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Road Trip July 15th - Aug. 2nd 2003
I’ve decided to start recounting my adventures again after a lapse of about 3 years. This trip consisted of 15 shows in 18 days and covered over 2000 miles. It took place in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. These are places a lot of people do not visit, so I thought I’d give you my take on them. In the next few weeks I’ll be heading to London, Amsterdam, Taipei, and Las Vegas so there will be something for everyone.
The first week consisted of 3 one nighters in South Dakota and a weekend in Sioux City, IA. My first show was in Ft. Thompson, SD and I had to look long and hard on the map just to locate this godforsaken place. It’s kind of in the middle of the state and there is no easy way to get there. I took the red eye to Omaha from LAX, rented a car and drove 350 miles. I figured I get some sleep on the plane and do the drive no problems. Never count on sleeping on the plane. The person next to me would flick on and off the light periodically, waiting just long enough for me to almost fall asleep only to be jerked back into the harsh reality of real life. This sadistic little game went on for 3 hours and as a result I had to drive a rented Dodge Neon for 6 hours on no sleep. I played little games to keep awake. Games like “Pretend you see something interesting”. There’s nothing more boring than driving through South Dakota. If you ask directions people say things like “Just go up and over” and damned if that isn’t the way to get there. Ft. Thompson is smack in the middle of the Crow Creek Indian Reservation. The show was in a casino and I don’t think they advertised much. The “crowd” consisted of 6 Native Americans sitting way in the back. I met the middle act and we both pretty much thought it was gonna be a tough day at the office. It turned out to be fun though. I found out that the Crow Creek Sioux hate the Crow Indians, so I just told a bunch of Pollack jokes and substituted Crow for Pollack. It got a little scary when I let a woman take the mike and tell jokes in Sioux. She killed! It turns out she was making fun of us. She was saying things like “We would scalp this one but someone beat us to it” and stuff like that. Never give up the mic. The next day we drove 150 miles to Aberdeen, SD which is a bigger town.
You can tell because it is a circle instead of a dot on the map. I’ve been doing this gig for years and I know most of the people there. It’s at a Ramada Inn and the show is right in the hotel. The show was fun and we went to the local bar afterwards where we hung out with extremely drunken people. The same deal the next day in Watertown, SD where they had 25-cent beer night. The weekend was at a club called Pepperoni’s in Sioux City, Iowa. I’ve worked there many years and my headshots are lined up to show me going bald. They have great pizza there and the crowds are always eating during the show. When somebody laughs pizza through their nose they kinda look like the Zapruder film. Especially when their heads go back and to the left. We had 3 days off so we drove the 500 miles to my Mom’s place in Wisconsin and did some walleye fishing (them are good fer picklin’). Then week 2 started with a show in Iowa City, IA, and the weekend in Cedar Falls. After the Friday show a vivacious busty woman insisted on showing her appreciation for the show by displaying her breasts to us. Kinda like a tip I guess. Turns out she was an off duty stripper.
Road Trip Aug. 8th – Sept. 1st 2003
PALM SPRINGS, COUNCIL BLUFFS, MESQUITE, Amsterdam and London The Casino in Palm Springs is called “Agua Calente” which means “Hot Water” and it was quite apropos because the temp was around 112 in the day and 95 at night. The stage itself lacks a few of the amenities of other clubs… like walls, for instance. It is right in the middle of the casino and there is one long row of people watching and everyone else is gambling with their backs to you. It was like playing to a weird version of “The Last Supper”. A couple of days later I flew to Omaha and performed at a club that was attached to a riverboat casino that went up and down the Mississippi. There was a celebrity golf tournament for old football players going on and some of them came to the show. I was heckled by Conrad Dobler. Way cool. The next day I flew to Las Vegas and drove an hour to Mesquite, NV and worked a casino called Casablanca. This club does it right… walls and everything! It is a place where lots of Mormons go to gamble and do bad things, so I was performin’ for the Mormons.
Next I had a few weeks open so I decided to go to Amsterdam and London with some buddies. I figured I’d check out the comedy scene and take in the wild life of Amsterdam before they start making stuff Illegal. There are 2 comedy clubs in Amsterdam that cater to Dutch and English speaking crowds. One is called Toomler and it’s a Thurs. – Sat. gig, seats about 80 and they put you up at the Hilton. The other one is called the Comedy Café and it does more Improv and performance stuff than straight stand up. While walking around Amsterdam I learned to keep my mouth shut. I forgot how harsh the American accent sounds to people in Europe. When you walk by groups of people, they will often repeat what you say and laugh. Either that or chant “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!”. I was traveling with an American comedian and two Rugby players – one Irish and one New Zealander. Between the two of them there was never a fart free moment. I think they actually exhaled through their asses. I never felt threatened when those guys were around. They chased off pickpockets and led us to the best hash bars our limited Euros could buy. A Euro spends pretty much like a buck so it was an easy conversion. Getting the munchies in Amsterdam can be detrimental to one’s waistline. On every corner there’s a Kabob place, and we ate more lamb than you can shake a skewer at. The hotel rooms left a little to be desired. Space is limited and the stairs are more like ladders.
Bikes are everywhere and they don’t slow down for people. London is one of the coolest cities I’ve seen. The comedy clubs are plentiful and the comedians come in a wide range of varieties. Most American comedians I saw over there are loud and obnoxious. So are the American tourists. Most of the British comedians I met don’t like American comics and they let you know. The Big clubs over there are Jongleurs and the Comedy Store. The crowds are very heckling orientated, so you’d better be ready to give it out when you hit the stage there. It’s hard to find a comeback when you can’t understand the drunken slur of a Gaelic Scotsman. Next I’m off to Taipei, Taiwan to attend my brother’s wedding… should get some material out of that. I do a week in Vegas at the Palace Station Casino mere hours after returning, so stay tuned for the next installment.
Road Trip Taipei and Vegas Sept. 8th – 28th 2003
The flight to Taipei was on Malaysian Air and I highly recommend them if you’re traveling to the Far East. I got a sweet deal ($450.00 round trip!) on a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Taipei. Taipei is the largest city on the Island of Taiwan which is considered to be part of China…. Unless you talk to the Taiwanese. Unlike Amsterdam and London, Taipei is not a tourist city meaning not much English was spoken. I speak no Mandarin so I had to rely on gestures, facial expressions, and voice inflections to communicate. It worked but I felt like Marcel Marceau. The temperature stayed around the century mark and it was humid. My Chinese name was Large Sweaty Man. Westerners enjoy a semi-celebrity status and I was stared at and followed around by children when I was out and about. I was there for my brother’s wedding to a Taiwanese woman so I got to experience how another culture does the whole marriage thing.
It starts with the Groom and 6 of his friends (representing warriors) go to the bride’s mother’s house to ask for her blessing. My brother did not have 6 male friends so my Mom and my Aunt had to be warriors. The Bride’s mother served us tea and when we finished we stuck a red envelope with money in the empty cup. The Mother then counts the money and decides if she will allow the groom to marry her daughter. Then they exchange rings and we all go out and drink lots of beer. Then we come back to the Mother’s house and they ask the groom a series of questions. If he passes this test we are allowed back in and the bride is his. Then we all went to the reception, which was like an American reception – open bar and the omnipresent drunk uncle who makes a fool of himself. The flight back was nice too. It took 12 hours. Taipei is 15 hours ahead of LA. I got back 3 hours before I left. It worked in my favor because I forgot my watch, so I just called myself and reminded me. 20 hours after landing I was in my car driving to Las Vegas. I worked the Palace Station and they treated me very well. I had a corner suite on the 11th floor overlooking the Strip. I was featuring so I only had to do a 20 min show so it was cake.
The crowds are not your comedy savvy audiences I’m used to so I had to cater my set a little. The Fire alarm went off during my set on Wednesday and my ad libs during the 5 min siren went over better than my act. Next up I have a week in LA and a week at “Catch A Rising Star” in Reno. More on that in my next installment.
