December 9, 2012
Exclusive Interview with Comedy Photographer Dan Dion, PLUS: “Jerry Lewis Fake” Attacks Me!!!
“It’s pretty telling of your character as a person when you describe the ladies who gave you 20 dollars for you foundation 'unsuspecting victims'. You should rename the Heckler Fund what it really is: The Steven Alan Green Fund. There wont be a show at the Castro Theater. It’s a false pich just like the Hollywood Bowl show or you riding your bike to Vegas for a show. Just more hype to get money in your pocket. Folks who don’t know you (like the old ladies who gave you the 20) give you donations because you pitch them on your pie in the sky ideas and they believe you. They probably are fooled by your fake sincerity, which is as real as you awful British accent.
Enjoy the fail.”
Comment by Geri Luis on 12/02/12 at 8:35 am
Yeah, folks, that’s the thanks I get. A nasty comment on last week's blog, replete with typos and misspellings and sent to me by someone calling themselves, “Geri Luis”. Look at that. “Enjoy the fail” Geri says. And, in case you’re wondering, ladies and gentlemen, I did not post this comment at The Jewish Journal; nor did I have a confederate do so in my stead. I swear on both my parents' graves I did not post this negative comment. I just woke up, checked the popularity count on the blog and had to read this vile nonsense. And, I’ll admit, even though I was warned to ignore it; it got to me. I tried to email email@example.com, but the email bounced back; meaning the account was probably closed. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I’d like to take this time to address Geri Luis directly through my blog, Enjoy the Veal.
Dear Worthless Scum:
You are an idiot. First, of all, let’s start with how transparent you are. The very fact that you even know about my attempt at a show at the Hollywood Bowl, or riding my bike to Vegas or my “awful British accent” means, by definition, you read my blog, and read it with great frequency. So, the first question I’ll ask you, Mr. Luis (assuming you are a man; and actually, you’re probably not in any sense), I ask you first off the bat: Who taught you how to read and write? ‘Cause you ain’t a very good one. You’re passionate, and I like that, but you’re lazy. Typos and syntax errors aside, I felt your letter lacked a certain….let me think…a certain “spark of resonance”. There was nothing revealing in your letter, which would inspire anyone else, but you – an obvious semi-literate with too much time on your hands (are you currently incarcerated?), to join arms with you and rattle their burning torches at Comedy Frankenstein. Nothing. You sound to me like a child who never grew up, which of course, makes me think of the real Jerry Lewis, but I don’t think this is him. Jerry Lewis – perhaps the greatest comedian and comedy filmmaker of all time (and my former best buddy) has conveniently forgotten me. So, "Geri Luis", I don’t know who you are, what you are, who you think you are, who you may be. And, frankly, I don’t give a rat’s fuck. But, you do bring up some good points and I’d like to address those points and I thank you for writing in and keep reading Enjoy the Veal. Glad you’re enjoying it!
“It’s pretty telling of your character as a person when you describe the ladies who gave you 20 dollars for you foundation “unsuspecting victims”. You should rename the Heckler Fund what it really is: The Steven Alan Green Fund.”
Okay, let’s take it psychotic paragraph by psychotic paragraph. (again, a typo: should be “your” foundation, not “you” foundation) The implication from your opening paragraph is that I’m a scam artist. You’re right. I am. But, not in the way you are implying. I not only run a tight ship, I am the ship. With the exception of a few very-busy-with-other-things, but dedicated people, I not only run The Laughter Foundation, I am the Laughter Foundation. It’s all me. The ladies who gave me the 20 bucks were helping a cause I convinced them to help and every smart person out there knows, that when you give money to street campaigners, those campaigners are doing it as a paid job. I know. I once worked for a company that sent us out, soliciting unsuspecting shoppers as they exited Whole Foods to help Amnesty International because, “There is a woman in Iran who is going to be executed tomorrow morning unless you help right now!” It was fairly easy to get people’s attention with that kind of international emergency in their face. But, it was my second day at work and third day at work, when I noticed we were still supposed to say, “There is a woman in Iran,” etc., etc., “who is going to be executed 'tomorrow' unless you help right now!” By the fifth day, I was asking myself and my bosses, “How many women in Iran named blah, blah, blah, are going to be executed tomorrow?” And, of course, I was actually pissed off they didn’t execute the woman, even though it meant I’d be out of a job. Nothing personal. So, that was a lie and a scam to get people’s attention. Do I think Amnesty International does good, great and important work? You bet your ass I do. I wasn't working for Amnesty International. I was working for a company that was contracted to supply street campaigners. Let’s be clear about that and when I have money again, I will support Amnesty International financially as best as I can. I think they are the heroes of conscience of the day.
