Archive for July, 2009

Making The Rounds

July 31, 2009

Thursday July 30th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

The number one ingredient of making dreams come true is ACTION. Dreams are where it all starts but without action they rot. Too many people have a lifetime of dreams rotting on the vine and I don’t want to join them. I want to press on and make something happen.

That’s what I tried to do today as I realized the month and year and life are slipping into the past faster than I can keep up. It’s that way for everyone and unless action is taken I’ll be just like everyone else. It’s easy to sit still and let life pass by but I want to be different.

I want to tap into as many people’s positive creative energy as possible. I will hand pick those I think I can mesh with and try to team up. Kip Karstedt is a voice over wizard with a ton of talent that was part of a group that did some recorded comedy bits in 2004 when I worked at the Loop. We’ve kept in contact and he lives very close to me in Lindenhurst.

One of the production guys at the Loop was named Bob Dunsworth who is also a major voice talent and a very funny guy too. He knew an actor named Josh Swanson who knew an improv guy named T.J. Jagadowski who does national TV commercials for the Sonic chain. I knew Bob from work and he asked if I wanted to sit in and be part of the group.

We never did come up with a name but we sure did have a blast creating funny material and we managed to put together a CD length compilation of bits we wrote and recorded at that time. Our official name became ‘The Unnamed Audio Project’ which kind of became a joke in itself but there’s no doubt there was a lot of talent and spark with that bunch.

Bob Dunsworth moved to L.A. and is doing well and Joshua Swanson is still acting and is always going back and forth between L.A. and New York and Chicago. T.J. is a master at improv and teaches and performs at Improv Olympic and Kip does commercials out of a studio in his house. These are the kind of creative people I want to be around in my life.

Kip saw my TV shot and was very complimentary. He misses the fun we had recording those bits as much as I do and he said he’d like to start back up doing it again. I’ve always wanted to have a crew of people to do bits like that because nobody’s really doing that on a regular basis. Firesign Theatre and Cheech and Chong are the last ones to use that style.

After lunch with Kip I went to Bill Gorgo’s house to work on comedy class lessons. He is an actual high school teacher by trade and has a lot to offer as far as teaching me how I should organize my lessons so that was worth the trip into the city. We worked very hard but also got a lot done and I could feel the creative energy between us the whole time.

After that I went to meet with Jerry Agar about Jerry’s Kidders and how we can move it along so we can do some live shows and generate some income. We also bounced around some ideas about Uranus Factory Outlet with his sons and they added to the mix as well. I don’t care where the ideas come from, I just want to generate them so I can begin to take action and make something good happen. I put in a full day’s work making connections.

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What’s Really Important

July 30, 2009

Wednesday July 29th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

My tiny little batch of inconveniences in life really don’t add up to much compared to the real problems some people have. I received a call today from Dr. Destruction, one of my co-hosts on The Mothership Connection radio show in Kenosha on AM 1050 WLIP.

Today is his birthday but he’s not one for birthdays and holidays. I’ve grown to be good friends with him because although he looks like one of my father’s motorcycle gang thugs the guy has a heart of gold and is a very kind soul. I don’t know why we crossed paths but I’m glad we did. He adds to the radio show and is a character in his own right. I’m a fan.

The Doc was really down today because of a shooting in Kenosha last Sunday that I had heard about but it didn’t really hit home. I guess I’ve been jaded by living in cities for the better part of my life and it just gets to be numbers after a while. I feel bad but it’s true.

Apparently two total scumbags were trying to rob an ice cream stand and they shot two of the employees, one of them the 18 year old son of a friend of The Doc’s. He was really down and I felt bad for him but as a friend I wanted to let him talk about it. He said it was hard for him to talk about it and he was broken up about it since it happened. I see why.

I used to work at a frozen custard stand called Town Pride in Milwaukee when I was in high school. It’s gone now but back then it was a hopping joint in the summer. One night I was working late and after closing some punks came up to the window and one of them pointed a gun at me for just a couple of seconds and then started laughing like a hyena.

He didn’t rob me and it was only a couple of seconds but I felt a terror I’d never felt and thankfully I haven’t since. Every time I hear a gun story I can only imagine what the ones shot at actually feel before anyone pulls the trigger. I really feel for the families of the two victims, even though one of the people lived. He’s 43 but his life will never be the same.

The 18 year old kid was by all accounts a good kid who didn’t do drugs and worked at a job to earn some honest money. Why do these people have to keep dying and the maggots who shoot them get to live? I can’t see it and whatever the reason may be is lost on me.

The Doc thanked me for letting me talk about it and I thanked him for calling. He’s got a heart but who couldn’t help but feel sad to hear a story like this? I have nothing to bitch about in comparison and my little issues with anything pale in comparison. My life is ok.

I had lunch with Marc Schultz before I received the call and we talked about how to get the most mileage out of my TV appearance. He has some ideas and so do I so we kicked it around along with how I can make this ex partner thing disappear before it gets ugly.

