Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gearing Up


I can't believe that at this very moment I am writing this on a MAC.

Aside from being a comedian I have been involved in the computer industry since 1981. At least that's my best memory for the year I started.

TRS80 Model III
That was the year I purchased a Tandy (Radio Shack for those of you not old enough) Model III computer. It was a completely self contained computer that looked like a small television with a keyboard permanently mounted in front of it. I'm pretty sure I paid a little more than $1,000 dollars for it. It had 2 floppy disks and had 16k of ram.

There were no such things as hard drives back then; at least not for the personal computer. Seagate had introduced a 5 megabytes drive in 1980 that cost $1,500. You know that 2 gigabyte flash drive you have that's useless to you because it won't hold enough of anything? Well that is 2,000 megabytes or 400 times the size of that $1,500 drive Seagate sold.

I bought a $400 printer with it and in the beginning it was a glorified typewriter. I used it to create documents for my Jaycee chapter (I was the secretary) and was a big hit because I could create forms and print out some really nice looking documents.

The original "PC" an IBM Model 5150
Back then I worked at a bank and was a junior officer. Banks ton't pay their employees money, they give "titles". Basically I was a loan collector. I was also the lowest man on the totem pole at the bank so I was given the jobs that everyone else was trying to avoid.

Enter the original IBM PC model 5150. The bank bought one because they thought they could use it, it was up to me to figure out how.

So that is when my journey began. Since then I have been more of an explorer than I ever would have imagined. Back in those days there was no tech support and there wasn't a "guy" that could help you. You had to become your own "guy".

Then as time went on I became other peoples "guy" which eventually led me out of the banking business and into the world of computers. I built a business that at one time had over a million dollars in sales. I had service people that I had to train and all the responsibilities that went along with it.

I dealt solely with IBM compatible equipment which is now referred to as "Windows" based. So everything I did had to be "Windows" compatible, I never even considered using an Apple product. Not because I thought they were substandard, it was because I felt I had more options in the "Windows" world and things were less expensive.

My first attempt to even try a MAC came about 4 years ago when I came across a MAC Laptop. It was an older one with a slower processor. In the end I was so immersed in the "Windows" world that I just couldn't grasp the MAC environment. So I quickly abandoned the laptop, sold it and bought a Power MAC with just a little more computing power. I didn't really use it, I just kept it around in case I wanted to give it another try.

I never did ...

Then came "The Cloud" and everything changed.

What seemed to be an unsurmountable goal; access to your data from anywhere finally began to take shape. And just like with anything else in the computer world everyone wanted in.

Over the past 5 years things have progressed to the point that my data is truly "portable" It resides on a secure server that I can have immediate access to and I have come to embraced that technology.

Up to this point with one exception (my programming editor) I have not used programs that I cannot use on all my devices. Whether it be my phone, Ipad or one of my computers, it doesn't matter what I use, I can view, use or edit anything I'm working with no matter where I am at; which is an extremely valuable thing.

If you made it this far you may remember that at the beginning I said this is being written on a MAC? Well, I decided to make a second exception because I wanted to get some writing software. Something that will (hopefully) help me get some ideas I have had for years on paper (well in digital form). I've never thought of myself as a great writer but have always had an idea for a story or two. So I decided to go out and get a MAC and devote it to the creative writing process.

So I now have a nice little MAC Mini that is just one generation back which will be more than adequate for this task.

It may be, but am I?



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Turning It Up A Notch


When you are a comedian every time you walk on stage you must bring your "A" game with you. It doesn't matter if you are at the worst one-nighter out there or the finest comedy club in the country. Your best is the only thing that is acceptable.

Sometimes your best is just not enough; but even in those times, you have the comfort of knowing you've done all you could do.

It's no secret amongst comedians, comedy clubs are a much easier venue to work than one-nighters. For you "civilians" a one-nighter is a comedy venue that is not solely a comedy club venue. It could be a bar, restaurant, coffee house or even a laundromat. If you think I'm kidding about the Laundromat, I'm not. There's actually one in the Los Angeles area that has a regular comedy show.

One-nighters present a unique challenge in that they were not designed to host a comedy show. In order for a comedy show to have the best chance at success you needs several elements.

