Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Crystal Cloudy

Sunday July 29th, 2012 – Oak Creek, WI

   Some days life gets put into frightening perspective. This is one of those days. I volunteered to act as host and emcee of a benefit fundraiser for the family of a woman named Crystal Masionis, a friend of my friend Shelley’s who recently passed away at age 35 from malignant melanoma.

   That alone is unbelievably sad, but it gets much worse. Crystal and her husband are the parents of three children ages 16, 9 and 7. Their 7 year old daughter named Eva was born with CHARGE syndrome, a rare genetic disorder with so many ugly permutations I don’t want to mention them.

   I had never even heard of CHARGE syndrome before today’s fundraiser, and I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It severely disables those who have it, and is devastating to everyone around those who have it. I can’t imagine the extreme horror this family has been through, and to make it even worse if that’s possible their oldest child suffers from Crohn’s Disease. My problems don’t exist.

   Shelley announced the fundraiser on the air on The Mothership Connection several weeks ago, and I volunteered to do whatever I could at that time. I know it’s not much, and I know I have no drawing power to contribute, but I felt the least I could do was offer my services out of respect to a family that has been through hell and back and continues to deal with nightmare circumstances.

   This wasn’t about me, and I showed up in Oak Creek, WI at the American Legion Hall by 2pm to offer my services however they were needed. I met Crystal’s father, who thanked me for being there. I didn’t know what to say other than I was very sorry to learn about the family’s situation.

   It was very uncomfortable all around, but again none of this was about me. As a human being I felt it was the right thing to do to pitch in and help. Unfortunately, there was really no reason for me to be there. There was a DJ and a band, and a very healthy turnout of people who showed up to support the cause. That’s the important thing, and I was glad to stay off to the side and watch.

   I’m not angry I had to give up my Sunday afternoon and drive an hour to Wisconsin. If that is my worst problem of the day, week or month – how low pressure and easy is my life? I’m angry things like this have to happen to such nice people. What did they do to deserve this hell? Zilch.

   There were all kinds of sweet people in attendance, and I tried to be friendly and say hello to as many as I could. There were other families in attendance with children who also were CHARGE syndrome sufferers, and I had to fight back tears as I thought about how horrific that all must be.

   By all accounts, Crystal was one spectacular young lady. She was active in leading fundraisers for other families in need, even though her own world was in serious turmoil. I never got to meet her in person, but if I can leave a legacy half as dynamic as hers my life will have been a success.

   My heart goes out to the Crystals of the world and their families. Life is hard enough without a nightmare like that to deal with. I feel totally helpless, and sad beyond words. I can’t understand why life has to be so cruel, but it surely can be. If God does indeed exist, why does this happen?

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Broadway Bob

Saturday July 28th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was saddened today to hear news that Bob Metzler passed away. “Broadway Bob” was a real character in the truest sense of the word, and anyone who met him whether they liked him or not surely remembered him. I don’t personally know anyone who didn’t like him, but with a distinct and attention getting personality like he had I’m sure there were some who didn’t. I certainly did.

   Broadway Bob was the owner of Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, WI. He was a master showman and an outstanding promoter, and if I’m not mistaken he is the only promoter inducted into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Ocala, FL. That in itself is an impressive accomplishment.

   Anyone growing up in Milwaukee or Chicago in the ‘70s and ‘80s will instantly remember the incessant radio and TV commercials with the hyperactive announcer screaming “Sunday, Sunday SUNDAY!!!” They were everywhere, and they must have worked because they kept on running.

   Bob’s trademark gimmick was ‘The Olympics of Drag Racing’, a brilliant concept that I highly doubt could be done today without at least a cease and desist letter if not full on lawsuit. It had a ring to it and Bob would bring in the biggest names in drag racing like “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney, “TV” Tommy Ivo, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and others.

   I don’t know what it is about drag racers, but they lead the league along with mobsters as far as nicknames go. I don’t think there’s ever been even one member of either profession who doesn’t have a nickname in quotation marks that gets added every single time their name appears in print.

   Tony “The Ant” Spilotro could have easily been the name of a funny car driver had his days in The Mafia not ended with a thud the way they did. I bet he wished he’d been behind the wheel of a big old dragster as he was getting a drum solo played on his coconut with a Louisville Slugger.

   “Broadway Bob” could have easily been the name of a Gambino family hit man too, but he had enough to occupy his time with getting people to come see drag races every year. He put together extravaganzas, and I only found out recently he was never affiliated with the main governing arm of the drag racing business. He was a private entity, but paid to bring in big names for exhibition.

   I’m not sure of his reputation with the drivers, and maybe he was known for being super cheap like most promoters of any entertainment genre are. I admired him for his promotional flair and entrepreneurial acumen. The guy knew how to brand himself and his business. He was a master.

   Every time I saw him he would be wearing some wild getup that included a sweatshirt or t-shirt with “Broadway Bob” air brushed on the chest and some kind of wild pants with an outlandishly loud print. He would also usually have a pair of wild sunglasses to go with it, but that was him.

   I met him years ago when I was a pro wrestling ring announcer, and he was very supportive of my comedy aspirations. He came out to some shows when I started in comedy and always made a point to say nice things. He was a one of a kind personality, and I’m always a big fan of those.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Cosmic Lottery

Friday July 27th, 2012 – Glenview, IL

   The absolute single most required ingredient to achieving success at anything in life is a matter of being at the right place at the right time. That’s not really a secret, just like picking the correct lottery numbers. Everybody knows that picking the right series of numbers on the right day wins.

   What those exact numbers are however is a completely different puzzle. Who can predict those with any accuracy? If anyone could, they’d do it and keep doing it until the money flow stopped. Sometimes life boils down to just plain old dumb luck and I don’t think it’s any more than that.

   That luck can go either way. Look at the people in Aurora, CO who were at the Batman movie premiere. Millions of people attended thousands of movies since movies came out, but was there a mass shooting in a theatre any time in history before this? If there was, I’m sure not aware of it.

   Even more seemingly random, in a packed theatre there were a dozen people killed and dozens more wounded. How many people were there that walked away unhurt? 100? 200? Whatever the case, some that night were in the wrong place at the wrong time and there was no way to stop it.

   I know in my life I’ve seen several combinations of this equation. I’ve been in the right place at the wrong time and the wrong place at the right time. I’ve even managed to show up at the wrong place at the wrong time multiple times. What I wouldn’t give to get a shot at being at the coveted right place at the right time, but how does it happen? I don’t think it’s something that’s planned.

