Monday, February 27, 2012

Detroit Leaning

Saturday February 25th, 2012 - Detroit, MI

   “Ain’t no party like a DEE-troit party, ‘cause a DEE-troit party don’t stop.” I remember seeing a band from Detroit once that kept repeating that riff line over and over throughout their set. I’m sure they got it from somewhere else, but it sounded fresh when they did it.

   Hard as it may be to believe, today was packed with nonstop fun from morning to night. In Detroit. Michigan. Really. And I’m not on drugs. If every week on the road could be as much fun as this off stage, I’d be in a much better mindset to have better shows on stage.

   Phil Dunham was unbelievably nice to put me up at his expense at the Townsend Hotel. He has a great relationship there, and the whole staff knows him. He’s a regular at the bar and restaurant, and they treat him like he owns the place. The service was top of the line.

   Phil showed up at 9am to have breakfast, and we talked about comedy for a while until my comedy writer friend Bill Mihalic showed up to join us. Bill and Phil are my two best friends in the Detroit area, and to get to hang out with both of them in one day was a treat.

   Bill suggested we take a tour of ‘Hitsville’, the house that’s a Motown Museum located on West Grand Boulevard where Berry Gordy started in 1959. I’ve always wanted to take that tour, and I’m surprised in all the times I’ve been to Michigan I’d never ever done it.

   Boy, have I been missing out. For an admission of only $10 per person, we were treated to one of the best tourist attractions I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Our tour guide was absolutely amazing, as he told us fact after fascinating fact, frequently singing songs we’d all heard all of our lives. That guy was on his game, and made a great experience greater.

   That alone made my drive well worth it, but we weren’t finished touring. Bill took us to the Cobo Convention Center for a hot rod car show called ‘Autorama’. I absolutely love a good classic and hot rod car show, and this was it. It doesn’t get any better for a car nut.

   Great friends, great events. What a combination! We laughed and learned and hung out all day, and we all knew this was a special experience. One of those two events would’ve made my whole month, but both on the same day with such good friends was a huge deal. These are the kind of days to savor as they happen, knowing they’ll be stellar memories.

   Then there was the scorcher of a comedy show at Portofino’s restaurant in Wyandotte at night. Bill had to attend an acting class, and couldn’t attend. He’s branching out from just writing jokes, and doing very well. He’s had success selling jokes to Jay Leno regularly in addition to his own daily “Bill’s Pills” which can be seen at www.highimpacthumor.com.

   Everything about today was exactly how I pictured my life to be. I had fun with friends all day, and then a red hot show in front of a full crowd at night. Does life get any better? Even a few of the hottie waitresses came over to tell us how much they enjoyed our show. I’m telling you, Detroit as a whole gets a bad rap. I can see why Prince Fielder chose here.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Motown Mystique

Friday February 24th, 2012 - Birmingham, MI

   I know it sounds goofy, but I always look forward to coming to Detroit. Yes, some parts of the city proper are downright frightening, but the area as a whole has a unique vibe that I really like. There are some very affluent suburbs where the people are quite friendly, and an ever so slight Canadian influence since Windsor, ON is right next door. I like the mix.

   Had I grown up here instead of Milwaukee, I think I would have fit right in and enjoyed myself. I love the car culture and soul music, and Detroit has a lot to offer in both of those departments. They have fun here, and there’s a sense of civic pride I feel whenever I visit.

   I never felt that kind of upbeat exciting energy in Milwaukee growing up. That place is full of beer swilling Germans who care way too much about keeping their lawns trimmed and cooking sausage. It’s very conservative, and I guess there’s a charm to that too but for my tastes I’ll take Detroit any day of the week. There are faults, but overall I enjoy it here.

   How crazy must it have been during the boom years in the ‘50s and ‘60s when they had the world by the ball joints? I bet there were some star studded wild parties in those days, and nobody ever thought it would end. Then the ‘70s came and the party lights turned out.

   In a way, the comedy business has a similar story line. The ‘80s were the boom years of comedy clubs, and everyone thought that would last forever too. Well, very few things do with the exception of the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Everything else fades.

   Detroit and the whole state of Michigan had a killer comedy scene at one time. I worked all kinds of shows in all kinds of venues for all kinds of bookers throughout the course of my tenure, and I hope to keep doing it for years to come. Michiganders relate to my style.

   That being said, there was no show tonight but I made the drive anyway so I’d be all set for tomorrow. There’s supposed to be a full house, so that’s always nice to hear. Losing a day’s pay really isn’t my idea of a fun weekend, but I can’t do anything about it now. I am considering myself lucky, as the whole weekend could have been taken out on low notice.

   Flukes like that do happen, and they’re never fun. I have to zip my lip and be happy I’ve still got a gig tomorrow night. Nothing says the world owes me a living, and that could’ve easily fallen out on short notice too. In these times, I have to be grateful for whatever I get and I am - even though those cancellations really poke a hole in the party plans. It’s nuts.

   My friend Phil Dunham is on the show tomorrow, and I’m glad he is. He’s trying to put a full time act together and be a full time comic. He’s got an amazing passion for the craft and a work ethic that he got from building his personal financial business for many years.

   Phil was kind enough to put me up in one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. It’s in the suburb of Birmingham, MI and it’s called ‘The Townsend Hotel’. Wow, what a joint. Phil bought me a delicious dinner too, and didn’t have to. He and Detroit both have class.

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

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rolling The Dice Of Destiny

Thursday February 23rd, 2012 - Palatine, IL/Kenosha, WI

   I’m rolling the dice of destiny, not once but two more times. One is considerably riskier than the other, but the rewards potential is much bigger too. Without risk, there can be no reward. I’ve always realized that, and I’ve always been willing to take the consequences.

   Most if not all of the risks I’ve taken have blown up in my face, but that doesn’t mean it was a total failure. I have learned a lot, and that’s part of the program as well. Experience can be a cruel teacher, but also a good one. Lessons learned hard are lessons learned well.

   That sounds like something Confucious should have said. Maybe he did, or maybe I am having a fortune cookie flashback. Either way, two completely separate projects I’ve been working on had major steps completed today and I‘m delighted. I feel like a proud father.

   The first one is the wardrobe for the King of Uranus. There’s a costume shop going out of business in Palatine, IL and they’re selling off their rental costumes. I took a major risk and bought several articles of clothing I won’t be able to wear anywhere else, for anything else - unless I decide to start a professional wrestling organization or a gay pride parade.

   I’ve now got a world class supply of capes, crowns, full and partial length furs and even a glittery gold pair of pants with a vest to match. I know it’s crazy, but it’s also fun. I love the fact that I took the chance and have now jumped in with both feet. Uranus is a reality!

   Well, it’s a potential reality. I still have to do something with the character, but I can see  it starting to take a definite shape. I have a nice rotation of outfits to wear in videos, and it will get more defined as the process evolves. This was a major step, and I‘m glad I did it.

   I took a big financial risk by doing it, but I’ve done that before. I still remember vividly when I bought a wrestling ring in 1991. I spent my last penny on it, and everyone thought I was insane. Maybe I was, but I sure had fun promoting wrestling matches. And I learned a whole lot about a whole lot of things. I didn’t get rich in money, but it was still worth it.

   I know this will be the same thing. I’ll make mistakes here too, but I’ll learn from them as well. And if it flops, so what? What’s going to happen, are they going to repossess the wardrobe of the King of Uranus? Have at it. At least they’ll have something to talk about on the way back to the office. In my mind, the only failure would be to not do this at all.

   The other project that came together today was a finished version of my comedy DVD. Mark Gumbinger called to tell me he had advance copies of it in hand, and wanted me to drive to Kenosha to pick them up so I can start sending them out immediately. So I did.

   This project was by far less risky, but still very important. I now have a completed DVD  that is over a full hour in length, clean in content and shot in HD so it can be used for TV if necessary. Mark did a splendid job, and we did it for a very affordable price. Today was a milestone on two fronts. The King of Uranus lives, as does ‘The Dented Can’ on DVD.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

TV Times Three

Wednesday February 22nd, 2012 - Milwaukee, WI/Chicago, IL

   Lots of quality media exposure today, so that’s a plus. Lots of stress getting everywhere, and that isn’t. Three opportunities happened to come together today, so I had to say yes to them all. Better to do all of them in one day and be tired than spread it out over three days and be overwhelmed. This was my day to play media star, so I dressed the part and did it.