A stage with lighting that allows the crowd to easily see the performers face
A sound system that is set up for the spoken word
Seating close together and facing the stage
Very few distractions in the room, ie. not a lot on the walls.
The ability to light the room for the audience properly

There are a few other small things like proper wait service to the audience and some sort of bouncer/doorman in the room (even some comedy clubs don't have these anymore) that will add to the success of show. The truth is most of these things are missing in the standard one-nighter. In fact, if you are lucy enough to get 2 of these items you're looking at a pretty good one-nighter.

That's why working at a comedy club is what most comedians strive for. Comedy clubs are built from the ground up to provide the best possible environment for a comedy show. The wait staff is trained to serve customers in a way as to not distract from the show on stage.

In reality, a comedy club should be your first choice to see comedy. If there is no comedy club in your area and you are a fan of comedy, then by all means go to a comedy night that's being held in your area. It's live standup and that's a GOOD thing! Just remember that you will be up against a few extra distractions, don't let those get in the way of you enjoying yourself. It may take you one or 2 shows in this room to figure out where the best place to sit is and when to get your drinks, etc. but in the end, with a little effort you can enjoy yourself at a one-nighter.

I do a pretty good mix of both and like most comedians, the one-nighters will be the first thing to go once I can get a full schedule of comedy clubs. Which at the time of this writing seems to never, as the comedy club market seems to be shrinking and the way comedy clubs book their acts combined with an ever growing number of comedians out looking for work makes it highly unlikely.

So I always look forward to weeks I have in comedy clubs, some with more enthusiasm than others. I'm not going to lie to you, I have mixed emotions about Catch A Rising Star.

Don't misunderstand me, I love the club. Everything about it is good; the staff is great, the room is well laid out and the accommodations are the best I ever get.

It's the crowds ...

These are easily the toughest comedy club crowds I'm ever in front of and it's not the clubs fault, unless you blame them for where they decided to locate their club.

You see the Catch A Rising Star is located in the Silver Legacy Casino which is in downtown Reno. It is a part of a 3 Casino/Hotel complex that takes up about 6 square blocks and is a destination vacation/gambling spot. Which means that the people that come to this complex come from all over the The Northwest, Northern California, Utah and Nevada. When I say Nevada I'm pretty much excluding the greater Reno metropolitan area. It's not that they don't like the club, it's that the majority of them don't seem to want to come to downtown Reno.

This makes the crowd you're going to be in front of especially tough. They're not bad people, just an odd mix of age, ethnicity and backgrounds because they come from so many different places. Add to that the inability to use local references (every good comics hold card) the comedian ends up with what I like to refer to as a fruit cake crowd. Not because they're nuts which is what people usually mean when they say "fruit cake". I call them fruit cake crowds because just like a fruit cake there's nothing wrong with the ingredients individually, it's when you put them together that you get something you're really not going to enjoy.

Just because they're a bad mix doesn't mean that they don't deserve your best effort. That's why if you have an "A+" game, you better pull it out for these crowds.

This past week was no exception. I had shows that went off without a hitch and I had shows that I pulled out every one of my tried and true comedy "game changers" in an effort to do a great show with these crowds. The smallest show I did last week had 14 people and the largest had 125. Ironically, these two shows were by far the best of the week.

The rest of of the shows ranged from average to pretty good with one exception on Thursday night. It was not a good show by my standards but in the end I actually learned something that I was able to apply to the small show of 14 that happened the next night.

Every time I come to Reno to perform at Catch A Rising Star I know I am going to have to work hard. Without exception every time I have left Reno I have left a better comedian because of it.

This week was no exception, I left Reno with a stronger act and a few new tricks to use when things start going bad on stage. For a comedian, you can't ask for any more than that.




Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Idle Time


I am still in Reno Nevada at the Silver Legacy Hotel. Today marks the 15th day of my trip, I have spent 12 of them in this room.

It’s very unusual for a comic to stay more than 6 days in a town and I have doubled that.

This wasn't my choice; I was actually forced into it when the club I was supposed to work at on November 2nd and 3rd closed days before I came out here. This happens more frequently than you would think. It's not just when a club closes; you can lose your booking for many other reasons. The club could have double booked the show by accident, they may need to cut the show down, or sometimes they'll have an opportunity to bring in someone they want more than you. Pretty much if the wind blows the wrong way and the club thinks it's in their best interest, you're going to get cancelled. So the rule you learn early on in comedy is to hope for the best, but expect the worst.

