Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Day In Milwaukee

Friday July 30th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

Back up to Milwaukee for business and pleasure. I’ve been up there so much in the past few weeks it’s starting to feel like I live there again. It’s also starting to feel like Chicago with all the road construction and traffic jams. That isn’t the Milwaukee that I remember.

Lots going on today. First I met with a very nice lady who is producing some television segments for PBS for the fall fund drive. I was referred to her by a gentleman who has an outstanding website about Milwaukee history called He and I have had some brief communication about teaming up on the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show.

It’s a fantastic website, and I want to cross promote as much as possible. I’ll gladly plug his excellent site with my shows, and I hope he can plug my shows in return. He gave me the lady‘s email address and we set up a meeting for early afternoon. She‘s hoping to put a segment together about the show to be run in the fall. That would make nice promo.

After that I went to visit my old friend David Rickert. David was a comedian back when the boom hit in the ‘80s, and actually was funny. He’s very smart and performed for quite a few years. I’m sure he probably could have stayed with it, but he loved fire fighting a lot more than comedy, so that’s what he chose. He’s very good at it and that was his destiny.

David has been working as a fire fighter probably as long as I’ve been a comedian. He’s an expert, one of the very best around. His life worked out very well and I’m ecstatic for a lot of reasons. He’s married to a doctor of all things and they have three textbook beauties for children, two girls and a boy. They’re unbelievably sweet kids, not at all dented cans.

David’s family are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They invited me over for all kinds of holiday meals in my early twenties and I’ll never forget it. They knew I was not a fan of the holidays but they took me in as if I was their own flesh and blood. They lived it rather than just talked about it, and all these years later their kindness shines like the sun.

We’re all super busy and I haven’t seen David in a while, and we were scheduled to see a Brewers game a while back, but I blew it and missed the day. People like him and all of his family are what make life worth living, and it was great to hang out and chat for a few hours as his son Adam wiped me out on a video bowling game. He’s four. I’m an idiot.

After that I went over to see the woman I’ve been seeing off and on for so many years it blurs together at this point. I can’t really call her my girlfriend, but that’s as close as what she is at this point. We drift in and out of contact, and she’s got a hefty stack of problems to deal with of her own. She just had surgery for a herniated intestine and is home resting.

She’s a single mom with a seven year old son, and he’s got the energy of a giant swarm of bees. I brought them Cousins submarine sandwiches for dinner so she wouldn’t have to cook, and I know she greatly appreciated it. Her eyes lit up and it was a surprise that I was in town, so it felt good to do a good deed for the day. This is what life is really all about.

There was just a good solid friendly peaceful vibe all day, and I surfed it like a wave. In a perfect world, every day would be like this but it never is. For whatever reason, I didn’t let anything or anyone get to me today but that was never an issue. Good people just kept crossing my path, and I appreciated every one of them. I tried to return the same energy.

The main reason I was in Milwaukee today was to do a ten minute opening set for The fifth annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival at 342 North Water Street. It’s an outstandingly well run event and I stumbled upon it a few years ago. My contact there is a guy named Matt Kemple who, with a few partners, are really growing themselves a very nice event.

They have a website at and are doing sketch and improv shows the rest of the weekend. Tickets are very reasonable, and there’s a lot of talent that shows up to entertain. I like how they start off the shows with a comedian, and I felt right at home from the first two seconds I was there. I wish them all nothing but big success.

It thrills me that someone is trying to make Milwaukee into a comedy town. It sure isn’t known for that, and anyone who’s tried to perform in Milwaukee will tell you how super difficult it is to get any recognition there. Comedysportz has done alright, and they know the Milwaukee stigma. I respect that whole organization from Dick Chudnow on down.

I’m very flattered that Matt asked me to be part of the festival, and I had a great time for my ten minute set. That space has housed a few of John McGivern’s one person shows in the past and I could definitely see myself doing a few ‘Schiltz Happened!’ performances.

I was out early enough that I still had some time to do something else, and I noticed that the Joan Rivers documentary “A Piece Of Work” was playing at the Downer Theatre. I’ve been meaning to see it for a while, but haven’t had time. I’d heard it was very well done.

I don’t know what to think of Joan Rivers. Part of me respects her work ethic, which is right up there with just about anyone I’ve ever seen, but another part of me is very turned off by her obnoxious personality. She seems very mean spirited, and that‘s hard to watch.

She’s obviously a dented can, but I don’t know why. She’s had a lot of success, but that doesn’t seem to have come close to satisfying her. It seems that nothing will. I was almost sad for her watching the film and seeing her deal with a lot of the same hassles that I do.

One scene that really hit home was her getting heckled at a casino gig in the far north of Wisconsin of all places, a place I’ve actually worked myself. Some goof didn’t like a joke she did and it was go time. She took charge and handled it, but it brought back a flood of memories of my own dealings with halfwits like that. I guess fame doesn’t prevent it.

Whatever dents Joan Rivers has in her can seem to be a lot deeper than mine. I love the process of creating comedy and hearing the laughs, but she’s obsessed with it to the point of never being able to enjoy it. I hope I never get to that point. I had fun at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, and the whole day was really enjoyable. Fame will never replace that.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Friday, July 30, 2010

Living La Vida Lambeau

Thursday July 29th, 2010 - Green Bay, WI

   I made a positive mistake today by accepting an invitation from my friend Shelley to go to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI for the annual Packers shareholders meeting. I’ve had chances to go with various people in past years, but today was the day - even though I was swamped with other things to do instead of that. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to go.

   There were more than a dozen reasons why I should have stayed home and pecked away at all the work I have to do, but who says I have to do it other than me? Will it matter in a hundred years if I decided to take a day away to go do something other than what I had on my agenda? Will it matter in fifty? Ten? One? Quite frankly, nobody cared at all but me.

   What a powerful draw the NFL has. They’re the top sport right now, at least in America and I don’t have any aspirations to move anywhere else if soccer is my only alternative. If I had to watch soccer and pretend I liked it, I’d throw myself in front of a train and end it.

   Football is another story. My Packerholic condition has been in remission since the end of last season, but I’m ready to fall off the wagon as were several thousand others at those hallowed halls of holiness called Lambeau Field. I wasn’t the only hooky player today.

   There had to be over ten thousand other idiots up there with me, listening to long boring speeches by bland looking white people about revenue sources and bottom line financials, just so they could sit in the sun and stare at that larger than life tundra that wasn’t frozen.

   Far from it, it was picture perfect. It looked odd without any lines on it, and we all sat in the hot sun listening to Ted Thompson and the rest of the crew ramble on about how NFL perfection was in front of us and how we were supposed to just sit back and let them do a job they were hired to do. It was fun for a while, but then it got old. It was way too long.

   The last few speakers reminded me of sitting through a boring church service, hoping it would end by any means necessary including plagues, pestilence or gunfire. Finally, it did and we took an enjoyable lap through the Packer Hall of Fame, one of the best anywhere.

   Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch at a local icon joint right next to the stadium I had never been to called Kroll’s. Wow, what a great burger. The whole experience was totally Wisconsin, right up to the deep fried cheese curds with TWO kinds of cheeses. Delicious.

   I know I should have stayed home and got work done, but I’m glad I went. Shelley was very kind to invite me, and she and her family are just fantastic people. Her dad and aunt came too, and there wasn’t any of that bubbling dysfunction that would have come with a trip with my family. It’s hard to believe when things go right. I’ve never been used to that.

   This day was absolutely perfect. I slept all the way up and back and snored horribly. I’m sorry for that and I told them, but they really didn’t seem to mind. They’re friendly people as were the thousands of others who showed up today. That alone made it worth the trip.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bitching On Booking

Wednesday July 28th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   I’m finally starting to take action on making Wednesday my set day for tending to all of my booking duties each week. I need to completely revamp any and all booking practices or tactics I may have used in the past, which have been painfully piss poor in hindsight.

   It’s always been a chore to deal with bookings and I admit it. I’ve never been good at it because I’ve never enjoyed the whole booking game, but that doesn’t mean I can’t change my outlook. Like it or not, it’s something I have to improve so why not learn to enjoy it?

   If I don’t do it, I don’t eat. If I hire someone else, it’ll cost a ton. The smart thing by far is for me to organize myself to the point of only having to answer calls for bookings, but at a much higher rate than I get now. I used to be able to sit back and wait for gigs to find me. I still get calls, but it’s a lot tougher for everyone these days. I need to be on top of it.

   There are countless agencies around the country who book entertainment of all kinds. In my experience I’ve only been booked a handful of times from any of these places, and it’s usually been a pain in the ass. The agency takes a huge cut and usually rapes the buyer by charging too much for the show as a whole. I’m all for profits, but rape is another story.

   I just want to be fair with people. I want to work within their budget and give them my absolute best performance for whatever price is agreed on. I also want to be considered on as many gigs as possible but there’s no way I can find them all on my own. I need a push.

   Technically, that push should come from agencies. I’m in with a few, like Marc Schultz and Zanies in Chicago, but they don’t get nearly enough work to make a living. Once in a while I’ll get a private party from them and it will be ok, but I’m going to need a lot more.

   I explored a few possibilities today of websites who list comedians and was surprised at the amount of absolute garbage that was on most of them. I’ve always noticed how rotten acts seem to be better at promoting themselves, probably because they have to. I still hate to see these wank poles get any work at all though, as all they do is pollute the gene pool.

   Talentless Hack ‘A’ spends $5000 he got from a trust fund getting top of the line promo  pictures, website, lame video clips and whatever else he can buy and gets listed on a lot of sites. Since he’s not busy working there’s a lot of time to submit, and once in a while he’s bound to hit the jackpot on some private gig that has a budget way higher than he merits.

