Posts Tagged ‘Zanies Comedy Club’

Sports Comedy With Balls

July 29, 2014

Thursday July 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

A lot of things sound really great in theory. Communism is a big one, but nobody has been able to pull it off successfully for any significant amount of time. Polygamy is another. It sounds like a party, but there are laws against it for a reason. The success of any idea lies in the execution.

When I lived in Los Angeles in the mid ‘90s, I knew I needed a gimmick to separate me from a ridiculously large glut of white males trying to make a dent in standup comedy. Supply was FAR greater than demand even then, and I saw it. From my longstanding background in pro wrestling promotion, I zeroed in on a persona I thought would get me the most attention and get me seen.

That idea was to become “The Sports Comedian – With Balls”. I’d asked my friend and mentor Ross Bennett what he thought I should focus on, and he asked me what topics I knew best. I told him I knew sports, and I wasn’t lying. I have been a rabid sports fan since I was able to tie shoes.

Ross’s answer was fast and simple: “Well, why don’t you call yourself The Sports Comedian?”

It clicked with me immediately, and I spent all the money I had at the time to get photos taken in sports jerseys. I even had sports cards of me printed up. I got a crew cut like I though a sports comedian should have, and I proceeded to try and book myself. That’s where the glitch came in.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but not everyone is as enthusiastic about sports as I am. In fact, a whole lot of people couldn’t care less about it – especially women. Granted, there are quite a few women that do follow sports at least casually, but not nearly enough to support what I was doing.

I vividly recall getting on stage with this idea more than a few times, and seeing people’s faces tune out as soon as I said I was going to talk about sports. There were some nights that went very well, but it was too inconsistent so I dropped it after a few months and dove head first right back into the pool of anonymous Caucasians. “Mr. Lucky” is what I tried next, and that jury’s still out.

Times have changed and so have I, and I think the time is right to try this idea again. I have the chance to dust it off on Monday August 11th, at Zanies Comedy Club on Wells Street in Chicago. Every few months they give me a Monday night and let me do whatever I want – within reason. I told them I wanted to try this idea, and they gave me the thumbs up. I really think it will succeed.

Everything is so compartmentalized with the advent of the internet, and that wasn’t the case the first time I tried. If this is marketed correctly – and that’s the rub for just about anything – I know I can carve out a great niche market. People that love sports are rabid, and there are MILLIONS of us nationwide. If I can tap into that market, I have to believe I can make a comfortable living.

Even if I would only do it part time, I think I could still do more than ok. Every sports team on every level has an awards banquet or a pre season kick off dinner, and if this idea was presented properly I know it would get some bites. Well, I think so anyway. Here’s my chance to prove it.

I’ve got a killer lineup of comedians already lined up, and if nothing else it will be fun to hang out with them. I am going to rattle all the media cages I can, and hope I can get some publicity. http://www.zanies.com

Twenty years ago I threw everything I had into this gimmick. The time wasn't right then, but I think it is now. We'll see. Come on out to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago on August 11th. www.zanies.com

Twenty years ago I threw everything I had into this gimmick. The time wasn’t right then, but I think it is now. We’ll see. Come on out to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago on August 11th. http://www.zanies.com

The Word Of The Day

July 9, 2014

Saturday July 5th, 2014 – St. Charles, IL

The word of the day is gratitude, and I have absolutely nothing to complain about. As long as I had a paid booking in an acceptable venue – and I absolutely did – everything else fell into place. I was at Zanies in St. Charles, IL, and it pretty much met all of my 4th of July week expectations.

The only thing that didn’t live up to expectations was a bachelorette party, but they did it in the most wonderful way imaginable – they behaved themselves. Every comedian that has made their living for any significant amount of time at this insane game has had an obnoxious out of control bachelorette party make them question their vocational direction, as well as their very existence.

I am not the violent type by any means, but I have lost count at the times I have wanted to stop my show, grab the microphone stand like an ax handle and bash in each and every skull of every incessantly babbling boozed up bride to be, bridesmaid and Bride of Frankenstein as one group.

They can be maddening, and any experienced professional comedian will tell you they’d rather have rectal reconstructive surgery without anesthesia done with a rusty pizza cutter and a broken beer bottle. I know I would – and would welcome the relief rather than face a drunken hen party.

Tonight was different, and none of us could have been any more delighted. There was a couple right in front that started in right at the top of the show, but the host was Brian Hicks and he had it under control. Brian is an excellent comic and host, and handled it exactly as he should have.