The irony here is that if the club cancels you, you may or may not even get rebooked again. They feel no obligation do anything to make this right. If you are fortunate enough to get rebooked it could be soon, it could be next year or it could be never. On the other hand; if you have to cancel your booking then we have a problem. I'm not saying this happens with every club but when you cancel with a lot of clubs you will never work for them again. Your only chance with these places is you have to have a really good reason for your cancellation. That pretty much limits valid reasons to I'm going to tape a late night talk show, someone close to me has died or I have died. Anything else leaves you open for a lifetime ban.

I know you're thinking "There must be something in your contract that would deal with this"? What contract? This is one of the few businesses that still operate on your word. The unfortunate part is a lot of clubs don't feel the need to keep their "word", they'd rather keep their options open. The ONLY time these clubs will enter into a contract with a comedian is when they are booking a bigger name that will draw a crowd. It's because they don't want to put out all that money for special advertising and then have someone cancel. That would actually COST them something and they can't have that.

So as you can see some of these clubs handle business without regard for how their actions will affect the comedians they deal with. Why can they do that? There is a never ending supply of comedians that will work for these people no matter how they have treated those who have come before them. They'll take the chance because the reward is worth it to them, but they'll also be the first ones crying "poor me" when things don't work out even though they knew that going in.

Even though this example isn't about getting cancelled by a club it will show you the desperation that comedians have when it's comes to work. There was a club in the Northwest that was owned by a comedian. One day I received an email from a comedian I was friends with telling me that he had worked this club nearly 6 weeks before and his check had bounced. At the time he sent out the email he had still not gotten his money. So he decided to warn all the comedians he knew. I happened to know a friend of mine was scheduled to work at this particular club in a couple of weeks. So I called the comedian that sent the email to get the whole story. I was told that not only was he having trouble, every comedian that had worked after him also got a bad check and none of them had gotten their money yet. I relayed this information to my friend. Instead of canceling his booking, he called the owner of the club and asked him "is the check you're going to give me going to be good"? Of course the owner told him it would be just fine. So my friend hopped on a plane, flew 2,200 miles, worked his week at the club, got his check and went home. He deposited the check he received and when it bounced my friend was angry, even though he went in knowing there was a good possibility of this would happen.

In his mind he had to give it a try, because he needed the money. If he would have stayed home, he would have had NO chance to earn. This way, he had SOME chance and that was enough for him to put himself in that position and he is not alone.

There is a booker in the Northwest that is well known for not only taking an unreasonable amount of time to pay the comedians; this booker also regularly bounces checks. Yet there is an unending number of comedians willing to work for this booker knowing full well that there will be a good chance things aren't going to go well when it comes to their payment.

Yes, we are a strange bunch.

Back to the story ...

When you end up with time off like this the key is to put it to good use and that’s what I ended up doing. When I finished my show in Winnemucca I had 2 choices; one was to find the cheapest hotel in the area and hole up in a room eating bologna sandwiches in an effort to keep my expenses at a minimum.

My other choice was to see if I could go into Reno early, find a place to stay and see if I can find some stage time.

It wasn't a tough choice; after all, I am a comedian and stage time is what I live for. So I contacted the GM of Catch A Rising Star. I asked him if he could get me a special rate at the Silver Legacy for the 4 days I would have to stay before my week started. I also asked for the opportunity to do guest sets on the shows.

I felt pretty lucky when he said he could do both.

When I got to the Silver Legacy I found out it worked out pretty well for them that I came out early. As it turned out, the comedian that was featuring at club that week wasn’t feeling well. So I was able to take his place. In addition they were able to give me food vouchers that covered all my meals until my week started.

The other bonus came from the headliner. The comedian that was originally scheduled for the week cancelled at the last minute. The replacement they found happens to book a venue in Oregon that pays pretty well. So not only was I able to get in some stage time, I was able to find work that I didn't even know existed!

Had I found a Motel6, parked myself in it and watched TV for the weekend "saving money" I would have missed out on the great stage time and the chance at new work.

