Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Sunday March 24th, 2013 – Spencer, IA/Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI
My grandpa used to tell me it’s better to wear out than rust out, but I’m closer to feeling inside out right about now. I’m pushing myself harder than I have in a long time, and I feel every bit of my age. In my 20s, I could stand this pace and more. I was bullet proof then. Now, I’m just shot.
The shows the last two nights were beyond great, but that’s only a small part of my day. Today was the most hectic trip of all as I needed to be at Zanies in Chicago by 3pm to teach a class and then up to Kenosha, WI by 8pm to host the Mothership Connection radio show. I knew all along this would be the roughest day, and it didn’t disappoint. I made Indiana Jones look like a slacker.
I laid down at 1:30am after hanging with the comedians and it seemed like mere minutes when I checked my watch and it was 4am. I’d gotten just enough sleep to make me cranky, and that set the tone for the drive. I drove south on US 71 out of Spencer, IA and it was snowing just enough to make the drive even more brutal than it already was. It added tension to the mix I didn’t need.
Iowa is a lot bigger to drive through than it is to look at on a map. It seemed like Texas as I had both hands on the wheel in the pitch black early morning hoping I wouldn’t slide off into a ditch for a final curtain call. It was icy, snowy and windy – three dwarfs that didn’t make the final 7.
I had a lot of time to think as I drove, and did exactly that. Here I am all these years later after a lifetime of chasing a dream, and I have to admit I got exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be a full time headlining comedian who worked all over North America and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Nowhere in that dream did I picture driving in a 1994 Nissan with a cracked windshield and no spare tire across two lane highways in Iowa during a snow storm, but that wasn’t in the equation. I wanted to be a real live professional comedian, and I’ve done it. Nobody can take that from me, but I must admit it sure didn’t come about like I pictured it. I assumed my problems would end.
The only time anyone’s problems end is when the coffin lid clicks, but even that’s no guarantee for any of us. For all we know that’s when a whole new set of problems arises. Personally, I have all I can handle and then some with what’s going on here. I’ll worry about the great beyond later.
Today I had to make it to Chicago, and I did. I was beat like an egg yolk in a French restaurant when I got there, but I made it. Class started at 3pm, and I showed up at 2:57. Again, that kind of stress wasn’t in my initial dream but I made it nevertheless. The students made it worth the drive.
I made it to the radio station in plenty of time for the show, so I stopped to get a salad to try to maintain a halfway healthy lifestyle. Road life is hellish on one’s diet, and that’s why I have had my issues with type 2 diabetes. I totally see how I got that way, and I don’t want to do it again.
The radio show was good, but I had a hard time staying awake for those four hours. I thought I was going to nod off a few times, but I held it together. If everyone has to have problems, I love the ones I’m having. Trying to squeeze too many fun things into each day is what life should be.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 9:20 AM
Monday, March 25, 2013
Friday March 22nd, 2013 – Holland, MI
This is the beginning of a very hectic stretch, and I’m crossing my fingers I get through it with as few glitches as possible. It’s hard enough to make plans in general, but then hiccups occur out of the blue and it can derail the whole train. I’m heading into this without guarantees of anything.
Seemingly little things like a car problem or flu bug could prove to be disastrous if they happen to come at an inopportune time – which in my world they always do. I can only do my best to try and show up everywhere I need to be, and do the best I can do when I get there. My plate is full.
Tonight I needed to be in Holland, MI for a show at a beautiful venue called The Park Theatre. It’s an old Vaudeville house that was almost torn down, but the city is repairing it and they want events to attract business. Jerry Donovan is a comedian and promoter I have just started to work for recently and he happened to have a fallout for tonight and asked if I wanted it. I told him yes.
It’s true I wanted the work, but it’s going to really make my already packed weekend schedule even more so. I’m also scheduled to perform with Jimmy McHugh’s Chicago Comedy All Stars in Spencer, IA tomorrow night so that means I’ll need to really hump it if I’m going to get there.
I didn’t have time to think about that tonight, as I had a show to do. I hadn’t been to Holland in a while, and I thought I remembered how to get there but of course I didn’t and made a turn that got me totally lost. I made it to the theatre right at show time, but I don’t like cutting it that close.
I’m extremely glad I came though, as what a night it was. I have been having consistently solid shows of late, but this one was for the ages. I’d go as far as to say this was THE hottest audience I have performed for in the last dozen years or more. They were on a level that I’ve rarely seen.
Jerry hosted the show and did a very professional job. The feature act was Chris Young out of the Ann Arbor area, and he was the perfect act in front of me on this night. He did an outstanding job, and everything just fit together like it was custom made. That’s hard to plan for, but when it happens everyone can feel it. For whatever reason, all the pieces of the show fit together tonight.
The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was full and they completely got all of us the entire night. I have been part of some killer shows in my day, but this one was right up there with anything I’ve ever been part of in any size venue anywhere. It’s like fate brought every one of us together tonight.
It got to the point I had to stop and let them breathe several times because I didn’t think they’d be able to laugh anymore – but they did. Shows like this make those long drives worth the hassle – but they still are exactly that. I was barely done shaking hands and then it was back in the car.
I was on a major high most of the way home, but then I ran into some heavy traffic in Chicago that wiped a bit of the smile off my face. I got home at 2am, but I’ve got to get right back out and make it to Spencer, IA for another show tomorrow night. Who would have thought an old theatre in Holland, MI could be such a great experience? It totally was, but now it’s over. On to Spencer.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 12:02 PM
Friday, March 22, 2013
Thursday March 21st, 2013 – Chicago, IL
I want to run through my whole schedule for today so those who think they might want to enter the entertainment business can see exactly what it entails on a given day. Today was particularly hectic, but I’ve had a lot of others like it. See if this is a field you’d be interested in getting into.
I received a call last night saying I needed to be in downtown Chicago for a TV appearance on ‘Mancow TV’ at 7am. It came out of the blue, and I couldn’t say no. Part of being a headliner is doing media interviews to drum up business, and those can often come in at the very last minute.
This was about as last minute as it gets. I received confirmation at 8pm, which meant I had to be on a train into the city by 4:45am this morning. I didn’t make it back home to the sticks where I live until after midnight, so that didn’t leave much time for sleeping. I had more than a couple of emails to read through before I could go to bed, and after those I had phone messages to hear.
