Counter Culture Ep: 11
Join Grover Silcox and guests: Tom Guggino, Author of "Present Connect;" Jeff DeHart, Comic Impressionist; and Kris Clayton, Singer, Juggler, Producer and all-around Entertainer.
- Welcome to Counter Culture, a talk show normally in a diner.
On tonight show's, I welcome stand up comedian
and comic impressionist Jeff DeHart.
- Ha-ha! I got to tell you, Grover, it is
it is a pleasure to be back here and doing your show.
- And the author of Present! Connect!
Presentation coach Tom Guggino.
- And the more you become mindful,
the better the presenter you are,
because you then can be one with the audience.
- And singer, musician, stilt walker, juggler
and more Kris Clayton.
- We should always be challenging ourselves,
challenging our audiences,
stepping out of our comfort zones.
And the most important word in theater is listen.
- All right here on Counter Culture.
Hi, folks. I'm your host, Grover Silcox,
coming to you virtually with coffee in hand
and a great menu of guests.
- Hiya, how you doing?
Jeff DeHart couldn't be here...
- You might recognize my first guest, but then again,
you might mistake him for someone else.
He can become the famous creator of The Twilight Zone,
Rod Serling one minute...
- A music montage set to the tune of Freeze-Frame.
- And Jack Nicholson the next.
- Hey I must have lost track of time.
- He performs in Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City.
He's been on Evening at the Improv, HBO and Showtime.
He's an Emmy Award-winning performer who appears
as Richard Nixon in Martin Scorsese's The Irishman
with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
Please welcome my old friend Jeff DeHart to the counter.
Jeff, how are you?
- Hey, how you doing, Grover?
- Is it 130 different personalities
that you can impersonate, roughly?
- Oh, probably. I stopped counting years ago.
- Every once in a while you add somebody new and yeah,
the list grows.
Someone who is an impressionist really has to have a tremendous
amount of talent because many, many comedians start out doing
impressions and they move on to find, you know, the style
that they should do, which probably is something
more personal or whatever.
So you really have to be good to stick with impressions
and expand on that.
Do you find that to be true?
- Even even with myself I began to weave in stand-up
about my life or different things
intertwined with the impressions.
I mean, you do kind of very few people,
just strictly impressions like a Rich Little
or someone like that.
- Who were the most popular?
Who were the ones that everyone asked for?
- Well, back in the day when Johnny Carson was doing
The Tonight Show, I would get Johnny Carson asked for.
In fact, at Bob Saget's wedding when he married his first wife,
all the best men and and ushers,
we were all comedians.
And I remember Bob saying,
"Jeff, get up and say something."
And I wanted to say something serious
at the wedding reception.
- And I get up there to start and somebody in the audience
yells out, "Jeff, do Carson!"
So, the next thing I know, I find myself doing stand-up
at Bob's wedding.
And then, you know, I didn't know what to do
and I'm looking for help.
And I see Bruce Baum, another comedian,
and he comes and relieves me.
And it wound up Dave Coulier.
We had tag-team comedy at Bob's wedding reception.
- Wow, can you give us?
- But yeah, Carson was...
- Can you give us a little taste of Johnny Carson?
- Who, Johnny?
Ha-ha! I got to tell you, Grover, it is
it is a pleasure to be back here and doing your show.
I only miss Ed McMahon.
Ed's not here tonight.
Yeah, I miss Johnny.
I do. I don't...
I love Dave Letterman. Dave's a good friend of mine.
Jay Leno is a good friend and they're great.
And even but the that was it.
When it's the Comedy Stop when those guys got done.
- I don't even want to go into what's going on now.
- I know. Well, Carson still remains sort of the model
for the the perfect late night talk show host.
- That, that is true.
- Yeah, he was, there's been nobody like Johnny Carson.
Nobody like Johnny.
- I remember you doing Rod Serling,
creator of the Twilight Zone.
- Oh, right, for the game Boggle.
Parker Brothers game Boggle.
- I did one years ago where...
Boggle, these travelers are going a one-way trip
into the Boggle Zone.
Last year for Super Bowl,
We did a Super Bowl commercial where I did Richard Nixon.
Alicia reminding me to delete those tapes.
- Yes, Mr President.
