Saturday, October 30, 2010


Saturday October 30th, 2010 - Cozumel, Mexico

   Usually, not having a gig on a Saturday bothers me. Not so much this week. The cruise I’m on isn’t a full week like the others I’ve done so there are only two comedians needed for the duration. Tonight was a dark night in the comedy club and we finish up tomorrow.

   If I have to be off work with nothing to do at the end of October, Cozumel isn’t too bad of a place to hang for a day. This is probably my favorite of all the ports I’ve gotten to see so far, and I took a nice long walk in the sun today to let some ideas bake into my brain.

   Plain and simple, I’m at a major crossroads in life and I really don‘t have a crystal clear vision locked in of where I’m going. Since I’ve spent most of my life in survival mode, it feels kind of strange to even think about any kind of direction at all. I’m so used to having to grab on to any old piece of floating debris and hope I can hang on until morning comes.

   That really needs to stop, at least for this next chapter of my life. In all reality, this is my last shot to do anything that might be the least bit meaningful and I don’t want to waste it. I see all the mistakes I’ve made, and part of me is embarrassed. Another part is pleased to know I had the guts to make them in the first place. I sure learned some valuable lessons.

   I’ve had my share and what seems like a dozen other people’s share of bad breaks, but I can’t and won’t blame that for anything. I’ve had plenty of time to recover from wherever I came from or whatever went wrong and at this stage of the game my life is in my hands.

   That thought hit me hard as I sat in a beach front cantina having an order of ocean fresh lobster that was supposedly flown in today. It sure tasted like it, and looking out over the vast beauty of the Gulf of Mexico made me feel more humble and insignificant than ever. The haunting lyrics of ‘Dust In The Wind’ crawled into my ear and shut me up but quick.

   It also hit me that I was probably the first in my family to sit in Cozumel on the beach to even have these thoughts at all. My father never wanted to go anywhere and rarely left his own little world. My grandfather was a wanderlust like me, but from what he always told me he never did much more than hobo across America on freight trains back in his day.

   His father came from Russia and the only cruise ship he got to ride on wasn’t nearly as nice as the ones I’m on, and that was a one way trip to Ellis Island. Before that, I’m sure there were probably many generations of Russian peasants who lived in squalor and filth.

   Here I am getting to hang out in exotic Caribbean ports eating lobster, and I don’t even want it at this point in my life. I appreciated it today, but if someone told me it was going to end forever next week and I’d be able to do what I really wanted, I’d be fine with it.

   That was my major focus today - what the hell IS it I ’really want to do’? It’s late in the game to be making major changes, and a lot of things just aren’t possible anymore. But, if I keep drifting like I have been I’ll die in my own squalor and filth and I don’t want that.

   I must have walked at least five or six miles to the cantina and back, and I was in one of my reflective, deep in thought bullet proof moods. The sunshine made my thoughts come clearly, and I felt like I was in a creative hot zone all day. I just saw things in a big picture kind of way, and it felt totally right. I feel like a flower getting ready for my bloom time.

   I realized it doesn’t matter where I live, and it doesn’t matter if my life is whatever the term ’normal’ means. If reincarnation and past lives are indeed real, this one was a huge step in a good direction for me. I may have lost out on a lot of things most others on this plane get to experience, but I’ve grown so much in so many areas that it was worth it.

   I wouldn’t be surprised if I died soon, and it doesn’t scare me in the least at this point. It actually intrigues me in a way. If indeed there is a reason for all of us living through all of the insanity this life, I‘ve got to believe at some point we’re going to find out why. I want to know why my life has been so different and seemingly more difficult than many others.

   This isn’t the world I want to be the king of anyway. It’s unfair, vicious and run by idiot sticks who’ve had thousands of years to figure things out and still haven’t done it. I’ll be a passenger on this ship until the ride is over, then see where my transfer will drop me off.

   I really enjoyed every step of my walk today, and felt the sweat soak my whole body on the way back. I was sore, soaked and satisfied as I got back to the ship and took a long hot shower in my cabin. I felt refreshed and ready to go, so I took out my computer and took a long detailed look through all my files of ideas, projects and goals and I got very excited.

   There are all kinds of ideas that I know I haven’t given my all to, so I have to focus on a precious few and see what I think is most important. I really think I can help young comic wannabes get started properly and I’d love to be able to do that after I’m dead. A recorded version of the classes along with books and paperwork is a must. That jumped out at me.

   I also think I can do better at my own standup. I’d love to get a few more shots on some network TV shows, and put out some new recorded product in the near future. I have all kinds of material I haven’t even tried yet, and it’s just waiting for me to get to it. I can use the ships to work it in, and there’s no reason I can’t have two or three TV sets ready to go.

   That’s one thing I haven’t done since my Craig Ferguson appearance, and I’m flat out a big stupid goof for not doing it. That’s going to change immediately. Starting tomorrow, I will do ONE joke in each show that I want to start building television appearances sets on and keep building them until they’re razor sharp and I can do them backwards and asleep.

   I should have been doing that the day after my first shot aired, but I haven’t. Why I had all this wisdom hit me today is a mystery, but it kept coming all day. I want to keep up the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ one man show also. I think there’s a winner there and that will be an ongoing project for the near future. Other than that, I’ve got all I can handle and a gut full of fresh lobster. It’s back to work tomorrow, then back north to find a new place to live.

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

Finally Some Fun

Friday October 29th, 2010 - Key West, FL

   This week is turning out to be by far the best I’ve had as a whole since I’ve been at sea, and I’m not going to question why. I knew if I hung in there long enough, there had to be SOMETHING about this whole major change in lifestyle that would be worth my effort.

   The two main ingredients I’ve experienced from this endeavor to date have been stress and pressure, but precious few can relate in the least. Everyone assumes this is a lazy way to big time easy money but nothing could be farther from reality. It’s a very difficult gig.

   Part of what’s so tough is the randomness of it all. Every week there’s a whole new set of variables to deal with, and they’re never the same twice. The audiences are completely different on the various ships, as are the staffs. Also, I’ve had a variety of other comics to work with. I haven’t clashed with anyone yet, but that’ll happen eventually. It just does.

   I’ll deal with that when it happens. So far I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve been matched with and this week is especially pleasant. I’m working with Louis Ramey, a very funny guy out of New York who’s originally from Atlanta. We crossed paths briefly many years ago but neither one of us has been able to pinpoint exactly where or when that was. But we did.

   Louis is a real pro and I have nothing but respect for him. He’s had quite a few big time television appearances from The Tonight Show to Last Comic Standing where he was one of the finalists in season six. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Last Comic Standing, it’s a major credit and I take nothing away from anyone who gets it. That’s a lot of exposure.

   What I really like about Louis is he’s a student of the comedy game just as I am. He got his start at The Punch Line in Atlanta which is one of the legendary clubs in America. His pedigree is rich, and since he’s close to my age we both have a similar base of experience.

   He was an opening act when I was, and we both crossed paths with people who went on to be big time stars like Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Drew Carey and others. Now we’re both headliners ourselves and rarely get to hang out with the people we came up with on the comedy ladder. Today we hung out in Key West and had a great time talking comedy.

   There’s a big event in town called ‘Fantasy Fest’, and I’d never heard of it before. It had been years since I’ve been to Key West, but I always enjoyed it. It’s a unique place with a lot of history, plus there’s great seafood. It was fun to have someone to hang with all day.

   Louis was taking pictures of some of the wild costumes, and some of them made Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like a convent. There were plenty of topless women to gawk at, some in a good way, others in horror. There was no shortage of entertainment anywhere.

   If there’s a better way to spend a gorgeous sunny day in Key West than talking comedy with a guy I like and respect, staring at naked breasts of all shapes, eating raw oysters and enjoying life, I’m hard pressed to come up with what that would be. This is how I like it.

   Tonight was my night to do three shows, and I love doing that the first night. Almost all of the other weeks I’ve done so far have had me doing my three show night the final night but I’d prefer to get it out of the way early so it’s not hanging over my head for the day.

   Sometimes the early shows can be difficult because of the kids, and tonight was another example. I really don’t think people mean to be difficult, so I don’t get angry or flip out at anyone. This is part of the game, and I know that going in. People are going to arrive late with their kids, and that’s just how it’s going to be. I have to learn to deal with it tactfully.

   Many times they come right up front, just as I’m in the middle of a bit. They talk loudly and try to figure out where they want to sit, and often the talk is directed at me. Someone will ask me if it’s ok to sit at a particular table like I’m the head usher, but again it’s not a matter of being rude. They don’t know what to do, so I have to handle it and move on.

   Louis is a veteran of the ships and he says he just does his show and doesn’t even think about the kids in the crowd. That’s probably the smart way to go, but I want to find a way to make the best of it because I’ll be dealing with it frequently in the foreseeable future.

   I’ve always had the power to adapt, and I’m choosing to make this whole experience on cruise ships improve my whole approach to comedy and turn me into a better performer. I think it already has to some degree. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out yet, I don’t.

   I do have a much better idea of where my act needs to go if I want to stay out here for a while, and it never hurts to have a skill which brings in money. Louis is very smart and he doesn’t allow himself to get trapped on ships only, and that’s something I won’t do either.

   Sure, I’ll take work when it’s offered - especially in the next year or so so I can save up a war chest to fall back on and serve as a cushion in case everything blows up in my face. I also need to keep working during the day and have other projects develop so I can have other sources of income. The more sources I have, the less I’ll have to worry about any.

   This week is a shot in the arm on many levels. The lack of stress is allowing me to just relax and enjoy life a little. Constantly having to be somewhere is unnecessary stress that takes away from letting me enjoy the good parts, like today. I had a blast with everything.