   My first stop was at Today’s TMJ 4 in Milwaukee to be a guest again on ‘The Morning Blend’ with Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle. I love being on that show, as everyone goes out of their way to be nicer than nice. They make me feel like a big star every time I show up.

   Kim Buchanan is the executive producer, and Katie Pinkowski is the producer that I’ve dealt with every time I’ve been on. They’re professionals, crystal clear in communication, and pleasant people to deal with. There’s never any lingering tension when I’m there, and that goes a long way to making for a successful appearance. They make it a total pleasure.

   It’s not like that everywhere. The Bob and Tom radio show always had a tense and ugly vibe whenever I walked in that studio, and I felt pressure to have to perform immediately or get out. Not here. I feel very much at home, and always did. It’s much better this way.

   The hosts Molly and Tiffany are excellent too. Not only are they both really nice to look at, they’re real people with human warmth. They both come over and hug me and mean it, not just some fake showbiz tripe. I’m a big fan of both of those ladies, and the show too.

   My second stop was an interview with Jason Evans, founder of a website that promotes everything going on in the Milwaukee comedy scene. It’s www.mkefunny.com, and he’s put a tremendous amount of hard work into it.  I respect his effort. Jason wanted to know details about my upcoming C. Cardell Willis tribute show at Shank Hall on April 22nd.

   He was also able to get Chris Barnes to show up, another veteran comedian who started even before I did. Chris and I are the same age, and he’s an amazingly talented performer. I think Chris is one of the most naturally gifted entertainers I’ve ever seen. He has a giant personality on stage, and audiences adore him. He has a magic that few others possess.

   Jason brought Jeff Lampton along, another Milwaukee comedian I really like. I get him. He’s also a dented can, and has had a lot of off stage struggles that have been a frustrating hindrance to his development. Boy, can I relate to that. I’ll offer support however I can.

   My last stop was in Chicago to be a guest on ‘The Guy Bauer Half Hour’, a funny show coincidentally hosted by Guy Bauer. We met at Zanies a while back as he wanted to know how to be funnier on his show and we recorded a piece. It was fun, and he’s a solid host.

   This kid really gets it. He’s sharp as a tack, and has a fantastic attitude. I’m glad I did all three of these interviews today, even though it was a 17 hour day when it was all over. I’ll gladly do this every day if it’s with fun people like this. I felt good vibes in all directions.

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

Cancellation Frustration

Tuesday February 21st, 2012 - Fox Lake, IL

   And then…it all came crashing down. This whole survival thing is getting to be a rather nasty pursuit these days out here in the trenches - even nastier than usual. I for one am not fond of this developing trend, but my vote means about as much as flatulence from a flea.

   Today I took two direct hits dead in the face financially within a half hour of each other, and as much as it hurts I have little to no recourse other than bend over and take it. This is not what I signed up for, but I’m too deep into it to quit. All I can do is hang on as long as I can and hope life gets better. It feels like I’m in the direct path of an oncoming tornado.

   The first blow came when I was informed there was a fallout for a Friday night show in the Detroit area. I had originally booked a Friday and Saturday at a place I’ve done before and liked very much. Another comic books the shows, and he’s ethical and well respected by his peers. He does his best to create quality work for himself and others when he can.

   It just so happened that this time, the Friday show fell through. It happens, and I knew it when I took the booking. It’s always a crap shoot in situations like this, and this is one of those times when the crap wins. It comes at a horrific time, but it goes with the territory.

   Self employment is not for the squeamish. Circumstances come up, and getting angry is the worst thing anyone can do. We play the odds as entertainers, and this time I lost. I can whine about it, or I can move on. The bad part is, I still have to drive to Detroit to do only one show Saturday. It’s the same wear and tear on my car, but now for only half the pay.

   I wasn’t even through letting that soak into my psyche when I received another message that caused my already sinking spirit to slide even deeper into the dung heap. I had both a show booked and weekend comedy class to teach in West Virginia of all places, and now it was no more apparently. It was booked months ago, and I assumed it was solid. Wrong.

   Never assume ANYTHING, especially in the entertainment business. This really puts a monkey wrench into everything, as I already had that money spent. It was my cushion for the month of March’s expenses, and I was counting on it. Count no more. I’m devastated.

   To make everything even more complicated, difficult and completely unpleasant, I was able to pick up a last minute fallout show in Blacksburg, VA from another booking agent for Wednesday to help defray my travel expenses. I was ecstatic at the time, as it appeared to be a fortuitous stroke of luck in my favor. Now I can’t cancel, and it’s a gigantic hassle.

   I know that neither of these situations are anything personal against me, but they sure do wipe me out at the legs and knock me on my ass with a thud. I was counting on all of that money, but now I won’t get half of it. And I still have to make TWO long drives on top of everything. It’s the worst case scenario, and I can’t say I’m thrilled about any of it but I’m powerless to do anything. Some money is better than none, so what can I do? Still want to get into comedy? Think it’s a glamour job? It isn’t. I’m about ready to go deliver pizzas.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Einstein's Hair Style

Monday February 20th, 2012 - Fox Lake, IL

   Go, go, go. Run, run, run. Work, work, work. My life has played out like the plot from a ‘Dick and Jane’ 1st grade reader lately. I’m all over the place like Einstein’s hair style, and every day has been a constant race against the clock to squeeze in everything I need to do.

   This isn’t how I think life should be, but since when has anybody including the universe cared about what I think? It’s how things are. It does make it a bit challenging to stop and smell life’s roses, and eventually I have to think I’ll burn out if I continue this hectic pace.

   But there are just too many things I really like doing. I can’t make up my mind. Should I work on my on stage comedy act? Focus on finding more bookings? What about teaching more classes and getting my program online so I can help new comics all over the world?

   It all sounds great, and I want to do all of that. But, I also love hosting ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI and the whole show could stand some tweaking as well. It’s a lot of fun, but it could be a lot better if I put more effort into it.

   And then there’s the King of Uranus. That’s my baby, and I love the thought of making that character FINALLY come to life after years of brewing in my head. It’s showing a lot of promise, and I feel more reaction to that than anything else I’ve ever done. It’s a thrill.

   But wait a minute, I still have a ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst’ one man show to get off the ground. That’s a lot of fun too, and I know people will enjoy it if they grew up in Milwaukee like I did. If I find the right venue, it’s ready to go.

   And people wonder why I’m single. Who has time for a steady girlfriend, much less get married or spawn any kids? I can barely find time to take women out for lunch or dinner, but I still manage to squeeze that in at least once in a while. My calendar is a heaping pile of things to do, and no matter how much I get done it seems like I’m not making progress.

   That’s extremely frustrating, because I know it’s not true. I absolutely AM making a lot of progress, even though I don’t always get an opportunity to enjoy it. There’s always the next thing that needs my attention, and I admit I’m getting frazzled, frustrated and fed up.

   I wish I had an easy solution. It’s easy to say I’m just going to focus on one thing, but it never works out in reality. I’ve got too many interests, and too many coins in various slot machines to narrow it down to just the one. I think I have to find a better system to make the most of what time I do have. I’m building most of these ideas from ground zero, and that devours my time and effort. Things are progressing slowly, but they are progressing.

   And then there’s the C. Cardell Willis All Star Tribute Show on Sunday April 22nd at Shank Hall in Milwaukee. That’s a priority too, and has a shelf life. This will be my one chance to pay tribute to a mentor who made a lot of what I’m doing possible, because he helped me cut my chops. I can’t forget that, and I don’t. Lots going on. Full speed ahead.

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

Perfection vs. Improvement

Sunday February 19th, 2012 - Fox Lake, IL

   It’s time to take a step up. Again. In every facet of life. I’ve always said I don’t consider myself to be a perfectionist, but rather an ‘improvementist’. Chasing perfection will never produce the desired results, and is a futile pursuit in my opinion. It’s about improvement.

   Steady and measurable improvement in every area of one’s life is a much more realistic goal, and very attainable with some concentrated effort. That’s what I’m shooting for, and it’s a never ending process. Just when one thing starts going well, something else needs to be tweaked. That’s how it is for everyone, so I’m not complaining. It’s how life plays out.

