Tag Archives: Show Biz

Pedal to the Metal with A Thousand Clowns

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Norm Ornstein describes the partisanship to have metastasized into tribal warfare. Tribalism is about being a member of a group that you are above all else loyal to. Privatization, sending programs back to the states, rejection of spending on infrastructure, no new taxes, lower old taxes, and dismantle social welfare programs. That’s the village they want to live in.

The scorched earth strategy is not a tactic and it decidedly not a means of governance, it is Donald Trumps first and last Fox Television tested means to all ends. All of this ends in stalemate. Until the tribe can get back into the White House. Then, they’ll ram through the tribes greatest hits and most damaging harms.

The tribal members on the Supreme Court have been perfect shills for Big Business. Follow the money and the spigots they open or close attune perfectly to what is big and powerful and away from what is small and not wealthy. Messing with the right to vote is just a bon bon to their tribes efforts to hold on to power. The rest of it is disinformation to cloud their penchant for wanting to help those born with silver spoons in their…..

The tribalism around Scalia’s exiting this reality is pure rocket fuel. The tribe already in a spiral, many wondering when the whole stinking thing will blow, has found a sword to fall on. Teddy Cruz and Marco Rubio (both suspected of being ineligible to actually be President by circumstances of birth as explained by a political Republican operative in Nevada) promise full on filibustering any nominee put forward by the obviously illegitimate executive presently illegally occupying their home on Pennsylvania Avenue.

That’s us in a nutshell, and what a nut it has been. Tribalism, not movement conservatism, comes closer to our understanding what the country is up against. The flippant tone of my comments aside this kind of behavior is dangerous for all of us. I never thought I’d see us going off the cliff in a clown car… but, that’s looking more and more like one version of our end to this current hell we find ourselves stuck in.

How Sweet It Is

Pouilly Fuisse
The Most Beautiful Places in the World

Timing is everything. A good location doesn’t hurt.

But, it’s the intangibles that will get you.

“To be completely honest, although I love living in the city, it’s not my favorite place to perform.”

What?

“It seems to have an overly-politically-correctness vibe.”

Really? So, we haven’t changed; they have?

“They seem to repress some of the fun and energy that our typical street show presents.”

For the love of show business.

Street act is foreground, cityscape is background.

A performer is barely on earth. We’d like to be, but you know it’s tough. We tend to be on stage, in bars, at rehearsals. Why isn’t that enough and if it is why doesn’t it come with a dental plan?

Once you have an act you are set. You get to be witness to more death than a mortician. There’s a lot of turnover in this industry.

One day the best act you’ve ever seen turns out to be a plumber. That unexpected incarnation put the fear of god in you.

As Jackie Gleason opined after a sip from the good stuff at the opening of his schtick.. “How sweet it is…” He’s only making that crack because of all the cadavers stacked up backstage.

So, the hungry acts know that you best keep the hook baited. Nothing but nobody waits for spit.

That’s the game. In these modern times. We used to be lousy with gigs from Salinas to Santa Rosa. But, that’s all dried up and nobody left instructions for what to do next.

You want a career in show business? Buy a suitcase, look for cheap tickets. Keep an eye on your back. Change is coming.

Then, you know, the phone rings, they need somebody for some spot dates in Northern Arizona on the Navajo Indian Nation’s territories. “Are you available?”

“You got to be kidding me? I’d do that date for free. When do we leave?” That’s how it is in my game.

You get the regrets and those of us with the moxy to have stuck it out we get the unpaid bills.

Nothing is free but for love and even that bargain comes with baggage.

I got an Australian friend in Dubai playing his swami act with a fake Indian accent to the Emirates. That’s some kind of con he’s got going. And YOU wanted to be in show business…

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 This is what the professionals look like…

Slimeballing, Suckerpunching Misdirection Games

Plutocrat Car

The Butt of a Bad Joke

Jack Welsh coined the phrase  “shareholder value.” Two pieces of the puzzle tilted in capitals favor from this four decade ago event. First, was an emphasis upon the share price. The second was the compensation packages for management.