Reno and The Las Vegas Comedy Festival
Oct. 7th – Nov. 1st 2003
I flew into Reno. It’s cheaper than driving although the 395 can be a fun drive. I worked the “Catch” at the Silver Legacy Casino; one of the nicest casinos in Reno and the club is pretty good too. It’s a six-day run and they give you three passes to the buffet every day. Burp! On Thursday I stuck a quarter in a video poker machine and won $100.00 (4 aces and a deuce). All in all it was a good week at the office. After a few days off in LA I was off to the 2nd annual Las Vegas Comedy Festival at the Stardust Casino. I drove right by the huge fire and the smoke stayed in the air all the way into Vegas. It cleared up the next day, but it was strange to drive into the city and not see the buildings until you were a mile from the strip. The festival was a gathering of comics and comedy industry related people performing and giving seminars on the various aspects of the Biz. Thursday I went to Shelly Berman’s wonderful talk about the history of comedy, saw the Smothers Brothers perform, and did my showcase. I was an invitee, which meant I was invited to do a showcase and I was lucky enough to perform with such great comedians as Bobby Collins, Rocky LaPorte, Vince Morris, and others. On Friday I hosted a round of the Competition, went to a few seminars, had lunch at the Harlem Globetrotter Luncheon, and at night I did 2 shows at the Santa Fe Station Casino. It was Halloween and that is notoriously the worst night to do comedy. The “crowd” consisted of 6 people in costume not laughing. A guy in a clown suit was in the front
row smoking a cigarette and crossing his arms. It was eerily ironic to say the least. Afterwards I went back to the Festival and had a few beers at the after party and traded road stories with my pals. On Saturday I went to some seminars and performed in a mock fashion show dressed up as a rabid Packer Fan – what a stretch! Downtown Julie Brown was on hand as well. Then I did a
radio interview for www.allcomedyradio.com and I had to do 2 more shows at the Santa Fe so I missed the big award banquet. I hear they had some so so comics perform and then Pat Cooper went up and killed by cutting everybody and everything about the festival down. It was a fun festival, albeit not very well organized. It was cool to hang with such people as Norm Crosby, Jack Carter, Eddie Brill, Brad Upton, Kermit Apio, and Kevin Kearney and have a few laughs. I met some nice folks such as Brian McKim and Traci Skene of www.Sheckymagazine.com and they have a much more in-depth account of the festival on their website. I’m in Calgary Alberta this week at Yuk Yuks Comedy Club and if anything fun happens I’ll let ya know in my next installment.
Kodiak, Alaska and SiTV
|This was one of those out of the way gigs you do, not so much for the money, but for the adventure. I had to take three planes to get there, LA – Seattle, Seattle – Anchorage, Anchorage – Kodiak. Any time of year the plane from Anchorage to Kodiak is never a sure thing. They cancel them all the time because of the unpredictable weather. I got lucky and after a five hour layover the wind died down enough to make the bumpy half hour trip. We landed about three hours before showtime and the club owner, Wade, met us. In addition to running the Village Bar, Wade is also a tour guide in the summer taking people on bear hunting expeditions so he knows all about the island. Kodiak is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Bald eagles are as common as pigeons are in LA. I’ve always thought of eagles as these mysterious, majestic, proud creatures and it’s just an honor to catch a glimpse of them. It turns out on Kodiak eagles are the assholes of the bird world. They are like outlaw bikers looking for trouble. The like to kill weak defenseless animals but would rather have dead rotting fish and animals because it’s easier. They roll around in fish guts making this weird noise that sounds like a 14-year-old girl giggling. Nice, huh? The symbol of our country is a mean, lazy, 14 year old girl biker bird. Anyhoo, I was working with a comic named Ryan Hamilton (www.ryanham.com), a funny guy who looks like a white version of Chris Rock. Really, he could use Rock’s headshot negative for his own headshot. We stayed at the club owner’s sisters (Louise) place. It was a beautiful log cabin type of house right on the ocean built by Lousis’ fisherman husband, Stormy. We saw Stormy for a few minutes and he was off to sea again with his ship and crew to load up on Pollock. He spends 90 percent of his time fishing and is completely one with nature. The house was decorated with the pelts of indigenous animals including a Kodiak bear Stormy had shot a few months earlier. We were fed King Salmon, Halibut cheeks, and back strap (deer meat) and I have never tasted anything so good. My room overlooked the ocean and the crashing of the waves put me right to sleep. I live right by the 10 highway in LA and the ocean sounded just like the constant flow of traffic I hear every night. The geese would even provide the occasional honking. Very soothing. It snowed all day Saturday, but Sunday was bright and Sunny and we went for a 3-mile hike in Abercrombie State Park, which was breathtakingly beautiful. The club itself was a bar in ”downtown” Kodiak where a huge sea lion was seen a few days earlier galumphing down Main Street. They do comedy there once or twice a year and the shows went well. The people are a mix of Natives, Russians, Philipinos, and drunken Fisherman. The drunk fisherman love do bellow out slurred heckles that only they can understand and they get quite a kick out of themselves so a good time is had by all. Afterwards I was pulled onto the dance floor by some very nice but very forceful Kodiak women who proceeded to squish me between them much to the delight of Ryan. I felt like the girl in that Will Farrell, Chris Katan Sat night live sketch. Oh well, another week at the office. I flew back to LA just in time to do a TV show called SiTV. It’s a Latino themed standup show and they feature one non-Latino per show. I had to quick write some Latino bits which I did but it was strange doing material for the first time on TV. The audience was one of those ones they get from Central Casting. This means they are paid to be there and they get free drinks. They are almost too enthusiastic and it kinda throws you when your set up gets an applause break but hey, it’s a fun challenge. I’ll find out the details when it will air and post it on this website. I’m off to Chicago next week, where I’ll be working at Zanies in St. Charles. If something fun happens that will be the next road story. Seacrest out.|
Chicago, Omaha, and Tucson
I worked the Zanies in St. Charles, actually – not Chicago per se but close enough. The Chicago Zanies is located in the middle of downtown Chicago – the St. Charles one is in a rich suburb at a resort called the Pheasant Run. The clubs been around for 20 years and they sent a limo to bring me to and from the airport and my room was overlooking the golf course. Weeks like this kind of spoil me, but I was brought back to Earth the next week. I worked a 5-year-old room in Omaha, NE called Jokers. This is kind of a “no frills” week where they put the comedians up at a “condo”. The word “condo” can strike fear into the hearts of most performers because sometimes they are not the best accommodations. This one was nice however. It was in a big building that had been renovated and it was downtown. I woke every morning to the sound of bums working the bus stop for change. The crowds at Jokers are not easy, so you have to be ready for anything. They like to participate more than listen so if you go into it with that frame of mind it goes smoother. At any point a member of the staff might walk up on stage and bring a shot or just tell you something they think you will find of interest. It was fun. The next week was in Tucson at a club called “Laffs”. Also a condo week, this one was not what you might call stellar accommodations. They have been around for about 15 years and I don’t think the condos carpet has been cleaned in that time. But as scary as the digs are, it’s ok because the crowds are great. The club is owned and run by a comedian, Scotty Goff, and he knows how to run a professional show. They pack ‘em in every night – Tuesday through Saturday – and the place holds about 250. He threw in a one nighter at an Indian Casino on Monday so I wouldn’t have an idle day. The 200-mile drive to the Hon-Dah Casino in Pinetop, AZ was spectacular. Fun week at the office. Next week is the Boston Comedy Festival and competition, so I’m sure there will be an interesting story from that week.