By the time I got up we all thought it was over, but they started right in again before I even got to my first laugh. I didn’t expect that at all, so I jumped in their face a little and informed them it would not be wise to talk any more from there on out. They started in again and I said it again.

They reluctantly got the message, and everyone could see that I was not going to allow them to suck all the energy and attention out of the air. I was expecting to have to battle the bachelorette brigade, but they were never a problem. They laughed at all the right places, and were no trouble.

The last thing any of the comedians wanted was to do comedy combat. We all were fully aware of how lucky we were to be working this weekend, and we wanted to do our jobs, get our checks and go home peacefully. That’s what ended up happening in the end, so everyone was all smiles.

The bachelorette party ended up coming up to all of us after the show and got pictures with us. There was a smoking hot blondie that was just tipsy enough to be fun without being a stumbling wreck, and she dove for my lap and rubbed her charms all over me for a good twenty seconds.

It was very funny, not to mention a brief slice of heaven on Earth. She was really stacked, and I hadn’t seen her walk in with the party. It reminded me of a time when a bachelorette party had an enormous inflatable penis they passed up to the stage, and I ended up making it part of the show.

It was hilarious at the time, but someone was recording it and I know it’s out there somewhere. I’ll never be able to run for public office now, because that one video would get me kicked right out. Part of me kind of wants to watch it – but a bigger part wants to buy it back and destroy it.

This is the word of today - as it should be tomorrow and every day thereafter.

This is the word of today – as it should be tomorrow and every day thereafter.

Still Flying High

July 5, 2014

Friday July 4th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still on a high from the show last night at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL. No matter how many problems I have or how low I may feel on a given day, having shows like that is what keeps me above ground. I don’t see why I can’t experience that more regularly, like every week.

If I had my way – but I rarely do – I would be on stage every night of my life that I was able to stand even halfway erect and talk into a microphone – but only if I have the circumstances I had last night. It was a stellar venue with world class lights and sound, and people were there to see a show. When those criteria are met, I can almost always exceed their expectations and then some.

The misery comes when it’s some low rent hell hole blood and guts roadhouse dive that has no idea of how to run a show, but tries to anyway. It’s a chore to get anyone to shut up and listen for more than thirty seconds, and at the end of the night it makes me question why I was ever born.

Those aren’t the places to do real comedy, they’re just a chance for everyone to make a couple of relatively quick bucks. Notice I didn’t say easy – just relatively quick. The pain only lasts for about an hour onstage in situations like that, but can leave residual damage on the soul forever.

As much as I want to do shows like last night every night until I can no longer stand by myself, I don’t ever want to work the toilets again. I’ve long past my time of doing them, but sometimes I have to suck it up and do it for the money. Does that make me a whore? Unfortunately, it does.

It’s well and good to stand firm and be an ‘artiste’, but for most of us it’s not realistic – at least not these days. Absolutely ANY paying gig has to be considered by most of us working the road, and the quality is getting lower by the week. So is the pay. Nights like last night are a rare treat.

The one and only way to make things change for the better is to become a draw that enough of the public is familiar with and will buy tickets to see me. It doesn’t have to be anywhere close to the whole public, but it does have to be enough to sell tickets every week. That’s super difficult.

This has nothing to do with ego, although it is a blow to anybody’s that they aren’t able to fill a 50 seat room more than once a year. This is strictly business, and business often has very little or nothing to do with the show. But without a show, someone’s business won’t endure for the ages.

I’m in the same pickle barrel I’ve been in for years. I have a rock solid act, but nobody knows who I am so I can’t get a chance to prove it on a consistent basis. I’ve been too busy out making a living to get in front of the right people, and those people I have gotten in front of didn’t think I was what they were looking for – even though most people have no idea what they’re looking at.

A show like last night would have been a perfect example of one to have had when somebody with power was in the audience. I was up and down a dozen times, and kept the show rolling on many levels. Somebody with smart eyes would have seen that and plugged me in to something.

Too bad for me, they weren’t there. They’re never there when I rip it up, and that’s what makes me so frustrated. I KNOW I can do this, and so do a lot of others – especially all my detractors.

I'm learning as I get older to savor the good times. The tide will turn soon enough. When life goes well, it needs to be savored for all it's worth.

I’m learning as I get older to savor the good times. The tide will turn soon enough. When life goes well, it needs to be appreciated.

