Thursday, February 28, 2013

See Ya Later, Alternator

Wednesday February 27th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   What good would being Mr. Lucky be without at least a weekly crisis to perpetuate my legend? Why would I want my life to operate smoothly when I can maintain a constant level of stress and high tension that keeps me wound tighter than Oprah’s underwear the day after Thanksgiving?

   I’ve had my fill and then some of these funky tales of woe, but the cosmic dispatcher cares not and sends more whether I want them or not. It’s like a delivery of sand to the desert – I’ve got all I can use for the next 40,000 years thank you. Put the boxes back on the truck and leave. Please.

   As if I didn’t have enough to be concerned with fighting the weather conditions on my way to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago tonight, I had the extra fun of having my alternator puke on my already overpriced ‘free’ car. I’ve had alternators puke before, but I can’t remember one doing it in such nasty weather conditions and that made for a high stress 50 mile trek through snowy hell.

   Anyone who has experienced the death of an alternator knows the symptoms all too well. First, the ‘battery’ light comes on the dash board. That’s a light that usually comes on very briefly only when the car is started, and then goes right back off. When it pops on in traffic, there’s trouble.

   I was fighting to get a left turn completed in an unplowed intersection without sliding into a big old pickup truck coming the other way when I noticed the light pop on and I knew I was screwed immediately. The alternator keeps the battery charged, and now I’d be draining it with having to keep all my accessories running like lights, wipers, heat and radio to keep me abreast of traffic.

   The light came on as I was still about 45 miles away on a 50 mile trip, and now it became a big race to either find a rental car place that was open or make it as far into Chicago as I could so I’d at least be able to get a bus, train or cab to Old Town to make it to Zanies for my 8:30 show. I am the headliner this week, so I don’t go on until about 9:15, so that was my very latest arrival time.

   And if all that still wasn’t enough to rock my world, I had a radio interview scheduled with my friend Evan Ginzburg in New York on his show called ‘Legends Radio’. Evan is a great guy and we share not only a love for professional wrestling, but also funk music. He likes George Clinton and Bootsy Collins like I do, and was also a producer of the ‘The Wrestler’ with Mickey Rourke.

  Evan also manages Luscious Johnny Valiant, a wrestler who wants to become a comedian. He’s a guy I used to boo the hell out of when I was a kid, and it’s all surreal that we’ve managed to get connected all these years later. I’ve talked to Johnny and at some point hope to work with him on a comedy show. Evan is up for it too, and we’ve become friends in the last few years. I like him.

   It was too late to cancel, so I did the interview to the best of my ability as I plowed through the snow helplessly watching my lights get dimmer the entire way. My wipers slowed down and my radio eventually faded until I finally stalled completely two blocks from Zanies. I had to hang up and push my car to a tow zone, and then pray it wouldn’t be towed as I did my show at Zanies – which actually went very well. The audience had no idea of my troubles, and that’s being a pro.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gas Pains

Monday February25th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Enough with the crazy gas prices already. I’m about tapped out. Everybody is. Does somebody need to say uncle? UNCLE! Uncle Sam. Uncle Remus. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Aunt Jemima. Sister Christian. Ma Barker. Grandpa Munster. Cousin ‘Itt’. Whoever’s in charge, please help us.

   Everyone in America is feeling the severe pinch of this, but especially those of us who slug out a living on the road. It’s killing us, plain and simple. Directly and indirectly, it’s putting us out of business with an ugly thud. We can’t afford to get back and forth to our gigs and still squeeze out a fair and livable profit and those who might want to come see us have less spare income as well.

  We’re all sunk, and this latest gouge is really painful. I remember paying $2.89 a gallon for gas in Minnesota as recently as the middle of January of this year, but today it’s $4 in Chicago. I am always one to drive on fumes to search for the cheapest gas around but I’m just not finding any.

   It used to be that living in the Chicago area I’d time my fill ups to save money by waiting until I was in Wisconsin or Indiana. Sometimes I’ve saved as much as .10 to .15 a gallon, and that will add up per tank full. Lately it doesn’t matter where I am, the prices have shot up beyond the sky.

   How can this happen in just a little over a month? Did anyone get the memo? I sure didn’t, but even if I did what could I do to fight back? Not a dad gum thing. If I had even a slight hint of any useful mechanical knowledge I’d have developed a car that runs on rubber band power by now.

   Instead, I’m trapped like everyone else having to use outdated technology because the forces in power have us by the short hair. So, am I becoming a conspiracy kook all of a sudden? Not at all. I’ve been one for years. This reinforces it. “They” decided they wanted to gouge us, so they did.

   I’m not blaming the President, as I think it goes WAY higher than him. I don’t know the names or titles of those who actually make the calls – and I’m sure that’s exactly how they want it. It’s a racket, and the best interests of the public aren’t the least bit of concern for any of these bastards.

   Yeah, yeah, I know I’m a cynic but that’s what I truly think. There are no shortages of gasoline and there never were. There’s enough gas to last us all for thousands of years, but we don’t even need it at this point. The technology exists that would allow us to run cars cheaper and cleaner.

   But where’s the profit in that? Who cares if the public is satisfied? I think we’re just the worker bees who bring the sweat equity into the picture. The honey is controlled by the queen, but who’s on the throne calling the shots in all this? I have no idea, but that entity is tightening the screws.

   America as we’ve come to know it is over. My grandparents used to warn me about this when I was a kid, and I laughed at them like they were total nut jobs. I’m sure there are people who read my ramblings that think the same of me. And they’re correct. I’ve never denied my nuttiness, but I think I’m dead on about this particular subject. What’s frustrating is that nobody I know has the power to do anything about it. This call is coming from up the food chain and we’re all suffering.

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars The Grouch

Sunday February 24th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

   It’s Oscar night, and I couldn’t care less. Being in the entertainment business I probably should at least a little, but I can’t fake it. I don’t. I’m not a huge movie watcher, and those I do and enjoy are usually not part of the mix. Did ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ ever get nominated? I rest my case.

   I’m not a big fan of any awards shows, even though they draw huge ratings or they wouldn’t be pillars of the broadcast calendar. I heard upwards of a billion people were watching this around a world that can’t agree on almost anything. Other than the Super Bowl, what U.S. event is as big?

   I was invited to an Oscar party in Kenosha, WI at Mark Gumbinger’s house, but I couldn’t stay long because I needed to be on the air at WLIP hosting ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show at 8pm. I didn’t want to be rude, so I stopped by to say hello before going on the air.

   Mark is a film director himself, and has seen most of the nominated titles. I guess that makes it significantly more interesting, but I don’t have time to see that many movies much less the desire not to mention the money. I’ve got too many other things I really want to do that use up my time.

