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New Years Noshing

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Thursday, 02 January 2014
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     My first show scheduled for this tour, was at a place that looked like an upside-down Noah's Ark, in Urne, Wisconsin. We stayed at the only hotel around, next town over, and it seemed like we were the only guests in the joint. With me this week was the venerable Ben Bergman, and unflappable could be his middle name. This crowd was tough as nails, and the kereoke-style mic didn't help either. We got through the show, and what made our night was when someone after the show said Kevin Hart came through a few months back, and had the same crowd response. 

     We had to pass through downtown Minneapolis for our next show in Maple Lake, MN, so we stopped at the Midtown Global Market. The market offers a variety of food selections from different regions of the world, and since I've been there before I knew what to expect. Sonora Grill is a restaurant of Spanish/South American influence within the complex. I got the chimichurri Pincho, consisting of a beef skewer with Peruvian rice, and guajillo beans, and a side of eggplant fries. The fries were great when dipped into the garlic aioli. Both were home-runs.  Another stand-out place is the Salty Tart bakery. Known for their world-class coconut macaroons, they also make a variety of other decadent goods.

      The routing was perfect for a stop at one of my favorite spots for roast-beef, Mavericks. Located in Roseville, MN, they are known for mostly two things, roast beef & brisket. On the way to our Mankato, MN show, we stopped at the Blue Door Pub, Longfellow location, for a burger. The Lucy is a cheeseburger that has the cheese on the inside, vs. on top. Pictured below is the classic with Tillamook cheddar, along with Buffalo tator tots & fried green beens.   The shows in Chippewa Falls, WI, Mankato, and concluding in Boyd, MN put a fitting end to 2013.

 

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Big Sky Blizzard

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Sunday, 15 December 2013
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     This is why I love comedy. I started the weeknd with a show for farmers on Saturday in Great Falls, MT, and on Sunday performed at a holiday party for employees at a Dairy Queen in Stevensville, MI. I didn't realize it til later, but in less than 24 hours, I'd entertained the entire food chain. Across the street from where I was staying in Great Falls, the Best Western..was non other than...a Dairy Queen !  Keith Schumacher of the Montana Co-Op needed some entertainment for the company X-Mas party last minute, and I was happy to oblige. I suggested customizing some material at the top, and roasting some key people, including Keith...and they were good sports.

 

    You're looking at the Roe River, the world's shortest river at 201 feet, flow into the longest, the Missouri River. At 2540 miles, its 200 miles longer than the Mississippi River. The water flows from the Madison Foundation, which is part of the Little Belt Mountains, and emptying in Giant Springs, located in Great Falls. I had to catch the 6 a.m. flight out Sunday to make it back to Chicago for my gig that night. While exhausted from traveling, I was exited about the chance to perform inside a DQ. I'd had plenty of jobs as a teenager working at fast-food places, so I could definitely relate.

     I had a blast doing both shows, and it makes a difference when the people that hire you treat you great. Both Keith Schumacher, and Tom & Jean Cellentani, were gracious hosts, and good people. Montana is known as "Big Sky Country" and of course, Blizzards are one of Dairy Queens dessert offerings. I ended-up getting the Strawberry Cheesequake version, which hit home after the show. 

 

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Camp Douglas, WI

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Sunday, 08 December 2013
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Around noon on Friday, I made my back to the Upper Penninsula, to perform at Pasqualis Pub, in Negaunee, MI. It's at least a good 6 1/2 -hour hike from Chicago, so about halfway up, I stopped in Sheboygan, Wisconsin for some double-brats at the Charcoal Inn.  They're some of the best I've ever had. I've eaten up to 3 at a time, but could easily eat 4 - they're that good. They come char-grilled, and halved on a soft bun slathered with butter, pickles, and onion/mustard if you wish. 

    The owner of Pasqualis, Clark Gravedoni, has been doing comedy 2x a month for over 20 years, Sept-May. He treats the comedians great, and more importantly, appreciates the hard work involved with doing the gig. The place looks like the setting for a 70's porn-flick, but in actuality is very charming. It gets pretty cold in these parts, and comedy is just the thing to warm people up at his joint.  The audience tends to take a little longer to get jump-started, but once they do, they're along for the ride.

