Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mending Fences

Friday August 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   We interrupt this regularly scheduled sabbatical to bring you some positive news for a change! I have been taking a break from cataloging my daily thoughts in order that I might devote my full energy to my forthcoming book about having to testify against my childhood best friend because he decided to rob a bank he used to work at – twice – and then try to blame one of them on me.

   I had forgotten just how fascinating a story it is, as I have been far too close to it all these years and if anything have been trying to move past it and make it all go away. Well, hugely impactful events like that don’t ever just go away, but at least I’m now able to examine it in retrospect with complete objectivity. It was a very unpleasant experience, but time has healed much of that pain.

   Another unpleasant event happened five years ago this month. I’d worked a week at a comedy club in my hometown of Milwaukee, and had the ultimate sin happen – my check bounced. That is the granddaddy of all evils in the comedy business, and emotions tend to flare up in a hurry.

   That was an ugly situation all around, and I wish it never happened. I also wish the bank robber had never pulled his little stunt once much less twice, but life rarely unfolds how we’d like. We get what we get, and then have to deal with it the best we can. All too often, we make mistakes.

   All kinds of mistakes were made in this particular situation, and it ended up with all parties not speaking. I had worked for that club for several years and for the booker Funny Business Agency out of Grand Rapids, MI a lot longer than that. This one isolated incident ended up doing severe damage and erased decades of positive history. I don’t know why that check bounced, but it did.

   What I do know is that I was absolutely fuming at the time. I was hurt, insulted and felt totally disrespected by both the club and by Funny Business. I did them all a favor by taking the gig for low money in the summer, but a friend of mine at the time was in charge of her class reunion and requested that I be the headliner that week. It all blew up, and I eventually lost the friendship too.

  I will admit that on more than one occasion I have used this forum as a way to vent my feelings, but I attempt to do it in a way that hopefully helps an aspiring comedian coming up the ranks that may experience something similar to deal with that situation – hopefully better than I often do.

   I am very honest and upfront with my mistakes, and I have made too many to count. I’ve done some smart things too, but those often go unrecognized. What stick out are all the flubs, and they tend to make the rounds in a few circles. Why anything I would write or think would matter even the least little bit to anybody baffles me, but apparently my words have more clout than I realize.

   I let loose with a few tirades during that whole time, and I regret doing that. I mainly did it for me to get my frustrations out about a terrible situation, not realizing that a significant number of others in the business could and did see it, and that made everything worse. I’m sorry I did that.

   How it ended up playing out is that I eventually got my money several weeks later, but I had to eat bounced check fees for five checks that I wrote on the one that bounced. Again, I was fuming and that anger fueled some of my rants. I wasn’t thinking with my head, but with my emotions.

   That ended the relationship with Funny Business, and it was a big lose/lose. They have a bulk of their work in the Midwest, where I happen to be located. I am a very solid headliner, and have decades of experience working virtually every scenario from comedy clubs to corporate events to colleges to cruise ships. It would be smart for both of us to maintain a professional relationship.

   I admit that I took this all very personally, and I’m not proud of it. I write all the time about the relationship between booking agents and performers, and how our mindsets are about as opposite as can be. We’re different personality types entirely, and quite often sparks will fly because of it.

   What made it even worse was that a new person was entering the mix at that time. John Yoder is the owner of Funny Business, and I had been working with him for years. He has several sons, and has been incorporating them into the business in recent years. That’s common in businesses of all kinds, but unfortunately it can cause heat when old clients have to deal with the new son.

   John’s son Eric was coming onto the scene exactly at that time, and he is the one that ended up handling much of the situation in question. I felt disrespected that John would shuffle off such an important issue on his son, and that put more gas on the fire. I flipped out and said some things I wish I hadn’t, and it all spiraled down into a flaming heap of manure that splattered on everyone.

   Well, cut ahead five years. Funny Business Agency has survived without Dobie Maxwell, and vice versa. The world is still spinning, and life goes on for us all – screwed up as it may be. I had other problems creep up as they tend to do, and had basically moved on in my mind from it all.

   In pops Eric Feinendegen. We have been working together for about a year, and we both have strengths in different areas. Eric is very corporate, and I’m helping him with his speaking career. He’s helping me with the business aspect of what I do, and we have been great for each other. 

   Eric is in the process of learning the comedy business, and stumbled upon the Funny Business Agency online and asked if I worked for them. I told him the story, and how I thought the bridge was burned for good. Eric took it upon himself to initiate a conversation with John Yoder, and it ended up with me sending an apology to both John and Eric Yoder – and meaning it. I truly did.

   I can’t control how anybody else acts, but I can control my own actions. No matter what went down that caused me to react the way I did, I’m ashamed of it and that’s not me. I’m bigger than that, and I couldn’t be more delighted that Eric Feinendegen reached out and started this process.

   John Yoder admitted that he didn’t handle the situation well from his end, and that went a long way on my end too. I did feel there was a wrong there, and to admit it really put out any possible lingering embers. It’s history and completely in the past, even though it did some nasty damage.

   As for what’s next, I’m not really sure but that’s ok. I didn’t do this just to try and get booked, and if Funny Business never uses me again I hold no grudges. This is about making things right and moving on. I removed all past posts pertaining to this issue, and I want it all to be over. 

   The Yoders don’t have to invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, but at least if John or Eric and I are in the same room, we don’t have to avoid each other. I don’t want lingering unfinished business in my life. I reconnected with my siblings after decades apart, and now this. 2014 is a stellar year!

After a five year gap, it feels great to have mended fences with John and Eric Yoder of Funny Business Agency. Lingering issues do no good for anybody.

Special thanks to Eric Feinendegen for initiating contact. Without him this never would have happened. His brilliant diplomatic skills made this possible. Thanks Eric!


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