Monday, April 30, 2012
Monday April 30th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL
I found more passion projects to goof around with today, even though none of these are paying any immediate financial dividends either. Money has never been such a crucial issue as it is now, and it does take focus off all the fun I should be having. I am having some, but I feel distracted.
Still, I was awakened by my usual early Monday morning phone call from Stone and Double T on WXRX in Rockford, IL. They have me on every Monday, and I try to have at least some kind of prepared piece ready to go. They don’t have to have me on, and I don’t have to do it. But I do.
Why? I like those guys for one, but that’s not a good enough reason. When I really boil it down it’s just a glorified weekly ego massage. Actually, that’s rather pathetic on my part. It’s flattering to be asked, and those guys are great – but it’s not ever going to be a career builder. It’s just not.
I’ve been on their show at least 50 times through the years, and I don’t think I’ve ever had even ONE single solitary soul come see me perform, buy a CD or even send me an email to say they’d heard me on the station. Ever. That’s not smart business, yet I still go on every week. Am I nuts?
That would be rather difficult to dispute after stating the facts. If Bob and Tom in Indianapolis would have me on as often as Stone and Double T, I’m sure I’d be at least regionally well known by now. They’re on in about 200 markets. Stone and Double T are on in Rockford - and that’s it.
I have nothing against Rockford, and I truly like Stone and Double T as people. They’re nice to me, and I appreciate it. Bob and Tom had me physically thrown out of their studio and then their building. Then they had me kicked off their live tour which paid great money and would’ve been a huge boost for both my bank account and fan base. But they don’t like me, so I’m off their list.
Unfortunately, from a business standpoint being a nice person means less than nothing. I could be a total wank pole, but if I could pack rooms I’d be back on Bob and Tom in a minute. I’d also get to work all the Funny Bones who won’t touch me now because they’re apparently honked off about a perceived line I crossed with a blog I wrote more than a year ago. Petty? Unfair? Uh huh.
That’s too bad for me. LIFE is petty and unfair, and until I find a way to go around the insanity of it all, I have to keep swallowing bitter pills and press forward. Those guys could help me now, but they choose to ignore me completely. They have that power. Stone and Double T don’t have much if any power, but they choose to help me however they can. Go figure. It’s a crazy world.
The nice guy in me would continue to be on with Stone and Double T as long as they continue to have me. It doesn’t hurt anyone, and it really is fun. They treat me great, even though I’ve not gotten any positive feedback from listeners or one gig from it. Business wise, it just doesn’t help.
The other project I worked on today was The Unshow podcast with Jeff Schneider. That might have a chance to turn a buck, but there are no guarantees. I know we have interesting content, but how are we going to get the word out? We are heard nightly on www.PKNRadio.com at 5:30pm Central Time, and have a weekend replay. It’s a start, but passion needs to get paid and pronto.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 10:59 PM
Sunday April 29th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI
If having fun were currency, I’d be a one man mint. All the activities I’m doing in my life right now are exactly what I enjoy, but turning a respectable buck with any of them remains just out of reach. If I knew exactly what I needed to do to remedy that, I’d do it in half a second. Or sooner.
This afternoon I had a comedy class to teach at Zanies in Chicago. I love to teach those classes, and I know they do good for people on many levels. Those who want to be actual comedians can have a great resource to get started correctly, and it will save them years of making the same old stupid mistakes most newbies end up making. Those who just want to have fun can do that too.
There’s a very nice mix in this particular group, and they’re hungry to learn. They’ve asked all the right questions, and I see genuine effort coming from all of them. That makes it worth a drive into Chicago on a Sunday afternoon and a hunt for a parking space. Bill Gorgo was able to show up, and he always adds to classes. He’s a teacher in real life, and like me enjoys seeing progress.
Gideon Bailey is another veteran comedian who has taught his own comedy classes in the past, and he knows one of the current students so he volunteered to stop by and hang out. I hadn’t seen him in years, but he stepped right in and added to the class nicely. I never have a problem letting another comic sit in if they have two requirements – competence and sincerity. Gideon has both.
Between the three of us, those students got WAY more than they paid for whether they realized it or not. Class flew by, and there’s always a buzz of positive energy at the end because of all the focus that’s required to teach a quality class. Teaching is a joy, and this is a win/win all around.
Now if I can just find a way to make a consistent living with it. Yes, Zanies does charge for the classes and Bill and I get paid, but it needs to be taken to a higher level if I’m ever going to make any real money. I know I have a quality product, but just like my comedy I haven’t done the best job of marketing it. I should have all kinds of products by now, and more of an online presence.
After class I drove up to Kenosha, WI for another radio ride on The Mothership Connection on AM 1050 WLIP. There’s another project that’s a total blast but this one doesn’t bring in a nickel. At least I make a few bucks teaching the comedy classes. The Motheship Connection is done for the love of it, but love doesn’t pay any bills. What can I do to change that? I’m about loved out.
We had an extra packed show tonight, with Mark Gumbinger and Lou Rugani in studio talking about Mark’s DVD documentary ‘The Titanic Disaster’. He really did do a stellar job with it and was fascinating as he told the story of what actually happened the night it sank. Lou knows about a lot of different subjects, and between the two of them it made for two hours of stimulating talk.
We also had a return appearance from one of our very favorite guests of all time named Pamala Oslie who is an expert in reading aura colors. She’s flat out fascinating, and I highly recommend a visit to her website at www.auracolors.com. We had four hours of interesting content tonight.
Days like this are what I live for, and they fly by because I’m having so much fun. Now I need to find a way to put some cash in the coffers while I’m doing it. That’s been the glitch for years.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 5:13 PM
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Saturday April 28th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL
I was saddened to learn of the passing today of former Yankees and White Sox baseball player Bill ‘Moose’ Skowron at age 81. I had the pleasure of meeting him years ago and thought he was a delightful human being. He was friendly and funny and lit up the whole room when he entered.
He owned or at least partly owned a bar with a restaurant not far from U.S. Cellular Field, and I went there after a White Sox game once with a comedian friend named Ross Bennett. I turned Ross on to wheeling and dealing sports cards as something to do on the road, and he enjoyed it.
In fact, he’s the one who suggested we go visit the bar in the first place. He’d heard Moose was a nice guy, and often showed up to sign autographs and visit with the customers. There happened to be a card show in town that weekend, and Moose was scheduled to be a paid autograph guest.
Ross thought instead of paying to go to the card show which would include more money to pay for parking and then paying again for an autograph, it would be a better idea to go to a Sox game and relax, then hit the bar to see if Moose might stop in. Even if he didn’t, it was worth the risk.
The game was a lot of fun, and then we went to the bar afterward but there was no Moose. We were fine with that, and each of us ordered a rack of ribs that were flat out delicious. Ross is one of my favorite people and always has been, so we hung out and enjoyed our meal and friendship.
About halfway through our rib dinner, sure enough in walked Moose with a big old grin on his face and an aura around him like he owned the joint - which he did. People gravitated toward his positive energy, and he was shaking hands and greeting people like a politician at a whistle stop.