   Days become weeks become months, years and decades. True success in life as a whole  is a cumulative effect. It’s a string of countless little victories strung together to produce a final big one. It’s a mosaic. I wish it hadn’t taken this long for me to grasp this, but it has.

   That being said, I’m doing all I can to improve in all areas. It can be a daunting task, but what are the options? Some people just give up, and I can see why. Burying one’s head in a booze bottle or crack pipe might be a temporary fix, but it won’t get rid of the problem.

   On the other hand, facing the hardness of life sober can also be overwhelming. Without any padding to numb the pain, life’s blows can be excruciating and also impede progress. It’s a constant battle to keep getting back up after getting knocked down again and again.

   Sometimes I feel like I can’t get back up again, but others it feels like I’m bullet proof and can easily handle all the punishment life can throw at me and then some. Maybe I’m punch drunk after all these years, or just plain stupid with a little bit of na├»ve thrown in.

   Right now, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve absorbed a lot of punishment, but I’m also still in the game and not intimidated by anything or anyone. I’ve made it whole lot farther than anyone thought I would in life, and by all accounts I should be dead. Why am I still here?

   I don’t know, but whether there’s a reason or not I’m going to make one. I don’t want to wander off into oblivion kicking and screaming like most of my family did. The image of my uncle who died this New Year’s Day screams loudly at me to make every day count.

   If I’m going to keep improving as a whole person, I have to compartmentalize. Diet and exercise have to be a daily priority, but so do a lot of other things. Reading should be part of my daily routine, as should writing and creating. All these things suck up a ton of time.

   So now it all boils down to the time management game again. It’s like a giant complex puzzle, and solving it would probably be easy if I had the cheat sheet. But I don’t. It feels like I’m wandering through life with both thumbs up my ass trying to hitch hike. I have to be ready to accept a ride when opportunity stops to pick me up, and that’s what I’m trying to do by looking to step everything up. I want my life to stand out in a crowd, and inspire other dented cans that there can indeed be a happy ending to a life that started out poorly.

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

Sax Appeal

Saturday February 18th, 2012 - Schaumburg, IL

   I almost never like to not be performing on any given Saturday night, but this week will  go down as a rare exception. I had the most fortunate opportunity to see Bobby Keys play his famous saxophone live in Schaumburg, IL with ‘Hot Rocks’, a Rolling Stones tribute.

   Any time I have a chance to check out a legend of any kind - especially live, I try to do it. I usually end up learning a lot, and also being thoroughly entertained during the entire process. Legends don’t get to be legends by accident. Success always leaves a few clues.

   I really enjoyed being able to meet him with Mike Preston and Jim McHugh earlier this week. Standing behind the camera and hearing his fascinating show business stories was absolutely surreal. This guy walked the walk, and worked with rock’s biggest acts ever.

   I greatly respect the fact he’s still out there playing live, and from what I saw and heard tonight he isn’t just going through the motions. He lit that joint up like a cheap cigar, and had everyone in the audience mesmerized from the first note. He can still bring the heat.

   That’s what performers do. Musicians, comedians, actors, athletes - it doesn’t make any difference. Those who have ‘it’ in their blood, have it for life. The body might not always cooperate, but it’s in the soul and always will be. Live performing is a perpetual pursuit.

   A delightful and spectacular benefit of standup comedy is, it can be done right up to and throughout the aging process. There aren’t many athletes over 40, but comedians can keep it going as long as they can stand and speak for 45 minutes. Our desire never goes away.

   It doesn’t go away for athletes either, but the body can’t keep up after a while. All most comedians have to do physically is hold a one pound microphone. It’s not that stressful in a physical way, even though sometimes mentally it can fry an ostrich egg on one’s skull.

   If Bobby Keys was stressed in any way, he sure didn’t show it. He walked in there with his ax ready to go and a look of calm confidence on his face, and when it was his turn, he stepped up and showed everyone why they were there. He commanded that stage from the start, and it was a joy to watch. I heard every year he’s spent on the road in his first song.

   Of course, the song was ‘Brown Sugar’. I’m sure he’s played it at least a time or twelve before. Still, he leaned into it and blew sweet noises through that horn that few if anybody else within six states could have matched with an entire army of musicians. What a talent. If nobody else appreciated how much ability that guy has, I sure did. It was worth the trip.

   Mike and Jim got the footage they needed for Mike’s ‘Psychobabble’ show, and I didn’t have to do anything but sit back and enjoy the night - which I did. Music is not something I claim to know anything about, but I do know entertainment and I’m glad I got to see one of the best ever practice his craft in person. He’s been doing it longer than I’ve been alive, and I’m rapidly approaching full blown geezer-hood. This was a lesson in showmanship.

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

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Twenty Years Too Late

Friday February 17th, 2012 - Kenosha, WI

    Oh, how I wish I could live my life over again and make smarter decisions. I wish there would be some kind of a loud warning alarm that goes off right before a person was about to make an epic blunder that would take years to live down. But there isn’t. And it stinks.

   It sure would save a lot of wasted time and energy, not to mention deep dark depression mixed with sorrow and sadness that causes more questionable decisions to be made. It’s a vicious cycle, and I do mean vicious. Effort spent cleaning up mistakes takes a huge toll.

   Everyone makes mistakes, but some of us take it to great heights. It eventually becomes habit, and bad choices are a given rather than the exception. I don’t think I’m on that path, but it sure has been difficult to undo some of the boo boos I made early on. I have regrets.

   A gigantic part of it is a lack of guidance from a parental figure. I needed a coach, and it wasn’t there. We all need role models and examples, and those who don’t get them can be in for a long ugly ride in life. I’ll still hopefully be able to salvage a little success, but I am never going to fulfill my true potential because I’ve had to struggle so hard to stay afloat.

   Productive energy that could have been much better spent being creative had to be used to find ways to keep a roof over my head, food in my stomach and a car running. That ate up a lot of my youth, and now I’m feeling the stress of having to beat the clock to old age.

   I can piss, moan, bitch, snivel, whine, fret, bellyache, complain or any said combination thereof about any of it, but that’s all wasted energy too. I am where I am in life because of what I did, how I did it and what happened as a result. Yes, there were some bad breaks in there too, but everyone has those. All added up, it has put me in a very difficult situation.

   That being said, a major tool I’ve needed for years and never had was a quality video of my comedy act. There are legitimate reasons why I never had one done, but none of them are a legitimate excuse. It should have been a priority, and it should have been done years ago. Decades actually. It has held me back from moving up the ladder, and a huge error.

   If someone wanted to hire a plumber, wouldn’t it be assumed that plumber would have a full set of tools? And if the plumber showed up without any, would it not be a red flag? I feel exactly that way, and have for more than twenty years. It’s been a source of pain.

   Well, as of today I have FINALLY managed to get a quality video together that I will be able to use to both send out all over the place for future work and sell after shows. It took way too long to get it done, but it finally is. Mark Gumbinger called to tell me he finished editing the project we recorded at the WLIP/WIIL studios in Kenosha on January 11th.

   It’s shot in HD, and total running time is one hour and six minutes. He said it looks and sounds professional, and I kept it squeaky clean for corporate purposes. I should have had a quality video twenty years ago, but I didn’t. Now I do. Is it too late to matter? We’ll see.

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

Friday, February 17, 2012

Meeting Bobby Keys

Thursday February 16th, 2012 - Schaumburg, IL

   I’m always flattered whenever anyone calls me, as I know there are at least seven billion others on the planet that could have been chosen ahead of me. That’s a lot of competition, so whenever the phone rings I consider it a major victory. It’s like I overcame huge odds.

   It’s especially interesting when the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to Mike Preston looking for camera crew assistance on a remote for his ‘Psychobabble’ TV show. Every time I’ve said yes in the past has been nothing but fun and I’ve gotten to hang with a diverse list of celebrities including Burt Reynolds, Mark Farner and George Thorogood.

   Today was no exception. Mike arranged an interview with Bobby Keys, lead sax player with the Rolling Stones from 1969 to 1974. And as if that credit isn’t impressive enough, he also played with everyone from Lennon and McCartney to Eric Clapton to The Who.

