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 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
Follow him on Facebook at 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 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
Follow him on Facebook at 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 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
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.