   He goes in and tanks it, permanently scorching that buyer to ever having comedy again. I’ve seen it happen over and over, but what can I do to combat it? I think I should at least be listed side by side with these apes so I can get a shot at some of those private shows.

   I can do the job in most situations better than anyone else because I’ve paid my dues for a lifetime - something most hack bastards would never consider doing. They want to slide in and steal the high paying gigs when they know they don’t deserve them. That kills me.
   Still, it happens all the time. I looked up and down the ‘rosters’ of some of these listing websites and wanted to puke straight up in the air. One no talent bum after another had an outrageous price tag for private shows, even though I know they’d all work for whatever a venue would pay them. Most of these goofs couldn’t make it in clubs. Why? They stink.

   Sorry, not trying to pull rank but it’s true. I see excellent comedians get paid a whole lot less than they’re worth because they’re busy trying to make an honest living. They have to take what’s offered because they have bills to pay, myself included. Many of the wannabe list have separate incomes and don’t need the money. They can afford to play this game.

   ‘Christian’ comedy is the one that really pisses me off. They’re the worst. Most of those acts are horrific, but they’re “doing it for the Lord”. Gag. I know of one mook I helped get started who has a Christian radio show in Rockford, IL. He bent my ear every which way but loose to the point of being a pain in the ass, without so much as a half ass thank you.

   Then, he got some over his skis big paying gigs, but didn’t put me on any of them as he told me I’m “not a believer, so why would I book you?” He was never funny, but I tried to be nice anyway. Then he pulled that stunt and wonders why I won’t talk to him anymore.

   I saw his mug all over a couple of those sites trying to get big bank for his futile attempt at occupying a comedy stage. He couldn’t buy a ticket to a real club, but that’s who I have to compete with apparently. In theory, I can blow every one of these ducks out of the lake.

     In reality, I don’t know if I want to pay to get listed on all of those sites. Not all of them have fees, but many do. If there’s no guarantee I’ll get work, I can’t see myself spending a dime of hard earned money to list myself. But how will I know if I get booked unless I get listed? This is a dilemma for sure, but not one I want to deal with now. Other things first.

   Unlike the majority of pinheads I see listed on these obscure agency sites, I can kick ass in clubs and be a top level headliner. That’s where I need to focus my energy for now. I’m able to work most good clubs in the country, I’m just not in with a lot of them for reasons that aren’t really excusable. There’s no reason I can’t approach them and get myself hired.

   I’m still not consistent with reaching out to those clubs I am in with. I need to keep up a consistent dialogue with any and every place that books comedy that I want to work. It’s a numbers game everywhere, but I do have a lot to offer a lot of venues. I’m experienced as a solid headliner, and most places haven’t had me back in a while so I’ll be ‘fresh meat’.

   Still another aspect is getting this ‘Schilitz Happened!’ show going in Wisconsin. It will take even more ingenuity to find my own venues for it, but I plan on going that exact way. Nobody will tell me what to do or how to do it, and any profits I can make will be earned.

   I’m glad I took some time to at least examine this situation, even though it put me in an irritable mood. Searching those sites let me know there’s a whole world out there with no clue of who I am. That’s good. It’s a chance for me to develop a whole new group of fans.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Can't Do Everything

Tuesday July 27th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   The hardest part of being creative is having to kill a pet project. It’s torture. Pure pain. It usually boils down to a matter of not having enough time to devote to make the idea work properly. No matter how well one balances a time schedule, certain things just don’t fit.

   I’m having that problem with The Mothership Connection radio show right now. I don’t have the time to forge ahead to whatever next level there is because I’m too busy with my other projects that at least have a chance to return a profit. The show is at a crossroads.

   I don’t regret doing the show for a minute. It’s been fun and informative and I know we do have a following, even though I don’t know exactly how many or where they might be located. Cyberspace is a big place, and we have new people tuning in to us all the time.

   People in Kenosha seem to enjoy it too. We get calls every week, and whenever I walk into the station during the day, someone always comes up and says how much they enjoy the show. I know they’re telling the truth because they quote lines I said back to me. I can feel there’s an audience for the show, but now I need to make a buck with it or shut down.

   Those are pretty much my choices. I talked with John Perry about it and told him where my situation stands. If I get booked by Carnival for cruise ship work I’m going to have to take it, at least for a while. That would probably ruin our schedule for live shows, but we still might not be dead yet. I need to find a way to be able to record shows for future use.

   There’s a station in Waukegan, IL that’s owned by the same company and they said we may be able to record some stuff over there like interviews with people who can’t be with us live, stuff like that. I’d need to improve my engineering skills and/or hire somebody.

    I always feel skittish about asking for favors, but now it’s become a necessity. I have to have certain things done or I can’t do the show anymore. I just can’t. It’s too much time I could be doing something else productive and I’m to the point of quitting and moving on.

   If I would keep doing it, there needs to be some changes made in the format, crew and a few other things to make it exactly where I like it. Then more importantly, I have to make it ready for a syndication deal, or at least a chance to get paid from where we’re doing it.

   That’s my challenge - make this project profitable, or park The Mothership in cornfield. I would hate to see it die completely, just like Jerry’s Kidders. There’s been a lot of work put into both, but a lot of fun had also. They’re like children, and it’s hard to see children die. But I’m afraid if I can’t make a buck with it, I’ll have to abandon it at least for now.

   There really is a lot going on right now. I thought I had a plan, but again I feel it drifting away and out of control. I have a constant need to regroup, reorganize and refocus on the projects I’m working on to make sure I don’t let one take all of them off course. This will be a test of my organizing skills. Either I’ll find a way to make it work or it will be done.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Karma Comedians

Monday July 26th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

   The odds are stacked against me that I’ll ever have any real power in the show business stratosphere, but for one night at Zanies in Chicago I was in charge and it felt great. Bert Haas is the booker and he schedules the Rising Star Showcase shows on Monday nights so he can watch people of all experience levels try to audition for paid work at Zanies.

   I’m the regular host of those shows, and it’s become a solid tradition in a just a couple of years. Aspiring newbies show up and attempt to knock the socks off of Bert, who’s not an easy sock knocker offer. He’s been there twenty-five years and has seen and booked all from Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld on down. Obscure feature acts face a difficult challenge.

     Bert actually tries to help these people get booked by giving a pre show speech each and every week outlining what he’d be looking for in an act for possible bookings at Zanies. It isn’t so much knockout funny as it is the ability to work ‘TV clean’ and be a good host, as that’s where most of the available work would be at this level. The other spots are taken.

   Comedy is a numbers game, but everyone wants to bypass that part of it. I know myself I’m replaceable at every single club I work, including Zanies. They wouldn’t miss me in a hundred years, so it keeps a person humble - or at least it should. I know I’m lucky to get a booking anywhere, and so is anyone else. It becomes a matter of a lot more than funny.

   Part of it is familiarity. If someone else feels comfortable handing off power, it happens on occasion. Bert Haas asked me a few months ago if I’d handle the Monday night shows so he wouldn’t have to sit and watch newbie after newbie ignore his every point and make life miserable for everyone. He gave me one as a trial and it worked out extremely well.

   Tonight was another one. The show was billed as ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’ and I had the responsibility of filling a 90 minute show with whomever I felt like. Word got out fast and I had an overwhelming number of people contact me but I decided to make a point to offer slots to only quality people and create a special show that radiated positive energy.

   Everyone on the show wasn’t necessarily the top talent level in town but they all love to be on stage and don’t always get the top of mind awareness from bookers in town. I know how it is to fight for stage time, and a chance at Zanies in Chicago is a big deal for locals. Bert is actually very good about giving chances, but even then it boils down to numbers.

   I really looked over the lineup and tried not only to make it a show full of quality people but also diverse and unique acts. It wasn’t just a bunch of twenty something white guys in a row like most open mikes in America. I thought it out and put together an eclectic mix.

   All together, this was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done. It won’t mean anything in the annals of comedy, but let it be noted that at least one night nice guys didn’t have to finish last. I tried my best to use whatever power I did have to help some people I thought really deserved it. The vibe in the room was electric. There were no jerks there to ruin it.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Wall In The Family

Sunday July 25th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha, WI

   It’s shaping up as if good old Milwaukee is set to once again play a role in my life in the next few months so I might as well get used to it. I played German Fest yesterday and I’ve got more bookings in August, September and October as I segue into a more focused plan of establishing the “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” show.

   The good part about going back there now is it’s just another town. Most of the people I had issues with are now dead or so far out of my life they’re dead to me. As I look back at it now, I have a hard time seeing what any of it proved or why it all happened, but it did.

   Most of my family were just dysfunctional people. They came from an energy source I don’t want to go anywhere near, but I had to be around it anyway. Then I was old enough to make my own choices, but by then a lot of their dysfunction splattered up and affected my life too. I’m not saying I’m not nuts, but I’m not like them either. My life proves that.

   The results of my life’s energy output are about as opposite from my family as opposite can get. I took a completely different path from all of them, and now all these years later I can’t even see where they are on the path of life. We’ve drifted so far apart we’ve split up as a family, and whatever bond was there is now totally gone. Personally, I don’t miss it.

   I miss the companionship and encouragement a family is supposed to bring, but I’m not at all sorry to be away from all that “he said, she said” BS. I don’t need that, and I’m sure not interested in anyone telling me what to do or having to worry if I have approval to do whatever it is I’m doing. My life is my life and the rest of them can kiss my liberated ass.

   It’s a shame when family doesn’t work out, but I know I’m not the only one. Mine was on a bigger scale though, that’s for sure. Other than my cousin Brett, I’m not really close to any of them, and at this point I don’t think that will ever change. My siblings live in an entirely different world that has nothing to do with me, and they like it there. Whatever.