I got up at 3:30am to take a quick shower and be at the train station in time to park my car and buy my ticket. It’s a mile from my house, but I drove because I knew my walk would be from the train station to the TV station. That was about a mile and a half one way, and it was bitchy cold.
The TV show lasted from 7 to 8, but they asked me to stay longer to tape some more segments for Mancow’s radio show because the producers could see I knew how to throw in quick lines to fit their manic format. I didn’t really want to stay, but again that’s part of the gig. I didn’t get out until 9:30, and then I had another mile and a half walk in the nasty cold back to the train station.
I got back to Fox Lake at 11:30, and then had to deposit a check at the bank. It’s my secondary account, and there was a change in policy that now requires a minimum balance or I get charged a monthly fee. I had to sit with the banker and get that worked out, and that was 45 minutes I will never get back. I can’t stand wasting time with minutia like that, but who else can I get to do it?
Then I needed to stop home and make my hotel reservations for the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta next week – another process I can’t stand. I was typing in credit card numbers and it took way longer than I had to spare today. Still, it needed to get done or I’ll be sleeping in a rental car.
That was the next order of business, and the hassle started all over again. After that, I had to do a call in radio interview for a show I’m doing with Jimmy McHugh’s Chicago Comedy All Stars on Saturday in Spencer, IA. Again, that’s part of being a comedian and it’s crucial to get it done.
Then I had to squeeze in a haircut, as I’ve needed one for a while and have a lot of nicer shows coming up. Again, I didn’t want to do it but it needed to get done. The lady who cut my hair had a nasty cold, and she was sniffling and sneezing the whole time so I’ll probably end up sick too.
This was all before having to drive to Zanies in Chicago for a show at 8:30 where there was an inordinate amount of drunken hecklers. There was a group of Canadians and a group of Alabama goobers. Total hell. I had to fight to keep them all quiet, but I did. Still want to be a comedian?
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:24 AM
Wednesday March 20th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
Today I needed to be in Milwaukee for a recorded video interview with Jason Evans who owns and runs a website about Milwaukee comedy called www.mkefunny.com. Jason is coming up the ranks as a comic himself, and I like him a lot. He’s a student of the game, and is paying his dues.
Jeff Lampton was also there, and he’s another Milwaukee comic I like and respect. Jeff has his own style and agenda, and it’s not one that most people would have the ‘nads to do. Jeff chooses to do what would probably be labeled as X-rated comedy, and that has always been dangerous.
Lenny Bruce chose that route as did George Carlin, Redd Foxx and a precious few others in the annals of standup comedy. There is an audience for that style of comedy, but more often than not those kinds of performers get blackballed and aren’t able to work places most other comics are.
It’s difficult enough trying to hack out a living as any kind of entertainer, but trying to fit into a controversial niche cranks those odds up past astronomical. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it sure does make the trip more difficult. I respect anyone who sticks to their guns and follows their inner creative vision, which Jeff is choosing to do. Hats off to him, and I wish him only the best.
I never chose to go that route, and it was a conscious business decision. Foul language doesn’t offend me at all. I’ve been around it as long as I can remember, but this style of comedy isn’t just about swearing. It’s about trying to make points about subjects that can be considered volatile or controversial by a large percentage of the public. It takes guts and skill to do that style correctly.
Lenny Bruce and George Carlin got arrested for what they said, and although it was wonderful publicity for both of them I never wanted to rattle those cages. I want to get laughs, and that will hopefully get me paid. Does that make me a sellout? So be it. I’m there to entertain my audience, and there is more opportunity to get work for someone who can work clean if word can get out.
That’s why I drove up for the interview, as it was about my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up in April at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. Hopefully I can attract comedy fans that follow Jason’s site, but I want to take it much farther than that. I want this to be part of the Milwaukee community as much as the subject matter I’m talking about. I want to be a brand.
In a perfect world, this will be something that will be in demand locally from everything from church festivals to libraries to private parties to a stage at Summerfest or the State Fair. It will be a totally clean show, and I’m consciously choosing not to use any swearing at all. NONE. It’s not a nightclub comedy show. I’ve done that, but this isn’t it. This is designed for a broader market.
I want Milwaukeeans who have never been to a standup comedy show to become loyal fans of what I’m doing so they’ll come back again and again and send others. It will never be exactly the same show twice, as I’m going to allow for some audience input at times which will freshen it up and make each performance unique. It’s taken a lifetime to develop this show, but I am SO ready to make it a success. I’m grateful for this chance, and those who come see it won’t get cheated.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 7:46 AM
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Tuesday March 19th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
I’ve got a jam packed performing schedule coming up in the next couple of weeks, and I plan on loving every last minute of it. I’ll be all over the place, and in a good way. The money will be appreciated of course, but it’s never been about that. It’s the fun and thrill of being on the stage.
After a lifetime of chasing this elusive dream, I still haven’t gotten tired of the live performing part of the process. I’ve become extremely sick of most of everything else, but that time on stage is still golden – especially when it goes well. There are still times when it doesn’t, but that’s rare.
Far more often than not, I am able to go up there in front of a room full (or not that full) of total strangers and win them over with laughter. I clearly see their defiant stares of “you’d better make me laugh, mister” whether they know it or not. Then when I do, they line up to tell me how much they enjoyed it and I see an entirely different look in their eye. It’s one of admiration and respect.
Once in a while it’s a look of horror or disgust, and occasionally they won’t even look at me at all. Tonight was one of the good nights when they looked at me like a superstar. I’m at Zanies in Chicago yet again, and that’s the place I feel as comfortable as anywhere I’ve ever worked. I am officially one of their boys, and that’s not a bad place to be. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld are too.
Leno and Seinfeld and Richard Lewis and Larry Reeb and Tim Walkoe have all been staples of Zanies for decades. Obviously Leno and Seinfeld have gone on to much greener pastures, but both are looked at with reverence as having been people to put Zanies on the map. They’re legends.
The one everyone attributes a huge part of their success to – including me - is Rick Uchwat. He was the owner and founder of Zanies in 1978, and was an unbelievably charismatic personality at a time when comedy was just getting hot. He had a way about him that made everyone develop a fierce loyalty, but it wasn’t fear based like a lot of club owners tend to be. Rick earned a respect.
Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld still have a fondness for Rick to this day, as do a lot of others in an insane business built on self worship. Not everyone cared for Rick, as he could tend to polarize a percentage of the people he dealt with but that’s what I loved most about him. He was straight up and didn’t mince words. You knew where you stood with him, and I was always in good stead.