He worked his way around the room, and eventually came over to our table. Ross and I didn’t mention we were comedians, as we didn’t want to upstage Moose. This was his home stage, and we both respected that. Plus, he was such an engaging fellow it would have been hard to take the spotlight from him. We were both just happy to have a chance to share some face time with him.
We bantered back and forth a bit, and then Ross politely asked him for an autograph, which he signed without question. It would have probably cost at least $60 with parking and admission to the card show, but here he got one for about $20 and it came with a rib feast. Now that’s a deal!
It was a wonderfully pleasant experience all around, and I was always a rabid fan of Moose’s after that. I’d never really heard much about him one way or another, only that he’d played with the Yankees and was friends with Mickey Mantle. I didn’t even know he was a Chicago native. All it took was a few minutes of personal contact, and I wanted to know everything about him.
It’s remarkable to see what being a quality person will do. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, as both Chicago newspapers talked freely of how popular he was with players and fans alike. We should all strive to have our obituary read like Moose’s. One after another, quotes said what a great guy he was and how he’ll be missed. That’s what life is all about in my opinion. I’m sorry Moose Skowron has passed, but he sure didn’t waste his 81 years. That guy was a success.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 9:20 PM
Friday, April 27, 2012
Thursday April 26th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI/Madison, WI/Niles, IL
As the song from the ‘70s by Brass Construction says - ‘You got to get UP to get down.’ I need to find a way to make something good happen, and I won’t be able to get that done sitting on any couches. Action is needed. I have to go rattle some cages and see who I can find to help me do it.
Today I had a full day of cage rattling, starting extra early with breakfast at Miss Katie’s Diner in Milwaukee with my friend Lynn Miner. Lynn was a student at my comedy class years ago, but I’ve learned way more from him than he has from me. He’s always been willing to offer his help.
Lynn used to be affiliated with Marquette University, but I’m not sure of the exact title he had. I know he was a bigwig, as whenever I’d visit him there the people at the reception desk jumped up to do whatever he said whenever he said it. It’s good to have friends in high places, and Lynn is definitely one. What’s even better is that he doesn’t act like a big shot. He’s just a regular guy.
Another big shot with Marquette ties I met through Lynn is Jim Peck. Jim lived in Los Angeles for years and hosted quite a few network game shows. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, and Jim is a world class broadcaster. Not only is he a total pro at what he does, he’s about as quick witted and funny off the cuff as it gets. He’s got a deadpan comic delivery that cracks me up every time.
Jim happened to be having breakfast at Miss Katie’s and came over to join Lynn and me while we were brainstorming ideas. Jim still does radio in Milwaukee on WTMJ, and both of them had some helpful ideas of what I might want to do to help get off the road and back myself up with a source of income that doesn’t come from comedy clubs. These are two contacts to value highly.
Actually, I have more quality contacts than I think. I tend to not be one to ask for favors, and if I like someone I like them for who they are and not for what they can do for me. I don’t think I’d be overstepping my bounds to ask my contacts for a hand. People ask me for help constantly, and most times I’ll do whatever I can without thinking twice. Now it’s my turn to get some in return.
After breakfast I drove to Madison, WI for an appointment I had with an account executive for a radio station. I’m still interested in developing a market between the four city squared circle of Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford and Madison is my weakest link. I don’t have a ton of high powered connections there yet, but I really think it could be developed as a solid market.
I’ve never been a hit with the college crowd anywhere, but I’ve found there to be a lot of smart people in Madison who aren’t of college age that love what I do. They’re not really being served right now, and I want to secure new venues and produce some comedy shows there later this fall.
If nothing else, I made another connection for future reference. I think the meeting went pretty well, even though I don’t know if the guy took me seriously. We’ll see, but at least I took it upon myself to take action and make a connection. I want Madison to be a place I work in the future.
Tonight I hung out at Marc Schultz’s house for dinner and watched the NFL draft. We talked a lot more about comedy than football, and he’s also someone that has always been in my corner in a time of need. Not everyone hates my guts, and those are the people I need to connect with now.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:26 PM
Wednesday April 25th, 2012 – Chicago, IL
Times are getting tougher than I’ve ever seen them - and that’s saying a lot. I’ve had more than my share of difficulty trying to survive before, but not like now. Money is ridiculously tight, and the price of gas isn’t helping anyone except oil companies. How is anyone supposed to make it?
I got the dreaded last minute call today telling me that two shows I was booked for in Ohio this weekend won’t be happening, and that was a big time buzz kill. Even if it wasn’t much, that was my income for the week. Now it’s a big zero. I didn’t really want to go to Ohio, but this is worse.
On top of that, I’m not getting anywhere with the idiot who booked that debacle in Berwyn, IL a few weeks ago where the thick skulled and even thicker necked Croatian heckler that had to be bum rushed and thrown out by (count ‘em) THREE bouncers. I’m hearing a lot of excuses - none of them valid. Chances are I’ll never see a nickel, and I’m the much bigger idiot for showing up.
Piled high on top of everything is the chunk of change I’m owed for the wonderful weekend in West Virginia that fell out in March. That really hurts, as it was a significant amount of cash with a comma in the total and I was counting on it heavily. Having it taken away that close to the date was inexcusable, and I still should be paid in full in my opinion. But that’s all it is – an opinion.
Fortunately, that opinion happens to be shared by the booking agent I used to negotiate the deal in the first place. It’s Tom Sobel out of Louisville, and he stood to make a payday as well. He did the professional job he always does in putting the deal together, and sure earned his commission.
I’m sorry the event didn’t happen, but that’s neither Tom’s nor my fault. We had all negotiated a deal between the three of us, and two of us need to be paid. Good luck with that. I’m not seeing much hope of getting a check without going to some kind of small claims court, but that will take time, money and aggravation nobody has to spare right now. I don’t need that. I need my money.
Tom Sobel has always been great to work with, and I’m sorry this happened for both of us. He goes out of his way to be fair and ethical in his dealings with both comedians and venues, and if all bookers were like him I’d be out of things to bitch about. But they aren’t. And I’m bitching.
There were a lot of years when I never had to deal with anything close to this. Whatever money I’d been promised, I got. Once in a while there’d be an isolated incident like with that belligerent bully biker bastard in Milwaukee who still owes me $400 from 1992, but those were exceptions.
Now it seems to be happening left and right, and I’m not digging it. Cancellations are also a lot more common now than I’ve ever seen them. I think I’ve lost more work this year than I got, and I know I’m not the only one who’s experiencing this disturbing new trend. It’s the Wild West out there, and quite scary. There used to be if not rules at least guidelines and courtesies to the game.
Not anymore. Everything seems to have been thrown out the window and it’s everyone on their own to figure it out for themselves. I’m old school, but I’m going to have to adapt or get out and do something else for a living. I’ve squeaked by this long, but it’s getting trickier every week.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 12:52 PM
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Sunday April 22nd, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI
No. Not again. Yes. Again. It’s another direct kick to the keester by life with a steel toe combat boot dipped in vinegar. I am now a living, breathing, walking official example of Grade A stupid and I don’t know whether to scream or cry. I did both on the way home tonight, but it still hurts.
What in the black hole of Uranus was I thinking anyway? The very definition of stupidity itself is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I have tried time after time to fill up a particular room for a specific purpose, usually to benefit charity, but I constantly fall short and am bitterly disappointed afterward. It happened again tonight, and I’m devastated.
