Fare Thee Well, Penny Road Pub

Fare Thee Well, Penny Road Pub

Located in what felt like the middle of nowhere in Barrington, Illinois, the Penny Road Pub was a bar and multi-staged venue that made its living by hosting shows. More often than not there were bands, but myself and a few other different comedian/producers tried to get comedy started there as well. Unfortunately, we all learned one thing: because this venue is in the middle of nowhere, Penny Road Pub had, literally, zero foot traffic. The only way to have a crowd is to bring the audience yourself, which is not a skill suburban comedians are super-great at.

The venue closed down last night and that made me wistful. In the fifteen years or so I’ve been doing comedy, that venue provided me some of my happiest/angriest/weirdest moments. I got to hang out with some amazing people, meet lifelong friends, and watch amazing comedians work their craft in front of small audiences. When I say small, it was usually just my wife, Jon- the brother of co-producer Lewis Rhine, and Jon’s friend Charlie. Later, Lewis and I would add Joe Motisi to our production team, mostly because we just liked spending time with him and we all thought each other were hilarious.

What the show lacked in numbers, though, it more than made up for in memories.

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Bombs Away and we’re not Okay

What is it that I can do to make this young woman laugh? Hell, what is it I can do just to make her relax enough to uncross her arms?

She sat there staring at me. It felt like an eternity up there, trotting out 4 minutes of material about my mother. It wasn’t the best, but it had worked before. A few laughs here and there, enough to revise it, throw some parts out, try to add some in.

But it wasn’t working. Not on Rhiamon (not her real name but it fits). Whatever I had done to somehow suck out every single bit of bile from her and none of the laughter? That was working. It’s not what I wanted, but it was what I was going to get.

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My Worst Time Onstage

My Worst Time Onstage

If you were to imagine the worst possible place and time to perform stand-up comedy, I assume that place would be Milwaukee, Wisconsin and that time would be during a Packers/Vikings playoff game.

That is exactly where I found myself on January 5, 2013, performing at the Northern Lights Theater at the Potawatami Hotel & Casino–on a stage that has hosted such memorable acts as Ringo Starr, Don Rickles, Willie Nelson and B.B. King–in front of an audience of 12 people.

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