   There are all kinds of examples of happenings throughout history that just seemed to have been in the cards. What if John Lennon hadn’t met Paul McCartney? Would there have been a Beatles as we know it? I can’t say. And what about the equivalent matches that never happened? Doesn’t it make sense that that has occurred as well? What if one of the people missed a bus and blew it?

   Elvis Presley hit the biggest cosmic lottery of all time. He was a good looking white kid living in a music town who could sing like a black man. Not only that, he did it at a time in history that will never be duplicated. He exploded along with rock and roll in general, along with mass media in general. Network television spread across the country to the masses, and he was a part of that.

   Michael Jackson did that with music videos on MTV. He stepped in and became the king of an all new form of entertainment, and it reached a generation worldwide. Five years before or after, and I have to wonder if Elvis or Michael Jackson would have been the chosen ones as they were.

   Dane Cook did it in standup comedy. He manipulated the twenty-something internet generation and created a buzz like none before him with a huge chunk of fans. Again, he was exactly where he needed to be right when he needed to be there. How does that happen? I wish I had an idea.

   This all crossed my mind as I was performing at the Laughing Chameleon in Glenview, IL this evening. The 30 or so people were nice and I had fun, but it would have been nicer and  more fun if I were doing it in a full 3000 seat theatre. But that’s another place and another time. Not now.

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

The Price Of Fun

Thursday July 26th, 2012 – Rockford, IL/Glenview, IL

   I don’t know how much more fun I can afford to have these days, but I think I’m getting close to my legal limit. I really need to start turning a significant buck with something or other, or my clock is in for a big time cleaning. I’m walking a tight rope in a tornado without any safety nets.

   Today I got the last minute bat signal call to fill in on the afternoon talk radio show on WNTA in Rockford, IL. I’m always flattered to get the call, but I wasn’t expecting it today. I was hoping to get caught up with all kinds of other stuff that’s been piling up, but again I dropped everything to answer the call of duty. I don’t mind helping out, and I can use the practice – but was it smart?

   Yes, I get paid for my time – but most of that goes to my gas and expenses of getting there not to mention my time. It’s always a time eater to get to the station because it’s not very convenient to where I live. I have to leave early, and that ends up taking more time away from my work day.

   Again, I don’t mind doing it and it’s actually a great opportunity to develop my skills in an area that could really stand improving, but I really need to experience some kind of payoff pretty soon or I’m going to have to move on. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee this will ever lead to a job.

   Does it hurt that I’m on a legitimate and credible radio station? Absolutely not. Not only that, it helps to improve my skill set on Sunday nights as host of ‘The Mothership Connection’ on WLIP in Kenosha, WI but there’s another project that’s not making any money at all. A guy has to eat.

   Can I afford all of this fun? I love doing all of it, but something has to click at some point. I am doing all I can to make it happen, but things like this always take longer than anyone expects. I’d have thought The Mothership Connection would have turned at least a little bit of a buck by now, but it hasn’t. I’ve been working hard at building that up lately, but it’s still a ways from a payday.

   In a perfect world which it never is, I’d be able to squeeze everything in and not have to worry about money. I’ve been doing exactly that for years, but I don’t know how long that can last. It’s getting to be late in the fourth quarter, and if I don’t find a way to figure this out the game is lost.

   What the exact solution is, I have no idea. I can’t keep doing part time radio and expect to keep doing comedy full time on the road. And at the level I’m doing it, comedy doesn’t have much of a future either. There’s something else that needs to see a substantial payoff or it’s time to can it.

   I can’t stand the thought of not doing either one, and that’s why I’ve stayed with them both for so long. Quitting radio or standup comedy would put a giant dagger through my heart, and I want to avoid it at all costs. But who am I kidding - I’m just barely squeaking by by the tiniest margin.

   Tonight I worked at a relatively new entertainment venue called ‘The Laughing Chameleon’ in Glenview, IL. It’s a tiny but beautiful room located in a really nice entertainment complex called ‘The Glen’ which has bars, restaurants, shops and town homes. The place may hold 60, and they book everything from improv to magicians to standup comedy. I’m grateful to be close to home.

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lost In Spaceship

Wednesday July 25th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL/Libertyville, IL

   I put in another twelve hour work day today – and then I went to teach a comedy class for two more hours. I got so lost in my work that I didn’t even stop to eat. I planned on it, but I never did get around to it. When I get in grooves like this, things get done but a lot more doesn’t. It can get frustrating that everything gets pushed so far back, but also satisfying that there’s progress made.

   I’ll choose to focus on the satisfaction first. I spent most of the day working on improvement of The Mothership Connection radio show. I’ve needed to do that for a long time, and I’m getting it going quite nicely. There’s a lot going on, and I’m choosing to spend a lot of energy on it lately.

   The subjects we talk about on the show are things people are interested in more and more. The whole December 21st Mayan Calendar thing doesn’t hurt, and now is the time to strike. I’ve been doing the show since 2008, and I’m either going to have a payoff soon or it’s going to be over. It won’t kill me if it’s over, but I will be upset if I don’t give my best effort. That’s not acceptable.

   I have very limited resources, but we are on a real radio station and I have creative freedom to do pretty much whatever I want - within reason. WLIP streams online, so that’s my saving grace. With the internet going to cars sooner than later, I’ll be able to have a chance to compete with all the big stations that ever put out a broadcast. That’s huge for us little guys, and I am delighted.

   The internet is where I’m going to establish a presence with this show. We’re trying to increase the amount of Facebook friends we have, and it’s working. I’m reaching out all over the world to others who like the subjects we talk about, and there is no shortage. I want to establish pockets of loyal listeners globally, and we’re starting to get some. This is way bigger than standup comedy.

   It’s also a way to get The King of Uranus name out there. I call myself that on the air, but don’t draw attention to it. It’s just who I am, and nobody has told me to stop. It’s a perfect match with our theme, and I’m going to run with it. We’re a cross between ‘Coast To Coast AM’ and a good morning show. We have fun with the guests, but don’t make fun of them. We’ve got a good vibe.

   My co-host Greg DeGuire is the perfect foil, as he’s really well versed in most subjects we talk about and can speak intelligently about them off the top of his head. He’s the ‘ubergeek’, and it’s with the utmost respect that I call him that. The guy knows his stuff, and he’s right for the show.