This one took every last bit of wind out of my sail, even though I thought it would be different this time for some insane reason. I needed roughly 100 people to make the suggested donation of $11 to cover all my expenses for the C. Cardell Willis Tribute Show at Shank Hall in Milwaukee tonight, but only 80 showed up. I was grateful for every one of them, but I’m still upside down.
I honestly thought I did all I could do, and expected a WAY better turnout. Nobody who came out knew the difference, and when the room was sat it looked relatively full at first glance, but it was a total ‘comb over’. There were empty seats everywhere, and I noticed every one of them all night as I walked back and forth throughout the room doing my hosting duties. This was painful.
I have no idea what else I could have done to promote this show, and to see the return numbers so small made me want to end my life and move on to whatever if anything is next on the docket. If there is another side, it has to be better than this. If I didn’t have someone in the car with me as I drove home, I swear this might have been the night I drove into a wall. It stung me that badly.
The fact is, the general public en masse is just not interested in whatever I have to offer. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it appears to be true. I feel like a human Edsel right now. Contrary to popular belief, the Edsel’s demise was not because it was a bad car. The Corvair was a bad car.
The Edsel flopped because it didn’t sell to a large enough audience. The masses just didn’t take to it, and the plug was pulled. The same thing happened with New Coke. It never was able to get a big enough customer base to keep it around. These are prime examples of supply and demand.
Whatever I’ve been supplying, a large demand for it hasn’t been there. I feel like I’ve been on the wrong planet since birth, and I never felt more that way than tonight. Apparently, my passion for paying tribute to someone who gave his life helping others was not shared by as many others as I had imagined. I thought for sure we’d be able to put at least 300 poopers in the pews tonight.
I had an extremely difficult time hiding my disappointment all night, but I had no choice. I was the one who put this whole thing together, and I had to smile and pretend everything was peachy. The people who came out had a wonderful time, and I’m delighted they did. That’s exactly what was supposed to happen. What wasn’t supposed to happen was that I lost money. That was what I hoped wouldn’t happen the most, but it did. I guess I could be angry, but what would that do to change anything? I tried my best to pull this off, but it flopped. Where are the keys to my Edsel?
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:34 PM
Monday, April 23, 2012
Friday April 21st, 2012 – Wilmington, IL
I think I ended up learning a lesson tonight, but I’m still a little fuzzy as to what it actually was. I did a one nighter in Wilmington, IL I wasn’t looking forward to that turned out to be a very hot show and I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it was. Top to bottom, it was a total blast.
I did a show at the same place maybe two years ago, and it was a pretty rough night. There was an incessantly babbling drunken female heckler – the worst kind, and that turned it into more of a verbal fist fight than a comedy show. And there was a sparse turnout on top of that. No fun at all.
This time, it was the polar opposite. The place was over full, and they even had to haul in extra chairs from the restaurant next door to make room for everybody. I got to bring my own opening acts, and I chose Mike All and Daryl Moon. Both did a fine job, and appreciated the opportunity.
The whole thing went about as well as a one nighter in Wilmington, IL could go. The audience was there to laugh, and they hung on every word. The show built correctly, and everyone in front of me did exactly what they were supposed to. If every night was like this, life would be a party.
I even sold some merchandise. People didn’t flinch when I said my new DVDs were $15, even though I hesitated a little when I said it. I’ve never felt comfortable selling anything after a show, but it’s becoming a necessity to survive. I’ve tried to keep it simple and reasonably priced for the most part, and all I’ve had to sell were CDs at $10 each. But I’ve seen guys get as much as $20.
I’ve seen a lot of others get $15. I think a lot of it is how it’s presented. If someone comes up at the end of a show and wants to buy something, price is usually not the issue. They want to take a little piece of their experience home, and often they’ve had a few cocktails so that helps open the wallet a little easier. I’ve observed the process for years, but I’m still uncomfortable executing it.
The best marketers I’ve seen usually have a mediocre act at best. They put laser beam focus on the marketing, and their act is just a means to an end. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s never been where my attention has been. My focus has been on doing the shows.
If someone should happen to want to buy a CD afterward, I’m happy to oblige. I tried offering t-shirts for a while, but that was a huge pain in the ass for many reasons. No matter what size I’m carrying, there’s always some freak of nature dwarf or 7 foot Swahili tribesman who has to have a special size that I don’t have, and then I get that size and then don’t sell another one for years.
All of these are useful lessons to learn, and I’d be smart if I started applying them to my career – or lack thereof. Doing shows in bars in Wilmington, IL and towns like it is not what I pictured myself to be doing at this point in my life. There was nothing wrong with those people, and I did enjoy myself tonight. But on a larger scale, this is just not what’s going to put me over the top.
But what is? That’s the nagging $64,000 question that’s been eating me alive and still is. I gave this particular gig a second chance, and I’m glad I did. The first time didn’t thrill me, but this one made up for it. I didn’t get rich, but they treated me like I was famous. That’s not the worst thing.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 9:47 AM
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Friday April 20th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI/Fox Lake, IL
The big weekend for the C. Cardell Willis tribute show is finally here, and I have to admit I am more than a little apprehensive about drawing enough people to see it to cover my expenses. No, that would be the wrong choice of words. FEAR would be much more accurate. I have no idea if anybody will show up, even though I have spent months trying to get the word out to everybody.
Without a doubt, this is THE hardest I’ve ever worked on promoting any one single show in all my life. It’s a one time chance to honor someone who meant a lot to me, and I want to pull it off with style and class. I’m going into it as how I would like it if someone was doing this for me.
Unfortunately, Cardell is the last person I need to worry about. He’s already done his part, now it’s a matter of setting everything up correctly on both sides of the microphone. I have a fantastic lineup of comedians, and I couldn’t be happier everyone I asked agreed to be part of this event.
It really is a solid mix of local talent from the old days, and I have no doubt they will all put on a killer night of entertainment. People are coming in from Philadelphia, Phoenix and Portland for this and I want to make it worth everyone’s while. There are no second chances. I have to nail it.
Getting people in the room is what worries me more than a little. I’ve been trying to get people to fill all kinds of rooms for comedy or charity shows since I started performing in 1983 and I’ve been painfully unsuccessful the entire time. Some nights have been better than others, but I can’t think of one show that really blew the roof off of anywhere. But that’s what I want for Sunday.
Just ONE night I want to have a full house of people who want to enjoy themselves, and have a killer show that’s recorded and able to be passed on for the ages. If I can do that, I’ll feel as if my life has had at least a little bit of worth and wasn’t a complete waste of time. This is my big shot.
I know I’m probably setting myself up for major disappointment, but I’m going to roll the dice and take the chance anyway. This is just the right thing to do on so many levels, and if I lose my ass, shirt and everything else - I still think it’s worth doing. It’s a culmination of my life’s work.
I was supposed to be on the radio this morning at 7:20 to promote Sunday’s show, but I was up so late working that I slept right through it. I never do that, but I did it today. Steve DeClark set it up for me, and he’s one of the comedians on the show. I texted him in a panic, and he handled it.