Washington was not an innocent bystander. Tax cuts, trade policy, regulation all favored capital over labor. Unions were busted. Entrepreneurs were elevated to the mythic status of being job creators.

As a result income inequality is at an all time high.

Some will argue that taxing the very wealthiest of us and spending that money on programs to assist the other 99% of the population is this thing called “income redistribution.” A vocal well paid minority is opposed to this.

We increased shareholder value, we provided good products to customers, we ran executive compensation up 400% but we didn’t compensate labor.

You slime people as anti-business? That is not true. Most of us likes to do good business. Or,you can take your profits to Washington and buy more favors, cut more deals, or elect more politicians to your cause and keep your fingers crossed and hope.

But, one way or another. You either begin disbursing more of your profits to labor voluntarily or you will be forced by pitchfork politics to surrender more of your enterprises profits in the form of taxes.

It is capitalism finding a healthy balance. Our democracy is threatened by all of this. Middle class wages decline, the middle class shrinks and pretty soon we don’t live in a country we even recognize. Doesn’t that feel like what’s been happening? Isn’t that the truth of the way things are now?

If you oppose redistribution you should have been yelling at the top of your lungs while the rest of this was going on right under your own nose. And now that the bill has come due don’t insist there can be no new taxes, don’t pretend the banks don’t need any further regulating, or that the Boards of Directors of a publicly traded entity have treated labor fairly. They had a duty to balance these varied competing forces and provide our society with a mutually profitable outcome. They failed and for not the first time in history they’ll be taxed into compliance.

Eventually the bill comes due. Welcome to life…

The Comedy that Will Not Be Televised

Riding the Range of Comedy
Riding the Range of Comedy

Sharp Wit and Bullet Holes

“And so capitalism being what it is jumps into action. These men of free enterprise build resorts. And the resorts, they’re not just for people that are in love, they are for people who might find someone to pretend that they are in love with.”

I went into the kitchen to feel the heat of George Carlin’s oven. He was roasting a few pet canards. Took a time machine way back to 1971 and caught Richard Pryor in the act of being a legend being born.

Seinfeld breaks it down into two buckets, you can do smart or you can do love, but you can’t do both. Compared to Carlin or Pryor it would first appear that Leno and Seinfeld opted for love. George was as the years passed driven to madness by what passes for civilization.

Comedy is commentary. It is sometimes observational. Some acts like Leno and Seinfeld anchor their material in social behavioral commentary. Other acts go further into the full anarchy of our systems tragic flaws. Carlin and Pryor do political satire on steroids where Leno and Seinfeld come up to the other side of the lake and rather than try to take the big fish settle for a more pastoral visit to this body of water.

Having spent the last eight weeks on stage working new material I have had to take measure of how far I might go. Topics I have been speaking about include: bachelors, honeymoons, vows, children, tequila, promiscuity, and lovemaking.

I have been dealing with stereotypes comparing what images come up in their minds when I explain that I am from San Francisco. They think of me as a German luxury car driving homosexual who smokes medically dispensed weed. If they are from Iowa I accuse them of being trapped driving “corn-pickers.” You got to give as good as you get.

The central fact of the times that we live in is that the narrative is up for grabs. The Berlin Wall falls and within two decades the victorious system called capitalism implodes, not once but twice. The oligarchs have been set loose on us and feudalism is like a mirage inside an economic crisis that’s birthed a radicalized survivalist movement driven to madness because they don’t want a country to be led by a black man. Can you disagree with any of what I just said?

And that my friend’s is what truth to power, comedy to an audience is all about. You had better well tell people the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the funniest entertaining truth you can. My work here is almost done. Now where the hell is my wine and who took my glasses?

“There’s no more playing around, no more hopping from bed to bed, all of that super-secret run silent bachelor life technology is soon to be nothing but useless scrap in a married man’s life.”

The Off the Cuff Links (I’m Not Making this Stuff Up)

The sovereign nation of the Sioux who just so happen to be located in South Dakota have had it with the Koch’s and their obsession with all things carbon. Have you ever heard of Little Big Horn?

But, damn it you see there is a little problem and it is called Iowa where a Republican Senator Chuck Grassley isn’t going along to get along, especially when it means taking the fall for the end of a renewable energy tax credit.

