Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry F'ing Christmas


I will be the first to tell you I don't look forward to the holidays, not one of them. I don't celebrate my birthday either. Even my best friends have no idea what my birthday is.

I go out of my way to avoid all things that may be a celebration.

I never liked Halloween because I was frightened as a child. I never celebrated my birthday because well ... that's a story for another blog.

I'm not going to tell you I hate Holidays because I don't. I also don't fault anyone the enjoys Holidays. I'm not one of those that believes just because I don't like it, everyone should fall in step with me.

I didn't always hate the Holidays. There was a time in my life I actually looked forward to them. That all changed when I got divorced. I lost my sense of family when that happened. That combined with my ex went going of her way to make sure there was no holiday between me and my children just put me in a bad place when they cam around.

It started in 1995 and until this year I've pretty much just watched the Holidays pass each and every year. I wish people whatever is appropriate for the season and buy gifts for the people in my life I was supposed to. I've just gone through the motions.

Over the past couple years I've noticed an ever so slight change in how I view the Holidays. My participation has increased. It's because of the woman  I'm in a relationship with, Shannon. I was lucky enough to meet her in 2006. I'm not going to get into her personal situation because that's her's to tell. I'll just say this, she's had a difficult life. Even so she is an upbeat person. She remains hopeful and goes out of her way to find the good in people.

Which explains my relationship with her.

Since I've known her all I've ever wanted is the best for her. She's too good of a person to receive any less. She deserves much better than she received  out of life. I don't have a lot. It's not like I can throw a bunch of money at her life. The best things I can do for her are to be a good partner and do the best I can to give her a life that is a carefree as possible.

Part of that is making the Holidays a good experience for her. Making sure she has a good Christmas has been a priority for me. Somewhere along the way the satisfaction I have received from making sure Shannon's Christmas was good has changed things for me. I've started to actually look forward to Christmas.

It's been great watching Shannon celebrate Christmas. In the process I've been making some good Christmas memories myself. I'll have to admit this year I was even looking forward to Christmas decorations.

I got my real proof day before yesterday ...

Shannon and I had to make a trip into town to pick up medication for my mother. She gets her meds at the local Target pharmacy. As you can expect on December 23 it was extremely busy in the store and the lines at the Pharmacy were no exception. There must have been a sale on Vicodin because you know nothing says Christmas more than a big Christmas dinner followed by 2 Vicodin washed down with egg nog.

There were 2 lines stretching into to Pharmacy counter, each one in a different isle. Shannon and I patiently waited in one of the lines and when it was our turn we stepped up to the counter. We told the girl behind the counter what we were picking up and as she went to get my mother's meds I could hear what I can only describe as disapproval coming from behind us. I turned around to see a women that had been in the other line giving me the indignant stare of someone who had been cut in front of.

Even though we had patiently waited and it was actually my turn I figured we were in no hurry so why not let this women go ahead of us. It was pretty apparent she wasn't having a great shopping experience.

I should point out that normally I would let this woman stew in her own juices. It's been my experience that the majority of people that are unhappy have created that state of mind all on their own. They are generally narcissists that believe they are entitled to some sort of special pass in life and when it doesn't happen they get angry. This woman was clearly one of those.

She said nothing to me as she walked in front of me. She completely her transaction and as she was walking by me leaving she gave me a look of disgust. In the spur of the moment I made a decision, one that saved her day. I let it go.

Normally I would have let this woman ruin her own day. All I would have done was lit the fuse. All I had to say was "You could have at least said thank you". She would have blasted off like a Space Shuttle launch. Which is probably what she deserved.

I'm not going to lie to you, she deserved that. I will normally not let these kinds of things pass because I don't feel that people like her have the right to impose themselves on others. Most people won't do anything about someone like her. I firmly believe that as long as I'm not putting myself in harms way if I can do something that will cause someone like her to ruin their own day I am almost obligated to do so.

Even though ruining her day would not have affected mine in any way I decided to stay with the spirit of the Christmas season. I'm with the woman I love and I'm having a good day. So I took the high road and said nothing.

Merry F'ing Christmas lady ...



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.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

PayPal Makes Black Friday Even Darker - Part III


You could call this my Christmas story ... at least it's about the buying of presents.

If you haven't done so you should probably read Part I and Part II.

Part II ended with PayPal telling me they were looking out for my best interest. Even though they clearly were looking out for theirs and if I happened to benefit that was okay with them.

That's when my argument with PayPal went to email and things really started happening.  I was contacted by Frank and in his initial email he wrote this:

Please accept our sincere apologies for this experience. While you are correct that we want to avoid fraud payments as a cost saving measure, we also want to avoid frustrating chargeback investigations for our customers. I know in this case our security system was wrong and I can certainly submit this case to our risk teams to see what improvements we can make to our anti-fraud rules.

I have admit Frank started in the right place, with an apology. He followed up with the acknowledgement that their fraud restrictions benefit them. He also used the word "wrong" which in this instance was a good thing.

What followed was an exchange of emails that lasted for 6 days. These emails consisted of me venting my frustration with the situation and Frank taking it all in and being extremely sympathetic to what I went through.

I'm not going to lie, I wasn't buying the sympathy. After all, why would a company like PayPal care about someone like me. I don't move large sums of money. So when Frank offered to make the whole thing right I was stunned! Frank actually offered monetary compensation to make up for the deals that I wasn't able to take advantage of.

Frank's offer created a significant problem for me. I was very busy grinding my axe. If I wasn't out any money how would I be able to continue to make PayPal the villain I wanted them to be? Here I was doing my best to make sure Santa brought them coal this year and what do they do? The right thing! This could seriously interrupt my plans.

Plus what if I do take the money? What will they think of me then? That I just was complaining on Twitter to get something out of them? I wasn't in this for the money, I was in this for the indignant complaining. I had no intentions of taking any money and ruining a perfectly good reason to complain to a well established company.

How dare they!

So I ignored the monitory offer and kept complaining. I have to give Frank credit. He was nothing but kind, understanding and sympathetic throughout the entire exchange. Eventually all that took hold and my anger subsided. With it gone I took the time to look at the situation for what it really was.

PayPal a very large company had made a mistake. A technical one that is understandable but even so, one that could have been avoided. I complained through social networking (Twitter) and they actually responded. Not only did they respond, they apologized and offered to make it right.

I on the other hand was still complaining. Why was I still complaining when they were willing to make things right?

That is when I stopped and that is when this Christmas story takes the classic turn and ends on a positive note.

While it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss exactly what happened I will say this. PayPal acknowledged a mistake, apologized for it and took steps to correct the issue. They went well beyond what a company of their size would be expected to do.

I was a big fan of PayPal before this whole thing happened. After seeing how it all played out I have to say that I am even more impressed with them. What they did is the mark of a good company and it's the kind of company I want to deal with.

So in the end, PayPal made Santa proud ...



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.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Weaker Signal


Standup comedy is fickle. You can be doing everything right when it comes to your performances and going nowhere in your career. There are and have been many great standup comedians that have never gotten anywhere close to the recognition and fame they deserved.