Rick passed away in 2011, and I miss him terribly. He was a great friend, even though we were not in constant contact. He made sure I always had bookings at Zanies, and he told me no matter how many people I pissed off I’d always have a comedy home on his stages. I never forgot that.
When I had my near fatal car accident in 1993, Rick had a check in my hospital room the very next day for $1500 to cover my immediate needs. I had to pay it back, but I worked it off on his stages at the various Zanies clubs and I’m forever grateful to him and Zanies for that kindness.
Today would have been Rick’s 66th birthday. I had a rock solid show at his club tonight, and I dedicated it to him from the stage. If not for Zanies, I wouldn’t be a comedian. Thank you Rick!
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:27 AM
Monday March 18th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI/Waukegan, IL
My shredded tire situation is back to at least functional if not normal. I hesitate to use the word “normal”, as I don’t think anything in my life has ever been that. I’m always the asterisk with the exception like “void where prohibited” and “subject to change without notice.” Well, I noticed.
I know I’m not the first person to ever have a flat tire, but having it blow out on a Sunday when nothing is open is that glitch that makes it just a little bit harder. Why couldn’t it happen in front of a Walmart that’s having a tire sale at high noon on a sunny payday? It could, but it never does.
It’s always the worst case scenario, with a wrinkle on top of that. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that’s how it is. It’s very funny…when it’s someone else’s problem. I personally have had my fill. Things like this have happened so often they don’t even faze me anymore. I’m calloused.
I finished my radio show in Kenosha, WI last night at midnight, and then had to deal with all of this whether I wanted to or not. My car was in Waukegan, and that’s about 10 miles away. That’s a significant hike anytime, but especially at midnight when the temperature is in the single digits.
My options were slim at that time of night, so what could I do? I suppose I could have called a cab, but Kenosha isn’t a cab town like Chicago is and it would have cost more money out of my pocket I don’t have. I also could have slept on the couch at the radio station and hoped to catch a ride from someone in the morning, but I didn’t want to do that either. I would feel like a vagrant.
Lucky for me, my friend Lou Rugani happened to stop by the station to work on something for his own show. Lou is one of my favorite people, and a major talent. He’s got one of the absolute best radio voices I’ve ever heard, and could work on any station in America. He’s from Kenosha, so that’s why he works at WLIP. I get that, but the station is lucky to have him. He’s got game.
Lou is also a car guy, and has several antique and collector cars. He knows what it’s like to be marooned with car trouble, so he gladly took me to Waukegan but first we sat at a truck stop for a while and enjoyed some of the best cream of mushroom soup either one of us have ever had.
Moments like that are surreal. I’m sitting with Lou Rugani at 2am eating cream of mushroom soup at a truck stop in Russell, IL. And it was fun. I sure didn’t expect to be doing it, but as long as I had to kill time anyway it was a pleasant experience. Lou dropped me off in Waukegan right next to where my car was at a Motel 6. I’m broke, but sleeping in my car would have been hell.
I popped for a room, and it was $49.99 plus tax. What? At Motel 6? That has to be the highest priced Motel 6 in America. Is March the height of tourist season in Waukegan or something? Do vacationers from all over come to watch the gangs shoot each other? I had no choice but to pay.
Then it took most of the morning to get my tire fixed. They didn’t have my size in stock – of course – and they called all over looking for one. I ended up having to drive another mile on the shredded donut to a junkyard up the street, but I got my used tire for $28. Life can continue now.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 5:38 AM
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Sunday March 17th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI
What would life in Mr. Lucky land be without an unexpected crisis coming every day or two to make sure my tension levels are always at their highest? BORING, that’s what. Believe me, I am craving a boring life more than a vampire craves blood, but it’s just not in the cards for this chap.
As if I needed more car trouble, I popped a tire on the freeway on my way to teach my Sunday afternoon comedy class at Zanies in Chicago and am lucky I didn’t kill myself. It happened right as I was arriving in the city and I was in fairly heavy traffic in the middle lane. That’s dangerous.
I’ve had so many things go wrong on this ‘free’ car I got from my friend Rich that I assumed it was out of ways to torture me. It’s already emptied my wallet and self esteem, and like a woman scorned it has done so with a heartless vengeance. I thought I had gotten out of her line of fire.
WRONG! I had the presence of mind to keep both hands on the wheel and stay in my lane, but slowing down too much would be dangerous as I’d have a good chance to get road sodomized at high speed. I wouldn’t mind at all to get hit, but not by a semi going 70. I would be human soup.
I did manage to get out of traffic safely, and checked my trunk to find a spare little donut with no jack or lug wrench. I know I should have checked this when I got the car, but I go through so many vehicles sometimes I don’t get around to it. I get confused, and assume I have everything.
I called Bill Gorgo to cover the first part of class, and drove on my shredded tire probably two miles at slow speed until I was able to make it to the parking lot of a hotel. I asked the desk clerk if maintenance might have a tire jack, and sure enough a guy came out and helped me. I’ve tried to help people my whole life, and having it come back when I really needed it was appreciated.
I even tried to slip the guy $10, but he was totally cool about it. I’ve done things like that many times for other people so I didn’t feel guilty at all. I sincerely thanked him and made it to Zanies to finish the class. I thought my car problems were through for the day and focused on comedy.
WRONG AGAIN! I needed to be in Kenosha to host ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show on AM 1050 WLIP by 8pm, but just as I crossed into Lake County on I-94 the donut popped and I was back to trudging along at five miles an hour. I knew I didn’t have a jack, and tried to make it to a spot that wouldn’t require a tow in the morning. Nothing was going to be open on Sunday.
It took a long time, but I nursed the car to a tire shop in Waukegan where I have done business before. I turned on my flashers and rode the shoulder all the way, feeling the piercing looks from everyone who passed me as they gawked at my ratty two tone car with ‘URANUS 2’ plates and a ‘I (heart) URANUS’ bumper sticker. Being the center of attention this way is not what I desire.
So to review, I had two flat tires in one day. That doesn’t scare me. It’s typical for Mr. Lucky’s odds. One time I got two speeding tickets in the same day - in WYOMING. No joke. How many cops are patrolling Wyoming? I found them both. I’ll get past this, but for today it was a hassle.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 8:57 AM
Saturday March 16th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I’m not a fan of being off on a Saturday, but that’s how today worked out. My calendar is filled for the next eight weeks, and hopefully I’ll keep adding to it after that. I don’t ever want to have a free Saturday, as that’s the ‘money night’ for a comedian. I want to perform every chance I get.
