Posts Tagged ‘Will Durst’

Will (Durst) Power

January 19, 2014

Thursday January 16th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

2014 is starting off extremely well, and I’m enjoying every second of the ride. I’m trying not to fall behind, but there’s so much going on I can’t help it. Mundane tasks like getting mail, picking up dry cleaning, paying bills and doing laundry tend to pile up, and then everything slows down.

I spent most of today catching up on everything but the laundry, and even though that wouldn’t qualify for anyone’s bucket list it felt great to get it all out of the way. It will clear more room for more of the exciting things I’ve been doing, which is exactly what I’ve always pictured life to be.

What I find most remarkable about this hot streak I’m on is that everything is falling into place both out of the blue and to exact perfection. I’m getting calls for bookings on exactly the nights I happen to be available, whereas it has traditionally been exactly the opposite. I’d get several calls asking for the same date, and had to turn most of them down. Now it’s meshing without a hitch.

Today I picked up two nice bookings in February – both exactly the kind of shows I want to be doing. One is a country club on Valentine’s Day, and the other is a theater I have worked before that I’ve been trying to rebook for several years. Instead of me pestering them, they called me.

Even better about them both is that they’re close to home. I’ll be able to score a pair of paydays and still be home before midnight. These are pure heaven, and they’re coming in frequently from all directions lately. I’m not going to question why, I’m just going to be grateful and take them.

Tonight I happened to have off, but received a personal invitation from the great Will Durst to check out his new one man show “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG” at The Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee. Any time I can see him perform live, I do it. He is one of very few true masters.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Will, if for nothing else his tremendous work ethic. That guy is ALWAYS working on something, and this is his latest incarnation. He had a long run of another one man show about the 2012 Presidential election, but as soon as that was over so was his show.

Will has been known for decades as one of the premiere political satirists anywhere, and that is no easy feat to pull off. Things are constantly changing in that arena, and his shelf life of material is painfully short. He has to continuously keep it all fresh, but he always manages to do just that.

This particular show has gone in the opposite direction – which shows how loaded with ability Will truly is. In many ways it’s like my “Schlitz Happened!” show in that it was made to please a large audience that isn’t being catered to by Hollywood. It was a business decision for both of us.

That doesn’t mean there can’t be passion in it, and I really enjoyed the show. One feature that’s beyond hilarious is Will uses an actual overhead projector which really adds to the theme of what he’s talking about. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s already a high quality product. He nails it.

Will Durst is evolving, and so am I. We both have plenty of show experience, but our business has been lacking through the years. We’re both doing something about it, and I see bright futures for each of us. Any smart fan of standup comedy needs to be a fan of Durst. http://www.willdurst.com.

Will Durst is one of the top standup comics and political satirists of the modern era. www.willdurst.com.

Will Durst is one of the top standup comics and political satirists of the modern era. He is a true master. http://www.willdurst.com.

He wrote and stars in a hilarious one man show aimed at the baby boom generation called "BoomerRaging: From LSD to OMG".

He wrote and stars in a hilarious one man show aimed at the baby boom generation called “BoomerRaging: From LSD to OMG”.

Will performed it tonight in his home town of Milwaukee at Next Act Theatre - a terrific venue to see live entertainment. www.nextact.org.

Will performed it tonight in his home town of Milwaukee at Next Act Theatre – a terrific venue to see live entertainment. Will was terrific too. http://www.nextact.org.

Thank You Randy Kosanke

September 10, 2013

Monday September 9th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

My long time good friend Randy Kosanke in Milwaukee sent out this mass email yesterday:

To all my friends,

I guess I have some bad news. They’ve taken me off chemo as it’s not working anymore. The cancer is spreading too fast. The doctor says I have three to six weeks left. I guess this is kind of shocking news, but please don’t be too upset.

I have been given a great life that I wouldn’t trade with anyone. I have the best family anyone could want, from probably the most perfect wife you could want to two of the greatest kids any man ever had and their wonderful spouses, and now the perfect grandson.

I also have the best friends any man could want who have given me the best times and laughs imaginable. I haven’t missed out on anything.

I truly love all of you and thank God for all our times together. Please don’t worry or mourn for me as I look forward to the next adventure. Please help out Jan as she’s under a lot of stress.

There will be no funeral as I am to be cremated and have my ashes thrown on Racquel Welch’s breasts – which probably sag too much and will spill on the floor. I guess they will dump them in my asshole neighbor’s yard.

It would be impossible to tell each and every one of you what you’ve meant to me, but know that I love you all deeply. Please don’t e-mail or call as I am too tired to respond.

Thank you all and goodbye.