I don’t care that I wasn’t on the show, as long as word gets out. I did drive up to Milwaukee for a breakfast with my cousin Wendy who also said she’d help spread the word. She slipped me $20 to donate to the cause, and that’s exactly where it will all go. I also stopped at ESPN Radio to see Drew Olson, who had plugged it on the air during ‘The D List’. I’m grateful to all for their help.
In my eyes, I’ve done about all I can do with the resources I have. I’ve emailed everyone in my circle of contacts that might have a chance knowing anyone near Milwaukee, and asked if they’d help spread the word. I’ve also begged the comedians to help, but that’s not how most comedians are. That’s what scares me. We’re performers, not promoters. I hope this works, but who knows?
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 11:36 AM
Thursday April 19th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL
I’m in one of those moods where I question the very reason for not only my existence, but that of the entire world. Why are any of us here, and why don’t we have a concrete reason? Doesn’t it seem like a big waste of time and energy to be stumbling through life without any real purpose?
It does to me. I still haven’t figured anything of significance out in all my years of existing on a crazy out of control planet, and I feel farther away from any answers now than I ever have. It just feels so random and half assed, and I don’t think life should work like that. But who am I to say?
I would think there should be SOME kind of logical order in all this insane chaos, but I haven’t found it yet. My grandfather’s saying of ‘cream and bastards rise to the top’ hits home now more than it ever has. Something’s wrong. Why isn’t life fair? I don’t know, and it’s driving me crazy.
The good seem to die younger and younger, but the scumbags won’t. Why has Charles Manson managed to live this long and get free meals, medical care and housing? Not only that, he’s even got women (plural) who want to marry him? This is insane to me, but it’s true. And it’s not a one shot deal either. Ted Bundy and ‘The Night Stalker’ Richard Ramirez had chicks want them too.
Really? I can’t get a date on a Saturday night because the divorcee with three kids I ask out has a headache or needs to get her toenails painted and blows me off, but some psychotic murderer in prison gets panties and nudie pics mailed to him by the pound. Something’s WAY wrong there.
And I can think of at least one hundred comedians like myself who have been out there busting ass bones for decades trying to bring a few laughs to the world and scratch out a humble living in the process, but we’re still unknown and fumbling through life in squalor and obscurity. But then I see idiot after idiot get constant network television coverage when they didn’t even ask for it.
I find the human race as a species to be filled to the brim with stupidity, selfishness and having absolutely no hint of a clue as to what life is even about. I know I don’t know, and it’s frustrating beyond words. I’m also trying my best not to be stupid or selfish, but that’s not working out very well either. The more I learn, the more I don’t know. And I could do more to help others as well.
What does any of this mean? I wish I knew. I get up every morning with the best of intentions, but then at the end of the day I’m usually disappointed with how little of substance I’ve actually managed to accomplish. Maybe I’ve done a little something trivial to please myself in the short run, but as far as making a lasting contribution to the greater good of humanity – failure again.
There are some very solid people in this world, and I’m striving with all my might to be one of them. But there are far too few others in my opinion who are complete wastes of a perfectly good orgasm. They’re eating our food and breathing our air, but what they give back doesn’t add up to what they take. They’re dead weight, and slowing down whatever progress needs to take place.
Again, who am I to say any of this? I’ve got my own problems trying to survive myself. I know I’m an idiot too, and it doesn’t thrill me in the least. I’ve got sky high aspirations in life, but have no idea how I’m ever going to attain them. Sadly, I probably won’t – and that’s so disappointing.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 9:29 AM
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wednesday April 18th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL
Back home and back to work. And I like it. Despite all the obstacles I may be facing, I am still in a position to be ultimately successful in all areas of my life and that’s the plan. I may stray off course more than a little, but in the big picture I haven’t given up and am still in the game to win.
I know have a lot of irons in the fire, but all of them are projects I really enjoy. It now becomes a matter of which one or ones are most important, and make them profitable. Right now, I am off in too many directions at once, even though I’m working on getting better all the time. And I am.
The project I need to focus on right this minute is the C. Cardell Willis tribute show coming up this Sunday in Milwaukee. I’ve done a lot of work getting the groundwork laid, and now I’ll wait to see if my efforts will be rewarded with a turnout. People have assured me they’d show up, but as my grandpa used to say “I’ve heard ducks like them fart under water before.” Who can tell?
I just want to make it a special night to honor Cardell’s memory. He was such a positive caring soul, I’d hate to see the milestone of his 75th birthday come and go without fanfare. I’m not even 50, but if anyone would want to pay tribute to me at 75 whether I’m living or not I’d be honored.
Whatever happens on Sunday, I’m all in now. The hall has been rented, the word has been put out, and those who will show up will show up. I’ve got a couple of radio appearances scheduled for Friday, as well as being on the list for fallouts for a couple of TV shows. Will that help to put fannies in seats? Who can say? I don’t think it can hurt, but I can’t guarantee it will help either.
What’s really important is what I do after that show is over. Monday it’s back to work again to start on the next project. It’s already almost May, and the year is slipping away as they all tend to do. Years melt into decades, and before long my life will be over too. What can I do to make the most of my remaining days? I have gargantuan aspirations of what I’d like to get accomplished.
The sad fact is, in all likelihood I won’t get to a tenth of them. I’ve pissed away a lot of time on just trying to survive that I’ve never been able to really graduate to that next level. It’s a crushing disappointment, but that’s how it is. Do I just give up and let my days drift away, or do I fight?
Dick Clark died today at age 82. There’s a guy who not only found a way to make it happen for himself - he kept it going for decades. Wow, what a super success story he was. Is there even one other person that has come close to having touched as many people as Dick Clark? From hosting American Bandstand to The $10,000 Pyramid to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, his reach was wide.
I was fortunate enough to have interviewed him a couple of times by phone during my various morning radio incarnations, and found him to be a consummate professional and true gentleman. He had a vibe about him, even on the phone. He achieved a level of success few others ever do.
Dick Clark touched millions. Cardell Willis touched considerably less, but was still a positive influence to many, myself included. Hopefully I can have a positive impact somewhere as well.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 10:21 AM
Tuesday April 17th, 2012 – Tucson, AZ/Windlake, WI
Today brought the reality home with a vengeance of why I need to get off the road. I was up by 3:30am to make a 4am taxi to the airport. As nice as the club was to me this weekend, I couldn’t in good conscience ask anyone to give me a ride at that hour. I sucked it up and paid for the cab.
My flight was at 6:30am, but I wanted to make sure I made it and I did. Then I had a four hour layover in Denver that I used to go over my notes and prepare for life after Sunday when my big charity event is done. That’s been taking my focus lately, but after that life will be a clean slate.
Twelve hour travel days have long lost their luster, even though I do get to fly a lot more often now than when I started. I didn’t fly at all for several years. I remember how big league it felt the first time I flew to a gig, but that thrill has long passed. Now I dread it, even though it saves time.
Had I driven to Tucson and back, I would have been a lot more worn out than I already was as I got off the plane in Milwaukee at 4:15pm. I had an appointment in traffic court at 6pm to fight a speeding ticket I got a few weeks ago. That’s how the timing worked out, and I had to go do it.