On the other hand fate seems to treat the mediocre in our art very well. There are many examples of comedians with less than desirable skills that are household names. Some of my standup comedy brothers are resentful of this, I am not. Over the many years I've been been doing this I have come to understand that you can chase fame and sometimes actually catch it. But for the most part if you are destined for fame it's going to find you before you ever catch it.

The key to the game of becoming famous has more to do with being in the right place at the right time, making yourself available for it. In truth even that does not guarantee anything. You can be there waving your hands and screaming but it just may not be your time. The spotlight that is fame may shine on you for an instant, that may not be long enough to make anything happen.

When I started in 1992 one of the best chances a standup comedian had to get to noticed was very well defined. It was radio and touring was the way you got yourself on the air. Radio is what most clubs used to put "butts in the seats". To be specific it was morning radio and for the most part it was for headliners only.

It was a pretty simple formula. Work your way up to becoming a club headliner. For most that involved 7 - 10 years of constant touring, but it payed off in exposure. Once you became a "legit" headliner things started happening for you.

Comedy club books headlining comedian. Headlining comedian comes to club on Wednesday. Headlining comedian does shows on Wednesday and Thursday night. Friday morning headlining comedian gets up at a very uncomfortably early hour and is driven to the radio station by a club employee. The headlining comedian then makes an appearance on the morning radio show to promote them-self and the club.  Sometimes these stations are clustered together in the same building and the headlining comedian can go from studio to studio and be on 4 or more stations in a morning.

As long as the comedian got it right two things happened. The comedian would have an audience of 10s to 100s of thousands for a short period of time and club would fill up on the weekend. It was the opportunity for a comedian to create a following. So if you were a comedian that headlined all over the country you could become known to millions of people.

I've said many times before, standup comedy is a numbers game. Once you have gotten the attention of millions of people what you do with that time is up to you. How they react and whether they even remember you is up to them.

The classic example of how well this all worked is Larry the Cable Guy. There would be no Larry the Cable Guy without morning radio. He figured it out and got it right. He toured around the country, got on morning radio through the club, did a great job when he was on, made a connection with the show and then continued that connection once he left by phone weekly. What he did was nothing short of brilliant and required hard work and effort on Cable Guy's part. I have friends in radio that were there when he was coming up. The stories they shared with me are one of a talented, smart and hard working man that had a plan and stuck with it.

There was a short cut of sorts back in the day. A radio show called The Bob and Tom show. Why? A simple answer, they are the biggest morning radio show in the country. I don't know how many stations they are syndicated on but I'm sure the number is in the hundreds. They were the Johnny Carson of radio. Just as Johnny did, Bob and Tom have made the careers of many standup comedians. They truly were the Holy Grail of standup comedy.

You'll may have noticed the word "were", that is not meant to be a dig against Bob and Tom. Things have changed. Reaching people has dramatically changed over the past 10 years. It used to be that people on the way to work sat in their cars and listened to morning radio as they inched along in rush hour traffic. It was their only option, not any more. Now they can talk on the phone, listen to Podcasts, check their email, text, Facebook, Twitter and who knows what else.

This has had a significant effect on the impact of morning radio which has in turn impacted standup comedy. Morning radio will no longer fill up the clubs on the weekend. This has created a real issue for comedy clubs around the country that are now scrambling to find the "next big thing" that will fill their rooms.

The problem is there is no "next big thing", it's now a combination of things; radio, social networking and in club promotion. Unfortunately there is no "standard" formula. Each and every club will now have to figure it out for themselves. Some are doing better at it than others, some are just dying.

It used to be that comedy clubs gave standup comedians a place to develop their talent. These same comedians would go on to be famous and return to the clubs and bring their audience with them. Much like baseball has a farm club system to develop their players.

Not any more. More and more clubs now have a "what can you do for me" attitude when it comes to how they deal with their talent. Since they haven't been able to figure out how to draw a crowd on their own they now look to comedians to bring in a crowd for them. They bring in the comedians of Chelsea Lately, Last Comic Standing or [insert name here] actor that is on a popular TV show that is a part time standup.

I have no issue with the shows I mentioned. I don't even have an issue with these comics taking work. My issue is that these clubs are bringing in comedians that don't have the skill or the material to do what the comedians I came up with could. You don't need a strong 60 minutes of material to be on TV, but you do need that to kill in a comedy club. The club trades on their fame to fill the seats but then the comedian falls short once they get on the stage. I think what the clubs are missing is that every time someone shells out money to see someone famous and they are disappointed it makes them apprehensive when it comes to spending the money again.

In essence, (if this were even possible) they are like a tree that cuts off it's own roots to move into a sunnier spot. The leaves may get a little greener for a while but without the water a root system provides the tree will die. It's the same in standup comedy. Rather than concentrate on finding out how to develop a customer base of comedy lovers that will come back time after time to see quality standup they have chosen a short cut that in time will cause them to die off.

Which is already happening. Take a look at the number of comedy clubs there are in this country now and compare it to 10 years ago. There are no where near the number of clubs there used to be. I can tell you it is going to get much worse. Comedians have fewer and fewer places to hone their skills. Which in turn will shrink the pool of quality standup comedians which will degrade the quality of talent on stage. Which will keep people out of the clubs because the shows won't be worth seeing. The loss of audience will cause clubs to close. Which will give comedians fewer and ...

Get it? I sure hope the clubs figure it out soon.



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, December 10, 2013

PayPal Makes Black Friday Even Darker - Part II


If you haven't read the first part of this story you should. It's the part that includes hope, it's right here.

This part starts as I stand at the checkout in the Garden Department of the Walmart in Belle Vernon Pennsylvania. I am holding all of my Black Friday shopping in my hand. Cards that represented gifts for people that are important to me. There were also a few cards in there for things that I really wanted.

My PayPal MasterCard has been declined and there was no good reason for it. I had some money in my pocket. I bought what I could and then left. I was frustrated that things didn't work out and embarrassed because when the card was declined. I felt ... awful.

I had to make a decision when I was at that checkout. I knew I was not going to be able to purchase those items at those prices once I left that building. I had some traveling money and I thought I had enough gas left to get to Carlisle Pennsylvania. I could use the money to buy what I could but what happens if I use the money and there's something about my PayPal card that cannot be fixed? How will I finish my trip? How am I going to eat? In the end I decided to the chance and use the money I had to purchase what I could.

I got into my car and made my way to my hotel in Carlisle. I made it there close to Midnight with my gas gauge on E. I had no money in my pocket and didn't know if I was going to be able to get my room. I had guaranteed the room with the same PayPal card that 3 hours ago hadn't worked at Walmart. I had suspected that the reason my card had been declined at Walmart was because this hotel had put a ridiculously large hold on my account. My hope was that the authorization they had made would hold and they would give me my room. To my relief, I that is what happened.

When I got up in the next morning my very first call was to PayPal. I had called them while I was in the Walmart the night before but guess what? Their offices were closed to allow their employees the opportunity to enjoy the holiday. They sent everyone home on one of the largest shopping days of year when their system would most certainly be pushed to it's limits. I'm no Ebenezer Scrooge, when I owned a business we were never open on holidays.  I wasn't in a business that needed to be open on a holiday. If you're in a business that you know people will depend on during one of the largest shopping days of the year wouldn't you want to have a few people to man the phones in case there was an issue? Apparently the folks at PayPal did not think so, they stayed home.

