Posts Tagged ‘Zanies Rosemont’

Practing The Craft

December 6, 2013

Wednesday December 4th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

I had a fantastic opportunity to practice my craft tonight, and I took full advantage of it. I enjoy working whenever I can, but it’s a special treat to be able to have the freedom to experiment a bit and stretch my boundaries. That’s the only way a performer grows, and I never want that to stop.

Once I stop growing, I’m ripe. After that it starts to rot. I could have easily phoned it in tonight but that’s exactly what I was determined not to do. I was the headliner at Zanies in Rosemont, IL and that’s always a fun place to work. It’s one of the nicest comedy club venues in the country.

I was just there last night as the host of their ‘Ten Comics for $10’ show, which is going to be a regular weekly feature apparently. I’ll be getting some opportunities to host many of those I’m sure, and that’s never a bad thing. Any time a comedian can earn money on a Tuesday is a plus.

I’ll take work whenever and however I can get it, and to me that’s what being a professional is all about. I love the process of being a comedian, and quality stage time is the life blood of what we do. The politics and the travel can be cruel and inhuman, but that time on stage is our heroin.

It’s the whole reason we put up with the bad parts, and I’m not about to turn down a helping of it when it comes my way. Zanies gives me a lot of work, and I’m grateful for every bit of it. We are able to help each other, and that’s how I always thought life should work. This time, it does.

When I host shows, I always try to give every act a tremendous introduction and get the crowd ready to laugh and focused on the stage. I calm them down after a good act, and get them back in focus after a weak one. It’s never the same twice in a row, so being a good host requires focus at all times to make sure the show is the best it can possibly be. That’s what keeps me coming back.

Closing a show comes with a completely different dynamic. It’s not just a matter of doing more time and going on last. A true headliner has to take the show up a notch, and that’s not easy to do especially at first. The most difficult leap to make in comedy is from the feature slot to headliner.

The average ‘feature’ or ‘middle’ in a comedy club typically does about 25-30 minutes. That’s a daunting task in itself, and it takes years of hard work to put that much time together. Closing a show is a whole other level, and not everyone can do it. They may think they can, but they can’t.

A headliner has to be able to work around situations like having to follow a feature act that has similar premises. It happens on occasion, and it takes away from the punch if those subjects have already been touched on. It happens to me all the time, but I can work around it. It’s no big deal.

Another pitfall a headliner deals with in comedy clubs is that the cocktails kick in and having to deal with drunks becomes a much tougher issue. This has always been torture at any level of my development, but I’ve learned to deal with it with the best of them. I can defend myself handily.

Still another part of headlining is crafting a show that peaks at the right spot and is a complete performance rather than just 45 minutes of random clutter haphazardly thrown together without a plan. I had a plan tonight, and worked on several facets of my game. It was wise use of my time.

Standup comedy is a LOT harder than most people think. It's not just a matter of getting on stage and acting goofy. It's a craft, and takes a lifetime of dedication to become a solid headliner.

Standup comedy is MUCH harder than most people think. It’s not just a matter of getting on stage and acting goofy. It’s a craft, and it takes a lifetime of dedication to develop into a legitimate headliner.

Comedy Competition

June 9, 2013

Friday June 7th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

   If the universe isn’t going to give me a break, I have to go out and make my own. I don’t know why life has gotten to be so difficult right now, but it is. I need to rustle up some work, and that’s one of many cold realities of self employment. Had I opted to suckle the civil service teat like the majority of my family, I’d be able to coast through life collecting  a check. I chose another route.

   While that route may be much more scenic and interesting, there are also a lot more potholes to dodge. Being in business for one’s self is a severe test of endurance, and several skill sets have to be polished to make it all work. Each and every penny any entrepreneur makes is well deserved.

   It’s no secret that right about now I could use a steady stream of income. Four or five would be better, but I’ll settle for a solid trickle for now. I’m willing to work for it, and in fact I’d prefer an opportunity to just practice my craft and make an honest living. That’s been rather tough of late.