Do you think it’s easy going out there in the street and pitching perfect strangers like this? It’s not. People are downright assholes about it, they don’t want to be bothered, and I don't blame them. I learned long ago, that I cannot pitch or sell anything I do not fully understand and fully believe in. One of the day-jobs I applied for in LA was to sell water purification systems to film studios. In the recruitment meeting, they said they had, “…the exclusive rights” to sell their product. They emphasised this point. I raised my hand. “Uh, when you say, exclusive….just so I can answer the customer, should they ask, do you mean exclusive for Southern California? California? The entire US?” They didn’t invite me back. I asked too many questions. Because most of what's out there these days are scams of some sort. But, I believe in The Laughter Foundation. The Laughter Foundation is not a scam. We have a proven track record. Historically, The Laughter Foundation has saved a comedian and single mom, Aubrey Kapree and her little kid Sklyer, from eviction. We started an online campaign through our Heckler Fund to raise all her back rent and legal fees. We were only able to raise her legal fees, but that was enough to delay and then stop the eviction. We saved a single mom, someone I never bet beforehand, and her little 8-year old boy from eviction. How's that for a slice of fried gold? We’ve given cash to TV personality and comedian Suzanne Whang, who has Stage Four Cancer and cancer meds are expensive. It wasn’t a lot of money, but Suzanne was brought to tears when she accepted the money on stage at a benefit in Los Angeles, because there was an entity there that cared for comedians. And, let me be very clear. Jamie Masada, who runs The Laugh Factory, has an open-house Thanksgiving dinner for stand-ups and he’s been doing it for years. Jamie helps a lot of comedians in many ways and doesn’t publicize it. And, Budd Friedman, although he and I have a negative history, I would guess with all my heart that Budd, and his former partner Mark Lonow, have helped numerous stand-ups. Over the years, I’ve personally given many stand-up comedians meals and places to stay, whether it’s in my apartment when I’m out of town or on my couch when I’m there, those comedians have had a place to sleep for the night. I’ve given several of them cash. Thousands. (when I had it) This is what comics do. We help each other. I’m a comedian too. Let’s not forget that. For 30 years, I’ve toured the best comedy clubs and universities, performing stand-up comedy, all throughout North America and in Great Britain. I was on television at least 3 times in the UK and was employed by the BBC. So, yes, Geri, when those two lovely ladies gave the 20 bucks, I went and had a nice meal. I was hungry. I deserve help too. I've paid my dues.
Have you ever built something? Have you? What have you ever created or built in your life? Anything? Because if you had done, then you would be admiring what I’m trying to do, not attacking me. It’s hard to do what I do. I’ve produced four Laughter Foundation benefits in LA, and after production expenses and replenishing our Heckler Fund to help specific comedians, I’ve been in the hole financially every single time. But, that doesn’t matter. I’m building a brand. I’m trying to get people’s attention. Ask me why I started the Laughter Foundation. Go ahead, Schmucko. Ask me. Was it only because after going through a literally life-threatening situation – all because I didn’t have health care in America (but had it in the UK from the UK government!) and wanted to help provide health care to all comedians? No. Was it because I envisioned a world-class museum to study and exhibit the art, history and science of Comedy. Nope. Was it so I could schmooze with the greatest modern comedians around? No sir. The answer is a lot more cynical than that. I needed a job. A job I could get to because I no longer had Los Angeles driving privileges. A job that was essentially a sales job, but not a scam. I made loads of money in the 1980’s in telemarketing. Office supplies. We all know that scam. But, I was not a scammer. Unlike my employers who offered one thing and did another, I was honest. I made big sales and livened dead accounts. I wrote a quarter-million in 1981. I was damn good. And my company delivered quality guaranteed merchandise; although at a very inflated price and at enormous unnecessary volume. That was the Office Supply business. I didn’t create it, I just worked there and I was amongst the best of them. And, I took the job seriously and opened my own company and helped friends and family. High On Laughter is another of my brand. “HOL” benefits a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana. Turning Point Scotland takes average teenage kids, who by sheer bad luck, happened to have been born and raised in one of the heroin capitals of the world, Glasgow, Scotland. Ken Blackie and Netta McGiver do great work, although my understanding is that Netta has moved on. (Hi Ken.) Turning Point Scotland, unlike you, is real. Take the time to see this short video. It's background and show clips, including George Wendt, "Norm" from Cheers and a pre-famous Zach Galifianakis, both of whom I brought to the UK. I produced three HOL shows, from August, 2,000 to September 2002, which was the end of the line for HOL when Jerry Lewis busted the bank, sabotaging the show. Jerry cost me a quarter of a million dollar business, which eventually toppled over my home, the only home I ever owned. And, after going through a lifetime of family turmoil, a home of my own was my literal sanctified church. We all see the contemporary old Jerry Lewis. The fragile man who must be shielded from "nut-jobs" like me. What you don’t see is what I not only saw, but dealt with ten years ago. When I asked Jerry to help me save my home from repossession three years ago, he laughed at me. I was only asking, maybe 1/10th of the money I doled out to him, on the understanding that he was to “give me two weeks of publicity” and then to appear on stage, sing three songs with the orchestra I provided, and accept an award from Hollywood comedy star Bobcat Goldthwait and Pierre Etaix, whom I flew in from Paris. Instead, Jerry reneged on any and all publicity, pulled out of the show four times (which made me look like an idiot for taking him back each time), didn’t bring his sheet music, screamed at me in front of everybody, locked himself in the London Palladium dressing room, had alcohol going back there, tried to have me thrown out of my own theatre and then “collapsed” just at the perfect moment, never going to the hospital and flying back to America the next day, never to contact me again, not even to say thanks. Four days in London and that son-of-a-bitch not only cost me my business, but my home, which was financing it. Read more from the BBC. So, I’ve never done anything for a comedian? How about flying over a dozen American comedians to London, including unknown-then-but-now-he’s-a-star-Zach Galifiniakis? Zach did two of the three HOL shows; and I'm greatful to him. Zach was great.