I hadn’t seen my cousin Brett in a while, and he’s owed me dinner for months so I called to ask him if he wanted to join me for what I thought would be a short stint in court and we’d be on our way. I have plenty of experience with small town kangaroo courts, and I thought I knew what to expect. I could not have been more wrong. It turned out to be an experience I won’t soon forget.
The judge was some flaming wackadoo with a bad comb over who liked to hear himself babble on about anything and everything from his former job at Kohl’s food store to his time in Vietnam to the old Ford LTD he used to own as a teenager. Brett and I just looked at each other and it felt like we were on the set of a practical joke hidden camera show. We’d never seen anything like it.
This idiot would NOT shut up, and it caused the evening to go way longer than it needed to for all of us. I don’t know if he was getting paid by the hour, but he was surely pissing away a ton of tax dollars with his incessant yammering on. It was funny for the first hour and a half, but then it was maddening to have to sit and watch him ramble to everyone about completely useless tripe.
We got there at 6pm, and were trapped in our own little corner of hell until almost 8. Neither of us was thrilled, and then I had to meet with the prosecutor who was a complete wank pole on top of all of it. He had an attitude as greasy as his hair, and he was NOT about to cut anyone slack.
I watched as one duck after the next lined up and got reamed by these two slippery snakes, and we all knew nobody was going to catch any breaks tonight. I finally got my turn to stand in front of the babbling judge and did my best to make my point how insane I thought the situation was.
Everyone’s ears perked up and we had some heated words. I still was found guilty after I plead no contest, and I have 60 days to pay my fine. What a scam. It’s a money making speed trap, and there’s nothing I or the rest of us could do about it. This was a circus, with the clowns in charge.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 12:57 AM
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Monday April 16th, 2012 – Tucson, AZ
My last day in Tucson, and I’m spending it with mixed emotions. Part of me enjoys it here and would move here tomorrow if I had even half a reason to. I loved it when I was coming here on a semi regular basis when Jerry Agar lived here, and I’m sure I could love it again. I like the vibe.
The winters are spectacular, even though summer can be like the surface of the sun and as long and brutal as winters can be in the Snow Belt. It’s a matter of picking one’s poison, and I happen to prefer burning to death over freezing. I also find the people to be friendly, and all in all I have always enjoyed my time in Tucson. Phoenix is a filthy hell hole, but Tucson I’ll take. Go figure.
I’m sure if I did move here, I’d find a way to make a living. There are few if any local comics with as much experience as me, and I’m sure I’d get most of the private gigs both from Laffs or anywhere else in town. Word would spread, and I’d network and make myself known locally.
I’m sure I’d also find my way on the radio somehow, and I even have a head start as there is a group of stations in town owned by Journal Broadcasting out of Milwaukee. That’s where Jerry Agar worked, and I know James T. Harris a little who used to work at WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a fantastic talk show host and a very nice guy too, and he’s just relocated here pretty recently.
If I did just pack up and move, I could hit the ground running and I’ll bet I could be working in no time. I’d get a cheap apartment and start pounding the pavement for gigs, which would not be hard to find. Laffs likes me, and I like them. If nothing else, I’m sure I could be the house emcee.
In the past, this might have been a workable plan. I have several contacts out west already, and have always done well out this way. I could still work in Salt Lake City, and L.A. is a day’s drive if I needed to go there. I don’t know the Phoenix scene at all, but I’m sure I could make my mark on it if I went up there and poked around a little. I could also set up shop in a lot more new areas.
I like the west a lot, even though the towns are a whole lot farther apart. Gas prices are slightly lower, but still not cheap and for the road comic the profits get eaten up quickly. Road comedy in general is getting harder and harder, and that’s not a mirage in the dessert. I haven’t got a hint of a doubt I’d be able to carve out a living if I moved to Tucson or a lot of other places, but I won’t.
It’s just not smart business right now. I’ve had my chances to live anywhere I wanted, and even a few places I didn’t. I’m glad I got the experience, and now nothing scares me about packing up and moving at a moment’s notice to anywhere in North America. The fear factor is not an issue.
What is an issue is age and whether or not I’ll get a payoff for the risk I took of chasing my big dream all these years. Yes, I could probably start over in Tucson and in a year be doing decently. I could do that a lot of places, like I did in Reno and Salt Lake City. I’ve proved I can relocate to virtually anywhere and not starve to death. Where I’m living now is where I need to drop anchor for now. I’ve got too much invested in it to chase any more wild geese. This was a vacation, and a fun one at that - but it’s time to get back home and get to work. My future is depending on it.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 11:46 PM
Monday, April 16, 2012
Sunday April 15th, 2012 – Tucson, AZ
If there’s a more pleasant way to spend an off day between shows, I’d sure like to know what it is. My flight home isn’t until Tuesday morning, so I have a couple of free days to experience the charms of Tucson, which are many. A major one is the weather. Today’s was absolutely perfect.
It rained pretty hard yesterday, and that’s been typical for whenever I’ve visited. It barely rains at all here, but of course when Mr. Lucky shows up it’s a major cloudburst. One of the first times I came they had storms so bad they were closing highways. I’d never seen rain pound like that.
There was nothing but pure sunshine today, and that made it extra fun as I played nine holes of golf for the first time in I don’t know how long. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a golf club, other than to try to protect myself against a crazy Rottweiler I thought was going to attack.
The dog didn’t attack after all, so thankfully I didn’t have to use the club. But before that I’m at a loss to recall the last time I used one to hit a golf ball. My friends Chuck and Wendy Sweet and Chuck’s son Cody asked me to tag along with them today and of course I couldn’t pass that up.
I’ve known Chuck and Wendy for years, as Wendy used to be a part of the morning show with Jerry Agar when he was here. Chuck was a bigwig in the suburb of Oro Valley where all of them lived, and they became friends. I don’t think I’ve ever met nicer people anywhere, and they have always been huge supporters of my comedy. I don’t work here often, but when I do they see me.
They were kind enough to show up again last night, and asked if I wanted to join them for golf today. How could I say no? It was a fun little pitch and putt course, so the pressure was off to put the game face on. This was just for fun, and we had a ton of it. It couldn’t have been a better day.
Wendy is originally from Libertyville, IL and moved to Arizona to do radio. She’s also one of the most talented singers I’ve ever heard, and belts out rocking versions of the national anthem at all kinds of sporting events out here. There’s no reason she still shouldn’t be on the radio as well, but like most of us who have tried to scale that slippery slope she was vaporized by a radio idiot.
Chuck is from Minnesota originally, and the term ‘Minnesota Nice’ was probably written with him in mind. Between the two of them, there just aren’t sweeter people anywhere and their name is a perfect fit. Having a chance to spend the afternoon golfing and laughing was a fantastic treat.
Tonight I went back to Laffs to support a special show called ‘The Evolution Of Comedy’ put on by the guys who opened for me this week. Jason Resler was the feature act for me, but he’s an outstanding headliner in his own right. He closed the show and Ian Harris who is a veteran comic and marketer of the tour joined him along with Maurice Northup. I liked working with all three.