   I don’t even know if my own mother is living or dead, and I don’t know very many who can say that, or would want to. I really don’t either, but all these years later the damage is done and the healing over has taken place. If my mother came around tomorrow, I’d have absolutely nothing to say to her. I’m not looking for reconciliation or want to ’catch up’.

   The reason I’m writing about this is because most other people won’t. I hope most who read my little daily poop output quota have no idea what I’m talking about and just move on, hoping tomorrow’s post may be interesting. But then there are those who totally get it. These are the true dented cans, and the ones I unfortunately can relate to. We need a hug.

   That’s what I always thought comedic success would do - make up for all the dents my family life’s can had. Now I know that’s never going to happen, but I’m fine with it. I just want to live out my days in peace, and that peace is growing in my head. My painful past in Milwaukee is just that - past. Now I can go up there and focus on doing good shows.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Monday, July 26, 2010

Two Cities, Two Gigs, Too Fun

Saturday July 24th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI/Chicago, IL

   I spent the longest night I’ve spent in a while worrying about my cell phone. I even had a couple of dreams about it, and I didn’t sleep well at all. That thing is very important and it’s not even an iphone or blackberry. It’s just a regular old phone that I use for keeping in contact with bookers, friends and the outside world. I realize how important it‘s become.

   I popped right out of bed earlier than usual so I could get showered, dressed and out the door to start back tracking to the places I visited yesterday where I may have left it. I went to a few places before finally hitting pay dirt at a car stereo joint of all places. The speaker system on my car has been acting up so I stopped to see if they could figure out the glitch.

   My phone was on the front seat and I remember grabbing it when they took the car in to look at it, and I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and throw out an empty bottle of water. The problem only required a jiggle of a wire and they were done with it way before I thought they’d be, so it must have taken me by surprise so much I didn’t take my phone.

   Whatever the reason, I was overjoyed to see the woman behind the counter reach into a drawer and pull out my phone. She didn’t ask for any ID or anything because she saw the look of sheer joy I had when she showed it to me. I thanked her about ten times, and left.

   I had to be at German Fest in Milwaukee by 12:30 to take another shot at becoming the very first comedian they ever booked. The weather was much better this time and we had an audience of maybe 60 or 70, which looked tiny in that size venue. Everything was hard about that situation, but I stood there and filled my time and did the very best job I could.

   Comedy is a very delicate art form. There needs to be attention paid and it’s difficult for that to happen unless circumstances are just right. There should be a quality sound system and adequate stage lighting and a room small enough to capture the laughs of an audience which in turn creates a roll. Variations of that formula usually come with consequences.

   The important thing at German Fest wasn’t the show, at least not this time. Getting in to do it was the important thing. I got a nice on air plug from WTMJ Radio who had a booth on the grounds, and that adds credibility locally. None of the listeners saw a small crowd.

   Plus, my grade school friend Robert Deglau couldn’t have been any nicer to recommend me to the rest of the board of directors. The whole crew from them to the people I worked with at the Air Tran entertainment stage were all sweethearts to deal with. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and it’s a building block for future appearances. One step at a time here.

   After the German Fest show I drove down to Chicago to be on WGN radio for a Jerry’s Kidders segment that came together at the last minute. Ken Sevara couldn’t do it on such short notice, so it was just Tim Slagle and myself. We had a very good show and that has a way of making the whole day feel good. It’s hectic but also exciting because it’s part of being an entertainer. Two cities, two gigs, too fun. And I found my phone. I’m doing ok.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Keys, Wallet, Phone

Friday July 23rd, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   Keys, wallet, phone. Keys, wallet, phone. Keys, wallet, phone. It’s a constant mantra of mine, to the point of obsession. Those are three things that are easiest to lose and hardest to replace. I’m constantly checking them all and grabbing my pockets like I’ve got herpes, crabs and jock itch all rolled into one. Losing any one of those three is a gigantic hassle.

   So what did I do today? Lost my phone. Ugh. SO frustrating, especially since I check it so often. I’ve lost every one of the ‘big three’ in my life, unfortunately more than once to add even more frustration to the mix. Alas, sometimes it still happens - and this is one.

   I was really having a fine day up until then. I was making good decisions, deciding how to get my life more in balance. I spent some time with my t-shirt printer in Antioch, IL as we tried to carve out a long term battle plan for the Uranus Factory Outlet business. He’s been in business over twenty years and has a lot of valuable experience I can learn from.

   He needs jokes to print on his merchandise, and I can help him there. He’s a very good person, and I feel a great synergy with him because he’s all about win/win just as I like to be. We met for a couple of hours at his shop, and designed a new version of my infamous ‘T-E-I-A-M’ t-shirt. There IS an ‘I’ in team. We revamped it totally and I think it’s great.

   Now it’s up to others to agree enough to pull their wallet out and spend some money on it. We picked a good quality shirt, and are going with simple colors of black ink on a grey shirt. I ordered 24 shirts, most in L or XL. If they don’t sell, I’m not going to go bankrupt.

   I will go bankrupt at least socially if I don’t find that damn phone. I stopped to run a ton of errands today and it could be almost anywhere. I wasn’t thinking about calling people, I was trying to get my errands done while I had a day off. I haven’t a clue as to where it is.

   I checked my car a dozen times. Sometimes it sticks in between a seat or under a seat or one time it was in the compartment in the passenger side door. I couldn’t find it for a few days, and just when I was at my wit’s end, I was looking for something else and found it.

   Now I have to get up early tomorrow and backtrack to see where I may have left it. That will be an especially sharp pain in the lederhosen because I have to be back up at German Fest in Milwaukee for a noon show. Hopefully, that situation has stabilized itself a little.

   This is the kind of hassle I really can’t stand, but what can I do? I watch myself as close as I can, and it still happens once in a while. I have a spare car key in my wallet, which is a smart thing, but other than that, I’m screwed. I don’t have an extra wallet or cell phone, so when I blow it, I blow it. At least the last time I lost it I knew where I left it. Not now.

    Still, this will pass. I’ve done it before and the worst case scenario will be I’ll pop for a new phone. I’m sure all my numbers will be lost, and that’s another thing I should guard a lot better. Those numbers aren’t backed up, and there’s no reason for it. I’m such an idiot.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Luck Of The Germans

Thursday July 22nd, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

One year ago today, I made my national television debut on “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” on CBS. Tonight I made my featured festival debut in my hometown of Milwaukee at German Fest in front of three people, and then it rained so hard the festival closed and the grounds were evacuated. This was a downpour of epic biblical proportions.

All I could do to retaliate was laugh, and the crescendo came when the ominous tornado sirens started going off. At least I had the only covered stage at the festival, and it came in quite handy tonight. Here I stood in my home town in front of an empty seating area made for at least a couple thousand people, in the rain, talking over a tornado siren to just three.

“Hello, Craig? Yeah, it’s Dobie. Dobie MAXWELL. Mr. Lucky, you know. Yeah, I did your show exactly one year ago today and I was wondering…uh, do you think there might be any chance of getting back on soon? I’ve got no shortage of great stories to tell you.”

Actually, I found Craig Ferguson to be a genuinely nice person. I think he’s very funny, and every interview I’ve heard or read makes him come off like a down to earth good guy in every way. That’s fine for him, now I need to get some of that for me too. A good start would be to get an actual interview somewhere. I haven’t had one of those in a long time.

I’m not looking for minute details to nitpick about, or bellyache about my poor, woe is me life. Not at all. Actually, things are going pretty well right now. This last year has not been bad at all. I’ve worked constantly, doing interesting things I really enjoy. I’ve gotten many accolades for not only my appearance on The Late Late Show, but others as well.

I had a nice ‘mini run’ by doing Byron Allen’s “Comics.TV” show after the producer of it saw me on The Late Late Show. Then I got to do “The Daily Buzz” with my old buddy Mitch English who I knew from Salt Lake City. All in all, this has been a land mark year. I think it’s important to stress when good things happen, not just complain about the bad.

I just wish it would have happened fifteen or twenty years ago so I could build on it the right way. It was a nice start for sure, but unless I find a way to keep it growing, this may well be all I’ll ever do in the big scheme of life. When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1997, their GM Ron Wolf called it ’a fart in the wind’, as that’s the only title they won.

Everyone picked them to do much greater things and have a dynasty but the one trophy is all they could manage. They lost the next year’s Super Bowl and that was it. They still had good teams for a while, but eventually it all played out and then to make it all uglier, Brett Favre had to turn heel and start up his whiny little diva act. And that’s where it sits.

Was my one little five minute appearance on national TV all I’m ever going to do? I’m extremely grateful for that opportunity, but I know I’ve got a lot more in me than that - or at least I think I do. I’m sure those Green Bay Packers including Brett Favre thought they had more in them too, but it didn’t happen. Disappointment has a way of dousing fires.

That fact hit me hard today as I stood on that big stage staring at the empty seating area of a festival that’s never had a comedian before. I’m not angry at anyone, in fact quite the contrary. My grade school classmate Robert Deglau went out of his way to suggest me to the board of directors of German Fest, and everyone there couldn’t have been any nicer.

I’m very grateful for all that, and Robert felt horrible there weren’t people at the stage at the time I was supposed to go on. He introduced me, and had to go take care of other stuff since he’s in a position of power at the festival. No worries from my end, and that’s never been the issue. The problem is me. I should be working more on getting back on the tube.

Have I sent out any inquiries? NO. Have I put together a promo package to send out to a list of the top agents in Hollywood? Double no. Well, who do I have to blame but myself for all of that? Nobody else but me. I can’t expect things to just fall into place by accident without planning. I’M the one who controls it, and for whatever reason I can’t get it done.

I guess I could beat myself up forever about it, or just relax and take a step back to see a bigger picture view. Where am I now? Where am I headed? Where do I want to go? That will be what makes the dreams come true, not pissing and moaning about what all failed.