   If we’re going to take the show to the next level and make it more than a fun hobby, we’ll have to keep making improvements on the air and off. I know a radio consultant who has thrown a lot of input my way, and I’ve had to make some tough decisions recently. That’s never pleasant, but if we’re going to move ahead and have a shot at something big I have to respect the guy’s tenure.

   We’re going to sink or swim, and it won’t be long before we know the result. I’m booking a lot of great guests of the paranormal, and a total website redo is on the way soon. All the right things are being done, and I feel great about the direction it’s going. It takes work though, and I put in a long day of it today. We’re on Sundays from 8pm to midnight CDT at www.wlip.com/listenlive.

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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dump Truck Dynamics

Wednesday July 18th, 2012 – Rockford, IL/Libertyville, IL

   I think there’s a valuable lesson to be learned from the hectic schedule I have this week, but it’s still a little fuzzy as to exactly what it might be. I’m actually enjoying the challenge, even though I’m running myself into the ground trying to get to everything I need to do. It’s constant pressure having to be at the next place over and over, but that’s how it worked out. I accepted these gigs.

   The radio situation at WNTA in Rockford, IL is a positive on many levels. It’s great practice to be able to have a chance to play talk show host under ideal circumstances. They’re glad to have a dependable replacement, so I don’t feel like I’m walking on egg shells around the building when I’m there. Everyone is very laid back, and they’re all genuinely nice people. That makes it fun.

   Then there’s the matter of physically getting to the station every day. There are no single direct routes that get me there, so each day is a new adventure. From where I live to the station parking lot can be anywhere from 60 to 70 miles, depending on the highways I take. The Illinois Tollway is the one with the least amount of obstacles, but I have to travel far out of my way to get there.

   There are a couple of options as far as state highways go, but each has some kind of glitch that slows me down ranging from a lot of traffic lights to road construction. Every day I’ve tried to be smart and find the most direct route, but I haven’t done it yet. There’s always been an obstacle to slow me down even more. Today it was the giant dump truck I could not pass for about 40 miles.

   No matter what I did, I could NOT get past that thing. It was frustrating on one hand, but also a funny situation after a while because no matter which way I needed to go the truck turned in that same direction and slowed me down more. It was like the guy driving was trying to piss me off.

   At one point I tried taking a blind short cut detour, but it ended up being more hassle than if I’d stayed on the original road. It wound through a small town with stop signs at every corner, and at the end of that maze I got back on the highway I was originally on and there the truck was again.

   It felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone or something. Here I was, in a hurry and on my way to work but wasn’t really sure where I was going. The truck seemed like it knew exactly where it was going at all times, and went there at a slow but steady pace. Was there a message in all this?

   Maybe I’m too stupid to get it, but it sure seemed like there was lesson to be learned here. I had a lot of time to think about it, but it didn’t click. I tried to enjoy the ride, and I actually did. Some days I get frustrated beyond belief. Today I didn’t. I barely made the station on time, but I did.

   The show was fun as usual, and then I drove a different route back home so I could make it to a comedy class I’m teaching at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. I could have used a night off, but I made the commitment and I kept it. I’m glad I did, as it was an especially exhilarating class.

   No matter my problems, I am doing all the things I want to do with my life. Money would be a nice perk, but I am having fun. I wonder how much fun the driver of that dump truck is having?

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Schedule Squeeze

Tuesday July 17th, 2012 – Rockford, IL/Milwaukee, WI

   This is one of the busiest weeks I can ever remember as far as running around goes. I feel like a one man NASCAR crew, always needing to be behind the wheel but also needing to keep the car running. I could really use a pit crew, but that’s not going to happen this week. I’m on my own.

   The radio experience in Rockford, IL at WNTA is invaluable. I’m getting better every shift as I am working on my interviewing skills, but the shifts have been reallocated and the one I’m doing this week is now 1-3pm instead of noon to 3. That means I get one less hour of pay, but still have to make the drive. That cuts into any kind of profit I can make, so basically I’m doing it for free.

   I guess that’s part of paying dues. If I want the talk host experience – and I do – I have to suck it up and find a way to get there. I also have a comedy class to teach on Wednesday and will not have Bill Gorgo’s help as he has a prior commitment. That’s going to make more work for me as far as preparation goes. I don’t mind working, but this would have been a nice week to have Bill.

   I’m also booked at a club in the Appleton, WI area called ‘The Comedy Quarter’ this weekend and am scheduled to do radio in Appleton on Thursday morning. I’m not sure if they’ll let me do it on the phone, and from my experience they usually won’t. That means I’ll have to drive all the way to Appleton for radio, drive back for radio in Rockford and then back to Appleton that night.

  Then, Friday morning I volunteered to teach a one hour comedy session for a group of kids at a performing camp in South Milwaukee, WI. I don’t mind volunteering my time, but this particular week is going to be extra hectic with everything else going on. After that I have to go back down to Rockford for my last show on the air from 1-3pm, then back to Appleton for two more shows.

   I have two shows on Saturday at The Comedy Quarter, and then have to get back to Kenosha, WI for another Mothership Connection radio show at WLIP. I have a couple of stops to make in Milwaukee on the way down, and I have some friends to see who are having a barbecue Sunday.

   What kind of flaming idiot would try to keep a schedule like this? THIS idiot. Things just keep piling up, and I have to do my best to get them all done. I made the commitments so I can’t bitch. I appreciate the radio experience, and I hear nothing but good things about The Comedy Quarter. I’d love a new room to work in Wisconsin, and hopefully I’ll be able to go back there regularly.

   If nothing else, it’s money this week, and that’s a good thing. Comedy and summer are usually a poor match, but this has been a busy one for me so far to the point of being too busy. But what am I supposed to do? Things come up when they come up, and I have to take them when they do.

   I went up to Milwaukee after the radio show today to meet with my cousin Brett who I haven’t seen in a while. It’s always good to get together with him because he is one of the few I can let it all loose with. We make each other laugh, and it was a good release for both of us. We needed it, as his life is hectic too. It’s getting harder and harder to fit everything in for everybody, and it’s a constant grind to just stay above water. I sure hope I squeeze everything in this week. We’ll see.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chasing The 1%

Monday July 16th, 2012 – Rockford, IL/Milwaukee, WI

   I’m turning into my grandfather more and more by the day, and I can’t decide if that’s positive or negative. On one hand, he had more practical wisdom in the tip of his baby toe nail than most people I ever met have in their whole family tree. His journey through life’s wars produced fruit.