Once I got a PayPal representative on the phone I explained my situation. I fully expected to hear there had been a technical issue with the system. That thousands of people had the same problems I did and they were feverishly working to correct the problem, that they were very sorry. Or that the hotel had put some unbelievably large hold on my MasterCard for my room and that was why my card was declined.

It was neither. Here was the answer. "You were attempting to make a purchase in Pennsylvania and you live in Illinois. Our system considered that suspicious activity so for your protection your card was shut off."

What? How could this be I asked? I travel all over the country. I'm never in the same place week after week. Just last week in Canada over 3 days I traveled through British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan using my card as i went. Last Sunday I started my day in Grand Praire Alberta and ended it in Minot North Dakota. I charged gas in Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota in the same day without any issue. That's 2 different provinces and 2 different countries. The next day I drove from Minot North Dakota to my home in Illinois and charged things in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois without any issues. I was home for 2 days and then charged my way through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania without any issue on my way to that Walmart in Belle Vernon Pennsylvania.

If you have been counting that's 2 countries, 3 Canadian provinces and 7 states in 5 days. At least 20 charges. All approved, without any problem. Yet I attempt to make a purchase at a Walmart and it's "suspicious activity"? If I was a criminal on the run I couldn't have given a better road map of my activity. Anyone could look at my credit card activity and figure out I was traveling on I-70 east headed straight for Belle Vernon. Yet their system which allowed me to charge for things in 2 countries over the past 5 days could not figure that out?

I was also told that if I wanted to make sure this never happened again I should call PayPal before every trip and tell them where I'm going. Really? Doesn't that sound a little intrusive and unnecessary?

They "reset" my card so I can use it and I think I was told "sorry for your inconvenience". Now, I'm angry! Not good enough! I decided to take my displeasure to Twitter and sent out this Tweet

@PayPal Your "fraud alert" declined my purchase in PA because I live in IL. Last week in Canada I had no issues. You ruined my Black Fri

Followed by this:

@PayPal Since there wasn't enough room in the last tweet just want to make sure you hear it. Your "fraud alert" system stinks!

PayPal is a company that was built online so I wasn't surprised when I received a tweet response. The follow exchange occurred:

From PayPal:

@vilmosthecomic Oh no! I hope it's not too late. :( Please follow & DM your email address so we can investigate and help. ^FG

Me:

@AskPayPal No need I already got the answer. I need to tell where I'm going. Unacceptable! I'm a comic that travels every week.

@AskPayPal I'm not reporting my whereabouts to you. I was in 3 Canadian provinces and 5 states last week without issue.

@AskPayPal All you're doing is saving money at my inconvenience. The result, I was unable to make Black Friday purchases lost $300 in savings

@AskPayPal I'll be spending some time on this on my podcast this week #Theodore

Note: How I hate the spell check on my phone. The hash tag I typed out was #thespew and it was turned into #Theodore.

Then tweets this gem which made me even angrier:

@vilmosthecomic I know we can't change what already happened. :( Our intention is to protect our customers while keeping our service (more)

@vilmosthecomic ...as convenient as we can. If there's anything we can do to make this right, please let us know. ^FG

The statement "Our intention is to protect our customers while keeping our service as convenient as we can" is an absolute falsehood. Their customers are already protected by law. It's called the Fair Credit Billing Act and if your credit card is lost or stolen and used without your authorization you are only liable for the first $50 of whatever is charged.

What PayPal is attempting to do is minimize their potential loss at the inconvenience of their customers. What they did was up their fraud prevention criteria to be more restrictive while they were out for the day and not monitoring it or it could just be for the Christmas season. They then went home without any concern for how it was going to affect their clientele. Whey should it matter them that people like myself were unable to purchase things? They were able to squeak out an extra couple hundredths of percent in profit and all it cost them was some extra calls at the call center the next day.

But their narrative is "they are protecting their customers". Sure you are PayPal. Just like the hotel I'm staying at is "saving the environment" by asking me reuse my towels. I don't think they care about the environment, they care about their bottom line. If they can convince those staying in their hotel to reuse their towels to "save the environment" they save money. They don't have as much labor time washing them, they use less soap and use less water.

Why is it that companies think we're so stupid? Why can't they just be up front about their agenda. Hotels are a great example. I would have way more respect for hotels if they would just tell the truth. "Hello customer! We are trying to keep our expenses at a minimum. So if you use your towel for more than a day at home and you can do the same here, we'd appreciate it. Otherwise, we'd be happy to wash it for you!"

In the case of PayPal, just tell the truth. "There are a lot of people out there that are irresponsible when it comes to keeping their financial information confidential. We're doing our best to try to keep our losses to a minimum. Sometimes we'll be a little too restrictive but we're trying to keep our costs down so we don't have to raise our fees." Instead, they try to convince us that they're looking out for our "my best interest".

That's the equivalent of pissing down my back and tell me it's raining.

The point I would like to make is that a company should not be ashamed of looking out for their own best interest. It's a perfectly understandable thing. Doing so is what keeps them in business. You can argue that doing right by your customers is a part of looking out for your best interests.

That is where this story takes an unexpected turn ...



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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

PayPal Makes Black Friday Even Darker


I've never participated in a Black Friday sale. My view of Black Friday has always been people getting big-ticket items at huge discounts.

My lack of participation has always had to do with my finances. I have never had the discretionary income to go out and buy such things, I had bills to pay.

Every year I've watched the annual running of the shopping carts from the safety of my living room clutching my wallet. Fearing that I might get the idea that I could do that too.

Well, it finally happened. Things have gone pretty well this year. While I haven't made a ton of money I'm in a better place financially. I just came off of a 6 week comedy run with a few extra dollars. So I thought, maybe I can give this a try. I'll do some of my Christmas shopping on Black Friday! I'll get some cool things for myself and those I love. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I knew I didn't know exactly how it was all going to work, but I believed I could make it work.

I was sooooooo wrong ...

I'm not much for holidays any more (that's another story for another time) so I spent my Thanksgiving driving from my home in Illinois to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle is within 2 hours of my final destination, a comedy club that I'm working at on Black Friday. It will be my first time there. I could have left real early on Black Friday and made it, but getting close the day before enables me to get some rest the night before show and come in fresh. I can do a much better show when I'm not tired and stressed out from driving 14 hours.

Included in my travel plan was to stop at a Walmart, (actually 2 of them) on the way to take advantage of some Black Friday specials. They had some guaranteed pricing from 6 - 7 and more from 8 - 9. The plan was simple. Stop at the first Walmart at 6:00P, buy some stuff. Then I would head down the road, stop at the next one at 8:00P and buy more stuff. I would head into Carlisle.

Those of you laughing as you read that last paragraph have been through the Black Friday experience before and can see how naive I really was. I had no idea what I was I was walking into.

I left my home outside of Abingdon Illinois at 7:00A and drove through the states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio without incident, things were going well. By 5:45P I found myself in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania. I had done my preparation the day before and knew there was a Walmart there. I had made a list of 10 Walmarts that would be on my route. As I got close to Pennsylvania I would enter the addresses in my GPS to figure which one I could stop at about 30 minutes before the Black Friday start time, Belle Vernon was the big winner.