Once in a while it’s nice to have a night off though, and this one came at a good time. I’ve been hitting it hard of late, and there are a lot of projects that need my attention. The Schlitz Happened shows in Milwaukee are coming up in April, and I feel extremely confident they’ll do very well.
I know what I’m doing as far as that goes, and now it’s a matter of getting locals in Milwaukee to recognize and embrace it as a brand. Once the word gets out, I think I can spread it around for years and have an extended run. I’d be thrilled to earn a living with less travel. I’ve had my fill.
I’d also love to at least make an attempt at having a family of my own at some point. I’m never going to be ‘normal’ in that department and I resigned myself to it long ago. I wasn’t ready to be a husband or a father when I had the chance, and I totally knew it. I’m glad I did, as by now life would be a lot more complicated than it already is because I’d be dealing with exes and children.
I was so sensitive to the fact that I had a miserable relationship with my father that I was afraid of doing exactly that to children of my own. I made excuses in my head to avoid having to give it a shot, but in reality it was plain old fear. I didn’t know how to deal with it so I chose to ignore it.
Now, when most people my age are starting to prepare for grandchildren and all that goes with it I find myself never married and entering the game for the first time. Once again, I’m the out of place freak. That’s a role I’ve played to death in life, and it gets old quickly. But here I am again.
I used my Saturday off to go on two dates, a lunch and a dinner. I know several women I really like, and I feel that some of them actually like me back. I’m not looking to be a womanizer, but I really would like to have someone special in my life I can share some of the good things that are happening right now. I’ve spent most of my life being a lone wolf, but that role can get stale fast.
Sometimes it’s the only way, as I’ve been unwilling to give up my pursuit of living the comedy dream. Most women aren’t willing to share a man with anyone or anything, and comedy can be a very demanding mistress. I wasn’t willing to ditch my dream and be ‘normal’. I wasn’t ready for that, and I’m glad I didn’t. I’d really be miserable now if I had stopped doing comedy years ago.
Being on a live stage or in front of a microphone on the radio is the only thing that comes close to making me feel alive and always has been my passion. Most of my friends who are in comedy are either divorced or unhappy, but most of my friends out of comedy are the same. It’s not easy.
Will I ever find a Mrs. Lucky? I’m not even thinking that far out. I’d just like to have a woman I can hang out with regularly and be myself. I don’t care about pillow shams or carpeting, I want someone who is fun to be with and gets me. Does she exist? I’m kicking some tires to find out.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 5:25 AM
Friday March 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
The seasons of life are changing, and I feel it. On the calendar, spring is just around the corner. In life, it’s just the opposite. I’m starting to feel the chill of autumn, and I’d better prepare myself for the inevitable or it’s going to be a nasty winter. Like it or not, summer’s heat is over forever.
There are a lot of disappointments floating around in my head, but most of them I’ll never have a chance to make good on no matter how much I’d like to. Some were my fault, others weren’t. I wish I could go back in time and make corrections, but it’s too late now. Forward progress only.
“The past is the past” is easy to throw out there as a catch all to make everything new and right again, but that past also made waves of repercussion that reached into the future which now turns out to be the present. In other words, science was right. There are reactions for all of our actions.
Bad choices we make without thinking in our youth can come back to haunt us years later, just as the better ones can pay dividends over a lifetime. I see kids in their twenties with ugly tattoos all over and a dozen face piercings and am grateful I didn’t do that. My mistakes were subtler.
All I want to do now is finish strong and salvage a life that was worth all the trouble that went into living it. I’ve paid some serious dues in my day and then some. What good would any of all those hard lessons I may have learned be if I don’t use them for good to help others? Not a thing.
What’s becoming crystal clear as I get older is that life is all about giving back. My grandfather did some of his best work in life with me, and he was 52 when I showed up on the scene. He told me years later that raising me was a satisfying challenge and his efforts are still paying off today.
Coincidentally, he also finished his college education at age 52 and I have a picture of him that always inspires me to keep going. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about something he said or did when I was a kid that helps me get through a situation now. His influence still exists.
Gramps really made a lasting difference in my life, and that makes me want to turn around and be that same positive force in as many other lives as I can. C. Cardell Willis was also a powerful mentor figure comedy wise as was and is Gene Perret. These names may not be famous to many, but their work is golden and I won’t forget any of them ever. I want to pass their work to others.
That’s why teaching comedy classes means so much to me. I still love to perform, but there’s a different kind of satisfaction that comes from teaching and mentoring. Seeing that twinkle in the eye of someone who latches on to a concept and it works is a tremendous feeling I never get sick of. Hopefully my students will see me fondly years from now as I see Gramps, Cardell and Gene.
I wish I could go back and change some of the bad choices I made, but we’ve all got things we aren’t proud of in our past. Pressing on and maintaining forward momentum is the correct way to proceed, but that can be easier said than done. Life is a roller coaster ride, and when there’s a hill to climb it can get steep and that forward momentum stops. Life sure has a lot for us to deal with.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 5:06 AM
Monday, March 18, 2013
Thursday March 14th, 2013 – Niles, IL/Stevens Point, WI
Well, it’s another birthday and I’m officially too old to die young. I won’t be able to squeak by from promising upstart to legend status like a James Dean or Marilyn Monroe. I’m going to have to be a late bloomer like a Rodney Dangerfield or Colonel Sanders. I just hope I live to see some kind of payoff. Being a legend after I’m dead like a Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allan Poe rots.
Too bad for me, I’m running out of time and choices. The calendar pages keep flipping and I’m noticing that birthdays are getting closer together and less desired. I was always an old soul, even as a kid. I don’t ever remember my grandparents talking to me as anything other than a grown up as they raised me, and the bulk of my friends have always been and continue to be older than me.
Eventually, they’re going to start dying off and actually several already have. I also have some younger friends, but now I’m playing the role of old fart whether I like it or not. My grandfather always told me I’d be able to know when I was getting older when cops started looking younger and hot young chicks would talk to me and flirt openly because I was no longer a serious threat.
I can already feel the pages turning, especially professionally. A lot of comedy clubs are trying to attract younger customers and booking younger acts is a part of that. Just being funny isn’t the answer, and a lot of my peers that have spent their lives paying dues are feeling it too. It’s brutal.
