chili challis – BAM!

I was heartsick to hear of the passing of comedian Chili Challis last night. Chili was both a friend and hugely inspirational to me. When I was a teenager in Cincinnati in the late 70’s getting my comedy start at d.w. eye, Chili came in (along with John Riggi and Will Durst) with his extremely solid act, raising the bar for every comic that followed.  I was in awe of Chili (he was Bert Challis back then).  Sometimes he was so good I just got angry and jealous – but in retrospect, I realized that it was because of him, Riggi, and Durst that the eye got put on the map in the first place.  While the rest of us were figuring the game out, and wearing training pants, Challis was giving real legitimacy to the club.

So, then about 10 years ago, when I started writing Plrknib – my book about d.w. eye – I found myself back in touch with Chili. He was hugely supportive of the book, and I discovered how much we had in common: we both loved comedy, comedy writing, nurturing and supporting new comics and talent.  (He spent a tremendous amount of time running well-respected comedy Dojos for stand-up newbies across the country.)  And a few years ago, he introduced me to ComedyWire – one of the nation’s fastest growing comedy writing hubs.

We also both had deep root feelings for Cincinnati and getting our comedy starts at d.w. eye.  And of course friends and family were important to both of us.

So, I was thrilled last year, when Chili didn’t just agree to join me, Michael Flannery, and the other comics for the d.w. eye reunion – but also to bring along his brilliant son and comic, Thaddeus Challis, to join us and carry on the tradition. That’s what Chili was about.

So, I won’t say RIP Chili Challis – I’ll say what he said, everytime he ended one of his GREAT bits: Chili Challis – BAM!


Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of pics at the reunion show, but here’s a phenomenal selfie Chili took of himself, Drew, and Marty Polio (who joined us at the last minute) back stage.  3 d.w. eye Legends.

And check out the video above for his performance last year at the eye reunion.

jim gilliece

Jim Gilliece was a d.w. eye favorite that I did not know during my tour of duty at the club back in the late 70’s/early 80’s.  I knew Jim had been a part of Chip Chinery’s Comic Relief show in 1991, but I never met him until last summer’s d.w. eye Reunion show, that we assembled after my book, Plrknib came out.  One of the great things about the reunion was that so many people – performers and fans – came out of the woodwork to celebrate the legacy of d.w. eye.  It’s been more than a year now, and I can still barely describe what an extraordinary, funny, emotional evening that was.

One of the highlights was getting to meet Jim Gilliece for the first time.  As you can see in the video, Jim was warmly called to the stage by an audience that knew and loved him.  And not just from his stand-up, but from his years of running Chez Nora in Covington, KY.  Jim, I learned later, came out of stand-up retirement to do that eye reunion show – and as you can see – when he performs he is totally in control of what he’s doing onstage.  I vividly remember watching his act and being deeply impressed.  I got to spend some time with him after the show, and he wasn’t just funny, but tremendously sweet and generous to boot.

Jim passed away this past Saturday from lung cancer.  I feel honored that I got to share an evening with him.  You can read more about him here.

And, from Chip Chinery, here’s Jim’s performance at the 1991 Comic Relief Show.

summer reading


Two books that are “fast, breezy reads” great for taking on vacation.

Miserable Adventure Stories is a new collection of quirky sci-fi and adventure stories, including the award-winning “Raglan Oracle”.  From Amazon:

“It’s a light, easy read and I resented it for making me want more.”
“This is a wonderful collection that had me howling while I was reading it on a plane in the dark.”
“A variegated collection of pop fiction by one of the best practitioners of the pop story…the stories aren’t miserable, they’re masterful.”

Plrknib is my memoir about doing stand-up in high school in the late 70’s at the d.w eye club in Cincinnati.  (Last summer, the book was a hit in Cinti and prompted a sold-out reunion performance of the d.w. eye comics.)

“The Power of Jokes permeates this book in a way that’s rarely seen in fiction.
“High, hysterical, edge-of-your-seat drama.”
“I started reading PLRKNIB in an airport in DC and couldn’t put it down.”