I wasn't even alarmed when I saw the Walmart parking lot was completely filled. I didn't even try to search for a spot. I took the first open spot I saw which was about as far away from the front door you could get. When I walked in the store I saw was crowded but I expected that, they gave me a map and I found where my big get was, an Ipad Mini.

I found the line for the Mini and it stretched so far that you couldn't see the beginning. It started in the Pharmacy and went along the outside wall stretching half way into Lawn and Garden. If you're a regular Walmart shopper that will have meant something to you. If not, trust me; that's a really long line. Even then I wasn't worried. When 6:00P came and the Black Friday event officially started I expected the line to start moving after a few minutes but it didn't. In fact at 6:15P I was still standing in the same place I started in, the line had gotten longer but still had not moved. I started to worry. The Ipad wasn't the only thing I wanted to get between 6 and 7, there were other items I wanted.

By 7:40P I had moved about 20 feet and it was becoming apparent I would not get through it by 8:00P. I would be lucky to be done by 9:00P. How was I going to buy the other things? I was getting really worried. It was then that a Walmart employee came down the line asking if people had a green wristband. Only those people would be getting an Ipad Mini tonight. What? I didn't have one of those wristbands! Walmart promised! If I was in the store between 6 and 7 I would get the Ipad Mini at a very special price. This is what I was thinking as the Walmart person explained that the people with the green wristbands take home an Ipad Mini. Everyone else gets a card to take to the cashier. Once you pay for it Walmart will ship the coveted Ipad Mini to the store of your choosing.

Perfect! I didn't want to carry stuff with me anyway! Give me my Ipad Mini card Walmart person! I'll go do the rest of my shopping! That's what I did. I went around the store and collecting the cards of the things I wanted because they had run out of EVERYTHING. Now that I was holding all the cards I was going to pay for all my great stuff, get a big discount and it would all be waiting for me when I got back home! I wouldn't have to carry it all around with me and worry about getting it stolen from my car. Things couldn't have worked out better!

Why was I even worrying?

Then it came time to pay. I went to the regular checkout lines and it looked like standing room only at a concert. There was no pattern to where people were standing. They were all just pointed toward the checkout stands. I was standing next to a woman who had a cart overflowing with boxes. She looked at me and said "If all you have is those cards you should try checking out at the Jewelry counter". I asked her "Is this some sort of trick to get me out of this line?" She smiled and said "No, I will save your place." Since it wasn't much of a place anyway off I went to the Jewelry counter. It was located in the center of the store.  Just the like the center of a hurricane it was pretty calm. There was a line there that I stood at the end of for a while that just wasn't moving.

At that point I didn't know what to do so I decided to go back to my people in the Ipad Mini line. I couldn't believe what I saw as I walked into the Lawn and Garden area. There was a cashier standing at her register and there were only 2 people in front of her! I quickly rushed toward the checkout station!

I was now the 3nd person in line at the Lawn and Garden Register! Wow was I lucky! All the other lines were much longer than this one. Unfortunately the cashier was stuck on the first person for almost an hour. She couldn't figure out how to properly check someone out with one of these cards. I patiently waited and thought, OK I'll just stay here for the 8:00P sale, I'll be a little late getting into Carlisle, but I'll have my shopping done. I'll pay for Round 1 and then go through Round 2 here. All is still well! This Black Friday thing is going to work out after all!

It was right about that time the cashier (with the help of 3 other manager type people) finally figured out how to check someone out. All the sudden it was my turn! All my waiting and worrying was about to pay off. My first ever Black Friday purchase! Man was I saving a lot of money! The cashier told me the total and as she and the people behind me watched I swiped my PayPal MasterCard to pay for my treasures.

Why didn't I take cash? I was buying a lot of stuff and I didn't want to take a lot of money. Besides, my PayPal card was bulletproof. It was never declined. You see the way it works is I charge something, PayPal authorizes it. Then it's taken out of my checking account automatically. I never get a bill and I can always use it. It's perfection when it comes to paying for things.

I had just spent 10 days in Canada and crossed 3 provinces. Not only did it work there. It paid in Canadian and automatically exchanged to US. How cool is that? So you can see why I would never even consider the possibility that my card would be declined. Which is exactly what happened and I was stunned. All that I just went through and now the card was not going to work? There must be a problem with the authorization system I told the clerk, there is no reason this shouldn't work is what I embarrassingly said as I asked her to try again. She did and again it didn't work and that's when I started getting the "it's time for you to move on loser" look from her and the people in line behind me. The looks of disapproval were making me feel extremely uncomfortable. I had a little cash with me but in the end I was able to get a couple of things but I left nearly empty handed and disappointed, my Black Friday was ruined.

The next day I called PayPal and asked what happened. They told me that because I lived in Illinois that my attempt to make a purchase in Pennsylvania triggered their fraud alert system. So to protect me, my card was "disabled".

That's when my disappointment turned into anger ....



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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why bother?


Most people would think that all it takes to make it as a stand-up comedian is the ability to be funny. I can tell you that is a part of it. I could even make a pretty good argument that it's not even the most important part.

When I first started doing comedy for pay I thought that in order to make it in the business I should not only concentrate on being funny I should also be a professional. I already knew what being a professional was all about. I owned several businesses at the time and had also successfully worked my up to being a Senior Loan Officer at a bank. You just don't do that without being professional.

Being professional at what you do requires commitment, you have to take things seriously. You have to communicate well, show up on time, be motivated and work hard. In the business world if you are a professional you greatly increase your chances of success. I know this because I've seen it happen many times and it has worked for me.

I can tell you it's not necessary in comedy. I have come to believe that actually the opposite is true when it comes to stand-up comedy. The more professional you are the more it seems to turn off the people that you work with. Show up on time, do a good job on stage, don't drink, greet people on the way out and then go right home after the show; don't plan on coming back.

Get there at the last minute, go onstage to cheerlead the crowd, drink through your whole act and then drink with the staff until they tell you to leave; you'll be coming back for sure. Why? It's actually simple enough, in the abstract a comedy club is a bar. Instead of having a jukebox or the occasional band for entertainment there are comics. A bar makes it's income selling drinks. That's what everything is geared towards.

I am going to generalize here but before I start I will say this. There are perfectly good, honest hard working people that work in bars. I'm not quite sure why but the people that work in bars are generally not of the finest caliber. That is not to say they are bad people. What I am saying is they seem to be more prone to drink and party. So they gravitate towards people who do the same.

Drinking and partying seems to be a favorite pastime of many of the comedians I have  known over the years. So you see we have 2 groups of like minded people that are brought together with the shared interest of having a good time. That good time involving will involve partying and we all know that alcohol is  major component when you are out to do some serious partying.

You see where I'm going here? People gravitate towards what they know. Is it any surprise that bad behavior is tolerated in the stand-up comedy world? Bad behavior seems to give you an "edge" that actually gets you ahead.

Are you someone that can walk into any bar, make friends and feel like you're at home? You are half way towards a successful career in stand-up comedy! That's because the people that staff the clubs that you will be working with will immediately sense you are one of them and embrace you. You'll party with them and it will make you a "club favorite". They will look forward to having you back.