Life seems to be a young man’s game more than ever before and that’s just how it is. I guess it always has been to a certain degree, but I never had to worry about it before. Now it’s hitting me where I live, and all of the stupid mistakes I made in youth are about to start haunting me. Oh oh.
Having that fail safe ‘plan B’ to ‘fall back on’ I didn’t think I’d need sure would come in handy right about now. It wouldn’t have hurt me to have developed a diligent saving habit either. I only had thirty years to come up with one, but of course I didn’t because “I would always have time”.
A lot of people I’ve talked to that are older than me have said it’s scary how everything sneaks up so quickly, but when it’s on one’s back porch it’s there to stay. Youth is a scarce commodity and when it’s gone it’s GONE. Hopefully there’s enough wisdom left over for the rest of the trip.
I think I have acquired a fair amount of smarts, and now it’s up to me to transfer life fuels from the exuberance and boldness of youth to the wily ways of experience. I’ve always been far more comfortable in this mode, and I think I have a more than good chance to win if I do it correctly.
Today I just enjoyed the company of good friends and whatever family I have. Marc Schultz is several years older than me, but we’ve become very good friends. He threw a lunch party in my honor and some local performers came and we had a great time. Everyone there was my senior.
Then I drove to Stevens Point, WI to have a dinner in my honor with my cousin Leah and her husband Rob and their daughter Janine. My cousin Brett was there too, and I was the oldest one at that table and they all let me know it more than once. This was a birthday of deep reflection.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 3:12 PM
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Wednesday March 13th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
Today quite possibly could go down as THE single most fun day I’ve ever experienced. I had a chance to be the center of attention at the Milwaukee Admirals hockey game tonight in full regal splendor as the King of Uranus, and it was exactly what I thought it would be – a hilarious thrill!
The team has long been known for their stellar and original promotions, and this was ‘Salute to Uranus’ night. They put it in their ads, and I heard back from all kinds of people saying they had heard my name everywhere. I hadn’t planned on my name being attached to this gimmick, so the team did me a favor by getting my name out there too. I don’t mind either way, it was just FUN.
The character itself is still in development, but the fact that an adult would dress up like a goof willingly is a sure way to garner attention. If it weren’t true, they wouldn’t keep sending all those poor saps out in public dressed as the Statue of Liberty trying to drum up business for tax places.
If nothing else, it turns heads for a short second even if only to have the person gawking at the costumed kook think “Well at least it’s not ME.” This is the same principle, but it was received well by everyone and turned out to be an amazing experience. I know I’m on to something here.
It helped immeasurably that the team was totally behind this. Jon Greenberg is on top of things, and always has been. He’s the president of the team, but everyone else was great too. Director of Marketing Tim Van Wagoner worked extremely hard to come up with a true or false quiz to give fans on the bench where they’d give a thumbs up or down. It was the ‘Thumbs up Uranus’ quiz.
I also got to drop the ceremonial first puck before the game, and to see the looks on the faces of the players alone was worth my trip. They gawked at me like I really was from outer space, and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. It was exactly the reaction I wanted, and I played it up.
Another major highlight was getting to be part of the ‘Human Hockey Puck’ contest. That’s the one that everyone talked about. There’s a huge sling shot and five fans are put on a plastic flying saucer sled one at a time and slung across the ice to knock down targets like bowling pins to win prizes. I’d seen it done before, but being part of it in full King regalia was a treat I won’t forget.
Between the first and second period I got to sit and sign autographs if anyone was interested in getting one. Jon Greenberg and I had no idea if anyone would show up, but there was a long line of fans wanting pictures and autographs and I felt like Elvis for twenty minutes. It was a big hit!
My friend Drew Olson from 540 ESPN Radio came out to support, and we laughed like school girls backstage about how fun this whole thing really was. He’s seen most if not all of my wacky stunts over the years and he has the full perspective of how much it took to bring this idea to life.
Drew’s radio partner Dan Needles ran a blurb about it on his WISN TV 12 sports cast, and I’m very grateful for the exposure. It cemented the evening, and I’ll remember it forever. It was a big thrill to be able to pull this off, and if nobody else is impressed I don’t care. This one was for me!
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 4:07 PM
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Sunday March 10th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI
The stress-o-meter has been cranked up extra tightly in the last few days, and none of it has any redeeming value. It’s always a constant struggle to get somewhere, and no matter how hard I try it always seems to come down to the wire and become a car race. I feel like a one man pit crew.
Yesterday it was driving up and back to the U.P. of Michigan – much of it fighting the weather. There was sleet, snow and freezing rain, and that always slows down any trip. Today it was a trip in exactly the opposite direction as I needed to be in Chicago to teach a comedy class at Zanies at 3pm. I didn’t get home this morning until 3am, and I lost another hour to Daylight Savings Time.
It’s always a matter of getting to the next place, and even if I do it well 95% of the time there is still plenty of stressful time wondering if I’ll make it. I’m caught in traffic in a crappy car and it’s absolutely hell on Earth having to wait for lights to change and people to drive with any skill set.
There’s always some pinhead blabbing away on the phone clueless to the fact he or she can be a total pain in the ball joints of every other driver on the road. They miss lights and that backs up the rest of traffic and everyone ends up getting to their destinations late. It drives me up the wall.
I know I should leave earlier, but sometimes that just isn’t an option. I needed to get sleep and a shower in, and I wasn’t able to eat a breakfast or take my exercise walk. There’s just too much going on right now even though I’m enjoying all I’m doing. At some point I have to slow down.
I wasn’t planning on teaching this session of comedy classes at Zanies, but Bill Gorgo has been falling behind in his own work as a high school teacher and needed a session off. Fair enough, as he’s been doing a fantastic job with beginner classes for a while now. I understand his dilemma.
It was a fun class with a solid group of nice people, so that always makes it worthwhile. Class lasted until 5pm, and then I needed to drive north to Kenosha, WI for a dinner with my co-hosts of ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show on AM 1050 WLIP. Today was our 5th anniversary broadcast, and also my birthday dinner. I didn’t want to miss it, so I left promptly.
It didn’t matter in the least. Instead of rain and sleet, today’s weather condition was severe fog. It was thick and everywhere and nobody could see more than a couple of car lengths ahead and it backed up the traffic on I-94 to a standstill. I was stuck in it and there was nothing to do but wait.
I watched the clock tick and stewed in my own juices as a fun and relaxing dinner with friends turned into a stress filled two hours of wondering if I’d make it in time for the show at 8pm much less the dinner in my honor. I ended up getting to the restaurant about 7pm, completely frazzled.