I feel bad for German Fest, as it rained so hard they lost the entire day’s revenue. I have another scheduled appearance on Saturday at noon, but that’s not going to be any kind of career maker either. I’ll go there and have fun with whomever shows up, but what I really need to be doing is keep building on that foundation of the TV appearance. I can do more.

The cruise ship opportunity was fun too, but that’s not the big time either unfortunately. It’s not bad, and I hope I get more, but the real essence of what I want to do is create good solid original standup comedy, and present it to an appreciative audience who pays for it.

That sentence felt good to write, because it’s probably the first time I shaped it into real words, at least recently. I’m getting in there to the core, and that’s where the good stuff is. If I really want to be a success, I’ll get in there and bring my very best up to the surface so I can use up whatever talent and ability there is in there. I don’t want to leave any unused.

George Clinton is a perfect example of someone like that. I think I’m such a huge fan of his because his body of work is amazing. He kept cranking out albums under record deals for the groups Parliament, Funkadelic and a lot more. When that ran out, he kept the flow going under his own name. And he kept touring and still does even now. That’s a career.

I’m sure George has regrets and has made mistakes, but he didn’t quit. He’s a legend in the business, and those who know him give him his due. Today is also his birthday and he is still an inspiration to me to this day. He’s the creative lightning rod for a crew of talent.

I’m not going to let one rain storm stop me from building what I want. I want to have an opportunity to get back on TV and share my comedy with as many people as I can. I have a limited time in my prime, and I’m still in it - for now. Time to get serious about funny.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travels Unravel

Wednesday July 21st, 2010 - Grand Cayman/Miami, FL/Chicago, IL

Long day today, mostly travel. I had to report to where I checked in on the ship at 11am and get my paperwork filled out before being taken to the airport in Grand Cayman with a van load of other entertainers including Jim Brick, a pair of jugglers and Christopher Alan Graves. He’s the Sinatra/Sammy Davis Jr. tribute singer we saw perform live last night.

What a life he has. He has that big production show running on two different ships, and he alternates doing it once each week. He flies in the night before, does the show and flies out the next morning. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale, and flies to wherever the particular ship is that might have his show, which he told me has been running for ten solid years now.

That seems like a lot of flying, but he didn’t seem to mind. He’s got two separate sets of costumes he keeps on each ship and works with two separate ten piece bands. None of the stress I have as a pissy little standup can come close to what he must go through but that’s part of the deal. He accepts it and deals with it. I totally respect the guy. He’s a true pro.

Jim Brick was also a consummate professional the whole trip. He really was nice about showing me around and giving me tips, and I know management likes him and I was told he said some very nice things about me to a few of the higher ups already. I help as many people as I can, so when it comes back I’m very flattered and grateful. Jim’s been super.

There were no mean people on this whole trip at all to speak of. Not one. No supervisor head case types, no boozed up hecklers babbling incoherently, nothing like that. I know if I did enough of these that kind of stuff would pop up, but ever so rarely. This isn’t a club.

Jim and I were talking about that in the Grand Cayman airport, which really isn’t grand at all. It looks like a mini beat up version of the Grand Forks airport, but what do I know? I do know I got a snack of potato chips and a Pepsi and it cost me $5.70 American. Ouch.

I know, I had a Pepsi, but I didn’t have one all week on the ship and in fact I thought my diet was very good despite the constant temptation. I ate a lot of salads, fruits, vegetables, and grain bread while staying away from massive amounts of sweets or red meat. I had an occasional naughty nosh but by far not out of control. Plus, I did walk every day as well.

What a hassle it was to get off the ship though. They put us all on a tiny ferry boat kind of thing and that took us to the main Grand Cayman Island so we could give our passports to some government woman who had an American accent suspiciously. She clogged up a time toilet for all of us as we had to wait and get our paperwork as a group before leaving.

The good thing is, that Latino babe from the ship came with us to help make sure it was all done correctly. She smelled like a cross between coconut cream pie and sexy perfume and I wanted to dive on her in the boat, but that might have gotten me some prison time in Grand Cayman and that would have pissed everyone else off because we were all in a big rush to make our plane at the airport. She did ask when I was coming back, so that’s nice.

It probably would have been easier had I just stayed. By the time we cleared everything with customs and passports, we had to hurry to get to the airport. We were only in Grand Cayman for about an hour, but they still made us go through all that anyway. Go figure.

The flight to Miami was only about an hour too - but then they made us go through it all AGAIN. I was pretty frustrated but I’ve learned not to cop an attitude with anyone who is a border patrol agent for any country. I shut my mouth, gave up my documents and waited along with everyone else. It was totally stupid to do it once much less twice, but we did.

The flight from Miami to Chicago was a total nightmare. First, the plane was late about an hour because of a mechanical delay. There was no air conditioning as we waited and it was like a sauna until they fixed whatever needed fixing. There were a pair of babies with the lung capacity and stamina of Pavarotti who were hitting solos left and right and also a yelping dog that everyone wanted to toss off the back of the plane. We were all on edge.

I had a window seat this time and in the middle seat was a very attractive woman with a stuck up snooty attitude I really wasn’t into after hearing two screaming waterheads and a pissed off pooch for a solid hour. She was dressed business sexy though, and looked very good all dolled up in her corporate monkey suit. She had a computer, blackberry and ipod and wouldn’t stop fidgeting with any of them to the point of being extremely annoying.

At first I tried flirting a little because she was good looking, but she made it very clear I was not on her radar, and her sour attitude erased any surface sex appeal there might have been so I took it upon myself to try to annoy her as much as she annoyed me. I know how badly I snore, so I happily nodded off knowing I’d buzz saw her until her eyelids rattled.

I noticed she had her ipod in when I woke up, so I made it a point to go to the bathroom three times just to piss her off. She tried to go to sleep after that and I took out my laptop and started pecking on my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ press release. I know my typing kept her awake, and there was something selfishly satisfying about needling such an uppity bitch.

Here I just spent a week on a cruise ship with HUNDREDS of hot women of all colors, races, social status and income levels, and here’s one with a perpetual period on a packed plane that fate had to put next to me, not to mention the bellowing babies and loud pooch.
Sorry, not today. I just wasn’t up for it, and it actually gave me something to fill my time.

The plane landed and I knew she wanted to get away from me as quickly as possible but she couldn’t pry her bag out of the top compartment so I helped her with a smile in front of the other passengers, which really pissed her off. She grabbed her bag without saying a word and I blew her a kiss in front of everyone and said “You’re welcome, sweetie pie!”

A few of the people on the plane laughed, and that’s good enough for me. Maybe she’d had a bad day, blah blah blah. The older I get, the more I realize there’s really nothing that serious anymore. I’d rather be ugly and comfortable in my own skin than a hottie with her piss poor demeanor. This was a long week, and travel makes it longer. I earned my pay.

Three Shots To Score

Monday July 19th, 2010 - Cozumel, Mexico

   Today was the day to prove myself. Everyone has been very nice so far, but this was the day to prove that I can handle this kind of work. They were nice enough to keep me off of the ‘Welcome Aboard’ show, and Jim Brick showed me how to handle them in the future should I get the chance to do one, and hopefully I will. Nobody rushed me into anything.

   Last night was easy also. There are five thirty minute shows each night split between us but last night Jim had to do three to my two, and that made it easier. I watched all three of his sets, and he’s a very good comic for these shows. He has a quick mind and can adjust.

   I like to think I’m that way too, but I was still a little nervous to take my turn at bat for a three show night. It’s only 30 minutes for each set, but the room seats 450 and they’d like us to do different material for the family set and the regular one. We can repeat on the late shows, but working the audience really helps to stretch things out. I see why Jim does it.

   They switch our order from night to night so it was my turn up first at 7:30. There was a nice size crowd despite the fact the ship was at port in Cozumel, Mexico and the deadline to be back on board wasn’t until 10pm. The club manager Ben wasn’t sure if it might lead to low attendance but it didn’t at all. They were a polite audience and I had a solid show.

   I’m still on eggshells, especially with the early clean shows. Kids are allowed in and it’s just not what most comics are used to. ONE complaint can get me kicked off the job and I kept thinking about it the whole time. Still, I got solid laughs and Ben was happy with it.

   The second set at 9:45 was also full, but again they really didn’t buy my closing bit. It’s strange, because that’s the one I can count on in clubs when nothing else is working. They liked everything else I did, but not that. I cut and pasted and took out what I could as I did it, but it just wasn‘t what they wanted. Everything else got big laughs. I can’t figure it out.

   I also had to do a late show at midnight, the ship’s equivalent to late show Friday in the clubs. I was a little tight beforehand, as I’d hate to have one bad one keep me from getting hired back. I did get some laughs all the other shows even if it wasn’t up to my standards.

   It rarely is. I demand way more of myself than anybody else. I want to blow an audience away. I want a crowd to double back with laughter until they get whiplash. I want them to turn purple from losing air. I want them all to have sore stomach muscles from laughing.

   The third show wasn’t up to those standards unfortunately, but it wasn’t without several high points with big laughs. It was a challenge because of how tired they were from being in Cozumel all day, but those who came were polite and respectful. This was a cake walk.

   Compared to clubs, this gig is way better in many ways. The hard part is the lifestyle of living on a ship, and I still can’t say if I’m cut out for it long term. For this week it was an unexpected treat. I met some nice people and learned a lot. Let’s see how they liked me.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

An Extra Day In Paradise

Tuesday July 20th, 2010 - Somewhere In The Caribbean

I’m on board ship one more day, like it or not. We won’t dock until Grand Cayman Isle tomorrow, and then I fly from there to Miami and then back to Chicago. One thing about comedy clubs, when the gig is over it’s out the door and back home. This is a new world.