In a fact based world here we present to you the 2008 net worth of the Vampire Squid. Morally bankrupt now insolvent then. And speaking of insolvent. This just in from Kansas.

How to make sense of the scam called social media and the digital revolution. And let’s now explain why journalism has made a fetish of dumpster diving (what else is left?). Let’s jump across the pond and speak to a man in the Queen’s English where it seems there is something wrong with the narrative. This is of course is Robin Hood in reverse and let’s go to Sherwood Forest for the story.

And finally we give you a digitally stitched together decade in the making snap shot of our own Milky Way.

Clickity click click click Get it Here
Clickity click click click
Get it Here

“This is a well written and amusing contemporary love story that touches every emotion. Dana paints a great story using wonderfully colorful characters in an unusual setting.”

 

 

 

 

The Great Dictator’s Curtain Call

tracks
Coatimundi tracks in Talum, Mexico

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe?
And he keeps it out of sight

During hyperinflations grip on the Weimar Republic in the 1920’s Bertolt Brecht struggled with the question of how to dramatize the complex economic relationships of modern capitalism.

And then the wildly Canadian-Canadian Naomi Klein’s new book argues that for the world to do anything about climate change we will have to rewrite how capitalism works. We are finding it nearly impossible to change our economic model because vested interests will not surrender their present profits for future generations benefit. Those Canadian’s…

Since the global financial crisis profits have gone to the elite while virtually every other segment of society has watched while wages have flat-lined. Frustrated with Washington voters vented their anger by electing Republican majorities to both houses of Congress. I’m unaware of the newly elected majorities wanting to do anything that squares with what nonpartisan policymakers might suggest is best. Capitalism is complicated where anger is simple. The electorate vented their spleen. We will regret playing our politics on the basis of bile.

Like Brecht’s struggle to dramatize the complexities of the economy of his era our society has failed to implement the best policy responses to our present situation. Wall Street wants nothing to do with shrinking the size of our big banks, and they certainly don’t want any constraints to be put on carbon based energy companies.

Capital is ascendant and labor’s share of the pie is on the decline. The circular firing squad arrives and future profits are defended by the very people that are harmed by that choice.

This is what is so dangerous about booms and busts. They confuse and frighten people. In this emotionally charged state of mind people vote out of fear, the very fear that FDR suggested was the only thing we had to fear.

I am in the earliest stages of plotting the next comedy. What I am thinking about is the same thing that Brecht was thinking about. We want to understand the world we find ourselves living in and we want to know what path to take to fulfill our promise for a prosperous future.

When capitalism goes bust people go crazy. Depressions are depressing and extremists lurk in disguise at every gate luring the fearful into actions that might well result in tragedy. Chaplin skewered the wicked of his day with The Great Dictator. History might not be repeating itself but it certainly is flirting with the idea of rhyming.

There’s a tugboat down by the river, don’t you know?
Where a cement bag, just a’drooppin’ on down
Oh, that cement is just its there for the weight, dear
Five’ll get you ten Old Macky’s back in town

“The slacker dude no longer has to make an excuse about not having a good paying job because since the global financial crisis there are no more good paying jobs…”

Hot Spring Honeymoon Front Cover
Get it here…

“The story follows a cast of interesting characters in a small desert town as they work to save their local economy and play the games of love.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for fun yet heartfelt read.”

Relevant Links…

Let’s go to Berlin…   Story of internet activists hiding in Berlin from NSA

Modeling other capitalistic enterprises…   Let’s talk about Republican’s and capitalists at their birth

It’s the Good Life

good life

 

“Romance… it gives a man something to do while he’s waiting for the only thing he really wants.”

A performer is just that. We earn our money by presenting whatever it is we have learned to do. Sometimes it is as simple as memorizing lines, and at other times it is the result of years and years of physical stunt training.

Our reputation hinges on our consistency. If all we had to do is walk on stage and execute the physical stunt then all our practicing would focus on just that. If we are comedy juggling act then we have to expend as much effort on being at the top of our comic game.