   I also have a difficult time with comparing art. Who can say what the best film out of a laundry list of them truly is? It’s all opinion. I know it’s human nature to compare, but I never had a need to do that. It’s like comparing the best athletes from different eras. Who cares? They’re all great.

   Look at all the hard work that went into every one of those projects - and all the other ones that weren’t nominated. Sure, some results were better than others but to single some out as being the best just doesn’t float my boat. And like in every other contest, it sets the table for hard feelings.

   The politically correct answer for everyone to say is “It’s just great to be nominated” - and it is. But we’re all human and everybody wants to win. There are a lot more people that go home from any awards show disappointed than those that go home happy. I don’t like those kinds of odds.

   That’s a good thing, because I’m not up for any major awards any time soon and that’s another source of disappointment. What’s worse, putting one’s heart and soul into a film project only to have it lose out to some artsy fartsy dung nugget or not having any projects worthy of rejection?

   I’ve got all I can handle slinging my little batch of jokes to new people every week. I work just as hard as or harder than the majority of those in the film industry, but there are no awards shows for me nor are there any for single moms or working stiffs out there trying to keep the bills paid.

   I will say I’m a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane. What an unbelievable talent that guy is. He sings and writes and does voices and is world class at all of it. I loved his opening monologue, but I’m sure he polarized a lot of people with it and that’s what he wanted. He can afford to do that and I respect him for it. I’ve been polarizing people my whole life, but I’m not Seth MacFarlane. He’s got the power and clout and can creatively do what he wants. Who wouldn’t want that? To have that kind of freedom and get paid millions is what it’s about. Starving artists are way overrated.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pleasantly Pooped

Saturday February 23rd, 2013 – Kenosha, WI/Glenview, IL

   My life sounds a lot like a Dick and Jane book from first grade. Run, run, run. Go, go, go. Run and go. Go and run. See Dobie run. See Dobie go. He is busy. Busy, busy, busy. Look at Dobie’s tongue hang out as he runs himself ragged every day. Dobie is pooped. Pooped, pooped, pooped.

   That’s just how it is right now, but I’m not complaining. Everything I’m doing is fun, and how many people can say that? Sure I’m still broke, but at least I’ve got some hope and that’s all any of us can ask for. There have been some very dark times in the past few years, but that’s because there didn’t appear to be any hope on the horizon. Now I’m feeling like I at least have a chance.

   My friend Mark Gumbinger called to invite me to lunch today. He’s a film director who wants to film a pilot episode of ‘Mr. Lucky’ as a sitcom. I’m very flattered he’d think of me but I don’t think I’d have time for it just now. I’ve got more than I can handle on my daily calendar already.

   If I did have time, he would be the director I’d choose. He’s very meticulous, and knows what he wants each scene to look like. He’d be my own personal Martin Scorcese, and I’d trust him to get the most out of what we had to work with. I had a small part in one of his projects ‘Dead Air’ and it was great fun, but I’m no actor and never claimed to be. Like Seinfeld, I’m a comic first.

   They were able to build a solid cast around Jerry Seinfeld, and that’s exactly what would have to happen with me. I’m not opposed to the idea, but right now it’s not something I can spend any time working on. I’ve got too many other things to focus on, but it was still fun to discuss today.

   Mark directed my one hour video that was recorded at WLIP studios last year, and it turned out quite well. He’s a total pro, and we work together smoothly. We put together a product we could both be proud of for a very low cost. If we had any kind of budget at all we would be dangerous.

   I don’t take acting lightly however. That’s a craft just like comedy, and I haven’t paid any dues whatsoever. People make the mistake of thinking it’s easy to do both, when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. I respect the craft of acting, and wouldn’t head into it without a solid plan.

   If I ever did get a sitcom opportunity, I’d find a quality mentor and take a class. At least having a basic skill set as a foundation would make things a lot easier for everyone involved. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking on a big project just winging it like I have until now. That’s not smart. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. Like standup comedy it can look easy but totally isn’t.

   Speaking of comedy, Bill Gorgo called and asked if I could fill in at the very last minute for his show at The Laughing Chameleon in Glenview, IL. There was supposed to be a feature slotted to do twenty minutes, but he bailed for unknown reasons. Any way I can help Bill, I surely would.

   That’s a small room, but it was full tonight and I had a blast. I worked in new material and also switched around some old stuff. I helped a friend, but also used the time to be productive and get ready for The Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta in March. It’s all fun, but I could use a breather.

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What Did I Expect?

Friday February 22nd 2013 – Sault Ste. Marie, MI/Fox Lake, IL

   Well, I asked for it. Anyone who dares to drive to Sault Ste. Marie, MI in February is tempting the fates. I have no idea how or why anything of or close to having human DNA would consider living that far north, but they do. Massive snow is part of their lives so they better get used to it.

   I knew I had lucked out big time on the drive yesterday, as there was not one flake of snow on the roads the entire 500 mile trip. Today I paid for it and then some with white out conditions the whole way through the Upper Peninsula, but I didn’t complain as I knew what I was getting into.

   I volunteered for this run, and this kind of hazard goes with the territory. It’s not like it’s a new thing, I’ve been a road warrior for decades. On the way up the ladder newbies get their bookings when and where they can and that often means doing Duluth in December and Austin in August.

   I’m fine with all of it, as it’s part of paying one’s dues. All most of us ask for as comedians is a fair chance to eventually move up the ladder but too often it never comes. I can think of a booker who used to rule the Midwest for years who was notorious for making people drive though brutal conditions – often on extremely short notice – but never ever returning any favors down the road.

   Countless aspiring comedians over those years risked life and limb taking treacherous trips like I took today hoping for a chance for advancement that never came. Then that wank wonders why most comedians view him as a slave driver and bad guy, but this is nothing like that. I feel great.

   I’m a short timer on this list. I’ve paid dues upon dues upon interest on those dues. I’ve learned my craft and am rapidly improving my business skills too. I sense a payoff around the corner and it’s very exciting. I’m going to enjoy every minute and focus on all the good I can do for others.

   I was able to save the day for two people I like and respect, and if driving through the snow for an afternoon will accomplish that I’d do it 1000 times out of 1000. Nobody died, and I’m back to civilization to continue working on fun stuff. Yes it cost me a day, but I’m so far behind as it is it doesn’t really matter. I am making lots of progress, and after further review this was still correct.

   Joe San Felippo of Bonkerz Comedy Clubs has thrown me work over the years and I’m sure he will do it again. He helped me get the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show booked into the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino for April, so this was not an issue. There’s reciprocation involved.

   The headliner for this run is a comedy magician from Las Vegas named Kyle Marlett. I picked him up in Milwaukee and we drove up and back. He’s only 21, but has appeared on ‘The Tonight Show’ and has his own show in Las Vegas. He’s very talented, but I don’t think he was ready for the brutal conditions of what being a road act is all about. He has dues to pay like everyone else.

