Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Sunday March 24th, 2013 – Spencer, IA/Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI
My grandpa used to tell me it’s better to wear out than rust out, but I’m closer to feeling inside out right about now. I’m pushing myself harder than I have in a long time, and I feel every bit of my age. In my 20s, I could stand this pace and more. I was bullet proof then. Now, I’m just shot.
The shows the last two nights were beyond great, but that’s only a small part of my day. Today was the most hectic trip of all as I needed to be at Zanies in Chicago by 3pm to teach a class and then up to Kenosha, WI by 8pm to host the Mothership Connection radio show. I knew all along this would be the roughest day, and it didn’t disappoint. I made Indiana Jones look like a slacker.
I laid down at 1:30am after hanging with the comedians and it seemed like mere minutes when I checked my watch and it was 4am. I’d gotten just enough sleep to make me cranky, and that set the tone for the drive. I drove south on US 71 out of Spencer, IA and it was snowing just enough to make the drive even more brutal than it already was. It added tension to the mix I didn’t need.
Iowa is a lot bigger to drive through than it is to look at on a map. It seemed like Texas as I had both hands on the wheel in the pitch black early morning hoping I wouldn’t slide off into a ditch for a final curtain call. It was icy, snowy and windy – three dwarfs that didn’t make the final 7.
I had a lot of time to think as I drove, and did exactly that. Here I am all these years later after a lifetime of chasing a dream, and I have to admit I got exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be a full time headlining comedian who worked all over North America and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Nowhere in that dream did I picture driving in a 1994 Nissan with a cracked windshield and no spare tire across two lane highways in Iowa during a snow storm, but that wasn’t in the equation. I wanted to be a real live professional comedian, and I’ve done it. Nobody can take that from me, but I must admit it sure didn’t come about like I pictured it. I assumed my problems would end.
The only time anyone’s problems end is when the coffin lid clicks, but even that’s no guarantee for any of us. For all we know that’s when a whole new set of problems arises. Personally, I have all I can handle and then some with what’s going on here. I’ll worry about the great beyond later.
Today I had to make it to Chicago, and I did. I was beat like an egg yolk in a French restaurant when I got there, but I made it. Class started at 3pm, and I showed up at 2:57. Again, that kind of stress wasn’t in my initial dream but I made it nevertheless. The students made it worth the drive.
I made it to the radio station in plenty of time for the show, so I stopped to get a salad to try to maintain a halfway healthy lifestyle. Road life is hellish on one’s diet, and that’s why I have had my issues with type 2 diabetes. I totally see how I got that way, and I don’t want to do it again.
The radio show was good, but I had a hard time staying awake for those four hours. I thought I was going to nod off a few times, but I held it together. If everyone has to have problems, I love the ones I’m having. Trying to squeeze too many fun things into each day is what life should be.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 9:20 AM
Monday, March 25, 2013
Friday March 22nd, 2013 – Holland, MI
This is the beginning of a very hectic stretch, and I’m crossing my fingers I get through it with as few glitches as possible. It’s hard enough to make plans in general, but then hiccups occur out of the blue and it can derail the whole train. I’m heading into this without guarantees of anything.
Seemingly little things like a car problem or flu bug could prove to be disastrous if they happen to come at an inopportune time – which in my world they always do. I can only do my best to try and show up everywhere I need to be, and do the best I can do when I get there. My plate is full.
Tonight I needed to be in Holland, MI for a show at a beautiful venue called The Park Theatre. It’s an old Vaudeville house that was almost torn down, but the city is repairing it and they want events to attract business. Jerry Donovan is a comedian and promoter I have just started to work for recently and he happened to have a fallout for tonight and asked if I wanted it. I told him yes.
It’s true I wanted the work, but it’s going to really make my already packed weekend schedule even more so. I’m also scheduled to perform with Jimmy McHugh’s Chicago Comedy All Stars in Spencer, IA tomorrow night so that means I’ll need to really hump it if I’m going to get there.
I didn’t have time to think about that tonight, as I had a show to do. I hadn’t been to Holland in a while, and I thought I remembered how to get there but of course I didn’t and made a turn that got me totally lost. I made it to the theatre right at show time, but I don’t like cutting it that close.
I’m extremely glad I came though, as what a night it was. I have been having consistently solid shows of late, but this one was for the ages. I’d go as far as to say this was THE hottest audience I have performed for in the last dozen years or more. They were on a level that I’ve rarely seen.
Jerry hosted the show and did a very professional job. The feature act was Chris Young out of the Ann Arbor area, and he was the perfect act in front of me on this night. He did an outstanding job, and everything just fit together like it was custom made. That’s hard to plan for, but when it happens everyone can feel it. For whatever reason, all the pieces of the show fit together tonight.