Much like life, Show Biz is one big lie. “I’ve got so and so attached to my film!” Fuck you, you don’t and who cares. And this is where I come in. I’m the real deal in a land of confederates. I actually have produced big things. A live comedy show at The London Palladium, starring Jerry Lewis and a cavalcade of British and American stand-ups, including big-time movie-star Zach Galifiniakis and touring stand-up big-wig Jim Gaffigan, which was partially broadcast on Bravo UK. Here, check out the 5-min HOL III highlight reel of what was a great show, in SPITE of Jerry Lewis backstage, acting like a big unprofessional diva baby. (And, by the way, word up, Hollywood Big-Wigs, I still am sitting on over 3 hours of broadcast quality, never been broadcast great comedy show. 15 British and American comedians. Call me!) When my car first got towed away, I was trying to raise money to get it out by bringing my friends together for a benefit show, just to help me. It was called, "High On Laughter Four Me". And, a lot of them came through. Rick Overton, Wendy Liebman, and ten others. I called up the manager of one of the comedians whom I brought to the London Palladium. This comedian was now a rising star in the world of stand-up comedy. Don’t remember the name of the manager and don’t care. I’ll never speak with him again. I told him that I had brought his client (not Zach) to London a few years earlier and now that he was a famous comedian, I am asking for help to get my car out of the tow yard. You know what the manager told me? He told me that I couldn’t have his client because his client appearing in my benefit, would (and I quote), “eat into his client’s Los Angeles market”, meaning that if I were to get the client and then marquee his name, on a show with a dozen other comedians, then when his client plays another nearby venue on his own, those people who already came to see him on my show, would not come to his show. What bullshit. And what thanks. And, yet, I still want to help comedians? I must be nuts.
There wont be a show at the Castro Theater. It’s a false pich just like the Hollywood Bowl show or you riding your bike to Vegas for a show. Just more hype to get money in your pocket.
The Hollywood Bowl was reserved for April 1, 2011. My co-producer, Marc Weingarten, and I put together a plan and worked tirelessly for seven months, booking the show, putting together a budget and searching for sponsors. Starting with Roseanne (who came on board because she hates Jerry Lewis so much and had sympathy for me), I was able to get “soft commitments” from Penn & Teller, Margaret Cho, Bill Maher, Tim Allen, Dane Cook, Robin Williams and Conan O’Brien”. Nobody was committing or allowing me to use their name publicly. It was simply a polite, “Yes, sounds like a great cause, and should you get the money together, please contact us again and we’ll see if our client is available then.” Do you know what that even means? They fucking responded to me. They (the managers and agents I now have to go through) don’t know me and they get hit up every single day from this person and that person who wants to use their clients. Their job is to say “No”. That’s their job. The fact that I got a bunch of “maybe’s” is a great accomplishment. We just never got the production money, which I had hoped would be an insurance company, because it was about health care for comedians. Same thing with the show at The Smith Center in Vegas, but with that one, we couldn’t get the names. And, I was trying to make a film. “Peddling to Vegas” was going to be three weeks of me pedaling my bicycle 305 miles from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, culminating with the big show at the Smith Center. Having to suddenly take up bicycling as my main mode of transportation in car-minded Los Angeles in my mid-fifties was very daunting, but I did it, peddling as much as twenty miles a day. The plan for the film was for me to ride 30-50 miles a day, stop off somewhere, have a little adventure, meet a desert mystic (played by the great Rick Overton), meet this lost tribe or whatever and just contemplate the moon as to how I ended up here; and all of it culminating in the big show at the 2,000-seat Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. Don’t forget, I had a very serious nervous breakdown and wanted to kill myself. When you get to a place like that? The only way to survive is to keep on pedaling. Create something. Something good that will benefit other people, as well as yourself.
