The Choices We Make (The Journey Continues)

The Choices We Make

(My Journey Continues)


Ok, when last I left this story, I had made my first five dollars as a comedian. I was still doing any mikes I could find. Mainly “Tickles” at the Holiday House on Monday and “The Funny Bone” on Thursday.

Monday was exclusively amateurs and the local pro’s working out. On Thursday, we went on before the regular show. It started out Ok with only 3 or 4 of us showing up. Once it got to be 9 or 10, the headline acts started to complain.

I didn’t realize why at the time, I guess I kind of did. Once I started headlining, the last thing I wanted were 10 open mike acts starting the show with an hour or so of not many laughs. You can’t fix an audience once they’re ruined.

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Becoming a Pro

Becoming a Pro


My students always ask me,

“How do you start getting paid shows?”

It’s a totally different game now than when I started. There’s a lot less places to do comedy and ten times more comedians. If you’re good at what you do, eventually you will be paid for it. More than likely, your first paid work will come to you the same way it came to me…Somebody will offer it to you.

Starting the second week of November, I had done every open mike available in the area. By early December I had been on stage 10 or 12 times and they had all gone good. There was no stopping me.

There was Tickle’s on Monday, The Pittsburgh Comedy Club on Tuesday, and The FunnyBone on Thursday. Occasionally there was something on a Wednesday. That’s what happened in early December.

One of the local professionals was hosting a show at a bar in his hometown. There was no pay, unless you were the winner of the contest. He told me,

“I think you’ll probably win and get the fifty dollars.”

He probably told that to everybody because he needed bodies to fill the show. Forgive me for not realizing, I was still young and naïve.

Chrissie and I pulled into the parking lot of the place and there were quite a few motorcycles. As we entered the bar, it was rowdy and smoke filled. A lot of leather with gang names, facial hair and tattoos. The dream of winning fifty dollars was far outweighed by the hope of surviving. [Read more…]


Work? (The Journey Continues)


(The Journey Continues)


So, I had done well my first time on stage. Surely stardom was right around the corner. I figured I should get in a few more shows to work out the kinks before I auditioned for late night television.

I took the advice I had gotten at the Pittsburgh Comedy Club and headed out to Tickles on Monday night. Tickles was in the basement of the Holiday House in Monroeville. It was more like the downstairs, not a basement. The room was enormous and held 350 or more, depending on how many they could squeeze in to make more money.

It was the heyday of comedy clubs and we would usually get at least 70 to 100 people a week on a Monday night. Once over Christmas break we had 300 which is unheard of for open mikes. Comedians are now doing open mikes to each other when no crowd shows up, which is just a waste of time.

Some of my students have suggested they use these times to help each other work on material like we do in class. They can’t get the majority to agree, which is stupid.

One of the draws of Tickles was that all of the working comedians in town would show up. If not every week, at least more than occasionally. That’s where I first met Dennis Miller.

Upstairs in the main room national headliners would be doing a run of shows. Monday was dark upstairs and a lot of the stars would come down to check us out. I remember Frankie Avalon coming by one night. Another night, McKenzie Phillips was taking her mother’s place in The Mamas and Papas and popped in…I would’ve rather seen her mother but, you take what you can get.

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The First Time

The First Time


Ok, I had been talking about becoming a comedian for years, now it was time to actually do it. Until the early 80’s, comedy was done at different venues in the area, like the Portfolio in Shadyside. All that changed when the Pittsburgh Comedy Club opened in Dormont.

I had just started seeing Chrissie, the girl I would marry and we went to the club on one of our early dates. We went to see a guy we had seen on the Tonight Show and the HBO Young Comedians special. His name was Jerry Seinfeld, you may have heard of him. That was in April of 1982 and I wasn’t even old enough to get in. I looked older than my age and nobody asked for ID. Yeah, nothing you can do about it now.

Here was a place doing comedy full time, with shows from Wednesday through Sunday. I was excited to be there. Here was a place I could get work as a comedian, even though I hadn’t done it yet. I would never do a paid show in that room, but that’s for later in the journey.

I don’t know why it took so long, but it wasn’t until November of that year I finally got up the courage to give it a shot.

They had an open mike on Tuesday nights. I had been working on material for a few years, now it was time to see if it worked. I told myself it was time and spent the day nervously preparing myself. I picked up Chrissie and we drove to Dormont.

When we walked in, there was a group of people standing around the bar area. They were the comedians, nobody else had shown up. No crowd, no show. I can’t deny there was a sense of relief. I don’t have to force myself to do this tonight. At the same time, I had prepared myself all day and now it wasn’t going to happen.

Looking back, it probably wasn’t the worst thing. My brother had a purple old lady wig he had worn for Halloween and I had brought it along with me. I don’t know what I was going to do with it, probably make a fool of myself and ended my comedy career before it started. As we were leaving, one of the guys told me to come out to Tickles on Monday night. They always have a crowd.

Now I would have to wait another week to make my debut. I left disappointed and relieved.

Tickles was the second comedy club to open in the area. It was in the basement of The Holiday House in Monroeville. It was a hotel with a big Vegas Style showroom that brought in big acts. It’s now a strip mall. I headlined the final week in the basement room before it was torn down.

By then it was no longer Tickles, the Funny Bone had taken over the room.

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