The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was full and they completely got all of us the entire night. I have been part of some killer shows in my day, but this one was right up there with anything I’ve ever been part of in any size venue anywhere. It’s like fate brought every one of us together tonight.
It got to the point I had to stop and let them breathe several times because I didn’t think they’d be able to laugh anymore – but they did. Shows like this make those long drives worth the hassle – but they still are exactly that. I was barely done shaking hands and then it was back in the car.
I was on a major high most of the way home, but then I ran into some heavy traffic in Chicago that wiped a bit of the smile off my face. I got home at 2am, but I’ve got to get right back out and make it to Spencer, IA for another show tomorrow night. Who would have thought an old theatre in Holland, MI could be such a great experience? It totally was, but now it’s over. On to Spencer.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 12:02 PM
Friday, March 22, 2013
Thursday March 21st, 2013 – Chicago, IL
I want to run through my whole schedule for today so those who think they might want to enter the entertainment business can see exactly what it entails on a given day. Today was particularly hectic, but I’ve had a lot of others like it. See if this is a field you’d be interested in getting into.
I received a call last night saying I needed to be in downtown Chicago for a TV appearance on ‘Mancow TV’ at 7am. It came out of the blue, and I couldn’t say no. Part of being a headliner is doing media interviews to drum up business, and those can often come in at the very last minute.
This was about as last minute as it gets. I received confirmation at 8pm, which meant I had to be on a train into the city by 4:45am this morning. I didn’t make it back home to the sticks where I live until after midnight, so that didn’t leave much time for sleeping. I had more than a couple of emails to read through before I could go to bed, and after those I had phone messages to hear.
I got up at 3:30am to take a quick shower and be at the train station in time to park my car and buy my ticket. It’s a mile from my house, but I drove because I knew my walk would be from the train station to the TV station. That was about a mile and a half one way, and it was bitchy cold.
The TV show lasted from 7 to 8, but they asked me to stay longer to tape some more segments for Mancow’s radio show because the producers could see I knew how to throw in quick lines to fit their manic format. I didn’t really want to stay, but again that’s part of the gig. I didn’t get out until 9:30, and then I had another mile and a half walk in the nasty cold back to the train station.
I got back to Fox Lake at 11:30, and then had to deposit a check at the bank. It’s my secondary account, and there was a change in policy that now requires a minimum balance or I get charged a monthly fee. I had to sit with the banker and get that worked out, and that was 45 minutes I will never get back. I can’t stand wasting time with minutia like that, but who else can I get to do it?
Then I needed to stop home and make my hotel reservations for the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta next week – another process I can’t stand. I was typing in credit card numbers and it took way longer than I had to spare today. Still, it needed to get done or I’ll be sleeping in a rental car.
That was the next order of business, and the hassle started all over again. After that, I had to do a call in radio interview for a show I’m doing with Jimmy McHugh’s Chicago Comedy All Stars on Saturday in Spencer, IA. Again, that’s part of being a comedian and it’s crucial to get it done.
Then I had to squeeze in a haircut, as I’ve needed one for a while and have a lot of nicer shows coming up. Again, I didn’t want to do it but it needed to get done. The lady who cut my hair had a nasty cold, and she was sniffling and sneezing the whole time so I’ll probably end up sick too.
This was all before having to drive to Zanies in Chicago for a show at 8:30 where there was an inordinate amount of drunken hecklers. There was a group of Canadians and a group of Alabama goobers. Total hell. I had to fight to keep them all quiet, but I did. Still want to be a comedian?
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:24 AM
Wednesday March 20th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
Today I needed to be in Milwaukee for a recorded video interview with Jason Evans who owns and runs a website about Milwaukee comedy called www.mkefunny.com. Jason is coming up the ranks as a comic himself, and I like him a lot. He’s a student of the game, and is paying his dues.
Jeff Lampton was also there, and he’s another Milwaukee comic I like and respect. Jeff has his own style and agenda, and it’s not one that most people would have the ‘nads to do. Jeff chooses to do what would probably be labeled as X-rated comedy, and that has always been dangerous.
Lenny Bruce chose that route as did George Carlin, Redd Foxx and a precious few others in the annals of standup comedy. There is an audience for that style of comedy, but more often than not those kinds of performers get blackballed and aren’t able to work places most other comics are.
It’s difficult enough trying to hack out a living as any kind of entertainer, but trying to fit into a controversial niche cranks those odds up past astronomical. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it sure does make the trip more difficult. I respect anyone who sticks to their guns and follows their inner creative vision, which Jeff is choosing to do. Hats off to him, and I wish him only the best.
I never chose to go that route, and it was a conscious business decision. Foul language doesn’t offend me at all. I’ve been around it as long as I can remember, but this style of comedy isn’t just about swearing. It’s about trying to make points about subjects that can be considered volatile or controversial by a large percentage of the public. It takes guts and skill to do that style correctly.