   When I came back to my cabin I flicked through the channels and caught the tail end of The Tonight Show and saw another comic named Louis I respect - Louis CK. We crossed paths many years ago just like Louis Ramey and I did, but again for a million dollars cash I couldn’t tell you where or when it was. I do remember liking the guy, even back then.

   In my opinion, I think he has a fabulous work ethic and has made the most of his ability as a comic. That’s all anyone can hope for, and I think the only true definition of success. I didn’t see him perform, only his face as the show was ending. I was happy for him and it made me grateful to be a comic this week. Damn the future, this week is turning out fine.

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Instant Homeless

Thursday October 28th, 2010 - Miami, FL

   No rest for the weary. After that monster day of travel from Honduras to Chicago, I only had one day in town before having to head right back out to sea. I had no time for goofing around, as I had to drop off dry cleaning, do a major load of laundry, get a haircut, pay off a few bills, check my P.O. box and then teach my class at Harper College from 7-9pm.

   That’s a busy day for anybody, and by the time class was over I was ready to nod out for a few hours but I had more work to do at home. Emails are piling up, and I refuse to allow those to get out of control like they so often have in the past. I trimmed the list back down to where it was, and by then it was time to take a shower and head out to catch my plane.

   Right as I was about to board I received a text from my roommate asking me to “read an  important email she‘d just sent.” Oh oh. What could that possibly be? It’s that bad feeling of  “wait ‘til your father comes home.” I had no way of getting to a computer, and I could only imagine what it might be. Was she sick? Was I being asked to leave? What was it?

   I got to Miami and tried calling her from the airport, but she was still at work. We rarely if ever see each other, and that’s what’s made this whole arrangement work so well for so long. It’s going on two and a half years now, and I put my rent in an envelope and leave it on the kitchen table on the first of each month. It’s always there and never been late once.

   When I got to the ship I was able to sign on line and get her email. It turns out she’ll be moving at the end of the month because she and her new husband found a house they feel will be ideal for their new situation, which is a Brady Bunch situation. He has a couple of kids and she has two daughters so they were starting to sniff around for a bigger house.

   She said they didn’t expect to find such a perfect place so quickly, but they did. That’s how it goes, and I’m happy for them. She thought I’d be angry, but how could I be? This was a very good deal for both of us, and at the time I moved in she really needed the cash for her kids. They’re both super sweet and if I could be of help at a time of need I’m glad.

   I figured my days were limited there anyway. It just felt like time to move on, and this is a great way to make it happen without causing any hard feelings in either direction. She’s got her new life and I don’t want to live in a basement like an insect the rest of mine. It’s time to have a different base of operations, clean the slate and start my life’s next chapter.

   Like every thing else, the timing of this isn’t the greatest. They’ve made a commitment to be out by November 30th. I’ve only got about three days home in the whole month. My schedule is packed full of ship gigs which will let me pay rent in my next living space but how I’ll manage to find a way to clean everything out of where I am is still up in the air.

   I’d been meaning to do a purge, and now I’ll have my chance. Look out Goodwill. Here comes a major donation of books, DVDs, clothing and everything else I haven’t touched in the past year. If I don’t use it - out it’s going to go. Another page in life is ready to turn.

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

Bugs Up Butts

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Long Way Home

Tuesday October 26th, 2010 - Roatan - San Pedro, Honduras/Miami, FL/Chicago, IL

These twelve to fourteen hour ‘off’ days are sure starting to rattle my cage. It’s harder to make it through these than the majority of my ‘work’ days, when my actual time working on stage in front of an audience is even on my busiest days at the most only 90 minutes.

Those days I can handle. Today’s days are like worldwide scavenger hunts. It’s a cross between days in the life of James Bond and Indiana Jones, with always a new unexpected twist around the corner to keep it interesting. It’s one giant mental and physical challenge, and one tiny miscue could leave me marooned in a foreign country without a way home.

Today’s adventure started in Roatan, Honduras. The first thing I’m going to do is look it up when I have a free minute, because before today I’d never even heard of it. I know it’s an island, as I had to take a rickety little puddle jumper propeller plane to San Pedro Sula, the capital of Honduras. Thankfully, I had the company of two very nice people to share.

One was the other comedian Will Marfori. He’s lives in Orlando, FL but grew up in the DC area. He’s half Filipino and half Irish I think he said, but whatever it is he was a great guy to work with onstage and off. Like most of the comics I’ve met out here so far at sea, he’s very generous about helping newbies like me learn the ropes. I totally appreciate that.

The other was a singer named Ron Joseph. He’s originally from New Orleans, but now lives in Houston with his wife and family. He’s another nice guy, and we became a multi racial traveling threesome. Ron is black, Will looks Asian and I’m Mr. Ragin‘ Caucasian.

I couldn’t have chosen two better travel partners, and we were off the ship by 9:30am to begin the journey home. We had to fill out all our paperwork, get our passports and find a taxi to take us to the airport. The cab cost us $10 each, but the driver didn’t have a receipt book so now we won’t get reimbursed. It was a minor glitch, but a hassle nonetheless.

The airport in Roatan looks like a flea market booth, and there was absolutely nowhere to hang out and wait the two hours for our flight to leave. The three of us literally stood in front of the ‘airport’ and shared road stories while a dog slept a few feet from us and three construction workers were fixing holes in the tin wall next to us. It sure wasn’t O’Hare.

As we were standing there a Honduran police officer came up to us and looked us over very closely. We nodded hello, and he shook each of our hands. Then he asked where we were going, and then he shook all three of our hands again. It was very odd, and we didn’t know why he’d do that, but nobody panicked and we just went on with our conversation.

Finally it was time to catch our flight and we had to go through the pain in the ass of the whole security process. Off with shoes and belts and empty pockets, and they ripped all of our bags apart like kids opening Christmas presents. Then they charged us each an airport tax of $2. I’d never heard of that before, but I’ve never been to Roatan before either. This is how it’s done. We heard our announcement that our plane would be leaving at ‘Gate 1’.

None of us looked very hard, but there wasn’t a ‘Gate 2’ anywhere in sight. ALL flights from here would be leaving from Gate 1 until further notice, or another one was built. We had to walk quite a ways to get to our plane, which I thought was also pretty stupid, as the whole area was empty. I counted six planes total, including ours, but we walked very far.

I hadn’t been on a propeller plane in many years, and it felt like I was in a remake of the movie Casablanca or something. There were maybe a dozen of us total on the plane and it was about 100 degrees inside as we waited for the pilot to start the engines and head over to San Pedro Sula. It was maybe a 45 minute flight, but I was still glad when we landed.

San Pedro Sula’s airport wasn’t a whole lot busier. It looked like the stereotypical place drug lords would fly their planes from, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was named after a famous gangster. There were some gorgeous women everywhere though, and the three of us were rubbernecking as soon as we got into what they tried to pass off as the terminal.

It was about the size of your average dollar store, but the exchange rate between dollars and Honduran money was 19-1. I bought a delicious piping hot combo plate of tacos and flautas for only $3.50, with a drink. That was the cheapest most delicious meal I’ve ever gotten in an airport anywhere. That’s one of the reasons to keep coming on these trips.

The wait for our next flight was only an hour and a half, so we had time to eat and relax a little, and then it was time for another dose of security. How many bombs do they think we can acquire in the airport, as that’s the only place we were since our previous flight?

Still, off with the belts, shoes, watches, and through our luggage they went…again. I had my mouthwash, shampoo and toothpaste confiscated by of course the ugliest female we’d seen since we got into the country and then she scolded me for five minutes in Spanish.

I faced the ground and said nothing. I didn’t want to spend a night in Honduras with her on either side of the cell bars. I took my confiscation like a man, and moved on. I thought it would be wise to use the bathroom before getting on the plane, but it was all the way on the other side of the airport. By the time I got back I almost missed my boarding time.

Then, they checked our bags AGAIN. It’s ridiculous, but I’m sure there are probably all kinds of criminals hauling drugs in and out of this place. Now I just wanted to make it on the plane, which I did. Barely. Then it was another two hour flight to make it to Miami.

Guess what the first thing on the agenda in Miami was? Security? Nope. Passport check and U.S. Customs…THEN another time through security to catch my connecting flight to Chicago. How many times do they have to look at my funky grundies and computer bag?

In my opinion, too many. But they did. It took way too long, and I had to take the tram to my gate which got me there right around boarding time. Then it was back to Chicago at 10:30pm where thankfully Jim McHugh was kind enough to pick me up. That sure is a lot of work to do to get home from work, and then I get to fly out Thursday and do it again!

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hurricane Season's Greetings

Monday October 25th, 2010 - Cozumel, Mexico

   There’s a big old mess o’ trouble brewing at sea, but for once it’s got nothing to do with me. It’s hurricane season here in the Caribbean and one named Richard is apparently on a path to do major damage  right where we’re sailing. The weather’s been nasty for much of the day, and we’ve already altered the original route this cruise was supposed to follow.

   I have no idea how this will affect my flight home tomorrow, and I’m concerned I won’t be able to make it home to teach my comedy class at Harper College on Wednesday. It’s a scary situation, and a part of the cruise game I hadn’t planned for along with lost luggage.

   The ship docked in Cozumel, Mexico for a few hours today but I wasn’t able to get off because I didn’t get a crew identification card and the place I was supposed to get one had closed for the day. I wanted to go out and get some supplies like shaving cream and soap, but that will have to wait until whenever we stop again. Nobody knows when that may be.

   I talked to the other comedian Will Marfori, and he said he thinks we’ll be ok to fly out tomorrow, but it won’t be from our original destination of Belize. Instead, it’s going to be Honduras - but only if the weather holds out. This is all hearsay, and right now I haven’t a clue as to what’s really going to happen. Lucky for me, my cabin is near the ship’s office.

   From all I’ve heard, the best place to be in a hurricane is a cruise ship because it has the ability to outrun the worst part of the storm and stay in a safe zone. Personally, I’ve never once heard of a cruise ship disaster in real life other than the Titanic, and that was 1912.

