Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Cold Turkey

Today I got a call from a booker I haven’t spoken to in forever and a day. It was kind of weird because for the last year and a half, in the midst of my blonde ambition and press coverage, I have vocalized my want to tour, especially internationally. As a kid, I did the road every weekend for no money. Actually I take that back, bad money and rainbow meat hamburgers.

What ended up happening is, the road took me out of the city so I kind of decided to return when I got more television credits under my belt and could demand actual money thus it would make sense to travel out of town for a tad. That being said, the sojourns out of the city were adventures and paid respites, although not well paid respites may I add. Plus I missed the camaraderie and the sometimes harried tales of comedy that brought us all closer together as a community.

Anyway, this booker whom I will call Paul Feinstein and I haven’t spoken forever and a day. Truth, I wasn’t pursuing road work in honest, at least not in the United States. But as I said this past year I vocalized wanting to tour, however the bookers I were pursuing were in Europe. In any event, I got a mentor who advised me to capitalize off of my international press in the US and then work my way to Europe. Since debuting in Vegas, the wheels have been turning that way.

Yes, I still want to go to Europe and plan on it. But my luck has changed in the United States and just as I dealt with some wonderful people abroad I am dealing with some wonderful people here. Bottom line, there are good and bad people everywhere.

Paul and I have kind of a strange history. He and I worked together a few times back in the day but life happens and you lose touch. Plus I think he was breaking up with a business partner which happens from time to time. Nonetheless, Paul has always been in my corner. He also managed one of my heroes before his unfortunate passing nearly two years ago. An eccentric workaholic, the best time to reach Paul is between midnight and 1 AM. It’s true, he told me to call him around that time back in the day and he always picked up. A copious note taker, Paul will go through your act joke by joke and tell you what works and what doesn’t.

Paul’s assistant Jake called me with news of the gig and asked me to close the show. Because the focus has been on the video end, I haven’t been doing as many live shows. However the closer pay was good. Paul then got on the line and asked me if I was closing regularly. I was honest, I wasn’t. Paul lauded me for telling the truth. He was giving me a gig that was going to pay decently for featuring, and plus the club covered hotel. Either way, this was what I needed.

For the past year I had been questioning, despite all the international buzz, whether or not I belonged in the comedy world. An eviction, even when it’s not your fault, will make you question how you conduct your affairs quite a bit. At the same time, I had been thirsting for more reasonable road work, because it pays the bills in between appearances. Also, if all goes well, Paul gives me more gigs and although he is a little crazy as we all are, he pays and is fair.

The conversation that followed is one for the books though.

Booker: Well thank you for being honest with me about everything, that goes a long way.

Me: For sure.

Booker: You see, it’s great you are a vent (ventriloquist) act. They originally wanted to use Mike Jones but apparently he’s no longer doing ventriloquism.

Me: What?! Mike Jones is so known for ventriloquism. It’s what he does.

Booker: Yeah, I know. Tell me about it. He’s no longer doing ventriloquism in his act though. The most insane part is, he isn’t even letting anyone know.

Me: Wow. Really?! That is insane. What’s he doing instead? Regular stand up.

Booker: Yup, and the worst thing is, his regular stand up is not funny enough to stand on it’s own. So he is still being booked as a ventriloquist and just showing up without his puppets.

Me: Wow. That’s nuts.

Booker: Yeah, he didn’t even do it gradually. He did it out of no where. You can’t just go cold turkey like that. It throws people off.

Sigh……this conversation sounds like it was ripped straight out of a Woody Allen movie. I often feel as if my life is a never ending adventure film that continually writes itself. My mom thought this was good, because if I can get consistent work on the road that pays half decent it will fill in the gaps when things get slow. Plus it will be making money. Not bad. As she said, "Honey, this is an open window for you."

Still, the whole situation is only mildly insane because Mike Jones was a friend I made through the ventriloquist circle. He taught ventriloquism. He performed ventriloquism. He was so into ventriloquism he sent me a persnickety note about my lip control. Mike Jones was ventriloquism!
Am I Woody Allen or Mel Brooks right now? Hard to say. As I said, cannot make this stuff up. The club owner even wrote on the website, “Our ventriloquist decided he didn’t want to be a ventriloquist anymore. Can’t make this shit up.”


Sigh…….to have a booker saying you quit ventriloquism cold turkey. Granted, I know I am known for being addicted to my puppets and leaving a man so we could have the best life possible. Still, I have heard everything and have never heard this.