The lesson learned here is a simple one. If you really want to do something you need to keep yourself immersed in the culture of what you want to do. No one is going to see you when you are on the outside looking in.



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Off To A Good Start


The view from my room at the Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino in Reno Nevada

I am sitting in my hotel room in Reno Nevada reflecting on my November 1st show at Winners Casino in Winnemucca Nevada. I drove 1,630 miles over 3 days to get here.

If I were to tell you how much I made last night you would wonder why I do such a thing.

I did it because it was on the way to my next show and it paid the expenses to get out here. Then there was the opportunity to do an hour of comedy.

I believe that as long as you make the commitment, every show you do improves your skill at comedy. You can come up with a new joke, make an existing one better, come up with a premise for a new bit or you can learn a little more about dealing with the audience.

The latter generally comes from bombing. Bombing is a great learning experience for a comedian. It is important for a comedian to learn "how to bomb". When I say that don't believe that comedians everywhere should go on stage and perform horribly on purpose. I believe that as a comic you need to become comfortable when you bomb; because that is when the learning starts.

You see; as you begin to bomb you start to feel uncomfortable. As the bombing continues it will eventually trigger the panic that comes from "fight or flight" feelings. Nature has given us this emotion to protect us; a sixth sense that will get you out of a bad situation. It's there to save your life. Even so, it's not a good or productive feeling to have when you are on stage.

I think we can all agree that no one is going to die while bombing on stage; but that does not minimize the panic that you feel. This is the feeling a comedian needs to become comfortable with. Once you are able to push past the panic you are able to assess the situation for what it is. You can then figure out how to get out of it or what to do the next time to prevent it.

Which leads to the age old argument amongst comedians; whose fault is it. In other words, was it your fault or was it just a bad audience.

I will tell you it is my belief that it is always the comedians fault. I will also say that when I make that statement I don't believe that it means the comedian always makes a "mistake". In most cases it’s because the comedian has never been confronted with the situation he or she is in.

Therein lies the rub ... technically we are not talking about "fault" as much as we are talking about "inexperience". This is why it is so important to be comfortable when you are bombing; because as a comedian you need to be able to adjust to your audience. You need to be able to change your material, cadence, inflections, energy level or whatever you feel is necessary to connect with the audience you are in front of. Sometimes, you even have to abandoning your act. If you do have to go to this extreme your choices are to do crowd work or do your best "riffing".

There are times that "none of the above" will work. If you can't work through that feeling of panic you will miss a lot of the experience; you will be focusing on the wrong things. You will in essence "lose the lesson" this show is giving you. In the event something like this happens again you will not have any idea of what to do. You will end up repeating a bad experience.

If you are lucky enough to get to a point of being famous enough that people will buy a ticket to see you; the above may not apply. You have become a commodity that a club can resell; you do not necessarily have to do a great show.

The truth is that among comedians the "have" and "have not's" are distinguished between the comedians that draw versus those that do not.

If you draw there is a never ending amount of work you can book. If you don't do well in some venues versus others it doesn't matter, there are always more venues that will book you.

If you don't draw you have to be able to bring a great show every time you go on stage regardless of who is in the room or what the conditions are. If not, there is a never ending pool of working comedians out there that the club will use instead of you.

In the end it's all about making the club happy which means the audience must be satisfied that they purchased a ticket. That can be as simple as being able to say "I saw [insert famous comic name here]" or "man was that comic funny".

For the record … I had a pretty good show there. I had a good opening act that warmed up the crowd and they liked what I did.

I even learned something ...




Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.


Monday, September 17, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished



I’ve always believed in this old saying. It seems like doing what you feel is the right thing can really come back to hit you hard. In this case I was blindsided.

I don’t want this to be a completely negative thing so before I get into what has happened I would like to thank everyone for their support of my friend Caleb Medley. Your outpouring of generosity, concern and love for him is like nothing I’ve ever personally experienced. In a very dark time your light shined brightly and kept me from being even more afraid than I already was.

I owe all of you a debt I will never be able to repay.

I had prepared this thank you letter for a "public statement" of sorts and want to share it with you.

Going to a movie should not be a life and death decision, yet that is exactly what it ended up being for Caleb Medley.