The Boston Comedy Festival April '04
I finished up my week at Laffs in Tucson Saturday night and caught a noon flight to Los Angeles, grabbed a cab home and had a whole 6 hours until I had to leave for the airport again. That's plenty of time to do laundry, pay bills and get sick of LA again. I coulda done it in 3 hours. Anyhoo, I flew to Boston with my buddy Jonathan Thymius and split the cost of the week with him. It's the only way to do the Boston Festival if you're not a big star who gets everything gratis. We're just blue-collar comedians, so we got a room at the Park Plaza for the week for 500 smackers which is a bargain (or Bahgin). It was a comedy festival and competition where 96 contestants would eventually get paired down to 8 finalists, the winner of which would receive 10 grand. The first night I did a set at the Comedy Connection for "The Boston Tea Party" part of the Fest. The Connection is located in the historic section of Boston and is one of the best clubs in the country. Tuesday a great guy named Ed Regal let me do a set at his club called the Emerald Isle, so I could get my competition set tuned up. Wednesday was my night to do the competition and that was at a club called "The Vault". This is one of those clubs that has been around for years and has a reputation as a tough room. It's downstairs from a loud bar and the place holds about 50 people. There were about 30 there for the show and half of them were friends of a local comic who was in the competition. I had some tough competition including Daryl Lenox and Tom Cotter (The guy who won the whole thing on Saturday). There were 12 of us and only 2 could go through to the semi-finals. I came in 4th. I was happy with my set - I did the material I wanted to do, so no complaints from me. It's tough to be judged, but if my Mom was on the panel I'm sure I woulda made it through. My Buddy Jonathan didn't make it either so when the Semi final competition took place (in our hotel) we were just observers. I saw no harm in having a few libations as I watched my fellow comedians put their nerves through the wringer. Someone suggested doing a few shots. What the heck, I thought, all I had to do was get myself upstairs and pass out in my own bed. Around 10 pm my manager (the wonderful and talented Barb North) came up to me and said "Rob, I just heard that you are supposed to do a show tonight". It was the best of the people who didn't make the semis. "When?" I slurred. (you wouldn't think you could slur the word "when", but I did. "Right now at the Vault." Well, we zoomed down to the Vault (3 blocks away) just in time to watch the act before me. Barb usually gives me good advice before I go onstage like "focus" or "remember your agenda" this time she just said "don't slur". I had a fun set and I don't think anyone knew I was sloshed. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. The finals were great - everyone had a fantastic set. I'm just glad I don't have to judge comedy because everyone was funny in their own way. Tom Cotter, Danny Bevins, and Tom Simmons were the top three but they all won in my book. Everyone ended up partying in our room until 4am. That was the best part of the whole competition for me - just hanging with my fellow comedians, sharing stories and catching up with some old friends. Comedians are the coolest people in the world and I'm proud to be one. Now it's off to another shit gig, so I'll tell ya about it next time.
Oops! I let a few months go by – sorry. Let’s see… I last wrote in April and it’s the end of Aug. now. I’ll just do a quick recap of the past 4 months. I flew to London in May – saw some great theatre. The best was Othello done in modern dress. I made a few connections for future comedy work in the city, ate some fish’n’chips and flew back. In June I did the Bob and Tom Radio Show and the Skyline Comedy Club. The Bob and Tom Show was a blast. It is syndicated in 150 markets and has millions of listeners. You can hear selected cuts from the interview on their website www.bobandtom.com and got to the archives section. The airdate was June 15th, 2004.
In July I did some roadwork. I drove up the coast to Monterey, CA. It was
awesome with the ocean in view the whole way. Then back to LA where my buddy K.P.
Anderson (one of the producer/writers from “Last Comic Standing”) had a
poker night at his house. It was professionally done with dealers and tables set
up in his back yard. I had never played Texas Hold’em so I watched it on ESPN
the night before and with beginners luck I came in 2nd out of 45 guys. Now I’m
hooked on watching it on TV. The next day my buddy Jonathon Thymius and I drove
to Missoula, MT from LA (1,200 mi), then Idaho Falls, and Billings, MT for a
week of what we in the
comedy biz call a “Tribble Run”. The guy who books it, Dave Tribble, has been booking comedy for years and it’s always an adventure doing one of his runs.
Had to do about an hour and a half per night and the crowds were pretty drunk and rowdy. It was a fun challenge. It’s kind of like running a marathon and doing ten min. sets in LA is like wind sprints. A good all-round comedian should be adept at both. The whole tour was around 3000 miles and Jonathon and I split the gas and driving so it wasn’t so bad. We drove through some beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and saw some wonderful scenery driving through the canyons of Arizona and the valleys of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. What a great country we live in! Then I did casino in Nevada and a week at “Catch a Rising Star” in Albuquerque, MN. I flew to the “Catch” gig and it was the third week they had been doing comedy there so the crowds were thin but appreciative. The club is in the “Old Town” section and at night it gets real scary.
By midnight the streets were filled with drunk, rowdy people looking for
fights, and cops on horses trying to keep order. It looked like a riot to me but
I was told it was just another weekend night. The next week they had Gary
Goldman and Jay London from Last Comic Standing performing there. I hope they
got bigger crowds than we had. The next week I did a private show at a country
club in Henderson, NV. I was lucky enough to catch a ride with Kira Soltonovitch
(from the TV show Girls Behaving Badly) who was doing a one nighter in Mesquite
so we split the gas and made a fun trip out of it. Then I flew back to Appleton,
WI where my brother, Scot, and his wife, Maggie (who’s wedding you read about
in my Sept. ’03 road story) had an American ceremony to renew their
vows. It was nice to get the clan together for a fun reason. My relatives come from all over the country – and now Taipei too – so we had quite a mix. At the end of April I did two weeks of work in the Midwest. It was Iowa City, La Crosse, WI, and Cedar Falls, IA one week and Aberdeen, SD and Sioux City, IA the next. I did these about 9 months ago, so you can read those stories again
if you want. Next up I have some one nighters in the SoCal area and a week at the Palace Station in Vegas so stay tuned for that.
Vegas and Northern Canada Sept. 14th – Oct. 23rd
The first week I worked at the Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas. I was there a year ago (see Sept. ’03 road story) right after Taipei. It’s a Tues. – Sat. gig, good $ and a real nice staff. The first night the headliner’s plane was delayed so they called my room and asked if I had enough material to do a 40 min. fill in. I told them “No problem, I’ve got so much material it’s not even funny.” Luckily it was a packed crowd and they were into me so I had a great set. Maybe next time I work there I’ll see MY name up in large plastic letters. The casino is off the Strip and it’s a 20 min. shuttle ride to the heart of Vegas if you feel the need to go. The Palace Station has everything you need – Bars, shows, pools & Jacuzzis and caters at all your gambling needs.
The next week I flew to Edmonton, Alberta for a 23-day tour of Western Canada. The comedy club chain is called Yuk Yuks and the first week was in Grande Prairie which is a 5-hour drive north of Edmonton. I don’t think much happens in Grande Prairie because the big story on the front page of the Grande Prairie newspaper was “Woman Finds Spider in Her Grapes”. They had a picture of the spider in a jar and everything. Then they went on to talk about how many times spiders have been found in grapes and how dangerous it was to buy grapes and the back page was a full page add for grapes. I got some mileage from that onstage. The crowds were good for the most part, but each show had at least one heckler who was so drunk they couldn’t even form the words to heckle. It was like being interrupted every five minutes by a pirate with turrets syndrome. The next week was in Edmonton. The club holds about 3 or 4 hundred and they pretty much fill it every day (Tues. – Sat.). Here’s a shot of the gang working that week:
The next week was in Calgary and this club also packs ‘em in every night. I
had great shows all week and got some new bits worked out.
On Saturday night before the first show, a large drunk man was
complaining about his seating arrangement and started getting violent.
He was told to leave and his response was to hurl a large heavy pint
glass across the room as hard as he could.
It flew 50 feet and smashed against the wall where the comics were
sitting. Luckily the comic who was
in the direct path saw it coming and ducked.
It would have killed him for sure. It
left a deep scar in the plaster wall and one comic suffered a small cut from the
flying glass. The drunk was hustled
out of the club, we jotted down his license plate and reported him as a drunk
driver. After a few days off and spending the Canadian Thanksgiving eating my
dinner from the hotel vending machine, I did a one-nighter in Lethbridge, AL.
