Counter Culture


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.

AIRED: November 17, 2020 | 0:28:19

- 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?

Yeah, super.

- 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.

- Right.

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.

So, yeah.

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.

- Right.

- 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.

- Right.

- 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.

- Yeah!

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,

"George, Jeff..."

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.

Nothing underneath.

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.

I remember...

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 do...

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

enter songs.

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

virtual meeting.

- 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,

Jeff DeHart.

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.


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