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Shit that Didn’t Piss me Off – 9/18

Apologies to regular fans of my Friday blog.  I’m going to do things a little differently today.

I’ve been writing Shit that Pissed me off most Fridays for the last three years.  I enjoy it as an exercise in writing humor and in exploring my opinions about what is happening in the world around me.  Since I’ve started writing the column, it has never coincided with my birthday.

Well this year, it has.

So I decided instead of spending my birthday thinking about stuff that annoys me, I’m going to write about things that make me happy.  I’ll post this week’s shit that pissed me off on Monday. Because even on my birthday, there are things that piss me off.

I begin my 48th year today and in honor of that, here are 48 things that make me happy.

1.  I’ve been married to the same amazing woman for the last 25 1/2 years.  She is brilliant, courageous, thoughtful, sexy, and supportive.  She laughs at some of my jokes.  She listens when I’m in a bad mood.  She corrects me when I’m wrong.  There is not a night that goes by where I am not happy we share a bed, a home, and a life.

2. I’ve got one fantastic mother.  She loves math and has spent her life finding ways to help others love it too. She loves being an amateur artist.  She is a fun travel companion.  Any day I know I’m going to see her is automatically a good day.

3. My oldest son is great.  He’s clever, cheerful, fun, and affectionate.  He grew several inches in the last year and is starting to show signs of facial hair.  Pretty soon, he’s going to learn how to drive and get a job and start looking at colleges.  I’m not sure I’m ready for any of that.

4. My youngest son is wonderfully creative.  The way he builds new Lego structures and describes ideas for new games or parks or dinosaurs shows boundless inventiveness.  His head must be such an interesting place to live.

5. My Brother is full of passion and energy.  He has been remarkably successful in not just the field he has chosen to pursue, but most anything he decides to accomplish.  We have a great relationship hampered only by the distance that separates us.

6. My Sister-in-law has a sharp sense of humor, an infectious positive attitude, and seems like a perfect partner for my brother.

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I Know What I’m Doing This Weekend

fcp_logo_bwFirst off, we made our pre-event goal for Die Laughing and that is amazing!  The board offered a $500 matching grant prior to the opening of Die Laughing and we have already raised $500.  That means we’ve actually raised $1000.  Which is amazing.

This blog entry is about my weekend schedule.  I’m not just the Artistic Director of Fearless Comedy Productions, I’m also a performer.  I’ll be performing a lot this weekend so here, in tiring detail, is what I’ll be doing.

Friday, March 6th

7:00 PM – We kick off the marathon with Fearless Lab.  I’m going to be judging a Vilification Tennis match featuring the last four winners of our amateur show – Nick Glover, Molly Glover, Eric Thompson and Duck Washington.  There will also be stand-up comedy, short form improv and a variety of other stuff.  We also kick off the marathon with a $250 matching grant so help us get started right!

Saturday, March 7th

Midnight – PowerPoint Karaoke.  I’m one of the presenters in my favorite improv game of all time.  Presenters are given a series of slides that make no sense and must make up a presentation based on the slides.  Also presenting will be Windy Bowlsby and Dawn Krosnowski.  It should be amazing.  Also, we have a $250 matching grant from CONvergence during that hour!

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Putting it Together – Tipping

I’ve been thinking a lot about tipping as The Dregs have been performing at Siouxland Festival this weekend.

Every act that asks for tips has to figure out a way to convince the audience to dig into their pocket.  Every theater that produces shows has to convince the audience to not only buy a ticket but to hopefully support the theater in other ways because it is almost impossible to meet your budget with ticket sales alone.

Asking for money feels unnatural and it can be difficult but when it comes to tipping a server, most of us do it without even giving it a second thought.

I’ve been a server and I’ve been a performer and here’s what I know: being a performer takes more time and is a lot more difficult.

Serving is a hard job and I completely support tipping a server 15 percent or better.  It is completely fair.  I usually tip 20 percent.

It startles me, though, that people who will almost unconsciously give a server $10 will have difficulty reaching into their pocket to give a musician a dollar.

Contemplate that for a moment.  Think about the amount of work it took someone to learn how to play that instrument.  And then the amount of time it took them to learn to play that song.  In the case of The Dregs, we often wrote the song ourselves.

And someone will watch a musician (or a juggler or a dancer) and find that their effort isn’t worth a dollar.

I don’t resent people who don’t tip performers.  I simply don’t understand them.  I don’t think they get it.

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Friend a Day – Chris Arneson


As I’m currently in South Dakota performing with the Dregs, today seemed like a good day to write about a Dregs super fan.

Chris has been a loyal fan of our band for as long as I can remember.  In one of our earliest incarnations, she came up to us and the end of the year and presented us with a paper bag.  Inside the bag was a beautiful Irish Clauddagh that she had bought for us just because she loved our music.

We hung it in the pub for several years but eventually feared it would be damaged.  At the moment it is in my basement, which is a bad location.

It was the first time anyone gave us a gift just to say “thanks” for entertaining them and it still is a special memory.

Chris comes to most of our shows but she has her priorities.  She misses a few because she is watching her grandchildren.  She misses others because she’s watching the Vikings.  She’s missed a few lately because of health problems.