This is a real blue-collar Alberta town and the place was packed with
rowdy, drunk 18 to 25 year olds who came to talk.
The only time I ever got their attention was when I did a bit where I
would shout into the microphone and they would shut up out of shock and look
angrily up to the stage before continuing their shouting matches.
A long hour at the office for me. The
next day I flew to Vancouver, B.C. and here’s a shot of the BC Rockies from
the plane window.
Vancouver, British Columbia is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever seen. The club is smack in the middle of downtown. When you drive in the skyline looks futuristic with its glittering buildings. The Club is smack in the middle of downtown and the place is teeming with an eclectic mix of people. They have quite a number of homeless so it was easy to get rd of my Canadian change before I left. The banks take the paper money (which is much nicer than US currency…it looks like Ted Turner got a hold of their treasury) but they won’t take change - Loonies and Toonies (yes that’s what they call the one and two dollar coin) and the dreaded quarter. You don’t want to try to spend a Canadian quarter in the States. People treat you like you have leprosy. The clerk will say stuff like, “Hey, what State has a Caribou on it?” and, “Why is George Washington wearing a crown?”. The Club, Yuk Yuks was fairly new and the crowds were mostly young and not too sober. I found it best to use a barrage of material with quick punch lines as opposed to the more laid back relaxed style. This was mostly because the crowd had listened to over an hour of other comics (many guest sets) before I got up there and they would start to burn out if I tried the slow thinker stuff. The comics and staff were wonderful and I downed quite a few Canadians (beer) with them. I also visited a gentleman’s club called Brandi’s. The peelers were really buff and did amazing acrobatic things while striping. It was like Cirque du Solei with boobies! During the daytime I would explore Stanley Park where I got lost for three hours. Great aquarium. The food was awesome in Vancouver. Lots of Sushi and Donairs (Gyros). It reminded me a lot of London. Getting my checks deposited in my American account when I got back was a pain. You have to get redemption stickers and call a secret number and get a reference code and meet a guy in the back alley and tell him the password. Afterwards you see how much green stuff you really made and you feel raped. It was a great adventure. Now I’m back in LA – got an audition for some reality show this week and I’ll do a few corporate gigs and some in town shows. If anything exiting happens I’ll let ya know.
’04 and Jan. ‘05
I spent the month of Dec. in Wisconsin shoveling snow, doing a few private parties and celebrating Christmas with my Family. On Dec. 19th I went to the Packer/Jacksonville game on the Frozen Tundra. It was 15 below – so cold your bratwurst would freeze between bites. I picked the wrong game to body paint. I tried to fly standby from Mpls to LA the week after Christmas and after spending two days in the Minneapolis airport I realized it was not gonna happen. I had to bite the bullet and shell out 600 smackers for a one way. Ouch.
I had a New Years Eve gig in Sedona, AZ at the “Los Abrigados Resort and Spa” so I flew to Phoenix and rented a car and drove the 100 miles to the gig. My flight was delayed because of weather but I got lucky and flew standby and made it to Sedona with an hour to spare before the first show. Happy New Year! Sedona is really beautiful and my suite was top notch. New Years Eve is a tough night to do comedy. Especially after they hand out the noisemakers. The crowds were good though, and we were treated to whatever we wanted to eat and drink.
The next week I had more travel woes trying to get to Lexington, KY. I made the mistake of trying to connect through Chicago. Avoid Chicago in January. There was a huge ice and snowstorm and my flight from LA was delayed 4 hours and when I got to Chicago it was a madhouse. There was only one flight to Lexington left that day and it was delayed and full. No chance for standby anyway. I called the club owner and he said if could get to Louisville he could send someone to get me. I luckily squeaked by on standby and made that flight but by then it was 8pm and the show had to be cancelled. I made it to my hotel by 11pm after 15 hours of traveling. I passed out and got a few hours of sleep before my wake up call at 6am. I did 3 radio shows that morning and 3 in the afternoon. Then it was time for my first show in Kentucky. I’ve worked most of the States but never here. I hear it’s beautiful, but all I saw was rain and cloudy skies. The crowds were great and the club (Comedy Off Broadway) has been around a long time and it’s run like a Swiss watch. I did another four radio shows the next day so it was seven in all. I like doing radio and it puts butts in the seats. Rich Hall (the Sniglet guy) stopped in to do a guest set on Friday and it was good to see him again. I hadn’t seen him since we worked together in London years ago. I tried out my fake Kentucky accent on the Waffle House waitress. I asked for my hashbrowns “Scattered, covered, and smothered” and asked her what she thought of my southern drawl. “I don’t know, I’m Russian” she said with a thick Russian accent. I got the only Russian Waffle House waitress in Kentucky.
The next week I did a club called 4th and B in San Diego. The place is huge and usually has big name musicians but they do comedy every once in a while. It holds about 2000 but they only had about 500 the night I did it. Every time I do this gig there are always a few drunk people in the front row who try to shout out stuff to throw the comedian off. Not the sharpest cheddar in the deli – if you know what I mean. I just ignore them and they stop trying after awhile. The non-stop rain in LA the week before created large deep potholes that made the 100 mile drive an adventure. I had a whole day off on Sunday and on Monday I flew to Minneapolis, MN where the temp. was 15 below. I was supposed to do some one nighters in Minnesota but a blizzard came along and put an end to that plan. I drove through some white out conditions and luckily survived. I saw a lot of cars in the ditch. People are nuts to live there. I was happy to get back to LA and sunny skies. My Mom, Mary Ann, and my Brother, Scot, came out to visit and escape Wisconsin for a week. My sister, Lynn, and her husband, Harry Carrico (the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Virginia), came out too, for an honoring ceremony at the Beverly Hilton. Fancy Schmancy.
A lot of people think it’s weird that my brother in law is really “in law” – not only that, but an actual Supreme Court Judge. I found out that they are just like regular Court Judges, only they have sour cream. Next I’m off to Richmond (where Lynn and Harry live) to do a club there, then San Francisco, Reno, and Tucson. I’m one hard workin’ son of a physics professor. I have to slave over a hot microphone an hour a day! Sometimes it’s too hot. My P’s are popping all over the place! Stay tuned for more stories as they unfold.
This was a six-week, fifteen flight, forty-four-show tour – but who’s counting? I call it the Noah’s Ark Tour because it lasted 40 days and 40 nights. The six cities were San Francisco CA, Reno NV, Tucson AZ, Louisville KY, Minneapolis, MN, and Portland, OR.
The week I worked San Fran I got the flu and was as sick as a dog. It was a new club called “The Green Room” and they put me up in a beautiful hotel called the Argo naught, right on Fisherman’s Wharf. The club was next door and it had a 4 star restaurant attached to it. I could have anything I wanted from the menu, but I was so sick I couldn’t taste a thing. There’s no such thing as calling in sick in the comedy world. You just medicate yourself and hope no one notices. I was on Day-Quil, Tylenol, and nasal spray – but still had this fear of producing a snot bubble at some point on stage and there’s no getting the crowd back after that. I noticed that when I have a stuffy nose my mom’s name automatically becomes “Bob”, as in “I deed bore kleedex, Bob”. The shows went well and no one knew I was on death’s door. It was a drag to be in San Fran and not enjoy it. One of the coolest cities in the world and I stayed in my hotel suite zonked out on painkillers. I flew back to LA for my weekly few hours in my apartment. Just enough time to do laundry, pay bills, catch a few hours of sleep and get my ass back to the airport so I could fly to Reno.