Caleb is not the kind of person that ever looked for trouble. In fact he is one of those people that everyone seems to like. Not because he tried to be everything to everyone; because he is a unique individual who lives his life in a good way. Always staying true to his morality his approach to life is an honest one.

That’s what makes Caleb’s situation both compelling and tragic. He was living his life in a way anyone would be proud of. He was responsible, honest, loved by those who knew him and at just 23 years of age he was at a point in his life where he was beginning to live his dream.

Not many people can say that.

I tell you all that to tell you this...

I really have no words to adequately describe how grateful and thankful I am for what you’ve done.

I know Caleb well enough to know that if he were conscious of what was going on right now he would be humbled and grateful by the extent of your generosity and interest in his life.

The words "Thank You" just do not seem to be enough.

I can only say that you have made a difference in the life of a young man that is truly worthy of your help.

Now onto what has just happened...

As I write this I am in Fremont County Colorado. It is the very first time I have been able to come back since Caleb was shot. I had gotten some work to finance the trip back and could not have been happier for it. I am not a wealthy person by any means, I barely get by. There was no way for me to get back here unless I had some work to pay for it. Otherwise I would have gone back the day I found out Caleb was shot.

All I wanted to do while I was back here was see Caleb. I reached out to the family on Tuesday and received no response to my request. I followed up several times and finally received this from Caleb’s brother Seth. I am posting it unedited as I received it.


Only friends and relatives. You know. Family. People who support and genuinely care for his recovery. Not people who see this situation as an opportunity to grab some fame or fast cash like you. You had me fooled, Vilmos. I honestly thought you were a decent guy, but you tried to commercialize my brother while he was "still a hot enough topic to make some money". So that, not some big conspiracy or family vendetta, is why you cannot and will not see Caleb. As far as Im concerned, you should never even try and contact us again, but its ultimately Calebs decision and since he can't make that decision, we as a family feel you should keep your distance.

I will say this about the above statement. I have pretty thick skin. I was in banking/lending from 1979 – 1987; my "specialty" was loan collections. I’ve been a comedian since 1992. I’ve had a lot of people go out of their way to hurt me; some have succeeded.

Seth if you were striking out to hurt me you certainly succeeded. I honestly can’t remember anything ever making me feel worse than what you wrote; congratulations.

In the past I have fired back at things like this. I have done so with vicious words or actions and made sure the person who had wronged me felt the pain I did. I just don’t have that in me. This situation has truly worn me out emotionally. I have been sick with worry and fear since I heard what happened and truthfully no one in Caleb’s immediate family has been sensitive to how I feel.

I have been made to feel like some sort of "outsider" and this message is clear evidence of that. All I’ve ever wanted to know was how Caleb was. They have never been forthcoming with that information. I have always had to find out from someone they told. Whenever I did heard something from them it was nothing more than what they had already told the media.

With that in mind I feel the need to respond to this as my integrity has been challenged.

"Only friends and relatives. You know. Family. People who support and genuinely care for his recovery."

I don’t need to explain my relationship with Caleb to anyone. All you have to do is watch Caleb’s episode of "Caleb Saves the Internet" when we went on the road to do comedy shows. Or listen to the episode of the Green Room podcast when he talked about our relationship.




"Not people who see this situation as an opportunity to grab some fame or fast cash like you."

Let’s consider the fame part of this statement first.

Unlike the Medleys I have taken the time to do this thing called a Google search and (as of the time of this writing) found out the following:

A Google Search of "Caleb Medley" and Vilmos returns 356 results
A Google Search of "Caleb Medley" and "Michael West" returns 19,200 results

Who is getting fame here? It’s certainly not me. I have not done one television interview and did maybe 5 or 6 radio appearances which all consisted of telling Caleb’s story. I never spoke about myself in any of them; I just wanted to get Caleb’s story out there. I would have to estimate my actual news interviews (including newspapers) at 10. I haven’t even been able to go to one event held for Caleb; I have had to grieve alone.

I did not seek out nor do I want fame for this. Michael West has clearly been the star of this. I saw no opportunity here and the numbers show that. You may be wondering why there are there 356 results then. Most of them are the mentioning of my name in articles because I created the Support Caleb web site; they weren’t interviews with me.

Now let’s consider the "fast cash" portion of this statement.