My Drug Of Choice

July 5, 2014

Thursday July 3rd, 2014 – Rosemont, IL

Whenever I’m stupid enough to think I have anything figured out is exactly the time I find out I don’t. I’ve been harping on and on of late about how dead 4th of July week is in comedy clubs, and then I show up at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL tonight to a fully jam packed house.

Sometimes clubs give out free tickets to help drum up business on slower weeks, and that can make for less than stellar audiences. Usually the degree of respect and attention somebody gives an event they attend is in direct proportion to how much they paid to get in. That’s human nature.

I don’t care how the audience got in tonight, I wanted to take every one of them home after the show. Wow, what a molten lava hot crowd it was, and it got better as the night went on. There is absolutely no way to predict when an audience this good will show up, but when one does it’s an absolute treat to be alive. This is why old dogs like me stay in the business so long. It’s our drug.

I wish everyone could experience the intensity of the high that occurs when a room full of total strangers is riveted on your every word and laugh at all the right places. It’s the most intoxicating feeling I have ever experienced, and one of the reasons I never felt a need to try drugs or alcohol.

I don’t see how anything else can feel that good – and I get paid for it on top of that! I already know I will be hooked for life on the performance part. The problem lies in getting myself in the position to be on that stage again. That’s always the hard part, and why bookers treat us like dirt.

They know full well we’ll do just about anything to get that stage time, and they don’t mind if they exploit it to the fullest. Make a 1000 mile drive for $100? Be right there! The allure of stage is that powerful – especially on nights like tonight. It was pure, uncut heroin of the highest grade.

I was host tonight, and there were a dozen other acts on the show doing about six minutes each. It was a best of Chicago area showcase night, and the acts were all solid. But they don’t have the experience I do, and I knew right where to hit this audience from the start – and I never stopped.

There’s something very comforting about having that extra ‘passing gear’, and it gives one the ultimate stage confidence without getting cocky. Only years of hard earned experience can truly provide that feeling, and it can never be faked though many try. It’s intangible, but really shows.

In a situation like this, I can make the entire show better. I lead things off with a blistering set, and then bring every other act on with an introduction that makes them sound like they are giants in their field. That becomes contagious, and the audience wants to believe it. It all feeds on itself.

Everyone was still abuzz after the show, and people were lining up to shake my hand and thank me from audience members to comedians to wait staff for telling the crowd to tip. I did my job to the fullest, and everybody went home happy. This is how I think it should be every single night.

Unfortunately, nobody of consequence saw this show. The manager of Zanies had the evening off, and there were no talent scouts in the room. I was a star for little bit, now I’m back to being a nameless schmuck again. None of those people remember my name, but I sure made them laugh.

The intoxicating feeling of being on a stage performing standup comedy when it's going well is like no other feeling. It's the BEST! I never get sick of it.

The intoxicating feeling of being on a stage performing standup comedy when it’s going well is like no other feeling. It’s the BEST!

The Sweetest Music

July 5, 2014

Tuesday July 1st, 2014 – Rosemont, IL

The sweetest music any comedian can hear the week of the 4th of July is a phone ringing. This is traditionally the deadest week of the year along with Christmas week, and that’s just how it is. It was like that even during the peak years, but it’s really true now. It’s not easy to get a booking.

Cruise ships can be decent on Christmas week because Jewish people tend to fill the ships, but comedy clubs on land tend to be ghost towns. Most clubs do a local ‘best of’ show with acts that live in town and don’t cost much. It’s something a club plans for every year, and they squeak by.

4th of July week is similar, but Jewish people celebrate too – at least if they’re Americans. I’ve never seen a rush of communist sympathizers or terrorists in comedy clubs or cruise ships on the week of 4th of July. It’s slow for everyone, and there’s always the variable of what day it falls on.

Saturday is always the money night in any week, and when Christmas Eve, Christmas night or the 4th happen to fall on one that makes it even harder for a venue to turn a profit that week. I’ve seen a lot of places in recent years just bite the bullet and close for those weeks. I can see why.

Zanies Comedy Clubs in the Chicago area will be open this week, but will close on Friday the actual 4th. They’re piecing ‘best of’ local shows together, and Chicago is a big city with a lot of options. It’s a chance for comedians to get their feet wet working at a Zanies location, and that’s a big deal in Chicago. It’s a chance for the clubs to be able to stay open as well, so it’s win/win.