In Reno I worked at “Catch a Rising Star” in the Silver Legacy casino. Nice club, nice accommodations, and free access to the buffet and gym – which kind of offset each other. The crowds in Reno can be great and sometimes scary. Someone once called Reno “The white trash Vegas”, I think of it more as “Vegas’s mentally challenged brother.” One night there was a couple in the front row that tried their best to fulfill that description. The guy was apparently enamored with Larry the Cable Guy’s act and kept shouting, “Git er done” throughout the show. When I voiced my displeasure, his dentally challenged, home-permed wife told me to bite her, which did not sound like a winning proposition for either one of us. Most of the crowds were intelligent, fun-loving people though and the week flew by. B.B. King performed at the Casino on Saturday and I got to sneak in and watch. Perks of the job.
The last show in Reno was Sunday and my next week started on Monday so I didn’t get my 16 hours in LA this time. I left for the airport at 5am, Flew to Tucson, rented a truck, picked up the feature act and drove five hours to the Hon Dah Indian Casino in Pinetop. We got there one hour before the 7pm show and I was exhausted so I asked for a wake up call in a half hour and I passed out cold. When the phone rang I had no idea where I was. The conversation went something like this:
“Hello Mr. Brackenridge, this is your wake up call.”
“How did I get here?”
“Well, many people believe in the creation theory, but folks around here think the gods molded us out of clay many years ago…”
I hung up, jumped in the shower, took a few gulps of hotel room coffee, and ran downstairs to the showroom just as the show started. The next day we drove back to Tucson and I started my week at Laffs Comedy Club. I last worked there in April ’04 (see back story) and the condo was just as scary as it was back then. Most of the crowds were great so I’ll tell you about the bad ones. On Friday first show it was “Sorority girls and their Moms night”. My kind of crowd. There was a constant high-pitched chatted running through the entire show. It sounded like an episode of “the View” but magnified 100 times. I heard the girls in the front row trading meatloaf recipes while I was onstage. Tough night at the office.
After the Tucson week I flew to LA and 16 hours later I was heading back to the airport for my flight to Louisville, KY. I landed at 4:30pm, was picked up and brought to the condo, which was a decent place and I had it to myself. I was a fill in at the club, which means someone had cancelled at the last minute and I was available. When you take a fill-in week at a club you’ve never been to before, the staff looks at you kind of weary. They’ve seen their share of last minute hacks. This club was called “The Comedy Caravan” and it has been around for a long time. Was met at the door by a large black guy with dreadlocks who went by the name “Big John”. He told me he would take care of any heckler situation if it got out of hand. As it turned out almost every show had an overly drunk loud person who had to be told to be quiet. At The Comedy Caravan they had an interesting way of quieting down an unreasonable person. They would tap the offending drunk on the shoulder and inform them that the performer is trying to record the show and if they talk it will ruin it. It works a lot better than just telling them to shut up. It seems weird that you have to make up a story to make people listen to a show they paid to get into, but some people don’t think it’s a true comedy show unless the comic confronts someone. Often the drunken heckler is a guy who got burned by the comic last week and is out for revenge – even though it’s a different comic this week. Sometimes it’s a boyfriend who’d jealous that his girl is laughing at another man. Then there’s the times when it’s just a case of way too much alcohol in the system.
That was the case Thursday night. There was a front row table of 3 girls and 3 guys who seemed to be about 21 years old (or younger) and they were so wasted that they couldn’t focus on anything. We figured that they must have tried to beat the system by drinking shots before the show so they wouldn’t have to buy booze in the club, but they over did it. Oblivious to the show, they talked loudly to each other and two guys got kicked out after several warnings. They staggered out, called the manager a name that implied he had orally satisfied other males and then asked for a refund. Classy. During the feature act, another guy and girl stumbled out leaving two girls who appeared to be so drunk they had trouble keeping their heads up. They would have left but the were too drunk to get up! Sure enough, we heard the unmistakable sound of vomit hitting the ground – twice. As the “ladies” weaved their way out of the showroom, the feature act said, “That’s just my girlfriend folks, she’s really sick of my jokes.” We did three shows on Saturday and the at last show I took the stage at 12:30am. It’s strange to start a set with “Good Morning”. I don’t want it to sound like all the shows were bad. Actually only 2 out of the 8 shows were hellish. I never write about the good shows because that would be boring.
Once again, I flew back to LA, this time for a whopping 20 hours after which I flew to Minneapolis, MN for a St. Patty’s Day week at a club I first worked way back in 1988. It’s currently called “The Minnesota Comedy Club”. St. Patrick’s Day is one of my least favorite days to do comedy. That and Halloween rival New Years Eve as the hardest nights to get any kind of focus. Friday night a freak blizzard hit and only about a dozen people showed up for the show. They turned out to be the best crowd of the week. I guess you really got to like comedy to risk your life to get to the club. Minneapolis is where I started doing comedy and Saturday night a bunch of my old comedy buddies came to the club for a packed first show. Dave Mordal stopped in to do a guest set that would be sent to the tonight show, but after his first joke bombed he spent the rest of his set berating the crowd and ranting about how much he hates conservative Minnesota people. It was hilarious. He really has anger down to an art. I don’t think that tape will ever get sent though.
On Monday it was back to LA for my 20-hour pit stop, and off to Portland, OR where I played a club called “Harvey’s”. The last time I worked this one it was called “The Last Laugh” and it was back in ’92. This was a Mon. – Sun. week and all 8 shows were packed in the 400-seat showroom. Great crowds all week so I won’t write about it except to say that I got a swelled head and I will now think I’m the greatest comedian who ever lived. Your ego really can go on a rollercoaster in this business. I stayed at a condo again, but this was unlike any comedy condo I’d ever seen. It was an actual three level house, brand new, with a pool table, Jacuzzi, and all the amenities. I lucked out again and had the place to myself so I was sliding around in my socks to Bob Seger tunes all week.
Well, that was the end of my “Noah’s Ark Tour”. Now I’m back in LA for a few weeks. Got some auditions and a few one nighters lined up, and I just got a fill in week in Vegas which starts in four days. I’ll drive; I don’t even want to see an airplane again for a while. Until the next episode, I bid you adieu.