I got to hang out last night with Jim Brick and a few of the musicians who’ve done this kind of work for years, and it was very fun hanging out with them. The typical person on the ship has been extremely laid back and friendly and welcomed me without question to this lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, but those who can handle it seem to really get into it.

The women on board are absolutely incredible, both crew and passengers. I don’t know who I’m supposed to stay away from, so I haven’t made any moves on anyone, but there’s no shortage of female company anywhere. The crew is mostly foreign and I’m drooling at some of the sexy accents alone. I met a Bulgarian desk clerk I’d swim to Bulgaria to see.

I wonder why it’s taken this long for this whole world to open up to me? I’ve known of cruise ship comedy work for many years, and I can’t think of any legitimate reasons why I haven’t looked into it before now. If it weren’t for my friend Jeff Shaw mentioning me to his boss, I probably never would have looked into this. Now, it could be a whole new life.

I’ll wait to see how it all shakes out first. The worst case scenario would be they didn’t like what I did, and they’ll say so and that’s it. I’ll thank them for their time and I had the chance to get paid to go on a fantastic cruise to some exotic places. I was off anyway and it will pay my rent for a couple of months. No matter what happens, I appreciate the shot.

Best case scenario would be they liked me and want to book me for more work, but not a full time commitment just yet. I’ve got things going in Chicago and Milwaukee and I’d like to see those through since I’ve taken this long to get started on them. If I can pick my schedule, that would be the best of all worlds. For now, I just want to pass this audition.

It’s too early to predict anything, but my gut feeling is that I achieved my goal of doing adequate shows and not being a troublemaker to anyone. I showed up on time, did what I was asked, and really did enjoy meeting the people I met. The company is allegedly trying to aggressively expand their comedy roster and for once I seem to be in a favorable place.

Since I was stuck on the ship for another day, I decided to savor every single second of it, in case I don’t come back for whatever reason. I think I will, and I just may get tired of it like I’ve gotten tired of comedy road work at some point. Right now, it’s fresh and new and I’m having a blast, just like I did with the road. The key is to keep this mindset going.

I had a fantastic day just reflecting on everything. Jim Brick and I had a great dinner and then we went to see the song and dance show with the people we hung out with last night. They were all amazingly talented and blew the roof off the joint. We both were spotted by people who saw our show and we got asked to take pictures. A guy could get used to this.

Observation Dork

Sunday July 18th, 2010 - Somewhere In The Caribbean

Day two at sea. Simple strategy: mouth closed, eyes and ears wide open. Observe. I had an entire day of invisibility before my debut tonight and took advantage of it by seeing as much of the ship as I could without being seen. This thing is an absolute floating miracle.

I can only imagine the host of horrors most people’s ancestors suffered on their way to a life in America, and I can see why they kissed the ground at Ellis Island. Had they had the opportunity to be on the vessel I’m on, I don’t think most of them would have gotten off.

The more I wandered, the more I was blown away by everything. I don’t know where to start. From the sheer size of the ship itself to all the things that are available on it, this is a tribute to the modern era of mankind’s ingenuity, and I for one am extremely impressed.

The amount of food is beyond belief. Thousands of people from all over North America have access to an overwhelming amount of choices of delicious freshly made world class cuisine in unlimited amounts. How many countries would look at that in utter disbelief?

I’m having a hard time believing it myself. Then, there’s the truly diverse crew from all over the planet who come together to work on the ship. I have never seen any one place of work where so many different people can gather together and not have a riot. There are all sizes, shapes, colors and any other variations one can think of, and I’m really enjoying it.

Carnival wants to expand their comedy presence on all of their ships, and if I’m on their roster that means twenty possible ships. I don’t necessarily want to be lost at sea, but for a chunk of time it will be steady work and a chance to turn my financial situation around.

There are two comedians who alternate sets, and tonight Jim Brick went first at 7:30 to do his clean set. They advertise it as ‘PG’, but there are kids in the audience and we aren’t supposed to swear at all. That’s fine with me, but a lot of performers couldn’t handle that.

Jim is very experienced and he did his set without a glitch. He’s really good with crowd work, which I could be too if I worked on it more. I used to do it a lot, but I decided to go for a more structured set because it’s too inconsistent for my tastes. It’s a perfect fit for an audience like this though, and I’ll have to think about ways I can bring it back effectively.

I did my first set squeaky clean, and it went very well. I felt a little tight, but I didn’t go over the line, so that’s all I cared about. I just wanted to get my bearings and see how they would react to my style. It was fine. My late show was red hot, until I got to my big closer which kills in clubs. They stared at me so I adjusted and closed strong with a different bit.

That’s why I know I can do this. Not many could adjust on the fly like that, and nobody else had any idea it was my planned closer but me. The club manager is from Manchester, England and this is only the second week of the comedy club so I’m really in a great spot to be rehired. All I have to do is get some laughs and not be a pain offstage. I can do that.

Afloat On A Boat

Saturday July 17th, 2010 - Miami, FL

Well, I made it through my first day of life on a cruise ship. Here I thought I’d had more travel experience than just about anyone else walking, but I was wrong. I felt like a rookie and realized this is a world that’s been thriving for years and I’ve completely missed it.

I shut my mouth and observed, trying not to get in anyone’s way or be a pain in the ass. I’m new, and I knew it. In the future I’ll probably laugh about how overwhelmed I felt as I wandered through the bowels of the enormous Liberty cruise liner, but I did. I felt lost in the first two minutes, and everyone I asked had a thick foreign accent I couldn’t decipher.

They were all friendly, but then they’d point and mumble something inaudible and I’d be right back to not having a clue as to where I was supposed to go or who I was to report to or where my luggage was. I felt like I was dropped into another world and left to figure things out on my own. It was like a live action mystery puzzle, and rather intimidating.

I was up way too late yesterday trying to catch up on emails and pack for something I’m really not familiar with yet. I knew I wouldn’t need a parka or long johns, but what should I bring for five days in July nearer to the equator than I’ve ever been in my life? My list of guidelines said I’d need to dress ‘formal’ for two nights and I assumed that meant a suit.

I bought some nice short sleeve Tommy Bahama silk shirts that look classy but not like a Caribbean pimp. I also brought along a couple of long sleeve dress shirts and a jacket in case they enforce the ‘formal’ rule. I do own a tuxedo, but I didn’t want to haul that down here and have to wear it in this heat. I’d feel like a baked penguin soaked in sweat gravy.

I did manage to catch my plane out of Chicago, but I left super early to get to O’Hare in time to not have too much stress. This was my first trip, and I didn’t want any unpleasant surprises. I had my passport and ID and paperwork and everything went smoothly, except the fact I had to take a middle seat between two people who overlapped into my seat area.

Sleeping in that situation is always hellish, but my eyelids were heavy so I couldn’t help but nod out almost immediately. I snore like a leaf blower, and several times I felt myself wake up suddenly with a jerking head motion that I know must have annoyed the hell out of the two people in my row, not to mention everyone else who could hear me snoring.

Sorry, people. Hey, I could have had gas. We landed in Miami early, but then I had an unexplained delay catching a shuttle to the cruise line port. Miami is like a war zone, and my driver didn’t speak six words of English. If he had any reason to want to do me in, he could have sold me for parts and they never would have found my carcass. I was polite.

Eventually, the shuttle ended up at the port. I don’t know how he did it, and the route he took seemed to be long and complex, but I didn’t complain out of fear I’d get dropped off and have to hitch hike. I was completely at his mercy but he came through, and the cost of $20 was reasonable for as complicated as it seemed. I was just glad to see that giant boat.

Wow, what a scow. I guess I’d never seen a cruise ship up close - not this size anyway. Most things I’ve seen in life under delivered. Not this. Mount Rushmore was a lot smaller in person than I’d pictured in my head, as was the St. Louis Arch. This ship is a monster.

I eventually found where I was supposed to go and checked in. I had to have a name tag made so I can get meals, and fill out more paperwork. They kept my passport and said I’d get it back when I left the ship, which I thought was odd. There must be a reason for it but I didn’t ask. Nobody in the office spoke English well, and I didn’t want to cause trouble.

The main woman I had to deal with was a Latino love goddess - an absolute stunner. If I had to pick a design for the perfect beauty, she’d be pretty close. I love brunettes, and this woman was a cross between Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek. Yeowza! I had a hard time keeping my composure as I listened to her directions. She was hypnotically exotic. Wow.

Hotel clerks in Des Moines don’t usually have that kind of allure, so I took it as a sign I made the right choice by taking this gig. Another lady from Australia showed me how to find my cabin, and even though she wasn’t a heart melter, she was friendly and I was able to find it with no problem. I’m staying in crew quarters, out of sight but near passengers.

I’d always heard how tiny the cabins were on ships, but this one was actually larger than I’d imagined. My standards aren’t that high, and I’ve been living in basements and renting rooms my whole life so I can handle just about anything. There’s plenty of room for me.

There are two bunks, a desk area with a small TV, a closet and a bathroom. I don’t have any windows so I can’t tell if it’s day or night, but I don’t have it at home either. I can live with it, and for five days I’ll have to. Oh, and I have a phone too. Who do I need to call? I have no idea, but they give me one anyway. I think it’s so the cruise director can call me.

I was scheduled to be part of a welcome show held in a big theater called ‘The Venetian Ballroom’. Again, all I can say is wow. It’s a fantastic 2000 seat theater - on a SHIP. It’s a spectacular facility, and I introduced myself to the cruise director Butch who is originally from Minnesota. He was very welcoming and put me at ease right away. That’s a relief.

He hosted the show, which was a sample of things the ship offers. There was a talented group of dancers and then Butch interviewed some passengers and did a really nice job of putting everyone in a good mood. He got a newlywed man and an old fart who was on for his 50th anniversary and the comedy wrote itself. I see why they do it and it totally works.