   Chances are, I’ll fly out tomorrow and spend most of the day getting back to Chicago to teach my class on Wednesday, then it’s back out early Thursday to Miami to return to one of the other ships I’ve already done, The Destiny. I know what to expect when I get there, so that makes it a lot easier. The staff is very friendly and I had some pretty decent shows.

   Tonight was my three show night on the Triumph. The early one was flat out weird, and I wish I would have recorded it just to have it on file. About halfway through of what was a very good show, I heard a voice in the darkness start giving me Ric Flair’s “WHOOO” sound. It was kind of funny the first couple of times, and I was able to riff lines off of it.

   Then, it wouldn’t stop. “WHOOOO, WHOOO, WHOOOOOOOOO.” Then silence for a minute or two. Then it would start again. The problem was, I couldn’t tell who was the one doing it. It could have been a person with mental illness issues or some other kind of disability, and making fun of that would be certain trouble. I had to just work around it.

   As it turned out, it was just a drunk woman who wouldn’t shut up and the club manager had stepped out for a moment to attend to some other business so he hadn’t seen how the whole thing developed. Eventually she got bounced and the show went on, but this was a kook for the ages. I’m sure glad I didn’t slam her though. That would have been a mistake from the start. Still, this was the best week I’ve had on the ships. Now I hope I get home.

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

Purple Payback

Sunday October 24th, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   Life is firing on all cylinders for a day, and I’m doing all I can to savor every single iota for future reference. I’m sure I’ll be back nestled away in my customary ringside cesspool seat, but not today. I wish I could bottle a magic day like this and spritz a little on my face every morning to get the feeling of it ingrained in me so I’d continue it the rest of the day.

   Everything went right today, and I could feel it as soon as I got up. My cabin this cruise is about a 30 foot walk from the staff mess hall and it’s unbelievably convenient. I awoke at 7:35, but wasn’t sure if it was morning or evening and for a minute I panicked horribly.

   Missing a show is not what I need to do and I didn’t. I went to have a nice breakfast and learned there were a few more American channels available than I first thought and I’d be able to catch the Packers/Vikings game tonight. This was my two show night and it fell in perfectly with the schedule of the game. This was the big grudge match, and I enjoyed it.

   I know it means nothing in the giant scheme of life, but getting to watch old #4 step in a steaming pile of #2 was nothing short of pure pigskin paradise. It was like watching a bad guy wrestler get his comeuppance, and from an entertainment standpoint, it couldn’t have been played out any better, with the possible exception of having him carted off the field.

   Brett Favre is like an ex wife who just won’t go away. I don’t want to look at him or his scraggly beard anymore, and at least the Packers sacked him this time. Last time it looked like they laid down and let him do whatever he wanted. It was nice to see him take a little punishment out there and limp off the field. I know it shouldn’t matter, but I loved it all.

   Then, both shows on the ship tonight were very strong. I had no problem mixing up any of my material, and I didn’t repeat anything from last night’s ‘Welcome Aboard’ show at any time. I felt like I was in command the whole time and the audiences were there for the show. That always helps, and sometimes I don’t feel like that’s true out here on the boats.

   I’m starting to feel at least a little more at home here, mainly because the staff and crew of this ship are extremely nice people. They weren’t mean on the other ships I was on, but I feel a bond with these guys for whatever reason. If it’s like this all the time, I’ll be fine.

   But it isn’t, and I know that. I could just as easily have three horrific shows tomorrow as not, but even if I do I’ll be fine with it. I know why I’m here, and I’ll use each of the three shows tomorrow to keep shaping my ship persona. I’m throwing in new lines every show and really working on my act for the first time in a long time. It’ll make me a better comic in the long run, and that’s what I’m interested in. I’m not just phoning all these shows in.

   There’s still a lot of work to do no matter where I am. The ‘Schlitz Happened’ show has great potential, but it’s hard to promote from a cabin on a cruise ship. I can work on some content, and I will. This week I’ve been working on comedy class lessons for the sessions at Harper College. It might get tough again, but at least one day at sea was picture perfect.

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Random Seat Karma

Saturday October 23rd, 2010 - New Orleans, LA

   Maybe my fortunes are changing for the better after all. My ‘seat karma’ on airplanes or buses has been horrendous over the years. Usually if there’s only one unwashed odiferous funky foreigner on board, there’s only one place he or she will end up - right next to me.

   I’ve gotten the morbidly obese, vomiting toddlers, fossilized humanoids from Paleozoic times and of course it’s always on the longest and most unbearable trips. On planes, I’m a magnet for the middle seat, usually between two totally opposite but equally undesirables.

   I couldn’t miss the full moon last night as I walked from my car to the house and hoped it wouldn’t carry over until today. It didn’t. I managed to wake up on time for once and be at Jim McHugh’s house right when I said I would. He was up this time and everything we planned came off without a hitch. We made it to the airport and even security was easy.

   I knew I had a middle seat I and got on first waiting to see what hand fate would deal on  this particular day. I’ve long given up hoping for the hot women, as that just doesn’t work in my world. Well, not until today. I had THE piping hottest blonde I’ve seen in my entire life come out of nowhere and plop down next to me. I asked her to double check her seat.

   She said it was hers alright and I couldn’t believe it. No rings, either. She smelled like a combination of heaven and the Garden of Eden and I quickly reexamined my doubts as to whether there is a supreme being or not. She was so smoking hot I couldn’t concentrate.

   Thirty seconds later some guy with a Cleveland Browns throwback jersey started down the aisle, and was particularly loud and a bit obnoxious sounding. He ended up being my flank mate in the window seat, and I thought it would be Heaven and Hell side by side.

   Turns out it was exactly the opposite. The guy was really cool his family owns a sports bar in the Dayton, OH area and he was going to New Orleans to see the Browns play the Saints tomorrow. We talked sports the whole way, and it was really fun. Then, to make it almost a Penthouse letter, the hot blondie joined in and turns out was a huge sports fan.

   This just doesn’t happen to Mr. Lucky. Maybe I was in the wrong seat, but whatever it was for this one day I enjoyed every minute of this flight. The woman turned out to be an attorney on business in town for a day. I gave her my card and whether it’s already in the New Orleans airport trash or not, sitting next to her and talking sports was pure ecstasy.

   The sports guy was great too. He knew I knew my stuff, as did he, and that’s when it’s fun talking sports with a fan of another team. It made the flight go by in a flash, and he’s booked comedy shows in the past so maybe I’ll even get work out of it. I‘d love that too.

   Then, on the ship I did the ‘Welcome Aboard’ show and really nailed it. I felt at home up there and didn’t use up any of my best material like I did last week. I’m getting better and I was prepared when I got on stage. So far, so great. Let’s see how this week goes.

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Catching A 22

Friday October 22nd, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   One more day of freedom before heading back to the high seas. I’m trying to get myself into the mental groove of all that goes with it, but I’m still not there yet. If they called and told me I’d been bumped forever it wouldn’t break my heart in the least, just my wallet.

   That’s exactly why I need to keep doing it. It doesn’t hurt to stockpile some cash for the immediate and distant futures, but the real reason is it will make me mentally tougher at a time when I can really use it. Mental toughness to me is thinking clearly in tight situations and reacting correctly. I’ve had to do that quite a bit so far, and I’m sure it will continue.

   The whole lifestyle of the ships is quite different than what I’m used to, and nobody can pick everything up in a new situation in the first few times. It takes conditioning, and that takes time. I’m taking a few shots now, and paying my dues just like I had to do when my club life was getting going. That lifestyle was a lot different than what I was used to then.

   There are a lot of similarities actually. The money from the clubs was better than what I was making working dead end sales clerk jobs, but I was gone all the time and had to get used to life away from Milwaukee. Ten hour car rides and cheap motels became part of a whole new lifestyle that was quite overwhelming at the time, much like ship life is now.

   I eventually learned to master the road life and at times even come to really enjoy it. At the very least I learned to tolerate it enough to keep doing it for years, and it was valuable to have to fall back on when my various radio excursions turned to manure. The comedy life turned out to be ‘stable’, at least for me. That shows you where my life is - shaky.

   That’s why it’s so important to stay out there and rake in come decent money. I’ve been one to always do things that are fun, and in many ways I don’t regret that at all, but this is not one of those times. Fudge and ice cream taste great, but sometimes we need medicine.

   Having a wad of cash to fall back on will change my whole life for the better. I had a bit of a taste of it when I was at the Loop, and it was wonderful. I wasn’t a miser, and shared a lot of it whenever I could. Still, I had a nice little nest egg socked away and that made a huge difference knowing if I got fired I’d be set for a while. When it happened, I was ok.

   There’s always a chance I could be fired from the ships too, but in the very near future it won’t matter in the least. I’ll have had a chance to not only sock a significant wad of cash away, I’ll have used my down time on the ships wisely and have all kinds of other things I can work on marketing. I can write movie scripts, books, jokes or anything else I want.

   I need to do exactly that, and I have been. Last week was pretty good in that department. I spent some time organizing and going over next year’s projects and didn’t just waste my time farting around doing nothing as is so easy to do. I took some time each day to read a little, write a little, plan a little and explore a little, which also was good exercise. I didn’t eat like a pig and tried to do it all in moderation. It was fine for a week. Now it’s another.

   Besides needing more mental toughness, I also need to conquer my trust issues. I have a very difficult time trusting anyone, and even though there are many examples to back me up of why I shouldn’t, it’s also the exact reason why I need to. It’s the only way to win on a large scale. One man bands don’t make the big time. Even Elvis had Colonel Parker.

