I wanted to stay at home for Thanksgiving this year, but since comedians don’t get holiday pay, I had to find some place close where the commute would make it possible. I got the opportunity to feature for Donnie Baker at a couple clubs this past week, which I was happy to do. Now for those of you that are not in a market for the Bob and Tom radio show, Donnie Baker is the most popular character in the show’s history. Bob and Tom has to be the most popular radio show of it’s kind as it’s syndicated in over 150 markets, which makes Donnie one of the biggest draws in standup today.
I have a history with the guy who created the Donnie Baker character, Ron Sexton. Ron and I have been friends for 15 years. He is truly one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Ron started out in sports radio hosting post-game shows for the Indiana Pacers and moving on to be the producer and sidekick for Mark Patrick, another friend who among many shows hosted the Nationally syndicated FOX sports morning show and the XM radio baseball channel’s morning show. I used to do a regular segment on the national FOX sports radio show where I would do topical jokes about whatever was happening in sports that week.
Ron Sexton started doing standup over a decade ago and was a really good impressionist whose material at the time wasn’t at the same level as his voices. I had him open for me a couple times on the road and I always saw the huge potential he had. I had him do some voices in sketches that I wrote for my first comedy CD, including a great Rush Limbaugh. Frank Caliendo also did a sketch on it for me as Jim Rome hosting Meet the Press. I have joked I should re-release this comedy cd, putting on the cover in big letters that it features Frank Caliendo and Donnie Baker, while in small print that it’s a Scott Long comedy CD. It would probably sell a ton.
Ron started working for the Bob and Tom show doing a couple voices and his talent was so great that they hired him on full-time, not long after. Besides the Donnie Baker character, he also calls in doing impressions of people like Tony Soprano, Charles Barkley, Dr. Phil, Morgan Freeman, Steven Seagal, etc. Besides Donnie, he also does other very popular original characters like Kenny Tarmac and Floyd the Trucker.
He started off doing live shows with a band called the Pork Pistols backing up his Donnie Baker character. He needed to do that because he hadn’t developed a headliner act yet. Now though, he rarely has the band play with him, as he has the time and I believe the show is better without the band.
So last Wednesday night I did a 2-man show for him at Crackers in Indy. I haven’t opened a show in a long time, but it was fun and since the room was sold-out, the energy was hot. There is a real talent in being a good MC. You have to host the show and not just be worried about your material. The best tip I can give is to amp up your energy and confidence. This takes away the impression they have of you that you can’t be any good since your the opening act.
On the weekend we did shows at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington. A bonus was that my good friend Matthew Alano-Martin was the MC, so I knew this was going to be a great show. I plan on writing up a more detailed piece on the Comedy Attic, but let me just say that it is one of the best run comedy clubs I have performed at.
Making the show even more unique, was that Ron decided to do his Floyd the Trucker and Kenny Tarmac characters at different points of the show, as well. So after Matt did his opening, he brought up Floyd. Floyd the Trucker is my fav character Ron does and I think it’s pretty brilliant. It’s like a high-quality version of a David Koechner character, as there is a lot of subtlety and nuance to it. I’m hoping Ron continues to develop Floyd for the live stage. How he decided to do Kenny Tarmac was to interrupt me in the middle of my set, walking up onstage while speaking loudly on his cellphone. The concept of the character is a sales guy who is constantly at the airport on his cellphone. I enjoyed being part of such a circus-standup show, but I will admit it took some effort to get the audience back to me, after having Kenny Tarmac commandeer the stage for a couple of minutes.
While I miss the headliner paycheck, it’s fun for me each year to do a feature week so I can do a tighter set. Working in front of a Donnie Baker audience, I did have to go more lowest common denominator in my material, but I don’t mind doing that, as my number 1 goal when I hit the stage is to entertain. Having said that, I still slipped in some of my more challenging 1 person show bits, as I feel if I slam the crowd enough with the laughs, I can preach a little as well. George Carlin is my Comedy God and his example was never being afraid to put in some fart and dick jokes to move along the show, so he could get to his bigger points.
Let me say that Ron Sexton is a great example of someone through a mix of hard work and luck has become a big draw in standup. While there are moments in his act that aren’t exactly revolutionary, he never tells a joke that doesn’t seem to fit his character and there are some dark comedic moments in his show that he doesn’t have to do, but makes his characters more well-developed. The longer I am in this biz, the more I realize that there isn’t just 1 path to comedic success. The key is to finding a way to standout in standup.