   The guy has been a touring musician since 1956, and has just released an autobiography entitled “Every Night’s A Saturday Night: The Rock n’ Roll Life Of Legendary Sax Man Bobby Keys” which is jam packed with stories from the road with rock’s biggest legends.

   Who wouldn’t want to hang out and be a fly on the wall to hear one fantastic story after another about everyone from Keith Richards to Buddy Holly to Yoko Ono to the owner of the Dole pineapple empire in Hawaii? I felt like I should have paid a cover charge to hear it all first hand, and it was one of the most fascinating experiences I can ever remember.

   Everything about it all was pure fun from start to finish. Jim McHugh was the other guy on the ‘crew’, even though it’s mainly Mike being nice to us and allowing us to tag along. We set up the cameras and move a few chairs around, but anybody else could do that too.

   We like hanging out as friends, and most of the time we‘re making each other laugh and goofing off. But Mike knows we’ll have his back door when any work needs to be looked after, and we won’t embarrass him in front of a celebrity. That’s a huge plus on his end.

   Jim and I know how to be professional and stay out of the way unless we’re needed. It’s a delicate balance, but we’ve all done it before and we make a good team in those kind of situations. Jim is very meticulous and also takes still photographs but isn’t conspicuous.

   Mike is an absolutely spectacular interviewer too. He always does his homework on all his guests, and knows how to get the very best out of them. Burt Reynolds complimented Mike on his thoroughness, and it was well deserved. He should have a network talk show in my opinion, and if I had any clout he would. These junkets are always worth my time.

   It didn’t hurt that Bobby himself was a wonderful guy and felt like talking. He’s from a small town in Texas, and his drawl is infectious. He laughs a lot, and knows how to tell a fabulous story. He and Mike clicked, and I was treated to one of the most entertaining and informative experiences of my entire life. Sometimes the best things in life really are free.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is Diabetes Funny?

Wednesday February 15th, 2012 - Eau Claire, WI

   I know I keep saying I have to stop accepting randomly scattered far away bookings that don’t pay all that well, but when there’s nothing on the calendar for the week and bills are piling up - exceptions get made. I needed to rustle up a few bucks, so back to the trenches tonight for a gig in Eau Claire, WI - almost exactly 350 miles door to door. That’s a haul.

   At least I got to bring my own opener in Steve Purcell. He lives in Madison, and we like hanging out so that shortens the drive. He’s low maintenance, and doesn’t often complain about anything - on stage or off. Russ Martin was off and also wanted to ride along for an opportunity at some stage time at a paid show. That’s valuable for a beginning performer.

   The weather was beyond good. It was dad gum almost tropical, or at least it seemed that way as we drove with the window cracked to allow some of the sweetness of the sunshine to permeate the inside of my car. If I had to be on the road, today was the ideal day for it.

   We worked a venue called ‘Fanny Hill’, a dinner theatre that has run comedy shows for just over a year. I was here before, but I didn’t remember until I walked in the place. They all start running together after a while, and that’s another reason to work closer to home.

   This was a friendly place with a laid back audience as I remembered it, and tonight was an exact duplicate. They fed us a scrumptious meal as part of our compensation package, and it was unnecessary but much appreciated. I felt a quality vibe coming from the whole situation, and knew I had something to do with how it all came about. It made me proud.

   I had made it possible for Steve and Russ to get on stage, and that’s very satisfying. We had a blast in the car too - but the real reason I came (besides the money) was to begin the ongoing process of inserting new material. I’ve got a lot of it to work on, and it never gets done overnight. It can’t. It takes focused effort on nights like this to ease it in gradually.

   It would have been easy enough to just walk through my regular act tonight and nobody would have said a word. In fact, that’s what they were all expecting. Nobody in the crowd had any idea who I was, or what my ’regular’ act was. They’d assumed I’d be competent.   

   And I was. I made them laugh for more than the amount of time I had been scheduled to do it, and I threw in all kinds of new ingredients ranging from entire chunks of material to subtle nuances of how I said bits I’ve been doing for years. This was a scrimmage game.

   The one bit I was thrilled that worked well was one about my diabetes diagnosis. I want to polish that story up to find the funny in something that normally wouldn’t be listed as a prime source for humor possibilities. It’s a delicate subject, but I can see laughs in there.

   The audience did too. I wasn’t fishing for sympathy, only looking to educate people that might not know about the dangers of diabetes. I didn’t, and it took me by surprise. It felt a little choppy at first, but I got into it and then they did too. That made it all worth the trip.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Vacuum

Tuesday February 14th, 2012 - Fox Lake, IL

   Valentine’s Day. Third grade. Silver Spring School. Milwaukee. Shudder. I can still see it in my mind’s eye like it was yesterday. It was one of my first crushing disappointments of childhood, with many more to follow. It’s funny now, but back then it was devastating.

   I don’t know how they do it now, but back in school we used to decorate paper bags and use them as receptacles for Valentines from the other kids in the class. They’d all be hung on the front wall in a row with all our names on them until Valentine’s Day, when we got to open them. We could look inside the bags, but not actually open them until the big day.

   It was a popularity contest for sure, sort of a primitive version of Face Book. Some bags were brimming with Valentines, others had one or two. This was a painful way to find out what popularity was all about, and I could see I wasn’t going to be one of those full bags.

   Every day we’d all walk into the classroom and go immediately to our bags to check the number of Valentines we’d gotten. For a while I was getting shut out completely, and that really stung. I wasn’t the only one with the big zero, but that did little to comfort my ego.

   An empty bag is an empty bag. Then, I came to school one day and saw that there were FOUR Valentines in my bag! I felt like doing a cartwheel immediately and ripping all of them open to see who they came from. Would I get one from ‘her’? I should be so lucky.

   ‘She’ was the nine year old blondie bombshell herself, one Holly Lueck. She was THE vixen of Mrs. Lucht’s class, and the first girl I can remember that made my heart wiggle in my chest when she walked by. Of course she sat across the room and we never did get to know each other very well - but I would have eaten a bag of worms to sit next to her.

    I had no idea what to do with these newfound feelings. I wanted to be with her, talk to her, fake a seizure to get her to pay attention to me - whatever it might take to get her to at least know I was sharing a planet with her. But every time I got near her my tongue would seize up in my mouth and all that would come out of it were grunts, stutters and/or drool.

   I was overcome with fear, but I did save my best Valentine for Holly, and I waited until the very last day to stealthily jam it into her bag, which was heaping with envelopes. She needed to hire a secretary to keep track of the load of mail she got, or hang a bigger bag.

   Finally, the big day came to open our Valentines. I didn’t do the worst, but I also wasn’t the King of Hearts either. And a big old ZILCH from Holly Lueck. Bummer. I poured my Valentines on my desk, and tried to look cool as I opened them to see if hers was in there.

   When it wasn’t, I felt a sickly sucking sensation in my soul. What a downer. I could not contain my bitter agony. Holly’s desk looked like a post office. Mine looked like a funeral parlor. It was torture. Then around May, Mrs. Lucht called me to her desk and handed me an envelope. It was a Valentine that had been lost. From Holly. Too late. Damage done.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Money Malfunction

Monday February 13th, 2012 - Kenosha, WI

   I am the man of constant sorrow. I’ve seen trouble all my days. Today, car trouble came over for a visit to rekindle our lifelong relationship. After all was said and done, it put me $932 deeper into the financial trench I’m already in. Thanks! Now, I hope it leaves again.

   This was the last thing I wanted or needed right now, but too bad. Cars break down, and need to get fixed. Like dental work or any other emergency, they cost a lot and never wait for a convenient time. There isn’t one. The bomb gets dropped, and the damage remains.

   I’d been hearing noises for a while now, and knew I’d eventually have to deal with this. I’m getting better at diagnosing car problems as the years go by because I’ve had about all that can go wrong with a car do exactly that and happen to me first hand. I’m an expert.

   This time I knew it was a wheel bearing. I had one go out several months ago, and knew the other one was now in need of replacing. It made a loud grinding noise, and I knew it’d end up costing a couple hundred bucks to replace. I tried to put it off as long as I could.

   What I discovered to my horror was, I needed a whole lot more work done. The original wheel bearing that had been replaced before was also shaky, and my brakes were wearing unevenly as well. My tires were balding too, so the smart thing to do was just fix them all.