I have made no money from this event. In fact, I was not asked nor have I given any input regarding money in this situation. All the choices for that were done by Otis, Caleb’s father. I live a thousand miles away.

I have not received nor will I ever receive any benefit for this and for the record I don’t want anything either. The reality is quite the opposite; I have been so upset and consumed with all this that I have been unable to get any work done. I have projects I have put on hold to lend my support here. I only get paid when I work; this has killed me financially.

"but you tried to commercialize my brother while he was "still a hot enough topic to make some money"

First off the statement "still a hot enough topic to make some money" is a ridiculous interpretation of what I told Otis in a conversation we had on Wednesday July 25th. My statement was "we have a window of 5 days here".

What I was referring to was that we had 5 days to get Caleb’s story out. After that the media and the public move on. Anyone that watches TV, reads a newspaper or browses the Internet knows this. To believe I wanted to "commercialize" Caleb is ridiculous. I knew then as I know now that Caleb needs every bit of support we can get for him. That’s why I made the web site and that’s why I worked so hard to get Caleb’s story out there. So people could know who Caleb is and how much help he was going to need.

I also don’t care what form that help comes in; prayer, money or words of encouragement. Any of those work for me. But no one can do any of those things if they are not aware of Caleb’s plight.

I will never apologize for bringing Caleb’s story to the public.

"So that, not some big conspiracy or family vendetta is why you cannot and will not see Caleb.""

Actually there is a vendetta and is been Otis leading the charge all along. I’m not attacking him here just making a statement of fact. I had met Otis on several occasions before this and they were all brief. They consisted of me telling him what a great person I thought Caleb was and him not being able to get away from me fast enough.

The truth is that Otis has never liked me and the reason is a simple one; he wanted a different life for his son. He doesn’t want Caleb to be a comedian and I have been helping Caleb on his journey towards that. I am the enemy because of it.

"As far as Im concerned, you should never even try and contact us again, but its ultimately Calebs decision and since he can't make that decision, we as a family feel you should keep your distance."

That statement has Otis written all over it. I’m being punished for not falling in line.

I can’t do that and as I’ve said before will never apologize for what I’ve done. In fact, I don’t even want a thank you; I never did. I did all this for one reason; to help my friend, someone I consider and love like my own family.

If you can’t understand that, I can’t make you. I will only say this.

Seth:
What you wrote clearly came from your father. You should take the time to go onto the Internet and do a little reading, watch a little video and listen to some audio. Talk to some of Caleb’s friends who know both of us; ask them. Formulate your own opinion based on what you know; don’t base it on what someone tells you.

Otis:
Your motivation for all of this is very clear to me. You present yourself as a Christian man; you are the minister of a church. None of your attitude towards me reflects this.

Michael West:
I am offended as an artist that you claimed my work. I didn’t need recognition for it. I would have been happy if you would have just left my name out of the whole thing. Just because I’m a comedian doesn’t mean I seek fame. I have other reasons for being a comic. I would have been happy staying behind the scenes. It was you who drug me into this by time and time again saying that you developed or helped me develop the web site. You know you had nothing to do with the concept, implementation, design or generation of the site. I believe this kind of thing shows what kind of person you truly are. I don’t need to say any more.

Katie:
I have no words for you; I am just confused. You sure have your hands full. I thought of everyone even though we don’t know each other well through Caleb you understood what he means to me and would have honored that. I give to you all the understanding I have; if Caleb loves you that’s good enough for me.

Hugo:
If there was such a thing as a parent lottery you have won the grand prize. You have great parents and my hope for you is that you have an unbelievably rich life.

Caleb:
Dude I miss you terribly and think about how I can help you each and every day. Regardless of what has happened here I will do whatever I can for you. You of all people know how I am and I hope that you will forgive me if from time to time I make the mistake of allowing my feelings to guide my reaction to the events playing out here. My promise to you is that I will do my very best to keep things in check.

I also hope your recovery from all this comes out exceeding everyone’s expectations. I know this is something you have in you; it’s something you can do. You are my family and I love you for who you are.

I will see you on the other side of this and I hope someday we will be able to share a stage again …



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Caleb's Story Continued ...


If you made it here you really do want to know EVERYTHING about Caleb ...... Thank You!