   Unfortunately, by most accounts Colonel Parker screwed Elvis in many ways. He could have been huge in Europe but apparently the Colonel was an illegal immigrant and didn’t want it to be an issue so he never had Elvis tour over there. Plus, he probably took a much higher commission than what was justified, but Elvis trusted him and they stayed a team.

   My own trust issues are a lot deeper than that. If my own mother would abandon me as a five month old baby, how can I trust some Hollywood huckster type to take care of me in my career? I can’t, and I don’t. The few times I have opened up I’ve been torched like a moth in a bug zapper, and it still hurts. Again, that’s exactly why I need to do it correctly.

   I know everyone out there is not trying to screw me over. There are partnerships that are very successful, and in a perfect world I’d love to be in several actually. I’ll need several, as I’m interested in different things and no one person can help me in all. I need a team.

   One thing I really need is organization and personal management. That’s why I went up to Milwaukee today to meet with Donna Gurda. Donna handled the business affairs of my other friend Tom Green, who was also another Pisces and needed help in the areas I do.

   Tom was a fantastic entertainer, but like many he wasn’t interested in the business part as much as he could have been. I’m totally like that, but Donna is absolutely outstanding when it comes to organization and keeping a cool business head. She and Tom were very good as a team, and then Tom unfortunately became ill and passed away. What a shame.

   Donna enjoys the business part and we’ve always had a professional relationship so we discussed what we could do as a team to try things out a little. If there’s one person I have as much faith as I can in it’s her. She never ripped Tom off and I know she wouldn’t do it to me either. She’s credible and organized, and neither one of us need this for our living.

     This is the correct way to build trust, much like building a credit rating. My own credit is beyond a nightmare, but that’s another story. If I earn enough money, I’ll be able to get that back to a working level too. It all boils down to money, and I need a team go get it.

   Donna would be great to work with. I’m already working with Richard Halasz, another comedian who’s promoting some shows. He’s proven himself honest to a fault, and he’s also a hard worker. My friend Shelley has been wonderful with helping with my website. She’s another who’s been in my corner, and there are others I‘m looking at. It’s growing.

   Today is October 22nd, and according to numerology principles, it’s a ‘master number’ day. ‘11’ and ‘22’ are master numbers, and whether or not it’s totally true it can’t hurt to be putting all these plans together on a master number day. Now it’s back out to the sea.

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

Maggot Brain

Thursday October 21st, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   The more things I have going, the more it makes me get behind on everything else. I’ve been out on the road and the ships, then teaching classes both at Zanies Comedy Club and Harper College, then up in Milwaukee doing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at a couple of venues. That’s all been fun, but now I have laundry to do, calls to return and mail to send.

   The old ‘for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction’ adage is true. For every week I’m gone on the road or boats, more dirty laundry piles up. For every class I teach, it takes time away from me making booking calls or just plain hanging out with my friends.

   And who the hell has time for daily exercise and diet planning? And don’t even think of having a relationship. How can anyone squeeze everything into one single life? Now I can see why celebrities have such a hard time with keeping their marriage together. It’s rough.

   I’m not even close to being a celebrity, though my schedule sure feels like it. I have all kinds of commitments and  places to be, and  I admit I’m the reason for it. I like all kinds of different things so I have all kinds of activities to coincide with them. The result is that my free time is limited, so when I do get some I tend to just let everything else sit and rot.

   That’s pretty much what I did today. I had a mountain of  paperwork to sort, and I really didn’t do much of anything other than sit around and listen to music and relax. To me, it’s a day in heaven. I had no place to be other than a dinner date later with a total sweetheart.

   I haven’t had a day to really listen to music in a long time, and I loved every single song I played. I have some headphones that sound great and just laid back and let it rip. I enjoy a pretty wide variety of music but today I picked out my very favorite songs of all time.

   If I had to pick just one song I could listen to for the rest of eternity, it would have to be the Funkadelic classic “Maggot Brain”. It’s an amazing piece of music, and if you haven’t heard it I can’t really describe it in words. It’s a heavy rock guitar solo that sends chills up my spine every time I hear it. I can’t think of another song I’ve ever heard that’s similar.

   Supposedly, George Clinton told master guitarist Eddie Hazel to play a guitar solo as if his mother had just died, and it’s just oozing with emotion and passion and an energy that cut through to the soul of a white boy from Milwaukee. That song just talks to me, even if I’m not sure what it’s saying exactly. I feel the emotion, and I never get sick of hearing it.

   There are about a dozen different recordings of it that I know of, a few tried by imitators that fall extremely short. The one I love most is a live version that’s smoking hot and just melts into my psyche whenever I hear it. It’s my #1 favorite song ever, without a doubt.

   Supposedly it’s made to be listened to on drugs, but I’ve enjoyed it just fine sober all of these years. I sure enjoyed it again today, and the dinner date was wonderful. I do have to get to some of my piled up work, but for one day I relaxed and enjoyed a little bit of life.

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Classes For The Masses

Wednesday October 20th, 2010 - Palatine, IL

   I know it’s too good to last, but the weather around Chicago today was nothing short of spectacular. It was as pleasant here as any of the cruise ship ports I’ve been to, but I know that’s got to change but quick. I can’t guarantee there won’t be snow by tomorrow night.

   I’ll deal with that when I have to. For today, it was enough to just hang out and squeeze every last bit of joy I could out of each individual ray of sunshine I saw. My friend Marc Schultz asked if I wanted to have lunch with him and Chicago ventriloquist Chuck Field.

   Chuck is the one who introduced Marc and me years ago and he’s a wonderful person, even though Marc and I tease him constantly about being a ventriloquist. He’s been doing it since he was a kid, and still does it because he enjoys it. What’s wrong with that? Not a thing, and even though he’s in the box business with his brother he still performs often.

   Marc Schultz is a person who started out as a booker connection but is now a friend that I see quite often. I met Marc through Chuck Field, another friend who crossed paths when he took my comedy class at Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL many years ago. THAT’S why I’m so passionate about teaching classes - it attracts all kinds of fantastic people into my life.

   That’s why I guard the classes the way I do, and am so defensive about those who try to swoop down and make a quick buck by strip mining money and leaving. I resent that very much and I don’t hide it. People like Chuck Field started out as students, but we’ve had a great friendship for going on probably 15 years now. We’ve been able to help each other.

   Chuck happens to be Jewish, and quite often there are stereotypes about lots of different types of people - especially Jews in show business. Unfortunately, most are negative and I see no need to drag that up. Chuck is none of those things, and constantly makes it a point to go out of his way to help others before himself. He’s a rock solid person, Jewish or not.

  That’s another thing that’s been so great about teaching all these years - I’ve been able to cross paths with just about every kind of person there is. I’ve had young and old, Jew and gentile, gay and straight, male and female, black and white and everything in the middle.

   I’ve gotten WAY more out of the classes than I’ve given, and that’s what makes me try to give so much of myself during each session. I don’t want to cheat anyone else just as I wouldn’t want to be cheated if I were taking my own class. It’s the golden rule in motion.

   Tonight I started teaching at Harper College in Palatine, IL. It’s part of their continuing education department headed up by a guy named Scott Cashman who radiates on the ball competence upon meeting him. I knew immediately I wanted to be a member of his team.

   Scott is putting together a lot of new programs and classes and is a free thinker with an open mind. I can spot it right away because people like him are so rare in any position of authority. Hopefully, his superiors will back off and let him follow his vision. He’s sharp.

   Scott really wants this class to work, and I could see he was in my corner by showing up to greet me personally and make sure I had everything under control in my classroom. It’s not often the top dog goes that far out of his way and I totally appreciated it. I felt wanted.

   As of last week, we only had four signups. Tonight we had six people show up, and it’s going to be a fun class. Every one of the students is at least over 35, with most being over 40. They’re probably not going to be full time comedians, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and I can’t teach them something or at least let them live out a lifetime fantasy.

   Classes are scheduled from 7-9pm and the time absolutely flew by tonight. I couldn’t be any more excited about this possibility, even though it’s going to be a difficult match with the cruise ship schedule. I told the ships I needed to teach this class, and the booker there is also a sweetheart and she bent the schedule to fit my needs. I hope that will continue.

   In the long run, cruise ships aren’t going to make me happy or fulfill anything a whole lot more than a financial foundation. That cab ride in the Bahamas yesterday really gave me the willies, and if I never go back there again I won’t be upset. It’s an income gig.

   Classes are much more than that. Not only is it a chance to help others hopefully live a life long dream, it also keeps my head at the very basest level of comedy and keeps me in the game at all times. It makes me think about it 24-7 and ignites any cooled passion that may linger in the bowels of my soul. Seeing students want to learn reinvigorates me too.

   Community colleges are a wonderful place to teach classes, and attracts a whole section of the public that would never come to Zanies to take a class there. I started teaching back in 1994 at Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee way before I had any idea what to do or how to structure a class. I had a teaching partner who wasn’t a comic and it ended ugly as partnerships can, but all these years later I’m going strong and that person has moved on.

   I didn’t have any bad feelings for her personally, but I totally did on a professional level for the simple reason she was not a working comedian. She was many things that I wasn’t including an outstanding mother and cook. She could have taught classes on both of those subjects and been successful, I just didn’t think she was qualified to teach a comedy class.

   That’s all in the past now. She’s out of the comedy business and I hope she’s happy and in a good space. Indirectly I have her to thank because she ignited my teaching spark back then and now all these years later I’ve worked it into a red hot class that really kicks ass.

   If this project never gets beyond this level, it’s still been a booming success. People like Chuck Field and Scott Cashman and countless others have enriched my life and continue to do so. The classes themselves keep my focus on comedy and my fundamentals in tune.

   There are a lot of positives going on in my life right now, and I’m grateful for every one of them. Tonight’s class really re-lit my inner passion for teaching. I really love it and this is a whole new venue to develop. The vibe was very positive all around and I’m excited.

