Category Archives: Shows

Peter Paull and…Steve!

Peter Paull

Many years ago, the ’90s, (yes, last century!), I was booked as the emcee/opening act for a variety show at the Catch a Rising Start comedy club in Las Vegas. This series of shows had a singer in the middle and a comedian headliner.

It was one of those opportunities where I got everything possible: a fantastic hotel, a 24-hour pass for food (19 meals a day if I wanted), and free run of the city during the day (well, everyone got that). All I had to do was three shows a night. I loved it! It was more comedy than I had ever done, more food than I have ever eaten, and I was playing showbiz central: Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is unique in many ways, including a special type of health problem.(No, not that.) Singers who get booked in Sin City are at risk for a malady called Vegas Throat. It’s struck everyone from Frank Sinatra to Cher to Dolly Parton. It’s caused by going back and forth between the dry desert air outside and the chilly air conditioning inside. When singers don’t keep their pipes hydrated, the result is a hoarse and raspy voice and even a cough.

Thanks to Vegas Throat, the middle act, a singer, was not able to perform all her songs. I was asked to expand my set to make up for shortened set. No problem! My time grew with each show and by Saturday night was doing 20+ minutes to open the show and five minutes to introduce the headliner.

The last show of the day was populated by “high enough” rollers who were comped admission to the midnight variety/comedy show to soften the pain of a serious losing streak. This was considered by all in management to be a really hard show. Imagine an audience filled with tired, stressed people who were only there because they were too tapped out to continue gambling.

I’ve always been known as a clean(ish) comic. I don’t swear and stick to mostly family-oriented subjects, but for this crowd and this show, management thought I might be too clean. They suggested I spice it up. I wondered if I should spice it up. I understood their logic; these were not Vegas Virgins, but jaded regulars who were much harder to win over, much harder to entertain.  Would the addition of “ salty” language do the trick? More than a few folks backstage thought it would. But I thought I’d look like I was trying too hard if I threw in a few taboo (for me) words just for the sake of coloring up a bit.

What to do?!

Not taking advice from management was not always a good idea. The headliner was told sternly to do a certain amount of time in an early show, and when he went significantly over (although he was killing), he was visited by two large men in suits who explained how keeping hundreds of people in the showroom would cost the casino thousands of dollars. If he didn’t want to make up that lost money, he’d stick to his time. (Same goes for all of us.) No one went over after that.

While I was encouraged to go blue, I didn’t. My clean material worked great. That notoriously hard show was my best performance of the week. Lucky for me, the audience included an agent/manager who was there to hear the singer. She was only doing one song by this point, so he heard very little singing, but a whole lot of Steve.

He approached me after the show to ask if I always did such clean comedy. We met again in Los Angeles a few weeks later, and he set up an audition for the cruise industry. While the audition went sideways, (a story for a future blog post) I still got a few weeks of work which lead to years performing on ships all over the world as well as many opportunities on land, too.

I can’t remember the name of the singer who forgot to stay hydrated, but I’ll never forget the guy who gave me the opportunity that changed my life (and bank balance): Peter Paull.

Peter got out of managing maybe 15 years ago, but we’re still solid friends, always have been. I am so thankful that when he saw someone raw with some promise, he took a chance on me and helped me get a leg up in a very competitive business. My start in the cruise industry expanded to include radio and TV, commercials, clubs, colleges, and corporate events. I continue to do 10 cruises a year and can even tell you the ships and the dates—they book a year in advance.

And, every day, I get a cup of coffee and write new material.

I’m one of the most fortunate acts I know of, and it’s all thanks to one lucky Saturday night in Las Vegas where I didn’t ditch the jokes that brought me to the dance. My reward for staying true to my craft was meeting Peter Paull.

Peter, I wanted to tell everyone how much I appreciate you!

Live from The Laugh Cellar

Performers have a word for the non-show biz people who attend a show for the first time: civilians. Some civilians like what I do at that first show and want to come see me again. That makes ‘em fans. (In comedy, people rarely give you a chance to disappoint them twice.) Now these civilians areContinue Reading

The devil is in the details

MY COMEDY SPECIAL WAS RELEASED ON VIDANGEL LAST WEEK!  (Yes, I am shouting.) VidAngel is a streaming entertainment service with a twist: it lets customers with Amazon Prime, HBO and Netflix choose to skip or mute content that might be disturbing to some viewers. Their slogan? “Watch however the bleep you want.” In addition, VidAngelContinue Reading

Performing for the hometown crowd

I am happy to report I survived my first headline event in my hometown since moving back to Santa Rosa. I was a little nervous, but this formula made it all work out: Part rehearsal, part performance, part audience, part learning curve. It’s interesting—and very unusual—to see so many familiar faces in the first fourContinue Reading

Looking forward to a hometown gig

After weeks on the road, I’m performing close to home on March 10, 2018! I get to do some comedy time for a good cause: the Sonoma County Family YMCA. Their 5th Annual YMCA Comedy Night will let me perform for and with new comedy friends I’ve made since moving back to Santa Rosa. I’mContinue Reading

When the comedy road crosses memory lane

As I come to the end of the year, and anticipate what to put on my annual “Things I’d Like To Change’ list (more commonly called “New Year’s Resolutions”).  One thing that’ll be high on my list is to take time to appreciate the things I’ve been lucky enough to get and do and see.Continue Reading

Getting the last laugh of 2017

Moving back to your hometown the year it was drenched in the most rain, scorched by the hottest days, and nearly destroyed by massive firestorms could lead a guy to rethink the decision to return “home.” And to prepare for the frogs and/or locusts. At the end of a busy year with many changes, notContinue Reading