|Atlantic City and Ontario June ‘05, I know I skipped a few months. I spent April and May mostly in LA auditioning, doing competitions, and a few clubs and casinos. I was about to do a week of tough one nighters in Nevada and Idaho on a “Tribble Run” when my manager called with an offer of a week in Atlantic City, NJ at the “Catch” in the AC Resorts Casino. I had to make a decision & drive 1,600 plus miles and do 4 shows for drunken rowdy crowds, or fly to AC and spend a week in an Ocean Front room at a luxury resort. Hummmm, what to do? Getting to AC wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I had to take 2 busses, a 5hr flight, 2 trains and 2 shuttles. I left LA at 10:30pm and got to my hotel room at 10:30am the next day. I flew into Philadelphia and got to know the train system there. I had to adjust my West Coast demeanor to East Coast mode. I find that if I use angry sarcasm I can blend right in. I stayed and worked at “The Resorts Atlantic City” casino and hotel right next to the Trump Taj Mahal. I had an ocean view room and the hotel was right on the boardwalk. I woke each morning to the sound of a recorded “Welcome to Atlantic City” announcement and I learned how to say I don’t want a pushcart ride in 3 languages. The pushcart guys are everywhere. They put the push in pushy. The boardwalk was the inspiration for the game “Monopoly”. As you walk on it you see many familiar things; Marvin Gardens, Park Place, and I even saw a shoe get arrested. It did not pass go and did not collect 200 dollars. As the week went on I got kind of bored so to pass the time I would buy a funnel cake, give it to a little kid and watch the sea gulls attack him. A block away from the boardwalk was scary Ville. All kinds of creepy people milling about and don’t even think of going there at night. The club was new and the crowds were thin. One night I was doing my differences between Ramadan and Xmas bit and a guy jumped up and started shouting all the virtues of the Muslim religion. He grabbed his wife’s hand and stormed out screaming all the way. We listened to his rant get fainter until an awkward silence prevailed at which point I said, that’s the last time I let my Parents come to the show. It was doubly bad because the man and his wife represented a good 1/4th of the crowd. The next week I went on a fishing trip with my Wisconsin buddies to Red lake, Ont. in Canada at a great place called “Howie Bay Resorts”. It was a 14-hour drive from my hometown of Appleton, WI and there are no paved roads north of Red Lake. Their motto is “Where the roads end and the fishing begins”. The fishing was great. Huge Walleyes and Northern Pike hungrily hit our bait and provided seven days of fantasy fishing. We fished from 6 or 7 am until 9 or 10 at night. It didn’t get dark until midnight. (maybe put pictures here) There were 4 of us in one cabin. Between the snoring and the flatulence there was never a quite moment. We divided up the chores; one guy cleaned the fish, one guy cooked ñ I did the dishes and one guy, well, he didn’t do much except get burned. I watched him refuse sunscreen day after day until he became a big red balloon. It actually made your eyes water to look at him. We nicknamed him “Burnie”. The weather was great for the most part. It can snow or hail or cook you off the lake at any given time. We got burnt off once and caught in a pretty intense thunderstorm once so we lucked out for the week. You could only have two fish in your possession at any given time so we had to eat our catch each day. We ate lots of Walleye. Baked Walleye, Fried Walleye, Broiled Walleye, Cheesy Walleye Casserole, etc. We released most of the fish we caught. Sometimes they would die anyway and the eagles would swoop down and grab ‘em right in front of us. The next week I spent the 4th of July w/ my Family in Door County, WI. It was nice to take a break from Comedy and do real people stuff for a while. I flew back to LA just in time to do a show for Comedy Time and I’ll be heading off to Sacramento, CA, Virginia Beach, VA and Milwaukee, WI in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.||
July – Sept. ‘05
Yuk Yuks '05
Nov. ’05 – May ’06
OK seven months is a long time between road stories. I apologize profusely. Here’s what transpired during that time:
I signed with a commercial agent (Coast to Coast Talent, Inc.) and they want me to stay in LA so I have a better chance at getting a commercial or two. I spent most of Nov. ’05 in LA doing commercial auditions and corporate gigs. I warmed up an audience for an HBO TV special (Pit Stop Comedy) at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival in the Flamingo Casino, and a weekend gig at a club in Pismo Beach. Then in December I did a week at a club in Richland, WA, five more auditions and flew to Appleton, WI to celebrate Xmas with family.
Jan. and Feb. I worked the Skyline in Appleton (great week – packed crowd every night), Comedy Club on State St. in Madison (same), Zanies in Chicago (another great week), Jokers in Milwaukee (which was attached to a strip club!), and Yuk yuks in Vancouver, B.C..where Robin Williams stopped in to do a guest set. It’s kinda strange having a legend like Robin come up and ask for a guest set – I said; “well…. I don’t know… alright… but keep it to a tight 10.” He was filming a movie about a trailer. It bombed I guess. Lots of movies are filmed in Vancouver. It’s cheaper and less hassely than LA.
I auditioned during March, April and May. I made a few callbacks and was put on avails a few times, but did not get a commercial. It takes a lot of patients and a bit of luck to book a commercial spot. They are quite lucrative if you can land a national one. A lot of times you come in, they give you one line, and you have to be brilliant in 10 seconds. There was one audition for an insurance company where I put on a scuba mask and was told to look like a shark was coming at me. For that I drove across town and took a half hour finding parking. You can’t get discouraged. Chances are you’ll land one eventually. They say you have to do 100 auditions to get one booking. I’m half way there.
In April I taped a TV show called “LA Forensics” where I played the part of a rapist/killer. My Mom is so proud. They spiked the sides of my hair into little devil horns so I looked like Dibert’s boss. The taping took two days - twelve hours one day and 5 the next. The rape scene took place in a ’73 Ford Pinto with two fog machines inside. It was like a sauna. I spent about a half an hour pretending to rape some poor woman while the crew filmed from outside. Since they couldn’t hear us we were cracking jokes and singing “Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life” and laughing out sweaty asses off. It airs on July 14th at 10:30pm on Court TV; so set those TVO’s.
In May I wrote, filmed, and starred in a short film called “Fish Out of Water”. It’s about two guys who bring their Wisconsin based fishing show to California in search of a man-eating six-foot sunfish. We will be shopping it around film festivals during the next year. I also did a show in Mesquite, NV and two shows at the Krave Theatre at the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas.
Now it’s June
and I just spent a week in Wisconsin fishing and visiting family and friends,
and at he time of this writing I’m off to do a week at the Catch in Atlantic
City. After that I fly to Appleton, WI for a day, then fly to LA for a day, and
then fly to Portland for a week of shows there. I’ll talk about that in my next
installment, unless I get lazy again and space out for a few months.
June – Aug.
At the last entry I was flying to Atlantic City to work the Catch a Rising Star comedy club. Last year when I did this room, I flew into Philadelphia and took the train to AC. This year I flew right in to the diminutive Atlantic City airport itself. The crowds were much bigger than last year and it was a fun week at the office.
I flew back to LA for 24 hours, then off to Portland, OR where I worked at Harvey’s comedy club. The crowds were packed in every night giving it almost a rock concert feeling. It was a big difference from the previous week where the crowds were older and reserved and there was a lot of personal contact. At Harvey’s there was no talking to the crowd on a one to one basis because you would lose the entire back half of the room. I had to keep hitting the punch lines at regular close intervals or I’d lose their attention. My setups had to be cut down to the bare minimum. It was a fun challenge, but I prefer the clubs where I can take my time and mess with the crowd a little. The condo was very nice and I worked with a very cool comic who wanted to go out and do stuff every day. We went to Multnomah Falls one day, and the beautiful Oregon coast the next day. My cousins live on Portland and they took me on a wine tasting excursion. The way the wineries describe the wines can sometimes boarder on the obscene. “It is pert and voluptuous, and has a luxuriously fulfilling finish.” Yes, I’ll take a bottle… back to my room and make sweet, sweet love to it.
I spent July back in LA. I taped a show at the Irvine Improv for some internet deal, did 7 commercial auditions, did a sports photo shoot at the Coliseum (look for my face in the background on billboards across the country), taped a segment for www.comedyphotobooth.com, and shot a spec commercial for Levis jeans. In the commercial I play a doctor who needs to make a tourniquet from some jeans, but they are too nice so he uses someone’s shirt instead. The episode of LA Forensics I taped back in April aired on July 28th and Aug. 2nd. I looked very creepy as the killer, but they cut out the whole rape scene (much to the delight of my family members).
The next week I flew to Richmond, VA and drove to the Outer Banks in North Carolina where I did a week of shows at a ritzy resort called The Sanderling. I stayed with 3 other comics at the club owner’s beautiful waterside house in Colington. We had access to kayaks and fishing gear and the weather was 80 and sunny every day. We caught crabs (no, not that kind) right off the dock and cooked up some wonderful meals. It was kind of weird at first, staying at some guy’s house with his wife and son and 3 other comedians but they were all very cool and we got along great.
I got back to LA just in time to tape a game show. I can’t say much about it by contract but it will come out on CBS around October. I’ll make sure I plug it when I find out. It was a long day of taping (14 hours), but the taping was 2 blocks from where I live so I didn’t have to hassle w/driving or parking. There were literally hundreds of contestants and the day was spent in close contact with Hollywood’s craziest people – bikers, showgirls, punks, wrestlers, etc. Wait till you see this game show, it’s pretty wild.
Anyhoo, it’s the middle of Aug. right now, the Dodgers are in first place and I’m ready and raring to go on the next adventure… whatever that may be. I guess we’ll find out in the next road story.