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

Terror In A Taxi

Tuesday October 19th, 2010 - Nassau, Bahamas/Charlotte, NC/Chicago, IL

   These ‘off’ days between the cruise ship gigs are often a lot harder than the actual work days. Getting somewhere is WORK, and it’s especially challenging when the day starts in a foreign country I’ve never been in with no assistance or advice from anyone in charge to point me in the right direction. It can be intimidating, but all I can do is use my logic.

   My itinerary said I was to disembark the ship at noon today. Usually that involves going to the ship’s main office where I check in and get my passport back and any paperwork or minutia done that I may need to complete. After that, it’s usually a group excursion to the airport where the fare gets split several ways and it’s not a financial burden to one person.

   Not so today. I went to the office at 11:50 and it was locked. I didn’t see anyone waiting like I usually do, so a tinge of panic did start to reveal itself. I tracked down a security guy who spoke about six words of English, none of which I could identify. He called the desk and I eventually got my passport a few minutes later but not reimbursed for my expenses.

   The lady in charge gave me my passport and then quickly re-shut the door. I didn’t even get a chance to thank her or ask how I was supposed to get a cab, so I left the ship without a sniff of a hint of a clue where the airport was or how I was going to get myself there for my flight at 2:40. I had a little over two hours to solve that problem and $30 cash to do it.

   Getting off my ship I noticed three other cruise ships docked all in a row with hundreds if not thousands of passengers out wandering around, chaotically looking for their friends, relatives or anyone else to explain the reason why everything was unorganized as it was.

   I’d never been to Nassau before, but it looked an awful lot like the other ports I’ve been to so far. I eventually found where the cabs were, and there were a lot more than I had any time to count. They were parked every which way and I was getting shouted at by a bunch of semi toothless hucksters, all vying for my attention. Luckily, a price list was posted.

   Fare to the airport from downtown Nassau was $27. That would eat my entire budget of $30 but at least I happened to have enough with me. I didn’t see any ATMs close by, and the one on the ship has a $6 transaction fee. Am I a cheapskate about paying that? YES.

   The person who said he’d take me actually walked me about a block and transferred my business to another cabbie who looked like he played bongo drums for a reggae band. My suspicions rose, but what could I do? I had to get to the airport so I had to trust this guy to get me there without carving me up for parts on the black market. I followed reluctantly.

   We walked another block in the heat to a Dodge minivan that was in such cruddy shape it made ME flinch, and that takes a lot after all the rattletraps I’ve owned in my life. This was a junker, complete with bald tires with no hubcaps, dents in the fender and of course NO air conditioning whatsoever. The seat was carved up and only one bolt held it in. The driver didn’t help me with my bag like they usually do, and I got in and swallowed hard.

   Here’s me - a lily white cheese head from Milwaukee in downtown Nassau, Bahamas in a broken down jalopy cab at the mercy of a guy with dreadlocks who looks like the star of last week’s episode of America’s Most Wanted. Not only that, I only had $30 to my name and should he decide that wasn’t enough, he could have had me wacked without fanfare.

   Two blocks into our trip, he flagged down a guy who was driving an SUV with Oakland Raiders logos all over it of all things. Even though I’m not a native, I was able to surmise correctly it wasn’t an official Bahamas government welcome vehicle and started to panic.

   It was even worse when he stopped the cab in the middle of the busy street and went to visit with the driver of the SUV, who I noticed not only also had dreadlocks, but a full set of gold colored teeth across the front of his mouth which would have made it easy to pick him out of a police lineup - which I was beginning to think I may have to do eventually.

   I’m not going to lie, I was scared to death for about five minutes as the two exchanged a wildly animated dialogue that eventually involved onlookers, and I knew it wasn’t a bible study debate. These guys were hard core, and all I could do was bake in my own sweat.

   He did come back eventually, but didn’t offer any apologies nor did I ask for one. I shut my mouth and sat quietly as we wound our way through the streets of Nassau. It was even scarier than it should have been because they drive European style on the left side of their roads, and it’s not at all what I’m used to. All that did was make me feel more uneasy as I wondered if I’d ever get to the airport or make it back to the USA alive. I wasn‘t certain.

   Then the guy started a conversation and told me he’d been arrested for selling one of his passengers drugs, and it turned out to be a drug enforcement officer. He has a trial coming up in February and it’s going to cost him $1500 he doesn’t have. I tried to make a joke to cut the tension, but he wasn’t in a very laughing mood as he continued on with his story.

   The one bolt holding my seat on was loose, and every time he gunned it through one of the zig zag streets of Nassau, the seat would shift and make a loud clunking sound that he didn’t seem to notice, even after about 500 times. I expected the seat to snap off and send me flying out the window onto the street, but mercifully after 40 minutes it didn’t happen.

   I was never so glad to see an airport in my life. I have to get a receipt to get reimbursed for my expenses, and the look on his face when I asked for one made me think he’d snap and carve me up for fish bait. He got a pad out and had no idea what to write, so I said I’d fill it out later. I tried to be polite and thank him, but he was gone before the door closed.

   I won’t soon forget that cab ride, and there’s nobody else to share this memory. Each of my other experiences leaving a ship in a foreign country involved other performers and at least partially friendly cab drivers. This guy was a criminal, and it was just the two of us. I had to fly to Charlotte before catching my connecting flight to O’Hare and I’ve never ever been so glad to get caught in Chicago traffic as I was tonight. I never dreamed of anything like this being part of my work day when I started out in comedy. Surprises keep coming.   

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

First Week Finished

Monday October 18th, 2010 - Somewhere Else At Sea

   I was scheduled for and successfully performed three shows tonight, and if I were asked to impartially evaluate all of them I’d say they were ‘good enough‘. After that, people can have whatever opinion they want. Some probably liked it more than others, but that’s just how it is with any product. As long as the seller doesn’t falsely advertise, it‘s game on.

   If a restaurant serves a particular dish, there are no guarantees it will be anything but the particular version of that dish they see fit to serve. Their version of meatloaf may have all kinds of different ingredients than the one I picture when I order it, but if I decide to order it it’s at my own risk. I can ask what’s in it, or I can roll the dice and see what they bring.

   Comedy shows are like that in many ways, especially on the ships. People get what they get, and that’s it. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t. Very few actually take the time to fill out a written complaint, but it does happen. I have no idea what my ratings are with the passengers so far, but I’m still working so I must have done something correctly.

   The bottom line is, at the end of all the shows I stood on stage for as long as I was hired to, and at least some of the people enjoyed it enough to laugh out loud. I didn’t embarrass myself, even though in my mind I would have liked to have had a much louder response.

   That’s ok. It’s good to want to do well. I’ve always wanted people to walk out from my show with sore cheeks from laughing so hard. Many times I’ve achieved exactly that, but not so much on the ships just yet. This continues to be a puzzle I’ll have to work on, and I intend to keep doing that until I give what I think are killer shows. My standards are high.

   This is an entirely different vibe than the one I had with the “Schlitz Happened!” shows the last couple of weeks. That one I felt completely in control, as I knew the people I was trying to entertain. They’re Milwaukeeans and I’m one of them. These people aren’t from there, and probably never tasted a bratwurst in their lives. These are mostly Louisianans.

   New Orleans and Louisiana have a unique culture much like Milwaukee and Wisconsin do. I see a lot of people on this ship wearing LSU and Saints hats and T-shirts just like I’d see people at home wearing Badger and Packer stuff. They’re loyal to their local culture.

  There’s nothing wrong with that, but if I’m not in that inner circle it can be tough to get through and really earn their trust to make them laugh. I feel the exact opposite when I’m in Wisconsin, as I can do those shows in my sleep. That culture is ingrained inside of me. I have a lot more weapons I can pull out up there. Here, I have to rely on my experience.

   This was my first time on this ship and I get to come right back and do it all over again next week. Tomorrow I fly back from Nassau, Bahamas but next week the route changes and I fly back from Belize. I’ll get another chance to see if I can make Louisianans laugh.
The most important thing is that I become known as a laid back guy who’s easy to work with. That’s the best way to get asked back. Funny has never been the top requirement.   

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

Paying My Cruise Dues

Sunday October 17th, 2010 - Somewhere At Sea

   I’m trying my best to figure out the dynamics of entertaining people on cruise ships. It’s a different animal altogether from clubs, which is a different animal from corporate work. All these animals eat different food, and it’s up to me to figure out what to feed each one.

   Cruise ship audiences that I’ve seen so far seem to like old style very basic comedy that doesn’t make them think. They like to be talked to, and like to talk back - sometimes even when it’s not their turn. They can be rude, but I don’t think they mean it. I think they have limited to zero experience in front of live entertainment and don‘t know how to behave.

   This is a real test of wits, as there are so many rules I have to abide by. The requirement of not repeating material between the early PG show and the later adult R show makes it a real challenge, especially for someone like me who likes to mix up material more than the average comic. I like to shape each show for each audience, but that’s not conducive here.

   Then, to make it even harder, we have to do several minutes for the ‘Welcome Aboard’ show that happens in the big theater on the first night of the cruise. They have a teaser for the passengers of things to do on the cruise, and comedy is part of it. I wasn’t asked to do it on my last run, but I did end up doing it yesterday. It’s the option of the cruise director.

   This particular week, both comedians were asked to do about five minutes. That’s not a lot of time, but it’s a tricky call. It should be strong material to get laughs and establish an idea of what people should expect if they decide to come see our show, but it also takes it out of our repertoire for the week as they’ve heard it. We’re not supposed to repeat stuff.

   I did very well in my five minute teaser, and didn’t use any of my main bits other than a couple of lines to establish my stage character. They laughed hard and I really enjoyed the chance to perform on the big stage. I wasn’t able to do that on the last two ships I worked.