     The next morning, I made my way to the Wisconsin Dells, for a show with the Air National Guard. About three hours in, I stopped in Appleton at a place called Mary's, home of some of the best chicken dumpling soup I've ever had.  It was the perfect remedy for an otherwise brutally cold day, and I went through 3 bowls, not including a bowl of chicken chili. Volk Field Air National Guard Base is the military airport, located just outside the village of Camp Douglas, and is the only one of four Combat Readiness Training Center's across the country that does not share its airfield with a civilian airport.  I asked comedian Jim Flannigan to open the show for me, and I'm glad I did. Jim has very funny, original material, and did a great job of warming up the crowd, and setting the stage for me.  We both had a blast performing for the hard-working men/women in uniform who serve our country. One big reason for the success of the evening was Samuel P. Neve, SMSgt, USAF-ANG, and overall first-rate guy.   

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Road Tripping & Death of the Samurai

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Monday, 11 November 2013
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This past Friday night, I did a show in Au Grey, Michigan, about two hours north of Detroit, in the Upper Peninsula at a place called Allie's Up North. Generally towns in these remote areas are starved for entertainment, and tonite was no exception. My opener, Zach Martina, did a great job warming up the crowd, and setting the stage. The show went great, and the audience seemed to love it when the lip-flapper of the evening, Mary, got what she had coming, for talking during the show.

     On the way out of town, I stopped at this shack off the side of the road- Bruce's Smoked Fish, for some maple-cherry smoked turkey jerky. Not bad. The route to my next gig- happened to go through one of my favorite stops for food in Michigan- Ann Arbor, so of course I went to one of my favorite places - Frita Batidos, that specializes in Cuban street food. I had the Best Snack Ever/Inspired Cuban combo - layered coconut-ginger rice with black beans, melted Meunster, and cilantro-lime salsa. The 1/2 sandwich had lemongrass roast pork, thick bacon, tasso ham, gruyere cheese, cornichons, and chipotle mayo on Cuban bread. Thanks to Ian, for giving me a Churros (nutmeg & orange zest with tons of cinnamon and sugar) on the house, and pointing me to Roos Roast Coffee. The proprietor of RRC -John Roos, could be the Owen Wilson of the coffee world, based on his looks and personality, and was fun to talk with. I took home two delicious-smelling bags of beans, a boutique Honduran blend-Serveilo Sanchez, and Cowboy Blend, (both organic/free-trade) and also from Honduras. You could tell whatever John was brewing up inside his Willy Wonka style-shop, you wanted to drink.

Saturdays show was a corporate gig in Hillsdale, Michigan, at a building on the campus of the local college -for an auto-parts manufacturer. While they were stiff as cardboard, I still got the job done.

     On a sour note, I've been running a weekly Tuesday night show, called the Samurai Sushi Comedy Hour, at a place called Gallery Bar, in the River North district. The show was geared toward people who enjoy stand-up comedy & sushi. We'd done about 8 shows since September, and while we had a few slow nights, most of the shows went well. We'd picked-up where we'd left off in May, where I had the show at another sushi spot in town that also went under/got sold. I was informed by the owner that they were changing the days of operation and planning on being closed Mondays & Tuesdays... effectively dealing a death blow to the Samurai. Can the Samurai rise from the ashes yet a third time ? That remains to be determined. 

 

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Dia De Muertos

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Sunday, 03 November 2013
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Translated in English as "Day of the Dead," this holiday is celebrated in Mexico and through-out the world in other cultures to remember friends & family members that have died. It normally takes place Oct 31st-Nov 2nd, overlapping Holloween, America's version of the holiday. I received a call mid-week, that the Negra Modelo beer brand needed an MC for an event to take place at Kendall College, near my apartment. Fortunately, I had another event that same evening that didn't start til later, so I was able to accept the offer. The featured guest was celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, who was to do a book signing, and cooking demonstration for invited guests. I happen to be a huge fan of the guy, and had previously proclaimed the Ahogada Torta, from his restaurant Xoco -one my favorite sandwiches in Chicago. Pictured below, it's served on artisan bread known as briote, with pork carnitas, black beans, pickled onions, in a seasoned to order -spicy arbol chile -tomato broth. The sauce is so good, you can drink it.  