Sept. – Nov. ’06
Staying in town for audition purposes is not the easiest thing. As I’ve said before, it’s a numbers game and you have to have patience and faith. Not only do I go on commercial auditions, but I also go out for still shots, short
films, pilots, and theatrical shows as well. I was offered a role in a play and took it, and was glad I did. The play was called “Night Stories” and I played the part of a 1940’s radio actor. I did the stereotypical fast-talking, wise guy who says, “see” after every sentence, see? It was fun and the talented cast included the great Jack Burns (from Burns and Carlin and later, Burns and Schreiber) who regaled us with jokes and stories from his 50 some years in the comedy business. The play ran for 5 weeks and they’re thinking of doing another version in January focusing more on the radio comedy of that era.
I did a couple one nighters, a taping for Comedy Time, and a week at Laughs Unlimited in Sacramento. In November I got a call from my Manager asking me if I would be willing to do a “bus gig” in Vegas for the big HBO Comedy Festival at Caesars. I had the week open and they were willing to fly me in, put me up for four days, cover all expenses, and pay me pretty well too, so I said I’d do it. I had no idea what a “bus gig” was, but a week in Vegas with an all access pass sounded too good to pass up. The gig consisted of me sitting on top of a double decker bus (painted up with Comedy Festival logos) with a microphone shouting at people up and down the strip and handing out tee shirts from 8 to 10 every night. Boy, do people love free tee shirts! There were people pushing each other out of the way, and cars crashing, just to get a shirt. I was supposed to entice people to get on the bus and come to the festival, but after a few bums got on I realized pulling people randomly off the Las Vegas Strip was not the best idea. Every once in a while a group of drunken women from Iowa would jump on, but I was on my own most of the time.
The festival itself was a lot of fun. My pass got me into all the shows and also into “The Lounge”, where all drinks and food were served by scantily clad Roman babes. Massages were also available, free of charge. Of the shows I got to see, the Poopapolusa with Triumph the insult dog, and Jim Gaffigan, and Louis CK were great. I ran into a bunch of comedian friends, one of which works for serious radio and got me on Jim Breuer’s show “Amped Up”. Steven Adler, the former drummer for Guns 'n Roses was there… well, that’s a matter of opinion. He was there physically. I got a contact buzz from using his microphone. It was a fun week at the office. Now I have another week of auditioning, then I go on a 3-week run of clubs – Rochester, MN, Appleton, WI, and Madison, WI. That will take me through December and the Christmas Season, so that should be the next road story.
Dec. ’06 – Mar. ‘08
It’s been over a year since my last road story. It’s not because nothing happened, it’s because I’m super lazy. Here’s a quick synopsis of what transpired in the last 15 months:In Dec. of ’06 I flew back to Wisconsin and did a few weeks of work, came back to LA and moved to a new place, auditioned for commercials and did standup. I booked a local spot for Jack Stephan Plumbing (see it on my myspace page). It’s a remake of a commercial for a local LA Plumbing company where the announcer gets the guy’s name wrong and he gets madder and madder. I remember seeing the original commercial for years when I first moved to LA. I thought, boy that poor bastard in that commercial. How bad was his career when he did that dumb commercial. Now I’m the new Jack Stephan. I shot another one for PETA where I was a Dad explaining the facts of life to my teenage daughter. Instead of telling her to abstain from sex he tells her to go out and get as much sex as possible. When she voices her concern about pregnancy he tells her not to worry. “We can put them in the street or a shelter – the important thing is you get your swerve on, sweetie” Funny spot.
I did some interesting gigs too. I worked at a club in Moro Bay, CA right on the ocean. They left the windows open and some seals were right outside on the dock. They would bark at every punch line. I’d never been heckled by a seal before. I did a couple of weeks at some clubs in Utah. It’s been a few years since I’ve worked this state and I’d forgotten what it was like. Absolutely no swearing. I accidentally let the F-bomb slip in Ogden and had a bunch of Mormons storm out. Then I did a one nighter in Rock Springs Wyoming and had to swear my head off just to keep the drunken cowboys' and cowgirls' attention. A guy came up to me after the show and told me the last comic that played there wasn’t funny until they got him liquored up on stage. Before that he was “Just doing material”.
In Dec. I flew to the frozen Midwest and did some one nighters and clubs. Driving through blizzards reminds me of why I moved away from Wisconsin. One guy spun out in front of me, I drove around him barely avoiding getting hit, and then the idiot passed me. I call those guys organ donors. I spent Xmas with my Mom – we didn’t get a tree or do any Christmassy stuff. It was great! We wrote a song about it:
“No Christmas Tree, No Christmas Tree, We never even missed ya.
No Mistletoe hung overhead, so no one’s gonna kiss ya.
Your tangled lights remain downstairs
Traditions gone and no one cares.
No Christmas Tree, No Christmas Tree, We never even missed ya.”I did a week of shows at a club in St. Louis, MO and Appleton, WI and flew back to LA where I worked a great room in Pasadena called “The Ice House”. It’s been there for over 40 years and it’s full of history. David Letterman’s contract from 1976 is framed on the wall. I flew back to the frozen Midwest (40 below zero) to do a club in Madison and a corporate show and snowplowed my Mom’s driveway 5 times in one week.
I flew back to LA, and I’m just about to take off for Afghanistan on a two week tour for the troops with a Comedian named Richard Villa. I’ll have that story next. I hope.
Cheeseball Tour ’13
OK, it's May, but 5 years later... I took a little break...
Back in June '12, Comedians Mike Merryfield and myself, Rob Brackenridge, started working on a plan to do a month long comedy tour in our home State of Wisconsin. We originally wanted to do 31 shows in 31 days and drive the whole tour in Mike’s dune buggy, and we enlisted fellow Wisconsiner, Steve Hartman, to be the middle (gravy) spot. We call it the “gravy” spot because you don’t have to open the show, you walk onstage to a warmed up crowd, you only do about 20 minutes, and someone else does the bulk of the time and closes up the show. The idea was that I would open the show with a 20 to 30min set, Steve would do 15 to 20, I would go back up and do some time and introduce Mike, and he would do what it took to take us to 90 min. It’s a pretty good idea because no matter what type of crowd we would have - bad or good - we could fill in the time without stretching. With over 40 years of collective experience in Standup (25 years for me, 17 for Mike, and a few days for Steve) we knew we could handle almost any situation and put on a professional show.
We contacted the Appleton PAC (Performing Arts Center) and set up a tester show for Jan. 12th at the Kimberly Clark Theater which seats 300. We charged 25 bucks a seat and advertised the heck out of it. Now, Mike and I have been doing stand up for a combined 40 years and we have a pretty loyal following in Appleton, so we figured we would make a few bucks if we did two shows. What we didn’t account for was that four months later when the Jan. 12th show was to take place, the Green Bay Packers would be playing the San Francisco 49ers in a do or die playoff game to see who would go to the Superbowl. The kickoff was right when the first show started, and the final whistle was when the 2nd show ended. For those of you who don’t know, the Packers are the biggest thing in Appleton and the surrounding area, and to imagine that we could go up against such an important game and expect anyone to come was just plain crazy. There was no going back, we just hoped that we could make enough the to pay the PAC for the use of the Theatre. For the first show we had about 200 people! We made enough on that show to break even. The second show was about 80 or so, but we were overjoyed that we actually made a profit. The Packers lost big, by the way.
This convinced us that we had something going here and we started working hard on booking the Tour. We decided on the month of May and we got two great clubs, the Skyline in Appleton, and the Comedy Cafe in Milwaukee to bookend the tour. Between those solid bookings we proceeded to fill the dates with one nighters, bars, casinos, colleges, and just about any place that was interested. We quickly found that 31 shows in 31 days all in Wisconsin would be pretty tough to do, especially Mondays and Tuesdays. We decided to make those our days off, and we got the month filled up with about 25 shows. Some of the gigs were good paying, some not so good, and some were door deals where we took a cut of the ticket sales. Also, the dune buggy idea got kicked to the curb after experiencing just one block of bone jarring riding.
As the May 1st gig came around, we found that we each had a hard luck story which somehow landed each of us living at our respective Mom’s place. Steve had an enlarged heart and had a device implanted in his chest that would basically keep him alive, Mike was going through a messy divorce, and I had to escape from my crazy girlfriend in Los Angeles. This truly was the perfect time for a month long getaway.