I, on the other hand am an "acquired" taste. I don't have a lot to say to people. I figure when they are at work that's what they want to do, work. I don't drink before or while I'm on stage because I take what I do seriously. I'm trying to do the best show I can. To do that I need to have my wits about me, I don't want to be impaired in any way. I don't hang out after the show and drink with the staff because I'm not much of a conversationalist. I also (call me weird) have this thing about driving while impaired. I don't want to take the chance that I'll kill someone. I also don't want to get a DUI and loose my license. That's going to make working pretty difficult.

I guess I just don't get it ...



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 12, 2013

Why Don't You F&$%king Leave Idaho


The first time I walked into a comedy club was the fall of 1992. I was there to attend a weekly workshop for people interested in being a stand-up comic. I had seen 2 comedy shows on a cruise ship in 1979. I knew nothing about stand-up comedy, I just knew I wanted to do it.

I was not any good when I started, no one is. When you start performing your act is a mixed bag of bits that may or may not work. That's the way it is. It's funny how generous an audience can be. If you are really trying they seem to know it and are patient with you.

One of the things you have to get accustomed to is audience feed back. You very quickly learn that not everyone will appreciate what you do. I've said it many times but it bears repeating comedy is a numbers game, especially in the beginning. You write all kinds of jokes. You end up keeping the ones that do the best. The one that the highest percentage of people in the audience like.

Along the way you run onto people who don't like what you do. As a rule they let you know by not laughing at anything you say. Sometimes they'll cross their arms and stare disapprovingly at you while you do your act. It's like they are trying to intimidate you into leaving the stage.

On rare occasions someone will make a comment on the way out of the show. Generally those people will leave you with a "that was out of line", "you should not talk about that [insert topic here] in that way" or any number of judgmental type comments. As a rule these are never made in an aggressive manner but it does happen on occasion.

The harshest criticism comes via the comment card. Something set out on tables at all comedy clubs. The comment card allows people to say whatever they want without having to actually say it to your face. This breeds some particularly vicious comments since they don't have to actually say them to your face.

You'll notice I've not mentioned hecklers. I'm excluding them from this because these people may not necessarily interrupt your show because they don't like what you do. They could be anything from drunk idiots to self-absorbed narcissists. They are not a part of this discussion.

Over the years I've received my share of negative feedback and always have put in perspective. I don't expect everyone to like what I do. Whatever they have to say about my act falls on deaf ears. I know what I'm trying to accomplish and the only feedback I'll give any weight to comes from the audience response I get and others in the business whose opinion I value. I could care less what some person I don't know (and will probably never see again) thinks.

In all the years I've been performing comedy which has now reached 21 I have never had an encounter like the one after the 2nd show this past Saturday night at Liquid Laughs in Boise, Idaho.

Here is the abridged version:

After I had finished for the evening I sat down at the bar to have a drink before I went back to the hotel. I sat next to three 50 something women that had been someone disruptive in the showroom. They came in with about 5 minutes left in the features set and were disruptive. They left about 5 minutes into my set. No one had any confrontation with them in the showroom. They left of their own accord.

They are all clearly beyond their prime years. They are dressed in such a way as to be "noticeable" but not in a sexy way because for them that is not possible any more. They are extremely drunk and honestly you can tell they just are unhappy women. I would be willing to bet they are all divorced. I would also be willing to bet that they all hate men and I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

I'm looking forward minding my own business and the one closest to me starts it all:

Angry woman #1: You really are the worst comedian we've ever seen.

Me: I'm sorry you didn't enjoy my show.

Angry woman #1: No you don't understand. You're awful, you have no business going on stage.

Me: I don't expect everyone to like what I do.

Note: It was very apparent to me from the beginning that we were well beyond feedback and it was her intention to try to emotionally hurt me. It was in her body language and her voice.

Even though I was trying to be polite about it the conversation continued on a dark path. Angry women #2 and #3 both chimed in to let me know how absolutely unqualified I was to perform comedy. As if they were some sort of barometer of good comedy, but Angry woman #1 was clearly in charge.

It got to this point:

Me: If I'm so horrible how is it I was hired here? How is it I have been performing for almost 21 years? How is it I make a living doing this?

Angry women #1: I don't know, you're just horrible.

This continued and the strange thing about this was club staff watched this take place and did nothing to stop it. I'm not sure what their thoughts were but most clubs would have escorted these women out for their behavior. I'm not calling them out but I'd be curious to find out why they didn't intervene. They must have assumed I could defend myself.

That's what I did, for nearly 10 minutes and ended with this:

Angry woman #1: Why don't you just fucking leave Boise, fucking leave Idaho and never fucking come back to Idaho!

Me: There is no way that will ever happen.

At this point Angry Woman #1 turned to continue speaking with the other 2 and thankfully they finally ignored me. The bad thing was I couldn't get up and leave. Had I done so they wold have won. They would have thought their attempt at emotional intimidation harmed me.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Afterward one the staff did tell me that they kept asking for my name. I sure hope they remembered what it was and they find this.

Here is my message to those women:

You are all obviously unhappy. Your attempt to force your unhappiness on me was a miserable failure. There is nothing someone like you could ever say to me that would have value and I certainly would never give your opinion any power. You don't deserve nor have your earned that.

I would wish you well but I already know that would be a waste of my time. You are way too happy wallowing in your own anger. I can assure you that you will be the agent of your own destruction. You will continue to make the people around you so miserable that one by one they will leave you. Eventually you will be all alone, left with nothing to comfort you but the resentment of those smart enough to get away from you.

The beauty of all this is that I don't need to worry about what happens to you, karma will take care of that. I'm pretty sure yours is going to run over you like a freight train.



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, November 07, 2013

A Watched Pot


Useless Fact: A watched pot never boils.

Everyone knows this is not true. As long as you put enough heat under the pot it's going to boil in the same amount of time whether you watch it or not.

A search on the Internet and common sense tells us that this old saying relates to patience. That when you are waiting for an outcome that it will inevitably seem to take longer than the time that actually passed. That you are better off occupying yourself doing other things. That once things are started (or put in motion) that your result will happen.

That's not the way things work in the entertainment industry. You don't just wait for "things to happen". If that is your plan you are destined for failure in this business. No one makes it by waiting for something to happen.

Just like with the kettle if you want something to boil faster you have to turn up the heat. In real life the heat is effort. Making it in the entertainment takes a lot of it. You can have all the talent in the world but if you just wait for something to happen, nothing ever will.

In the entertainment business you have to be impatient. There needs to be a sense of urgency in everything you do. That sense of urgency turns into motivation. It motivates you to go beyond your limits, to test your self. It gives you the strength to continue on against insurmountable odds.

That is how you succeed ...



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, October 27, 2013

Following the police


Ennis Cafe located in downtown Ennis, Montana
I love just about everything about comedy. Even when I complain about something in the back of my mind I know that I'm extremely lucky to be doing what I do.

One of the perks (and curses) of being on the road is eating on the road. It's easy to eat fast food when travelling because it's easy to find and it's "consistent".

The real adventure begins when you have the courage to try a place you've never been to before. When you see the signs for McDonald's, Arbys, Burger King, Taco Bell and all the other fast food franchises it's tempting to stop there to eat. You pretty much already know what you're going to get and it's cheap. I can go through a McDonald's drive-thru and get 2 Double Cheeseburgers, Fries and a Diet Coke (you gotta draw the line somewhere) for about $6. It's fast, easy and let's be honest, my body is well-adjusted to that sort of food.