   Trying to make lemons out of lemonade, I signed up for the World Series of Comedy contest at Zanies in Rosemont, IL this weekend. I absolutely abhor comedy contests as a rule, and there are many legitimate reasons for it. They can be demeaning, degrading, dysfunctional, humiliating to the bone and almost always the only one who isn’t thoroughly pissed off afterward is the winner.

   Still, I need to get in front of some bookers and that’s what this contest is about. A guy named Joe Lowers out of Pittsburgh moved to Las Vegas and started it from scratch. I give Joe a double thumbs up and all the credit in the world for putting something this big together , and it has been growing every year since he started a few years back. He’s worked like a maniac and it shows.

   I have no qualms with Joe or anyone else at the World Series of Comedy. The grand prize is an opportunity to work about 50 weeks as a feature in several clubs across the country. I’m a strong headliner, but if I get in front of the bookers they’d see I’ve got the chops. I just want the chance.

   Since I was off this week, Zanies manager Cyndi Nelson suggested I enter the contest. She said they had an extra slot, and if I wanted it it was mine. I thought long and hard about it due to all of the horrific experiences I’ve had in the past, but I decided to give it a run. A chance is a chance.

   On this particular show, I drew slot number 7 out of 8 contestants. The others weren’t bad acts, but they weren’t headliners either. No offense to any of them, but I’ve got more road experience than probably all of them put together. I know how to read an audience and how to bring a show to the next level. I have a passing gear those guys don’t have, but it didn’t come without a price.

   I sacrificed everything to acquire that skill, so I absolutely expected to win the contest. I had an excellent spot, and the audience was with me the whole time. I took it up a notch, and since I had seven minutes I packed as much as I could into it and closed on a big pop. I knew I threw heat.

   At the end of the show they announce the winners, and I took first place tonight. I could see the looks of disappointment on the others’ faces, and I’ve been there myself. I went over to each one and complimented them on their act, and meant every word. I’ve been in their position too often.

   This is not a time to gloat or brag. I am very flattered I won tonight, but I should have won. I’m far more experienced than all of these guys, and I’ve earned it. All I want is to get some attention from bookers so I can get back out and earn my living. Tonight went great, but it’s not over yet.

A Wonderful Workout

April 13, 2013

Thursday April 11th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

   People who aren’t comedians have no idea what is actually involved in the performing process, even though most think they do. I’m sure it’s like being in a rock band or playing pro sports – it’s a commonly shared dream of millions, but a ridiculously low amount ever get to do it as a career.

   Everyone may think they know what goes into not only getting there but maintaining a level of professionalism, but until one physically does it there’s no way to predict all that it involves. The craft requires extremely hard work, lots of it and the process never stops – or at least it shouldn’t.

   I’m to the point now when I really don’t need to work on my act anymore, although I still do at every opportunity. I can’t name the actual percentage of comedians at my level that haven’t done a single thing to improve their acts in years, but I’d have to believe it’s rather high. It’s common, and I see why. There are so many other things to deal with, many times the act itself is left alone.

   Technically, nobody makes us work on our on stage show. We don’t get more money if we’ve got ‘new material’, and that’s a widely misunderstood term as it is. The average public thinks we can just crank out new and polished jokes and bits and routines at will, when in fact it’s not true.

   Sometimes adding even one line or a single word to a bit can take months to do correctly. It’s a delicate process, and requires discipline to work on it over time in front of different audiences in different situations. Sometimes a way a word is inflected can make a difference. It’s an art form.

   I’ve always been aware of this, and have used my stage time wisely. That’s the only time when I’m in control, so I take it very seriously. I may look like I’m just goofing off up there, but I’m at work and am paying attention to everything that’s going on. As I get older, I’m even more into it.

   Tonight was a magnificent opportunity to practice, and that’s exactly what I did. The situation I am in at Zanies is rare, so I took full advantage of it. They love me there, and I’ve proven myself as a solid headliner. If there’s such a thing as comedy job security, I have it there. I don’t want to ever abuse that status, but if there’s ever a place for me to experiment with something it’s there.