Lenny Bruce and George Carlin got arrested for what they said, and although it was wonderful publicity for both of them I never wanted to rattle those cages. I want to get laughs, and that will hopefully get me paid. Does that make me a sellout? So be it. I’m there to entertain my audience, and there is more opportunity to get work for someone who can work clean if word can get out.
That’s why I drove up for the interview, as it was about my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up in April at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. Hopefully I can attract comedy fans that follow Jason’s site, but I want to take it much farther than that. I want this to be part of the Milwaukee community as much as the subject matter I’m talking about. I want to be a brand.
In a perfect world, this will be something that will be in demand locally from everything from church festivals to libraries to private parties to a stage at Summerfest or the State Fair. It will be a totally clean show, and I’m consciously choosing not to use any swearing at all. NONE. It’s not a nightclub comedy show. I’ve done that, but this isn’t it. This is designed for a broader market.
I want Milwaukeeans who have never been to a standup comedy show to become loyal fans of what I’m doing so they’ll come back again and again and send others. It will never be exactly the same show twice, as I’m going to allow for some audience input at times which will freshen it up and make each performance unique. It’s taken a lifetime to develop this show, but I am SO ready to make it a success. I’m grateful for this chance, and those who come see it won’t get cheated.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 7:46 AM
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Tuesday March 19th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
I’ve got a jam packed performing schedule coming up in the next couple of weeks, and I plan on loving every last minute of it. I’ll be all over the place, and in a good way. The money will be appreciated of course, but it’s never been about that. It’s the fun and thrill of being on the stage.
After a lifetime of chasing this elusive dream, I still haven’t gotten tired of the live performing part of the process. I’ve become extremely sick of most of everything else, but that time on stage is still golden – especially when it goes well. There are still times when it doesn’t, but that’s rare.
Far more often than not, I am able to go up there in front of a room full (or not that full) of total strangers and win them over with laughter. I clearly see their defiant stares of “you’d better make me laugh, mister” whether they know it or not. Then when I do, they line up to tell me how much they enjoyed it and I see an entirely different look in their eye. It’s one of admiration and respect.
Once in a while it’s a look of horror or disgust, and occasionally they won’t even look at me at all. Tonight was one of the good nights when they looked at me like a superstar. I’m at Zanies in Chicago yet again, and that’s the place I feel as comfortable as anywhere I’ve ever worked. I am officially one of their boys, and that’s not a bad place to be. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld are too.
Leno and Seinfeld and Richard Lewis and Larry Reeb and Tim Walkoe have all been staples of Zanies for decades. Obviously Leno and Seinfeld have gone on to much greener pastures, but both are looked at with reverence as having been people to put Zanies on the map. They’re legends.
The one everyone attributes a huge part of their success to – including me - is Rick Uchwat. He was the owner and founder of Zanies in 1978, and was an unbelievably charismatic personality at a time when comedy was just getting hot. He had a way about him that made everyone develop a fierce loyalty, but it wasn’t fear based like a lot of club owners tend to be. Rick earned a respect.
Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld still have a fondness for Rick to this day, as do a lot of others in an insane business built on self worship. Not everyone cared for Rick, as he could tend to polarize a percentage of the people he dealt with but that’s what I loved most about him. He was straight up and didn’t mince words. You knew where you stood with him, and I was always in good stead.
Rick passed away in 2011, and I miss him terribly. He was a great friend, even though we were not in constant contact. He made sure I always had bookings at Zanies, and he told me no matter how many people I pissed off I’d always have a comedy home on his stages. I never forgot that.
When I had my near fatal car accident in 1993, Rick had a check in my hospital room the very next day for $1500 to cover my immediate needs. I had to pay it back, but I worked it off on his stages at the various Zanies clubs and I’m forever grateful to him and Zanies for that kindness.
Today would have been Rick’s 66th birthday. I had a rock solid show at his club tonight, and I dedicated it to him from the stage. If not for Zanies, I wouldn’t be a comedian. Thank you Rick!
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:27 AM
Monday March 18th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI/Waukegan, IL
My shredded tire situation is back to at least functional if not normal. I hesitate to use the word “normal”, as I don’t think anything in my life has ever been that. I’m always the asterisk with the exception like “void where prohibited” and “subject to change without notice.” Well, I noticed.
I know I’m not the first person to ever have a flat tire, but having it blow out on a Sunday when nothing is open is that glitch that makes it just a little bit harder. Why couldn’t it happen in front of a Walmart that’s having a tire sale at high noon on a sunny payday? It could, but it never does.
It’s always the worst case scenario, with a wrinkle on top of that. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that’s how it is. It’s very funny…when it’s someone else’s problem. I personally have had my fill. Things like this have happened so often they don’t even faze me anymore. I’m calloused.