- It was great. They flew me out to California.
We taped at a set at Warner Brothers.
They had a whole set of the Oval Office for me.
It was great.
It was the Alexa with Ellen DeGeneres.
- But in The Irishman, you had to be serious, right?
I mean, you were doing a serious portrayal
of Richard Nixon.
- Yeah, yeah.
I mean, I played Nixon playing golf.
I mean, it was funny because we did it.
We taped for two days on different two different weeks,
like 12-hour days.
And what ends up in the picture is like, what,
half a minute? You know. But hey, that's, it's OK.
- Did you get to hang with Martin Scorsese
and Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci?
Oh, no. But Marty was in the clubhouse,
I know, the second day we filmed because we shot
for about three hours all these different shots
and then word comes down to the assistant director on set.
"Hey, we got to do all these scenes all over again,
"Marty said, 'I can't see their faces enough'".
Which is good, you know, because
when you're playing golf, you're looking at the ball.
- So you had to we had to cheat up a little bit.
- Any of the celebrities that you impersonate,
have any of them actually seen you do them?
How did they react?
- With George Burns, we had gone to see his show
in Atlantic City and my wife Roxanne and I
had just gotten engaged.
So, afterwards we go back to meet him and he was so cute.
He was dressed like...
On stage, he had a tuxedo.
After the show he looked like a golfer who got dressed
in a dark closet, nothing matched,
and he's sitting there with his little cigar.
And I'll never forget his manager, Irving Fein, says,
At first he says Jeff and Roxanne just got engaged.
And he goes, "Well, that's wonderful.
"You're a lovely couple.
"I wish you all the luck in the world." Real class.
The next week, we're visiting Rodney Dangerfield.
Rodney, after the show, is in his bathrobe.
And Rodney's going, "I heard you
"and Roxanne got engaged.
"I don't want to get personal but I think
"you ought to sleep together first, you know what I mean?"
So from one week to the next class, no class, you know...
But yeah, I did my impression of George.
His manager says,
"Jeff does a great impression of you, George."
So he goes, "Let's see you do it, kid."
And I said, "I can't do you without a cigar, Mr Burns."
And he gives me a cigar and I did it.
He loved it. Yeah.
- Wow. Now that's a good point.
Do you need something, a prop
or do you need a certain gesture?
Like I noticed when you do George Burns, you do that kind
of kind of the hand gesture which he was known for.
- Oh, yeah. Well that's, yeah.
That's all part of it.
And he always had a cigar.
George always had a cigar.
It depends, you know?
you don't need them But they do help.
- Right. Are you performing at all virtually or?
You know, I know things are tough right now
with the pandemic.
- Over the last few years, basically I've been working
with the Beatles tribute band, the Fab Four,
and I do Ed Sullivan for them.
That's a lot of fun for me.
Even more than the stand-up, much more, because you're...
You know, you don't have to worry.
You're not the reason they're there.
They're there to see the Fab Four.
You're just the icing on the cake.
And, so, there's no pressure.
And yet you have the fun.
I get out there on the first one they see.
I do Ed Sullivan, bring them on.
You know, "Here they are.
"Blah, blah, blah, the Fab Four."
Then I go back and sit down for 45 minutes and I come out again
do about seven or eight minutes of stand-up and stuff.
I do Ed Sullivan doing impressions.
Then at the end of the show, I bring him out
and introduce them and that's my job.
- Wow. What a great career.
And you've been a headliner.
You've been an opener, you've been an MC, a host,
you know, everything.
And you also have a whole career as a singer
and as a songwriter.
- Well, yeah, I write music.
It's funny, Grover.
- I wrote a I wrote a Christmas carol a few years ago
and back and I entered it
in the the Song of the Year contest.
Where thousands and thousands of people around the world
And it got runner-up.
And then I wrote a song for my best friend's
50th wedding anniversary.
And it's a it was a love song.
And I that also made runner-up
in the Song of the Year contest.
So, I was kind of happy with that.
- Yes. Amazing.
- I'd still like to get a song recorded.
- Well, obviously you're multitalented.
And Jeff, I hope you can get back entertaining folks
because your impressions are outstanding.
You're one of the top impressionists in the country,
and I am thrilled that you could share some of them
and share some of your experiences
with us on Counter Culture tonight.