   I’m glad I agreed to do this, as now it’s over and I can move on. I did my good deed, and hope it might put a few coins in my karma bank so when I need a favor there will be someone who can step in on my behalf and save the day. There are no guarantees of that, but it sure would be nice.

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

Golden Rule Enforcement

Thursday February 21st, 2013 – Sault Ste. Marie, MI

   If I can ever help someone else out of a bind, I always make a sincere effort to do it. I know the feeling all too well of needing help myself, so I’m extra sensitive to pitching in when or however I can. It’s never a matter of getting anything back for myself - I just feel it’s the right thing to do.

   I know it sounds corny and sappy, but I really mean it. The Golden Rule is a wonderful base on which to build a successful life and I am a big proponent of trying my best to live by it every day of my existence. Today I had a chance to help two people with one action, so I had to get it done.

   Joe Nuccio is one of my comedy students who is taking it farther than most and is getting some actual bookings. He’s been a successful professional musician for years, but always wanted to try comedy and is doing quite well despite his short time in the business. He understands the game.

   Joe was booked this week on a run of casino shows that started in Sault Ste. Marie, MI tonight and includes Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee on Saturday and the Island Casino in Harris, MI on Sunday. I’ve done that run many times myself, and am familiar with all the driving it entails.

   Joe’s brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly earlier this week, and Joe found himself having to participate in the funeral which turned out to be today. He was extremely frazzled, and knew it wouldn’t be a popular decision to cancel on the booker the day before the gig – and it wouldn’t.

   I happen to also know the booker, Joe San Felippo from Bonkerz Comedy Clubs. Joe now lives in Orlando, FL but is originally from Milwaukee and I’ve known him for twenty-five years. He’s very down to earth, and we’ve always gotten along very well. He has a human side and has never been unreasonable, unlike a lot of bookers who can really hold grudges. Joe is easy to work with.

   I was in the unique position of knowing all sides of this situation, and I knew the consequences should Joe Nuccio back out would not be good. Joe San Felippo doesn’t know Joe Nuccio, so it’s not a matter of calling in a favor. If a professional entertainer books a gig, it’s his or her job to be there as agreed upon. Deaths in any family are unfortunate but inevitable, and work comes first.

   Joe Nuccio knows that from being a professional musician, and he was in a real bind. I’ve been in similar situations myself and it’s never fun. I happened to be off this particular week and knew the only solution that would allow everyone to walk away happy would be for me to fill in on the run and make the brutal 500 mile drive to Sault Ste. Marie. I told both Joes I’d volunteer to do it.

   I wasn’t thrilled about having to make that drive, but if that was the worst part of it the benefits far outweighed any inconvenience. The Kewadin Casino always treats comics well, and I would be doing the opening slot so that’s like a night off. I wasn’t doing anything, so why not help out?

   Everyone involved was delighted I was willing to do this on short notice, and the drive turned out to be a breeze – especially for February. There was no bad weather, and I got there in plenty of time to get my complementary dinner. It felt good to be able to help two people in one pinch.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Here Comes The KING!

Wednesday February 20th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   I truly believe 2013 is going to be my most memorable year ever – and in a good way. I feel an energy building and positive things are happening all over the place. This is exactly the way I’ve always pictured it, but for whatever reason it’s taken this long to finally happen. I am SO ready.

   I’ve already had a great experience filming a TV spot for Comcast in Indianapolis this year and I think that will lead to other opportunities as the year unfolds. I knocked that spot out of the park and did different material than I did on my Craig Ferguson spot – which was four years ago now.

   The Laughing Skull Festival will be a positive experience in Atlanta in March, as everyone that has done it has nothing but raves about the entire vibe of the event. Then in April it’s a chance to shine in my hometown of Milwaukee with a series of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows. It’s all a dream come true, and exactly what I want to be doing. I’m finally starting to see a payoff for my efforts.

   Today I got the best possible birthday gift I could imagine when Jon Greenberg called to invite me to be a part of a promotion on March 13th for the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team as they’ll be doing a “Tribute to Uranus Night”. Anyone who knows about Uranus knows March 13th is the date Sir William Herschel discovered the planet in 1781, and it’s the perfect day to pull this off.

   I’m not exactly sure what the final outcome will be, but I get to make an appearance during the game as The King of Uranus and I couldn’t be more thrilled. What fun it will be to show up with full regal splendor and walk out on the ice in front of hockey fans. Some may boo, others will be stunned – but EVERYONE will laugh and that’s the whole idea. This legitimizes this gimmick.

   I’m especially thrilled to be doing this for the Admirals, as they’ve always been marketers and promoters of the highest order. My friend Tom Green used to sing the national anthem at games in full Elvis regalia, and it was a fantastic promotion that fans came to know and enjoy. They’ve always been ahead of the curve with their promotional savvy, and this is the perfect gig for me.

   I have known Jon Greenberg and Admirals VP of Business Development Mike Wojciechowski for years and couldn’t think higher of both of them personally or professionally. Woj is naturally funny and has always been a fan and supporter of mine and Greenie worked in the front office of the Milwaukee Brewers for years and would always leave tickets for me whenever I needed any.

   These are exactly the kind of people I want to work with and be around, and I’m flattered they decided to let me be a part of this event. Nobody else on Earth could pull this off and if nothing else it will be one of the most memorable nights of my life. Who else could be King of Uranus or more importantly - who else would even WANT to be? I’m going into this without competition.

   This could be a huge success or a total flop, but I’m totally betting on success. Greenie told me they’re always looking for promotional angles, and when they saw March 13th as the anniversary date everyone in the office laughed immediately. Of course they did. Like my slogan says – ‘It’s ALWAYS funny when it comes from Uranus!’ And it is. I can’t wait to breathe life into a King.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Reboot In The Ass

Tuesday February 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’ve been hitting the road rather hard of late, and completely welcomed the thought of a day off to rest and recuperate. Too bad today wasn’t it. Who has time to relax? I’ve got laundry piling up yet again, and all the things I’ve been working so hard on seem to need my attention once more.

   Who can stay caught up with everything in life? I can’t, and it’s totally frustrating. I’m making an honest effort to stay in the game, but it feels like I’m trying to juggle too many plates and they are all going to come crashing down. Then I’ll have another mess to clean and I don’t want that.

   Life just gets away from me sometimes, and this is one of those times. I had my work space all organized and pretty looking just a few short weeks ago but now it looks like the picture of Haiti after their latest natural disaster. Everything is in piles and I have no idea where to start cleaning.

   I was starting to be proud of myself for how organized I was with my tax records as well, but I feel myself sliding back into my old habits there and that’s a major red flag. I’ve got my receipts, but they’re not put away in one spot like I need them to be and that has to be taken care of NOW.