I finished my radio show in Kenosha, WI last night at midnight, and then had to deal with all of this whether I wanted to or not. My car was in Waukegan, and that’s about 10 miles away. That’s a significant hike anytime, but especially at midnight when the temperature is in the single digits.
My options were slim at that time of night, so what could I do? I suppose I could have called a cab, but Kenosha isn’t a cab town like Chicago is and it would have cost more money out of my pocket I don’t have. I also could have slept on the couch at the radio station and hoped to catch a ride from someone in the morning, but I didn’t want to do that either. I would feel like a vagrant.
Lucky for me, my friend Lou Rugani happened to stop by the station to work on something for his own show. Lou is one of my favorite people, and a major talent. He’s got one of the absolute best radio voices I’ve ever heard, and could work on any station in America. He’s from Kenosha, so that’s why he works at WLIP. I get that, but the station is lucky to have him. He’s got game.
Lou is also a car guy, and has several antique and collector cars. He knows what it’s like to be marooned with car trouble, so he gladly took me to Waukegan but first we sat at a truck stop for a while and enjoyed some of the best cream of mushroom soup either one of us have ever had.
Moments like that are surreal. I’m sitting with Lou Rugani at 2am eating cream of mushroom soup at a truck stop in Russell, IL. And it was fun. I sure didn’t expect to be doing it, but as long as I had to kill time anyway it was a pleasant experience. Lou dropped me off in Waukegan right next to where my car was at a Motel 6. I’m broke, but sleeping in my car would have been hell.
I popped for a room, and it was $49.99 plus tax. What? At Motel 6? That has to be the highest priced Motel 6 in America. Is March the height of tourist season in Waukegan or something? Do vacationers from all over come to watch the gangs shoot each other? I had no choice but to pay.
Then it took most of the morning to get my tire fixed. They didn’t have my size in stock – of course – and they called all over looking for one. I ended up having to drive another mile on the shredded donut to a junkyard up the street, but I got my used tire for $28. Life can continue now.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 5:38 AM
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Sunday March 17th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI
What would life in Mr. Lucky land be without an unexpected crisis coming every day or two to make sure my tension levels are always at their highest? BORING, that’s what. Believe me, I am craving a boring life more than a vampire craves blood, but it’s just not in the cards for this chap.
As if I needed more car trouble, I popped a tire on the freeway on my way to teach my Sunday afternoon comedy class at Zanies in Chicago and am lucky I didn’t kill myself. It happened right as I was arriving in the city and I was in fairly heavy traffic in the middle lane. That’s dangerous.
I’ve had so many things go wrong on this ‘free’ car I got from my friend Rich that I assumed it was out of ways to torture me. It’s already emptied my wallet and self esteem, and like a woman scorned it has done so with a heartless vengeance. I thought I had gotten out of her line of fire.
WRONG! I had the presence of mind to keep both hands on the wheel and stay in my lane, but slowing down too much would be dangerous as I’d have a good chance to get road sodomized at high speed. I wouldn’t mind at all to get hit, but not by a semi going 70. I would be human soup.
I did manage to get out of traffic safely, and checked my trunk to find a spare little donut with no jack or lug wrench. I know I should have checked this when I got the car, but I go through so many vehicles sometimes I don’t get around to it. I get confused, and assume I have everything.
I called Bill Gorgo to cover the first part of class, and drove on my shredded tire probably two miles at slow speed until I was able to make it to the parking lot of a hotel. I asked the desk clerk if maintenance might have a tire jack, and sure enough a guy came out and helped me. I’ve tried to help people my whole life, and having it come back when I really needed it was appreciated.
I even tried to slip the guy $10, but he was totally cool about it. I’ve done things like that many times for other people so I didn’t feel guilty at all. I sincerely thanked him and made it to Zanies to finish the class. I thought my car problems were through for the day and focused on comedy.
WRONG AGAIN! I needed to be in Kenosha to host ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show on AM 1050 WLIP by 8pm, but just as I crossed into Lake County on I-94 the donut popped and I was back to trudging along at five miles an hour. I knew I didn’t have a jack, and tried to make it to a spot that wouldn’t require a tow in the morning. Nothing was going to be open on Sunday.
It took a long time, but I nursed the car to a tire shop in Waukegan where I have done business before. I turned on my flashers and rode the shoulder all the way, feeling the piercing looks from everyone who passed me as they gawked at my ratty two tone car with ‘URANUS 2’ plates and a ‘I (heart) URANUS’ bumper sticker. Being the center of attention this way is not what I desire.
So to review, I had two flat tires in one day. That doesn’t scare me. It’s typical for Mr. Lucky’s odds. One time I got two speeding tickets in the same day - in WYOMING. No joke. How many cops are patrolling Wyoming? I found them both. I’ll get past this, but for today it was a hassle.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:57 AM