I couldn’t have been more delighted to receive a text from the manager of the Rosemont Zanies asking if I would mind hosting the shows tonight and Thursday. Would I mind? Are you kidding me? I would be willing to host the show, vacuum the showroom after and take out the garbage at the end of the night. Being able to bring in even $1 on 4th of July week is a victory in these times.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received an email shortly thereafter from Bert Haas asking if I’d be willing to close the shows at the St. Charles location in Pheasant Run Resort on Saturday. Again, I was barely able to conceal my joy as I pretended to look for my calendar to see if I was open.

This couldn’t have come at a better time, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I hate to be in such a pickle to need money this badly, but it’s a big barrel and I’m not alone. Every comic I know that hasn’t gotten a day job by now is also sniffing around for anything they can get. Times are tight.

I’m really going to have to be better prepared from now on, but at least for another year I’ll get through another 4th of July week and another summer. I’ve picked up a couple of straggler shows for July and August, and there could be a few more in the mix when I rattle some cages I haven’t rattled in a while but need to. This particular week was wide open, and now it’s not. I’m thrilled.

The show tonight was excellent. The Rosemont location is part of a beautiful new complex that has a lot of bars and restaurants, and there is a significant amount of walk up business. That’s the exact type of location the most successful comedy clubs in the country are. Hopefully this club is set up for a long successful run. There was a nice house tonight, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ll enjoy Thursday and Saturday too. Thank you Zanies, you saved me again. http://www.zanies.com.

Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL is one of the most beautiful comedy clubs in America. www.zanies.com

Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL is one of the most beautiful comedy clubs in America. See it for yourself! http://www.zanies.com

Jerry Seinfeld

April 30, 2014

Tuesday April 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Yesterday I mentioned that it was Jay Leno’s birthday and how he was the king of the comedy club boom of the ‘80s – and he was. Today it’s the birthday of the prince – Jerry Seinfeld. Those two ruled the roost in the glory years, and everybody else was choking on their exhaust fumes.

I find it beyond remarkable the two of them were born only a day apart. I don’t know if there’s anything to astrology or not, but this makes me take notice just as the fact that Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh share the same birthday January 12th. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it sure is odd.

Just because Jay was looked upon as the king of that era, there was no shame whatsoever in all Jerry was doing. He was working most if not all the same top level venues Jay was, and raking in hefty coin himself. I never saw any check stubs, but neither was sleeping in his car. They did ok.

Again, just like with Jay I was informed of Jerry’s greatness through my association with Rick Uchwat who owned Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago. Rick was a father figure to comedians of all eras, and Jay and Jerry were like his oldest sons. Both have spoken highly of Rick just as I do, and Rick gushed in return when it came to both of them. Jerry wasn’t that far behind Jay’s status.

Like Jay, Jerry was a meticulous trooper who was relentless about working constantly. The two saw comedy as a business a lot sooner than most of us do, and kudos to them for doing it. If there was one thing that wasn’t a joke to either it was standup comedy. They had the correct mindset.

Just like I think Jay gets unfairly sniped from people that only judge him by the Tonight Show, Jerry gets lumped in with the countless sea of bad comedians that copied his style. I know quite a few people that don’t care for Jerry’s standup, and I always tell them that they should look again.

It’s fine not to care for someone’s individual style, I’m like that too. There are some comedians I don’t enjoy at all, even though they’re huge names. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean I don’t look at what they do and study it. Just because I don’t like a certain act doesn’t mean I don’t respect it.

I happen to really like and respect Jerry Seinfeld’s act, and in fact I use one of his routines as a classic example of a quality comedy bit for my classes. Even those that didn’t like him before are usually converted when I break down what he did and how he did it. The man is an all time great and even if he didn’t have his monster sitcom he’d still have lots to be proud of. He’s a megastar.

And like Jay and me – he is also left handed. I don’t have anything in common with those two financially, but as far as creativity goes I have to believe we are cut from the same cloth. Lefties are wired to have careers based on creativity. It doesn’t mean righties can’t have success too, but they’re the exception. We’re the rule. It makes perfect sense that both of these guys are lefties.

I have been fortunate to have a chance to meet and open for both Jay and Jerry and it was a real treat. Neither would remember me now, but I sure remember them. I learned from watching them both, and I give them the big props they deserve. From a performer’s viewpoint, they are royalty.

Never mind his enormously successful sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld is one of the all time greats of standup comedy. Period.

Never mind his enormously successful sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld is one of the all time greats of standup comedy. Period. That’s no small feat.

