Tag Archives: Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood

Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood!

NYE Banner 141-ogNYE Banner 2There will be no better place to be this New Year’s Eve than in Evanston, Illinois – that little college town just north of Chicago.

851575_497491816991199_391471856_nBut why party in Evanston? Why not Paris, or Rome, or the Greek island of Santorini? Why not join the throngs in Times Square – or at Monty’s Steakhouse in Woodland Hills?

Because Evanston in where you can be a part of “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” at 27 Live.

DSC_8401The fun begins at 8:00 PM with a one-hour comedy variety revue for the middle ages — hosted by screenwriter/comedian Dana Olsen, and featuring yours truly and my wife Victoria Zielinski of “The Vic & Paul Show”; our tall, blonde friend and fellow Practical Theatre founder, Brad Hall; the great Steve Rashid tinkling the ivories; Rockin’ Ronny Crawford hitting the rim shots on drums; and narrated by Stewart Figa, who will also grace the show with his powerful singing voice.

If you were among the standing-room-only crowd that caught “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood” at the Wilmette Theatre last June, you’ll have some idea of the fun to be had when Mr. Olsen and his neighbors get together to share some laughter and comic camaraderie.

Rockme PhotoThen, at 10:00 PM, the kids (of all ages) will start jumpin’ when Riffmaster and The Rockme Foundation take the stage for two sets of classic rock & roll and original songs written by a bunch of guys who grew up listening to the best records ever made and played on the radio. Wit, harmony, the big backbeat — and passionate guitar playing that would make Chuck Berry proud of his children.

28127_10150190489000591_536200590_12508602_5992375_nAfter Riff and the Rockmes ring in the New Year, a DJ will keep the dance floor jumping until 2:00 AM.

It’s all happening at Evanston’s newest nightclub and concert venue, 27 Live, featuring a great stage, bar, whiskey lounge, and restaurant in a 14,000 square foot space that’s perfect for a New Year’s Eve crowd. 27 Live is located at 1012 Church Street, just steps away from both the CTA Purple line and Metra Davis stops.

27live_concerthallfinalValet Parking is available.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at door – with a $100 Dinner Package available (includes a 5 course dinner).

Tickets are now on sale at www.27live.com

Or you can get them at this link.

See you in Evanston on New Year’s Eve!sc00003a0e

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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!

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Big Fun in Chicago is About to Begin…

There’s little more than a week before “The Vic & Paul Show” opens at The Beverly Arts Center on June 15th.  Get your tickets here.

On the day before we open at The Beverly Arts Center, Victoria and I are joining our great friend, and my fellow Northwestern and Mee-Ow Show alum, Dana Olsen, for a special comedy show at The Wilmette Theatre on June 14th.  Our musical director Steve Rashid and our original “Vic & Paul Show” director Shelly Goldstein will also join us for a night of “Comedy for the Middle Ages”.

Here’s a recent Pioneer Press feature about “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood”…

You’ll meet the most interesting people in “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood,” Thursday, June 14, at the Wilmette Theatre.

First of all, there’s Mr. Olsen himself, aka Dana Olsen, the writer of such hit films as “George of the Jungle” and “The ’Burbs,” plus numerous TV scripts, who pursues his Hollywood career from the unlikely location of Wilmette.

Then there’s Evanston resident Steve Rashid, an Emmy-winning composer who is also a musician, singer, producer and recording engineer.

Two of Olsen’s other “neighbors” are Victoria Zielinski and her husband, former “Saturday Night Live” writer Paul Barrosse, stars of “The Vic and Paul Show,” an evening of comedy and music which opens a two-weekend run at the Beverly Arts Center the night after “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood.”

Lastly, there’s Shelly Goldstein, a cabaret artist and writer, whose numerous TV script credits range from “Laverne and Shirley” to “Flying with Byrd.”

Zielinski, Barrosse and Goldstein all live in Los Angeles but are gathering at the Wilmette Theatre with longtime friends Olsen and Rashid to relive their fun days at Northwestern University (blank) years ago. (Goldstein and Zielinski made Olsen promise not to reveal the dates.)

College buddies

“It’s kind of like we’re getting the old band back together,” 
Olsen said of the comedy-variety show he and his friends have 
created. “We first worked together in the ‘Mee-Ow Show,’ which is the annual comedy review on campus. [Rashid didn’t work on that show with them.] Then, different incarnations of us worked comedy clubs as a group for a while. After graduation, we followed separate paths in the industry. Now it’s years later and our parental obligations have diminished and we decided to start having some fun with each other again.”

Each performer is writing part of the program. Olsen has created a humorous Power Point presentation. Barrosse and Zielinski are doing a few pieces from “The Vic and Paul Show.” Goldstein will perform selections from her cabaret act, which she has presented all over the world.

Rashid is serving as musical director, as well as doing a segment of the show.

“Dana and I have been friends for quite a while through other friends,” Rashid said, “but we’ve never actually worked together. Whenever we get together, we spend a lot of time laughing so we might as well do it onstage.”

Rashid first worked with Barrosse and Zielinski in the 1980s when he was musical director for the Practical Theatre Co., which Barrosse co-founded in Chicago. He is also serving as musical director of “The Vic and Paul Show.”

In addition to participating in the musical numbers from that show, Rashid said, “I’ll have a couple of moments. One of the nice things about this show that Dana is putting together is that there will be several opportunities for all of us to be performing together, in one form or another, and we’ll each have a chance to do a little bit of what we do individually.”

Playing together

“We’ve written some 
sketches for all of us — which has been a real blast,” Olsen concurred. “We’ve been working together on conference calls and throwing ideas around in email, and sending rough drafts back and forth.”

Rashid recalled one of those conference calls. “They were practically writing sketches on the phone,” he said. “It was absolutely hilarious.”

Olsen said that the show’s theme is: “A humorous look at the trials and tribulations of middle age — an idea of different neighborhoods. Middle age being a neighborhood. Wilmette being a neighborhood. Marriage being a neighborhood. We’re taken the ‘Mr. Rogers Neighborhood’ theme and expanded it.”

Sounds like a great place to visit.

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Visit “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood”!

Our very funny friend Dana Olsen, a fellow Northwestern University and Mee-Ow Show alum, is hosting “A Comedic Variety Show for the Middle Ages” at The Wilmette Theatre on June 14th. If you’re anywhere near Chicago’s North Shore, you won’t want to miss it.

Dana is comedian and screenwriter whose works include The ‘Burbs, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, George of the Jungle and Inspector Gadget. Dana is one of the funniest people I know — and I know lots of funny people: intentional and unintentional. With Dana, the humor is definitely intentional.

I’ve known Dana since we were both NU freshmen in 1976. He was a brilliant and captivating raconteur back then – and he’s even more fun to listen to now. Plus, he was recently named one of North Shore Magazine’s “Eligible Bachelors of the North Shore.” It’s truly groovy in Mr. Olsen’s neighborhood.

Victoria, Steve Rashid and I will be joining Dana on the bill that evening – just one night before we open “The Vic & Paul Show” on Chicago’s South Side at The Beverly Arts Center on June 15th.

Comedic chanteuse Shelly Goldstein, another fellow Northwestern and Mee-Ow Show alum (and the original director of “The Vic & Paul Show”) will also be appearing with us in “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood.”

“Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood” is the place to be on June 14th.

Then, after enjoying some laughs at The Wilmette Theatre on the North Side, come down to The Beverly Arts Center on the South Side for more laughs.

June in Chicago will be a very funny month.

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