   On the other, he could be a super cynic to the point of no return. He saw through everything as being flawed or rigged, and more often than not assumed the worst in people and situations. I’ve grown to share many of his views on topics like religion and politics, and he predicted I would.

   “There’s no pie in the sky,” he would say. “The world is 99% rotten to the core, but there’s just enough good in it to make us all wanting to keep living. Everyone has a personal mission to seek out the 1% that’s good and build upon that.” As I get older, his wisdom is becoming my life map.

   I don’t think Gramps was very happy throughout most of his life. The only time I ever saw him even close to appearing satisfied was when he was on a stage performing. He loved it, and would do anything to get his fix. Sometimes it was at a senior center wearing a grass skirt and Hawaiian shirt strumming on a ukulele, and other times it was just him in the checkout line at the Kmart.

   Wherever there was an audience, Gramps loved to entertain – even if the audience was just me. From my view he was a superstar. That meant I’d get his best shows, and he rarely disappointed. Whatever it took to get a laugh, Gramps would do it. His 1% in life was being in the spotlight as much as possible, but it wasn’t until later in his life that he actually got a chance to focus on it.

   He spent most of his adult life trying to survive just like I am, but he had a family to support so his dreams got put on hold. Then, in his retirement he got to chase the dream he wanted to chase all along. He didn’t get far by the standards of others, but he loved every minute of his life then.

   I’ve been thinking about Gramps a lot lately, as this is the 100th anniversary of his birth year of 1912. His actual birthday isn’t until November 18th, but I’d sure like to have some kind of tribute book of his wisdom written by then. His lessons were all so powerful they need to be passed on.

   I know Gramps felt unfulfilled at the end of his journey, and we had a lot of long conversations about it before he died. Those were some very deep exchanges, and I wish I could see the written transcripts of what we said to each other. I’ll bet there were a lot of pearls I could use right now.

   On one hand, I’m finding myself gaining some of the useful wisdom Gramps had. Between his guidance and my own self discoveries from my many miscues, I’ve managed to learn a whole lot about how the world works. On the other hand, his cynicism has also taken root. I look at what’s going on in the world with extreme mistrust and skepticism, and I’m not sure if I like that or not.

   Like it or not, that’s where my head is. What can I do to make the most of whatever I have left in my tank? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and as my tribute to Gramps I want to keep chasing that 1%. Sometimes his memory and wanting to honor it is all that keeps me in the game.

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

Customer Disservice

Sunday July 15th, 2012 – Reno, NV/Milwaukee, WI

   I had an unpleasant situation at the Reno airport today that really bothered me. I arrived at 5am for my flight and encountered a ticketing check in person who had an attitude larger than her big fat ass, which if it were luggage would not come close to fitting into any overhead compartment.

   It probably could have been used as a floatation device to save at least a few dozen passengers, but that’s not an important part of the story. She was in charge, and she had to let everyone know it. As soon as I arrived, she pounced on my single piece of luggage like a freshly delivered pizza.

   I was actually in a rather jovial mood, as Harrah’s had provided limousine service to the airport and the driver was a laid back pleasant fellow. We shared a few laughs on the trip, and he got me to the airport in plenty of time without a hitch. That’s always a good way to start off a travel day.

   When I politely tried to tell the woman I wouldn’t be checking my bag, she told me I’d have no choice. There was something in her condescending tone and pompous demeanor that let me in on the fact this was going to be an issue that wasn’t going to be solved easily. And it wasn’t. I could tell she was going to do her best to make my life miserable, but I was determined not to accept it.

   She was frothing at the snout telling me how my bag was oversized, and I calmly informed her I had no problem fitting it in on the incoming flight, and I didn’t. That person didn’t even have to measure it. There were no problems, and I’d packed lightly because it was only a three day trip.
   Before I knew it, out came the tape measure and she examined my bag like she was measuring a fourth and inches play in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. It was ridiculous, but she made me check the bag because it was two inches higher than the legal limit. I stared at her in disbelief but she was serious. I tried to tell her it was fine on the incoming flight, but she wouldn’t listen.

   Then I tried to explain that I’d taken this particular bag all over the country without issue, and I have. She was bound and determined not to let it on, and she didn’t. I was steaming when I got to the gate, only to discover they had run out of room in all overhead compartments and said that all remaining carryon luggage would be checked - for free. $25 is $25, and I was going to fight this.

   I tried politely explaining my situation to the customer service person, who had the warmth of a popsicle and the intelligence of the stick. As a rule I’ve never thought I was better than anyone, but the public is starting to win me over. She was no help, and had an assortment of pre recorded corporate gobbledygook in her head she spewed out with zero humanity. I wouldn’t win this one.

   I tried to calmly explain to her that this was insane, but she wouldn’t hear of it either. I asked if $25 was worth losing my business for life, and her eyes glazed over to give me my answer. I’m a dung beetle just trying to survive day to day, and I know I mean nothing in the big picture of life.

   Still, if you ever see me on another U. S. Airways flight in this lifetime, be sure and ask for ID because it probably will be someone else who looks like me. For $25, they have lost me for life.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Breaking The Bank

Saturday July 14th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   It was like a time warp coming back to Reno this week, but I’m glad I did. My life was a mess when I lived here in 1997, and I wasn’t able to enjoy much of anything. I was only here seven or eight months before getting fired from the radio station I worked at, and I was distracted beyond belief with the stress of trying to keep myself out of prison for a bank robbery I didn’t commit.

   What a hectic time that was in retrospect. I wanted to get as far away as I could from all of the insanity that was going on and distance myself from my former best friend who robbed the bank in Milwaukee. He made the conscious choice to do that, and I didn’t. I wanted to sever those ties and manufacture a new life in a new location before it got ugly - which it eventually did anyway.

   The job offer came in Reno, and even though it was a long shot on a wing and a prayer, I rolled the dice and moved in a hurry. I packed all my worldly trinkets into a red Geo Metro and headed west with my fingers crossed. I didn’t know anybody or what my future held, but I went anyway.

   All of that seems like a lifetime ago now, but at the time I remember it being very miserable as it all unfolded. I didn’t know what to expect, and my lawyer kept telling me it wasn’t uncommon for people to go to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. That was more than a little unsettling.