Otto And George

April 25, 2014

Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I heard more sad news today that another outstanding comedian has died. The year is not even half over yet, and there have already been too many of these kinds of stories to report. This time it happens to be another tremendous talent that I personally crossed paths with, and it’s painful.

Otto Petersen was without question THE funniest ventriloquist I have ever seen. Not only that, if I had to narrow it down to the top two or three laugh out loud funny acts period of all time, his name would be included in the conversation right up there with Rodney, Carlin or anyone else.

I worked with Otto and his figure George at Zanies Comedy Club in Vernon Hills several years ago. “Otto and George” was a huge act on the east coast, and I had heard of them (him) for years. Otto had a reputation of being a monster act, and comedians would speak of him with reverence.

Very rarely does something so trumped up beforehand live up to the hype, but Otto and George not only did that – they surpassed it by far. I hosted four weekend shows, so I got to watch the act four straight times. Laugh for laugh, it was right up there with the absolute best I have ever seen.

There are always exceptions to every rule, and Otto was a shining example. His act was off the charts as far as comparing it to anyone else’s anywhere. For one thing, he was beyond just being “off color” or “dirty” to the point of almost being a felony. His act was a mix of raw, rude, vile, vulgar, coarse, disgusting, racist, sexist, lowbrow, shocking – and absolutely 100% brilliance.

It takes a LOT to make most comedians flinch, as we’ve seen it all. I saw a lot before I ever got into comedy, but the first time I saw Otto and George live it made me cringe in utter horror – and also convulse in laughter. That guy took NO prisoners, and subtlety wasn’t part of his repertoire.

A lot of times an act will attempt to work ‘the edge’ – that imaginary line that separates what is considered to be in good taste and what is considered inappropriate subject matter. Sometimes an entertainer ventures slightly across the line whether calculated or not, and it can be controversial. It creates comedic tension, and when done well can be very effective. Working the edge is an art.

What I loved about Otto was that there was no tension involved whatsoever. He would venture out WAY past the line, and not worry about straddling it. He got away with it because he wasn’t the perceived bad guy – George was. That’s why it worked so well, and he took full advantage.

I have a ventriloquist friend that went to see Otto and George, and he said “It was ok, but Otto is a terrible ventriloquist. His lips move all the time.” He was the ONLY one that would happen to notice that, because the rest of the audience was too busy laughing. He destroyed for the entire weekend, and I am fortunate to have been able to work with him. He was in a class by himself.

We talked a bit between shows, and he was very reserved and down to earth. We hit it off, and I liked him a lot. He was also a dented can as most great performers are, and that’s probably why we bonded. I felt his pain. He passed way too young, and the world is less funny because of it.

Otto (Petersen) and George was THE funniest ventriloquist act I've ever seen and one of the funniest live acts period. What a talent, and he passed far too young.

Otto (Petersen) and George was THE funniest ventriloquist act I’ve ever seen and one of the funniest live acts period. What a terrific talent, and nice person too. He passed far too young.

A Personal Insult

April 23, 2014

Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m not all that great at a lot of things in life, and that can be a downer sometimes. Everybody has individual strengths and weaknesses, and it’s human nature to gravitate toward what we are naturally good at. I have never been good at typical ‘manly things’ like building stuff or hunting and fishing. Had I been born back in pioneer days, my family and I likely would have starved.

One subject I know quite a bit about is standup comedy. I happen to be pretty good at not only doing it, but teaching others how to do it and/or how to improve what they already do. I’ve done it my entire adult life, and I was a fan of it before that. I’ve been teaching since 1994, and have a long list of people that have taken my class that have nothing but flattering things to say about it.

I greatly appreciate the nice things those former students say, and many of them have grown to become personal friends. I love to be around standup comedy from a technical standpoint, as I’m constantly learning myself so I can be a better teacher. I put in a lot of time and effort to study it.

As far as charging goes, my classes have always been an unbeatable bargain because I make it a mission to give all my students ten times whatever they happen to pay for the class at whatever venue they happen to be available. I’ve taught them at comedy clubs, colleges and in a corporate setting. I personally tailor each class to those particular students’ needs, and I work super hard.

When I started teaching classes in 1994 there wasn’t a standup comedy class within 1000 miles of Chicago. Actually, I started teaching in Milwaukee but moved them to Chicago for Zanies not long after. The Zanies classes were a lot of fun, and we had a steady stream of students lined up.