The problem, my very stupid friend, is that you seem to not just be forgetting the facts, but in fact, have no clue as to how ShowBiz works. Though some might disagree, in my opinion, the bigger word is “Show”. Producing is basically like throwing a party at your house. You don’t call each potential guest up and say, “Hey, I’m having a party this weekend and I haven’t invited anyone yet, you’re the first person I’m calling. Anyway, would you like to come?” Obviously, that wouldn’t work. So you send out dozens of invitations, hoping that a percentage will even respond and some of those can make it. You are giving the illusion the party is gonna be jumpin’; that’s what a producer does. The only thing stopping me from reaching my goal for the establishment of The Laughter Foundation is when I pay too much attention to nitwits like yourself. Yes, I am currently benefitting from The Laughter Foundation. After all, I am President, so there is my salary. And, I’m a client. I’m a comedian. For the show at the Castro Threatre, April 1, 2013, we are going to be replenishing The Heckler Fund to help three specific comedians (other than me) who need help. It’s gonna be a great show and a sell-out. Everything’s looking good at time of publication of this blog. I already sold two sponsorships. One to a mobile app company and the other to a 30-year San Francisco Comedy tradition. Mobile app “Court-O-Rama” and San Francisco’s Comedy Day, which is a decades old tradition, where a hundred thousand people celebrate comedy in Golden Gate Park. Please check out our Sponsorship page, you douchebag. Plus, I am applying for national corporate sponsorship and will be launching a Kickstarter program. And, if we get lucky and have a big sponsor, I'll probably have to drop the use of the perjorative "douchebag"; therefore, I'll use it up while I still have time. Douchebag. You, "Geri Luis" are a first-rate douchebag of the highest order.
I don’t know about you, Geri Luis, by I, like many people I know, have dreams. And, what is a dream? A fantasy that hasn’t happened yet. Like you getting laid. I was able to envision High On Laughter at the London Palladium, a night honoring Jerry Lewis. I pulled that together, all except Jerry Lewis making it the few extra feet to the stage. But, 15 great comedians performed and many of them got broadcast on television for the first time thanks to me and my efforts. All I know is that I’m gonna do my best. And, it's a learning curve, for sure. I’ve got great people surrounding me and the idea of The Laughter Foundation is a great one. But, you know what? You bring up a good point. I’m broke. I’ve got money “coming in”, but right now I’m two weeks behind in my $185/week rent at the cold guest house and I don’t know how I’m gonna even pay for food in two days. Not exagerating. In fact, if I don't get some money soon, not only am I gonna be out on the street, but there's gonna be a woman executed in Iran tomorrow morning. So, yeah, I’m gonna hit the streets and I’m gonna sell my guts out. And, if you’re so inclined, if I’ve turned you around and now convinced you of my worth, both as Enjoy the Veal blog writer and as folk hero Laughter Foundation dude, then please make an online donation to me directly. Not to The Laughter Foundation this time. Help me directly. 5 bucks. 50, if you want. And thank me and pay me for writing a very entertaining blog. You, are the ligger. You are the parasite, enjoying Enjoy the Veal and not paying for it. In fact, to my entire worldwide audience, please, show me you love me. Please make a small donation. (Info on how to donate at the end of my rant.) It really would make me feel a lot better about assholes like the one I’m writing to. Plus, I really could use the money!!
Compliments are flowing in on how good a writer some people think I am. Here are just a handful:
“You are ONE funny writer----Everything I read of yours makes me laugh and think---Not just the kind words about me....But the insights you have for the Comedy racket...You’re Barbara Hersey---we are beaches.” – Taylor Negron; comedian and actor
"SAG is a maven of comedy. He makes stream of consciousness look easy. He makes belligerence fun. He makes taking comedy seriously lighthearted. He makes me laugh." -- Beth Lapides; creater and producer of Uncabaret (and Sex Goddess, IMHO)
"Thanks, Steven. Great reviews! It’s so refreshing when someone actually listens, cares, and articulates." – Cathy Ladman, stand-up comedian, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, HBO, Craig Ferguson.
"Entertaining, informative, honest and hilarious! Keep up your sumptuous banquet of delectable observations, insights and obsessions. Each blog delivers a veritable cornucopia of surprises. Your writing is more than just comfort food — it’s an array of morsels that can satiate even a glutton’s appetite for guilty pleasures! More, more, Mr. Green!" –- Julian Krainin, Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning film producer of Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show”.
"This is absolutely inspired stream of consciousness! Hysterical, funny, biting, insightful, grandiose. A surreptitiously diplomatic narrative smart enough to sanely and ultimately further his own self interests. Greene is a brilliant but fatefully undisciplined comic genius, grabbing the baton, (i.e. QWERTY keyboard in this case) from the likes of J. Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer (Think “Fire on the Moon”). Even if you don’t follow it all, its a wonderful run-away train ride consisting of his painful life experiences, his attitudes, observations and especially his misgivings. Kudos and hosannas!! About THAT, there are no misgivings on our part!" -- Danny & Joe (I don’t know who Danny & Joe are, but I LIKE them!)
"Nice writing!" – Martin Olson, Disney Animation Studios Head Writer Phineas and Ferb.
"Brilliant review of Ms. Karam's tour de force, sir." – Bill Zehme, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Playboy, Rolling Stone contributor and writer of the New York Times bestseller, “The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Living.
"Steven Alan Green possesses the kind of writing that reminds you of when better writers were in the fore. He has a twist to the twist of phrase, that is his own. I am a big fan of his words." – Rick Overton, comedian & actor, HBO and Soderbergh's, "The Informant".