   There was about a two thirds full house at Zanies in Rosemont tonight, and they were in a good mood. I could tell by watching the opening acts it would be a good audience, and I could’ve gone up and done my regular show and been done with it. It’s a weeknight, and my pay wouldn’t raise no matter what I did. Nobody was expecting anything other than what I do, but it wasn’t enough.

   Not for me, anyway. I knew I had a chance to improve, so I jumped at it. I decided before I got on stage I was going to dramatically slow my usually manic pace for the entire show and deliver my material in a completely different way than I normally do. It’s like a basketball team deciding to switch from playing a fast break style to a slow down offense. A different skill set is required.

   Not only that, I threw myself off even more by opening with material I rarely if ever use in that spot and throwing my big closer in about fifteen minutes in to see if I could follow it. I did, and it was a hot show start to finish. I was on my toes the whole time, but it was a wonderful workout.

   These are the kinds of things a craftsman does, and it keeps me fine tuned and in the game. The audience was great, but they would have loved most anything I did. I could have phoned it in but that wouldn’t have made me any better. I worked on my craft tonight, and it’s deeply satisfying.

A Smooth Transition

January 2, 2013

Monday December 31st, 2012 – Reno, NV/Rosemont, IL

   Back home for New Year’s Eve. The trip back wasn’t nearly as hectic as I thought it would be, and other than a brief detainment from a pair of TSA chimps it actually went quite smoothly. I’m just not able to hide my disdain for the whole airport ‘security’ process, and I’m sure it shows.

What a scam, and a waste of everyone’s time and money to pay these mookazoids to rummage their way through luggage and clog the toilet of everyone’s day. Have they ever found even ONE life or death situation besides the shoe bomber? That guy looked like a maniac, and that’s exactly my point. Sticking the cattle prod up granny’s poop shoot looking for mortar shells is a complete waste of energy, and that’s exactly what they were doing today. They were bothering everyone.

The two that got to me had Barney Fife attitudes that could be felt across Nevada. I tried to put my smart ass comment urge on hold, and it was all I could do not to let loose on them in front of the entire line of us who just wanted to get where we were going. They were determined to make life miserable for as many weary travelers as they could, and they were being very successful.

My breach of national security was not taking my liquids out of my carryon bag – even though I didn’t do it on the way out. They made a big deal of it and pulled me out of line to go through it so they could find the bazooka I’m sure they thought I was carrying, but all they could find was a bottle of shampoo that was over 3 ounces, or whatever the legal limit is. They took it of course.

Sure they did. I don’t blame them. I guess I forgot about the big rash of terror plots that require four ounces of cheap shampoo to ignite dirty bombs, and of course their training ground is Reno, NV. I know there has to be some kind of monitoring of airports, but the way they do it is stupid.

Stupid or not, that’s how it is after 9/11 and I doubt if it will change any time soon. The whole world is getting more insane by the day, but strangely I am finding myself getting at least a little smarter in my old age. I don’t know how I’ll be able to use it to my advantage, but I’ll surely try.

I spent the flight from Reno to Las Vegas, my two hour layover time and my flight to Chicago making plans for 2013. I don’t know why I haven’t done this my whole life, but for some reason the plans just flowed. I had some kind of cosmic vision that flowed out of me, and I knew what I needed to do. Maybe I always knew it, but I didn’t execute the plan. This time I think I’ll do it.

I made a list of things I should do daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. I’ve had all kinds of to do lists before, but this one flowed out of me through the pen and it felt like it was coming from a source other than me. I knew it was right as I was doing it, and I feel like I have a crystal clear vision of exactly what I need to do this coming year. If I do it, I feel it will be my best year ever.

My friend Russ Martin was kind enough to pick me up at Midway Airport and take me over to Jim McHugh’s house to get my car. I made it to Zanies in Rosemont, IL to host the two shows as a fallout replacement. I’ll gratefully take the money, and it was a fun night working with Fortune Feimster and Russ Williamson. Another year gone, but I have a positive vibe about 2013. Really.