All the evenings activities were extremely well-orchestrated, from the time Chef Bayless arrived, to when he left. And the event staff were great to work with. Ultimately, I got paid to make the announcements, and hand Chef Bayless a beer.  The hardest part about the gig...was seeing all the delicious food being served, and ice cold beer flowing, and not being able to try any of it, since I was on the clock working. It was bittersweet - imagine if you were in the dessert without food/drinks, but everyone else around you was indulging like it was the Last Supper. To top off the evening, I had another gig at the Old Oak Tap, also close-by, for a surprise birthday party. I did some customized jokes at the  beginning, than entertained them for over an hour. That was the icing, on an otherwise unedible cake. They were a fantastic group, and it went as well as it could have.  If you read my last blog, you'd know that my car got towed from the Walgreens parking lot last month. Well, I made some well-placed phone calls, and yesterday I received a check in the mail for the amount of $200. That would be the cherry.  Life has a way of coming full-circle sometimes. 

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The Worst Town In America & The $200 Italian Beef Sandwich

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Saturday, 12 October 2013
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You might recall I did a show in Chilicothe, IL in July for which I got a speeding ticket for going 6 miles over the limit. Well, I'd requested a court date, and never got one. Instead, I had to file a "Motion to Dismiss" the automatic guilty ruling, because according to the Prosecutor, "we do things differently in Ottawa, IL."  In fact, the only reason why I got some face-time with the Judge is, I argued with the Prosecutor about my only 2 options, neither of which were to my satisfaction.  The Judge wasn't sympathetic at all, and essentially told me -if I was driving 1 mile over the limit in his county, I'd be guilty. I didn't want to return to the "Worst Town in America" ...so I sucked it up and paid the $200 fine.  After paying the fine, I noticed the  Judges last name was "Scooge"...one r away from being "Scrooge" and close-enough to "Screwed".

Needing to self-medicate after the beating I took,  I stopped at a classic fried chicken place called Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket, located in Willowbrook, IL. The only true competition for them is White Fence Farm, which is in neighboring Romeoville, about 9 miles away.   On Thursday, along with there regular buffet, Dell Rhea's brings out their famous Buffalo Chicken Wings. They were fantastic, and there's pic of them below, along with the chicken.

Less than 36 hours later, after doing an open-mic Friday night in the city, I stopped at Molly's for a cupcake. Realizing that I was out of milk, I stopped at the Walgreens to get some, than ran across the street to get an Italian Beef sandwich at Portillo's. 5 minutes later, with food in hand, I walked back to Walgreens. It only took me a second to realize my car had been jacked by Slimebuckets, otherwise known as Lincoln Towing Company.  This was the second
time these fu@#$'ers have gotten me. The first was about 5 years ago on the far Northside of the city. 

The place where my car was towed to was on the far Northwest side, so I had to take a bus 1/3rd of the way, walked another 1/3rd, and hitched a ride from a cop the last leg.  The compound looked like the one from the movie the Road Warrior - barbed-wire fences, pit bulls that hadn't eaten in weeks. The guy behind the 5-inch bullet proof glass looked like Jabba the Hut, and he wanted $198.50 for my car. The guy claimed to not have change, and threatened to not accept my rounded-off amount of $200 if I said another word. I'm thankful I had a good show in Menomonee Falls, WI last night. 

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Batman Returns & The Show That Never Was

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Thursday, 19 September 2013
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The last time I was at Diamond Jo's Casino...in Dubuque, IA...a live bat flew on stage. For a couple of minutes, the bat was getting more laughs than me. Last night, I was back at the same venue, sans the bat. This week, I'm working with comedian Pete George out of LA. One of Batman's nemesis was the Penguin, and ironically me & Pete will be at Penguins Comedy Club  Friday/Saturday night in Cedar Rapids. IA

But rewind the machine, and go back to Thursday night, round 8 pm- I was supposed to perform at the Poor Farm in Baldwin, IA. There happened to be big storm earlier in the evening, but that eventually cleared up. That effectively ruled out any excuse due to the weather. At least than, I could blame it on Mother Nature. Come 9 o clock, not a single soul entered the place. It's to bad cause I could tell the place had charm, mostly due to the two lovely sisters that run the joint, Julie and Judy. These two had gone through a lot growing up, and their pub fit them well. The three of us lamented over various alcoholic beverages on what might've been.