"SAG is better than a union of thousands of actors. He's a one-man army of unrelenting enthusiasm, humor and grit." – Hank Rosenfelt; author of "The Wicked Wit of the West".
I’m still struggling financially, but that's Showbiz. I need work done on my teeth. I’m worried how I’m gonna pay my rent, my phone. I’m searching constantly for day jobs. I’ve applied everywhere. The only thing which brings me consistent money is The Laughter Foundation. It’s a business. Yes, it’s helping me now, mostly. But, that’s okay, I’m a comedian. I’ve accomplished a lot and deserve a hand. I’ve helped many people in the past. When we produce an event, such as the Castro, it goes through our Fiscal Receiver, because we’re not an official 501(c)3 just yet. We pay a 10% fee for that service. And, one of things we want to raise money for is for "admin", and specifically the $1,000 or so we need to apply for our own 501 status. If people want to give directly to me (as they have) I'd be very greatful. And, if anyone donates to me personally, through my PayPal account, $25 or more, you get a free ticket to the show at the Castro April 1, 2013. This is a limited time offer. Did those two old ladies get tricked by me? Did I lie to them that I was helping comedians? I don’t think so. Because, even if the money I got I used to feed myself and not anyone else, that’s helping other comedians, because it keeps me, the person running The Laughter Foundation, alive, so that the company can grow and one day help hundreds of comedians. That’s why I’m producing the show at the Castro. To help launch the foundation into reality. I’m not ashamed, nor should I be, for “lining my own pockets”. I’m doing good work. Why shouldn’t I be paid for that work? Then again, maybe it is all a scam. After all the show, "Comedy: The New C Word" takes place April 1, 2013 @ The Castro Theatre in San Francisco. But according to the Mayans, there will be no show. All comedy shows cancelled due to the upcoming End of the World. I hope I’ve explained and answered your stupid unfounded accusations, Geri Luis, whomever you may really be. When you accomplish something great in your life, you let me know. In the meantime, let me leave you with some words of wisdom I once learned from my Gramma Anna.
“Go fuck yourself.”
And, Merry Christmas to the real Jerry Lewis.
The Great (and a little late) Steven Alan Green, at your service!
(Donation info at end of blog, just before Facebook Tweets.....THANKS, SUCKERS!!)
Dan Dion is a world-reknowned rock n' roll and comedy photographer, who happens to keep his long lens where he lives, in the Bay Area. Dan is internationally reknowned as the world's most prolific portrait photographer of comedians, and is the long-standing house photographer at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium, here in San Francisco. Dan's snaps have been featured in Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire and Variety. In May, 2010, his first book was published by Harper Collins, a collaboration with comic and filmmaker Paul Provenza, ¡Satiristas! was met with high critical acclaim. Dan's portraits wrap the walls of the finest comedy clubs in the country, including San Francisco's Cobb's and the Punch Line, and Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. I connected with Dan, when I was still in LA, plotting and planning my San Francisco adventure, reaching out to anyone I knew or could connect through Facebook. As a former stranger to me, Dan was very friendly and helpful, leading me to believe, since I was hailing an attitude cab from LA, he wasn't the genuine article. However; to my delightful surprise, Dan is more than the genuine article. He's the entire newspaper. Creative, prolific, calm and a true orginial. That's how I would describe him to the police. And, though I don't like to lift the veil completely, in terms of whom I know, who is my friend and who hates me nearly as much as I hate myself, I am proud to say openly that I am gay. Not true. But, were I gay, I would be openly proud. Where was I.... Oh yeah! I am proud to say Dan is a friend. So, given that you trust me, and I'm not just out there to boost and network (anymore than I am here to attack and tear-down) please allow me, with great professional pleasure, to introduce to you, The David Bailey of Comedy, Mr. Dan Dion.
SAG: What made you get into photography and when?
DD: It seems I've always been "into" it- when I took my first photos of family and friends I got the bug. Professionally, I began work at a portrait studio when I was 18.
SAG: Who are more interesting to shoot, Rock n Rollers or Comedians? - and why?
DD: For me, I like comedians because I understand their art in a different way. While I'm not a musician, I think that comedy is a part of my life every day, even though I'm not a stand-up. The musicians that I shoot are at such a high level, that while I have access to them, they're not really "accessible" in the way that comedians are. And I think that I can represent comedians in an image the way that musicians can't be.
SAG: Who are more easy to deal with? - and why?
DD: Comedians are easier for me because they trust me- I have a different kind of reputation with them. Famous musicians have levels of gatekeepers that you have to get through, and by the time you get there, the subject has his own walls up. That said, with my work for The Fillmore for example, I'm often getting them right before or after they get onstage, so I get a more honest portrait, as opposed to a magazine shoot, for example, with a makeup artist, wardrobe stylist, etc.. And comics want to work with me, whereas most musicians feel that photo shoots are a necessary annoyance.
SAG: What qualities do you try and draw out of any subject?