After that, the other comedian Jim Brick came out and did ten minutes. They only need one of us for the ‘teaser show’, and it was Jim. That’s fine with me, and he did a fantastic job of calling back to what Butch did. He’s a veteran of the ships and knows how to do it.

Jim and I hung out after the show and he showed me a few ins and outs of where to go and what to do and he was very helpful. I told him I’ve mentored tons of people in clubs, but this is a whole new ballgame. I appreciated his help. Tomorrow we start doing shows.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scared Shipless

Friday July 16th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   Here we go again. Yet another chapter in my life is getting ready to open, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’ve faced this exact same situation too many times before to count, and every single time the results have never been what I pictured, so why worry?

   Change is the one thing that’s constant in life, but that doesn’t mean adjusting to it is an automatic glitch free process. There are a lot of adjustments to be made any time there’s a scene change in life, and I’ve had more than my share of them. I admit I‘m a bit nervous.

   Switching schools was always a hassle. I know a lot of kids had to do it way more than I ever did, but I did my share and it was always a whole lot of worry over nothing. It’s only a different group of people, but the concept is still the same. It’s a classroom with lessons.

   I was always able to handle the academic part, it was the people part that frightened me. Would I fit in with everyone? Would I fit in with anyone? How about even one? I always managed to find enough friends to get along no matter where I went, but I didn’t know it going in. Many nights before a new school I would lay awake, wondering what to expect.

   My radio moves were another example. It takes guts to pack a car with every possession one has and head off to life in a strange town…alone. I’ve done that several times as well, and there can’t help but be at least a little bit of anxiety on the road to town not knowing a single soul except for the guy who told me to move there - the same one who’d fire me.

   Another vivid memory is the night before the infamous bank robbery trial. I knew I had to testify in federal court against my life long best friend, and there was no way out of it at all. I didn’t want to do it, but he forced my hand and I had to. It was a horrible experience, but strangely not as bad as I had imagined. I did what I had to do, and then it was all over.

   This situation is nothing like that. Actually, it’s quite pleasant. I’ve been asked to come along on not only a FREE cruise, but I get paid to audition for future work. I am a perfect fit for the job at hand, and have spent a lifetime preparing for this opportunity. I’ll nail it.

   Still, that’s not the main issue. I want to find a place where I fit in. I’m not looking to be a troublemaker or high maintenance, but I wasn’t in radio either and I kept getting fired at each stop through no real fault of my own. I kept showing up at the wrong time. Enough.

   Is this the right time to be doing this? I have to say, I really don’t know. Ten years ago it would have been a major thrill to be hitting cruise ships, but was I ready for it back then? Quite honestly, I don’t know that either. Maybe yes, maybe no. But it didn’t happen then.

   It’s happening now, and I didn’t even ask for it. It came out of the blue, and I allowed it to play it’s course and become reality. I could have said no, but I didn’t. I’m exploring the possibilities of this on many levels, even though I’ve heard all kinds of stories about ships both good and bad. Like before, nothing will be what I pictured. This is a new experience.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Christmas in July

Thursday July 15th, 2010 - Wisconsin Dells, WI

   Last minute fallouts have saved my day for almost as long as I’ve been a comedian. One of the few smart things I’ve done is to cultivate a reputation with most of the bookers I’ve ever worked for that I am available and willing to fill in on short notice for emergencies.

   They always pop up for a variety of reasons, and over the years I’ve been able to land an array of opportunities I might not have been able to obtain by just being another run of the mill white guy,  slugging it out with all the rest. I had something to offer bookers that was at least a wee bit unique, even if all that was was being ready to go in their time of need.

   I think in retrospect, the negatives of that have outweighed the rewards by quite a lot. It was nice to get paid work at the time, but it’s never paid any kind of lasting dividend. For one thing, I never received any publicity. Part of the game includes building one’s legend or at least a solid reputation with the people who have an opportunity to advance a career.

   No booker ever calls another and says “Hey, this kid sure knows how to fill in for a last minute fallout.” It just kind of happens. I was smart enough to figure out that fallouts can be a good source of income, but that’s about it. Still, once in a while one comes my way.

   Tonight was one of those whiles. I received an email to do a gig in the Wisconsin Dells at a resort called Christmas Mountain Lodge. I did it in the dead of winter last year and it was an absolute blast. I was surprised to hear they were still doing comedy in the summer, but not upset. Bills are due year round, and a nice paying Thursday night in July is sweet.

   Last time there was no opener, and I had to do over an hour myself. It turned out to be a great gig, and I pulled it off. Tonight there weren’t even half as many people in the crowd and there was an opening act for whatever reason. I can never figure out a booker’s logic.

   There were no problems tonight either. The opener was a nice guy out of Hot Springs, AR named “Chucky D”. We got along fine and he did his job. They wanted me to go long and I used this as an opportunity to practice for my cruise ship booking. I kept it clean and upbeat and put everything I had into my performance even though it wasn’t a full house.

   They turned out to be a tremendous audience, and I ended up doing about 1:15. I didn’t work the audience with any “What do you do for a living?” bits either. I wanted to take an opportunity to give them a SHOW, the same one I intend to give the people on the cruise.

   I was drenched afterward and felt exhausted when I got off stage. I love that feeling, as it tells me I didn’t cheat the audience - and I didn’t. I gave them my best, but also worked on which material I think will work best in a family situation. It was a chance to practice.

   Still, I appreciate the fact that I received the call to do this on short notice. I doubt if I’ll ever be one of this agency’s favorites, but that’s ok. They don’t have many crown jewels to offer at this point in my life. A call out of the blue on occasion is enough. Like tonight.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

'Punchline' Still Stinks

Wednesday July 14th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI

   Sometimes a person’s tastes evolve as life goes on. I know that’s been the case with me. As a kid I used to despise Muhammad Ali and wanted him to lose every fight. I thought he was a loudmouth braggadocio and wanted to see him get that mouth shut permanently.

   Now I realize I was falling into the brilliant marketing plan he’d had all along and think he’s one of not only the greatest athletes of modern times, but also one of the greatest and most charismatic entertainers who ever lived. I have a completely different opinion now.

   Another example is the movie ‘Airplane!’. I remember seeing it right when it came out. I was in high school, and saw it with my siblings and uncle. It’s one of very few times we were all together in a public place. Why I don’t know, but we were, and it was a huge hit.

   The theater was packed, and everyone was laughing. It was like a live comedy show as far as that goes, but I hadn’t experienced that then. I remember how much fun we all had, and thought the movie was THE funniest thing I’d ever seen in my life. I’ve seen it since, and it’s not nearly as funny as I remember it. It caught me just right on that particular day.

    A movie I couldn’t stand when it came out was ‘Punchline’ with Tom Hanks and Sally Field. It was right during the comedy club boom in the ‘80s and every comic felt like we were obligated to see it because everyone kept asking if that’s how comedy was. I saw it on the road with a guy named Steve Iott, and we both hated it. We barely sat through it.

   I was in my twenties then, and had a whole different mindset. I wondered how I’d react to seeing that movie now, and Mark Gumbinger decided to show it at his house as part of an ongoing tradition he’s doing of inviting friends over to watch movies and hang out for a night. He’s got a really nice place with a huge screen TV and I’m flattered he called me.

   Mark is a director so he watches movies from a completely different angle. He looks for the edits and film making style, which is fine. I’m learning to appreciate that a lot more as I get older too. I’m learning and growing and respect how difficult it is to make any film.

   Before the showing I mentioned how much I hated Punchline when it came out. I didn’t know how I was going to react to it now, but thanked him for at least letting me hang out and watch it with the group. If it stunk again, I probably wouldn’t have finished it myself.

   Sure enough, after twenty plus years in mothballs, I hated it all over again. So did Mark, but for different reasons. It could have been a good movie. Tom Hanks and Sally Field in one movie should be at least halfway decent, shouldn’t it? Forrest Gump still holds up.

   Punchline tried but failed to capture the essence of the dented can which makes us need that stage so much. They tried to exploit the father tweak angle, but it fell flat and I don’t think I’ll need to ever watch that movie again. My opinion remains the same, even after a lifetime of working to make myself better. Punchline is a flat line, but they still got paid.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

George Steinbrenner

Tuesday July 13th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

   The Grim Reaper must be working on a commission basis these days. It’s hard to keep a current count of everyone of note who has died this year, and as the old time disk jockeys used to say “And the hits just keep on coming.” Every day seems to bring a new casualty.

   Today’s #1 with a bullet was New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Actually, it was a massive heart attack at age 80. According to many, there were serious doubts that a heart even existed, but according to all of the news reports I read that’s what caused it.

   I don’t know what to think about George Steinbrenner. There’s no doubt he was one of the most high profile pro sports owners of the modern era, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him. Nobody has to like anybody, and I resent the fact that when controversial people like this die, their negative side rarely comes out. Nobody ever seems to tell it like it is.

   I’ve read lots of stories about him being an absolute ass. I don’t know if they’re partially true, completely true or mostly made up. I never met the guy or had cause to interact with him in any way on this cosmic plane during any of the time when we shared it. Now we’ll never do it, but his story still intrigues me. He got to live his life in the biggest fish bowl.

  The Yankees weren’t the yearly shoo in to win the World Series from my first memories of them. They had guys like Celerino Sanchez and Freddy Beene and all kinds of ham and eggers nobody ever heard of. I had their baseball cards, but couldn’t have cared less about any of them. I followed my own mediocre to rotten hometown Brewers team back then.

   I was ten when George Steinbrenner took over, and his name quickly became known for all the things he did to transform the Yankees. That was the very beginning of free agency and the Yankees turned it around in a hurry. Mike Kekich and Bill Sudakis gave way to a new crop of big stars from Reggie Jackson to Catfish Hunter to Goose Gossage and more.