Deep fried Pork Sandwich served cafe style
at the Ennis Cafe in Ennis Montana
You can move up one rung on the restaurant ladder by going to an Applebees, Ruby Tuesdays, Denny's, Village Inn, Waffle House or any other of the national chain restaurants. The foods a little better and it costs a little more. You also have to tip so it's not hard to spend $10 - $15 to enjoy the food and decor of a corporate design team.


When I first got on the road I didn't go to many of these places, I was a vegetarian for the first 13 years I was on the road. So are you asking yourself if he was a vegetarian how did he get as big as he is? It's a pretty simple answer, you can eat all the veggies you want but if you are washing them down with Snickers Bars,  Ho Hos and Ding Dongs you're not going to stay thin.

I went back to eating meat 5 or so  years ago and when I did I was able to start eating any place I wanted. Now when I'm on the road my favorite places to eat are cafe and diners. I grew up in the Midwest and the food in these places reminds me of the meals I ate growing up. The taste is great but it's also comfort food. I couldn't enjoy it anymore if I tried. I like everything from the thick plates and coffee cups to the murmur of people chatting at the dinner table while they're eating.

Eggs, Hash Browns, Sausage, a Biscuit and
Coffee. The perfect cafe breakfast.
You may wonder how to find a good cafe or diner. Yelp, Urbanspoon, and other web sites have ratings. I'll tell you they're worthless. There are too many people out there that are perfectly willing to trash a restaurant because they were having a bad day and it took longer then they thought it should to get their food. Or there wasn't enough Sweet & Low on their table. Or the coffee was too strong or too weak. Once "wronged" they pick apart everything else about their dining experience. It makes them feel better. They get their revenge by posting something that sounds like it came from a reasonable person. The truth is these rating come from bitter, angry and unhappy people who feel life has been "unfair" to them. The truth is they wouldn't be happy if someone dropped everything they think they want in front of them. Of course there are some legitimate bad reviews on these sites, but I would say they are few and far between.

If you're going to eat old school then go old school when you make the choice of where to eat. Count the cars in front. The more the better you see, the better it's going to be. If there are semis parked there, even better. Those guys know where to eat. My personal rule is 1 semi equals 3 cars. You can count yours however you want.

If you are looking for the best of the best, follow the police. They work in the same area every day. They've eaten everywhere and they know the places to go and more importantly, where not to go.

I'll take 3 squad cars over a 3 star Michelin rating any day ...



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, October 22, 2013

It's Good To Be The Comic


View of the "Small" stage at
The Comedy Caravan Louisville, KY
In the last entry I discussed where I thought I was in the comedy world. I received some very supportive and encouraging comments on Facebook. Some of them were along the lines of "you shouldn't quit".

Quitting is something I have NO intention of doing. I plan on performing standup until it is physically impossible for me to do so. Being a standup comedian is who I am, not what I do.

A lot of my brother comics knew from a very early age that they wanted to be a comedian. They tell me stories about how they listened to every Carlin, Hicks, Cosby, and Prior comedy album they could get their hands on before they started high school. They can quote bits from these famous comics word for word. They can also recognize when a comedian is hacking one of the premises of these great comedians.

I can do none of those things. I've listened to only a couple of George Carlin's albums and the only one I can name is Class Clown. I confidently state that while growing up I enjoyed comedy when I saw it but I never was a "student" of the art.

As an adolescent I had dreams of being a musician or a golfer. Those were the things I was passionate about. When I was 13 I started golfing. The town we lived in had a 9 hole public course and my parents bought me a season pass. During the summer I would go to the course at daybreak and wait for it to open.  Then I would play round after round until I couldn't see the ball anymore.

I did that for 3 years and actually got pretty good. But the one thing I didn't do along the way was take lessons. While I had a fairly good understanding of the game I never really learned proper technique. I hit a plateau that I would never overcome because. I quit playing when I was 16. Once I started working I gave up golf because I didn't have time. I was working 2 part time jobs and liking the money. So even though I had a lot of passion for it I never became a "golfer".

Music was different. I started playing in the 2nd grade. I remember the day we were all brought into the lunch room and shown the different instruments. I'm not entirely sure how I came about it but I chose a Flute. I had lessons and played in the school band. As time went on I started noticing that I was the only boy in the Flute section and it disturbed me. By the time I was in the 8th grade we had just moved to Zion Illinois and I was able to join the band at my school. The band director was Mr. Kinsman and I was lucky enough to be his assistant that year. Instead of going to lunch every day I helped him in the band room.

I was also able to pick up a new instrument, the Tuba. I played in both bands and became a total band nerd. I even learned to play a couple more instruments. Then high school came. My parents enrolled me in a Catholic High School that didn't have a music program. Music went away  for the next 11 years. I finally got back into it when I took lessons to play drums. It was something I'd always wanted to do, even though I started with the Flute. My father had discouraged me because the "noise" would have been too much for him.

I had visions of playing a band but that never happened. To this day I still enjoy playing the drums and have great passion music but don't consider myself a "musician".

It's always been work that got in the way. I've always had at least 2 jobs, I'm a workaholic. I've done a lot of things. I've been a paper boy, dishwasher, cook, door to door salesman, ride operator at an amusement park, induction brazing operator, fork lift operator, janitor, hearing aid specialist, loan collector, senior loan officer, video store owner, computer programmer, computer technician, web designer, and finally standup comedian.

That's sixteen different things. It's going to sound like I'm bragging but I was good at every one of them. I've never been fired from a job and I've always left for my own reasons. With the exception of standup comic whenever I was asked what I did for a living I would answer with "I work at the" or "I do [whatever] for a living". I never identified myself by what I did.

That changed once I found standup comedy. I found something that I have true passion for. It was a difficult road to get where I am today, even though I am definitely on one of the lower rungs of the comedy ladder.

Even so, I love everything about what I do. I'm a part of a brotherhood. I create things that are unique. I am able to make people laugh. I even like the lifestyle. Staying in hotel rooms and driving for days at a time. I may have to work a tough gig from time to time but that comes with the life, they are not all perfect.

Standup comedy is what I love, it's what I do ... I am a standup comedian.



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.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What Now?


The stage at Goodnights in Raleigh, NC
a club I would like to be working
I started performing for pay in 1995. I have to admit that back then I thought there was a chance, albeit a remote one; that I would end up famous. After having spent the past 18 years as a working stand-up comedian I'm pretty sure I now know, it's not going to happen.
Some may find that last sentence pretty negative. It may even sound like I've given up hope. I don't see it that way. I see it as a realistic view of where I am in this business I love. The issue for me now is what should I do with this information.

One option is just to roll over and quit. I sincerely doubt that will happen. I enjoy being a comedian way too much to quit now, success or not. Stand-up comedian is how I identify myself and it's become who I am. I can't even imagine the words "I used to do stand-up" ever coming out of my mouth.