   The place I took it to was recommended by a friend. They’ve been in business for years, and I felt a good vibe when I walked in the place. They had awards on the walls for being voted the best auto repair place in town, and I know my friend wouldn’t steer me wrong.

   That being said, I hadn’t expected a bill that big out of nowhere and it really stings right now. I’ve had all kinds of bills lately for all kinds of things I didn’t expect, and any sort of nest egg I may have had has been completely depleted. My safety net has been removed.

   I know I’m not the only one in this position, but I totally don’t like it. It scares me to the point of potential panic quite frankly, as I don’t have anyone I can go to for financial help in a crisis. I’m out here dangling by myself in the treacherous sea of life where sharks can eat me at any time. One little event like this can rock my world, and it has. I’m stressed.

   It doesn’t matter what put me in this position, or if any of it was my fault or not. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, but that doesn’t matter either. I have to find whatever way I can to get myself out of this predicament - legally of course. I’m not going to resort to a life of crime this late in the game. If I was going to try that, I’d have done it long ago.

   The fact is, it’s unbelievably hard to make an honest living these days, and harder yet to do it as an entertainer. Money has never been my number one focus, and now I’m paying dearly for it. I should have had this figured out decades ago, but one disaster after another has come along unexpectedly and cleaned my clock, rattled my cage and rocked my world to the point that now I’m just too frazzled to think straight. This life thing can get rough.

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Houston, We Had A Problem

Sunday February 12th, 2012 - Fox Lake, IL  

   First it was Elvis. Then Michael Jackson. Now it’s the premature passing of yet another music superstar under controversial and sketchy circumstances at a young age in Whitney Houston. I must say that although there was a modicum of shock reaction when I heard it for the first time, but it wasn’t a total surprise. Many have been expecting this for years.

   Everybody’s talking about it, and I do mean everybody. I hear it constantly both on the air and on the street, so I thought I’d throw my miscellaneous babblings into the mix just because I can. I don’t have any particular inside knowledge, so I can only go by what I’m seeing and hearing from the media and the public - two of the worst sources anywhere.

   The biggest point that hits home hardest with me about all this is that Whitney Houston and I were the same age. That’s about all we had in common, but we were both definitely born in 1963. So was Michael Jordan. Hmmm, let’s see - Houston, Jordan and Maxwell.

   Which one of those three names doesn’t belong? It’s laughable to think of how different all of our lives have been, even though we’ve been living on the same planet for about the same amount of time. It may be fact, but we’re not even close to living in the same world.

    It did make me feel quite good to hear more than one media outlet say “only 48” when mentioning her age, but she was so well known for decades for being young and beautiful that that’s how most people choose to remember her. Her first impression is still in place, at least with a chunk of the public. Her dalliances with her demons made some news too.

   I’m sorry to say, but I won’t lie - I just can’t find it in my heart to feel sorry for Whitney Houston. I feel horrible for her daughter, and her mother Cissy Houston is still living so it has to be excruciating for her to lose a child. My heart goes out to them and everyone else in her immediate and extended families with extreme sadness. I mean no disrespect at all.

     Of course I don’t revel in the fact that she died, but I never got a particularly solid vibe from Miss Houston. Whenever I’ve seen her interviewed, I always felt an arrogance from her that for some reason turned me off. She was talented and beautiful, and she knew it.

   It’s cheerleader syndrome from high school all over again, pumped up by about 10,000. Who can feel sorry for someone born with all those tools and all that talent? Why did she have to resort to drinking and drugs to comfort her? Weren’t her supreme gifts enough?

   I guess I don’t understand how addictions work. I see all these ‘experts’ saying how it’s a ‘disease’. Really? How about NEVER start up? Bang. End of disease. I can honestly say it’s possible, because I’m living proof. With all my other faults, I’ve never gone that way.

   Does that make me better than Whitney Houston or anyone else? Of course not, but SO many people would kill for what she had given to her at birth and she appears to have just pissed it all away. Would I trade lives with Whitney Houston? I’d have to say a loud no.

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

Standing Room Finally

Saturday February 11th, 2012 - Kenosha, WI

   Finally, after more than 25 years of trying in utter futility, I was the headliner of a show at a venue with a capacity of more than 100 that was legitimately sold out, jammed to the rafters nuts to butts and then some. I didn’t think it would take this long, and I sure won’t get cocky. Even though I was the headliner for the night, I wasn’t the reason they came.

   This was the 7th annual Valentine’s Weekend dinner and show package at the Parkway Chateau in Kenosha, WI, which is technically The Brat Stop. It’s an event put on by WIIL radio, the FM sister station of  WLIP where I do The Mothership Connection on Sundays.

   The event has been building each year, and this was their biggest to date. The facility is quite nice, and was decked out to the nines with banquet tables and linen cloths to prepare for a fantastic spread of delicious food before the show. A lot of work went into putting it together, and I take zero credit whatsoever. I knew I was just a hired gun for the evening.  

   Fletcher Lee is a promoter in the area who has been running all kinds of shows for years from music to comedy and everything in between. He’s a musician by trade, and everyone likes him. He’s fair and reasonable, and I’ve never heard of anyone ever feeling ripped off after working for him. We’ve done business for at least twenty years with never an issue.

   Fletcher and WIIL teamed up on this event years ago, and are building it together. I was asked to be part of it this year, and I’m delighted. I was able to suggest Dwight York to be on the show too, even though I don’t consider him an opener. This was a double headliner show, and the reason he came down here this week. Our other shows were added fillers. 

   The evening was billed as ’Prime Rib Buffet And Comedy Show’, and that’s probably a wise move. I wish I were the draw, but I know I’m not. I like prime rib too, so I get how it works - even though it’s a direct kick in the balls of our ego. Dwight knew it also, and we laughed it off as much as we could. The fact is, anyone else could have been booked here.

   This wasn’t about any individual comedians. It was about a radio station promotion that has been building for seven years, and we just happened to be the ones that got the gig for this year. Next year, two other comedians will get it and we’ll be long forgotten. The true star of the evening is always the prime rib, and it never disappoints. How can I compete?

   The show tonight was sold out and then some. They were turning away people who had assumed they could get in, and it felt good to see them bringing out more tables to seat all those who were there. I’m not used to being part of shows like this, and I enjoyed all of it. Next week I’ll be back to struggling, but for one night I got to play Mr. Show Business.

   I know how to do shows in situations like this, and so does Dwight. We’ve both paid an overwhelmingly insane amount of dues to be able to walk calmly into a situation like this and blow the doors, windows and roof off of a packed house. It was a pleasure to share an evening like this with a friend who deserved it, as did I. It took long enough to get here.                                    

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

The Birth Of An Ulcer

Friday February 10th, 2012 - Manitowoc, WI

   When it rains, it pours. Or snows. Or something. All I know is, everything I did went as wrong as it could go today.  That happens some days, and today was one of them. I didn’t panic, as I’ve been through it all before, but I didn’t enjoy it either. The whole day was an unending series of annoying events, and a marathon of constant stress. I need a nice nap.

   I had a show tonight in Manitowoc, WI at a bar I don’t even want to name. I don’t have anything against the place or the person that booked it, but it wasn’t a place to do comedy for anyone that would happen to want to see a real show. It was a bar gig, and those aren’t what I’m looking to do at this time in my life. I want to play theatres, and this wasn’t it.

   The reason I took it was the person who set it up is a sharp lady and wants to book some shows to gain some experience. She aspires to be more of a humorous speaker rather than an actual comedian, and she’s putting a few shows together to get some stage experience.

   That’s fine, and I think she’ll do well. I just don’t think she’ll do it in this place. Not for the long run anyway. But this is her first attempt at booking a joint like that, and I’ve been doing it since the dawn of humanity. I have a rather different point of view than she does.

   It was an add on date to bridge the gap for Dwight York and myself between Janesville, WI last night and Kenosha tomorrow. This was the third and final piece of the puzzle, and expectations were low. We were just happy to have a place to be on a night we were off.

   Getting there was the problem. Of course, it had to snow like a blizzard and I stopped in Milwaukee to pick up Russ Martin who wanted to ride along and do a guest set. This was fine with me, and in fact my suggestion. I had a few errands to run in town before picking him up, and the weather slowed everything down to less than a crawl. It was a nightmare.