   I refuse to go back into that habit, and I will spend tomorrow making it right. If nothing else, it will give me something to build on and move forward. I’ve had too much pain in the assets to let myself slide back into those soiled shorts. I need to get myself back on track and not let this slip.

   Another thing I’ve been lax on is exercising. I was in a great groove there too, but I’ve had too many other things to attend to of late and that’s gotten off schedule also. It takes conscious effort to stay in that groove, and I’ve let myself get out of it and I feel it. Again, I refuse to accept this.

   On the good side, I have no work this week and have time to devote to doing what I need to do to at least get partially caught up. On the bad side, I have no work this week and that means there is no income. I’m already running lean, and all the money I’ve made in my past few weeks out is accounted for and earmarked for paying someone else. I’m a hamster on a wheel and I’m tired.

   This is a very crucial time in both this year and my life, and what I choose to do the next week is going to have significant impact on my immediate and long term futures. I intend to get myself back to doing what I should be doing, but then again I never intended to get out. It just happened.

   Everybody wanders off track like this at some point, but as I get older I clearly see the extreme importance of having a master plan to return to whenever this happens. For so long I didn’t have any plan at all, and I’m paying for it now. At least I’m smart enough to know I’m doing it wrong and can catch it in time to get back where I need to be. If I don’t, I’ll go right back where I was.

   I’ve made some truly remarkable steps forward in the past few years and I’m going to literally force myself to keep those things at the top of my mind in this next little while so I don’t let this effort slip away. It’s not easy to make good decisions over and over – especially when life tosses unexpected grenades. I’m not the only one battling these things, but it’s my job to right my ship.

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

Speed Demons

Monday February 18th, 2013 – Black River Falls, WI

   What is it with me and speeding tickets lately? It’s only been in the last few years, but I’ve had way more than I’ve had in the previous twenty plus years combined and I can’t figure it out. As I rapidly approach codgerhood, one would assume that would be one area of life that would ease.

   In my twenties and thirties when I was really banging out the miles I don’t recall getting tickets at all. I may have had oodles of other problems to deal with in life then, but that was never one of them. In fact, if nothing else I had a reputation of talking my way out of any traffic consequences whenever I got pulled over, and it drove my friends crazy. I guess I wasn’t a threat to the police.

   I’ve always been able to talk to cops without fear. Part of the reason for that is my grandfather used to make me ask policemen for directions when we’d go for walks when I was a kid. He had the foresight to pretend we were ‘lost’, and made me give the policeman our address and ask him to tell us how to get home. How brilliant was that? I hope every parent of young kids steals that.

   I got snagged in a speed trap last spring that was a total sham, and I’m still feeling the sting of that one on my insurance. The speed limit went from 55 to 35 in about half a block, and I wasn’t the only one who fell for it. It was a money machine for the tiny town, and I guess it was just my turn. I tried fighting it, but in the end I ended up paying to just make it all go away. What a mess.

   This latest one happened just last month as I was driving in a rental car to a gig in Eau Claire, WI. I was passing a semi to avoid getting stones kicked up from one of the 18 wheels and having to pay for a cracked windshield. It didn’t help my cause any that the rental car had Illinois plates.

   I could tell by the way the trooper goose stepped out of his car that I was in for a ticket before he even got to my window. I felt his ominous vibe, and didn’t try to fight it or talk my way out of it. I tried to put it out of my mind and move on, and I did exactly that. I put it out of my mind so well in fact that I totally forgot about it. Today was my day in court and I needed to take action.

   It was my own fault, and I blame nobody else. I’m sure I’m not the only idiot in the history of traffic violations in small towns that has faced this situation, so I sucked it up and decided to get in my car after The Mothership Connection radio show ended at midnight and drive to the town of Black River Falls, WI to face my consequences. Court was scheduled for 9am and I was there.

   If I could get any part of the $250 fine lowered or any points shaved off, it would be worth this hassle. Two tickets in one year can’t be good for insurance purposes, even at my approaching old geezerly age. It’s not like I’m a habitual criminal, but for whatever reason I’m getting targeted of late. I guess it’s the law of averages, as I’ve driven about ten times more than most other drivers.

   They had me fill out a form pleading not guilty, and I was told that the District Attorney would contact me within a few weeks via mail. I have no idea what to expect, but prudence tells me I’ll be forking out cash at that point. Hopefully my effort will pay off, but who knows? It would sure be nice to catch a break, but the cosmos seems to have other plans. I’ll cross my fingers and wait.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Michael Jordan's Birthday

Sunday February 17th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Michael Jordan turned 50 today, but that’s only one of several reasons February 17th has gotten to be a date of uncomfortable significance on my yearly calendar. Today was also the birthday of my grandmother who was born in 1911 and the day my father died in 2007. That’s a lot to digest.

   There are so many emotions mixed in with all of that I’m not sure where to start. I have always been a fan of Michael Jordan, partially because I knew he was my age. He was born in 1963 just as I was, but how much more different could any two lives be? Birth year is about all we share.

   Can anybody name a person in any walk of life much less an athlete more famous than Michael Jordan? I can’t. That guy is one in a million million, just like Muhammad Ali or Babe Ruth. He’s the singular standard by which an entire sport is measured for generations. How amazing is that?

   Other famous athletes were born in 1963 like Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley, but Michael has gone beyond athletics and is pop culture – and worldwide pop culture at that. He’s reached about as high a level as one can get and still qualify as human. After that one becomes a cartoon image.

   I heard all kinds of tributes on the radio today about him turning 50, and they made him sound SO old. I used to think 50 was old too, but now I’m there and it feels like I’m just getting started. I was too busy making mistakes until now, but I finally feel like I’m in a position to hit pay dirt.

   Then I look at a Michael Jordan and he’s been on top of the top for thirty years. It’s like it was included in his DNA, and it would be difficult for him NOT to be successful. He may not be the red hot icon he once was, but he’s had a super run right up there with Elvis or Michael Jackson.

   It’s hard to comprehend someone of that magnitude being born just a few weeks ahead of me, but it’s true. That doesn’t guarantee happiness though. Whitney Houston was also born in 1963 and it didn’t end well for her even though she also attained heights most humans never reach.

   Then there’s my father. He was an overwhelming underachiever and waste of sperm no matter when he was born. Nobody celebrated his 50th or any other birthday on radio or anywhere else. It still baffles me why he was so mean spirited and nasty to just about everyone, but now he’s dead and nobody misses him. I surely don’t, but I do wish I could find out what made him that upset.

   Michael Jordan at 50 is looked at as a lion hearted champion of a generation and has the rest of his days to do as much or as little as he pleases. He has millions of dollars and a new model wife. If he’s unhappy – and he very well could be – it sure isn’t due to lack of resources. He’s loaded.

