Monthly Archives: July 2012

Give ‘Em Hell, Obama!

During the 1948 Presidential campaign, President Harry S. Truman delivered a speech in Illinois  attacking the Republicans in blunt terms. During his speech a supporter called out, “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”. Truman shot back — “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.”

Here’s a snippet of the kind of hell “Give ‘Em Hell Harry” was giving the GOP in those days. (You can read the whole speech here.) I’d like to hear President Obama channel a little more Harry Truman from now until election day.


Filed under History, Politics

How I Spent My Summer Sabbatical: Part One…

Having decided to take a two-month sabbatical from the television business this summer, I left the production of the first season of “Push Girls” (Sundance Channel) and the eighth season of “Little People, Big World” (TLC) still in progress – and flew up to San Francisco in the first week of June to begin my unusual adventure.

My sabbatical began in the Bay Area because our middle-aged rock & roll band, Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, was playing a benefit in Portola Valley on June 8th to support Breast Cancer Action, an event organized by our drummer Rockin’ Ronny Crawford’s wife, JoAnn Loulan. My summer sojourn was off to a loud, rocking start for a very good cause.

My great friend, Rockme band mate (and freshman college roommate) Brad Hall accompanied me on the flight from LAX to SFO. Brad was also playing hooky from Hollywood.

After picking up Brad’s rental car, we traversed the surface streets of San Francisco, iPhone GPS in hand, from SFO to Brad’s sister’s lovely house overlooking The Presidio. I’d never spent more than a few days in San Francisco before, and I saw more of the city on that drive than I’d ever seen. I felt like Steve McQueen in “Bullit” (only going a lot slower) as we made our way up and down the groovy urban hill country toward The Presidio: that vast expanse of green space overlooking the Pacific Ocean commandeered by the U.S. military since the early 19th Century.

That first evening in San Francisco, Brad and I went to The Presidio Social Club to meet up with our gathering bandmates — Riffmaster Peter Van Wagner and Maurice Cleary (college roommates) and Terry Barron and Tom Larson (also college roommates. Sensing a pattern here?). I had the liver and onions. My meal was fabulous, as was the entire evening.

The next day, Brad and I made our way to rehearsal at Lennon Rehearsal Studios, located at 271 Dore Street in San Francisco, where our entire band was gathered.

Lead guitarist Riffmaster Peter Van Wagner…

Rhythm guitar player Maurice “Mr. Mo” Cleary…

Sax player Thomas “Wolf” Larson – who had traveled all the way from his home in Madrid, Spain…

Drummer Rockin’ Ronny Crawford…

Bass player Rush Pearson…

Keyboard wizard Steve “The Decider” Rashid…

And vocalist Casey “Casemo” Fox…

Our rehearsal at Lennon Studios went well. We actually made our way through most of the two sets we planned to play the next evening – and I managed not to tear my vocal cords to shreds prematurely.

The next evening, June 8th, we played the gig that had drawn us all to the Portola Valley: the benefit for Breast Cancer Action at the stunning, stately residence of Lori and Deke Hunter.

Lori and Deke have built an amazing house and grounds, featuring prolific flower and vegetable gardens. Seeing the impressive layout, I quickly spun a series of jokes about how Lori and Deke were actually poor subsistence farmers, barely managing to eke out a hardscrabble, meager living from their small, humble plot of earth. (Those jokes would serve me and Brad later during the live auction.)

At sound check — hours before the party got underway — Deke had growing concerns about the band. When I went into his house to print our set lists, Deke warned me that, “Volume could be a problem.” I replied that, “Volume is always a problem.” Needless to say, Deke was not reassured.

But before the night was out, it was Deke himself who led a packed dance floor, as he and his benefit guests rocked along with our second set. We came. We saw. We rocked. And we helped raise a lot of money for Breast Cancer Action.

“Bubba” George McClellan and the author cool our heels before the gig. (Looking as if we’d like to make you an offer you can’t refuse…)

Steve “The Decider” Rashid decides to look ultra-cool by the pool before the gig.

The next day, most of us gathered at a funky local eatery to celebrate a successful evening of riotous rocking and fundraising.

Then, it was time for Steve Rashid and I to fly to Chicago for the next stage in my sabbatical: “The Vic & Paul Show” at The Beverly Arts Center. The morning after we arrived in the Windy (and very hot and muggy) City, we went to the WGN radio studios in the Tribune Tower to promote “The Vic & Paul Show” in an appearance on Rick Kogan’s weekly radio program, “The Sunday Papers.”

To listen to our conversation with Rick, click here: vic and paul show

The day before we opened at The Beverly Arts Center, Victoria, Steve and I joined our good friends Dana Olsen, Shelly Goldstein and Stew Figa for a special one-night performance of “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood” at The Wilmette Theatre on June 14th. The show was made possible through the vision of another good friend and fellow NU alum, Nili Yelin Wronski, The Wilmette’s Director of PR and Marketing. Nili knows funny. (She’s a great entertainer herself!)

I had not shared a stage with Dana, Stewart or Shelly since our days at Northwestern – and it was as though the intervening three decades simply melted away in laughter and the joy of performance.

