The Hammer is Not My Penis
Everyone has their strengths. I’m good at many things but if I have one really stellar skill, it is in my ability as an MC. I can host the shit out of stuff.
When I started with Vilification Tennis, I was a vilifier. I was OK, I guess. I didn’t suck. But when I took over as the host of Vilification Tennis, I transformed the show. I didn’t transform it by making myself the star of the show. I transformed it because I figured out how to make the show look better to the audience.
I just have a basic understanding of how to run a show from the stage. There is a reason that I’m the front guy for The Dregs. Nobody has to tell me how to do it. I just know.
Every now and again, though, something happens that freaks me out a little. I get rattled.
We all get rattled sometimes. It can be a challenge as an MC because you need to be focused on the show and on the moment. If you are spending a bunch of the show worried about a choice you made, you aren’t in the moment.
I Know What I’m Doing This Weekend
First 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!
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.
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
I 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
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.
Friend a Day – Geoffrey Brown
I met Geoffrey at the Siouxland Renaissance Festival about five or six years ago. At the time, he was playing with The Lost Boys and after watching one of our sets in which we sang “Zombies in the Shire” and “If I had a Million Chickens,” he asked why we didn’t have a song about zombie chickens.
A fair question that led to the song “Brawk Brawk Brains.”
My point, I guess, is Geoffrey has been an inspiration from the get go.
Since Geoffrey joined the Dregs, I’ve had the privilege to get to know him a great deal more and I’m better because of it.
Geoffrey has become a valued collaborator when it comes to writing music. He does a good job polishing lyrics and can come up with very catch guitar riffs in just a few minutes. When the two of us get together to write, we can bang out a song every hour or so. Not every one is brilliant but there are more hits than misses.
I’ve used Geoffrey for all of my Big Fun Radio Funtime shows and often hand him extra bits to do at the last minute specifically because I know he can handle anything I throw at him with very little preparation.
I like to hang out with him outside of “band time” because he’s got a hearty laugh and a sharp wit.
Every time we perform together, he thanks me (and everyone else he performed with). That genuine gratitude for being able to share a stage with other people is endearing and a good reminder to tell other people you are grateful for the time they spend with you.
He works very hard to be involved in his daughter’s life, even though she is a long way away most of the time. I think that it is admirable how important that bond is to him and how hard he works to maintain it.
Geoffrey has taught me to be grateful for those around me and for that I’m grateful to him.
Friend a Day – Rachael Salisbury
Rachael and I go back a long way. She and my brother we good friends during High School. We got along and hung out at that time but she didn’t really become a major part of my life until she joined The Dregs a few years ago.
She was such an important addition to the band for so many reasons.
This may come as a shock to most people who know the members of my band, but we can frequently get a little distracted at rehearsal. Rachael is the person who will most likely get us back on track. I’m not going to say she cracks the whip because that isn’t the right way to put it.
Rather, she pushes us back on the road.
Another thing that might surprise you about a group of Type A personalities is every now and again things can get pretty tense. When that happens, Rachael is frequently the person I’ll call just to calm myself down. She listens and calmly explains to me why I shouldn’t be freaking out.
So I stop freaking out and deal with the problem rationally.
Rachael is a committed singer who performs with other vocal groups in addition to The Dregs. She really enjoys singing and I’m glad I get to share her enjoyment.
When I think about my friends, I often think about the kind of conversations I have with them. With Rachael, our conversations are thoughtful and frequently focused on stuff that we want to do and how to get it done. I’m not going to say that everything gets done but I like that Rachael is focused on achieving goals.
If there is a member of The Dregs who is not trying to grab attention, it is Rachael. That’s great because it means there are only five of us trying to steal focus instead of all six. When she does decide to grab focus, I think she can be more effective simply because of the fact that she hangs back to wait for her moment.
It’s a lesson the rest of us should learn. At the very least, I should.
I love performing with Rachael and I’m really glad that she has rotated back into my life. She’s a whole lot of fun.
Friend a Day – Chad Dutton
Chad and I crossed paths at just about the perfect time. He has such a remarkable array of talents, it is hard to believe that he was available to join The Dregs when he did.
I first knew him as a producer and while my experience is limited, I can tell you he is something special at that job. He just knows how to take good music and make it sound amazing. In fact, that is a gift he has with just about anything.
When The Dregs are working on a song, he will typically be the one who notices that the song needs something extra and he’s an expert at figuring out what that extra thing should be. It could be a missing note or it could be a missing shaker but he always makes good choices.
He just has good instincts when it comes to making things better.
As a band mate, Chad is one of the best talents you can hope for, both musically and comedically. He’s also someone I trust to write music with because when I show up with some lyrics for a song, he can almost instantly grasp what I’m looking for, we can get the music written in an afternoon. It’s kind of uncanny.
He’s very talented, yes, but he’s also just a lot of fun. He and I have frequently ended up driving together to out of town performances and I love having him in my car. We talk and laugh and argue and send obnoxious texts to the rest of our band and stop for coffee a lot. The time passes more quickly when he is around.
Chad can be brutally honest and sometimes that can be hard to take. But I appreciate that honesty because it cuts through the bullshit and addresses the problem.
Because he has shared his talent with me for so many years, I always consider myself lucky that we accidentally came together when we did. My life and my art has been better because he is a part of both. For these and so many other reasons, Chad rocks more.
Chad is the Music Director at Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret in Chanhassen. You can catch him there most every Friday and Saturday night.