I wolfed down my food, and we went over the plans for the evening’s broadcast. We wanted to plan out the path for the coming year, but there was no time for that tonight. We ended up having a fun show as we usually do, but it took a while for me to settle in and relax enough to enjoy it. I couldn’t wait for midnight to roll around so I could get some rest. Stress like this wears me out.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 6:09 PM
Monday March 11th, 2013 – Libertyville, IL
More on the plate, but it’s all fun. This is really a dilemma, but a good one. I think. It’s like I’m at a spectacular giant buffet I’ve waited my whole life to eat at, and I’m piling my plate so high I can’t even walk back to my table to enjoy any of it. I think I have to rework my plan just a little.
I began another comedy class at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL tonight, and even though it was fun I have to admit I’d much rather have just stayed home and slept. Teaching is a relaxing activity in itself and I love it, but again it’s a matter of having to get somewhere. It’s maddening.
Where I live there are no easy routes to get anywhere. I have a few choices of roads I can take, but they all lead through low speed residential areas or near shopping areas with too many lights to go through where I always get trapped and have to wait. I’ve tried all options, and all are bad.
Libertyville isn’t all that physically far from where I live but it ends up taking about 45 minutes to get there and that’s only if I make all the traffic lights – which rarely happens. That’s an hour and a half for travel time which I could be spending doing something much more productive than sitting in my car listening to inane sports talk radio. It’s frustrating to have to waste all that time.
I’m not even making that much money to teach the classes, but I totally love doing it. It’s what I’ve spent my life training to do, and I know those students are getting FAR more than they ever pay for whether they know it and appreciate it or not. It’s good energy all around, and I enjoy it.
I guess that should be reason enough to do it, and until now it always has been. I never thought about the time outlay or money I was missing out on, but everything and everybody has limits. In a perfect world I’d have enough time and money to do everything I want to do, but this isn’t it.
So, what’s the right answer? I wish I knew. Pretty much everything I’m doing right now is a lot of fun, and I really love doing it all. Comedy gigs are plentiful at the moment, as are classes. The Mothership Connection radio show is going well also, even though I’m not getting paid a nickel.
I’m also farting around with antiquing, and I’ve managed to find a few items that have made it worth my while to keep doing that too. It’s like fishing, as it only takes a few tiny nibbles keep a person coming back. I’ve hauled in a couple of nice catches, and it makes me want to continue.
So, what if anything is wrong with any of this? Technically, nothing at all. I can’t think of very many people I know who totally love what they do, so that’s a major victory. On the other hand, I see so much more potential for things I’d like to do and know I can achieve but don’t have time and that frustrates me beyond words. Do I settle for the fun I’m having, or try to go even higher?
The ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows are going to be another fun project. I hope that blossoms into a long running event, but if it does will it take me out of the game for national TV? The ‘Laughing Skull Festival’ in Atlanta is coming up too in a couple of weeks. I have waited my whole life for things like this to blossom, and now they’re all blooming at once. Can one have too much fun?
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 5:30 PM
Tuesday March12th, 2013 – Arlington Heights, IL
Just when I think I have problems, something comes along to tell me I don’t. Every day any of us is above ground is a good day, at least in theory and on paper. Yes, things do go wrong for all of us but no matter who we are there always seems to be someone else suffering just a bit more.
I had lunch today with one of my former comedy students Vince Carone. Vince took my class more than ten years ago now, and we’ve kept in touch off and on. He’s a smart hardworking kid who is not a kid anymore. He’s a grown man and has been making progress in the comedy game.
Right from the start, I could see good things for Vince. His parents had a sports card shop of all things, and he understood the business angle a whole lot sooner than I ever did. He also happens to have an outstanding work ethic along with being a good looking kid and natural for the stage.
I watched Vince climb the ranks, and it didn’t surprise me at all that he started to close shows a lot sooner than I ever did. He really has a grasp for the big picture, and he doesn’t expect to get a break without working for it. Not a lot of comedians have all that going for them, but Vince did.
I hadn’t heard from him in quite a while, but that happens. It’s impossible to keep current with everybody, as I’ve had more than 2000 students alone. That doesn’t count booking agents, comic friends and regular friends in general. People cross paths when they do, and that’s how it goes.
I was wondering how Vince was doing as I hadn’t heard a peep for a long time, and last week I received a startling email informing me how he’d been having severe health issues for the better part of the last year and had dropped out of sight to almost everyone. It took me by total surprise.
At first it was thought he had Hodgkins lymphoma, and that’s no small prognosis. Vince said it was a mind blower, but he was never bitter about it. He had resigned himself to the fact he would be uncomfortable during his chemotherapy and then recover after that. Then it turned into a giant circus as they weren’t able to locate the cancer and he wasn’t sure what was up or what to think.
He was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and the whole story sounded like a nightmare that even Mr. Lucky hasn’t had to live through – even though I’ve had my own health issues to worry about. Vince has gone through some surgeries and is taking medication now and feeling better.
He told the story at lunch with remarkable resolve, and is not letting it get him down. He’s on a medication plan that’s making him feel better, and he may or may not have to deal with this hell anymore. Nobody knows, and that’s got to be frustrating too. One just never knows how life will work out. We all get surprises thrown in front of our life’s path, and it’s up to us to sort it all out.
I was really sorry to hear of this, but if anyone can handle it it’s Vince. He’s got a solid family and is really grounded in good values. I wish he didn’t have to go through this, but who has any choice as to the sufferings we all have to go through in life? Whenever I think I have problems, I think of stories like Vince’s and know that I don’t. Nobody ever said life was fair - and it isn’t.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 11:50 AM
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Saturday March 9th, 2013 – Menomonee, MI
Every time I think I’ve almost figured out this whole ‘comedy thing’, a rough show comes out of the blue to jolt me right back into reality. No matter how long anyone is in this game, there are going to be glitches and unavoidable rough patches. The smart thing to do is shut up and let it go.
I had a brutal show tonight in Menomonee, MI which is right over the border of Wisconsin into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve had a lot of shows in the U.P. lately, and that’s always the smart thing to schedule in winter. As if comedy isn’t hard enough, let’s add horrific weather too!
Unfortunately, that’s just where the bookings happened to have been this time around. I’m sure I’ll get some nice work in the heart of Texas in July, and then I’ll be pining for snow drifts above the roof of my car as I slowly bake in my own juices when it’s 99 at night with 99% humidity.