   The nightmare turned into a double feature when my car started making grinding noises as we finally got to I-43 North. I had a wheel bearing replaced a few months ago, and this sounded to me like the other one was going out. It couldn’t have come at a more annoying and inconvenient time, but this was just another day in Luckyland. I could feel it coming.

   To make it really difficult, the show was scheduled for a 7:30 start. How many times is a show scheduled for 7:30, especially at a bar gig? Very rarely, if ever. Too bad for me. It was tonight, and that put even more pressure on us to get there on time. It was total stress.

   Then, it got stressier as I had not had time to shower or shave and needed to get cleaned up before the show. I have a rule to never ever wear anything driving to the gig I wouldn’t wear on stage, but this one time I didn’t I had sweats on and needed to get that shower in.

   The hotel was twenty minutes away, and farther north in Mishicot. That made it a crazy race against the clock, and we ended up getting to the gig at 7:28. The crowd wouldn’t be quiet the whole night, and it was a typical rowdy bar gig. I think I have an ulcer brewing.                                                                          

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

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Jewel In Janesville

Thursday February 9th, 2012 - Janesville, WI

   I’m working with Dwight York this week, one of my favorite people. He’s a slugger on stage, and has been doing comedy about as long as I have. We’re both considered old war horses, and we have a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses. We are kindred spirits.

   Our strengths are similar in that we can work in front of the harshest of crowds and still manage to pull off a show and get paid. How we go about it is completely different, but it leads to the same result. On an experience scale of 1-10, Dwight and I are off the charts.

   Our weaknesses are similar in that neither of us are good game players when it comes to business. We’re not ass kissers, and we’re not social butterflies either. We do what we do, do it well, and go home. That’s not good business, and that’s a definite contributing factor as to why we’re both still out here struggling to stay afloat instead of making the big time.

   It’s a common story unfortunately, and not one that’s fun to be a part of in real life. This is a rough business, and even rougher to stay out there fighting when nobody is helping to make it any easier. Dwight and I and many others grind it out every week all by ourselves.

   We’ve got a nice show in Kenosha, WI on Saturday at the Brat Stop as part of the WIIL Valentine’s weekend comedy show they’ve been doing for several years. I was chosen for it this year, and was able to recommend  Dwight as the other act. I’m glad I could do that.

   Like me, Dwight isn’t always the most persistent when it comes to seeking out dates for work. He figures that the bookers should know who he is by now, and if they want to hire him they know how to find him. I’m like that myself, and to a certain degree it does work.

   On another level, it’s horrific business. Why eliminate the possibility of getting booked simply because of a lack of due diligence? It’s not like either one of us can’t do the job in virtually 99.999% of any available gigs, and do it better than most. We’re well seasoned.

   But if nobody knows about us, how can they book us? Hoping word of mouth is enough by itself is asking for trouble, and we found it. Both of us have holes in our schedules this far into the business, and are surviving by a half a thread. It’s hard to change tactics in the middle of the game though, so here we sit treading water hoping for a ship to pick us up.

   We worked a fun little one nighter at a place called The Armory in Janesville, WI. It’s a gorgeous facility which is a remodeled historic building right downtown. They have plays there, but do comedy on Thursdays and have for years. They really try to make it good for everyone, including the comedians. I can’t remember ever being treated better anywhere.

   They feed us delicious food, and ask if we need anything and mean it. The audience has no idea how well this place is run compared to most other places in towns this size, and it makes me want to please them even more because the people in charge deserve it. I’d like to see them packed every week. Tonight was solid, and it was fun to hang with Dwight.

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

Favorite Comedians List

Wednesday February 8th, 2012 - Fox Lake, IL

   I have never figured out the need in a certain group of people who want to hear in detail who I happen to think is funny, or worse yet feel they have to tell me their detailed list of who they like. Does it matter? Not to me, but I guess it makes those people feel smarter.

   These are the same people who must sit around for hours heatedly debating who are the best pitchers or quarterbacks of all time, or which Kardashian sister has the bubbliest butt. People like to make lists and compare things, or at least a healthy percentage of them do.

   I’ve had this happen since I started in comedy, and I still get it now. Someone will come up to me after a show and start rattling off people who they think are funny and I’m never sure what I’m supposed to say to them. Are they wrong? No, but they’re not right either.

   Nobody is right or wrong with a list like that. It’s a matter of personal taste, and that’s a right everyone has that nobody else can ever take away. I might not happen to agree, but it isn’t about how I feel. I’m just a guy, and I think what I think. I mostly keep it to myself.

   That being said, here’s a list of my favorite standup comedians of all time. I say standup comedians, because I often hear names like John Belushi or Bill Murray or another comic actor who had a role in a movie they liked. I usually just nod and smile, and then look for an opportunity to fake a seizure so I can make my exit. I try to be polite, but it’s difficult.

   I freely admit before I start that my opinion doesn’t mean a damn thing, but here goes:

- Rodney Dangerfield: In my mind, he’s the king. Everything about him makes me laugh.

   After that, it doesn’t accomplish anything to debate the big names. Rodney has been my favorite comedian since I was in high school. I love his standup comedy, and I love to see his movies even now. His role in Caddyshack was a classic, and I still laugh out loud and quote Rodney’s lines whenever I see it. As an all around performer, he still gets my vote.

   If you don’t agree, that’s fine. You don’t have to. There are huge names in comedy that don’t make me laugh in the least. I could name them now, but then I’d get emails from all kinds of keyboard crusaders who’d take it as a challenge and try to start an opinion war.

   I don’t want or need that in my life, now or ever. Instead, how about if I throw out a list of working comic friends of mine who I think are really funny, and hopefully they’ll get a few more well deserved fans that maybe wouldn’t have heard of them otherwise? That’s a much better idea. Just because someone isn’t famous doesn’t mean they don’t have talent.

   Fame is a whole game unto itself. There are a lot of famous people who are famous just for being famous. Talent had nothing to do with it, or at least not after a while. It might be the reason they got there, but then whatever they did fades away and their name is just out there. Is Britney Spears talented? That’s debatable. But here are some comedians who are:

- Dwight York: I’m working with him this week, and that’s why he’s first on the list. He’s warped, sick and twisted - and that’s a sincere compliment. He writes excellent jokes, and a lot of them. He works at his craft, and makes me laugh out loud every time I watch him.

- Don Reese: Another road warrior who I love dearly on stage and off. Don loves monster movies and looks like he could star in one. He has a hilarious video called ‘It Came From Iowa’, which he does. He looks intimidating, but is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.

- Dan Still: An unsung comic out of my home town of Milwaukee. Together with Dwight and Don, I want to put a tour together a tour with these three guys called ‘The Pirates Of Comedy’. They look like the Satanic Beatles, but they’re all great guys and super funny.

- Jim McHugh: I’ve always thought he was a very solid comic and still do. He chooses to put his act together in chunks rather than individual jokes, and it totally works for him on many levels. He’s always been a favorite, and I like hanging out with him off stage too.

- Tim Walkoe: A regular at Zanies in Chicago along with Larry Reeb - ‘Uncle Lar’. Often I am placed in the same sentence with these two because we’re the three that tend to be on Zanies list of favorite acts to book. I am beyond flattered to be listed with either of them.

- Larry Reeb: Again, a wonderful comic with a sick and twisted view of things. He always makes me laugh out loud even though I’ve seen his act literally hundreds of times. He has a style and rhythm all his own, as does Tim Walkoe. They’re masters of the comedy craft.

- James Wesley Jackson: He used to open for George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic during their heyday, and I was a fan of his before I ever met him for that alone. I recorded a DVD project with James, and need to get it out there soon. Plus, he’s a wonderful soul.

- Dwayne Kennedy: Probably the most unsung raw talent of anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s a brilliant comic and he’s even done a couple of Letterman appearances. But, with no insult intended at all - nobody knows who he is. That’s a shame, but that’s life. He’s fantastic.

- Tim Northern: He’s always been one of my favorites, and still is. He has a natural gift of both writing and performing, and I think it’s pure magic. His material is unmistakably his, and that’s rare in any field of entertainment. I consider him to be a true artist. He’s gifted.