The worst I've had in 10 years of touring was about 6 years ago, having to do a show for 2 people, not strangers -my college roomate & his wife. Since I lived with one, I had to go back to the time when we played the John Madden football video-game instead of going to class. In terms of lack of attendance, the Poor House sets a new milestone for me. At least I'm setting records. 

 

 

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Tribute To Bill Cosby

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Sunday, 15 September 2013
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I'd heard about this place in Washington, DC, called Ben's Chili Bowl, that sold half-smokes - sausage links consisting of beef & pork on a steamed bun, with mustard, onions, and spicy homemade chili sauce on them. It didn't hurt that the joint was a favorite hang-out of legendary comedian Bill Cosby, not to mention our Commander In Chief, President Obama. So I decided to check it out. Ben's version didn't have shredded cheddar on it, but I added it as a component. The flavor intensity was intoxicating. As soon as I downed one, I informed Calvin, the counter-guy..that I'd have another. This seems to be a habit with me, eat & repeat. 

I had a couple of days to kill in-between college shows, so I decided to use them eating my way thru DC, Maryland, and Virginia. High on my list was Chapp's Pitt Beef of Baltimore. Located next to a strip club, this place is a carnivores delight. I started off with a double roast beef, medium rare, than moved on to the "Richwich" a sandwich named after Adam Richmond, consisting of roast beef, turkey, sausage, and corned beef on a fresh bun. I added tiger sauce (horseradish & mayo), and pickles to both, and they were declicious !  Also in Baltimore, Faidley's Seafood of which I had a lump crab cake. It was all crab, and no filler, but at $15 a bit overpriced. 

As a big fan of Peruvian chicken, I was surprised to see so many options available in this region of the country. I tried El Pollo Rico, and Pio Pio, both of Arlington, VA, and Sardi's Pollo A La Brassa, a small Maryland chain, and all three were great. The kicker was the sauce at El Pollo Rico, which put it over the top.  Since I had some errands to run in Fairfax, VA - I stopped at Chutzpah's, and tried the matzo-ball soup, which was a decent take on the authentic classic.


Rounding it off, I checked-out the 21 food-trucks, at the L'Enfant Plaza district at 6th & Maryland in DC, and went with Dangeriously Delicious Pies DC, for a SMOG (steak, mushrooms, gruyere, and onions) inside a flakey pie-crust. They have two actual restaurants in DC, and if you're ever in the area, worth checking out. 

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Definition of Insanity

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Sunday, 08 September 2013
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I've long been wanting to visit the Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia. Top of the list was Tommy Dinics, which has a counter-top eatery inside. The main attraction, was the roasted pork sandwich with sharp provolone, and broccoli  rabe on  fresh-baked bread. It won the Best Sandwich in America contest on Adam Richmonds show on the Travel Network. It's gotten tons of other publicity so my expectations were high. As luck would have it, my room wasn't ready for check-in at my hotel, so I walked over to the market and went right to Dinics. It was damn good. So good, that I went back to my hotel and ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes, to create more stomach space. Before leaving the market, I stopped at the Flying Monkey Bakery, and when I asked Nick, the guy behind the counter -what his favorite thing to eat was -he recommended an apple-cinammon buttercake bar which sent my sugar-high to the stratosphere. 

After showering, I headed back to the RTM for another roasted-pork sandwich. That'd be the insane part.  Afterwards, I got accosted by Rebecca at Valley Shepherd Creamery, who insisted I try the "Todays' Mozz" sandwich consisting of hand-pulled mozz, with roasted tomatoes and prosciutto, inside a baguette. I'm glad she did, cause it packed a punch taste-wise. One thing I forgot to add. This place had Boylans soda on tap. When's the last time you saw that ?  The last photo, is that of Jims Steaks on South Street. I'd heard good things about it, so even though I really wasn't hungry, I devoured this thing quickly. Couldn't leave Philly without getting a cheese steak !