Randy

It stopped me in my tracks, especially since I didn’t even know he was sick. I was stunned to get it, and couldn’t help thinking about it all day. Once again, the message is clear. Life is short.

I’ve known Randy going on thirty years. A rabid fan of comedy and long time active supporter of the local scene in Milwaukee, he was a frequent audience member that loved to hang out with the comedians afterward. He was especially supportive of beginners, and a longtime fan of mine.

One night he told me out of the blue that out of all the Milwaukee comedians of that time, there were only three that he thought had legitimate talent – Chris Barnes, Will Durst and me. Will had already moved to San Francisco years before, but is still a native of Milwaukee and started there. Randy was an authority on the local scene, and closely monitored every act that went on stage.

I agree wholeheartedly on his assessment of Chris and Will. To include me up there with them is as flattering as it gets, and he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it. He and his wife attended my “Schlitz Happened!” show last April, but he didn’t let on that he was sick. I will miss him dearly.

I’ve got story after story of things he did over the years that really meant a lot. Just a few years ago, I was booked to be the first comedian ever at Milwaukee’s German Fest. Throughout much if not all of recorded history, Germans haven’t traditionally been known for frivolity and mirth.

They surely know how to bake a mean strudel and can dance the polka with anyone, but when it comes down to chuckles and yucks they’re severely lacking. Maybe twenty total showed up to see me perform on an outdoor stage that was built to seat several thousand, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I gutted it out, and Randy and Jan were there to support

Afterward we drowned my sorrows in a large plate of sausage, and Randy cheered me up when I really needed a lift. He was such a fan of comedy that he wouldn’t let me get down about it. He kept telling me that I did a great job under the circumstances, and that I was blazing a new trail.

The single story that sums up Randy by far the most took place in 1992 when I had purchased a professional wrestling organization for which I had served as ring announcer. I bought a ring and a truck to haul it and put on shows around Southeastern Wisconsin. A unique adventure it was.

There were all kinds of painful aspects of that endeavor, but the hardest was taking proper care of the actual ring. It was heavy and cumbersome, and a total pain in the ass to deal with. I hadn’t considered it when I bought the business, and it turned out to be one of the main reasons I sold it.

The ring was stored at one of the wrestler’s houses who happened to live out in the sticks. He’d leave it set up in the summer, so if guys wanted to go and work out moves they could. It became a nightmare when it rained, and I’d have to make sure it was taken down and stored in the truck.

One day it was scheduled to rain, and I couldn’t get any of the wrestlers to help me move that damn ring. They all had piss poor excuses, but the rain was coming and I needed to take it down or the canvas would get soaked and the plywood underneath would warp. I was in a tight spot.

I had an office then, and Randy happened to wander in to say hello since he lived not far away and often would drop in. I told him of my situation, and without blinking he said he’d be glad to help and that’s exactly what he did. That ring was a bastard to move, but he helped me do it with not one word of complaining. I offered to pay him or buy him dinner, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

THAT is a true friend, and I never forgot him for that. When I was backed into a corner he did not hesitate to help and never asked for a thing. I must have thanked him hundreds of times over the years, and we’d laugh about it every time I brought it up. He’d ask if he could be a wrestler.

All of these memories came flooding back today, and there wasn’t one bad one in the bunch. I don’t have any good ones of my father, but I have a ton of Randy. I know his email instructed us not to write back, but I never listened to anyone until now and I ignored it and wrote anyway.

I thanked him for everything, and told him he was a true winner in life – and he is. He has love from a great family and that’s what I have always wanted. All the fame in the world won’t match what he has, and he realizes it too. Randy Kosanke will hold a special place in my heart forever.

Blatz Off!

March 15, 2010

<Saturday March 13th, 2010 – Saukville, WI

It looks like Schlitz really is starting to happen! I didn’t know exactly what to expect on several levels concerning the initial run through of my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee called “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst”, but the overwhelmingly positive response it got gives me extremely high hopes. This is a winner!

It’s not a finished product yet by a long shot, but what’s there is very useable. I do know how to entertain an audience, and my lifetime of experience gives me a huge advantage of being able to go back into the archives and bring out polished standup bits which allows a freedom to experiment few others have. I can take chances because I have a backup plan.

The show was at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI which wouldn’t have been in the top 50 places I would have chosen to get this started. Richard Halasz had booked a couple of previous shows there with Will Durst, so that’s a thumbs up for me. I like Richard and a reputable comedian like Durst wouldn’t work a place twice if there was anything shady.

I knew I needed to work the show through a few times, so where better than here to get a feel for it? The owners were all very nice people and we drew 146 people which is very respectable for a place that doesn’t do comedy on a regular basis. The club had posters up for a couple of months, but it was Richard that really dug in and didn’t let up on promo.

