on radio. The two on stage had a total combined audience of around 400. The radio show had several hundred thousand, if not more. Two out of the three shows came off without a hitch. Guess which one sucked rotten eggs?

I have to admit, I really stunk it up on Jerry’s Kidders today on WGN and I feel horrible about it. Jerry Agar is nice enough to have us on and I never want to embarrass either him or the station. I don’t take that opportunity lightly, and I want to contribute when I’m on.

I feel like I owe it to both Jerry and the other Kidders to step up and be the leader in the room as we’re on the air. I’ve done radio and comedy, and know the timing of both. It’s a total blast when it’s going well, and it usually does. Today I thought we were misfiring on all cylinders, and most of it started with me. For whatever reason, we never hit our stride.

Ken Sevara took the week off because he had a gig. Since we’ve been on WGN, each of us has had to bow out at some point, only because Saturdays are our work days. It’s tough for all three of us to make it in every week, but nobody’s angry about it. It’s just how it is.

Dale Irvin filled in for Ken, and he’s a total pro. He has his own individual bit he’s been doing for years called “The Friday Funnies” and it’s basically the same thing we do as the Kidders. He finds goofy news stories of the week and writes jokes. They’re funny jokes at that, and they’re on video. You can subscribe at http://www.daleirvin.com and I recommend it.

Tim Slagle is our other Kidder and he’s usually on point also. In fact, we tend to like to tease Ken because he’s not the strongest ad libber. That’s not a bad thing, he just isn’t. He likes to be prepared and he can do great impressions and voice characterizations that none of the rest of us can, so everyone has their place. Today, that place wasn’t a radio studio.

One would think with three of us who’ve been on the air before and Jerry, we’d be able to get in there and start throwing heat from all directions. Many times we do exactly that, but not today in my opinion. Nobody else said anything, but I felt like it was a train wreck the whole time, and most of it was my fault. The harder I tried to flow, the less it worked.

We fell back on a lot of self effacing humor and made fun of ourselves, but that doesn’t cut it for long. Eventually, someone needs to land on some punch lines. I’ll admit I like to work off the cuff, and this is the danger of what can happen when that doesn’t work out.

I don’t want to overanalyze it, but we weren’t anywhere near where we should be today. This is one of the advantages of radio though. If we did stink, it was diluted and we didn’t have to suffer the torture of having to eat it live on stage in front of a room full of people.

That’s the worst feeling I know. If an audience doesn’t like a show, everybody knows it. And I do mean everybody. Time slows down and it’s a bloody vortex of negative energy. On radio, people either don’t know or care, or if they do they can just change the station.

What probably happened was that nobody noticed. I did, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point. It’s not my show. My name is nowhere on the product at all except for at the top of the show when Jerry introduces us. If I’m going to pick a place to blow it, this is it.

Still, I never want to put Jerry or the guys in a bad way. We’ve all worked way too hard and long to start slacking off now. If we’re going to be on the air, we should be able to be at least a little bit funny for those who take time to listen. I don’t think it happened today.

The good news is, what I think about this doesn’t matter one tiny little bit. Perception is always what matters, and the perception is we’re good enough to be asked to be on WGN radio. We’ve had enough good shows where the powers that be haven’t yanked us off yet.

This one was just a blip. Athletes get into slumps and I’m sure actors and musicians and any other kind of performing artist has to deal with an off day once in a while. This was a show that I didn’t like, but sometimes I can be way too hard on myself. Maybe I am now.

The two shows at Zanies tonight were a completely different story. I didn’t nod out this time and was ready to go from the beginning. There were two nicely packed houses and it felt good to have an opportunity to work a full week of well attended shows at a club. It’s how every week used to be back in the boom years, and I forgot how much fun that was.

The other acts on the show this week were both nice so that also made it fun. Zanies has a smart policy of hiring ‘house emcees’ which are experienced people to host their shows for a month at a time or maybe longer. I’ve house emceed in the past and loved it. It helps the club by making the shows stronger and helps the acts by giving us steady local work.

The house emcee this month is Vince Maranto, a funny guy I’ve known for probably 25 years now. We met when I first started coming to Chicago and have stayed friends all that time. Vince has the distinction of having had only two jobs in his entire life – McDonald’s and comedy. He started working at McDonald’s in high school and climbed up the ladder.

Eventually, he became a manager at the Woodfield Mall location when it was officially the busiest McDonald’s in the world. He started doing comedy and that became his career but he has some interesting stories of his McDonald’s years. Vince is always fun to work with. We make each other laugh off stage because we’ve got so much common reference.

The feature act is a 22 year old Indian kid named Prashanth Venkataramanujam. That’s more than a mouthful, and he just uses his first name on stage. He’s very bright and has a big future if he stays with it. He’s a good looking smart kid, and I hope he does very well. He asked me to grab some food after the show and pick my brain, which is totally smart.

Most kids his age wouldn’t have that foresight, but he totally does. I tried to help him as much as possible, as did Vince. He’s still green and putting his act together, but there’s an absolute spark there, and he was eager to learn from us all week. Working with a pup has a way of rubbing off on two old dogs like Vince and myself. It was a fun week all around.