   Tonight’s first show was very difficult, but I managed to pull it off. There was maybe a half full room, and halfway through my set karaoke started in the bar next door that only I could hear. The club manager warned me before I went up that it‘s been a problem, but it was still distracting as hell and I had to deal with that, a half full house and talking kids.

   There was a family of four sitting right up front that were extremely nice people, but did not know how to sit and enjoy live comedy. They spoke out every time I hit on something they related to, as did their daughters aged 7 and 9. Then, each was taken to the bathroom by one of the parents within ten minutes of each other. It was one big constant distraction.

   The second show was jam packed, but most of them were from Louisiana. They weren’t loud laughers, but they were very loud when yelling the annoying ’Who Dat’ Saints chant incessantly during the show. I was a northerner, and they let me know it. I had all I could handle to keep their attention for my thirty minutes. Some were with me, some weren’t. It doesn’t get any easier - tomorrow I have three shows. I’ll give it my best. It’s all I can do.

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Travel Troubles

Saturday October 16th, 2010 - New Orleans, LA

Boy, talk about your rough starts to a day. I only managed to get about an hour of sleep because I was up late trying to get organized for my trip. I thought I’d be able to get some sleep on the plane, so I pulled an almost all nighter getting work done during quiet time.

Jim McHugh was kind enough to offer to take me to O’Hare airport since he lives close. In turn, he or his wife can have an extra car when I’m gone. That’s a total win/win and we planned on meeting at Jim’s house at 5:45am. I would have been on time until I suddenly remembered I’d forgotten my passport and turned around to go get it. I totally need that.

I’d taken it out of my computer bag when I went to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, as I didn’t want to risk losing it. It’s a necessity on cruise ship gigs and to be protected like a newborn baby. No passport, no paycheck. No kidding. I’m very thankful I remembered it.

That would have been a major hassle I really didn’t need. I made it to Jim’s house about 6:10, plenty of time to get to the airport for my 8:25 flight. Normally, Jim is up waiting to go. That guy could have spent time in the military as he’s always punctual to the minute.

Today I noticed his house was totally dark. I figured he must have overslept so I tried to avoid waking his family up by sending him a text message. Then another. Then I tried to call his cell phone. Nothing. I didn’t see his car outside, but sometimes he parks it in the garage. I didn’t want to bother his family, but I also needed to get to the airport on time.

I left a message on his cell phone telling him I’d just drive myself and use the long term parking lot. It’s $15 a day but that’s life. I’m gone for four days so that’s $60 in the shorts but it is tax deductible so I’ll just eat it and shut up. Now I was dealing with a time issue.

I started heading toward the airport from his house, only to realize I wasn’t exactly sure of the correct route to get there. The Kennedy Expressway was jammed so I tried to wind my way through the suburbs and it got pretty hairy as I felt my time window close. I was once again in high stress mode as I swerved in and out of traffic like a NASCAR driver.

I finally made it to the remote parking lot, then checked and rechecked everything over and over again. Passport - check. Work order forms - check. Itinerary - check. Computer - check. I took everything out of my car and put it in the trunk to avoid possible theft bait, and then made my way to the station where the free train was leaving for the terminals.

I kept checking my keys, wallet, phone and mentally going over the other things I had to have the whole time I was walking. My parking spot was close enough to see from where I got on the train, and when it came I looked out to see if I could see my car, and I could.

That’s when I got the sinking feeling that also made me laugh out loud. I’d been so busy trying to go over everything I’d forgotten to turn my lights off. There was my old Toyota, lit up like a Christmas tree in a full parking lot. Looks like I’ll be calling AAA next week.

None of this is the end of the world, and I’m not angry or upset about any of it. It’ll be a minor issue that gets dealt with, and life goes on. Jim overslept, and that happens. I’ll get a jump start from someone and that situation will be over. At least I did have my passport.

The thing that stands out the most about all this is - what does any of it have to do with actual comedy? NOTHING. But then again it totally does. If I can’t get to the gig, I can’t do the show. This is all part of the business nobody ever dreams of when they’re starting.

If someone told me when I started I’d be getting up way earlier than if I had a real job to travel ten times farther than most people go on vacation, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they meant. I sure get it now though, maybe a little too much. Travel is part of this game.

I can’t begin to count the trips I’ve taken that started before dawn in complete darkness, only to end up in some bumpkin infested toilet of a town where the local hoochery put on a half assed attempt at a comedy show. My pay in actual money never made up for all the hard work that went into those trips, but hopefully the experience I gained eventually will.

Long cross country excursions like this beat anybody down. They just do. Hours in a car or bus or train or plane are still hours, and they take a toll over many years. One thing that really gets lost is the thrill of it all. At first, going to new places is a total kick. The effort it takes to get there isn’t an issue. After a while though, it’s the only part that stands out.

One of the things that has really been a pain in the ass is airport security. What a waste of valuable resources that all is in my opinion. Yeah yeah, I know there are maniacs who want to hijack planes. I get that, but can’t we come up with a better system of detection?

99.999% of people just want to get to their destination. Can’t there be a frequent traveler card that says how many times a person has passed through security safely? If a salesman from Omaha has made it through security 300 times with no weapons, what’s the remote chance he’ll show up with an AK 47 in his golf bag? I have to imagine it would be small.

I’m learning the ship gig game and now have a smaller piece of luggage I carry on with me rather than check. I was chosen for ‘random’ searching today and the monkey doing it found a fresh can of shaving cream I just bought. She grabbed onto it like an Oscar award she’d just won and smugly declared to everyone “THIS will NOT be going on the plane.”

“Then how the hell am I supposed to shave?” I said loudly enough for everyone to hear. “I can’t help it if the store didn’t have smaller cans.” And I couldn’t. I got what they had, and now I won’t get to use it because some smart ass clueless loser had to play American hero. She put on a fake smile and sarcastically said “Now YOU have a nice day, huh?”

I wanted to kick her hard in her pie fed ass, and at some point I do hope someone does. Of all today‘s events, that was the one that really twisted my gonads. All the other stuff was random chance. This wasn’t. She could have let the damn thing slide. Do I look like a member of the Taliban? Most of those guys don’t even shave. Let me have my property.

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Back On The Boats

Friday October 15th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   Here we go again, out to sea on cruise ships for a few months. Today was my last day to savor the land for a while, and that’s what I did. I rested up and tried to prepare myself for everything that goes with life at sea including lost luggage. I hope that doesn’t happen but if it does at least I’ll know how to handle it. Last time it rocked my world to the very core.

   This time I’m much better prepared. I bought a smaller piece of luggage and won’t have  to take the risk of checking my bag. It’s going to be harder to squeeze everything into that small of a space, but if others do it I guess I’ll have to follow suit. I’m learning sea rules.

   I’ll be flying to New Orleans and have no idea where the ship is going other than I come back via Nassau in the Bahamas. I have no clue who the other comedian is, when my time to perform is or how the audiences are on this particular ship. I’ll find out soon enough.

   This is going to be a tough stretch, and I know that going in. I’ll be out during all of the holidays, and I’ve never done that before. Usually I just lay low and don’t talk to anybody because I don’t want to bring anyone else down. This year I’ll have to pretend I’m cheery, or at least come out of my shell for the shows. I‘m sure I won‘t be the only dented can.

   I really intend to focus on self improvement these next few months. I have a spectacular opportunity to really lay some great groundwork for the rest of my life and I want to really lean into it and take full advantage of it. I can eat healthy at someone else’s expense, have a place to work out and lots of time to accomplish it. If I don’t get this done it’s my fault.

   Last time I was learning the ropes, but even then I still managed to get some work done on several projects. This time I’ll know how to do it even better, and that will involve the making of a daily schedule and sticking to it. Just getting up whenever I do and winging it won’t due. That led to a lot of wasted time that I could have used to get a lot more done.

   One thing I did do was FINALLY clear out my huge rotting pile of festering emails that have been clogging my in box for months. I’ve been meaning to get to them all, and today I finished up the last of them for both of my primary email accounts. I was up around 800 at my worst, but now I’m down to zero on one address and under 10 on the other. Whew.

   That’s been a long time coming, but again - nobody really cares but me. I suppose many of the people I answered may have been able to use something I sent them, but other than that it was only for me. It did give me a huge feeling of accomplishment though and I feel like I’m preparing myself for new and exciting adventures. In my book it was all worth it.

   I also had a dinner date with a woman I’ve known for a while and enjoyed both the food and the company. She’s single at the moment, and was looking especially good tonight so who knows where it will lead? She knows I have my time on the ships so a million things could happen between now and when I get back. For a night, it was fun. Now my brain is getting ready to tackle the challenges that go with the ship gigs. Ahoy matey, here goes.

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

Nobody Cares But Me

Thursday October 14th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

   Yeah, yeah. I’m way behind on what I’d hoped I’d have done by now. What’s new with that? That’s a common theme in my life, but in reality I’m the only one that cares about it even a little. If I were to totally stop what I was doing and drift away, it wouldn‘t matter.

   My whole life I’ve had these grandiose dreams and detailed visions of what I wanted to accomplish, and they went crashing into the rocks below unfulfilled. Nobody else cared a bit, but it sure ripped my heart out of my chest. Why is that inner drive ingrained so deep?

   I don’t have a clue. But it is. I’m fighting the battle against the clock that’s shrinking by the day. I feel myself running out of time trying to accomplish the things I see in my head, and that frustrates the hell out of me and only me on a daily basis. At least it’s contained.

   Excellence or achievement comes from within. There has to be a burning desire inside a person to make them want to go that extra mile which often turns out to be a dozen. They can see the goals they want, but if they never reach them the rest of the world isn’t angry.

   I have all I can handle to keep myself on a steady path of growth. I have an inner vision of what I want to accomplish and what I think I want my life to be, but I’ve sure had a ton of distractions take me off whatever course I may have been on. It all seems like a blur in hindsight, and as I try to objectively see where I am in my life I really can’t figure it out.