Another option is to ignore all the negatives I have going against me in this business. I know my age; looks and poor ability to network have seriously held me back. Truthfully, of those 3 the ability to network is the one that really counts. It will even get you past the first two. The truth is you don't even have to be very funny if you have the ability to network. Don't hear this as jealousy but I know my share of comedians who really aren't all that good but they work all the time and are able to get into clubs that wouldn't even consider working me. Why? They really know how to turn on the charm, something I've never been able to do. I suppose I could give learning how to network another try, but it has not gone well in the past. I'm just not good at it. Whatever I say never seems to come out as genuine, even if I really mean it.

My last option is to accept the way things are and work with what I have. That is exactly what I'll do, that is what I've always done. In truth it really won't change my goal for stand-up comedy. You see it was never my goal to be famous, it has and will continue to be my goal to be someone that other comedians respect and want to watch.

I have a long way to go towards achieving that goal ... I feel like I am a good comic but have a long way to go to become a great comic. After all these years I feel like I've found my style and I've found material that works but I need to take things to the next level.

The next level is I need to make that change the great ones have done. I need to start abandoning the material that has worked for me all these years and start to talk about the things I am really passionate about. That combined with the style and voice I have developed is what will allow me to take that next big step and become the comedian I have always wanted to be.

Making a change like this is a frightening thing. Making this change comes with a lot of uncertainty. I'm not afraid of going on stage and bombing as I work on figuring things out. What I am afraid of is taking a new act into the clubs and getting bad reports. These days work is hard to come by and you are on the bubble each and every time you come in.

When I started you could have an OK week and still come back. The clubs were much more tolerant of comics working on their act. It used to be that Sunday shows were the ones were you did your new material and tried things out, not any more. Now days you do that and you do so at your own peril. Unfortunately these days you need to go in and kill every show because if you don't you most certainly be taken of the roster. Clubs these days are afraid that someone is going to come to their show and not be satisfied and not come back. That makes it very difficult to try new things.

It could be time to go big or go home ...



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 30, 2013

I'll Show You


What is it with stand-up comics these days? Over the past couple years I've been watching a rise in the number of heckling incidents on comedy club stages.

The latest incident comes out of Washington DC. Comedian Dan Nainan was headlining a fundraiser at the DC Improv. By all reports he did his set, came off stage, hunted down journalist Josh Rogin and punched him in the face.

What was it Rogin said to get punched in the face? He must have been the worst heckler of all time! One can only imaging what he must have done to infuriate Nainan. He must have been interrupting his punchlines, yelling stupid things out. Or perhaps he was calling him a stupid hack.

Actually ... Rogin did nothing that interrupted Nainan's show. What did he do? He was live tweeting the event and tweeted the following:

Dan Nainan was funny until he dusted off his 2005 Katrina jokes in a gratingly bad GWB impression.

Now to be fair this was not the only tweet, there where a couple more that but all of his comments had about as much "bite" as this one ... the humanity!

I fail to see the point in what Nainan did. Even if Rogin had tweeted "Nainan sucked" every 5 minutes for a day it shouldn't have earned him a punch in the face. After all, by the time you've made a conscious decision to become a stand-up comic (especially a professional one) one of things you come to realize is that not everyone is going to appreciate what you do. In fact, even the most loyal of your fans is not going to like 100% of your material.

Comedy is a game of percentages. When you write a joke you are going for something you know is going to work all the time. "All the time" meaning that 90% of the people in your audience are going to laugh at the joke when you tell it.

You can argue with me about the percentage but that's the way it works ... period. I can assure you that if a joke isn't working it will be taken out of the act. Sure, there are a few comics out there that will keep a clunker in just because they like it. Even those guys will take that "favorite" joke out of their act when the set is important and something is riding on them doing well on stage.

So to get back to my point when you start out it quickly becomes apparent that you need to develop a thick skin when it comes to criticism, because it's always going to be there. It is a difficult thing to do in the beginning but as the years go by the ability to let the negative go becomes easier. At least it does for most but there are a few hot heads out there that can never let it go.

That's why I am a little confused by Nainan's reaction to what I felt were a couple of stupid criticisms. I don't know Dan Nainan so I can't say he if he is one of those hot heads. He could have just been having a bad day. Even so, he's supposed to be a professional. He should be above doing something like this. It doesn't represent him well and it doesn't do stand-up comedy any good. Behavior like this continues to foster what I'm starting to call a "heckling culture". People that actually enjoy the confrontations that are happening between stand-up comics and the audience.

I believe this to be a byproduct of something that has been happening over the past 30 years. We're becoming a society of unhappy people and it's television and the movies that are the source of this unhappiness. Over the years they have been subconsciously giving us unrealistic expectations of how our life is supposed to work. On television and in the movies things always seem to go the right way. Everything is resolved, everyone is happy and the bad guys always get what they deserve We've watched so much of this over the years our minds are telling us this is the way it should be for us.

The reality is quite different because that's not the way life really works. I would submit to you that we are not supposed to be happy all the time. Things aren't always going to work out, we are not always happy and the bad guys doesn't always get what they deserves. Your life is supposed to have highs and lows; there are also periods of time when our life is just mundane.

That's the way it's meant to be.

These unrealistic expectations are creating an undertow of envy in our society. We're becoming a society full of miserable people because things aren't turning out the way think they should. Instead of being happy for someone's success we are secretly jealous of them. It's a narcissistic view of the world that is unhealthy.

That is why people seem to be gravitation towards all things negative. They seem to take pleasure in seeing other people fail because they want to see other people worse off than they are. It's some sort of sick and twisted way for them to feel better.

I don't see this trend changing. I only expect it to get worse and stand-up comics have taken notice. It's gotten to the point that comics seem to be looking for a reason to "tee off" on someone in the audience. Do a YouTube search for "Heckler" and you will find more than you'll ever be able to watch. One comic after another "destroying" hecklers to the delight of the crowds they're in front of. Sometimes I wonder if people wouldn't be happy if we went back to the Roman days when they fed people to the lions.

Do I have an answer for all of this negativity? Of course not and I'd sure like to write more on this topic but have to stop. My Google Alert for "Lit self on fire" just popped up. I have a video to watch ...



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, September 22, 2013

The Tale of Two Fridays



Today, Friday September 20, 2013 I am in a "Suite" at the Super 8 motel in Macon Missouri. This just adds even more irony to this day. Whenever I hear Macon, I think Georgia. Just like whenever I hear Super 8 I do not think "Suite".

Last Friday September 13, 2013 was in Portage Indiana. When I took this gig I thought I was going to be working in Porter Indiana at a gig  run by a couple I knew to be good people and friends; I didn't think there would be any problems.

So 2 weeks in a row, I think one thing and find out another ...

This Friday's show was in Macon Missouri. A nice town located 3 1/2 hours Southwest of where I live on US Highway 36. I've actually stopped here many times on my way between Illinois and points West. Never for the night but always for gas and/or food. The gas prices are always a little lower than the other towns along that stretch of highway and they have a great variety of places to eat.

Last Friday's show was in Portage Indiana. Located 3 1/2 hours Northeast of where I live. Portage is in the Northwest corner of Indiana just below Lake Michigan and just East of Gary Indiana. It is where Interstates 65, 80, 90 and 94 all meet. it is the busiest and most treacherous piece of Interstate I drive through. I think the only reason anyone would stop there is to take a break from the stress of driving through. I can't get through there fast enough when I'm making my way East, I avoid it any chance I get.