He mailed flyers and sent email blasts and got me a radio interview in Fond Du Lac and I really give him credit for doing a thorough job in promoting this along with the venue. It isn’t often a comedian does this good a job of behind the scenes detail work but he nailed it and totally followed through. Everyone was happy with the results and it was a big hit.

I brought my friend Russ Martin along, who was kind enough to film the show with his movie quality video camera, even though I don’t need anything that elaborate right now. I just wanted to get it on tape in case I ad libbed something that could be used in the future.

Gary Pansch also came out to support and he lit it up for a few minutes to get the crowd in a good mood. I went up and did an hour and five minutes, trying to squeeze in as many local stories and references as I could. I did some of my regular standup but it still had the local flavor to it. I added in a few things exclusively for this show and they went over too.

Was I thrilled with the show? No, not at all. Was the audience? Absolutely. They loved it, and that was my main concern. I wanted to feel it out a little first since I never worked there before, and didn’t have too much scripted. I wasn’t sure what kind of audience they drew, so trying to force a theater show wasn’t smart. This was more of a bar audience.

The sound system was popping and the stage lights were pretty bad, but other than that it wasn’t horrible at all. The physical layout of the space was nice, even though smoking is still allowed in Wisconsin bars. That was a killer, and my eyes were burning within the first ten minutes. This was a comedy show in a night club, NOT a one man theater show.

Still, the audience was both receptive and very polite. They weren’t pissy drunk and had the courtesy to sit and listen to the show. There were waitresses, but they were also polite and didn’t talk loud while taking orders or distract form the show at all. I was impressed.

I know how to read an audience, and could tell that I had a chance to do well right from the get go. I wanted to get to a lot more subtle and experimental material, but tonight was not the time to try it out. There will be other times, and I’m glad I didn’t force anything.

A few people showed up I hadn’t seen in thirty years or more. Robert Deglau and I went to the Jackie Robinson alternative open classroom school in sixth grade. We were both in the same homeroom and had an interest in radio. We reconnected by email a couple years ago but hadn’t gotten together before tonight. It was great to see him after all these years.

Jeff Phelps and I went to high school together at Messmer High School. He worked for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a photographer for twenty-two years before losing his job last year in a purge that took a lot of other people with him. He is a real pro and takes amazing pictures, and I felt bad he lost his gig. Times are tough for people in many fields.

Jeff and I recalled the story of when Hank Aaron came to Messmer to speak. We loved sports and wanted to get an autograph so we skipped out of class and drove to a sporting goods store and each bought a baseball to get signed. We waited for Hank’s limo to pull up and as soon as we saw it we sprinted out the side door with our fresh white baseballs.

Nobody in the entourage expected us including Hank Aaron, and we politely asked him to sign our baseballs. There wasn’t much he could do but grab the pen and sign. We both had pens with us, and we had our whole plan of attack worked out way before we did it.

After Hank signed for us, someone in his entourage firmly said “Ok, that’s IT. No more autographs.” Jeff and I smiled at each other and went back into school with our prize. We were the envy of the whole school, and we got to meet Hank Aaron before anyone else at school, including the principal. It was the only time I ever skipped out, but it was worth it.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life was selling that ball many years later when I really needed money. Boy, was I stupid. I think I may have gotten $60. Maybe $75 tops. I remember crying when I sold that ball, but at the time I really needed that cash. It’s a huge mistake, but too late to change it. Jeff kept his ball, and I’m glad. I’d love to see it.

This is the end of my fourth solid year of keeping my little diary. It may not be good or even interesting, but at least I’ve been able to keep it consistent. I’ve had experiences all over the board, and hopefully I’ve been able to entertain or inspire at least somebody.

I’m still a dented can, and always will be. I’m improving in many areas, but I still have many more that need a lot of work. Will any of this live on after I’m dead? Who cares? It doesn’t affect me at all. I’ll be dead. Right now, I’m not and I hope whoever reads this at any time gets a laugh or two, or maybe some inspiration. Another year over. What’s next?

Back To Milwaukee I Go

January 20, 2010

Tuesday January 19th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Never say never. There was a time when I could not WAIT to escape my home town of Milwaukee, WI. It was my life’s mission. Even as a kid, I knew I didn’t want to live there very long and as soon as I could leave, I hopped on the first Greyhound bus out of town.

I’ll never forget it. I was working at a restaurant called “Rustler Steak House” across the street from the Southgate Mall on South 27th Street in 1982. The Brewers had just lost the World Series and the nasty cold of a Wisconsin December with Christmas coming wasn’t an exciting prospect for happiness so I left my job in mid shift and bought the bus ticket.