- Hannibal Burress: He’s in the same classification as a Tim Northern, but completely his own identity. He moved to New York last time I saw him and was writing for SNL. That kid has got talent coming out of his pores, and a work ethic too. He’s got a bright future.

   There are so many others I could list, but I don’t have time or space. That’s why I don’t like lists. Someone always gets left out. I could list 100 more, and 100 more after that. I’d appreciate it if someone placed me on a list like this, so I’ll try to rustle up a few new fans for funny friends of mine that I really enjoy. Being a good person doesn’t matter as far as the business goes, but it does to me. These are quality people with talent. Check them out.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Helping When I Can

Tuesday February 7th, 2012 - Milwaukee, WI

   Up home to Milwaukee today for a lunch with Ian Spanic of ‘Spanic Boys’ fame. I have been a huge fan of them and their music ever since I started hearing a buzz from the local entertainment scene in the ‘80s when I was getting started in comedy. They won me over.

   I’m always a fan of any kind of entertainment that’s done particularly well, especially if it’s something I can’t do myself - which is almost everything. I couldn’t play a single note on a kazoo, much less put a band together and absorb that punishment. It’s super difficult.

   People have told me often how difficult comedy is, and I wholeheartedly agree. But, for whatever reason, I’ve been able to navigate that minefield and survive like a cockroach at it for decades. I did blow off some assorted fingers and toes along the way, but I’m alive.

   The fact is, any and every genre of entertainment is extremely difficult to transform into a full time career. Only a precious few ever manage to stay with it for a lifetime and make a decent living. I’ve been fortunate in many ways to do it in comedy, but I’m not claiming to be anything other than a journeyman. I’ve earned a living, but haven’t risen any higher.

   The Spanic Boys have had a respectable and legitimate career. Their success came early and I can still vividly recall their appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1990. I was proud of them then being from Milwaukee, but have even more respect now after learning what a handicap that can be. Milwaukee just isn’t a nurturing place to come up as a performer.

   I wish it weren’t true, but it absolutely is. It’s the same for comedy, music, acting, radio and I’ve got to believe any other entertainment field as well. I’d bet bucks to bratwursts it isn’t any different across the board. There are precious few exceptions who make it out of the local meat grinder, but not many. The Spanic Boys did, and that deserves mega kudos.

   My friend Tom Green was always a big fan of the Spanic Boys too. He was also a prime example of a smart and talented artist with a strong vision who was frustrated with all the local politics of Milwaukee’s entertainment community. He and Ian worked together on a number of recorded projects, and I’m still enjoying them years after Tom’s tragic passing.

   Ian and his father Tom Spanic have become fans of mine over the years, and I could not be any more flattered. Whenever I play the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino I can almost always count on not only the Spanics to show up, but a line of others as well.

   They go out of their way to support me, and I feel star struck every time I see them after a show. Ian asked if I’d be available to serve as an auctioneer for a charity event to benefit his daughter’s school. How could I say no? Of course I’ll do it. I’m honored to be asked.

   The event is on May 5th and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Downtown Montessori Academy. Their website is www.downtownmontessori.com, and I’ll be there flapping my yap for a worthy cause. I’m still flattered Ian asked, and I’ll donate my time with pleasure.

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A Clueless Boob

Monday February 6th, 2012 - Chicago, IL

   The older I get, the less I know. I am now officially a clueless boob, and that‘s my final answer. I have completely given up all hope of ever trying to figure out the inner working secrets of standup comedy, women or human existence as a whole. It’s all still a mystery.

   I thought I was at least starting to figure some of it out - the comedy part anyway. After tonight, I would have to say not. I hosted The Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago as I have dozens of times before, and I thought it was a complete disaster. Everything and everybody felt off in every way, including myself. The energy wasn’t clicking for anyone.

   Those nights happen, but I haven’t had one in a while. I’ve had super solid shows lately as a matter of fact. Granted, hosting is a different skill set and energy altogether, but it felt like I’d never been on stage before. My words and rapid rhythm weren’t flowing like they usually do, and it frustrated the hell out of me. The more I tried to find it, the less I could.

   The audience’s vibe didn’t help either. They weren’t mean spirited, stupid or drunk, but they weren’t laugh out loud types either. And there weren’t very many of them. That has a lot to do with it also. Mondays have been packed as a rule, but tonight wasn’t even close.

   I don’t think it was even halfway filled. Was it Super Bowl hangover? It doesn’t matter. It wasn’t happening. The lineup of comedians wasn’t clicking either. Again, they weren’t necessarily bad acts and I don’t think they were bad people at all. But they were mostly an inexperienced group, and nobody went up there and lit it up like I’ve seen so often before.

   It was just one of those nights where everything failed to mesh together. It’s not a major disaster, even though it does annoy me. I want people to have a good time when they’re at a show I’m on, even if I’m not the headliner. I’m a fan of the craft, and want comedy as a whole to be a pleasurable experience for everyone - comedians included. It should be fun.

   I tried my best to stay with it the whole night though. Just because they weren’t a stellar bunch doesn’t mean they didn’t deserve my best. Plus, it’s a challenge for me to wring as much out of any audience as I can - especially the weaker ones. That’s what I’m paid for.

   As the night dragged on, I just wanted it to be over. Sometimes there are way too many acts booked and the shows go long. Tonight, everyone went short and I had time to fill at the end. I’ve got the experience and material to fill it, but I really didn’t feel like tonight.

   Again, too bad. That’s what I’m paid to do. I know that going in, and tonight was one of those nights when nothing was going to be pleasant. I did my job to the best of my ability, most importantly got my check, and was trying to sneak out the door when I got stopped.

   It was a table of four telling me how funny I was, and how it was one of the best nights they’d ever had. Did they see the same show I did? Then I went outside only to have more people give me a high five and tell me how great I was. And I thought I had a clue. Nope.

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Father Of The Century

Sunday February 5th, 2012 - Sturgis, MI

   I decided to stay overnight in Sturgis, MI because I had a sweet room at the Holiday Inn Express and didn’t feel much like driving after the show. There were no deadlines to have to meet to get home early, and I had a less than zero interest in watching the Super Bowl.

   Why risk driving at night when I don‘t have to? Clipping a critter is always a possibility as well. Hopefully, I saved the life of some horny buck that would have darted out in front of my car on the way to his midnight booty call. Not to mention my car itself. It felt right.

   On the way out of town, I stopped for a quick lunch at a Chinese buffet. The parking lot was full, so I figured it was a halfway safe bet. If I did get botulism, at least I’d have some company to talk to at the emergency room. Hey, getting out of bed is a risk. So I went in.

   The hostess sat me next to a family that looked like Central Casting got a call to send in THE white trashiest, hillbilliest and redneckiest crew of sorry looking goobers they could rustle up. The father was a fat slob with a scraggly beard, balding in his early 30s, dressed like he was going to a septic tank dig. His wife had thick glasses and a thicker waistline.

   They had four kids - three boys and a girl. There was food everywhere, but there looked to be a lot more under their table than on it. There were French fries and egg rolls ground into the carpet, and the kids looked like they needed to be driven through a car wash with the windows open to hose them off before the tractor pull. And I had to sit next to them.

   I did notice they were all quite well behaved, but I couldn’t help but picture what a pig sty their trailer must look like. If they could make a single table in a restaurant that filthy in that amount of time, I bet their home must have looked like post Katrina New Orleans.

   Everyone in the restaurant including me was gawking at them, but it was rather difficult not to. We couldn’t help it, but they were oblivious and went about their business quietly. I did feel sorry for the waitress who would probably have to clean their mess with a rake.

   Then, without warning the father got up out of his chair and walked around the table to give each one of his kids a big sincere hug and a kiss as he told them how much he loved each one. The guy must have spent a full thirty seconds on each kid. It was mesmerizing.

   My father never spent that much quality time or said that many loving things to any of his kids in his lifetime, much less at lunch at a restaurant. I was so moved and touched by that guy I wanted to go over and hug the bastard myself. I thought I was going to lose it.