DD: I want my portraits to be honest, and represent who that person really is, not necessarily their stage persona. Shooting Lewis Black, for example- my shot is of him smiling and flipping the bird, not looking angry and rantish. He says it's his favorite photo of himself, which for me is the greatest compliment.
SAG: Without naming names, who was the most difficult to shoot?
DD: The self-image issue with some women is sometimes tough to deal with. I may think a shot is perfect, but she doesn't like the way her eyebrows look. I find women lovely in so many different ways, that it's disheartening to hear the way they think about themselves sometimes. It's so unfortunate that so many women can't see their own beauty.
SAG: What's the weirdest shooting scenario you've ever experienced?
DD: Perhaps the Jim Rose Circus. That's pretty weird. But then there's GWAR, the Genitorturers, and other erotic novelty acts. I did once have to shoot 25 Irish wolfhounds in a bar, so that was...different.
SAG: Who would you like to shoot more than anyone? (aside from the bill collector)
DD: Undoubtedly, a portrait of Tom Waits is at the top of my list.
SAG: When working on ¡Satiristas!, you were shooting a bunch of contemporary intellectual comedy rebels; modern day folk heroes. Was there a special challenge there, whereby you may have felt extra pressure to get the essence of the subject, without making it look too friendly, funny or just damn commercial?
DD: Thankfully, it already suited my style, because I rarely go out to take "funny" pictures, unless it's a concept shoot for CD/DVD or specific promo. I usually go for a smart look and that perfectly suits satirists, who get annoyed when photographers portray them as clowns. You can't shoot P.J. O'Rourke, Paul Mooney, or Marc Maron as joke monkeys.
SAG: You have snapped nearly a 1,000 comedians in your day. Over how many years is that?
DD: It started in 1992 when I worked at the Holy City Zoo and has been pretty much non-stop ever since. It just kind of snowballed- once comics saw my shots of their friends, more and more of them wanted to shoot with me, to the point where I don't have to bring my portfolio around anymore- which is nice.
SAG: How have comedians changed their looks or the way they want to be seen?
DD: Ten years ago we were still in the age of black and white 8x10s. That has changed dramatically. Color is the name of the game now, and comics have gone way beyond headshots. I like to think I had a small hand in that, as they've gone more towards portraits with personality.
SAG: Who are more concerned with image: comedians or musicians?
DD: Musicians expect to look cool. Comics are grateful if you make them look cool. Musicians are confident, whereas a lot of comics are insecure about their image, so if you can make something that dispels that insecurity, you've got a friend for life.
SAG: If you could go back in time, which comedian (living or dead) would you like to photo?
DD: Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, or Peter Sellers.
SAG: Explain why a good photo is so important for an artist?
DD: Well, different photos do different things. At a crass level, as a selling tool, the right photo can get you a lot of press coverage. If it's your DVD cover, the image is HUGE, because you're concerned about what will make people pick it up at Wall-Mart. For a touring comic, a great image will get published in the calendar section of newspapers wherever you're playing, which makes the difference between a tiny listing and a featured selection. That's some concrete money shit right there.
SAG: What makes an iconic shot?
DD: Honesty, spontaneity, context. Those all help. And it seems to me that people feel portraits of artists when they're younger seem to have more value. Or rather, lesser-known. Before they're hugely famous.
SAG: How much of what you do is by accident?
DD: Nothing. I'll sometimes get surprising results from musician performance shots, but accidental shots just aren't how I work.
SAG: How has working strictly digital changed your work?
DD: The conservation of film is a thing of the past. Digital greatly impacted concert photography. Whereas I may have shot three rolls of chrome film before, now I can shoot the equivalent of 30 rolls in three songs. Plus before, when shooting slide film, you had to nail your exposure. If you were a stop off, your image was garbage. Now you can use all kinds of digital tricks to salvage a poor exposure.
SAG: Tell us about your future plans and projects.
DD: Survival. I'll let you know how that works out.
SAG: What's the biggest mistake you ever made photographing somebody?
DD: Besides not loading the camera with film? (R.E.M.- figured it out about a song in to the concert.) Early in my career, probably around 1994, I was doing a quick portrait of Ray Romano, and had to use the available light. I used a footlight that was on the ground and he said "Isn't that going to look terrible?" I said no- it would be fine. It looked terrible. There's a reason uplight is called "Frankenstein Lighting".
SAG: Does a comedian have to be naturally good looking to be a good photo subject?
DD: Absolutely not. "Naturally Good Looking" is boring to me. Character is interesting and beautiful to me.
SAG: Do you try and set the comedian in a shooting locale and a set that reflects or enhances who they are?
DD: That's the essence of what a location portrait artist does.
SAG: If you had to choose between photographing John Lennon or Lenny Bruce, which one would you choose?
DD: Can't say on that one. How about some kind of hybrid clone? John Lenny Bruce?
Dan Dion has the soul of a comedian; his microphone is his camera and in a very real sense, Dan's been on the comedy stage, performing through his photography, anthropologically documenting not only stand-up comedians and rock musicians, but in a very real way, he documents us; the audience. Because after all, who we watch, who we listen to, who we laugh at; they are indeed a reflection of our dreams, our thoughts, our beliefs, our suspicions and our paranoia. Comedians, as Dan Dion continues to prove, are an exact reflection of who we are, as people. And, no matter how you frame it, that's the funny truth.