I was 19 at the time and not sure what life was about, but I did know I wanted to live it anywhere but Milwaukee. Warm weather was the first target but all I could afford to buy with the money I’d saved was a ticket to Dallas, TX. I don’t know why I picked Dallas of all places, but I did. Maybe it was because I could afford a round trip ticket, which I got.

That trip was one of the best things I ever did. It was the first of countless cross country adventures I’d have over the next almost thirty years and at the time it took a lot of guts to chuck everything and DO something exciting. I thought I’d planned for it but I did a poor job and ended up having to use that return ticket a day after I got there. I wasn’t ready yet.

Coming back to Milwaukee was pure torture. It was cold and everyone I knew made fun of me for ‘failing’ in my bid to start a new life somewhere. I hadn’t failed, I just needed to learn a few more things which I eventually did. But at the time, I was feeling pretty low.

I went back to grovel for my job back at the Rustler Steak House but they wouldn’t give it to me right away. They wanted to ‘teach me a lesson’ and I guess they did. It taught me to rely on myself, which I’ve had to do since. Then I remember getting my job back after a while and then the restaurant closed and went out of business, leaving us all dangling.

I bounced around several other horrific low paying dead end jobs from restaurants to car dealerships as a lot boy to anything else I could do to survive. My grandparents raised me but my grandfather had died and that threw the family into a full scale war by that time.

It was all I could do to support myself then, much less try for college. I was all alone in a cold ugly world, and that world was Milwaukee at the time. I found it to be an alcoholic cesspool of  lowlife dysfunctional idiots who weren’t interested in bettering themselves.

They had no ambition to rise above anything other than their boring no brainer factory jobs, their bowling teams, and their beer. LOTS of beer. Milwaukeeans sure love to suck down their suds, and with most it’s a way of life. I never drank, so I never fit in either.

Over the next few years, I kept struggling to survive but eventually discovered standup comedy as a means to get me out of town. It was a rocky start, but I stayed with it and am SO glad I did. Comedy is what gave me hope and what kept me from swallowing a bullet.

As soon as I was able to leave Milwaukee, I did. I had a horrible family life, didn’t like the whole booze soaked mindset that embraced mediocrity, had no wife and kids to hold me back and knew the entertainment scene was pathetic to the point of embarrassment so I moved to Chicago in the mid ‘80s. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was fantastic.

It’s amazing how 90 miles on a map can be 90 million light years in life. Chicago had a comedy scene and I quickly became part of it and cut my teeth as an entertainer. I learned my craft and enjoyed my life and knew the first week I was there I made the right choice.

Then as life opened up, I took some chances and started in radio and that’s when things started to get all cloudy and convoluted. I ended up back in Milwaukee at 93QFM later on but that ended in total disaster. Still, something inside yearned to be a star there. I wanted to prove to those who doubted that I was worth something after all, especially my father.

It’s a common story in show business and life in general. We all want to gain approval from family, friends, lovers or whomever else we feel we need to impress. I admit that my main focus was on ‘sticking it’ to everyone, but what a waste of time all of that is. I know it now, but I hadn’t learned that then. I wasted a lot of time and caused myself much pain.

Who needs any of that? I’ve survived until now and although I made a ton of mistakes I regret horribly, I’m still in the game and in a much better mindset. I’ve learned a lot and it shows. Supposedly we’re here on Earth to learn lessons. Well, I’ve earned my doctorate.

All that being said, I drove up to Milwaukee today to meet with Richard Halasz. He’s a comedian friend I’ve known over 25 years, and he’s now promoting some shows as well. I told Richard about my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee and he absolutely loved the concept. He’s got me booked in Saukville at the Railroad Station on March 13.

Granted, Saukville is not where I pictured this show to be, but he says the people came out and supported shows he’s done out there with Will Durst and wanted to try something else. I’m willing to give it a shot so we went out there today to look at the room. I looked it over and met one of the owners and everyone seemed like nice people so we’ll let it rip.

If you’d told the clueless angry hurt kid who got on that bus in 1982 he’d be looking to return to Milwaukee to do shows, he’d have flipped you off and walked away. Now, it’s a whole new adventure and I’m really looking forward to it. I know I can pull this off for an audience that grew up in the same place I did. The difference is, I’m able to accept it now.

Milwaukee is what it is, but it sure is unique. After seeing everywhere else in America, I have a whole different perspective now. That time in my life would have been horrible no matter where I lived. It took many years to see that, but I have. I’ve matured greatly.

I doubt if I’ll ever live in Milwaukee again, but I’m close enough to be able to pull this off. I’m going to craft a show about my hometown and share it with others who grew up where I did. I’ll turn a negative into a positive and also make a few bucks for my trouble.