- Oh, it's my pleasure, as always.
Any time, Grover.
- Thank you, Jeff.
Jeff DeHart, a man whose multiple personalities
will have you laughing in the aisle.
My next guest has taken to heart the song
There's No Business Like Show Business.
He's a singer who has performed every style of music from
Broadway and jazz to oldies and the Great American Songbook.
But don't go anywhere because he also has served as a show
producer, technical director,
talent booker and stage manager.
If he had a slogan, it would be, let's go on with the show.
Please welcome the talented Kris Clayton.
I think I covered just about everything in there,
didn't I, Kris?
- Well, just about, yeah.
You know, I try to keep myself busy, that's for sure.
Thank you for the glowing introduction.
- My pleasure.
I mean, you have really let. Show business lead the way in
terms of your skills and your talent.
- You know, when I was young, growing up in the Midwest, I'm
from Indianapolis, cornfields on all four sides
- in my neighborhood. - Yeah.
- And, you know, the theater was not something that people
really held in high regard,
generally speaking, people in my family.
So to not really have a ton of support made me want
to prove people wrong.
I mean, spite was a little bit of a motivator, if I'm going
to be honest about it.
And I dedicated myself at a very young age to building
a skill set.
I was like, if I'm going to try to do this, I'm going to try to
do it in as many capacities as I can.
I want to be the guy that you can't get rid of.
- Audiences think that it's all
so easy because it's supposed to look easy.
- I mean, something is as simple as juggling or as
complex as programming the light board behind me.
I mean, every individual thing you're going to try to pick
up is going to take you some time.
There's going to be a learning curve.
I had a lot of teachers tell me if you're going
to fail, fail big.
So just constantly putting that effort in and not being
scared to screw it up and put your feet in the water.
I mean, that's what you've got to do, right?
And I'm lucky because I get to sit here, and by the way,
I'm located at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in
Collingswood, New Jersey, right now.
And so that's the stage you get to see behind you.
- Yes. That is a beautiful theater.
- We opened in 1930. There's a mansion on the front.
That's from the mid 1800s. We have the ballroom downstairs
where we have weddings and whatnot.
And thank goodness, because if we didn't have some capacity to
bring people to this building during this time, we probably
couldn't be here.
But we've been able to do a music lounge series.
So we have local artists and a little bit beyond coming
in front of the mansion doing outdoor concerts.
We've had comedy outside on our pergola property with our
Comedy Done Right series, and now we're starting to get
smaller groups back in again, as restrictions lighting up.
So in the pandemic the first thing I did was
host a virtual online fundraiser sort of variety
show, and I had musicians and vocalists and comics and
everything over a four hour period come online
and try to bring their audience to us so they could have a
venue to later perform at.
And we have had a couple of those people since then.
A few folks have shown up and performed for us.
So it's, you know, changing times.
And like you said, man, show's got to go on.
What choice do we have right now?
- One of your many roles, either on stage or behind the
scenes at the Scottish Rite Auditorium,
you're the manager.
You're the guy who has to get things on time.
- Well, I'm the facilitator.
My titles are actually facilities manager and
technical director and then occasionally show producer,
which is awesome
because I feel like it does use the skill set I developed.
My first job working in college was in our scenic studio.
You know, I was learning to use routers and table saws
at a young age.
And so as you continue through and you end up in a venue,
you know, a theater that has old plaster walls and
failing infrastructure, old knob and tube electrics and
whatnot, you start to develop the knowledge you need to
maintain that place out of necessity.
But you have the tools you've already learned to use.
So you fast forward ten, 12, 15 years.
All of a sudden I can build bathrooms and kitchens
and things. And I did. I put a bathroom, a new
bathroom with a shower and two stalls
in our dressing room.
♪ Right now someone I...
Did you start out in musicals? I mean, I saw you doing a bit
from Marry Me A Little.
- I remember auditioning for choir in ninth grade
and I was shaking so bad I had a quiver in my voice.
But that is the thing that really got me into it.
And seeing a musical at Butler University, Starlight
Musicals presented Man of La Mancha with Hal Linden as
Don Quixote. I was playing the cello at the time and was there
for an orchestra camp.