   One of a precious few I could talk to about any of this at the time was a guy named Bill Schulz. He’s also from Milwaukee, and worked at one of the other radio stations in the same building as me. I could confide in him about my predicament, and he was a true friend throughout the ordeal.

   All these years later, Bill is still working for the same company and neither of us would’ve bet on that at 1000-1 odds. He’s the operations manager now, and we had lunch today and caught up after not seeing each other for way too long. It was wonderful to reconnect, but also a bit eerie.

   Bill obviously brought up the bank robbery fiasco almost immediately, as it was a huge part of our friendship connection from the start. I knew he meant no harm, but it felt very uncomfortable going back to that unpleasant time in my head. It was such a downer that I’d just like to move on.

   I realized as we were talking that I won’t be able do that. I might not think about it that often as the years go by, but that story will haunt me for the rest of my life. My absolute best friend in the world forced my hand to testify against him in federal court for a bank robbery he did but tried to pin on me. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I still have nightmares about it.

   I really have to turn that story into a book sooner than later. It’s been laying there for years, but part of me is afraid to go back there because it’s so ugly of a memory. It’s a fabulous story, but it sure wasn’t fun to live through. Coming back to Reno dusted off those memories in a big hurry.

   It wasn’t a bad trip though. The shows went very well and I got to see Bill and Rick D’Elia and another comedian friend Brian Diamond drove in from Sacramento to hang out. Rick said he will have me back any time I like, and I’ll take him up on it. It was great to refresh all these contacts.

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

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Real Mr. Lucky

Friday July 13th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   Friday the 13th rears its head again, and it’s not all that ugly. I love the chance to make it mine as far as promotional purposes go, and Rick D’Elia here in Reno is one of the few who have been smart enough to pick up on it so far and use it as a promotional advantage. There are never more than three in a year, and never less than one. This is the third and final Friday the 13th of 2012.

   I can’t say enough good things about Rick. I liked him before, but after tonight he’s on a whole new level of exalted reverence as far as I’m concerned. We first met in 2003 at the San Francisco Comedy Competition when I was a contestant and he was the host of a few of the shows. He was very encouraging to all the contestants, and we just hit it off from the start and have kept in touch since. He’s always been involved in some side endeavor, and I felt a kindred spirit from the start.

   Maybe part of the reason is we’re both left handed. I don’t know what it is about creative types and being left handed, but there definitely seems to be a link. Not all entertainers are left handers, but a disproportionately large number of us definitely are. I’m the only one of four siblings in my family that had to endure that curse, but in comedy I feel right at home. Lefties are everywhere.

   It’s more than just that though. Rick is unbelievably persistent, and always has some kind of an off the wall project in various stages of completion on his plate. It’s much the same as my world, only Rick has had some significant successes. He is the producer of a Showtime comedy special called ‘The Godfathers of Comedy’ and that’s no small accomplishment. Hats off for that one.

   After the show tonight we sat around and talked for about an hour after a spectacular fireworks display at the new minor league baseball stadium in town. It’s a gorgeous park, and just a couple of blocks from Harrah’s so we went over with some friends of his to see fireworks and listen to a band they liked. They were kind enough to invite me so I didn’t want to be rude and joined them.

   After the fireworks and between the band, Rick and I sat and talked about all of our projects of note through the years. For whatever reason, we’re really on a similar creative plane and have no problem understanding the other’s ideas. He told me when we met how much he liked the whole ‘Mr. Lucky’ concept, but the more I talk to the guy the more I realize he might be the real one.

   He rattled off story after story of how close he’s been on so many deals over the years and how some fluke came out of nowhere and squelched it right as he thought it was a locked proposition. I can totally relate, even though I wish I couldn’t. But I can. I sat in awe as he explained some of his adventures, and it made me have even more respect for him than I did before. He’s a trooper.

   It would be great if guys like us would catch even a little break. Rick and I aren’t the only ones I can name, and it’s never a matter of talent. Rick is an unbelievably funny comedian in his own right, and still finds time to write books and screenplays and now book and run a brand spanking new comedy club which is opening at probably the worst time in recent memory. I’ll do all I can to support Rick and his venture, but he needs a bigger break than that. Here’s hoping he gets it.

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

Returning To Reno

Thursday July 12th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   I’m back in Reno, NV this week headlining Harrah’s new comedy room run by my friend Rick D’Elia. Rick is one of my all time favorite comedians and people, and I’m flattered he would ask me to be part of his new venture. This is the fifth week he’s been open, but I think he’ll do fine.

   He’s taking a big gamble by starting a club in these turbulent times, but I clearly see the reason he’s doing it. Like me, Rick has been a road warrior for way too many years and eventually that just plain gets old. Gas prices alone are killing most of the road dogs off, but it’s more than that.

   This is not a life for anyone who wants to have a family or any shred of stability whatsoever. It can be fun in one’s youth, but after a while it becomes a grind. Nobody ever plans for that, and it sneaks up on everybody. Some of us can handle it longer than others, but eventually we all tire.

   If nothing else, we need a substantial break at some point. I’ve tried radio as my break, and that was a giant mistake I kept making over and over. I thought I’d find a little ‘stability’, but that’s a bigger joke than I could ever come up with in comedy. Rick went to L.A. to play that game for a while, and he was doing pretty well at it but like all of us he had to cover his bills every month.

   For a comedian that usually means going back on the road, and that’s a vicious cycle because it keeps the comedian out of L.A. where the connections are. I tried that game too, but only for one year. I saw where it was headed and reluctantly moved back to Chicago where I could get work.

   I can think of probably fifty other good people and competent acts like Rick who are facing the exact same decision. I’m one of them. What do we do to reinvent ourselves? Rick is far too good of a comic to quit entirely, and if I had power he’d be a lot farther than he is – and in no way is it a slight to what he’s done. He’s a competent headlining act and is one of the nicest guys around.

   Unfortunately, nice doesn’t usually go very far when it comes to career advancement. Nobody really cares if a person is nice or not, at least the powers that be don’t seem to. I can think of a lot of flaming peckerheads who have gotten big breaks, and I’d name them but I’ve gotten myself in enough trouble for my opinions so I’ll keep it to myself for a change. You can guess for yourself.

   One who is anything but mean is Rick D’Elia. He’s a total sweetheart, and I hope he’s a winner with this roll of the dice. He’s with Harrah’s which is a beautiful property, and the comedy room is an ideal size and in an excellent location. It’s not too big or small, and I can see it catching on.