   I learned to loathe the Yankees over the years like any other self respecting baseball fan, but one has to admit that this current success run was built under Steinbrenner’s watchful eye and has lasted some 37 years. The question is, could that run have been even better?

   The impression I got about George Steinbrenner was a cross between Thurston Howell III and the Incredible Hulk. He was always arguing with Billy Martin and firing or trading people, and didn’t seem interested in fair play. All he cared about  was the bottom line.

   Granted, in 37 years he won seven World Series championships. Might there have been twice that many if he wasn’t an overbearing blowhard? That’s hard to say. Nobody speaks ill of him now that he’s dead, but I’ll bet there are a lot of stories right under the surface.

   I always wanted to have money, but not if it makes me act like that. He was probably an ass even if he wouldn’t have been loaded, but money brought it out and enabled him to do whatever he wanted, without caring who was hurt by it. I want to leave a happier legacy.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Walter Hawkins

Monday July 12th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

   I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Walter Hawkins today. Even sadder is that despite the fact he was a master craftsman and creative genius, most of the public have no clue as to who he was or how much he contributed to his field. He had world class talent.

   Walter Hawkins was the leader of The Hawkins Family, a gospel music super group for several decades. Their first album came out in the mid ‘70s and I remember hearing it as a kid and loving it. For some reason, I’ve got some eclectic musical tastes for a dorky white boy from Milwaukee. There’s no reason I should like black gospel music, but I totally do.

   It’s funny how that music gets categorized in stores. White groups always get labeled as ‘contemporary Christian’ while black artists are ‘gospel’. I love the gospel artists because of the raw energy. There’s usually a large choir involved and that sound is incredible. I’ve never heard anything like it, and I never get tired of hearing it. It’s soothing to the soul.

   Walter Hawkins was the George Clinton of gospel music. He had several offshoots of a core group of singers and musicians, and released numerous recordings that he wrote and produced. He was surrounded by extreme talent, but he was the one who molded it into a finished product, and the results were consistently some of the best music I’ve ever heard.

   He was married to Tramaine Hawkins, a superstar in gospel music. She had a few solo albums, and her power house voice is legendary. They eventually got divorced, but when they were a group they cranked out recording after recording of spectactular material that still sounds good today. Unfortunately, a lot of that great music isn’t available on CD.

   I remember buying cassettes and albums as a teenager and having to hunt for those. The store clerks would usually give me a funny look, but I didn’t care. That soothing sound of a big gospel choir belting out classic tune after classic tune is something I still enjoy now, even though my feelings on God and religion have completely changed since I was a kid.

   There are some Youtube clips of The Hawkins Family, and I challenge you to check out classic tunes like ‘Goin’ Up Yonder’ or ‘Be Grateful’ and not have the hair on the back of your neck stand up when Tramaine or Lynette Hawkins-Stephens start letting it rip from a place no Caucasian folk I’ve ever met seem to have inside of them. It’s beyond this earth.

   The big one that blows everyone away is a song called ‘Changed’. Wow. Tramaine is at her absolute best on this one, and she blows all the dust out of the speakers and then some as the choir sways behind her adding glycerin to her nitro and making music like no other. I am in total awe of the level of talent of all these people, and Walter was right at the top.

   What really saddened me was that he died of pancreatic cancer. That sounds SO painful and I just can’t grasp how a God could let that happen to not only someone with such rich talent, but someone who spent his life trying to honor a God. It doesn’t make sense, and it makes me doubt even more. Walter Hawkins was one of the best ever. He will be missed.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Need A Manager

Sunday July 11th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   I need a manager. Finally. But I definitely do. Everyone seems to think some wizardly mystical guru type is going to pop out of a limo with a long cigar and wallet full of $100 bills, but I’ve yet to see that happen for anyone. I’ve heard horror stories of long term one sided contracts with management companies, and that’s not what I’m looking for at all.

   First I think I need to determine exactly what I mean by a manager. I’m talking about a personal manager who takes care of my immediate ongoing needs like sending promo to gigs, making sure promo is updated, handling website updates, a newsletter and any other constant chore that needs regular updating but most comedians rarely do. It’s a valet type.

   In a perfect world a manager would organize tax records, arrange media interviews and also handle the lion’s share of marketing and merchandising. I don’t want to spend all my time doing things that keep me away from being a better comedian, but they’re necessary to the big picture and those who don’t do them don’t advance. I feel like I can use a hand.

   Bookings are another area which could use a swift kick in the aspirations. I know I stink at sending out my avails each month to a list of bookers I already work for. Most booking work is done online these days anyway, so a manager type could not only keep that list up to date, but create a new one of places I don’t work yet. It could be a total win/win for us.

   The incentive I could offer is a percentage of each booking, with a higher one going to a gig I couldn’t get myself. Private shows could be gone after with a direct mail package for relatively low cost. I’ve never done one before, but I’ve always thought that would work.

     I’m the first one to admit I’m all over the place, but I also know what I want to work on. I tend to wander quite a bit, but I’m always working on something. If I had a manager, I’d draw up a plan with that person as to what needed to be done when, and have a plan down on paper as to what needed to be done when so we could check and balance each other.

   It would have to be the right person, preferably someone who has had some experience in the entertainment business and isn’t coming into it blindly. I can think of a few people I would consider, but they’d have to want to do it and be willing to take direction. I’d be in charge, and have final say. That person would work for me, but I’d still take suggestions.

   A management deal is something completely different. Signing with a big agency where they handle the career is not what I’m talking about. In that scenario, they have contacts I don’t and can get movies made and projects done. Right now I’m looking for someone to be my personal pit crew so I can concentrate on driving the race car. I’m getting nowhere.

   It seems like I make a little progress on something and then everything else falls by the wayside and doesn’t get done at all. I need someone out there doing the littler stuff so I’ll be able to pick and choose what needs to get done so I can get on to bigger projects other than working the small time gigs I’m doing. I want to find my way to the elusive big time.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

LeBron Turns Heel

Saturday July 10th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   One of the most educational if not fun things I’ve ever done was get involved in the pro wrestling business in my early twenties. I will admit, had I been blessed with even a tenth of one iota of physical ability, I’d have been inside that ring in a New York minute baby.

   Instead, I got to be involved both as a ring announcer and TV commentator, and looking back that was a great way to do it. I didn’t have to sacrifice my body and I still got to have the fun of being around the circus. Talk about colorful characters, wrestling is chock full.

   Most of my experience was with a bunch of guys based in Milwaukee who used to lose on purpose on television matches for the AWA (American Wrestling Association) which was based in Minneapolis. They had their own federation in the Milwaukee area that had several incarnations over the years, but it was basically the same group of guys renamed.

   Eventually, I bought the organization which included a 22 foot former WWF ring and a rattle trap truck to haul it to the venues. I don’t think that truck ever started when I had it, but it went along with the deal so I took it. I ended up having to tow the truck to shows so I could be sure it got there. No ring, no matches. No matches, no money. It’s a no brainer.

   I ran shows for about a year, and learned more during that time than just about any other in my entire life. I learned about promotion, how to be in charge, sales, politics between a mixed bag of people and a whole lot more. The main thing was the subtleties of wrestling as an art form, which it really is. It’s poor man’s opera, the storytelling is the main thing.

   Each match tells it’s own little story, and there’s a good guy (aka ‘baby face’) and a bad guy (the ‘heel’) who lock it up in the ring and let their story lines play out. Sometimes the bad guy will sneak in and win, but mostly the good guy comes out on top in the end. It’s a beautiful thing to watch when it works well, and I’ve seen examples of it over and over.

   The person who comes up with the story lines is said to have ‘the pencil’, and has to put all the story lines together so it all flows well as an evening’s entertainment. It’s not at all easy to do, and I respect those who do it well. It’s hard enough trying to do comedy well.

   A wrestling term that describes a heel’s wrestler’s negative reaction from the fans when doing what most consider to be wrong is called ‘heat’ or ‘getting heat’. I immediately had a revelation when I heard LeBron James signed to play in Miami. He infuriated his whole home town, and turned heel in the basketball world. He’s now changed how fans see him.

   The funny thing is, what team did he choose? The Miami ‘Heat’. Coincidence? It guess it COULD be, but that caught my attention right away and it made me laugh. This whole big fiasco is just an old pro wrestling story line. The good guy turns bad, and then people pay their money to see him get his mouth shut by some other baby face. It’s all calculated to sell tickets, which is what all this hype is about. LeBron went from baby face to heel to help the NBA sell more tickets. Sorry Cleveland, you’re buying in exactly how they want.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dinner Bell Mel - RIP

Friday July 9th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   I heard on the radio today Mel Turpin committed suicide. He was 49. He was probably best known for his infamous nicknames of ‘Dinner Bell Mel’ and ‘The Mealman’ among others, but he was a basketball player for the University of Kentucky who was drafted the same year as Michael Jordan. He’s considered one of the biggest NBA busts of all time.

   He was about 6’10” and always seemed to struggle with his weight, hence his array of colorful monikers, but I remember meeting him not long after he was drafted. I was just getting started on the road and was working in Lexington, KY, probably for the first time.

   I don’t remember exactly where or when, but it was in some sports bar complex where the comedy show was. I was in my early twenties and after the show I was hanging at the sports bar with some comics and club people and there was Mel Turpin hanging out too.

   It was hard to miss a 6’10” black guy in a crowd of twenty something Caucasian college kids, but what stuck out more than that was his very calm demeanor. He was just a guy at a sports bar, minding his own business. He wasn’t bothering anyone or trying to scam free drinks or anything other than being a customer. Nobody bothered him and he blended in.