Until then, I have to deal with Old Man Winter and all of his treachery. It was clear sailing for most of the drive north, but of course it started sleeting toward the end as I got nearer to the town and that always cranks up the old stress-o-meter farther than it needs to go on a drive that I don’t want to make in the first place. When peeing in Green Bay is a highlight, it isn’t a pleasure trip.
I had no idea what to expect for this particular show, as it was booked by an agent out of North Carolina that doesn’t normally book shows in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I get along fine with the booker, but he’s more known for his college bookings of which I’ve never been a player even when I was that age. Certain acts play better in certain venues, and colleges aren’t my forte.
I took the gig a couple of months ago, as I had nothing on the books to speak of. Since then it’s been a very good year so far, with a lot of last minute bookings coming my way. I didn’t know it when this came calling, so I took it as a safety measure to insure I wouldn’t have to sell plasma.
Halfway through my set I was figuring in my head how much I would have been able to get for the plasma. Maybe they would have taken a kidney and/or some sperm too in a package deal. My tolerance for rough gigs is getting lower as I get older but a professional sucks it up and shuts up.
The time to bitch in these situations isn’t at the gig itself, it’s at booking time. I accepted a gig in Menomonee, MI in March that was labeled ‘corporate’ that paid a lot less than any ‘corporate’ booking I’ve ever done or seen anyone else do. It was my own fault, and I could have turned the job down when it was offered. It was between starvation and this, so I choose this. It’s all on me.
The people themselves weren’t bad at all. This was a Christmas party for some auto workers in the U.A.W. and they were not mean or vicious. There were a lot of them that felt a need to speak incessantly through the entire show, and it made it rough to keep those listening fully engaged.
There was a bad sound system and poor lighting arrangement too. It wasn’t my place to whine about it to anyone, and I did my very best with what I had to work with. Nobody complained, but this wasn’t what I want to be doing this far into the game. Sometimes it’s better to just say no.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 4:14 PM
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Friday March 8th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Today is Jim Bouton’s birthday – a date that has always been sort of a personal holiday for me. I have been a rabid fan of his classic book ‘Ball Four’ since I first read it in high school, and I’ve reread it countless times since. It’s an annual staple right around this time of year, when baseball prepares to make a comeback. That book is entertaining on so many levels I never get sick of it.
What I love about it most is its realness. Jim writes about what it’s like to be a baseball player, warts and all. He readily admits his own faults, and voices his opinions in a well thought out and intelligent manner. I don’t always agree with his opinions, but I never was bored as I read them.
He was way ahead of his time in 1970, and took a lot of flak from the baseball hierarchy for the things he wrote. He was blackballed from baseball for years afterward, and there are still those in the game who view him as a heinous villain to this day. It took major stones to buck the system.
I always tell anyone who will listen it was ‘Ball Four’ that inspired me to start writing my own diary, and it’s true. I thought it would be fun to see if I could write one page a day for thirty days cataloging what life was like as a professional comedian. Almost seven years later, I’m still at it.
The main reason I do it now is to hopefully give aspiring comedians some in depth and honest insight they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. I’ve done what they’re looking to do, and my mistakes will hopefully help them avoid wasting the time I did so they can have an easier road.
Jim Bouton and I are both cut of the same cloth in that we’re opinionated to the point of letting it hurt us, and we’ve both suffered for it but still had the guts to stand by our thoughts. I’ve been able to piss off more than a few people with what I’ve written - even when it’s not my intention.
Jim and I write what we think, and I for one always thought that’s what the whole idea of “free speech” was supposed to be about. I’m fine if someone doesn’t agree with me, but sometimes the people who get offended take it way too personally and hard feelings grow and last for a lifetime.
I can’t speak for Jim, but I’m happy to know he’s made peace with a lot of the people who had ill feelings toward him for ‘Ball Four’. He ended up making peace with Mickey Mantle, and that meant a lot to him. He’s now a fixture at New York Yankees Old Timers games, and it all seems to be water under the bridge. He is now accepted for his accomplishments, and I’m glad he is.
I sure hope I’m able to touch people with what I write even half as much as Jim touched me at a time I was very impressionable. I wanted to be a baseball player in high school, and that book really opened my eyes and let me see the real side of life much like being an NBA ball boy did.
I saw that athletes are just people, and people have flaws. Comedians are the same, and we’ve got even more flaws than the average person. I’ve never denied that, and hopefully what I write can help someone coming up the ranks learn how to behave better so they don’t have to waste as much time as I did trying to prove myself. Thank you for the inspiration, Jim. Happy birthday!
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 10:39 AM
Friday, March 8, 2013
Wednesday March 6th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/? WI
My idea to start picking antiques wasn’t the worst one I’ve had. I’ve been doing it regularly for a while now, and it’s turning out to be the perfect part time job. I can do it whenever I have a free amount of time from half an hour to a full day. I’ve been making a point to work on my picking eye, and I stop at every thrift store, pawn shop, antique mall and flea market that I happen to see.
Today I had some errands to run, and ended up in a small town in Wisconsin I’ve visited many times before. There are a couple of decent thrift stores there, but I didn’t find anything today as I took my obligatory lap. Sometimes there is all kinds of stuff to buy, other times it’s a total zilch.
There’s also a small antique mall in the town, and I’d never been to it before. I wasn’t really up for any more junk hunting, but that little voice in my head told me to take a lap in there so I went right over. I’m learning to listen to that voice, as whenever I do there’s always a positive payoff.
I walked in the antique mall and immediately knew I was going to find something good. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. I scoured the place from top to bottom, and there were three full floors to go through to do it. It took about forty minutes, but I wound my way through all three of the floors and found absolutely nothing. I was ready to go home when something caught my eye.
It was in the very last booth of the very last row in the basement, but there hung a small plastic bag. In it was a 1954 Topps Eddie Mathews baseball card, and those are right in the golden years as far as desirable sports collectibles go. They can fetch a hefty shekel when in prime condition.
This one was not. There were a few bits of Scotch tape on the front of the card, and that sucks the value right out from a fanatical collector’s standpoint. Those people are way intense. They’re anal to the point of obsessive, and they all need to lighten up and relax. Life is too short for that.
Still, the card had nice eye appeal and I estimated the resale value to be at $20 - $25. There was a hand written $6 price tag on the plastic bag, so I snapped it up noticing there were two items of interest I’d never seen before. One was a circular patch made of felt with Mathews’ picture on it.
