King of Comedy?
Carl Landau | March 15, 2022
You need to "practice what you preach". We're always encouraging listeners on the I Used to be Somebody show to try doing something NEW and more FUN. So, I felt like I had to try something new.....
WARNING: For anyone trying something entirely new ( a second act), at the beginning you're going to be frustrated, scared, overwhelmed and at some point you're going to want to give up. These are natural feelings. It's supposed to be a challenge! So have patience and give yourself a break when trying something new.
I signed up for a six week comedy stand-up workshop and our final was performing before a live audience. I learned a ton by taking on this project and it really kicked me out of my comfort zone.
Stand-up is HARD, and not just because you are talking in front of an audience with bright spotlights focused on you. You have to learn to take command of the room while at the same time you are trying to get a very specific response from the audience -- laughter! (And not just once but for most of the time you are up on stage.)
You have to be a good writer, develop a script, memorize it and then successfully perform that set without note cards, which are four entirely different skills. Oh yeah---and be really funny!
Find a great mentor, it makes a difference. I was so lucky because I had the incredible comedian, Jack Gallagher, who has had a big time career in comedy and acting.
Jack told our class, "Regardless if you continue with your stand-up career or not, the experience translates into big-time confidence in anything else you do in the future. If you can do stand-up, you are bullet proof for anything." I think this is totally true.
Getting WAY OUT of your Comfort Zone
Carl Landau | February 08, 2022
I talk about getting out of your comfort zone a lot on my I Used to be Somebody show. It's is a big theme of the show and one of the reasons I started the podcast. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could have a successful podcast after selling my company and also to help others figure out how to create their own successful second acts in life.
So I just took a big leap! I recently confessed to comedian Greg Schwem, a guest on the show, that I had just signed up for a stand-up comedy workshop. We meet for 6 weeks and for our "final" my classmates and I each get a 5 minute set in front of a LIVE audience.
I saw this class advertised on a Facebook post. And there was no one at that moment who I could talk to, in hopes of "talking me out of it." So I immediately signed up before I chickened out. I was literally shaking as I filled in my credit card info to pay online for the workshop.
I just had my first session. Our teacher is the very talented Jack Gallagher who I actually had interviewed last spring for my show. He's been a comedian / writer / actor for 40+ years. Another reason I signed up for the workshop was to meet and get to know the other weirdos like me that want to try this stand-up thing. I wasn't disappointed. They come from all walks of life. Everyone there had a different reason for attending. We are an interesting bunch for sure but it all seemed to be good- hearted and supportive. Which is what you need in a nerve-wracked environment of stand-up comedy.
And as Jack pointed out.........a five minute set is waaaay longer than you think. It's also a very long time if you're bombing.
Jack had each one of us go up on the stage right away. He wants us to feel comfortable on that stage. Some of my classmates have already done some stand-up. Some have an acting background. Oh, and then there is me.
The first time on the stage was easy. Jack did a Q & A session with us -- our life story, why we were there and who are favorite comedians were. I did fine. The second part on stage was a complete disaster for me. Jack performed a 3 minute comedy bit and each of us took turns to repeat that set. Just about everyone was able to jump up there and do their version of the bit. I was in total panic mode while watching everyone else.
Ironically, the set I'm working on for my own stand-up set is that I'm dyslexic and how I've had to deal with it my whole life. Sometimes my brain gets jumbled up and I don't have the skills to do exactly the task I want it to do. So my 28-second act was a disaster. My classmates politely clapped and I sat down mortified.
I'll do another diary entry before my final stage performance. I'm actually eager to go back next week. I was successful by showing up and making the effort. I certainly got out of my comfort zone. And you know what? Nothing bad has happened to me yet.
Jack Gallagher Interview: Take a Chance!
Diana Landau | May 11, 2021
Carl talks with Jack Gallagher, a comedian, actor, and writer, and Emmy award- winning television host of the PBS series Money Moves (nationally syndicated), Off-Limits, and Kids, Cash and Common Sense. He was also the host of California's The Big Spin Game Show and had a recurring role as a doctor on the hit HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm.
But there’s more! Jack is also the author and performer of eight critically acclaimed one-man shows. We’ve seen most of these highly personal, very relatable shows that make you laugh, cry and laugh again. His shows stay with you. So what’s Jack doing now? He’s still working and loving it, but also trying to take it easy. “I’m not chasing it anymore, but if someone calls, I’ll consider it.” (Of course, they still do.)
Jack grew up in a hard-working Irish Catholic family with 5 kids in the small town of West Bridgewater near Boston, MA. Jack says he was a shy kid growing up. (Most comedians are actually introverts.) By the age of 10, Jack knew he wanted to be a comedian, to make people laugh. “It took me out of my shell,” he says. His conservative parents were not so sure at first but eventually they came around.
After working towards a teaching degree, Jack took a chance and started performing at a Comedy Night on Campus, then in the Boston comedy scene just as it started to take off. Boston became a hotbed of comedy “greats.” It all happened pretty fast. Signed by an agent, Jack moved to LA and became a regular at the Improv. “Hecklers make you battle-tested,” Jack laughs. Then came the big break—an appearance on the Johnny Carson show. Performances followed.
In 1987 he was hired by KCRA in Sacramento to do a show. After being on the road for 15 years, Jack and his wife decided to stay, raise a family. He would fly down to LA and do his shows and then come back to Sac. He also had the opportunity to perform on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. “It was a lot of ad lib—which is fun!” Always writing, Jack created eight one-man plays. Carl notes the stamina that takes. They require 60 shows in 6 weeks, 1.5 hours a night, 2 hours a night on Saturdays. “The audience rides the rollercoaster with me,” says Jack.
So now after a long, successful career, Jack at age 68 is still taking chances, but also taking it easy. He still writes and also performs in a band. Jack and his wife, Jean Ellen are also spending time visiting their sons, traveling when possible and every year they go to Massachusetts. “I’m really good at what I do. I’ve been incredibly lucky, it’s worked out.”
UnRetirement insights from Jack Gallagher:
“It’s weird to get old. Everything hurts! But I’m still 30-35 in my head. Sometimes I get recognized and sometimes I don’t and that’s okay!”
“I always tell my kids, the worst thing that can happen to you is someone says ‘No’. Just try something, take a chance!”
“I still like what I do, I still love performing. (But now) I try to do stuff that’s just fun!”
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” weekly blog.