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green, 12/9/12
Catch The Musical Image - Recption for 20-Year Music Photography Retrospective by Dan Dion @ Madrone Art Bar, 500 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, California 94117. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO & Dan Dion's website.
ENJOY THE VEAL PHOTO GALLERY LEGEND:
Zach: Backstage at the Fillmore after his big closing number. Such a fun night. Perfect after-show vibe.
George Carlin: When interviewing with Paul Provenza for our book ¡SATIRISTAS!, George said it was the photo he wanted to be remembered by. Three weeks later he died. So bittersweet.
Seinfeld: Backstage at The Paramount in Oakland. Jerry said he loves this photo because it makes him look like Buster Keaton.
Mike Meehan: Back in 1992 at the Holy City Zoo- the first time I took a shot of a comedian that I felt showed how photography can convey what comedy really is, and not just the artifice or the act. It's haunting, I think.
Russell Brand: After a show at Cobb's. Aesthetically speaking, it has all the elements of a great shot- light, shadow, composition, mood, pose...sex. But I also love that his set list is written on his hand.
Tenacious D.: Clown princes of acoustic hard rock, and supreme humorsicians, The D. rules the land.
Lewis Black: Look closely and you'll see the ghosted bird being flipped. That's on the original black and white neg- not Photoshopped, and not by accident.
Greg Proops: A portrait befitting "The Smartest Man in the World" and quite possibly the funniest. I'd stack his stand-up against anyone's. I was looking for a Hollywood glamour shot, and managed to get the smoke just right.
Spinal Tap: I will never....ever.... be cooler than I was at that moment- hanging out with Tap.
Photo credit of Dan Dion's portrait: Alex Shonkoff.
And, now a new section to Enjoy the Veal....
TALES FROM THE COMEDY CRYPT! -
With Ritch Shydner
"Shyde" has done it all. One of America's greatest stand-ups in the last 50 years; only, he's not that old. Ritch Shydner (along with fellow stand-up comedian Mark Schiff) created, "I Killed: True Stories from the Road from America's Top Comics" (Random Hosue) Shyde shares with Enjoy the Veal one of his own incredible showbiz stories. Take it away, Ritch!
In 1986, Robert Palmer did an industry show for his hit single, “Addicted to Love,” at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go on Sunset Strip. Industry crowds are notoriously difficult to please and engage, so someone at William Morris thought it a good idea to have a comic lay on the barbed wire for Mr. Palmer. There was no pay, but the gig was sold to me as a favor to the music depart-ment and a great opportunity to be seen by some of Hollywood’s Boozers and Fakers. No one greeted me at the crowded club that night. After a frustrating search for someone in charge that matched Martin Sheen’s in Apocalypse Now, I approached the sound man. He told me to stand by the stage for his signal. A few minutes later the sound man waved for me to go onto the stage. Thinking he wanted me in motion for the introduction, I walked slowly while he waved me forward. This continued until I stood behind the microphone. I stared at him. He stared right back at me. After a very long moment he thrust both hands toward me, and nodded his head vigorously which I interpreted as the international rock and roll signal for, “What are you waiting for, idiot?! Go! Go!” No introduction, no lighting change, but I dutifully launched into my first joke anyway. It got nothing, neither did the second, third or fourth; not a laugh, a chuckle, or a groan. My amplified voice bounced off a solid bed of loud conversations. Right in front of the stage stood Jack Nicholson, whispering into the ear of Whoopi Goldberg. Everywhere I looked there were stars, all talking to each other. It was a big show biz cocktail party and I was the carved ice sculpture in the center of the room. The most I got was a glance while they sipped from their drinks. I dipped into my deep well of self-doubt and ladled self-deprecating jokes to the crowd. In an effort to protect the future of my material, I created imaginary dialogue for the conversations happening all around me. The savers and the improvisation got a single laugh here and then another one over there. Whenever there was a laugh, I aimed my next joke in that direction hoping to build on that tiny success. It was a futile game of comedic whack-a-mole.