New comedy takes effort and time and practice and ultimately with all of that something might emerge that is repeatable and worthy of becoming part of our show. Stunt training is often a much longer process. We’ll work for months, sometimes years on a trick only to learn once it has made it into the show that it isn’t getting the kind of reaction we had imagined it would.

Every juggling act I know has wasted vast quantities of their precious time on tricks that never make the cut. Yeah, I know, everything accumulates into some positive contribution to what is ultimately presented. But, really the truth is that often what we’ve been working on amounts to a failed experiment and it’s time to get back to the drawing boards.

Living a lifetime on stage is to be caught in the world of performance pressure. We all have pressures, but the pressure to be a consistent top level performer is a particularly stressful life. I am sure a great janitor, a custodian of the finest caliber, can quietly fall off his game for a night. A performer in front of an audience has to face the spectacle of all the mistakes, the diminished emotional energy and general unsatisfied audience’s unfulfilled expectations. Ouch….

After decades on stage it never gets easier. You may find yourself in a polished sure thing vehicle, but if you are a creative you’ll have to move on from that pristine material and explore, and it leads inevitably to the very nature of what it means to be a survivor. I am such a creature.

I am breaking new material in down in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. I am playing a string of resorts six nights a week. Remaining in the game, finding a path to being on stage, and reliably executing a practice and creative regime that supports this work I do is to say the least a challenge. Except for one night a week I’m swinging for the fences, looking to connect with my audience, send the ball over the outfield fence, and be the winner of the game. That one day off is golden…

 

 

 

He Got Me and I Got Him… The Storymaker

Plotkin Smith

Alan Plotkin

2014’s recipient of the Golden Finkel

We are never alone. Sometimes it seems so. Some days on the road rolling from date to date- show to show, especially back in the day prior to cell phones, I could almost pretend to be in total isolation, an immaculate detached state of being in a pure nowhere.

What I have learned is that while I was out there so were my associates, the people that make up my community. We are performers, directors, videographers. We are puppet makers and circus arts coaches. Some were home waiting for us to return while others hopped in and took those blue highways, those two lane back roads from place to place with us, and they learned the fine art of the drift, how to be comfortable in their own bones while traveling about the known and unknown parts of this world.

Turning someone on to the way of the vagabonding performer’s life was to open minds and learn to slow the pace and when sunset and wide river beckoned to cease the roaming and soak in the presence of the force.

There is no getting this state of mind, this way of being, what might be called lifestyle without having cracked open a bottle and pouring some, giving it a good taste.

Sure you can approximate how you might feel, what your mind might think, how your appetite might yearn for being back on home ground.

Then, along the trail a kindred spirit appears. They get you because even if they don’t know you in particular, they know what you’ve been through, and how you got to where you are. In this instance it is Alan Plotkin. We have both been on the circuit for decades. We have both seen our fair share of the ten thousand joys and sorrows that the world we live and work in presents to us. So, when Alan points his camera toward my show he is shooting from a place of common ground, from shared experience, undisputed perspective.

And the truth is that I have had the great fortune of finding people that “get me.” They don’t always necessarily recognize me at first glimpse, but over the course of time they come to regard me as consisting of the same stories, the same quirky experiences, and ultimately we discover we are brothers and sisters from the same tribe.

And it is why I see so much of Alan Plotkin’s wit and insight in this gift he has edited for me. Here the simplicity and purity of street theater has been stitched together as a promotional reel. Here Alan has set out to share with unknown souls by way of short clips some imagined means of introducing my work to those who have not heard or seen of me ever before. It is only a version, but it is with Alan’s touch an ongoing edition of a kind of thing I have been about for some forty years now.

Ladies and gentleman, I not only would like to introduce you to what I did in July of 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada but I’d also like to ask you to pay attention to the camera work, editing and conjuring of street theater spirits that Alan has added to this short promotional video.

I couldn’t ask for better work, more revealing, a more intimate telling of what I do and to go even further, by way of Alan’s eye and skill, to have my mask pulled back and the person behind the show exposed. In the best way… and if by chance you might consider that you are not just looking at some best version of me that you may well be looking at some best version of Alan Plotkin. 

 

The Novel Juggler as told by the Award Winning Alan Plotkin