When I was interviewed to head up retail at LA Cellular, the HR person asked me, “What salary are you looking for?” I said, “About $125,000 and a great benefits package.” The HR rep said, “How about 5-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a red Corvette?” I said, “Are you kidding me?” She said, “Yeah, but you started it.”
I’ve had many jobs, which is typical of most entertainers. The difference is that some of us land really good jobs which makes it hard to walk away. In 1989, it was a breakthrough year in comedy.
I opened for Sinbad at the Riverside Convention Center, at Rain Cross Square. It was my first big show. Following the show, Sinbad’s agent signed me to a contract. I nearly wet my pants right then and there. That was a great feeling. (Not the wetting the pants part. That would have been close.
At the time, I had a great job, making a lot of money at LA Cellular. How do you walk away from a job like that? Later that year, I opened for David Benoit, the famous jazz artist, Gilbert Gottfried, and Michael Winslow, of the Police Academy films.
I decided to start a production company, which included teaching three levels of comedy, beginner, advanced and professional levels. We had 22 show rooms including some very nice venues where we took the $6 ticket sales, while the owners got the food and beverage. It’s simply called a door deal in our business.
I became so busy and made about the same as my job, so I resigned and became a consultant for them. That freed me up to build my business. I had a partner to help. We had six locations, about 90 people in our advanced class, full beginning classes.
Then we added improv classes and a performing troupe, kids comedy classes, a TV show called “Class Clowns, did comedy on the road, worked on a project for the Discovery Channel, got” America’s Funniest People” to shoot seven episodes in my back yard.
I also got the group involved in the “extra business” on films like “Forget Paris”, with Billy Crystal and “Sunset Park”, with Rhea Perlman. I was hired to do the crowd warm ups for each of the films. Then, I was given the role as a sports announcer at a basketball game.
I had no audible part, although I was talking like a moron. I can just barely be seen in the film, but I was very excited. Life was insanely busy, which is one of the reasons I’m sick today. I know it. I was lucky if I got three hours a night for a very long time.
Finally, I dumped the business and headed North, then out to Utah, where my friend, Keith Stubbs, had just opened a club. I moved to Ogden from Monterey. I know! Insane!
But, it has worked well. I met my wife here and used that comedy club as a hub, which helped me get gigs all over the place. I was also doing radio in the mornings, so I had to get up at 3:30 am every weekday morning. Life was nuts again.
I am paying the price now, but I still do shows on occasion, many of them benefit shows, which make me happy and keeps me sharp for the next paid gig. I have also been able to meet some of the top headliners in the country, so that’s been great, too!
See you tomorrow.
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