I know how hard it is to pack a room, and this is a tour they’re trying to put together so I had to show up and support. They worked really hard on this and it came off very well. Check them out at www.theevolutionofcomedy.com. Days like this prove to me there ARE good people after all.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 10:43 AM
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Saturday April 14th, 2012 – Tucson, AZ
Two more solid shows in Tucson tonight, and again I got a chance to practice my craft and get better. I really like it here, both the town and the club. I feel like I’m part of the scene, and don’t have to prove myself to anyone. Everyone knows I can do the job, and they all leave me alone to do it. I don’t have to jump through any hoops or play any stupid games. I find it very refreshing.
Oh how I wish all of the entertainment business was like this, but it totally isn’t. I happen to fit in this particular situation, so I’ll be grateful and enjoy it. I see no reason why they wouldn’t hire me back, but I don’t see a solid future ahead in comedy clubs for me. The end of the road is near.
I’ve been able to squeeze a living out of this gypsy lifestyle a lot longer than most others would keep doing it, but it’s getting old – as am I. I do still love doing the shows, but the rest of it stinks and isn’t what I want to do ten years from now. I might if every week was like this, but it isn’t.
There’s always the insane politics game, and having to deal with most bookers bores, frustrates and perplexes me. I have a hard time suffering those I find to be imbeciles well, with bullies even worse. The only thing that would eliminate that problem would be for me to become a big draw.
That may or may not happen, but the harsh reality is most likely it won’t. And if it does, I’ll not have to deal with the ones who can’t stand me now anyway so they’re out of my life forever. I’ve tried to be up front and a straight shooter with everyone, but some of them are not wired for that.
The clashes I’ve had have usually been either over a pathetically few measly but much needed and hard earned dollars, or not getting treated how I’d consider to be fairly. It then becomes a big pissing contest power struggle, and since I’m just another replaceable comedian - I get replaced.
That’s why I place such a high value on the places where that kind of insanity doesn’t happen. It proves to me I’m not the total problem, and still allows me to make a living doing what I love. I may have smart mouthed my way out of a few clubs, but in the big picture none of it matters.
The audiences in Tucson saw solid funny shows this week and there were no hassles onstage or off. I find the owner here to be a very straight shooter, and we get along just fine. He isn’t trying to be a kingpin in the show business world nor is he on any power trips. He’s a businessman, and wants to turn a profit. He admits it freely, and I find nothing wrong with that. In fact, I respect it.
I don’t do what he does, and he doesn’t do what I do. We were temporary business partners for this weekend, and next week he’ll have someone else in here with the same arrangement. It’s not personal, and everyone knows their role. I did what I was hired to do, and there were no glitches.
But now I’m unemployed again. Next week I’ve got some random one nighter that doesn’t pay all that well on Saturday night, but I had nothing else booked so I took it because it’s not that far from home. I have the C. Cardell Willis tribute show at Shank Hall in Milwaukee on Sunday and wanted to be close to home for that. But for this week, Tucson was fun. I felt like a comic here.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 6:53 PM
Friday April 13th, 2012 – Tucson, AZ
Despite all the obstacles, distractions and petty politics of the comedy business, I’m still in love with the process of practicing my craft on stage. It’s a continuous game of mental chess between me and an audience, and no two shows are ever exactly the same. The challenge still excites me.
I have enough hands on experience now where I can size up a particular situation and come up with a battle plan very quickly. Chances are, I’ve been in a similar situation before no matter the circumstances and if I haven’t I enjoy the opportunity to experience something new. There’s not a lot I haven’t experienced on stage, and that takes the anxiety right out of it. I feel bullet proof.
Tonight I had two fun but completely different shows at Laffs in Tucson. The early show had a completely different vibe than the late one, and I adjusted accordingly. I watched the whole show before me both times so I could get a reading on what might work, and that’s part of the process.
There are a lot of headliners that don’t take time to watch the show in front of them, and that’s a huge mistake in my opinion. It’s always wise to have the same perspective the people watching the show have, so it can be used as a reference point later. If someone yelled something out loud or a waitress dropped a tray of drinks – whatever, it can often create a unique one time dynamic.
Another reason to watch the show is to know what the opening acts did to set the tone. Did the audience like them? Were they dirty? Did they step on any premises? If they did, will I be able to add to it with the bit I have or should I drop that particular topic for this show? I need these facts every single show, as they are different every single show. A craftsman knows they’re important.
The early show tonight was a bit snug, even though they did enjoy the show. They just weren’t as loud of laughers as some audiences, and I could sense they were a smidge on the conservative side. I hadn’t worked with these particular openers before, and even though they were very funny and nice guys too - they were a little bluer than I normally like in front of me. It does set a tone.
The late show was just the opposite. The audience was into it from the start, and they wanted it on the dirty side. The opening acts went up and rocked the house, and that made me have to take a completely different direction than the first show. I opened with a bit I hardly ever do anymore about taking a cross country Greyhound bus trip, but it’s very physical and was the ideal choice.
I’ll bet I haven’t done that bit in six months. For whatever reason, I’ve just chosen not to use it as I have a lot of other stuff I want to polish up and add to my repertoire. Tonight though, it was exactly what I needed and I was glad to have it locked, loaded and in the chamber ready to fire.
I can’t remember when I’ve ever opened with that particular routine, but instinct assured me it was the correct choice tonight. And it was. I was able to grab the audience’s attention with it and bring them into my world and keep them to the very end. I closed strong and it was a solid night. This is the part of comedy that keeps me going through those hellish long drives, plane trips and having to deal with the trivial minutia that can get so frustrating. The craft part never gets old.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 10:18 AM
Friday, April 13, 2012
Thursday April 12th, 2012 – Tucson, AZ/Oracle, AZ
I haven’t been to Tucson in a while, and it brings back plenty of memories. I spent a bit of time here in the 1990s when my friend Jerry Agar was on a morning show and I lived in Los Angeles. Then he got fired, and we were both stuck thousands of miles from home without any income.
Those weren’t the best of times for either of us, even though we were in desirable locations we both enjoyed. Had we found reasons to stay, I think we’d both still be in one place or the other to this day. We both like the warm weather, but who in their right mind doesn’t? It’s gorgeous here.
I was right in the middle of my infamous bank robbery fiasco then, and had to check in with the FBI to let them know where I was going. I was preparing to be a witness in the court trial and my stress level was at an all time high. Still, I needed to make a living as did Jerry so we recorded an audio program of my comedy class called ‘Be Funny Make Money’. I don’t know how we did it.
We pulled it off on a wing and a prayer, and both Jerry and I knew it was a long shot. We had a lot of time, but not a lot of money. Under the circumstances, it turned out great. It’s not fancy but it is packed with useful information that could be used by someone starting out in comedy today.
I hadn’t thought about that project in a long time, but it immediately came to mind today when the aroma of the desert hit my nose. I can’t explain it in words, but there is definitely a sensation the body feels in this climate. It’s partly smell, but it’s more than that. I noticed it immediately as I walked around today, and it took me right back to that time I spent here recording with Jerry.
Tonight I had a show in a small town about 40 miles outside of Tucson called Oracle. It used to be a copper mining town apparently, and it’s been going since the 1860s. It’s not a big place, and it feels like the old west driving out to get to it among the cacti. I expected to see Wile E. Coyote in hot pursuit of Road Runner as we drove up the lonely two lane highway on the way to the gig.