   My father at 50 hadn’t ventured off the back porch to attempt anything. He was proud that he’d been able to pull down a disability for his bum heart, and he pissed the rest of his life away doing absolutely nothing of significance. As I sneak up on 50 - or as it sneaks up on me – I find myself betwixt the magnificence of Michael and the folly of my father. I have no idea where I’ll end up on the big picture chart of life. I have all I can handle keeping my bills paid. I can’t dwell on this.

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

Where's My Colonel?

Saturday February 16th, 2013 - Mishawaka, IN

   My stress level is down considerably. I had about as productive of a day on the road as I could imagine, and after two solid shows last night I’m feeling pretty good. My show is as ready as it’s ever going to be, and I’m in full bloom as a performer. There were two very different crowds last night, and I handled them both with ease if I do say so myself. I am at the very top of my game.

   Unfortunately, that doesn’t last forever and I am well aware. It took an unbelievable amount of scraping, clawing and self sacrifice to get here, but I totally feel I am in control on any stage. I’ve reached a level few ever get to, and it feels satisfying to know that I’ve stayed with it for so long.

   I could easily have given up years ago and logically I probably should have, but I know deep in my heart I would have ended up much more miserable than I am now – and the main reason I am miserable now is that I want to be working more. I have found the thing I absolutely love to do.

   I might not love the constant travel or the politics or the stress of always having to stay booked every week, but when I’m on that stage it feels like home. I finally feel like I’m starting to know what I’m doing up there, and that confidence adds rocket fuel to the mix. I’m on a higher level.

   Not many people in any pursuit have paid the dues I have, and I’m starting to see results. What to do with those results is beyond me, but I have to think someone else has to see it at some point and raise me to a higher place. That person who ‘discovers’ me will end up looking like a genius.

   I’m to the point now I can’t do much more by myself. I’ve taken my show to a higher level, but if nobody on a higher level in the business knows who I am I will continue to live hand to mouth and I just don’t want to do that. I’ve put far too much effort into this to remain unknown forever.

   I’m really looking forward to the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows in Milwaukee coming up in April, but that’s not the best I can do. It will be fun to work a professional stage, but as far as taking my act to the next level it’s already there. Now it’s a matter of presenting it as such and getting paid. 

   These people in Mishawaka this weekend didn’t get cheated in the least. They got basically the same show people will get who pay top dollar in a theatre, and they loved it. People stood in line after all four shows this weekend to shake my hand and tell me how much they laughed, and that absolutely never gets old. I smiled and thanked every one of them, but I’m the one getting hosed.

   I have a great problem but it’s still a problem – my act has exceeded my level of status and it’s time to move up. I’ve graduated from the commando bar gig scene and I want to get that elusive following I’ve been chasing for so many years. I want people to come out specifically to see me.

   I’m not getting that doing what I’m doing, so I’ll have to find help. Maybe someone I meet at the Laughing Skull Festival next month will be able to help and that’s my focus going in. I will put those vibes out there and let the universe find me that person or people. This is the right time and it won’t take all that much to get something exciting on track. Elvis needs to find a Colonel.

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

Traffic Karma

Friday February 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/Mishawaka, IN

   The next time I move anywhere – and I hope it’s not very soon – I’m going to have to pay a lot more attention to hidden but important details that impact me more than I had imagined. Freeway accessibility is a big one, and I’ve been struggling with that issue the last three places I’ve lived.

   No matter which roads I take, there’s just no easy route to get to any freeway from where I live and it’s a huge hassle. I try to plan ahead, but some days I fall behind schedule as everyone does on occasion and it’s game over before it starts. It’s beyond frustrating, but I have to deal with it.

   When I lived in Chicago it was maddening. I wasn’t all that physically far from I-94, but when traffic got heavy it didn’t matter. I was going to have to wait like thousands of others, and that’s all there was to it. I could try to plan around rush hours, but it didn’t matter. It was up to destiny.

   I’m a big believer in traffic karma. Some days all the lights are green and everything is smooth. Other days I’m stuck behind a big slow city bus or the road crew hauling one of those smoky tar machines that make my life miserable, and no matter what improvised detour or alternate route I happen to try it only gets worse. It’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of traffic day today will be.

   Then in Chicago it becomes even more random as to how constipated the freeways themselves might actually be on a given day. All it takes it one wreck or bad weather to cause total gridlock, and that’s a nightmare too. All one can do is hope for the best, but smart money says leave early.

   I’m booked in Mishawaka, IN this weekend, which isn’t all that far in actual miles. Mishawaka is a suburb of South Bend, and that’s about 100 miles from downtown Chicago. I’m in Fox Lake, which is about 50 miles from downtown Chicago but at least ten miles from the nearest freeway.

   I fell behind schedule today as I tend to do frequently, but I still managed to pack and get going with what I assumed would be plenty of time to make a trip of less than 200 miles – even with all the potential pitfalls that are Chicago traffic. I’ve been doing this for decades, and was prepared.

   What I wasn’t prepared for was the clogged traffic toilet that only results when the President is in town. I had no idea until I was in the car, but by then it was too late. I heard it on the radio and laughed out loud when I did because I knew I was screwed and there was no way to stop it now.

   What a great Mr. Lucky scenario. I think I’m planning for everything on my trip – except for a minor detail like the President coming to town. That’s a funny scene in a movie, but not funny at all today. Laughter turned into pure stress as I watched the minutes tick away and wasn’t moving an inch. Hello Mr. Gridlock. I knew I was in trouble, but also knew I couldn’t do a thing about it.

   It was three hours of fully operational hell before I made it out of Chicago. Lucky for me I was dressed to be able to go on stage immediately – a trick I’ve learned through years of dealing with scenarios exactly like this. Of course I lost an hour to time change too so that cranked the vise of stress that much tighter. I made it with about two minutes to spare, but the audience never knew.

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tough Ship

Thursday February 14th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Carnival Cruise Lines is in a delicate P.R. situation and I’m sad to hear it. Their ship ‘Triumph’ apparently had an engine fire that disabled everything onboard and passengers have been living a nightmare for the past few days. I’m hearing all kinds of horror stories about raw sewage backed up in the hallways and running out of food, and it makes me glad I’m not still doing cruise ships.

   I worked for Carnival in 2010 and 2011 and was booked on that very ship. I had fun on that run and especially liked the cruise director. He was a total people person and we got along great. I’m not sure if it’s still the same person, but I’m sending positive vibes to no matter who’s in charge.

   One can only imagine how hellacious that gig must be right about now, and if it was me I think I’d have jumped off the back of the boat about two days into it to swim home. To Chicago. What a mess, and unfortunately it will tarnish both Carnival and cruising in general’s reputation with at least a percentage of the ticket buying public for a long time to come. This is not good publicity.