   A special treat tonight was a guest set from a comic named Dave Mencarelli. He’s now running the Catch A Rising Star club at the Silver Legacy, but he was just starting as a comic back when I was living here in 1997. I had a radio job for about six months, and it ended horribly. I was in a bad place in my life then, but he was a kid starting out and I remember his youthful exuberance.

   He’s thanked me over the years for my encouragement, but I really didn’t do much other than tell him to say with it. He did, and it was a pleasure to watch him have a very solid set tonight.

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

A Never Ending Process

Wednesday July 11th, 2012 – Sparta, WI/Libertyville, IL

   No matter what may go wrong in my life, I’m always going to be a comedian. That’s who I am and what I do, and nothing can ever change it. If I go broke and have to get a day job, I’ll still be a comedian with a day job. Whenever I’m on the radio, I’m still a comedian talking on the radio.

   Comedy is a craft, and always has been. I specialize in standup comedy, but if I focused I know I could do improv or comedic acting. I choose to do standup because to me that’s the purest of all forms. There’s a rush that comes from being on stage one with an audience, and I never get tired of being around it. I love performing and talking about performing and studying others doing it.

   Bill Gorgo and I stayed overnight in Sparta, WI so we could have a breakfast with Jim Wiggins and spend more time with him. He’s not on the road nearly as much as he used to be, and he’s as passionate and in love with comedy as we are. We had a delicious breakfast at a diner that could have been right at home in Mayberry, but after that we got down to the brass tacks of comedy.

   Jim is a master student of the game, and Bill said he’s never known anyone who has read more books or spent more time studying the history and technique of the art form. We sat in a park for two hours and recorded a three way conference between Jim, Bill and me that was jam packed to the very end with hints, tips and inside stories of the comedy trade. This made our trip a success.

   It was an experiment we wanted to try, and it worked even better than we imagined. Jim was in rare form, and really added to the mix as we knew he would. He was flattered that we asked him to be part of it, but we were the ones that were flattered he accepted. We were able to nail down a lot of detailed information, and in the future we’ll be a lot more prepared to do it even better.

   On our drive home, Bill and I went through my act and decided that I’ll need a major retool if indeed I’m ever going to take myself to the next level and have a career instead of just a job. It’s not an easy thing to hear that one needs to make a major change so far into the game, but I agree with his observation that where I am now is just not cutting it. I need to cut bait and cast again.

   Tiger Woods is a perfect example of someone who has done this more than once. I read where he hired a new coach and restructured his entire swing from the ground up. Not many could ever understand why someone so successful would need to do it, but I totally get it. It took major guts, but he did it and it produced tremendous results. I understood Bill as soon as he suggested I do it.

   Louis CK says that he now gets rid of his entire act every year and comes up with a whole new one. It may sound totally foreign to all his fans and most other comedians as well, but I get it. He has the opportunity to keep growing and improving, and that’s his way of doing it. I respect that.

   Tonight Bill and I taught a comedy class at the Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. We had a tremendous class, partially because we’d spent the last two days immersing ourselves in the craft continuously. The students were into it, and we clicked the entire two hours. No matter what else gets in my way, this is what it’s all about in my world. Nothing else comes close to this passion.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Piles Of Piles

Monday July 9th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   The more I get done lately, the more that piles up. Life isn’t supposed to work like that, is it? If this is a joke from the universe, I’m not laughing. I’ve been too busy to laugh, as I’ve been trying to breathe life into project after project. I’m all out of air, and as I look around all I see are piles.

   I’ve got an extra thick pile of paper mail to open, most of it bills. I’ve also got a pile of email to answer, most of it junk. I have a pile of phone messages to answer, most of those people wanting me to do them favors or give them money I don’t have. I also have a big old funky pile of clothes that need washing - one of my least favorite chores. I have piles of piles, and I’m overwhelmed.

   I’m going on the road the rest of this week, and it won’t allow me to shrink those piles like I’d like to. It’s always an annoying struggle to keep the inane trivial chores under control, but we all have it. Some handle it better than others, and I’m not one of them. Every facet of my life needs a reboot, but who has time for any of it? I’m too busy trying to plow through yet another day.

   The comedy shows this weekend at Zanies were pure fun, as was The Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP last night. We had a fun vibe the whole night, but I came close to nodding off behind the wheel on my way home because I’m just way too tired. There’s too much to do.

   I haven’t even filed my taxes for the last couple of years, and I got a letter from the IRS asking where my returns were. The receipts are on a table in another ugly pile, and if they want to come and look at them I’ll gladly let them have at it. I’m not hiding anything, I’m just way too busy to get them done. None of this is an excuse, but it definitely is a reason. I just can’t stay caught up.

   It’s not like I’m lazy. I’m always working on something, and have made more progress during the last year or so on a lot of things than I ever have. Since I’ve been out of the hospital from my diabetes diagnosis and surgery, I’ve put a lot of effort into my health. I’ve made solid progress.

   So why am I so far behind on everything? I wish I knew. There are no time outs to regroup like there are in sports. If there were, now would be the perfect point to take one. I could use a couple of weeks to just rest up and relax without having stress about any of this, but that’s not realistic.

   I have to work even harder if I’m ever going to get out of this hole, and if I do I know it’s only temporary because in too short of a time I’ll be right back in it again. I know I’m by far not alone in this position, but it sure seems like it as I look around at my life and see all those giant piles.

   Money would sure be a nice addition to the mix right now. It wouldn’t necessarily solve all of my problems, but it would let me buy time to look for real solutions. Filing my taxes is going to happen sooner than later, but that’s going to cost me money I don’t have. It’s all about the cash.

   Trying to earn a living is a big part of the reason I’ve got so much going on in the first place. If I had a more stable income I wouldn’t have to go on the road this week to earn money to pay the bills that are piling up around me and taking me out of my rhythm. I could use a windfall.Soon.

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

Thrown A Bone

Sunday July 8th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I can’t stop thinking about how fun it was to be part of Zanies in Rosemont this weekend. What a pleasure it was on so many levels, but now it’s over. I’m sure I’ll be back there at some point in some capacity, but I won’t count on a lot of work. Every comedian in America will be begging to work that room, and I’m just one of a long line of countless others who can do the job on stage.