We saw this show and I fell in love with it.
I was like, Oh my God, that's what I'm supposed to be doing.
And so orchestra camp is what
got me out of playing the cello. And I was lucky.
I went to college down in Florida, got the degree, moved
back to Indianapolis, started to doing a lounge, act
entertaining at restaurants and the martini bar type places.
- You have a favorite genre?
- It's absolutely the Broadway style performance
because when you're up on that stage and the audience is quiet
and the lights are on and they're looking at you and you
are going to pound out some notes.
You're going to pour your soul into whatever you're doing.
They allow you to do that a lot more than a restaurant will.
I honestly believe that one of the main reasons that humans
want to congregate and come to concerts and go to comedy
shows, it's not just to laugh, it's to share the same
experience of time together. Time is subjective.
They say time flies when you're having fun. It's subjective.
So we want to get together
and have the same experience of time.
And being up on stage and being sort of the conduit to make
that happen is, yeah...
I mean, what else could be more exciting, right?
- Right. That's the passion that drives it.
But then there's the work of learning the craft, whatever
that particular craft is, whether it's singing in a
Broadway musical or stilt walking and juggling, which are
two skills that you've adopted.
- They talk about how it takes your 10,000 hours to master
something, you know, and I started young, so I feel like
I've got 10,000 hours in a few different things.
- Now, what has been the best moment? Can you pick just one?
Do you have one that was
like the quintessential experience performing?
- I had to step into a very difficult production written
by a dude named Andrew Lippa called The Wild Party, and our
leading man had to back out of a show.
So in nine days I memorized and was able to perform and
open the show and do the whole run.
And it's such a powerful character.
It is such powerful music. It is dark.
He's an abusive character. He's not a good guy.
A friend's sister, after seeing the show, actually realized
that she was in an abusive relationship and called
- off their engagement. - Wow.
- Because she saw similarities in the character I presented
and her fiance at the time. To wrap that whole journey into
a bubble and say, that's the thing that I am most proud of
and, I think, had the most profound real world effect.
If I'm going to be honest about it.
- That's amazing,
because it went beyond just entertaining a crowd.
It went to really open a window for this person.
- Absolutely, as good theater should.
We should always be challenging, always challenging
our audiences, stepping out of our comfort zones.
And the most important word in theater is listen.
- So how can folks avail themselves of the
entertainment at the Scottish
Rite Auditorium in Collingwood?
- Well, you can hit up on the Facebook.
We have Scottish Rite Auditorium, Facebook page,
we're going to continue with things like our music lounge,
things that we can do with smaller audiences.
You can find me on Facebook.
It's Kris with a K last name Clayton.
- Entertainer, will travel. - Right?
- You got it, man.
Skills for play and for hire.
- Kris Clayton, an entertainer who wins a crowd by making
it look easy. The sure sign that he's worked relentlessly
to perfect his craft.
My next guest performed with his wife, Deanie, as a
comedy improv team.
They performed in New York, L.A. and on CBS Network.
I met them when they were still performing in the 80s.
They came back to South Jersey, opened
a video production company, became very successful.
Deanie has since passed away.
Tom continued serving clients and began teaching students
how to give presentations with all his knowledge and
years of experience working a crowd.
He now has a new book called Present! Connect!
And it's a thrill to have my old pal Tom Guggino.
Hi, how are you?
- Very good, Grover. How are you?
- Very good! I see you have the hard copy of it.
I'm an e-book guy now.
- Yes, yes, yes.
- Is it true what they say, that speaking before a crowd
is the biggest fear people have?
Do you find that with your students?
- I do. And I also find it with my clients.
When you have to present, you almost feel exposed.
And what you want is to have a relaxation
about what it is you say and how you conduct yourself.
And I help people create a comfort zone for that.
And that's what I do with the students.
- Is every presentation, every speech personal?
- When you do a presentation,
it should be more like a conversation.
And in conversation we really are ourselves.
And the more genuine we are, the more that we are talking
directly to those who are in the audience or are the
participants in an online situation.
- So what would you say
are the, you know, the keys to get started?
- I created a process called the presentation process,
and it has four easy steps that people can follow.
And the first step is who are you talking to?
What do you know about that audience or that individual?