Other classes started popping up in time, and that’s going to happen in any business. What still infuriates me is that those ‘teachers’ have never done what they’re teaching. I’m out there in the trenches week after week slaying the dragons, and that qualifies me to be a teacher. I earned it.

Some wannabe looks at what I do and thinks it’s a source of free money so they start their own “class” and people take it because they don’t know any better. I’ve seen them come and go, and I get more frustrated by the day because those people are stealing money from students, and telling them things that are completely wrong. It’s the equivalent of a man teaching a pregnancy course.

I have no problem if another competent comedian teaches a class, and in fact I’d recommend it if I knew the person. Bill Gorgo is a perfect example, and he’s terrific. Our teaching styles are as polarly opposite as our acts, but that’s ok. Both of us have the same goals and that’s teaching our students the craft of standup comedy. Bill and I teach together often, and it’s good for everyone.

Lately I’ve been getting some former students asking me if they should take some of the classes available. What am I supposed to say? “Sure, give your money to someone that hasn’t done what they’re teaching while I’m busting my hump to stay afloat with gas at $4 a gallon.” It’s an insult, and I can’t believe how many people don’t get that. What, am I holding out some magic secret of success I’m not telling you but some other genius will? I just don’t get how some people think.

Would you pay top dollar to take a course on pregnancy taught by a man?

Would you pay top dollar to take a course on pregnancy taught by a man? You deserve what you get.

My Legend Lives On

April 6, 2014

Saturday April 5th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Three shows were scheduled at Zanies in Chicago tonight – at 7, 9 and 11:15pm. There aren’t many venues outside of Las Vegas that do that anymore, and I’m probably one of few remaining hardcore halfwits that still enjoys the challenge. If I’m going to work I want to sweat, and this is equivalent to a marathon. It takes a lot of skill to pull off three solid shows, and total focus too.

The 7pm show is traditionally far more reserved, as most people are just getting out and many have not eaten dinner yet. I have to hit them hard, and often wake them up. The 9pm show is the ‘money show’, and is almost always sold out. That’s the prime spot in the week, and it’s usually the easiest and most fun. If a performer can’t nail the middle show Saturday, something’s wrong.

Then there’s that last one. That can be the killer, as the audience tends to be tired, well fed and often imbibed. Trying to break through all that can be very difficult, not to mention having done two previous shows already and not being able to remember if something was already said – and when. Only someone that has been in that situation can relate to that feeling, and it’s an odd one.

Sometimes doing two shows in a night can be confusing, as it can all tend to run together after a while. I know I’ve accidentally done the same joke twice in the same show, and the audience’s silence is an immediate indicator. I can’t believe this hasn’t happened to every comedian at least a few times, and I even saw George Carlin do it one time. It takes total concentration to avoid it.

I have enough material now where I can do bits only once in a night like this and avoid having to make it a major issue. It’s not always like that, and on the way up the ladder one has a limited amount of material and it can be a nightmare. By the third show, it’s easy to become totally lost.

It can be maddening, but I also think it’s tremendous training for someone that is looking to be a professional comedian. Three show nights weed out the weaklings in a hurry, and it causes one to constantly be on one’s toes the entire evening. Three shows mean three different audiences of three different temperaments, and often they react differently to the very same jokes. It’s tricky.

Call me a kook – and I freely admit that I am – but this has always been intriguing to me. I love to get out there and experiment in front of three audiences in one night, especially knowing there are zero guarantees I’ll be able to figure them all out. Most times I’m able to do it, but sometimes I’ll still have a rough one and that’s true for everyone. Nobody ever figures out every audience.

Tonight circumstances went way past standup comedy and reached a point where I questioned my very existence. I thought I had seen it all, but whenever I think that is when I will experience something that surpasses my boundaries of imagination and makes me realize I’m not in control.

Somewhere, somehow, some force in the universe is operating at a level which I am able to neither comprehend nor identify. Something’s going on over all of our heads, and there’s nothing any of us can do but accept it. I feel both helpless and frustrated, and the more frustrated I get the more helpless feel. If I hadn’t seen tonight unfold with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Things started off on quite the positive as I left home extra early, gassed up my car and found a gas station that was a few cents a gallon cheaper than the rest. That put me in a jaunty mood as it usually does – even though I only saved under a buck at most. I don’t know why that feels like a victory to me, but it does. It’s my personal revenge against OPEC, even though we all still lose.

The weather was finally spring like, and I drove into Chicago with my windows down and my spirits up. There was a run of great tunes on the radio for some reason, and I was ready to attack the stage and deliver three rock solid shows at Zanies. I expected to enjoy my evening of work.