   Unfortunately, it’s a numbers game. Carnival had 22 ships when I worked there, and may have a few more now for all I know. I was absolutely amazed at how efficiently those ships operated, and I would estimate I worked on at least a dozen during my run. They’ve got the system down.

   I was blown away by how they cranked things out, but still took care of business. They loaded and unloaded passengers with surgical precision, but safety was never overlooked in the mix. My personal safety was never a concern in all the time I worked for them, and I’d work there again.

   This is the equivalent of a plane crash causing people to not want to fly. Yes they suck out loud if you happen to be aboard one of the crashing planes, but it’s still a safe bet to fly just because in the grand scheme plane crashes are extremely rare. More people die in car wrecks than in planes.

   I’m not making excuses, and I still feel bad for everyone who had to go through this horror. It’s not fun I’m sure, and there are two comedians on board who will probably never have a desire to work a cruise ship again. I’m surprised it didn’t happen to Mr. Lucky, but I’m not sad I missed it.

   I am sad that this will linger in people’s minds or a long time. The thousands of cruises that are glitch free go unglorified because that’s how they’re supposed to go. ONE didn’t, and it’s putting a negative image of the company and the business in people’s minds that will make a much more lasting impression than 100 commercials singing the praises of cruising. That’s how life works.

   McDonald’s sells oceans full of coffee every day without a hitch, but one idiot dumps a cup of it in her crotch and sues and it’s all over the news. It only takes a single incident out of thousands to change the minds of the masses, and that’s just not fair. But again, whoever said life was fair?

   Carnival has a fleet of other ships that aren’t having any problems, but this one is getting major coverage on every network. I’ve got my own problems to look after, but this was an incident that caught my attention. This could happen to anyone in one way or another, and nobody is immune.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eyes On The Prize

Wednesday February 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
   Back to the business of standup comedy. Farting around with antiques is fine to fill spare time, but I’d rather have my days filled to the brim with great gigs and more work than I can handle. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have time to scour thrift stores because I’d be too busy with comedy.
   This is a fine line, and I don’t want to get caught up in the hunt for trinkets. It’s fun, but also an energy sucker if I let it. I need to watch myself and keep that part of my life where it belongs – in the background. I want to be a comedian that deals in antiques, not a junk dealer who tells jokes.
   Keeping my eyes on the big picture can be difficult, but there definitely is one. I see myself as a multifaceted entertainer that is the leader of several exciting projects that involve teams of very special people who work together to create quality products greater than the sum of their parts.
   That’s a mouthful, and more than a handful to actually execute in real life. I’ve got enough on my plate for six lifetimes, and part of that is the reason not much seems to get done even though I’m constantly working on something or other to the point of exhaustion. I’ve got a lot going on.
   I think I need to focus more on the finished product of how I see my life working, as it can get too easy to get lost in individual projects. I’d like to be able to pick and choose where I work and experience the best of several worlds. I’m not that far off on one hand, but not close on the other.
   For example, I’m getting a lot of standup comedy bookings of late. That’s great, and I’m more than grateful to get them. I’d like to make more money and travel less, and that’s where ‘Schlitz Happened!’ comes in. That’s a local show that can hopefully allow me to stay off the road at least for a while and be more lucrative financially as well. That’s a potential gem, but needs attention.
   Comedy classes are also on my mind. I love teaching, as it keeps me close to the core of what I love to be around – creativity. It also allows me to pay my knowledge and experience forward to a generation of those who are hungry to learn. I don’t regret any of the time I’ve spent teaching.
   Then there’s the Uranus project. I picture myself as the character of ‘The King of Uranus’- the head of a business umbrella that sells funny products online and in stores everywhere. It will be a brand in and of itself, and a source of income separate from standup comedy but not that far off.
   And if that’s not enough, there’s ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show as well. I love doing a talk show – especially one where I can talk about the topics I do. I can bring some humor into it if I want, but sometimes we can get serious too. It’s great fun to do the show, I want to continue.
   This is more than enough to keep me busy, and realistically I’ll never get where I’m wanting to go without the help of many other people. I want to create teams for all these projects where I am the leader but others make it happen. It’s getting there, but there’s a lot that needs to be gotten to and every day is a struggle to pack in as much as humanly possible. I’m putting in the effort, but is it the right effort in the right order? That’s where I can get lost, but at least I’m moving ahead.

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Solving The Puzzle

Tuesday February 12th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Tonight I had the great opportunity to headline at Zanies in Chicago, and I didn’t take it lightly. I have headlined there countless times before, but I’ve got a more pressing purpose these days as I get ready to participate in the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta in March. I intend to kick ass.

   Anyone who has seen me when I’m on my game knows that I am a high energy wrecking ball on stage. I like to pound an audience into submission until they can’t take it anymore. I enjoy it when people come up to me after a show and tell me their stomach hurts and they can’t breathe.

   To me, that’s quality customer service. I want people to leave my show with a hurting stomach and in tears whenever possible. What other business has that for a goal? Maybe horror movies or amusement parks, but that’s about it. I don’t think Macy’s or McDonald’s desires those results.

   Tonight’s show was a challenge, and I rose to the occasion. Sometimes week night crowds tend to be a bit stiff, and that’s how it was tonight. They were also diverse – which may sound good in theory in life but it makes comedy a lot more difficult. Different people laugh at different things.

   There were young and old, white and black, Jewish and gentile in the audience tonight and for a Tuesday when the President spoke it was a surprisingly full house. Some were rather rowdy up front, and that made it hard for the opening acts Michael Issac and Denise Ramsden. I’m a fan of both of those acts, but this was no picnic for either of them tonight. That audience needed a slap.

    Fortunately, I was the right man for the job. I’ve got years of experience slapping stiff crowds into shape, and that’s what I had to do tonight. No offense to Michael or Denise, but sometimes a comedian needs to have a passing gear to accelerate to a place that whips an audience into shape.

   Part of that is confidence, and another part is experience. I’ve seen more stiff audiences in my day than Michael and Denise combined have seen crowds period. I should know how to handle it by now, and I do. Those guys didn’t do anything wrong, but this is a rough game. The public can be a cruel animal and trying to make them even listen up much less laugh can be a daunting task.

   I got the attention of most of them, but not all. Some people will just never get it that a comedy show is meant to be watched in silence, and talking is not part of the mix. It’s rude, ignorant and just plain stupid but it has gone on since live shows began and isn’t going away any time soon.

   Still, I did the best I could with what I had to work with and ended up getting most of them by the end of the show. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t let up and was proud of myself for staying with it the whole time. I could have phoned it in, but I never like doing that. Each show is an individual puzzle to solve, and not all of them get solved. When a tough one does get solved, it’s satisfying.