The week at the Skyline went great. Packed crowds, and we broke our old records at selling Merch (Tee shirts and CDs). One show got a little out of hand when the crowd started sending Mike shots on stage, but I jumped up on stage and bravely downed the shots that would have undoubtedly killed Mike. We ended up signing a woman’s breasts after the show, and the rest of the night was a little hazy.
Week two consisted of 5 diverse gigs; Whiskeys in Altoona, The Landmark in Egg Harbor, The Best Western in Wausau, Brewskis in Beaver Dam, and Lawrence University in Appleton. Whiskeys was aptly named because when we got there it seemed like everyone had downed their own body weight in the stuff. The “showroom” was a 40 by 40 foot curtained off area with a sound system that made a drive thru speaker sound clear. The lighting consisted of what I can only describe as a food warmer, and during the show I couldn’t help but think that someone’s fries were now getting cold. We got through the 75 min minimum requirement, and the crowd of about 40, who repeatedly shouted random non-sequiturs, seemed to enjoy themselves. The next day we drove across the state to the beautiful Door County Peninsula, where we performed at a swanky resort called The Landmark. They put us up in a very nice three bedroom unit and we were told to keep the comedy clean. It was a packed house and the average age of the crowd was about 70. It was fun adjusting our sets from the night before - and nice to know that we can work both types of crowds with equal success. The next day we drove to Wausau where we performed at a large conference room that seats around 200. We had 15. Not a fun show, but we made the most of it and the people who showed up had a good time. You never know why some gigs have small crowds. Sometimes it’s lack of advertising and sometimes it is good weather that keeps people from coming indoors. I think it was a combination of both in this case. Luckily we did not do a door deal on this one, or we wouldn’t have made any money. The next night was a bar called Brewskis in Beaver Dam. This was a free gig and they didn’t do any advertising so basically the “crowd” was just a bunch of bar patrons who were a bit miffed that someone was talking into a microphone and disturbing their conversation. Needless to say we did a short set and skeedadled out as soon as we could. The next night was Sunday and we did a show at Lawrence University, my alma mater. This one was fun, with an attentive, smart audience. Quite a whiplash start for the beginning of the tour.
Week 3 consisted of Uncle Mike’s M Pour E Yum in Hudson, Rookies in Stevens Point, The Elbo Room in Rhinelander, and The Park Theatre in Hayward. I booked Uncle Mike’s about 3 months earlier on a suggestion from a friend. It was a verbal contract so there was no guarantee of getting paid. When we got there we found it was a bar/trucker motel and our advertisement consisted of chalk words on the sidewalk. There was no one in the showroom, but about 20 people were drinking in the adjoining bar. After waiting around for about 30 min the owner came up to us and said “that’s the last time I book gigs when I’m drunk”. It looked like all was lost, but we decided to give it the old college try. I asked the owner for some free drink chips and went into the bar and announced that a comedy show was starting. I then lured the entire bar over to the showroom with the promise of free drinks, jumped up on stage and it was fun! They turned out to be a great, if somewhat vociferous crowd, and we all had great sets. It ended up being our longest show so far, and the club owner was overjoyed. He wanted to know when he could book us back! The next day we drove to Steven’s Point and played a sports bar called “Rookies”. This place was packed and the crowd consisted mostly of softball teams from Point Beer and Oso Beer breweries. Very Wisconsiny to say the least. The next gig was in Rhinelander at the Elbo Room. This is a place where Mike had performed many times in the past and they were there to see him. They barely put up with me and Steve, but when Mike hit the stage it was like watching Elvis perform at Graceland. Once again, shots were sent up to the stage, but this time I didn’t feel like intercepting them, so Mike got a little tipsy. OK, a lot tipsy. OK, he was plowed. But it did not stop him from killing. They carried him out on their shoulders and I believe there is now a statue of Mike at the town’s entrance. The next night we went up to the far northwestern part of the State in a town called Hayward. It is a resort destination for many Twin Cityonians and all the bars have lots of stuffed dead animals in glass cases. We performed during a thunderstorm for about 15 octogenarians in a theater which could hold about 300. Luckily they were fun people and a good time was had by all.
A couple of gigs fell out of week 4, so we just did Friday and Saturday. Friday was our one and only Casino show at the Menominee Casino in Kashina. We were told not to do any derogatory material about Native Americans. Steve had to change his whole set. The show was in a big ball room and was quite well attended. Again we kept it clean and had a great response. The accommodations and food were great although we did lose some bucks at the Texas Hold ‘em table. Next came a bar called “Beavers” in Townsend. I expected it to be a strip joint, but they really named it after the animal! It was an unfinished bar with chicken wire across the stage. We convinced them to take down the wire, but later on in the show we kind of wished it was still up. They were by far the drunkest crowd of the tour, and there were a few who never stopped putting their two cents in. The owner asked us to do a three hour show.... I told him we would try to do 2. We did two hours only because Mike did seventy minutes.... and they loved it!!! He didn’t do a lot of material, mostly just made fun of whoever shouted stuff out. The guy is a pro.
The fifth and final week of the tour started out on Wednesday with an experimental show. Mike had contacted the owners of a restaurant called “Spats” that was right on College Avenue, the main drag of Appleton. They have a patio (The “Spatio”) that faces the street, and with a rented speaker and microphone we set up shop. We didn’t know what to expect crowd-wise because we just used word of mouth advertising and charged $5 a head and we were very happy to find that the place was packed! With an ominous looming thunderstorm inching up on us, and the daylight fading, we did our thing and packed up just as the first raindrops fell. Another successful show for the ‘Balls, and the next day we made the easy drive down to Milwaukee to do a Thursday through Saturday run at the Comedy Cafe.
The Cafe is a great club, and has been around almost as long as I have. I always feel like I’m doing something illegal when I work the room. There are aways guns around and they look around nervously when they talk to you. They put comics up in a “comedy condo”. The condos have always been sketchy to say the least, but this time I think they outdid themselves. It was a third floor apartment above a nightclub in a real urban part of town. The door had been kicked in by the police a few days earlier so we had easy access. Apparently some homeless dude had been occupying the place and he helped himself to the TV as he left. We found out later that the door had been kicked in because the guy in the apartment above us had tried to hang himself from the fire escape with his belt and that was the only way the cops could get to him. So the place had been quite busy since the last comics left. We had to take our valuables with us whenever we left the place, and we expected to see homeless people wearing our clothes when we got back.
We put two chairs together and wedged them between the door and the wall when we were in the place just so no one would push the door open and steal Steve. When we told the Manager about our door situation he offered his gun to us. We graciously declined the offer and somehow survived the first night as the thumping nightclub Techno music sang us a lullaby until 2am. The next day a guy fixed the door, and we finished up the tour in relative security. The Comedy Cafe was a great place to close up the tour; we had good sized crowds, sold some merch, and the people who ran the club treated us like the pros we are. So that’s it for the first attempt at The Cheeseball Comedy Tour. The final count was 22 shows in 31 days, about 2,500 miles all driven in a Volkswagen Jetta that now smells like three Wisconsin comedians. We all got along great, I got to brush up on my hosting skills, Mike got to show his versatility in working clean and dirty shows, Steve got to work on his set with very little pressure, and we made a few folks laugh in our home State. If you’d like to see photos of the tour check out www.cheeseballcomedytour.com, and for our individual standup schedules (I’m in Milwaukee Aug. 9th - 10th, Mike is there Sept. 12 - 14th) check out www.robbrackenridge.com and www.mikemerryfield.com. We also did a wrap up of the tour on Mike’s Podcast, “Irrelevant”, which can be found on Mike’s website as well. We’ve got some big things in the works for the Cheeseballs - some TV stuff and more tours - so stay tuned. Until then we will catch ya on da flipper (whatever that means)!
© 1999-2013 Rob Brackenridge
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