Gary Hood is a comic I met when I was here in the ‘90s. He was born in Chicago but moved to Hollywood when he was a kid and did some acting then. I find him very funny and I really enjoy hanging out with him off stage too. I hadn’t seen him in years, but he’s in charge of the show this week. He now works for Laffs in addition to doing comedy, and it’s a sweet deal for everybody.
Gary knows the business inside and out, and is a very smart guy. He books a semi regular show at a steakhouse called ‘The Oracle Inn’, which is where we worked tonight. The people line up to see the shows, and there was a full house tonight that came out to be entertained. They were a bit older than the average comedy club goer, but my experience on cruise ships prepared me for that.
I slowed down and talked TO them but not at them. I got them into my groove and they were a fine audience. Gary was very nice to add this show to the weekend at Laffs, as it will really help lighten my expense nut of having to buy the plane ticket. They could have asked somebody else, but I got the call. I was delighted to get it, and now I’m looking forward to the weekend at Laffs.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 6:25 PM
Wednesday April 11th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI/Denver, CO/Tucson, AZ
I haven’t had to fly in a while, and I can’t say I missed it. The annoying and humiliating hassles of the circus that going through airport security has become get old in a hurry, and the time away has been quite refreshing. Today it was back to the grind, off to Tucson for four shows at Laffs.
The lowest fare I could find was on Southwest, my favorite airline. Those guys just know how to do business efficiently, that’s why I frequently try to give them mine. It used to be way out of my way to fly out of Midway Airport in Chicago, but now that they fly out of Milwaukee it’s an obvious choice. It’s less than an hour from where I live, and Mitchell Airport is easy to navigate.
My flight today left at 6:20pm and had a two hour layover in Denver. I got to the airport a little later than I had intended, but it was almost completely empty and I made it through ticketing and security without a hint of a glitch. It almost looked like they weren’t open, and I like it that way.
I made it to the gate in plenty of time, and there were no problems whatsoever in getting on the plane and finding a quality seat. The flight was a tad crowded but not full, and I was able to snag an aisle seat near the rear next to a quiet older man who was quietly engrossed in his newspaper.
We left right on time and landed smoothly in Denver a full twenty minutes before the time we were officially scheduled to arrive. We all filed off like clockwork, and the flight attendants were lined up with hands waving and smiles blazing to say good bye. Everything worked as it should.
Then, I walked directly to my gate in Denver only to discover that flight had been delayed due to some unexplained equipment glitch and they would notify us when it was time to leave. It was a completely different vibe than the first flight, and I felt it instantaneously. The party was over.
For whatever reason, as smoothly and without incident as the first flight had been, this one was bound and determined to be the polar opposite. There were people who couldn’t find their tickets that held up the line, and I could cut the tension with a knife. Different flight, different vibe.
This one was packed to the gills, and the only open seat I could find was next to some leathery looking tough biker type chick with a baby who would NOT shut up. I was afraid to look in their direction for fear I’d get slapped with one of her tattooed meat hooks and get myself kicked off.
To make it a lot worse, there was another screaming little demon imp about four rows up from where we were sitting, and they engaged in a blood curdling yodeling contest for the first hour of the flight which nobody but me seemed to find bothersome. After fifteen minutes, I wanted out.
Where was I going to go? All I could do was shut up and try to get some sleep, but there was a lady directly across the aisle who insisted on keeping her reading light on the entire length of the flight. They must have put a laser beam in that socket, and I think it burned through my eyelid as I tried to nod off for a nap to escape the circumstances. Then we hit some nasty turbulence which of course started the babies squealing all over again. It was a total treat to touch down in Tucson.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 3:55 PM
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Monday April 9th, 2012 – Chicago, IL
There’s nothing quite like that satisfying feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes when a task is done and done correctly, and I was able to experience it three times today. Once is a rare enough occurrence, but three times is borderline orgasmic. I could get used to this and hope I do.
There have been an embarrassingly large number of pressing issues I’ve needed to address for quite some time now – years even – that I am just now getting around to knocking out. I’ve been busy with other things, but that’s not an excuse. Other people are busy too. I need to get current.
Getting a quality DVD done was absolutely huge. I could have used one of those twenty years ago, even though I wasn’t nearly the comic I am now. It would have set me apart, as not a lot of comics had a good video then if any at all. I had the typical one cheap camera in the back of the room shot, with garbled sound and waitresses walking back and forth during the set. That stinks.
It took me years to realize show business really is a BUSINESS - even though it’s right there in the name, plain as day. Most of us that are in it are too stupid to see that, and we think our artistic gifts alone will be enough to get us through the journey unscathed. What naïve thinking that is.
The truth is, no matter how good anyone’s show is it’s completely useless without marketing it to someone who can buy it. Sometimes that’s a booking agent and other times it’s the actual fans who buy the tickets. Either way, it’s imperative that a performer keeps current in all these areas.
I finally have a current video, even though it’s years late. It’s an hour and five minutes with no swearing, and pretty much represents what I do on stage. I was able to get it done reasonably, so even one nicely paying corporate job will more than pay back my investment. It was about time.
Business cards have also been an issue. In the past, I’ve been a master of that medium. I’ve had more business cards than I can remember, just because I like to change them around and come up with fresh ideas that hopefully get attention. I’d changed my phone number a while back, but had not gotten updated cards. Writing my new number in pen over the old one is just not acceptable.
Today I stopped at Chum Bucket Studios in Twin Lakes, WI where my friend Jay Bachochin is based and we hacked out a design in about fifteen minutes. I’d been meaning to do it for months, but today was the day and I felt like a new man as I drove away knowing they’d be ready for the C. Cardell Willis tribute at Shank Hall in Milwaukee April 22nd. I’ll need them for that for sure.
After that I drove to Jim McHugh’s house to meet with him and Mark Huelskamp about finally getting the Uranus Factory Outlet site launched. We went through some final tests to make sure a customer can order products, and the site looks really professional. It’s been a long time coming.
Tonight I hosted the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago, and that was loaded with solid comics from all over the country who came out to audition. It felt ecstatic to get so much done in a single day, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I feel like I’m finally making progress.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:56 PM
Sunday April 8th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI
Just two short weeks to go and counting until the big C. Cardell Willis tribute at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, and I have no idea if anyone is going to show up. I’ve been doing my best to get the message out for several months now, but I won’t know for sure what will happen until that night.
I’d like to have some kind of concrete guarantee other than “Well – I will TRY to make it out,” but that’s all I’ve got at the moment. My ugliest fear is that nobody will show, and I’ll be there in that big room by myself with some other comedians and have hall rental to pay out of my pocket.
Sad to say, that has happened before – and in the very same room no less. I tried to do a benefit for the homeless there in 1991, and I lost my ass and almost became one myself. I’d just lost my job at 93QFM but had already made a commitment to do the show. I couldn’t plug it on the radio so to add insult to injury I had to pay money out of my pocket for ads in some local newspapers.
Nobody showed up, and it was the longest night of my life. Well, that’s not true. A few people did show up – just barely enough to make us have to do a show and prolong the agony. Had there been actual zero, we could have at least saved our dignity and left with only our wallets empty.