   I made it even harder for myself on purpose by mixing up my material so I’d have to think on my feet and be even more involved. I closed with what I normally open with, and vice versa. It’s harder that way, but also more of a challenge and I love that. I’ll be ready for Atlanta in March.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fred Sanford Revisited

Sunday February 10th, 2013 – Lake County, IL

   I’ve been dipping my toe in the water with the antiques picking game, and I think I’m going to do pretty well for several reasons. I’ve been looking for another source of income that’s flexible, and I think this is it. It won’t be easy, but if I play my cards right I’ll be able to turn a fair profit.

   Right now I’m mainly practicing my ability to pick items out of thrift stores. That’s not a huge source of guaranteed income, as all those items have to pass in front of a lot of eyes before even making it to the store shelves. Still, there are often trinkets that do and that’s what I want to find.

   It becomes a poker game of deciding what I can get at a lower price and spin for more than my initial investment. There will be expenses of time and money if I choose to sell on Ebay or set up at a flea market, so I have to decide what I can do well enough with to make it worth purchasing.

   I’ve scored quite a few smaller items already, and that gives me hope there’s a lot more to pick – especially when rummage sales start in the spring. I’m learning what to look for, and it’s a total switch from what I’ve been buying for the past twenty five years when scouring the thrift stores.

   It used to be all I’d look for would be books, CDs, DVDs and maybe cassettes depending upon if I had a cassette player in the particular car I happened to be driving at the time. I’d often score great stuff for a very low price, but I discovered the turnover market wasn’t there. I never bought to turn it over, but after moving several times and having to drag it all with me I’ve restructured.

   I have enough books to read for the next forty years, should I be lucky enough to live that long. I am now focusing on baubles and trinkets that can be spun for a profit, and that can include a lot of things from jewelry to glassware to furniture to vinyl records just to name a few. There are all kinds of possibilities, and I have a whole lot to learn about all of them. Right now I’m guessing.

   For example, I stopped in Goodwill on my way to a gig a few weeks ago and they had a sale on vinyl records. Albums were a quarter and 45s were three for a quarter. It’d been years since I had any records and I don’t own a turntable on which to play them, but I gambled five bucks on some older stuff from the early ‘60s that was in very nice shape. It was a calculated but affordable risk.

   One of the albums was a ‘Bat Masterson’ TV show piece that was dated 1960. It’s in excellent shape, and I saw on Ebay that one had sold for $100. Bingo! I’m not saying I’ll get $100, but if it brings even $40-$50 I’ll be ecstatic. Now I have to find someone who is willing to pay me for it.

   There were some other albums in the stack that were listed between $25 and $60, but again that in no way means I’ll get that. Still, I think I made a fantastic buy for my $5 and now I’m going to experiment with ways to turn it all for a profit. It’s all a risk, but I’m into the whole pile for a fin.

   This kind of stuff is everywhere and always has been, but I wasn’t looking for it until now. It’s certainly not my goal to become a modern day Fred Sanford, and the last thing I want is to waste my time thinking I’m going to get rich quick. I’m not delusional going into this. It’s a transition.

   Hopefully it can help me make a few bucks to keep me off the lower end gigs on the road, and when I am on the road it’s something I can do to productively use my time to make contacts that hopefully I can use to move some of the inventory I do get. I’m learning quickly that winning in this game is about knowing where to sell things BEFORE they’re bought. That takes a network.

   I’ve got a few comedy contacts that do this kind of thing either for side income or to earn their actual living. Greg Willet is in Appleton, WI and he’s a full time dealer. Greg has been generous with his time in helping me get started, and he informed me of a pick where an old baseball card that was found in a scrap book brought $92,000 at auction. Big ticket scores are still out there.

   Someone wins the lottery every week as well, and I’m totally aware this is a long shot. I don’t expect to make a million dollars tomorrow, but with a little effort and smarts applied to what I’m already doing I think I can use it to make a few extra bucks. I’m not looking to cheat anyone and I am going to report every penny of profit to the IRS - but I will take all my legal deductions too.

   Today I ventured out to test the waters at a couple of small flea markets that happen to be near where I live. I just wanted to get a feel for what’s out there these days and see if setting up at one might be in my near future. I wasn’t impressed with either one as a whole, but there were dealers at each one that stood out so I’m glad I went. I ended up learning from them all – good and bad.

   One ingredient that was painfully missing from the mix was showmanship. Way more than not, most of those who set up just threw everything in a pile and let it sit. A few of the dealers would say hello as I walked into their domain, but most did not. They sat there knitting or reading their book or whatever they were doing, and it was interesting to monitor how each person behaved.

   Signage was another thing that caught my eye. A few of the sellers had eye catching signs that let me know how much their merchandise was, but most others had sloppy hand written stuff that was very unappealing to the eye. If I would set up at a show like this I would handle it differently and I bet I’d do well. My entertainment background would set me light years ahead of the pack.

   I could see myself dressed up as The King of Uranus at some big flea market, and attract a long line of people to my booth to buy things. I could do some kind of humorous presentation and sell funny items like joke books or farting dolls or something I can pick up cheap and spin for profit.

   All of this is all about the show, and I know it going in. It’s not my goal to spend the rest of my life looking for rare Edsel hubcaps or ‘I Like Ike’ buttons. I want to use those things to help turn a buck, but that’s about it. I enjoy the treasure hunt aspect, but the real buzz comes from a show.

   I want it all to tie in together, and I think it can. If comedy fans know I wheel and deal antiques they might sell to me before approaching a stranger – especially if I develop an honest reputation as I intend to. If antique customers know I do comedy, they might become fans. It ties together. I am not taking this lightly, and I know there is work involved in addition to a need to get educated in a lot of areas of expertise so I can make smart choices when buying things. I have work to do.

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

What A Week!

Saturday February 9th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   This week at Zanies in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort is comedy heaven for several reasons. After spending a lifetime experiencing anything and everything that can go wrong with standup comedy, it was a delicious treat to have everything work out correctly without a glitch.

   First, it’s close to home. What a wonderful treat not to have to worry about travel for a change. Anytime I can work a week of comedy shows and sleep in my own bed is a humongous positive. If I never have to stay in a hotel ever again, my life would not miss a beat. I’ve done it too much.

   Second, it’s a quality venue. The sound and lights are always great, and since it’s been open for so long there is at least a fighting chance most if not all of the audience at least knows the reason they are there. There is visible security in place to escort the morons who don’t get it out the door but that doesn’t happen often. When it does, Lenny Creagh handles it beautifully. He’s a real pro.

   Third, it’s managed well and has been for years. Cyndi Nelson is one of the most respected and beloved comedy club managers anywhere, and she recently moved on to manage the new Zanies in Rosemont, IL. Tracey Whitmer is now in her place and like Cyndi she actually enjoys comedy and treats the comedians with respect. It’s refreshing to show up at a club and feel wanted there.