We always notice when she’s gone because she’s it feels like she’s part of the pub now.

She becomes part of the family for seven weekends a year. She’s one of the people who cries on the last day of the festival because it’s all going away and she isn’t ready.

I think Chris is a naturally cheerful person.  She enjoys coming to the shows because she likes to laugh and she likes to sing along and she feels invited to be a part of the experience.  That’s something that clearly connects with her.

For me, she is a great example of what being an entertainer is all about.  It is making a personal connection with someone you hardly know and making a difference in their lives.

It’s great that we have made a difference to her.  The great thing is that she has also made a difference to us.


Friend a Day – Marc Baker

14 - 1I haven’t known Marc very long.  We met when he started dating Molly Zupon about two years ago.  The two of us hit it off right away, I think.

Marc has a sense of humor that almost exactly matches mine.  When we get together, we exist primarily to make Molly roll her eyes at us and/or squawk in disgust.  I also like having Marc around because Molly doesn’t pay nearly as much attention to my nipples when he’s there.

I admire Marc because he’s a recovering alcoholic and when I’ve heard stories about his time as a drinker, I’m completely amazed to think that he made the decision to stop and has managed to remain sober.  I know that it has to be a struggle every day but he meets that struggle with a good sense of humor (he was on Geeks Without God to talk about it).

He’s also very self-aware.  When he realized that he was getting completely addicted to Facebook, he gave up on the platform right away.  I think that he’s got a determined character.  When he decided that something needs to be done, he takes action immediately.

One way in which that trait manifests itself is in the way he will tell someone when he likes something they’ve done.  He’s quick to complement someone for their work when he enjoys it.  As someone who has received more than one of those complements, it is a great gesture of respect.

He’s a lot more physically active than I am, which is a trait I should work harder to emulate.

Marc is very confident with who he is, which is rare.  He is open about his weaknesses and proud of his strengths.  He never pretends to be someone who he is not.

I often joke that Marc and I are boyfriends and while that is mostly done to make Molly jealous, I would totally date Marc if both of us were interested in other men.  I’m really happy he’s my friend.  The physical side will have to wait.

Friend a Day – Susanne Becker


Photo by Peter Verrant

I’ve known Suze since she was in Renaissance Festival academy and I was one of her instructors.  For over ten years, the two of us have been in The Dregs together.  We are the only two original members of the band left.

The first thing that anyone notices about her is her signing voice because it is amazing.  She has a natural sense of pitch and tempo and nails every song the first time she sings it.  It’s no wonder our audience requests her songs so frequently.

When Suze says she is going to do something for you, she will do it in a surprisingly creative way.  Just recently I was looking for some feather fans to use in a performance bit.  I wasn’t having any luck finding them so she just decided she was going to make them.  And she did.  And they were amazing.

I think that she’s at her finest when she is really excited about something.  She brings all of her considerable energy to a project and makes it something special.

For someone who has a lot of fears, I give her a lot of credit for facing them.  She hates puppets and still deals with a bunch of people waving them in her face.  She allows those fears to be subservient to entertaining the audience and that takes a lot of courage.

When she is in top form, she is the best vilifier I’ve ever seen.  She simply rules the stage.  Nothing can stop her.  At the top of her game, she has more stage presence than anyone I know.

She’s also been part of some other shows I’ve put together and she always shines when given the chance.  She has a magnetism to her stage persona that makes her a worthwhile addition to anything I do.  If I could use her in productions more often, I would.

As a friend, she is fiercely loyal and will stick up for a friend or a friendship with all of her considerable might.

I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know Suze over the years and I’m glad that she’s a part of The Dregs and of my life.

Friend a Day – Molly Zupon


I first met Molly when she was a member of DeCantus.  When we would perform a show together at the end of the day, Molly was the most likely to banter with The Dregs and get in a way that was – I guess – “Dreglike.”

Then we had an opening in the band and Molly felt like the perfect fit for us.  I’m glad I’d seen that personality in her already because I found it a lot easier to envision how she would fit into the band.

When it comes to deadpan delivery, Molly is one of the best.  She spends almost every show looking like she has been forced to be a member of the worst band ever.  Then she’ll start doing a weird dance and smiling and it looks just a little bit creepy.  Which is the point.

I love to hang out with Molly because she and I have developed an entertaining banter that is unique among all of my friends.  I have no idea how or why I interact with Molly this way but it feels right.

She’s begun writing songs for the band now and I appreciate the voice she brings to our music.  The Dregs are all about six disparate voices joining together and it feels good that Molly’s voice is getting more distinct. She’s got a really good turn of phrase for lyrics and is very open to suggestion (if any are required and they usually aren’t).

Musically, her contributions have been great.  She a terrific violin player and keeps finding great ways to work her instrument into our songs.  She’s also got a great, trained voice that makes me just a little bit envious.

Molly is open with her emotions, which is something I’ve tried to emulate a little because I’m not.  When she talks about what is going on emotionally, it can often stop problem from getting worse.

I honestly can’t decide if I like her laugh or her horrified gasp more.  I guess that’s why I spend equal time trying to elicit both.

I’m so glad Molly became a member of The Dregs because I really enjoy spending time with her.


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