When I arrived, I was delighted to discover the coveted but rarely open royal rock star loading zone parking spot on Wells Street directly in front of the club was indeed unoccupied and at my service for the evening. It’s free for any Zanies employee, and everyone fights to snap it up first.

I assumed I would be in for a stellar evening of laid back fun, but that’s when the fun stopped. The early show was one of the oddest I’ve seen in a long time. There was a group of a dozen or so that sat right in front and wouldn’t stop talking the entire show. They weren’t heckling per se, just commenting on everything any of us said. I didn’t fight them, and it evolved into a Q and A.

I don’t ever remember having to babysit an audience like that for an entire show, but they were not about to be quiet and I played the hand I was dealt. I received a healthy burst of applause as I left the stage, and people lined up to get the ‘I (upside down heart) URANUS’ bookmarks I have been passing out of late. I tried to be as polite as possible, but their bizarre behavior baffled me.

As I was walking back to the green room to wait for the second show, the power went out and left the entire club in the dark. I have been working at Zanies in Chicago since the ‘80s, and have never seen that happen before. It sent the staff into a temporary panic trying to locate flashlights.

We all went outside to discover the entire block on Wells Street was dark, and there was a long line of people waiting outside the club to attend the sold out 9pm show. I laughed inside because I knew there would be no show, even though I don’t know why I knew it. This was a Mr. Lucky story, and about thirty seconds later one of the wait staff said the same thing. My legend lives on.

They offered all the people in line some free tickets to another show another night with another comedian, and they dispersed peacefully. I was disappointed because I wanted to at least have an opportunity to rock the sold out cherry show of the week – but that’s never what Mr. Lucky gets.

We sat in the dark inside the club waiting for the lights to come on, and about 90 minutes later they did – just in time to seat the infamous late show. Tonight’s crowd was the absolute dregs of society, and they were blasted before they sat down. There was a big birthday party for a woman turning 40, and she was obliterated beyond recognition. She and her party babbled incessantly.

The other acts did their best, but by the time I got on stage there was no hope. They were loud and rowdy and nobody cared that any show was going on. Eventually the whole party had to get forcibly removed, and I stood on stage alone wondering why I was ever born. I still don’t know.

'Mr. Lucky' can be a really fun character to play on stage - but it's SO not fun to live in real life.

‘Mr. Lucky’ can be a really fun character to play on stage – but it’s SO not fun to live in real life.

It's kind of a cross between Wile E. Coyote...

It’s kind of a cross between Wile E. Coyote…

...and Job from the Old Testament. It's a combination of pain and frustration that's hilarious - when it's someone ELSE.

…and Job from the Old Testament. It’s a combination of pain and frustration that’s hilarious – when it’s someone ELSE’S.

Blah Blah Blah

March 25, 2014

Monday March 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I know I’m supposed to be showing inner grit and mental toughness right about now, but one’s lowest point is the hardest time to do that. All the Hallmark cards in the world can’t disguise the fact that I’m in a major funk right now, and all the “hang in theres” there are aren’t helping any.

I’m trying hard to objectively examine what set me off and when, and I’m tracing it back to my birthday weekend in Springfield, IL at Donnie B’s Comedy Club. I love working with Donnie B, but it was a slow weekend in a grubby town and that started it. I knew it was the last little run of a spurt of decent work, and I hoped it would be a busy week of jam packed hot shows. It wasn’t.

I know it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and all that. Blah blah blah. I’ve heard excuses for an entire lifetime, and it just gets old. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere on a hot weekend. It’s either the off season, a holiday or the weather screws us, blah blah blah. I’m sick of hearing it all.

This is the time to exhibit mental toughness, but it’s exactly the most difficult time to remain in a positive mindset. There are times when I feel bullet proof and can walk through walls no matter what obstacles I may be facing. Then there are times when I can be knocked over with a feather.

I’m in one of the feather times right now, and that always scares me. No matter who tries to tell me I have even the slightest hint of self worth, I am not able to see it for the life of me. I just feel pain. The scariest thing of all is I thought I found where the source of the pain was coming from.

I guess it was only a part of it. I’m thrilled I was able to get back in touch with my siblings, but there are still a few other holes to fill apparently. That was beyond huge, but now I’ve got to sort out what I’m going to do to survive physically. It boils down to money, and I’m not making any.