   I thought my life would be WAY different than it is right now. Some of the things I had in mind are there, but by far not all. I’m struggling to pick a direction, and when I get one I seem to always find a way to get myself in a situation that blows me even farther off the course that I’ve ever been before. Still, I’m the only one who knows that I’m off course.

   That’s what I’m having so much trouble trying to figure out. What if I were to right now be able to completely erase my current hopes and dreams and be completely satisfied with where my life has gone and what I’m doing now? Everything would change in an instant.

   I’m making enough money to survive, I can sleep as late as I want, I don’t have any kids to feed or child support to pay, I can live anywhere I want and my life doesn’t involve any heavy lifting. I live a life of leisure for the most part, and existing isn’t all that difficult.

     I make my living by talking, and if I’d really wanted to, I could have had free booze for a quarter of a century but I decided not to drink. Other people think I’m crazy, and I know they’re right - but I’m still not even close to being satisfied. I want to accomplish a whole lot more than I have in life, but who cares if I don’t? Nobody is pressuring me but me.

  But what am I supposed to do, just give up everything? It sure would be easier that way, but I wouldn’t be satisfied. But, I’m not satisfied now. So what would make me happy? If I knew that for sure, I’d be doing it. Wouldn’t we all? There has to be a lesson in this, but at the moment I can’t locate it. The best we can all do in life is please ourselves. I think.

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Undiscovered Talent

Wednesday October 13th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

   Back at Zanies in Chicago for the last of my two night run, and it was a nice full crowd. The club only seats about 110, so it doesn’t take all that many to make it seem jammed to the rafters, but it actually was pretty full. Again it was a tight audience, but I got them.

     These people reminded me of the crowds on cruise ships. I could tell they weren’t very hip to comedy, and most were probably first timers. I didn’t insult them, but could feel an underlying stiffness even before I got up. I don’t know why people don’t just relax and let comedians give them a show, but too often they don’t. They think we want them to help.

   Sometimes they’re just plain stupid. In a nation of 300 million people, sometimes it’s a random occurrence that a room full of 100 or so soup heads congregate on a given night. That wasn’t the case tonight though, these people weren’t stupid. They were just a tad bit late on the uptake. I slowed my delivery down and was able to locate their wavelength.

   It wasn’t a great show, but it wasn’t a waste of time either. I felt I got the absolute most I could out of that particular audience, and that’s the best I could do. Was it up to my own personal standards? No, but not many shows are. On this night, this crowd got my best.

   The other two comedians on the show are two of my very favorites - Vince Maranto and Denise Ramsden. I think both of them are extremely funny on stage and I like and respect them both as people too. They’re very professional, and have absolutely paid their dues.

   I’ve known Vince for probably 25 years. He’s well liked among comics and very funny.    He works a lot, makes a living and can still be a father to his son. Is anything wrong with that? Not at all, but in my mind Vince should be higher in the comedy pecking order. He makes me laugh out loud, and minds his own business. All he wants is to pay his bills.

   Denise hasn’t been doing it as long as Vince and me, but she’s got a real style about her that in the right audience really destroys. She isn’t the typical ‘chick act’ and she went out to try her luck in L.A. but eventually moved back. They didn’t get her, but I do. If I had a tiny bit of power, she’d catch her big break. But I don’t. So here we all were at Zanies.

   All three of us were grateful for the work - BUT, in my opinion we all should be farther along in the business than we are. It’s not with bitterness that I say that either. It’s just the result of all of our choices over the years, and for whatever reason we weren’t on that list of chosen ones that made the big time. There just isn’t room for many people on that list.

   That doesn’t mean any of the three of us aren’t successful though. We’ve all stayed with comedy and are still making a living. Denise is also a vendor at Wrigley Field, and works her ass off doing it. I think she’d really kill on TV, and hope she gets her shot. She’s got a smart ass mouth and I love it. It’s FUNNY. Middle America would love her just like they loved Roseanne. I totally see it, but how can I give her that break? Or Vince? I can’t. I’m struggling myself. Just because someone isn’t famous, doesn’t mean they aren’t talented.

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

Chicago's Top Spot

Tuesday October 12th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

   In the world of standup comedy in Chicago, I have achieved what most others dream of. The pinnacle. I’ve headlined the downtown Zanies. Actually, it’s located in Old Town on Wells Street, but everyone refers to it as the downtown location. That’s the place to be.

   That’s where all the greats have played, from Jay Leno to Jerry Seinfeld to Sam Kinison to Richard Lewis to so many more. That’s where every comedian working Chicago wants to be, and whenever anyone from Chicago goes on the road the first thing they’re asked is “Do you work Zanies?” Unfortunately, like anywhere else it becomes a numbers game.

   There are only 52 weeks in any given year. There are a lot more than 52 comedians who are capable of doing the job, so it becomes a matter of many other things including timing and luck and being in the right place at the right time. I’ve been exactly that and I’ve been able to get hired headlining all the Zanies locations in Chicago for years. I’m very lucky.

   Am I grateful for that opportunity? Without a doubt. It’s an honor and I know others are jealous, but that goes with the territory. It adds credibility to my Chicago area profile, but that’s about it. Anywhere else I’m just another schmuck in a long line of many. It’s not an automatic door opener like so many people think it will be. We all have to earn our spots.

   This is a good lesson for everyone coming up the ranks. I remember when I was coming up in Milwaukee, there were two clubs - The Funny Bone and The Comedy Café. I was a Funny Bone guy, and they eventually closed. All of us were out of luck because the Café’ had their favorites, and none of us were it. Their guys got the prime spots, we got nothing.

   That’s kind of how it is at Zanies too, so I’ve been on both sides of the scenario. I have to admit, it’s WAY better to be on the ‘favorites’ list than the outsiders, but after all these years looking back none of it really matters. If a comic is going to develop, he or she will find a place to get stage time. Sooner or later, there will be a place that gives stage time.

   Sometimes it requires moving out of town. I’ve moved around a lot doing radio but did not stop doing comedy. Ever. No matter where I was, I found a place to keep working on my craft, and I’m really glad I did. I never let it atrophy, and all these years later I’m still getting better. My off stage development has been choppy, but on stage I’m still working.

   I’m headlining downtown Zanies for two nights this week because there was an opening and Bert Haas plugged me in. I appreciate it, and even though I was just here yesterday as host of the Rising Star Showcase it feels good to be closing the show. I know every comic in Chicago would leap at the chance, so I never take it for granted. It really is a privilege.

   Despite all that, the crowd tonight wasn’t that great. They were loud and wouldn’t shut up the whole show. The other comics had a hard time with them so I knew what I was in for before I got on. Tuesdays and weekdays in general can be like that, even at a club like Zanies where everyone imagines it to be perfect all the time. Welcome to the real world.

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

See Ya Later, Radiator

Monday October 11th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

   Sometimes it feels like I stumble alone through a life of my own private hell. Super rich athletes are tagging hot chicks left and right, and I’m trying to make sure my radiator isn’t leaking on a car with over 200,000 miles on it. I’m getting screwed too, but it’s different.

   These guys live in a whole different world. I remember back in high school when I was a ball boy for the Milwaukee Bucks. That was back when the NBA was struggling but the players still had it pretty good. I remember hearing one player who wasn’t even that good say with pride that he had kids in about a dozen different towns. This was back in 1980.

   Now it seems to have gotten totally out of control. Players today are making a whole lot more than they were then, and it was pretty insane back then. I guess it would be difficult for anyone to turn down that kind of action, but what does it all mean? It makes me puke.

   People like Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant did what they did, but it wasn’t like they had Ethel Mertz waiting for them when they got home. Both of them had piping hot pieces of filet mignon waiting for them at home. If they didn’t want to get married, why did they?

   I’m not a moral judge, but the whole thing is a sham. If you’re going to go out and have fun, have at it. Derek Jeter isn’t married and I’m sure he’s not without female company if he so chooses. I just don’t see why the ones who cheat do it with such high quality wives.

   This whole new Brett Farve situation is something I refuse to follow closely. It doesn’t interest me in the least, especially if I have to look at his junk on a video. It’s bad enough I have to see him in a putrid purple Vikings uniform. His tingle berry can remain covered.

   Even though I think Favre is a lout and a scumbag, I’m still not convinced that’s him on those pictures just yet. I’m no lawyer, but someone could have impersonated him and had a wrist watch like his. What brand is it, Bruno Magli? I’m sure it will all come out sooner or later, but until it does, I really don’t care. He has a scorching hot wife, isn’t it enough?

   I guess not, but none of that is of my concern. I turn it off when I see it on TV or hear it on the radio because I don’t want any of it polluting whatever positive brainwaves I have left. I have my own problems, even though they’re light years away from that. I had to get my radiator replaced, and total damage was $355. Significant to me, but not anybody else.

   I guess it’s all relative. An unexpected bill for $355 rocks my world, but if Brett Favre’s radiator went out he could buy a new car immediately and pay cash for it and not even put a dent in his checking account. Yeah, I know - life’s just not fair. Tell me something new.

   I hosted the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago tonight and before the show had dinner with Bert Haas. We talked about comedy classes and hosting, and I just don’t have time to do those things right now. They’ve always been good to me, but I’ll never be a big star there. That’s up to me to do on my own. Not easy. It’s hard enough to just squeak by.

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

Sunday Suckage

Sunday October 10, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI/Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

   Today had all the makings of a spectacular day, then everything caved in and now it’s a big ugly nightmare. I woke up to perfect weather, and that usually puts me in a wonderful mood. Today it was just a disguise. This day was bound and determined to be a stinker.