It had been years since my last bombing, but here I was experiencing a major ass-kicking. I entered that vortex where the chill from the lack of laughter eventually freezes time. I think Einstein called it, “Stagengefucked”. Then with no warning, and while I was still talking, the sound man interjects with a booming voice, “Let’s have a hand for comedian Ritch Shydner.” For a brief moment the whole room went silent, everyone looked at me and then returned to their conversations. The guy skipped the intro, but made sure everyone got the name of the ship they just witnessed burning and sinking. I left the stage as I took it, without one bit of applause. The crowd parted for the leper. Eyes averted mine. Bodies recoiled from any possible contact. Hollywood always treated failure like a communicable disease. I was a carrier, a career killer. Before I turned onto Downer Road to begin the long drive to Depression Gorge, a young man with a brilliant smile stepped into my path. “Hey, that took a lot of courage to do what you did up there.” Donny Osmond shook my hand and then disappeared into the crowd. One person offered one bit of acceptance, and the lame was healed. I ran to the Improv stage and let fresh laughter wash away the stink. (RS 12/12/12)
That's about it this week, folks, I hope you've enjoyed Enjoy the Veal this week. And, many many great things ahead, including my exclusive interview with Comedy Podcast Hero (and Laughter Foundation supporter) Brian Sontag! Plus, many more reviews of the San Francisco Comedy Scene while it still welcomes my sorrowful soul. You know, I hate to drag anyone down. I know I'm belly-aching, and it's true, I am. But, I'm not just hurting financially. I'm hurting down to my very soul. All I ever wanted to be, ever since I was a little kid was a comedian. I've pissed a few people off along the way and have had my great Icrarusian adventures. And, yet, I feel like I'm just geting started. I don't know if I'll ever get an apology from Jerry Lewis; probably not. Everybody tells me what a bastard he is. Good for him. I hope he lives out his remaining years loved and respected. I do. That's because, no matter what, I care about comedians. You know why? I'll tell you why..... Because I care about Comedy. And, you want to know why I care about Comedy? I care about Comedy because I care about the World. Thank you to all my readers, in 6 countries around the world and the combined total of approx. 3,000 people who follow Enjoy the Veal and The Laughter Foundation monthly. Please help me raise a little money until the TV commercial money comes in about a month. Here's me, Steven Alan Green, playing "the obnoxious American". A role, I was born to play. Shame on you Geri Luis. At least the real Jerry Lewis had the courtesy to yell at me directly.
Good night, folks. I'm outta here.
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green, San Francisco, 12/11/12
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
This is why I love San Francisco. Two cops just gave a homeless guy a $175.00 ticket for smoking in the same square they completely ignored two buck naked men.
Whenever I want to feel like I'm back home in England, I listen to BBC Radio 2. When I lived in England and wanted to feel like I was living in America, I listened to BBC Radio 2.
I'm as broke as Back Mountain.
I know invisible angels are helping me achieve my dream, I just wish they'd introduce themselves; they're starting to creep me out.
I pledge allegiance to the bills of the United Debt of America. And to the high interest, for which it demands, one nation under water, insurmountable, with bankruptcy and high taxes for all.
Joe Biden looks like a 1970's TV cowboy actor. Doug McClure, Tina Louise and Joe Biden in....The Outlaw from DC. Tonight's episode. Injuns: From VP to TeePee.
Forming rock band. Looking for guitar player with a hook or an eye patch. Musicianship not a criteria. Drug habit or mental illness a plus. Firearms license required. Satanic worshiping a bonus. No weirdos.
Santa is a redistributionist commie.
In the Afterlife, as in Life, whether you get to Heaven or go to Hell, is mostly a matter of office politics.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Highly Recommended (I was high when I recommended it....JOKE!): The AMAZING Beth Lapides' UnCabaret show on Sunday! Great bill, including Jake Johannen, Tim Bagley, musical guests conniekim, The Goods, Marcella Detroit. More info on Facebook & Ticket info.
Highly Recommended - Sunday, Dec 23rd @ 730pm, Rick Overton & Friends @ The Improv on Melrose. Great line-up includes: Chris Pina (host), Kelly Carlin, Rick Shapiro, Gary Shapiro, Chris Bonno, Suzzane Whang, Bob Dubac, Dylan Brody, Carrie Snow. More info on Facebook.
SPECIAL RECOMMENDATION: Now through Jan 31 @ Madrone Art Bar: Top Rock n' Roll and Stand-Up Comedy Photographer Extraordinaire Dan Dion's The Musical Image, showing & retrospective, ongoing now thru end Jan. Don't miss the official reception Thursday Dec 13! More info on Facebook.
Cup o' Comedy at Emma's Coffee House hosted by Denny Dechi, Wed, Dec 13 @ 7pm 5549 Geary Blvd (corner of 20th Ave) (415) 933-6632, www.DannyDechi.com
The Comikaze Lounge: Dec. 19 @ 8PM at Cafe Royale, It's Free. The lineup includes Ron Funches, Ray Molina, Eloisa Bravo, Nick Palm, Cara Tramantano, Greg Asdorian, Stefani Silverman, and Kate Willett. More info on their website.
Nato Green headlines The Punchline, Dec 19 & 20th @ 8pm. Tickets: $15 at 415-397-7573 or thru the Punchline website.
ODDZ 'N ENZ:
To have your comedy show reviewed or hire your humble and always incredibly charming comedy writer or to complain about anything: firstname.lastname@example.org. To hire Steven for any Hollywood film or television writing jobs, please contact Noah Jones @ The Gersh Agency (310) 205-5836. Follow Enjoy the Veal on Facebook, and The Laughter Foundation and on Facebook. And remember, Never take life too serioiusly, you'll never get out of it alive!!!
Steven Alan Green, San Francisco, 12/12/12