This particular ventriloquist was Mr. Ventriloquism too. He was a contemporary of Jeff Dunham as a matter of fact. He was good friends with one of my heroes, the late, great Otto Petersen. He had appeared as a headliner in Vegas and on TV AS A VENTRILOQUIST!

What happened to throw this man over the edge? Why did he put his wooden friends through the proverbial wood chipper? This was so sudden, so odd, so WTF?! The man was one who even sent me a note on my lip control technique. Bottom line, he knew his vent.

It was as if the planets crashed and out of the blue the sky began to fall after a storm of raining pigs. I told my mom this and she suspected something awful had happened in his life. But he was so dedicated, so passionate, even his own son was doing ventriloquism! What became of this poor, unfortunate family?

Either way, as my mom explained this left a headlining door wide open for me and my job was to really perfect my act. (And technically it is a double headline event it seems between me and the other fellow). She also explained that if I could get enough headlining appearances in between being on TV like I am sometimes with my kids, we could sustain ourselves more heartily. Plus I like being onstage so it’s not bad. When you get to the headliner point in comedy you can demand more money, you are the headliner damnit. It’s the way to go.

The strange thing is, I almost quit this past year as I mentioned. My faith in God is something I am proud of and do not hide, although I am not the type to shove it in people’s face. Around the beginning of the year I asked Him to guide me to see if this was what I was supposed to be doing in the first place.

The truth is, He gave me an amazing mentor in Vegas who has been a gift from heaven in every sense of the word. “Stay,” a cover I did a few years back, cracked the top 40 on a New York Dance Chart on Reverbnation. Usually you have to pay for it to crack the top 100, meaning you are independently wealthy or have a label behind you. I had neither, it just did it on it’s own. My publishing house sent me a royalty check, aka “surprise money” as writers call it. This caught me off guard, but right before my first eviction court date I found out my book had been selling overseas. Then someone was interested in an idea I have held close to my heart.

And then out of no where I get a call to do this gig. I suppose He is answering my question.
Maybe whatever is up there has been answering my question all along. (I like to call it God but who knows what it is if there is anything). Last year, as I lost two well paid campaigns to others for a myriad of reasons, none having to do with talent, I struggled to keep the faith within myself. Yet the news about my family and I hit the web. It went viral. One press agency thought I had hired a publicist. I wanted to tell them, “Silly rabbits, when you are facing eviction you can’t even pay your rent…….a publicist is out of the question.”

In the midst of the bed bugs, mold, and other drama I found my story somewhere new in the world daily it seemed. Yes, I was on my way to being homeless in America but damnit they were singing my praises in Albania. I also got onstage religiously and was putting away some awesome sets. For the first time in forever I was enjoying comedy. Maybe this was whatever was upstairs guiding me to keep my head on straight because sometimes I lose sight of what’s important. We all do. Bottom line, we get what we want just not in the way we think we will get it, and everything happens in it’s own time.

Maybe Mike Jones went through a difficult phase like I did. I know he wasn’t the same after his massive heart attack and might be losing his mind. Maybe, just maybe, during those difficult times he had idiots like my ex friend whispering their negativity in his ear. And maybe he didn’t have the strength or awareness to tune them out. Whatever the case is, I hope he finds some peace. Mike is a nice guy.

Either way, this whole thing is playing out like a comedy melodrama online. Mike has written a scathing post in regards to this club owner whom he refers to as an egomaniac, and says the man is in violation of contract. As Mike has aired his grievance, many of his supporters have rallied around him. He insists, “No club owner can tell me how to do my act.”

Mike has gone so far as to encourage other headliners not to work with this particular man.
On the same token, the club owner has fired back as I explained earlier by writing, "You can't make this shit up."

He further blasted Mike on the comedy club's website without using his name, but referred to me as a “better, more talented entertainer” that they got to replace him. Mike was an excellent ventriloquist, so if I am better or more talented remains to be seen. I get wanting to grow as a comedian and do other things, but you have to ease people into them. And I get where the club owner is coming from, it's like going to a diner, ordering scrambled eggs, and them bringing you chili. I know I will probably get the full story this weekend, and I will say it's none of my business.......although the industry gossip in me will be all ears, interested to know how this thing went down and I got in the middle. 

 I get to do this weekend with an old open mic friend I haven’t seen in years who is doing quite well. At the very least this will be a good story. I am excited because of the opportunity, but scared so that means it’s time to work on my act.

I feel like I am living the movie Broadway Danny Rose. It’s one of my mentor’s favorite films. Maybe I will watch it later today. 

Check out the club's website

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