We had the good fortune of connecting with Kenny Schied and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kenny, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was adopted at birth and raised on the Southwest Side of Chicago in an old Irish neighborhood named Mt. Greenwood. Most of my family still lives in the neighborhood. Mt. Greenwood is a well known “blue-collar neighborhood”, populated mostly by City of Chicago employees, (particularly cops and firemen). My adopted father was a former Marine, a City of Chicago garbage man, a Hells Angel and an alcoholic. My mom married him when she was just seventeen years old. My mom’s side of the family were first generation Greek immigrants. Despite my DNA being Italian, Polish and Slovakian, I will always consider myself a Greek. My grandfather, who we called Poulle (short for Papoulle, Grandpa in Greek), was well known and respected in the city. He was an athlete and Golden Glove boxing coach as well as a Professional Wrestler and promoter in the Midwest circuit back in the 1950’s. As a kid, I never thought it strange that my grandparents slept with a police scanner playing in their bedroom. Poulle told me that had it because he liked “listening to the action at night”. As I grew older, I realized that Poulle and his friends were some pretty influential characters in the neighborhood. I’ll leave it at that. Despite any extracurricular activities, Poulle is that he loved me and the rest of his family unconditionally. Some of my most fond memories are of listening to him and his buddies tell stories at his friend’s restaurant. When he and my grandma left Chicago for Phoenix in 1991 his friends gave him a trophy that said “World’s Greatest Storyteller”. I think I inheritd imy gift for gab from him. When I was in elementary school, my father committed suicide. Poulle and my two uncles on my mom’s side stepped into the roles of my father figure and role model. My mom, who is by far the strongest person and caring person I’ve ever known, never let on that she was hurting or that anything was wrong. Over time, my best friend’s mother introduced my mom to her brother-in-law, Mark. Mark was never married and had no children. My mom and Mark got close quickly and began dating. Mark was kind and funny and a respectable man with a great career. Within a year, my mom and Mark married. Ultimately, Mark adopted my brother Eric and me. Although Mark is technically my stepfather, he never made me feel as though he wasn’t my dad. I have called him “Dad” since the day he and my mother married. To this day, I consider my dad my hero and one of my best friends. Shortly after my parents married, my mother became pregnant. We moved to a suburb of Chicago named Western Springs, which was a safe and affluent town. My parents ended up having four children together, totaling six. I have great memories of growing up in Western Springs, My mom was a stay-at-home mother, so my dad being the sole breadwinner was difficult. I was definitely considered one of the “poor” kids and I always felt out of place. When I was twelve, I started to experience some cognitive issues, which effected my balance and vision. After being examined, an MRI exposed a growth on my brain that was, over time, determined to be a brain tumor. What was baffling to the numerous experts and doctors that I saw over the next several months was that the tumor was actually shrinking, rather than expanded. On the day I was schedule to be fitted for a helmet meant to hold my head in place during brain surgery to remove the tumor, a nuero-specialist from South America happened to be visiting and was shown my chart. He theorized that the growth, which was then more like small scar tissue, may be related to a virus which caused a lesion. I never required surgery and it was considered by many “a miracle”. When I returned to school, I went from being the “miracle child” to the “weird kid” really quickly. I was made fun of and ended up getting into fights a lot. I began working out and became known as tough. By the time I was in high school, I was well trained wrestler. My sophomore year, Poulle died. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. I stopped wrestling, starting skipping school and began drinking on a daily basis. I hung around other misfits, I had no particular group of friends, but the people that I related to most were others that felt out of place. The other poor kids, The other kids that came from broken homes. The kids that were considered “minorities”. The geeks and nerds. The punk rockers and the metal heads. The gang bangers. The skaters. The theater kids. The kids in wheelchairs. Those are and always will be the people that I can relate to most, because I saw a bit of myself in each one of them. At a young age, I always tried to speak up for the people that had no voice. To fight for what I thought was right and go against the grain, no matter the cost. One thing that I am fully aware of that has given me an advantage over many others just like me, is that no matter how hard things got, someone was always there to help me up.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