The other was a piece of cardboard with a photograph of Mathews that was designed to be used as a standup display. I’d never seen either of those pieces before, but I knew since I was only out my $6 initial stake I could afford to gamble and if nothing else I wasn’t going to lose any money.
As luck would have it – in my favor for a change – those other items are quite rare and after a couple of calls to sports collector friends I knew I made a nice haul. The standup piece is from a set issued by Milwaukee area dry cleaner Spic and Span circa 1955. There is ONE listed on Ebay at a price of $1200, but that’s in mint condition. Mine isn’t, but it’s not horrible either. Jackpot!
There’s also one listing of the felt patch and it had an asking price of $450. Mine is close to the same condition, and it blew my mind to see such high dollar value on both items. I’m not saying I’ll be able to get full retail asking price for the items, but for six bucks I made a fantastic score.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 1:46 AM
Monday, March 4, 2013
Sunday March 3rd, 2013 – Kenosha, WI
Part of the frustration of the entertainment business is that things run hot and cold. Sometimes a project can suffer simply because it’s not the right time for it, and that’s what I’m feeling with ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. Next week will be our fifth anniversary, and I’m not sure if I should keep the show running or not.
When I started, paranormal themed shows on TV – especially ghost hunters - were all the rage. There’s also ‘Ancient Aliens’ and a whole slew of others that have been on the air for most if not all those five years, and I’m beginning to wonder if they’ve played themselves out. I don’t know.
I’ve always been interested in offbeat topics like this, and I would tend to think a large number of others are too – but there have been all kinds of outlets to watch and hear about it all in media and I’m not sure there’s room for my little show especially if I’m looking to make a buck with it.
‘Coast to Coast AM’ with George Noory is the undisputed grand daddy of the paranormal talk radio world, and deservedly so. They’ve been around for years, and I’m a fan of the show myself when I can listen. I was a huge fan of Art Bell - the one who put this kind of format over the top. He had unbelievable charisma, and like a Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern really carved a niche.
George Noory is fine, but he’s a different personality than Art was. He has many if not most of the same interesting guests Art had, and many of those very same people have been on our show as well. There isn’t all that big of a community in those circles, and most are glad to get air time.
‘The Mothership Connection’ is the hybrid cross between ‘Coast to Coast AM’ and a morning show, and it really is fun to do. We’ve got a crew of regulars, whereas George Noory tends to fly solo. He has regular and semi regular guests just like we do, but there’s still a difference in how each show operates. He’s McDonald’s, and we’re the local burger joint. There’s room for both.
I absolutely LOVE doing the show every week, and we’ve got a fantastic crew assembled after five years of constant evolution. This is by far the best crew we’ve ever had, but no offense to all the others who gave of their time to be part of it. Like a band, we’ve evolved in a positive way to the point we are now, and it took the efforts of everyone involved to develop it all to this point.
The question now is what do we do with it? We’re on the air every Sunday, and we get a lot of calls from the same people. That’s great, but we’re not growing and that’s just not going to cut it as far as making a living goes. Kenosha is about 100,000 people, and the station’s signal isn’t the 50,000 watt blowtorch Coast To Coast tends to be on all over the country. It makes a difference.
We do have a following on the internet too, but it’s not where it needs to be to start cashing any big checks any time soon. We do well for what we have to work with, but I have enough hobbies to last me the next six lifetimes. I need to make a buck, and this just isn’t doing it right now. I am going to have to make a decision soon, and I really don’t want to quit but that may be the correct answer. Five years has gone by in a blink of an eye. That’s enough warm up. Time to get paid.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 7:27 AM
Saturday March 2nd, 2013 – Oswego, IL
If one wants stability or anything even remotely resembling it, entertainment is not the business path to pursue. I would personally recommend barber or diesel truck driving school - which I just might have to sign up for myself in the not too distant future to start supplementing my income.
I thought I’d had a solid gig lined up for tonight, but it fell through without notice earlier in the week. Well, that’s not totally true. BOY did I notice. It left a gaping hole in my paycheck for this week. I was to be filling in for someone who thought they had double booked, but it turned out it was for next month and my services weren’t needed. Good solution for them, unfortunate for me.
I truly must have been insane when I chose to be in this business all those years ago. I couldn’t wait to get into it then, but now I’ve had more than my fill of last minute inconvenient situations exactly like this and I need to line up some kind of a financial backup plan before I end up broke.
I’m already hovering over the financial abyss, and so are most of my comedian friends who are in the exact same boat. There used to be plenty of work to go around, and if we hustled we could find a job of some sort every single week. It might not have been Vegas, but it still paid the bills.
That’s no longer the case for several reasons, the sinking economy being a main one. Another big reason is flat out bad comedy. There are a lot of mediocre acts out there who have the desire to be comedians, but not necessarily the ability. They are however willing to make those weekly long drives and stay in flea bag hotels just to be able to claim they are professional entertainers.
It really is a brutal business in many ways – a lot different than most others. Other than maybe musicians in a band, I can’t think of any other industry that requires this kind of skill set. There’s much more to it than being funny, and unfortunately that can weed out those who do have talent. After a while we end up as just glorified truck drivers, hauling our four wheeler loads of jokes.
The constant grind of always having to look for the next job gets very tiring after a short while. I am SO sick of it myself, but it’s a necessary evil to keep working. I’ve managed to reach a level of competence with enough bookers to have them call me, but I’ve also burned bridges years ago that would be nice to be able to reclaim now. All these elements combined make it even harder.
Even harder than that, I’m looking to keep it local or at least regional so that narrows my field of potential gigs as well – at least in the traditional comedy venues. Comedy clubs aren’t the only way to make a living, but that’s where I’ve cut my teeth and I know the game. I need to develop a much broader base of income, and I’m working feverishly at doing just that. It’s for survival.
I don’t like to be off on a Saturday night, so I tagged along with Jim McHugh to a club called ‘Comedy Comedy’ in Oswego, IL booked by Bert Borth. Bert is a good guy, and has been in the game as long as or longer than I have. He’s a comic, but also books rooms and we get along fine. I’d work for him in a second, but he knows I’m a Zanies guy in the Chicago area and that’s how it is. No hard feelings on either side. I did a guest set to stay sharp, but losing that paid gig hurts.
Posted by Dobie 'Mr. Lucky' Maxwell at 7:03 AM