That entire situation was an absolute nightmare, and the stench still reeks on twenty years later. I don’t know if it was anyone’s fault, but it happened and I was the one left holding the giant bag of flaming horse apples. All I wanted to do was help out a good cause, but it blew up in my face.
I’ve done that so many times in my life, I’ve lost count. I keep saying it’s the last time until the next event for charity comes around, and then it happens again. I can’t guarantee it won’t happen this time too, but the reason I’m doing it makes it worth the risk. This event has meaning to me.
The others did too, but this one is extra special. Cardell Willis was a kind soul, and in my book of all time personal heroes and mentors he’s right up there with Gramps and precious few others. Cardell never got his due when he was here, just like I don’t think Gramps did. I know I’m not in charge of right and wrong in the world, but it seemed like the right thing to do to pay this tribute.
It’s a respect thing. Gratitude too. Will anyone pay tribute to me several years after I’ve left the planet? That remains to be seen. I do know there seems to be a growing faction of those who will enthusiastically celebrate, but that’s up to them. I’m not trying to do anything other than my best with the cards I was dealt in life, and Cardell helped me at a time when I really needed a mentor.
There are a lot of others in Milwaukee’s comedy history that know what a quality human being Cardell was, and they’ll join me two weeks from tonight to take a little time out from the insanity of this out of control planet we’re trapped on to say thanks to a special friend who cared for us.
He’s gone physically, but his memory and influence live on. The event will be at Shank Hall in Milwaukee on April 22nd, 2012 at 8:00. Donation at the door is $11 to honor a joke Cardell used to do about being broke. “I’m down to $11 – two ones.” Get more info at www.shankhall.com.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 7:20 PM
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Saturday April 7th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL
Another Saturday night off, but this one I don’t mind. I’ve got a decent run of work coming up, and am doing all I can to keep everything going. I’ve got way too many irons in the fire as usual, but I’m hoping that one project will heat up and start bringing in cash and I can focus on that for a while. Right now I’m running around like a maniac trying to create order out of all the chaos.
I had a fun time doing a one nighter in Stevens Point, WI last night with a young comic named Ben Bergman. He’s 30 years old and has been doing comedy for five years. He’s from outside of Cincinnati on the Kentucky side, and we met at Zanies in Nashville a few years ago. Now he’s in Chicago, and luck of the draw paired us up for the run to Stevens Point last night. I’m glad it did.
Ben is a sharp likable kid, and I respect him greatly. He works very hard both on stage and off, and understands that this is a craft and there’s a process to getting better. He’s paying his dues as we all have to, and it’s refreshing to be around someone who has such a desire to make progress.
Since we both live in the Chicago area, it made sense to share a ride. Gas prices make partners out of necessity, but I enjoyed riding shotgun and playing the role of bitching headliner that a lot of other guys played with me as the driver. I used to pick their brains, and learn whatever I could.
Smartly, Ben did the same with me. He asked question after intelligent question, and I was glad to offer my unvarnished opinions. I told him before we started that he should listen intently to all I had to say - then do exactly the opposite and he’d be a flaming success. And it could just work.
We rode to Stevens Point in Ben’s beat up 2001 Chevy Cavalier – which is even more beat up than my own 2004 Cavalier. He’s got a two door with about 50,000 more miles than mine, but a Cavalier is a Cavalier. It was making noises the whole way there and back, but it did do the job.
Ben used a phrase that really stuck with me. He talked about being ‘all in’, and how he moved from Kentucky to Nashville to start comedy, and now he’s in Chicago. He just laid out all of his extra money in the world to buy a camera to record his shows, and he’s willing to drive virtually anywhere on the globe for a chance to perform comedy and chase his dream. I can totally relate.
I used to be that kid, and now I’m not. I think Ben looked at me yesterday like I used to look at the headliners when I was coming up. They would be less than exuberant about having to trudge up to some out of the way town for a one nighter in a bar. I was just happy to be there, and could not understand why they were all so jaded. Now I do, but I’m not so sure Ben sees it yet. He will.
I tried to tell him to enjoy this part of the journey, as there is a lot of adventure in it. It takes an enormous amount of guts to go ‘all in’, and not many ever do it. There’s no guarantee of success, and that’s scarier than seeing Nancy Pelosi without makeup. Ben is doing it, and I hope he hits it out of the park and has success beyond his wildest dreams. We did the show and it went well, but then we got in the car and drove home. He’s already sick of hotels too. He’s becoming one of us.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 10:16 PM
Friday April 6th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL
Baseball season is back, and I couldn’t care any less. I just wish I knew why not. Am I growing intellectually and spiritually as a human being and focusing on higher things, or am I just moving through the process of life and just plain getting old? It doesn’t really matter. Baseball bores me.
I never ever thought I’d say that, but it’s true. I felt scorched by my hometown Brewers tanking it in the playoffs last fall, and it left a bad taste in my mouth that’s still there. I’d been waiting for a taste of World Series championship cheesecake since 1982 when that team crushed my hopes.
Last year’s post season pratfall was totally inexcusable, and I refuse to hear the annoying “hey, they almost did it” claptrap. Sorry - they LOST. I invested forty frustrating seasons waiting for a single championship, and that’s enough. Even if the prince did show up, I still have that hideous taste of frog in my mouth and it won’t go away. Enough is enough. My tolerance tank is tapped.
It didn’t help any that they lost the home opener to the same dreaded Cardinals who stuck it to them in ’82 and last October. Three strikes and you’re out. And not only did they lose; they were toasted like a bagel 11-5. I know it’s the first game of the season, but I’ve seen enough for 2012.
The Cubs and the White Sox aren’t going to go anywhere either. As a kid, I’d listen to all three teams on the radio, and was too stupid to know I wasn’t supposed to be cheering for all three. I’d spend many a summer night in my youth going back and forth between all three games at once.
Now, I really don’t care about any of it. More than a few of my friends are immersed in fantasy leagues, and every year they ask religiously if I’d like to join in all their ‘fun’. It’s way too much like work to keep up with all those players, and there just isn’t enough of a payoff for me to do it.
The Florida Marlins have won TWO World Series titles, and they’ve only been in the National League since 1993. They’re the favorites of a lot of people to win it all this year too. That’s great for them, but what about the fans of the Brewers or Cubs? I feel extremely cheated, even though the White Sox did win it in 2005. I’m not really a White Sox fan, even though I don’t hate them.
I don’t love or hate any teams. I have no passion at all. I used to really care if the Brewers won or lost, but after the magic year of ‘82 they slid down into the pit of mediocrity and only recently returned to give the fans a little hope. Then they used those hopes as a floor mat. Count me out.
I’m not saying I won’t go to another baseball game, but if I don’t I won’t be upset. I would get just as much or maybe more entertainment out of attending a minor league or even a well played high school game than pissing my pesos away on a Brewers game. It doesn’t mean a thing to me.
I’m sorry I feel this way, but I do. Would the team winning the World Series in ’82 or last year make me feel differently? Maybe. But I won’t know now, will I? The damage is done, and I have other things to do with my summer than waste valuable time counting on a bunch of millionaires to bring me a feeling of accomplishment. I have to get it myself, and that victory will be sweeter.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:53 PM