My DNA is wired for me to be a creative entity. Period. Working at a ‘real job’ would send me over the edge in two weeks or less. It always has. I hated every job I ever had in high school, and my father, grandmother and even my beloved Gramps used to get on me about being a lazy bum.

Ha! Far from it. I just never wanted to waste my time counting mufflers at Sears (which I really did for several torturous weeks in high school) or working at a fast food greasery or anything but being an entertainer. I love the process of being on stage or on the air – and that’s what I do best.

If someone would just leave me alone to create, I’ll be fine. Every radio job I’ve had has come to an end because some pinhead in management decides to tweak something that doesn’t need to be tweaked, and I’m out. Comedy is the same way. I’m banned from places by people that never took time to know me personally. They only heard about something I did second and third hand, but that was enough to vaporize me from their venues into perpetuity. Stability is only a dream.

Wait, I take that back. Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago have been one of the very few places that have backed off and let me do my thing. The results? ZERO problems! Gee, who’d a thunk it? I show up, do my job – very well – and go home. No issues. No politics. No hassles. I love it.

The rest of life doesn’t seem to be able to figure that out, and I’m getting sicker of trying by the day. I’ve never thought I was better than anyone, and I still don’t. I realize I’m one of those artsy fartsy creative types, but it’s who I am and I can’t help it. I wasn’t made to manage a Walmart.

I regularly have self righteous pompous crusaders telling me to “stop being so negative in your blog.” Sorry, but I don’t think it’s their business or anyone else’s. I write about what I feel inside, and sometimes that can be all over the place. I’m human with feelings, and I refuse to sugarcoat.

I know not everyone can relate to being a dented can and what kind of pain that brings, but I’m not writing for everyone. I started just writing for me, but over time I have pleasantly discovered I have a loyal audience that do relate to what I’m going through – and it’s exactly why I persist.

I’m not looking for sympathy or a handout. All I want is to find a way to apply the gifts I have been given to do good and bring happiness to people. That may sound corny, but I mean it from the deepest part of my soul. I want to be known for what I gave, but if I can’t manage to hack out a respectable living how can I do anything worth anyone’s while? All I’m asking for is a chance.

Lewis Black reached a point where he thought he would never make it, but then he got a break on Comedy Central and it launched him. I’m to the point he was, and I’m sure he wasn’t feeling any different than I am right now. From where will my break come? If I knew that, I’d be there.

It used to be that going to New York or L.A. was the answer. I’m not up for that right now. It’s a bit late in the game to go to either one of those places and sleep in a car. I’m almost there here. I’ve been beaten up by life so much, I think it’s affecting my judgment. What to do? I just don’t know. People tell me all the time “Hang in there pal, it WILL happen for you.” But it never does.

All I can feel is the pain and loneliness of a lifetime of wandering – hoping to find my place in a world I never asked to be born. I have always been the outsider since my earliest memory, and that role gets old in a big hurry. Sometimes I think I may finally be hitting stride, and then it’s all an illusion and I’m back at where I started. I’m feeling a lot like Wile E. Coyote right about now.

And don’t get me started on dating. I have gone out with several women in the last few months but nothing has clicked and I feel that’s never going to happen either. The women I like most are either married or not interested in me, and the ones that like me don’t happen to float my boat. It would be terrific to find someone special, but I’m having a hard time just trying to survive life.

It’s all intertwined, and right now everything is a mess. Three months ago I felt like a new man ready to slay all dragons. Now I feel like a piece of crusty dragon poo. These extremes are killing me, but I think I picked the wrong profession to expect stability. What do I do now? I am totally at a loss, and have no idea who to ask. Mental toughness sounds great in theory. I can use some.

What else is there to do but keep slugging? I could swallow a bullet, but I’m not looking to do that. I just want to find my audience and work steadily in top level venues I can sell out with fans that are there to see me. A quality woman in my life would sure be helpful too. Blah blah blah.

Mental toughness sounds great in theory, but at one's lowest point is the hardest time to have it.

Mental toughness sounds great in theory, but at one’s lowest point is the hardest time to have it.

Nobody wants to hear about someone else in a slump. Blah blah blah.

Nobody wants to hear about someone else in a slump. Blah blah blah.

I had a blast appearing on the Craig Ferguson Show. I'd love to do it again.

I had a blast appearing on the Craig Ferguson Show. I’d love to do it again.

Here's a potential slump buster. Can someone clone her please?

Here’s a potential slump buster. Can someone clone her please?