   My friend Richard Caan invited me up to Milwaukee to watch the Packer game and that sounded like fun. I’ve not had a chance to relax and watch an entire game this season and I was looking very forward to it. Richard is also helping me liquidate my sports cards and had a couple hundred dollars from sporadic sales. That’s what made the drive worth it.

   The Packers ended up losing a heartbreaker, and we both saw it coming. I don’t know if it was from our childhood years of watching them get pummeled every week, but we both just knew it wasn’t going to end well, and it didn’t. Mason Crosby’s last second field goal attempt hit the crossbar, and Richard and I both started laughing. Welcome to childhood.

   I had to leave to make it to downtown Chicago to be on WGN radio with Jerry Agar for an hour. We were set to do a Jerry’s Kidders segment, and I left with what I thought was a very nice cushion of time. WRONG. There was nothing but construction and accidents to dodge, and I got marooned in the mix and ended up not getting there until a half hour late.

   That feeling of intense stress with no way to stop it is pure hell. No matter what I did, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to get through traffic any faster, and no matter how angry or upset I’d get that wouldn’t change. I tried to just be calm and let it go, but that’s not easy, especially in Chicago traffic. I did end up getting there halfway through, but it wasn’t fun.

   I didn’t feel very funny at all, even though I could see I was making the spectators laugh on Michigan Avenue. The WGN studios are right on the street and the public can gawk at us like monkeys at a zoo. There was a large crowd today, and I could see them laughing.

   Normally, we go out for a meal after the Kidders and relax. I only had a few minutes for hanging, and then I had to leave for WLIP in Kenosha for The Mothership Connection at 8pm. Traffic was a lot less congested, but I noticed my temperature needle was on high.

   I had no time to stop, even though I knew there was a possibility of blowing the engine by keeping it running. I had to risk it, as there was nobody else to run the show. If the car blew up, there was a chance I could catch a ride from one of the co-hosts or end up taking a cab. I kept on driving, and watched the needle bob up and down with zero regularity.

   I’ve never seen anything like it. That thing bounced all over the place from up in the hot zone to down on ’C’ and everywhere in between. I don’t think it was just the needle and it will probably be expensive to fix. This is the last thing I need before heading back to sea.

   I dropped the car off at a radiator place in Waukegan, and my friend Shelley was nice to drop me off at home. At least the car situation helped me forget about all the Packer pain.

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dealing With Disappointment

Saturday October 9th, 2010 - Saukville, WI

   It was only last night that I saw the band Kansas perform, but the lesson I learned from their show has paid off less than 24 hours later. They gave me a splendid performance at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, IL. Whatever they thought off stage never touched me.

   The band could have been exhausted from the road, fighting with either themselves or  spouses, sick with colds or the flu, whatever. None of that mattered when it came time for the show, and they leaned into it and brought home what the people there were expecting.

   Actually, it was more than we were expecting. Maybe there were some regular fans who knew what to expect, but a lot of us were first timers and we were blown away. That’s the lesson I learned - even after 35 years of performing those songs, we’d never seen them do it so they had to win us over. And they totally did. I’d go see them again and bring others.

  That lesson couldn’t have come at a better time, as I was booked back at a place called ‘The Railroad Station’ in Saukville, WI. I’d worked there the day before my birthday last March, and although there were a few technical issues it was a pretty good show. We had about 146 people show up, and it was a no brainer that this time we’d draw even more.

   Well, I guess no brains were involved because we didn’t even come close to that many this time, and it was a major disappointment. Richard Halasz was the one who promoted the both shows, and he couldn’t have worked any harder. I felt worse for him than me.

   Richard is a great guy and honest to a fault. He put hours of time into this show sending out postcards and flyers and telling everyone he knew. The place holds probably 200 or so and I thought we’d be turning them away. Ha. I wish. We both did. The club owner too. It was maybe half full, even though as the night progressed a few more people wandered in.

   It really was a kick in the teeth no matter what the reasons were. The weather was great, and that’s a killer in the northern regions like Wisconsin. People went to their cottages up north or stayed home or did a lot of things other than come to see a live comedy show at a place that rarely does shows of any kind, much less comedy. It was not our night to draw.

   That didn’t mean the show wasn’t good though. I was bummed that we didn’t draw, but I told myself before the show started that I wasn’t going to let it show and the people who did show up were going to get my very top performance, and that’s exactly what they got.

   This was by FAR my best showing for ‘Schlitz Happened!’ to date. The Schauer Center in Hartford was a very good show, but this was light years ahead of it. I was smoother and more in control, and I felt myself ad libbing some funny lines the whole night. It was fun.

   I did an hour an twenty-two minutes, and had a ton of material left over. I was soaked to the skin with sweat when I was done, and physically and emotionally exhausted too. I did give all I had, and those people loved it. They didn’t need to know of my disappointment.

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

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Night In Kansas

Friday October 8th, 2010 - St. Charles, IL

   It’s been a long time coming, but I finally got to see the band Kansas perform live. Why it took this long, I have no idea. I’ve always liked them, but haven’t had a chance to catch them live until tonight. They were sure worth the wait. WOW, what a spectacular show.

   My taste in music has always been odd for a white boy from Milwaukee. As a kid, most of my friends liked the mainstream rock bands of the day like Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, but I never liked those. I was listening to Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown, Cameo, Rick James and even heavy gospel music by people like Walter Hawkins and Andrae Crouch.  

  I have no idea why I liked that stuff, but I did. I didn’t care what anybody else thought, it was what I liked. And, for whatever reason, I liked Kansas too. I first discovered them via  one their album covers of all things. It was ‘Leftoverture’, and I saw it at a record store.

   I happen to be left handed, and that cover caught my eye. I don’t remember exactly how or when I got it, but I eventually did and it just hit me. I liked every song on the album but it was nothing like anything else I liked at the time. They were different, and they still are.

   As I got older, I learned to appreciate a lot of the music my peer group liked as kids. I’m now a big fan of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and even Journey who I absolutely couldn’t stand back then. I still can’t stand Pink Floyd or KISS, even though I’d probably go see each of them for the showmanship value of it. As far as their music goes though, it’s total tripe.

   Kansas always stood out to me on a musical level, even though I know nothing about it. I know it’s intricate and unique and I never get sick of listening to it when I get in a mood to hear it. I can’t count all the times I’ve popped in a cassette or CD on a brutal drive to or from some hell hole comedy gig and it’s helped make it shorter. Their music soothes me.

   My all time favorite song is ‘Hold On’ off the Audio Visions album. That song gets my juices pumping. The lyrics “it’s closer than you think, and you’re standing on the brink” always inspire me and I never get sick of hearing them. They still speak to me even now.

   I’m a fan of quality entertainment of all kinds, mostly because I know how difficult it is to pull off. The odds are stacked against anyone from creating a product that stands out in any creative field, and those who achieve it have my utmost respect. People come and go, trends come and go, windows of opportunity come and go, and those who hit it are rare.

   George Clinton sure did it with Parliament/Funkadelic. He oversaw the creation of what turned out to be one of the most unique acts ever, and they still have rabid fans years later because the product is pure. It took years to create, and the musicians all respect the craft.

   Kansas is the same way. They’re still out there touring, cranking out consistently solid shows for old fans and new. They are by no means an oldies act, even though I’m sure the majority of people my age would assume that. Those guys are practitioners of their craft.

   My friend Rick Piccolo used to be a drummer and is now chasing his comedy dream by getting on stage and performing regularly. He did it years ago, then like a lot of people he stopped and let life happen. I see more and more of those people coming back to comedy later in life, and there’s nothing at all wrong with it. Rick has always been a comedy fan.

   He came to me a couple of years ago and wanted to get back in the game. I always try to help anyone I can, especially when they’re sincere about learning. It’s just a good move to help someone whenever possible, at least I think so. That karma bank can use some coins.

   Rick mentioned he used to work for a drum company and had crossed paths with quite a few big time acts, one of them being Phil Ehart, the drummer from Kansas. I happened to mention to Rick how much I liked Kansas, and he told me he’d get me in to see them live and meet them backstage. I didn’t doubt he could do it, but it took forever to line it all up.

   We’d talked about it a few other times, but either I was on the road or Rick was busy or who knows what else? Tonight happened to work out, and it was worth the wait. We had seats front and center only a few rows back in a beautifully restored theatre located in St. Charles, IL called The Acrada. Rick brought two other friends and everyone had a blast.

   I knew I’d enjoy the show, but the band exceeded my expectations after the first two or three songs. The musicianship and showmanship of all those years came to the stage front and center and never left until we were all standing after the encore. That was a real show from start to finish, and I enjoyed every note. I knew all the songs, and it was a real treat.

   Halfway through their set they played ‘Hold On’ and it took the show to an even higher level, at least with me. The other people there were into it as well, and the band could do no wrong with any of us. We were there to be entertained, and they knew how to do it.

   I thought everyone was red hot, and the whole show sounded exquisite - but did it? I’m a musical idiot, and probably couldn’t tell if something was wrong unless the actual stage was on fire. To me, everything sounded dead on razor sharp and perfect. But I wonder.

   I know how I can get after my  shows, and when I find something I don’t like it tends to ruin what I think of the entire show. Many nights I’ve had people lining up to tell me how funny I was, but I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear from sheer embarrassment of how I’d stunk up the stage and wasted everyone‘s time. I have to believe I‘m not alone.

  After the show, Rick got us backstage to meet Phil Ehart. They’re good friends, but what do you say to a guy who just lit it up like that for two hours? I felt really uncomfortable in that situation but I thanked him for all the great music and said how much fun I had, and I totally did. We didn’t stay long, and when I thanked Rick he said it was no big deal at all.

   But it was. What a thrill to finally see those guys live after being a fan for so long. I had never seen their set before, but they’d done it thousands of times. They could’ve phoned a show in, but they didn’t. It was magnificent, and a lesson for me to always give my best.

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