Shelly, Steve, Vic, Dana and the author. (Where was the great Stew Figa?)

We packed the house at The Wilmette Theatre – and the Chicago stage of my sabbatical tour was off to a great start.

Our choral salute to the legendary, corrupt, imprisoned Governors of Illinois. The great Stewart Figa stands second from right, next to the author.

The next night, Friday June 15th was the opening night of “The Vic & Paul Show” at The Beverly Arts Center on Chicago’s South Side in the neighborhood where Victoria was born and raised.

A front page article in The Beverly Review announced Vic’s return to her old stomping grounds — and the audience that gathered on opening night was swelled by her old classmates from Luther South High School, family members, and dozens of others curious to see the show that Victoria and her husband had come back home to perform.

Vic backstage at The Beverly Arts Center.

We’d done “The Vic & Paul Show” on Chicago’s North Side before – but this was our first time on the South Side. And by the time the curtain came down on our opening night show, we’d learned three basic things about Chicago audiences North and South.

— Boy-girl relationship jokes, comedy about marriage, getting drunk, and certain jokes below the waist are universal.

— Political jokes go over very differently on the North and South Sides. (Our biting, satirical song about the Republican Presidential candidates that knocked them dead at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park on the North Side? In Beverly — not such a laugh riot.)

— The South Side loves a good Catholic joke. In fact, nowhere on Earth (except, we would soon learn, Cleveland) would a reference to Saint Augustine get such a huge, knowing laugh.

Our two-weekend run at The Beverly Arts Center was off to a pretty good start – but it wasn’t over yet. Or was it?

Coming up next: Our run at The Beverly Arts Center continues – then it’s on to the wilds of northern Wisconsin and Cleveland’s Playhouse Square!


Filed under Art, Beauty, Comedy, Improvisation, Music

“The Vic & Paul Show” Summer Tour Arrives in Los Angeles, August 9-12th!

Tickets are on sale now for the final four performances of “The Vic & Paul Show” at the iO West Theatre in Hollywood. CLICK HERE.

After stops in Chicago and Cleveland, “The Vic & Paul Show” Summer 2012 Tour is celebrating the conclusion of our comedy odyssey with four performances in an intimate cabaret venue on Hollywood Boulevard: The iO West Theatre.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy a cool summer drink and share some groovy music and lots of laughs with Paul, Victoria and Steve.

Seating is limited, so get your tickets now. You can do so by calling the iO West Box Office at 323-962-7560 or by going to the iO West website at

We hope to see you in Hollywood, August 9-12th, for a festive end to our great comic adventure!


Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

Farewell, Cleveland! Thanks for the Love and Laughter!

Cleveland, Ohio is often associated with laughs. My hometown is often the butt of jokes — including many made by its steady crop of homegrown comedians, from Bob Hope to Drew Carey. Much of the laughter is well-earned: you set fire to a river JUST ONCE and it’s hard to escape the jokes.

But while Cleveland has been laughed at many times, it’s a city with a great sense of humor — and there’s nothing like being in a room full of Clevelanders enjoying a laugh. That’s what I rediscovered during our recent run of “The Vic & Paul Show” at the 14th Street Theatre in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square.

Every night, Clevelanders got every joke in the show — and the laughter flowed with warmth and recognition. Even when we performed some songs and sketches during an afternoon appearance at a local Senior Citizen Center, it was obvious that Clevelanders enjoyed a joke no matter what their age.

So, while Cleveland has often been laughed AT — we were delighted to be laughing WITH Cleveland this past week. And it wasn’t a one-way street. For all the laughs Victoria, Steve and I delivered from the stage — we were treated in return to a steady stream of wit and riposte from audience and crew members, family, friends, former classmates, teachers and coaches of mine — and even passersby! (Especially that guy in the car who shouted out, “Welcome to Cleveland” with a wide smile as we pulled up next to him.)

I’ll be publishing a longer report on my whole summer adventure as soon as I catch my breath. But I wanted to shout out to my hometown while all those laughs are still ringing in my ears.

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

Brights Lights, Big City!

The Vic & Paul Show Opens in Cleveland this Week!For show info and tickets, click here.

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

Coming Soon! Vic & Paul in Cleveland!

Here’s what my hometown newspaper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, had to say after we did an interview with comedy beat writer, Mike McIntyre last week…


Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

Freedom, Burgers & Beer!

Happy July 4th to all my friends and those who follow, read, or just happen to stumble upon this blog.

Today, I’m in Evanston, Illinois getting ready to spend a wonderful day with family and great friends. We’ll watch the Central Street Parade, cool ourselves with Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, and then enjoy a backyard barbecue.

Aside from the 100-degree heat, it couldn’t be more perfect.

I’m sure it was just this kind of day that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and all our founding fathers had in mind when they decided to throw off the shackles of British rule and risk their lives in a revolution.

Seriously, those brave patriots clearly had weightier matters in mind – but if they could join us as we sip from a bottle of Summer Shandy between bites of a burger hot off the grill, it might have been reason enough for their epochal Declaration of Independence.


Filed under History, Truth