GrAttitude Productions started out on February 28, 2021 at Catalina Craft Pizza (aka CCP) at our first day of open mic comedy. CCP’s owners Tony Jacobsen and Kevin Baker reluctantly agreed to let me put together a show on Sundays for a one month trial. On opening night, we had a full room, mostly of friends and family. Of the 30+ comedians that confirmed that they were coming, only Coy Johnson showed. Between the two of us, we strung together over an hour and a half of material. It was a fun night, but I knew that I couldn’t continue alone. I asked Coy if he was interested in helping me produce the mic on a weekly basis. He agreed and I began promoting our show on IG and FB, offering one free drink to each comedian (compliments of CCP). I added any and every person in town with the word “comedian” next to their name and I suddenly had an audience. The second week, the room was again full, this time with local spectators and comedians. We met Stephanie that day and soon after she introduced us to Tre and ultimately Darryl. The name GrAttitude Productions is in homage to the way in which we all met. By chance, each of us had some struggles that we were going through at the time but somehow we were connected through comedy. The word that each of us used to describe how we felt for having been given the gift of meeting one another was “grateful”. So it seemed fitting that each of our big personalities (hence the ‘Attitude’ part) combined to make GrAttitude Productions. As a group, things began to move very quickly. The local comedy scene was split into several different cliques, People seemed to feel a good vibe and energy at our shows and each week our audience and supporting comedians would grow. We put together Catalina Fest in April, 2021. It was a free outdoor event with a car show, live music, food and comedy, which was mainly funded by CCP and donations from our friends at Unwavered Custom Apparel,. Being as successful as it was, we knew we had to strike while the iron was hot, so we approached began schedule comedy showcases. Each of us realized that we had something special to offer: my management experience led me to produce, Coy’s ability to think outside of the box, Tre’s experience as a hip hop artist gave the extra something needed to open and close, Stephanie’s crowd work as a performer and Darry;’s experience and talent made us a force to be reckoned with. We were mature enough to realize that we needed to share this with the local scene by booking professional comedians from outside of the local commuting area and combining them on a lineup that was diverse and inclusive. That formula has worked and it has ultimately become GrAttitude Productions mantra.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have to leave Catalina, the town in which I live in, to show my friends the best time. Being from Chicago, I’m rarely impressed by food, so you know that this one is huge for me. CCP offers has the best sandwich in town with The Ugly Steak Sandwich, CCP is located at 15930 N. Oracle, Catalina, Az 85739. The meat is fresh from Dickman’s Deli and it’s hands down my favorite, We have Rail X less than a mile away. Rail X is a free trail that people ride out on their quads and dirt bikes. There’s a shooting range right down the road and some of the most amazing places for hiking and trailblazing just off of Golder Ranch at Charouleau’s Gap. Plenty of spots to go to horseback riding around town. As far as having a drink, you have CCP of course and Player’s Pub. Harambe Cafe and Social Club is my favorite outside of Catalina. It’s located at 6464 E. Tanque Verde in Tucson. It’s a unique coffee house that has amazing entertainment. Such a cool new spot. Other than those two, what’s the point of leaving my backyard, listening to some music and watching the stars by my firepit.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are several people that have helped me get to where I am today. My three children are my inspiration in life. My hope is that I’m leading them on a straight path and that they always feel confident in their own skin and in the decisions they make in life. My parents Barbara and Mark are my heroes. They have shown me that love conquers all. The owners of Catalina Craft Pizza, Tony Jacobsen and Kevin Baker gave me a chance by giving me the artistic freedom to run an open mic at their amazing bar and grill. With that, I met and formed GrAttitude Productions with Coy Johnson. Soon after, local comedian Mo Urban helped us out more than she will ever take credit for by introducing us to one of the best natural comedians I’ve ever seen, Stephanie Lyonga-Farrington. She and her husband Tre Farrington joined forces with us. Tre is an amazing musical genius and currently runs our sound and lighting at each of our shows. Local Tucson comedy veteran Darryl Graves recently joined forces with us and has added that extra bit of experience, knowledge and humbleness to our alliance. I need to dedicate the shoutout to the love of my life, Melinda Ontiveros. She is the most supportive, understanding, intelligent, funny and beautiful woman that I have ever met. I am truly grateful for my support system. I cannot forget to mention the fans that frequent our venue on a regular basis. They are extremely loyal and uplifting to us all. It’s amazing how great people can be. Last but not least, we would be nothing if it weren’t for the unbelievably talent comedians that grace our stage on a weekly basis. One of our biggest supporters is nationally touring comedian EJ Nonstop. Remember that name. Not only is he extremely funny, he’s a friend that we wouldn’t have had the pleasure to know without the comedy scene.
David Clark Rebecca Clark