This Friday's show was at a pretty nice place. A restaurant/bar called The Ole Beaumont. Located in an old building in downtown Macon it is easy to tell that the owners have worked hard to renovate it. Beautiful woodwork and brick walls have given the building a great look and feel.

They have menu full of good food that shows they are interested in doing something different and interesting. Appetizers like Shrimp and Bleu Cheese Bread and entrees like a 911 Chicken Sandwich with Chipotle Mayo on a Ciabatta bun.

Last Friday's show was at a trashy bar called Boomers Pub and Grub. Located behind a KFC at the very end a strip mall that only has bars in it the place is like a bad after thought. It's dingy and there has been no remodeling done, with exception of the temporary wall that was put up to split the bar in half for the comedy show. They didn't even bother to cover our side of the temporary wall with anything. They must have thought that bare 2 X 4 studs gave the room "character".

Boomers doesn't have a menu per se; they have bar food. They seem to be especially proud of their Italian Beef Sandwich. Coming from the Chicagoland area I would like to thing I know what makes a good Italian Beef Sandwich and they don't have it. Maybe they were depending on the French Fries with cold nacho cheese to make up the how average the sandwich really was. I also could be being overly critical because that sandwich did have to follow the deep fried Mini Corn Dog appetizer. Certainly youcan understand how an appetizer like that would set the bar pretty high.

This Friday when I came into The Ole Beaumont 30 minutes before show time the show room was completely packed. There was not a seat left. I heard the dull roar of a crowd of people in a good mood conversing with each other. There was some good music playing over the house sound system that was just loud enough for good background.

Last Friday 30 minutes prior to show time at Boomers Pub and Grub the "show room" was empty. There was music; ear splitting 80s rock and roll which included theoccasional screaming from one of the patrons at the beginning of some the songs. Had there actually been anyone in the room conversation would have been close to impossible.

This Friday the show started right when it was scheduled to. Before the show started I was asked by one of the owners if I had anything special I needed for my performance. I thanked him for asking and when it was time for the show to start it was he who went on stage and personally thanked everyone for coming out. The crowd was generous with it'slaughter and our shared experience was a good one.

Last Friday at show time we were still wondering if there was even going to be a show; and if there was would they be turning down the music? We were also hoping that the screaming patron on the other side of the temporary wall would NOT be joining us. There was also a slight bit of indigestion from the food. The shared experience was less than desirable.

This Friday after the show the other comedian and I stood at the door and thanked people for coming as they left. People stopped and shook our hands. They told us they enjoyed the show. One even told us it was events like this that made it bearable to live in Macon. The owners and the staff all thanked us for coming out to perform. They asked us if there was anything else we needed, then they paid us.

Last Friday there was no one to say goodbye to. We just looked at each other wondering what was going to happen next. They didn't wait long to start taking down the temporary wall. The foam sheathing they used on the bar side popped and squeaked as they pulled it off the wall studs. That along with the sound of hammering on the studs as they were removed was their way of telling us there was not going to be a show. The music seemed to get louder. I don't know if that was because the wall was coming down or they turned it up in an attempt to drown out the demolition taking place. We never did meet the owners and when it was time to be paid we weren't given any money; we were just told "We're sorry it didn't work out."

This Friday when I got back to my "Suite" at the Super 8 I sat down and relaxed. I watched a little TV and did a little bit of writing. I went over the show in my head thinking about how what I could have done to make it better.

Last Friday when I got back to the hotel I was stressed out. I had stopped off on the way to get a bottle of beer (something I don't normally do) to help me unwind. I tried to watch a little TV and do some writing but was unable to. I was distracted; I was trying to figure out how I was going to get paid.



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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

So much for Brotherhood - Part II


If you haven’t done so you should take the time to read Part I of this blog.

In the course of contacting comedy clubs to get work I received this email:
I remember years ago talking to you about your room which u passed on me with over 30 TV credits so let me return that favor to you. Good luck. Just think by September we will have over twenty rooms. Oh well amazing how this business works.

Rather than comment just yet I will share my answer which no doubt confused this person. I have removed the bookers name because there’s no good reason for anyone to know it. The point of this is not to call someone out. The point is to show how strange this business can be.
[XXXX],

I honestly don't remember you but will say that I'm amazed that you would say something like that being in the position of booking a room.

You know as well as I do that people are passed on for many different reasons. Some of them have nothing to do with talent, sometimes someone is just not a good fit.

In my case I passed on a LOT of guys because they were too blue for one of the owners of the room. And when I say too blue I mean he liked it PG-13 on the PG side.

Credits didn't mean anything to our club because NO ONE drew. We didn't have the funds to advertise. We worked the meat grinder of "free passes".

At least I gave you the respect to pass on you and not make you go through grinder of emails and calls only to be ignored.

The funny thing about that [XXXX] is I always thought that would actually gain me an ounce of respect from the community of comics that I consider my brothers.

And for the most part that has been true with a few exceptions like you.

And even so I harbor no ill will towards you. I won't waste my time holding on to a grudge like that because it's meaningless and pointless.

You're also not the first to have "punished" me for not hiring someone. Booking that room cost me a lot of work.

That last statement alone should make you happy as apparently you think I'm some sort of douchebag because I "passed" on you.

And don't forget, Wits End is no longer open and I lost my entire savings, retirement and home over it. That's even getting out 2 years before it actually closed. If passing on me does something for you that should REALLY make your day!

So I'll add your pass to the list of things I pay no attention to and continue on. I appreciate you letting me know I'm wasting my time with you.

Good luck with your rooms [XXXX]. I sincerely mean that. Comedians need places to work and if you have 20 you're actually doing something right.

I think my response pretty well sums things up.  I really have a difficult time understanding this way of thinking, If this person has been booking for any period of time they must understand that those decisions are not (or shouldn't be) personal. If a person is taking or making those decisions personally they should really take the time to rethink the business and how it works.

Because comedy is a business and because of that it’s a numbers game, on both sides.

On the club side it’s all about the bottom line. The bottom line is controlled by how many people pay to come into that club and how much they spend once they are there. Comedians are a part of that equation and I would submit to you a very small part of it. You can bring in comedians that fill the room every week and still fail. The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club in Los Angeles is a perfect example. They filled that room with big names and it still didn’t make it.  The only thing left of that club are the lawsuits trying to assign blame.

On the comedian side the numbers start with your material. You write your material and hope that it connects with a wide audience. If it doesn’t you have to somehow find the percentage of the human race that is your audience or they have to find you. Or you have to re-write your material to connect with audiences you are performing in front of.

A part of that numbers game comedians have to play is finding venues to work at. It’s a numbers game because not everyone will work you and as I explained in Part I of this blog you can’t even be sure if they are receiving your message attempting to get work.

Number, number, numbers …

So this bookers attempt to harm me by “passing” has failed miserably. The “retribution” sent my way just comes off as a small minded and petty. It comes from a place filled with low self esteem and a need to feel superior. Having to live with that to that must be a miserable existence.

This bookers attempt to harm me has truly backfired because now I know not to waste my energy on his club. Now I can focus on another club that may want to hire me. I may get a booking out of this yet ...



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.