I suppose I should start by telling you that my name is Vilmos, just like it says on the banner above these words.

You're also wondering, what is my connection to Caleb? Well that's a little complicated. It's a little of everything; friend, antagonist, big brother, and comedy mentor. I am also the one that set up Caleb's web site; I created ALL the content on the site with the exception of Mike West's story; he wrote that himself. No one asked or told me to do it, I did it on my own because it was the only thing I could do to help Caleb right now. I'm also the one responsible for getting you here because I'm the one behind the Internet campaign to share Caleb's story.

So you'd think I was a close family friend, that I know Caleb's parents, and have been to Caleb's family home, but I don’t really know Caleb’s family, nor have I ever been to their home. My relationship with the Medley family is only with Caleb. With the exception of Katie, his family knows who I am but I'm sure they have no idea how close my relationship with Caleb is.

Which makes this situation even more difficult for me because I'm shut out of all this. I'm a thousand miles away and unable to get there. They are in their own bubble right now and rightfully so. I understand all that but just as they have grief over this, so do I. The way I get past my grief is to talk about things. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not getting much love from the Medley camp. I really have no one to talk with about this. I live in a little bit of a bubble myself. I need to talk to someone about this, so I guess it’s going to be you. If you're wondering why I am doing so in such a public environment it's a pretty simple answer, it's what I do. I'm a comic, I share my life with people every time I get on stage. This is what I am comfortable with.

So let's get to the story.....

Caleb grew up in the town I lived in; Florence, Colorado. He moved there from somewhere else (Texas I think) when he was in Elementary School, so he went to school with my kids. I owned the only video store in town, so he rented movies from me.

My first direct interaction with Caleb would have been when he was in the 8th grade. Once a year his school had a career day. People came in and spoke to the 8th graders about their careers, why they choose them, and what it was like to do what they do. Since I was the only "professional" entertainer in town I was assigned the task of talking about what it took to be in that world. My strategy was a simple one; talk them out of it, or at least, make sure that they had a backup plan. The business of being a professional entertainer is a difficult one, and a person’s chances of "making it" are about the same as playing first base for the New York Yankees. Not only do you need the skill, you need a little luck and you need to be in the right places at the right times.

So every year I would take the 30 minutes allotted to me and spend 20 of them talking about college and getting an education. I told them to learn a trade, I told them to educate themselves so that if they didn't make it they would have some way to support themselves. I would later come to find out that every year my career day presentation was the one that was looked forward to the most.

One person who was especially looking forward to my presentation was Young Caleb Medley. That's what I called him back then and when I think of him, that is what pops into my head. I like the way it sounds and I really don't know why, I just do. Caleb is a very creative person and comedy had interested him, so when I did my presentation for his class he ignored my first 20 minutes and drilled in on the final 10. He would later tell me it was that day that he decided he wanted to be a comedian. So in a very small way, I suppose I am partially responsible for him and Katie being in that theater at Midnight on Friday July 20, 2012. You'll figure out why as I go along.

I'm sure over the next several years Caleb and I had interactions from time to time, but nothing I really remember. My friendship and admiration for who he is really came into focus for me when I saw him appear at the talent show his senior year of high school. One of my kids was in the show so I was there to support her. Caleb and his friend Thomas were the MCs of the event and not allowed to participate in the contest. In truth, it probably was for the best, as it would not have been a fair fight. They did a fantastic job. They were funny in a unique way and as MCs they were able to get more stage time. They were really allowed to shine. I was impressed.

At the time I owned a comedy club in Denver and the school had asked me to produce a comedy show for a concert series they were doing in the new high schools fine arts center. I had already booked all the acts but I wanted to reward Caleb (and Thomas) for their efforts. So I offered them a 5 minute slot in the show which they eagerly accepted.

They did very well in that show and I am proud to say that I was the first person to ever pay Caleb for performing as a comedian. It was somewhere during this event that Caleb told me he had decided to become a stand up comic. From that point on, Caleb and I grew closer as friends and that's when I became his comedy mentor. I encouraged, supported, and gave him advice when I could. I am also proud to say that I have been a part of some of Caleb's important comedy milestones.

I do not tell you this to brag, I tell you this because I was able to make opportunities for him to allow him to do something he really wanted to do. I was able to support him in getting a little closer to his dream.