 

 

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East Pittsburgh & Altoona, PA

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Sunday, 08 September 2013
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I did a show in Jeanette, PA on Friday night, at a place called Neighbors Tavern. Unfortunately, a good amount of the people who were there insisted on not paying attention to the show, and talking loudly. The owner couldn't have been sweeter, and several people came up to me apologizing for the rude behavior, but the damage was done. Those that were listening still got some decent laughs, but I wouldnt call it a good show by any stretch. The silver lining was I stumbled across a place called DeLallo's Italian Food Market. They had one of the biggest selections of meats, cheeses, olives, and prepared foods I've ever seen. I tried the anti-pasta salad and a couple of other things, and even came back the next day for lunch. 


Good thing I had a show the next night in Altoona, PA. that made-up for the previous nights show. I even got lucky by going to Tims American Cafe. I ordered the steak salad, and it was one of the most unique & delicious salads I've ever had. It came with KC sirloin tips cooked medium-rare, on top of lettuce, tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, & fresh-cut fresh fries. It came with homemade ranch dressing that was so good you could drink it ! 

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Slymans & West Virginia

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Friday, 06 September 2013
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Great show last night at West Virginia University in Morgantown. The thing about WV is...the roads suck. They're all twisty and curvy, and sometimes a two-lane highway will go down to one, without any warning. So if there happens to be another vehicle headed in the opposite direction, at the same time you hit that very spot...you're dead ! I think its the states way of controlling the population. The show was at the Mountain Lair - the building where students can hang-out, watch a movie, get something to eat etc. At 10 pm, they put out a spread of free bad food, like chili dogs, and nachos for the students. Oh, to be young again ! It was a small crowd, maybe 30+, but they were mighty ! The photo here, is of Slymans of Cleveland. I met a friend for lunch, and we split a Rueben & a Romanian pastrami, neither of which disappointed. In the background, is a side of brown gravy and fries. 

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Breaking Bad

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013
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This show deserves to be in the TV Hall of Fame. There, I said it. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest shows on TV of all time, right up there with Seinfeld, and the Honeymooners. That's a big statement, so let me explain. What makes this show so great is the writing, overall story-lines, and the character development. There is no other show that I can think of, either past or current, that offers viewers as compelling of a story than this show. All the whiles falling in love with the good & bad guys, makes it some serious entertainment. If you havn't started watching this series, do yourself a favor, and start from the beginning. You won't regret it !

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Yin/Yang

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Monday, 29 July 2013
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Great show in Chillicothe, IL last night. Tim & Shelly Berger run a nice little bar off the lakefront. Ben Bergman did a great job of warming up the crowd, and dealing with a crazy heckler-lady who wouldn't shut-up. I wasn't going to put up with her, but eventually she left. That didn't stop me from using her as a punchline through-out the show. The weird thing was, she worked there as a waitress. I'm sure she's regretting it now. On the way home, I ended-up getting stopped by a cop in Ottawa, IL for going 71 in a 65. He wouldn't cut me a break, so I either pay $150 so it dosn't go on my record, or drive 3 hours round-trip to tell a judge  this is **$&%*. I was so incensed about it, I stopped at Taco Bell again to medicate myself. So there it is...yin/yang is always at your doorstep. 

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My 3rd Blog

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Sunday, 14 July 2013
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I'll be finding more time to update my blog soon ! All the driving to/from the gigs, often leaves me exhausted to find time for this. Last night was a barn-burner of a show with the Mighty-Jer Dog in Indiana. One of my all-time favorite comics to work with. It dosn't get any better than last night, from a show perspective...the audience was as good as the show. Last night was classic, in that both the audience & comics ended-up at Taco Bell after the show. For those of you who know me, that's unusual. I never go to Taco Bell. But I got the double-stuffed steak quesadilla, cantina-style, and it was fantastic ! Surprised the hell out of me how good it was. Chipotle, look-out !

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My Second Blog

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Wednesday, 03 April 2013
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Still learning how to navigate my website...as my friends know, I'm not good with technology ! So I'll keep this post short. The end. 

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