   All of these things are the foundation of an outstanding work environment, but what really sent this week into orbit was the solid lineup of comedians. I was extremely fortunate to share the bill with a pair of my all time favorites both onstage and off in Vince Maranto and Jimmy McHugh.

   Zanies has used house emcees for years, and I am a big proponent of that concept. It makes the shows far better as a whole, as someone with experience starts the night and maintains an energy that can’t be achieved by putting up a rank amateur like most comedy clubs have done to death.

   Vince is one of the Zanies regular hosts, and does a fantastic job. We’ve known each other for at least twenty five years, and he’s a solid headliner in his own right as is Jimmy McHugh. They have both been through the wars just like I have, and it’s a breeze working with guys like that as nothing can rattle any of us at any time. We’ve all seen it before, and our calmness level is high.

   The three of us are comedy mercenaries at this point, but that’s not a bad thing. We still love to perform and all do it well, but none of us are big stars and may never be. We’ve all paid our dues and are big leaguers as far as being professional comedians, and we all respect each other’s acts.

   I watched Vince and Jimmy this whole week and they still make me laugh out loud even if I’ve seen their bits literally hundreds of times. They’re both well written and well performed, and I’m a fan of them both as people and as comics. Getting to be on a show with them was fun but rare.

   Comedy clubs as a rule just don’t book that much talent on one show like a Zanies does. For at least four nights, I had a dream working environment and I enjoyed every second of it as I know how uncommon it truly is. Next week I’m back to the grind, and I will appreciate this even more.

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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Familiar Territory

Friday February 8th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   I’m headlining this week at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort. If there has been one comedy club that has captured my entire tenure in standup comedy, it’s that one. I’ve worked there since it opened in 1989, and have climbed up the ranks on that very stage.

   I was strictly an opening act when I started (and a weak one at that) but was young and willing to make the drive to St. Charles from Chicago which was then and remains a big hassle. There is just no easy way to get there, and at some point the journey requires travel on Illinois Route 64.

   Route 64 is also known as North Avenue, and there has been continuous construction going on at various points of that road since 1989. I have spent countless hours on that road over the years on my way to shows at Zanies, and more than once I’ve cut it too close for comfort and squeaked by with mere seconds to spare until show time. My stress level on that street alone has been ugly.

   I’ve survived managers of every personality type, and ownership changes at the resort. I’ve had some of my very best shows ever on that stage, and have driven home in disgust wondering if I’d made the right career choice. Every emotion that can possibly be experienced, I have felt it here.

   Part of me wishes I would have recorded at least one set a year since 1989 so I could document my enormous growth. I don’t think I’ve missed even one year in all that time – even though I’ve had radio jobs all over and didn’t always live in the area. If there was one place I could count on to get a booking, it was Zanies in Pheasant Run. I’m grateful for all the times it has paid my bills.

   I am no longer that punk kid looking to come up the ranks, and now doing shows here is about as easy as it gets. I’m so used to the surroundings by now I could do shows in my sleep. There is a nice high stage with a strong sound system, and I know exactly what to do to have hot shows.

   I’ve been a regular headliner for years now, and I do actually get fans coming back to see me at this location more than all the others. One nice lady named Harriett Leo is a major fan, and never brings less than half a dozen new people to see me whenever I appear. I was just here a couple of months ago, and she showed up with about ten people who loved the show. I really appreciate it.

   This was a fallout week on short notice, and she came back with eight more new people tonight who hadn’t seen me before. I need about 100,000 more Harriett Leos in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful for not only her support but for that from Zanies over the years. They have allowed me to go from punk kid wannabe to legitimate comedy headliner, and I will always be grateful.

   Those early years were pretty painful. I was beyond horrible as all new comedians are, but they stayed with me and let me work it out until I got better. The Zanies in Chicago is the place that’s touted by Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, but St. Charles is not without its own charms – especially for me since I’ve worked there so often. That place will always have a special place in my heart, and I hope I’m able to keep working on that stage as long as I’m drawing breath. This week was unexpected but appreciated, and I’m going to waste the money on dumb stuff like rent and food.

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

A One Day Career

Thursday February 7th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   The process of being an entertainer is a lot more complex than anyone thinks. Had I known I’d have to work this hard on so many levels I may not have jumped in with both feet and thrown all caution to the wind. There are zero guarantees of a payoff, and circumstances change constantly.

   There is less work involved managing a fast food restaurant or driving a forklift, even though it isn’t nearly as exciting and doesn’t have a potential payoff at the end. There is a steady paycheck involved, and this far into the game that sounds REALLY good right now. Too bad I missed that.

   My grandfather made me promise him on his death bed I would get a civil service job to insure a steady income. He had one for more than thirty years (and absolutely hated it) as did my father and uncle (who also hated theirs.) I loved my grandfather and respected his wisdom, but I knew I didn’t want to settle for a life of misery like they all had. Still, I was always a man of my word.

   I promised him I’d get that civil service job, but my heart was never in it. I ended up having to take an exam, and actually placed quite highly on the list. I eventually got called for the position of ‘Clerk Typist 1’ for the City of Milwaukee. It was third shift at a police station of all places.

   The pay at the time was $14,000 a year, and I remember that sounding pretty good. I was about 19, and it would have included benefits and been steady cash flow. It could have been the start of a respectable career, and I could be thinking about retirement now with a nice wad stashed away.

   Unfortunately, that just wasn’t me. I ended up lasting ONE DAY. I knew within in the first few minutes I wasn’t going to last, and when all was said and done the only thing I ever typed during my tenure as a ‘Clerk Typist 1’ was my resignation. The cop in charge thought I was completely insane, and told me exactly that as I turned in my exit notice. I nodded, smiled and walked out.

   I had fulfilled my promise to Gramps and did indeed get myself a civil service job. But I could see the results of what a lifetime of empty existence looked like with Gramps, my father and my uncle and I wasn’t going to be like that. I made up my mind I was going to chase that big dream.

   Well, if nothing else I got my wish. I wasn’t like any of them, but now here I sit all these years later with absolutely no financial security whatsoever living hand to mouth like a glorified hobo. I was too busy chasing those dreams and recovering from disasters to put together a savings plan.

   I’m not making excuses, but I sure did make a lot of dumb mistakes that are biting me squarely in the meatiest part of my rump right now and it hurts. Too bad for me, as I was sole chooser and have nobody to blame but myself. I hope I chose the correct path, but sometimes I still wonder.

   I’m too far into it now to turn back, so all I can do is plow forward and make the best of what’s happening now. That’s a mammoth undertaking, as there’s a lot going on. I have fun things right around the corner like ‘Schlitz Happened!’, but I also have to pay my bills this month. That takes planning on several levels, and my days are consumed morning to night trying to sort it all out.

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