And the more you know, the more you can customize
what it is your message is
going to be to their self-interest.
And then, of course, you create an opening that tells them why
should they listen and then you deal with the content and then
you, of course, have to deal with the performance, both
voice and your body language.
- How do you get them to be natural?
- I call it being in your comfort zone.
And what I do is I work within their personalities.
You and I know that as a professional performer,
- you want to find your voice. - Right.
- And your voice was your genuine self.
And once you found it, you then could create things
that were uniquely your own.
And therefore, I encourage people to look to themselves
because really their competitive
advantage is themselves
and how they perceive the world.
- Can anybody give a powerful speech?
- Yes. And I think you can witness it on TED talks all the
time where people come and
they're passionate about a certain idea.
And they want to really deliver
and convey that passion to others.
And all of us are very
passionate about what we believe in.
And when people can hook into what they believe in,
they become excellent presenters.
- But a lot of that confidence will come from really good
- planning, right? - Absolutely.
You and I know how you design what it is you're about to say
becomes very important.
And so if you know the audience or even in a meeting, the
expectation of what people are expecting, you then can use
that and either surprise them, you can motivate them, and you
can do a lot of things by the knowledge
that you know about their expectation
and that helps you design your message.
- And folks can do that. If you're an executive or a
salesperson or college president or whomever should be
able to do the same thing, right?
- Absolutely. And it has a lot to do with listening and how
well you listen, when you're in the situation. So many
times our internal thinking is going on and it distracts us
and therefore we're really not listening or we're really not
present with who we're either talking
to as an individual or to a group.
And the more you become mindful when you are
delivering a message, the better the presenter you are
because you then can be one with the audience.
And we did improvisation, which means that we asked
people for their suggestions
and then according to what they said,
we then created the scene.
- How would you like a Milk-Bone?
- You do incorporate and you do encourage your clients
and your students to use humor,
but you have to be careful, right?
- You do. You have to be very careful when you're doing humor
that you have the right to laugh.
So you have to know your audience.
And if you're making fun of yourself, that's OK.
But if you're making fun of a group, you have to be sure that
you're part of that group.
Then you have the permission to laugh.
And if you don't have it, you have to get permission
from the group before you could do it.
- Now, during this pandemic, you're actually coaching folks
on how to best use the internet, how to best do a
- Yes, you're absolutely right, because so many times
we are talking, as I am right now, to a camera.
And what that camera sees really is how the message
is coming across.
So I let people know how to design their message,
how they should design a background, how they should
dress, and also make sure that they do the same things they do
in a face to face conversation they do online.
Like acknowledging that you've heard.
Shaking your head, listening, leaning in when you're talking.
Those kinds of things people forget to do. And what they do
in an online situation is they sit very still.
You don't know whether people are hearing what you're saying
or not, and it becomes very strong.
I call it online fatigue.
And there's a tendency to lose attention, and so by treating
online more like face to face, it becomes more animated
- and more active. - Right.
As they always tell us in television.
You know, just imagine when you look into that camera that
you're looking at one person sitting in their living room,
and that's the way you get that relationship going.
- Absolutely. And people don't look into their cameras.
They actually look down at the person they might be seeing
rather than into the camera and actually talking to them.
- Right. All great tips.
Tom, thanks for dropping by the show and sharing
all your insights and knowledge.
And I just have to say, if you're a student or a corporate
executive or whomever you are
and you have to give a presentation,
if you can't get Tom personally because he is fun to work with,
you're the greatest. You really are.
Your book is the next best thing. Present! Connect!
You get it on Amazon and bookstores, I would assume.
- And you can also go to my website, which is
and you'll see more information about the book and also
how to purchase it.
And thank you to my publisher, Business Expert Press.
They were a great help.
- Thank you, Grover. - You're welcome.
Tom Guggino, you'll like him before he even says hello.
A fabulous trait for a man who teaches others how to win
over a crowd.
Well, that's all for this episode, I want to thank my
guests, the multitalented comic with multi personalities,
He's the speaker who knows how to present and connect,
Tom Guggino, and the versatile singer, musician
and performer Kris Clayton.
Thank you for joining us tonight.
Don't forget to stop by next week for more amazing guests
and great conversation right here on Counter Culture.