I gave him his first stage time in a comedy club. It was in the fall of 2008 when I took him up to Wits End Comedy Club in Denver to do a 7 minute slot on the show. The headliner that night was a great comic and friend, Dennis Blair. Dennis has his place in comedy history; he was George Carlin's opening act for 20 years. He had also opened for other comedy greats like Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield and Jackie Mason. After the show Caleb, Dennis, and I went to the "Comedy Condo" which is the generic term used for wherever the comedy club chooses to put the comics up in while they appear at the club. Dennis and I then did what comics do after a show. We started talking; we talked about comedy and shared stories with each other. Caleb sat listening intently as Dennis talked about the people he knew; people like Carlin, Dangerfield, and Rivers. I talked about the people I knew; who were all a lot less famous. You'd have to ask Caleb, but it was that night that I believe Caleb really came to understand what it meant to be a comedian. To me, it was a reminder of why I was one.

What followed was Caleb struggling to find time to become a comic, but he had responsibilities. He got married to Katie and he needed to earn a living. He worked at the local grocery store and the hours did not lend themselves well to getting on stage. Neither did the town of Florence Colorado. It's not a bad place, there's just no place to do comedy. Even so, Caleb never lost touch with his dream and took every opportunity he could to pursue it.

I helped wherever I could. I kept him in touch with the world of comedy by sharing my stories with him and encouraging him to stick with it. I was even able to get him out on his first road trip. We had a great time and were able to chronicle it all. He in his web series called "Caleb Saves the Internet"; I did so with him in my Podcast called The Green Room. Both can be found on the Support Caleb page. I think this road trip really brought Caleb to a point where he made the decision to move to Denver and really work at it. It worked out well for Katie too; she wanted to get into veterinary medicine and Denver had a great school that she could attend. Of course life is never without irony, at the school Katie was going to attend one of her teachers would be Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald. Kevin is not only a great vet, he's also a great comedian. The irony is that Kevin was the headliner that was on that first show that Caleb ever was paid for.

It took Caleb and Katie some time but they finally made it to Denver. They got a small apartment in Aurora. Katie was able to transfer from the WalMart store she worked at in Canon City; Caleb had to find a job.

Caleb found work right away with WalMart, but it was the WalMart in Evergreen, Colorado. Evergreen is a mountain community west of Denver. Aurora is on the southeast side of Denver; which gave Caleb a long drive back and forth to work through the mountains each and every day. Plus the work was at night and was not conducive to a comedy career, but Caleb needed to make a living first.

So while Caleb worked at WalMart he continued to look for another job. Something a little closer to home with hours that would be more conducive to comedy. He got on with a Target in Aurora. It was closer to home and the hours were a little better. He had to take a pay cut, but by the time you considered the money he saved on gas, the amount he was able to keep was nearly the same.

Things were looking up! Caleb was getting a little stage time here and there and he had a little extra time on his hands; apparently a little too much. Soon Katie was pregnant; and while it wasn't a perfect time for them they knew they were going to have children eventually. They adjusted their plans to make room for a new addition to their family.

Caleb continued to feel the need to do comedy and continued to look for ways to fit it into his life. He managed to get hired on with WalMart again, this time close to home and with hours that would allow him to really get into comedy. Katie's health was good and everything was looking up. That's what makes Caleb's story so tragic; he was on his way. He had a good job, he had a son coming, he had a wife that loved him and he was doing comedy; all the things he wanted to do. His life was moving in just the direction he wanted; he had everything to look forward to.

This is being written just 5 days after he was shot. It seems that he is going to survive this. No one knows how he will be affected by this; no one will ever find out what could have been.

I can tell you one thing for certain, Caleb is an optimist. No matter how this turns out he will persevere. He will eventually become the comedian he is destined to be. I believe that because I believe in him.

He was perfectly willing to make this journey of his own. I know him well enough to know that he would never ask for your help, but I have no problem doing so.

Your help can come in many forms. It could be a kind word; it could be a prayer; it could be sending good vibes or white light, or it could be a couple of dollars. You can do any or all of those things at the link on this page. The most important thing you can do is to get Caleb’s story out there. Please share this with your friends and encourage them to do what I am asking you to do, whatever you can.




Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.