   I’m not kidding myself. I got this week because I’m one of Zanies favorites, not because I have any power or clout and I especially don’t have any drawing power. Bert Haas graciously tossed a bone my way, and I couldn’t be more grateful. But he could have tossed it to anyone he wanted.

   That’s the problem every comic in the business faces. It’s a numbers game. There are unlimited people wanting a limited number of bones, and the throwers of those bones all have an individual method of how they distribute them. It’s our job as performers to figure out how everyone does it and get as many bones as we can. It becomes a maddening pursuit, and it’s a never ending game.

   Zanies has been a source of bones for me for decades. For whatever reason, we’ve developed a mutually beneficial relationship and it continues to this day. Anybody would have loved to work in Rosemont this weekend, but I was one of only three lucky dogs in town to be thrown a bone.

   Comedians need to find a new bone thrower every week, and that’s where I’m having a bit of a struggle of late. Nobody said the bone throwers were fair and quite often ability alone is not why a particular bone is thrown to a particular person. There are all kinds of added factors involved.

   One of them is familiarity. Bert Haas knew Larry Reeb, Pat McGann and myself very well. He knew our acts, and he knew us as people and knew we’d all be reliable and not pains in the ass to deal with offstage. It took years for all of us to develop that relationship with Bert, but it’s there.

   Another big one is likeability. Bert happens to like us all, and there’s no doubt that was part of the reason we were the ones chosen for the opening week. I’m sure he likes other comics too, but we were the ones that got chosen and likeability is always part of the process even if it’s implied.

   My problem is I don’t have enough bookers like Bert who think of me first. Most of them who have heard of me know I can do the job on stage, but so can hundreds of others. I have to hope a bone gets thrown my way, but I have no advantage over anyone else as to whether I’ll ever get it.

   Then there are those who just don’t like me personally. Again, it has nothing to do with what I can or can’t do on stage and that’s what’s so frustrating. They have their supply of bones, and I’ll never get one as long as they’re in charge. They don’t need me, and that’s a sledgehammer to the back of the skull. They’re in charge, and they know it. I can go around some of them, but not all.

   It’s becoming a buyer’s market more and more, and the only way I can get past it is find a way to become a draw. That’s been a total mystery for as long as I’ve been at this, which has been too long to still be hoping for stray bones. I’m grateful for all of them, but I could use some stability.

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

A Weekend In Comedy Heaven

Saturday July 7th, 2012 – Rosemont, IL

   Two more scorching shows tonight at the new Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL, and for a couple of extremely enjoyable evenings this weekend it actually felt like I was in real live honest to goodness show business. This operation is right up there with any of the finest comedy rooms I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all over North America. This just might be the best one of all.

   Everything about this room is state of the art. The sound and lights were magnificent, and those who showed up for the shows were there to be entertained. I know they got in free this weekend because it was a ‘soft opening’, but I really think this place will explode in a short time. They’ve got an outstanding location, as it’s in a new complex that is building all kinds of new attractions.

   There’s an enormous convention center barely a block away, and a row of top of the line hotels are within a few blocks of that. There’s also a brand new casino just down the road, so there’s all kinds of potential business from multiple sources in every direction. What could be a better bet?

   On top of that, the place is being managed by competent people who have not only been in the comedy business for years; they’ve been in it in Chicago. That’s a huge factor. This isn’t a chain of restaurants that opened a new location in a new town and hired someone to run it who used to run an Applebee’s in Appleton. They’re way ahead of the game, and that’s why I see it working.

   They’ve put together an outstanding staff with Cyndi Nelson in charge as manager. She used to manage Zanies in Pheasant Run and turned the entire vibe around in that location. She is beloved by the comics because she treats us all like stars, but knows how to crack the whip when need be.

   Also on staff is Dan Carlson. Not only is he a hilarious comic himself, he used to be the person in charge of an annual event called The Chicago Comedy Festival which was also loved by all of the people who participated. Cyndi and Dan are both extremely good with people and have hands on experience dealing with comics, customers and the business in general. What a potent combo.

   Bert Haas has a ton of experience as well. He’s the General Manager and has been with Zanies a lot longer than I have, and I’m part of the old guard. We’ve both been involved in the openings of the Pheasant Run location in St. Charles and the Vernon Hills location which was open twenty years, and even though each location has been successful for a long time - this dwarfs them both.

   It was great fun doing the shows this weekend in such a wonderful setting, and part of that was the other acts on the bill. Pat McGann is the new guard and I see a very bright future for him for a very long time. I also worked with Larry Reeb, one of my all time favorites. ‘Uncle Lar’ is one of the greatest club comics in America, and a student of the game like I am. I really respect him.

   Bert Haas was smart to book the three of us this weekend, because we’ve all worked locally for years and are Zanies regulars. None of us were green, onstage or off. It was pure pleasure to have a chance to work with an entire crew of competent people I respect greatly and happen to be very fond of personally as well. It’s comedy heaven. Oh, how I wish it could be like this every week.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Zanies In Rosemont, IL

Friday July 6th, 2012 – Rosemont, IL

   Now THIS is what standup comedy is all about! Zanies Comedy Club just opened a brand new location in Rosemont, IL and tonight was opening night. I was fortunate enough to be a part of it and it was one of the best nights I can remember in decades. It was like the ‘80s were back again.

   Everything about this place is absolutely first class, from the physical layout of the room to the location to the sound and lights to the staff. If there’s a better comedy club in America, I have yet to see it. This place has major success written all over it, and I hope it happens. Comedy needs it.

   Too many comedy clubs have closed in recent years, and unfortunately most of them deserved it. This is a very tricky business, and there’s a delicate balance needed to stay afloat. It’s not like a traditional bar, club or restaurant - even though those are all tricky endeavors in their own way.

   Comedy has a lot of subtleties, and the right acts have to be put in the right combination in the right location on a consistent basis to keep customers coming back. It’s not easy, and few places ever figure it out for the long haul. Those who do become leaders of the industry, like a Zanies.

   I’ve been associated with the Zanies family for more than twenty years now, and I’ve learned a whole lot about the off stage business of comedy during that time. Zanies has always advertised, as they understand that it’s a business. Too many people in comedy never get that, especially the majority of comedians. I freely admit I was an idiot too. I thought customers would just show up.

   Location has a lot to do with long term success, and if a club is near other entertainment outlets customers will just show up. The Funny Bone in St. Louis was a prime example in the ‘80s when they opened in an area called Westport Plaza. There were bars and restaurants and people walked around looking for fun things to do. That club exploded, and Rosemont Zanies has a similar vibe.