   At first I didn’t know who it was, so I asked one of the comedy club workers. I’ve been a huge sports fan all my life and knew since we were in Lexington, KY which is a college basketball haven and a large black man sitting in a sports bar is allowed to stay there with no hassle it had to be a basketball player of note, not just the security guard. I was right.

   Mel Turpin was a celebrity name back then. Like I said, I don’t know the exact date, but it was right around when he was drafted, and his future was very bright. He could’ve been  an arrogant  prima donna and I bet he could have gotten away with it, especially in a place like Lexington where basketball is a religious experience. The world was his oyster then.

   As the night went on, we were shooting pool and hanging out and as fate would have it, Mel was sitting at a table near the pool tables. I was standing next to where he was sitting and he was still taller than me, but we struck up a conversation for a few minutes. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I know it wasn’t about basketball. We just talked.

   He was a very decent, laid back down to earth guy. We had our exchange and at the end of the night as we left I caught his eye and waved and he waved back and that was it. But  after that I was always a big Mel Turpin fan and was very sorry to see how his life played out. I’ve met a ton of full of themselves divas in my day, but not Mel Turpin in the least.

   At the time, I had a brush with a celebrity. He was a hot name and life looked to be rosy for his infinite future. Not long after that he flamed out in the NBA and it spiraled all the way down to the point where he shot himself in the head before he was 50. That’s not the way any of us expect life to be, but all too often it is. I sure hope he’s in a peaceful place, being able to be the Mel Turpin I met way back when - a friendly easygoing nice person.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Michael Palascak's Big Night

Thursday July 8th, 2010 - Hot Springs, AR

   I had to put a plug in today for a funny young comic named Michael Palascak, who will be making his national TV debut this evening on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He is absolutely deserving of this shot, and I predict not only that he’ll knock it out of the park tonight, but we’ll all see a lot more of him on TV in the near future. This kid just has it.

   He’s very clean cut Midwestern, and grew up in Indiana. I think he’s originally from the Chicago area and moved back, but I doubt he’ll stay very long. He’ll be headed out to Los Angeles to stay if he already isn’t out there now, and I hope he’ll remember me someday.

   Like with Frank Caliendo, my act has nothing at all in common with Michael Palascak. He’s very light and goofy, with no edge at all. He’s in his twenties, and talks about living at home and being a slacker and looking for ways to stay there forever. He really is funny, and I don’t begrudge him anything. He’s got a fantastic work ethic and he’s earned this.

   There are certain comedians that just have ‘it’. It’s there even when they’re not polished yet. I saw it with Frank Caliendo, and I was right. I see it with Michael Palascak too. He’s got a natural stage presence and a pronounced rhythm and he’s about as likeable as it gets.

    He’s also about as non threatening as it gets, and women like him. He’s good looking, but not in the macho heart throb bad boy way. He’s self depreciating in his act and I think he’s destined for big things. He’ll get a Comedy Central special, sitcom, movie deal or all of the above. The reason I say that is not just because of his talent, this kid WORKS at it.

   I’ve hosted the Monday night Rising Star Showcase shows at Zanies in Chicago for the past couple of years, and more often than not, there was Michael Palascak showing up for a guest set, video camera in hand. He ALWAYS taped himself, and was always open to a suggestion if anyone had any. I’ve always been impressed by how he’s handled himself.

   Frank Caliendo has an outstanding work ethic also, and there’s another one who I think deserves all the good things he gets. He’s out there busting his ass, and I respect him for it unconditionally. Jealousy isn’t a factor with either of these guys. They worked for it all.

   I’ve worked for it too. I may have had some sidetracks and distractions, but I put in a lot of time and effort and paid a lot of dues myself. I have a different path than a Michael or a Frank because they hit it a lot younger than me. IF I hit anything, it will be late in life and that has a whole different mindset. I’ll worry about that later. Tonight I cheer for Michael.

   I’m flying down to Little Rock, AR with Bert Haas from Zanies to help him retrieve his father’s belongings from a storage area. We went down last year to get a car, and it was a fun time actually. I owe Bert countless favors, so when he asked it was an easy decision.

   We might miss Michael Palascak’s set, but I’m sure we’ll both see it later. I know we’ll both be cheering for him though. He’s earned it, and it’s good to see a nice guy get ahead.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary

A Crisis Buffet

Wednesday July 7th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

   I said I wanted to make Wednesdays my booking day each week, but this is ridiculous. I ended up running around most of the day trying to make deadlines, and the level of stress I was operating under was somewhere between conniption fit and full tilt cardiac arrest.

     I finally received a call from the cruise ship booker who said she wants to try me out for an audition run next weekend. I’ll be out five days and need to have thirty minutes of very clean material and thirty minutes of pretty much whatever I want, within reason of course. That’s no problem. The problem was getting paperwork faxed back to her by 5 o’clock.

   She sent me all kinds of new hire paperwork I was required to fill out, and of course my printer was out of ink. I usually keep a spare cartridge around, but for whatever reason not this time. I had to get in the car which was of course out of gas, and go fill up. The pumps were full, and I had to wait for the slowest bunch of gas filler monkeys I have ever seen.

     Then my card didn’t work in that pump, so after three tries of swiping, I went inside and had to wait for some halfwit to scratch off lotto tickets before I could ask the fresh off the Taliban recruiting poster, non English speaking pissed off at life clerk to run it through. It took another several minutes to get him to understand English. My patience evaporated.

   I filled the tank, and of course it was one of those slow fill pumps that after a couple big slices of watermelon I could urinate faster than. Then I dropped my gas cap directly under the car and had to crawl underneath to reach it, which I couldn’t. I had to move my car so I could get out and snag it, but then the next car was trying to squeeze in behind already.

     Today had a full moon style weirdo vibe and it seemed like a movie was being filmed as it was one insane obstacle after the next. The interwoven synchronicity of it was eerie. When I’m not in a hurry, this never happens. The one day I’m on a deadline - it’s a crisis buffet. It was uncanny how many things were out of whack today, but I had to press on.

    I sped over to Office Mega Max Outlet Warehouse Depot to get my printer ink. Out. Of course. I laughed in the guy’s face, got back in the car and then got stuck in traffic behind a preoccupied lard ass minivan mom babbling on her phone about her son Egbert’s soccer prowess. I wanted to jam that cell phone up an orifice of her choice, but I was in a hurry.

   I really can’t stand that feeling of high stress, but I’ve had it a lot in my life. I needed to get this done, because the booker was going on vacation tomorrow and wouldn’t be back until next week when I’d already be out at sea. And, of course she was in Florida and that means I lose yet another hour to the time difference. This was a movie script and a half.

   I got the ink, raced home, put the cartridge in my printer, ran off the stack of documents and raced to my bank to use their fax machine. I got there and of course the pen I had was out of ink. No joke. Then, I didn’t have the fax number so I had to go home and get it and that put me through the roof. It’ll be funny soon, but today it was raw, uncut pure stress.
   I finally ended up filling out the paperwork, getting it faxed to the booker with maybe a three to five minute window to spare. She called and said she got it, and was actually very calm and friendly. I thanked her for the opportunity and apologized for the close call, but she said it wasn’t an issue as long as I got it to her today, which I did. But it wasn’t easy.

   I hope this isn’t an omen of things to come. I like to avoid these stressful situations if at all possible, but this one was unavoidable. There was an opening, and she thought I could fill it. I’m sure a lot of other comedians could too, so I’m not complaining. This is my big chance to crack a whole new market, and I know I’m going to do fine. I’ve paid my dues.

   It’s not bragging at all, I’ve earned this shot. I talked to a few people I know who have a history on the ships, and they all told me the same thing - just show up and do whatever is asked. That’s exactly what I intend to do, and not be a problem off stage. That’s the place most of the problems happen from what I hear. I’ll keep my mouth shut and be invisible.

   I’m not looking for trouble, and I know how many comics behaved at clubs for all these years. There’s a certain percentage of idiots who come in and strip mine anything positive about a gig, and the next time through there are all kinds of rules made because of them.

   I’ve never been like that and don’t intend to start now. I need to follow directions to the exact tee, and stay out of the way the rest of the time. That’s why it was so crucial to have this paperwork in by the end of today. That’s what the booker needed, and she said it in a very nice, clear but firm way. If I didn’t get it in, I wouldn’t be able to get this booking.

   I got it in, even if it was by the skin of my teeth. I received a confirmation email saying I’ll get my itinerary for the run from her assistant, and I’ll be flying out of O’Hare airport late next week. Other than that, I have no idea where I’ll be going. It could be Haiti and a tar ball tour around the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for all I know. That’s ok, I’ll do it.

   This can’t hurt me in the least. I’ll pass the audition and be as nice as I can to everyone I meet. I’m not going to come in as the cocky diva, and I’m not egomaniacal enough to get any ideas that I’m important in any way. I’m eye candy for passengers for two short sets. I get that. Between the food and ports and activities and everything else, I’m just a speck.

   That’s ok. It takes the pressure off. I’ll get to see some places I haven’t seen before and I’m never sad about that. I paid for a passport, so why not put it to good use? I just might end up enjoying this and clicking with the lifestyle. Or, I could totally hate it and this is a day I’ll look back on with scorn. I doubt it though, how bad can it be? Famous last words.

   I had dinner with one of my former students, Judson Graham. He’s trying to pursue the comedy business as a career, and asked if I’d coach him through his first year. I told him I would, only if he agreed to listen and then offer an endorsement when the year is over. He has a lot of raw potential, but he’s very bright off stage and I think he’s got a lot going for him as far as intangibles go. He’s smart, good looking, Jewish and focused sharply on his goals, all I never was. That’s why I’m thrilled to get a cruise ship shot this far into it all.

Posted via email from Dobie Maxwell's "Dented Can" Diary