Both books are available on Amazon and at finer bookstores everywhere.

it’s may fete time again!

In Wyoming, Ohio, the best day of the school year – far and away – continues to be May Fete. On or about the second Friday in May, Wyoming Middle School (in Wyoming, OH) transforms into a massive carnival teeming with rides, food, and game booths.

When I was a kid, May Fete started at noon and went late, late into the night. To a seven-year-old in 1971, it was as if a high-end amusement park had sprung up out of nowhere. You couldn’t go to an odd corner of the school grounds without running into a cake walk or a fish bowl toss or a dunk booth or something. Simply trying to explore every nook and cranny of the event took a very full day.  It was incredibly exciting.

Continue reading

plrknib now available at quimby’s!


Chicago area and nearby residents!  Both Plrknib and Miserable Adventure Stories are now available at Quimby’s! – Chicago’s  favorite independently owned bookstore that sells independently-published and small press books, comics, zines and ephemera. They “favor the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy and the lowbrow.”

And god knows, Prom on Mars books are certainly lowbrow! 

I, myself, have never actually been to Quimby’s – don’t get to the Chicago area too much – but I hear it is super cool and groovy!  And don’t forget to pick up some underground zines while you’re there!

for your consideration!


Folks!  If you’ve read and enjoyed Plrknib this year (and, hell, even if you haven’t!) please consider making Plrknib your write-in vote for Best Memoir in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2017!  It’s easy enough to do.  Just click on this link here and enter – Plrknib.  There!  You’re done!  Excellent!  Wasn’t that easy?

You can only enter Plrknib as a Write-in for one category.  So, while we would certainly love you for to enter it in eg – humor, nonfiction, or debut Goodreads author (which technically, alas, it’s not – damn you, Miserable Holiday Stories!) – we would really love it if you’d plug us right there into the Memoir category.

And then…go vote for all those other books you loved this year!

Thanks, and remember – Reading Is Good!

the d.w. eye reunion is happening

Yes, the d.w. eye Reunion is actually happening!  It’s going to be Friday, June 23, 2017 at the 20th Century Theater in Cincinnati.  For anyone who’s read Plrknib, this will essentially be the book coming to life before your very eyes (except everyone is significantly older).  Comedians appearing in the book who are scheduled to perform include Drew Hastings, Chili Challis, Rico Bruce Wade, Cap & Johnny, and myself.  (And this will be the first stand-up I’ve performed in Cinti in over 30 years!  Oy.)  We’re joined by a ton of great comics who performed at the eye shortly after the period that’s covered in the book, including Michael Flannery, Steve Caminiti, Jim Gilliece, and Mark Kline. And we expect to be joined by even more eye alumni.  (If you’re reading this and you ever performed at the eye, please contact me or Michael Flannery.)  Even Don Merriss, the original owner of the eye, will be on hand!

Flannery and I have been assembling this event for a couple months now.  If you’re in the area – this is going to be much more than a “night at a comedy club.”  We’re turning this into an event with a ton of surprises in store.

Also the night before the show, Thursday 6/22, we’ll be doing a signing of Plrknib at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Rookwood Pavilion.

For more info, please visit our new d.w. eye site. You can also let us know you’re coming by signing up at our Facebook event page.

More updates as we get them!

plrknib in cincinnati magazine

Lots of exciting Plrknib news this week – and in the weeks to come!  An excerpt from the book – nicely titled “Funny Guy” – is featured in the current “After Dark” issue of Cincinnati Magazine.  It’s only available in the print edition of the magazine – which you can order here.  Here’s a snippet from the piece, below.

If you’re in Cincinnati and looking to pick up a copy of Plrknib (along with the new Cincinnati Magazine) in an actual bookstore, one place you can certainly find it is at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood Pavilion.  A friend sent in the lovely picture below.  How appropriate to be sandwiched between Savages and Madness!  (I was told by someone else that it was a store pick in JBB, and had one of those “why you should check this out” notes above it.  How nice.)

And we have some VERY BIG announcements coming soon, especially again, for folks in the Cincinnati/Ohio area.

Stay tuned.