   There are all kinds of bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the club and a spanking new multi screen movie theatre is right across the way. There’s also a new casino right down the road in Des Plaines, and a ton of hotels along the road the club is on. Convention business should be huge, and I’d have to think all kinds of relationships could be made with all those businesses.

   The show tonight was beyond spectacular. A bunch of comics showed up to do guest sets for a packed audience, who were all there to laugh. The mayor of Rosemont was there and there were all kinds of pictures taken. It was like a movie premiere or something. I can’t remember when if ever I’ve had this much fun and everybody had a fantastic set. The audience was over the top.

   These aren’t the shows we get paid for. Anyone would have done it for free tonight. I knew the crowd was red hot as soon as the show started, and I went up and took no prisoners from the first five words. It’s fun when it’s like that, but far too rare. Like I said, it reminded me of how it used to be in the ‘80s when comedy clubs were new. It was like this almost every night, but I wasn’t a headliner then. Now I’ve got the experience and know what to do. This is better than any drug.

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Road Reversal

Thursday July 5th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I have come to a humbling realization that I need to change my entire way of doing business if I intend to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s like a restaurant owner realizing a mom and pop joint has to either expand and become a franchise or close its doors. Status quo won’t cut the mustard.

   The same is true with what I’m doing. I have to either find a way to duplicate myself to a much larger audience or find something else to do that doesn’t involve so much travel. It takes way too much energy to be on the road constantly, and decades of doing just that has taken a major toll.

   It was nothing short of an epic swashbuckling adventure to constantly explore the broad stretch of the North American landscape throughout my youth, even though I’m not exactly certain what is all involved when one swashbuckles. Suffice it to say I had a lot of fun touring my homeland.

   I made the conscious decision very early to try and see all four corners of the United States and as much of Canada as I could, and I did. If there were comedy clubs in Mexico and I was able to speak Spanish, I’d have gone there too. I did get to some amazing places in Mexico on my recent cruise ship excursion of the last couple of years, so I’ll consider that a victory too. But I’m done.

   Travel just for the sake of travel is over for this salty old road dog. Gas prices through the roof and higher and the nightmare of air travel having to deal with TSA have turned what used to be a major perk into a maddening chore. If I were told I had to stay within a 100 mile radius of where I live now for the rest of my life, I’d be totally fine with that. I really do enjoy where I’m living.

   I’m glad I saw the places I saw though, and I liked a lot of those as well. If I had one chance to move one more time and then stay within 100 miles of that for the rest of my life, I’d have a hard time choosing where that would be. I loved Salt Lake City when I was there, and even purchased a house because I planned on settling in for the long haul. Those mountains have a magnetic pull.

   I liked Reno too, even though when I lived there it wasn’t the best of times for me personally. I had friends there and it was close to San Francisco which is another place I absolutely love. Why Tony Bennett left his heart there is no mystery. If I had a reason to live there, I’d leave tomorrow and not look back. I loved Los Angeles too. I could settle many places, but I really need to settle.

   It’s not about the where anymore, it’s about the what. What am I doing with my life and career that makes the most use of my remaining time and energy? Traveling to Duluth or Detroit or Des Moines or anywhere else to entertain 50 people is not the business model it once was. That won’t make me or anyone rich, as it’s painfully inefficient. How do I reach the most people the fastest?

   If I can funnel my creativity into cranking out products to resell like videos, books, scripts and the like, I have more leverage than if I do a live show in some random town and just leave. Once a particular show is over, it’s gone forever. I’ve left thousands of those shows behind since 1985, and I have nothing to show for it except memories. They’re mostly positive ones, but which bills will those pay this month? It’s like I’ve had my retirement first, now I have to get down to work.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mayberry Mourning

Wednesday July 4th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I think for a select few very lucky people, success is a matter of destiny. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them but not many of us are. It’s extremely rare, but when it does happen they’re the ones that touch millions. Andy Griffith was one of those people, and I was sad to hear of his passing. I know he was 86 and had an outstanding run, but any time a giant like that leaves us I feel a loss.

   What an amazing success story that guy has, and he made his mark more than once. His “What It Was, Was Football” recorded standup comedy bit from 1953 was a huge hit, and that alone has my utmost respect. It’s unique, funny and still holds up today. I’ve played it often in my classes.

   If I could come up with a bit that would become that well known, I’d consider my career a big success. So far, I haven’t come close after going on thirty years of trying as hard as I can. That’s how rare it is, and Andy Griffith did it. But that’s considered only one of his smallest successes.

   ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was THE television sitcom of all time in my opinion, and there are millions of others that wholeheartedly agree. There can be arguments made for other shows, but for sheer humanity and warmth that show stands alone. I’ve been a fan all my life and I still am.

   Those early black and white episodes were made before I was born, and they’ll be entertaining people long after I’m dead. They’re absolute classics, and to leave a legacy like that is simply the best any entertainer could hope for. I think it goes beyond entertainment and into popular culture, and very few people ever achieve that elite status. Who in America has not heard of Mayberry?

   If that wasn’t enough, he went on to star in ‘Matlock’ for another nine years and that was also a huge hit. Any show that lasts nine years on network television must be doing something correctly and again, that alone would have cemented Andy Griffith’s place as a legitimate bona fide star.

   I was not a Matlock viewer, but I didn’t watch a lot of TV shows made after 1985. That’s when I started in comedy full time and I was busy performing most nights and lost interest. Millions of others did watch that show, and my grandmother was one of them. I’ll bet she saw every episode.

   I have to wonder what kind of a personal life the guy had. I know success and money are never guarantees of happiness, and each of us is different. I’ve read articles about Andy saying he’s not Andy Taylor off camera, but it’s a part of him. I think all performers do that to a certain extent.

   Mr. Lucky is not who I am off stage, but it is a part of me even at times when I don’t want it to be. Successful performers create characters, and that’s what Griffith did both with Sheriff Taylor and Matlock. He also did it in a much darker way in the film “A Face in the Crowd” in 1957. He said that was also a part of him, and I’m sure it was. We’re all human, and we have many sides.

   I’m sorry I never got to meet Andy Griffith in person, but I sure did enjoy his work. Knowing how rare it is to achieve the level of success he did makes me admire his accomplishments even more. He was an icon, and will be remembered for generations. I hope he enjoyed his success.

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