   Then, the guy reached into his wallet and took out a $5 bill and explained to the kids the reason it was important to leave a tip for the person who refilled their drinks. Then he put his arms around his wife and kissed her too. This dude should win the father and husband of the year, decade and century. I’ll bet my kidneys that girl never sees a stripper pole and those boys won’t be comedians. Those kids are loved, and that’s what we’re all chasing.

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

Friday, February 3, 2012

Motion Slickness

Friday February 3rd, 2010 - Fox Lake, IL

   I haven’t been exercising as regularly as I should be and that’s just plain not acceptable. With my hectic schedule lately of having to be on the radio at all kinds of ungodly hours, comedy shows all over the place and constant chasing - I’ve lost my exercising groove.

   My doctor told me this would happen, and to not worry about it. But I do. It took a long time to get into it, and I’m not about to give up now. Going back to where I was is not an option. I have to make time to get my exercise in, and that‘s what I did today. I needed it.

   Nothing is more important than my health, and I know that now. I have to stay in a daily regimen and make a habit of exercising and eating right for the rest of my life. I didn’t let it totally lapse in the last couple of weeks, but I did miss several days and that upsets me.

   Today I got up with the express purpose of getting my fanny in motion to reestablish the discipline I’d been so diligent in doing daily the last seven months. The only time I would take a day off was when I’d worked out too hard the day before and needed to rest a little.

   It was warm enough to walk in my neighborhood, but I chose to go to the Gurnee Mills Mall because I feel comfortable in there. I lose myself in thought and my MP3 player with 1000 songs on a microchip. I’ve got two chips so that’s 2000 songs, enough to walk from Miami to Seattle to San Diego to Boston. And back. Twice. I wanted to have no excuses.

   I felt a little rusty at the start, and that’s scary too. It took months to get used to walking every single day, and here I miss only a few scattered ones in a couple of weeks and it felt like I was starting all over again. I was determined not to lose momentum, and I didn’t.

   I got in three full laps at a brisk pace, which took almost a full ninety minutes. I was on a mission, and I could see the other mall walkers part like the Red Sea as I was coming up behind them. They must have seen it in my eyes, and I’m glad. This was important to me.

   Daily exercise is one thing NOBODY can buy. It has to be earned, and I’m not about to waste all the hard work I’ve put in these last few months. I will say I’ve been eating pretty well, and haven’t lapsed in that area. I haven’t had ONE soda since Father’s Day, and I’m extremely proud of myself for that. It’s by far the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without it.

   Since I was so good about my exercise today, I allowed myself a treat and went to lunch with comedians Mike Preston and Bob Jay. We went to the Crystal Lake Rib House for a slab of their delicious ribs. I didn’t have any white bread or pie like I would have without a second thought in the past, and also passed on the bed wetter sized Pepsi I’d get as well.

   The ribs were as delicious as I remembered going in, but later in the day I paid the price for it as my stomach gurgled and I felt horrible for several hours. I felt like throwing it all up, and that took whatever pleasure there was out of eating it. My body has now adjusted and is no longer used to eating this stuff. That’s a good thing. More exercise tomorrow.

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

Soul Train Sadness

Thursday February 2nd, 2012 - Fox Lake, IL

   “The hippest trip in America…sixty non stop minutes across the tracks of your mind.” I can still hear the silky smooth announcer’s voice on my television letting me know ‘Soul Train’ was about to chug through Honkyville and show me what rhythm was all about.

   And I loved it. I loved it all. The music. The interviews. The host. I remember watching it frequently growing up in Milwaukee, but most of my family and friends thought I had a few screws loose. They were right, but I did enjoy Soul Train. I still can’t figure out why.

   My grandparents who raised me liked polka music and maybe a little old school country when it still had ’and Western’ attached to it and was about dead dogs and divorces. I had to suffer through ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ AND ‘Hee Haw’, why couldn’t they let me have one measly little hour a week to see if I could solve the Soul Train Scramble Board?

   As I got older, my friends weren’t any help either. They all liked Led Zeppelin or KISS, but that wasn’t my thing either. KISS especially. I loved their theatrical presentation, but their music flat out rots. I wanted to get into them like my friends did, but I just couldn’t.

   For whatever reason, I was born with the soul and funk gene. The first time I saw James Brown on TV, I knew what I liked. Sly Stone too. THAT was music. George Clinton and the whole outer space P-Funk experience were still a ways off yet. Funk is in my D.N.A.

   I was saddened to hear of Don Cornelius’s passing today, legendary host and creator of the Soul Train show. His gargantuan afro and ballsy baritone were an unmistakable image that has etched itself into my permanent memory. He was a true icon, a legitimate legend. According to his biography, he built his empire from the ground up. He lived the dream.

   I was even sadder to hear he apparently committed suicide. Here’s a guy who really had what I and millions of others consider major success for several decades, but he still felt a need to end his life by his own hand. I don’t know the whole story, but I still find it tragic. I’ve been at the suicidal point of pivot myself, but I was never an iconic television mogul.

   I guess I just assume successful people who are in high profile positions like athletes or entertainers are automatically guaranteed a life of ‘happily ever after’. Maybe that’s what they assume too, and when it doesn’t play out like that they’re ultimately disappointed.

   I read where Don Cornelius was going through a pretty ugly divorce, and also had some unspecified health issues he was dealing with. Millionaire or not, neither of those two are much fun. I’m sorry it all pushed him over the edge, and I hope he’s in a better place now.

   None of this concerns me personally, but I couldn’t help thinking about it all day. I have no insight at all about his personal life. Was he kind, generous or charitable? That’s about all that really matters now. I hope he was, but I have no idea. I do know that the more I’ve lived, the more I’m seeing that life is all about giving. This makes me want to do it more.

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Territorial Rights

February 1st, 2012 - Kenosha, WI/Fox Lake, IL

    Up early once again to go to Kenosha, WI for a radio appearance on WIIL to promote a Valentine’s Day weekend show at The Brat Stop on February 11th. They’ve done them for several years apparently, but this is my first time being asked to do it. It should be a lot of fun, and I’m delighted to keep building a fan base in my targeted four city territory radius.

   It feels like it’s actually starting to work, even though I know I still have a hell of a long way to slide before I’m even semi well known in and around the four markets of Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford. There are literally millions of people in that space, so it will take some time to get my name out to the public and have it sink in, if even a little.

   I had a harsh reminder this morning when a caller on WIIL asked what my ‘schtick’ was on stage. First off, please don’t use that term when talking to a comedian. It’s like calling a set a ‘skit’. It isn’t a skit. It’s a set. And it isn’t a schtick. It’s an act. Please get it right.

   Second, I’ve only been trying to polish whatever the hell it is anyone calls what I do on stage for going on a quarter of a century. What more do I have to do to have at least a bit of name recognition? That guy had NO idea who I was, and wasn’t impressed in the least when he was told. Apparently, he and I had never crossed paths - and probably never will.

   That sure does keep me humble to the point of embarrassment, but it also lets me know how important media coverage is in my quest to have a territory of notoriety. I don’t have to have everyone in those four cities to know who I am, just enough to show up to fill any venue at which I happen to be performing. Last week it was Franchesco’s in Rockford.

   February 11th it will be The Brat Stop. I have shows at Zanies in Chicago in March and June, and the tribute show to my mentor C. Cardell Willis in Milwaukee at Shank Hall on April 22nd. I’ve been getting a steady flow of positive media coverage via radio and word of mouth, and there have been some ads put out by some of the venues also. It’s building.

   Being on radio stations I’m normally not on never hurts. This was a nice plug today, but it’s been a long time coming. I’d never been asked to be on the morning show before, and it felt kind of awkward. We do the Mothership Connection program Sundays in the studio immediately next door in the same building, and that vibe tends to get rather competitive.

   Whatever the case, today I got on to do my plug. I was able to mention my website, my ‘Hard Luck Jollies’ CD, my comedy classes and even squeeze in a mention of the King of Uranus. I got all of it out in front of a new audience, and that’s how followings are built.

   I’ll blow the roof off of the Brat Stop, and make a connection there. Hopefully, I will be able to do more shows both there and in the area, and get back on the morning show again after that. It’s a calculated plan, but it takes time to build. And that’s only within a limited area of the four cities I chose. And I haven’t even started to crack Madison yet. I have all I can handle to keep up with what I’m doing now. Madison can wait. But not for too long.

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