Michael Konik has published books, recorded and produced jazz albums, performed improvisational comedy at Second City Los Angeles, appeared with his dog Ella on a short-lived Animal Planet series, provided commentary for numerous FoxSports poker broadcasts, and hosted a weekly jazz show in Hollywood with his Tasty Band. He’s currently the proprietor of FreeHam Records and chief scribe at MichaelKonik.com, where he shares his writing with the world.
Michael Konik was raised in Fox Point, Wisconsin, where his schoolteacher mother Renice and his autodidact father Eugene taught him at an early age how to read, how to think critically, and how to appreciate our home in the universe. His parents encouraged him to become a “Renaissance Man,” which has lead to a lifetime of dabbling in disparate pursuits.
Michael attended Nicolet High School, in Glendale, Wisconsin, where he discovered musical theater and jazz, a world of imagination and sentiment that existed beyond the horizons of teenaged angst. Nonetheless, Michael spent the year after high school graduation doing unspeakable damage to his vocal chords performing and recording with the seminal 1980’s punk rock band The Clitboys, whose rebellious anthem “We Don’t Play the Game” (Feedback Records) remains a favorite with angry adolescents around the world.
At New York University’s School of the Arts, Michael attended the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, where he primarily slumped in metal chairs, moaned evocatively, and was berated by sadistic instructors. (He also performed in countless plays and musicals with a number of people who are today very famous.) At NYU, Michael studied drama, art history and constitutional law, and began his writing career. By the time he earned his BFA, he had already become a working essayist and cultural critic, and since he had proved himself ill-equipped to do a traditional job, Michael dedicated himself to a lifetime of ink-stained wretchery.
For nearly 15 years Michael Konik’s writing appeared in hundreds of newspapers and magazines on every continent, including the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Sports Illustrated, and virtually every special interest publication extant. For more than five years he was the gambling columnist for Cigar Aficionado, where he earned the honorific “Dean of the World’s Gambling Writers,” and for more than ten years he penned the golf column for the Delta Air Lines in-flight magazine, SKY.
After the publication of several critically acclaimed books, including “The Man With the $100,000 Breasts” (1999; Huntington Press/Broadway Books) — one of the Wall Street Journal‘s Five Best Gambling Books of All Time — and “Telling Lies and Getting Paid” (2001; Huntington Press/The Lyons Press), Michael revisited his performance roots, joining the Second City Los Angeles-based improvisational comedy troupe, The Los Hombres, and the vocal jazz quintet Crescendo (Devon Records). In 2003 he recorded two albums: Crescendo’s latest collection and a solo project with his own jazz trio, the Tasty Band, a collection of standards called “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.”
His four latest books are “In Search of Burningbush: A Story of Golf, Friendship and the Meaning of Irons” (2004; McGraw-Hill), “Ella in Europe: An American Dog’s International Adventures” (2005; Bantam/Dell), “The Smart Money: How the World’s Best Sports Bettors Beat the Bookies Out of Millions” (2007; Simon & Schuster), and “Reefer Gladness: Stories, Essays and Riffs on Marijuana (2010; Huntington Press). He’s also written the novels “Becoming Bobby, “Instructions for My Funeral,” “Making It,” and “Year 14.”
Michael lives in Hollywood, California, where he works as the proprietor of FreeHam Records and tends to an organic vegetable garden and backyard hummingbird aviary.
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Some fun facts about Michael Konik:
- Graduate of Colorado Outward Bound School.
- Contestant on four game shows, including “Jeopardy!”; was “phone-a-friend” lifeline on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and gave wrong answer.
- Volunteer literacy tutor at Los Angeles Public Library.
- Completed two marathons.
- Graduate of six high-performance driving/racing programs; now he doesn’t own a car, preferring to walk and bike.
- Volunteer animal therapist (with Ella the dog) at area hospitals and nursing homes.
- Played in (and failed to win) six World Series of Poker world championship events; served as expert commentator on more than 100 televised poker broadcasts.
- Host for three years of the longest-running weekly jazz event in Hollywood, “Tasty Tuesdays,” at Catalina Bar & Grill Jazz Club.
- Founder of FreeHam Records, an independent jazz & blues recording label and management agency; producer of six records on the JazzWeek national radio charts.
- Visited 57 countries…and counting!