I want the guy to stop using my name and get out of my life forever. Period. Life has no guarantees and I don’t want to waste a day of mine dealing with leakers. Wasting time on anything but doing good doesn’t seem worth it. This was another reminder to be grateful.

The Real Work Starts Now

July 29, 2009

Tuesday July 28th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

Now is when the real work starts. I’ve been struggling for years and years to build up an act that works and I’ve done that. It wasn’t easy and I’m still improving but I’ve achieved a level of competence most comics never attain. One might think that would be enough to insure a steady income and relatively bump free road after that, but one would be wrong.

People have been absolutely fantastic in their words of congratulations but there’s not a guarantee that this will lead to anything bigger and in fact I know it won’t if I don’t make the effort myself. I was able to make this happen but I’ll be the first one to admit it took a twist of good luck to push it over the top. Luck does play a significant role in this process.

Someone has to see me who has the power to open doors that I can’t open myself.  I did get some very positive feedback from many people and I appreciate it. David Letterman’s comedy booker is Eddie Brill, who is also a very funny comedian. Eddie sent me an email that said “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” He knows who I am now and that’s a plus.

Frank Caliendo sent me a nice email as well. I was very happy for Frank when he got an appearance on national television and they kept coming for him after that. I was happy for him even though I know a lot of people were jealous. Not me. He’s great at what he does and I don’t do anything close to it so he’s unique. It was very nice to hear from him today.

I know that a lot of people saw it that I don’t even know about. I need to find those who can help me and use this to make contact. Maybe someone will contact me but I won’t be sitting around waiting for that to happen. I need to take action and keep the ball rolling so I don’t waste all this hard work. A lot of comics make one TV appearance and that’s it.

I don’t want that to be me. As great of an experience as it was I don’t want that to be my highlight in life. I have a lot more to give and this was just a starting point. I have a whole lot more material and now I’m familiar with how the process works. This was education.

Jerry Agar called me tonight and said most of his family was out doing things and asked if I wanted to come over and hang out with him and his son Cooper who’s turning 14 this coming Friday. Cooper loves comedy and entertainment in general so I suggested that we watch Jerry Seinfeld’s movie ‘Comedian’. After all these years I still had never seen it.

I’ve heard a lot about it and I knew the general idea but I’m SO glad I waited until now to see it. It had a whole new perspective after I made my first TV appearance and I caught a lot of things I might not have had I seen it earlier. An example is Jerry Seinfeld talking about how he felt after his Letterman set. He said it was like his first Tonight Show shot.

He mentioned that after he got off stage he had no idea what happened and I felt exactly the same way when I finished my set. I also watched Orny Adams who I’ve met at Zanies in Vernon Hills a few years ago. He was thinking about everything else but just enjoying his national TV debut and I can totally see how that can happen. I‘m glad I didn‘t do that.
I’m not blaming a guy like Orny. A lot of people had a lot of bad things to say about his attitude and for years I’ve heard rips about his role in the film. I’ve met a ton of guys just like him so I guess I don’t think he was so bad. I think he didn’t have his head on straight at first but in his later interview on the DVD I could see that he was starting to mature.

This is a HARD business. Period. Life itself is difficult but not like comedy. Making an audience of strangers laugh time after time in town after town is about as tough as it gets. It takes a lot of perseverance and guts and although talent may not hurt it isn’t a priority.

The fact is, a lot of people have some modicum of talent. I’m finding out it’s what one does with it that determines success or failure. I’ve messed up more than most but it’s my educational process that has brought me to the good place I am today. I hope I am able to stay in this wonderful mindset because if I do I’ll be able to accomplish a whole lot more.

All this flatulence with my ex partner is not going to get me down. Why? I won’t let it. I have seen the overwhelming outpouring of positive wishes and congratulations from a ton of people from all over the world and I am going to choose to direct my attention to them.

It was great hearing from Frank Caliendo and Eddie Brill and I’m sure I’ll keep hearing from people but the highlight of my day was hearing from Miss Roberts, the librarian that launched my career at the North Milwaukee Public Library all those years ago. She’s still very much alive much to my delight and her email put a smile on my face that I still have.

On top of it all it was her birthday too! That made me feel great and she said she gets all kinds of people in their 30’s and 40’s who recognize her and come up and say hi. What an outstanding legacy that is to leave knowing that children’s lives were shaped for good.

She sure did good by me and I thanked her and apologized for stealing her $5. She said she might be able to come out to Giggles in Brookfield, WI when I’m there in a couple of weeks and I really hope she does. I want to do something nice for her and get our picture together so I can put it on my website and pay tribute to her. She made a difference in life.

The more insanity I see bouncing around the more it makes me want to be even kinder to people and grow as a person. Comedy is great and I love it but I am not a fame junkie that needs to use recognition as a drug. Was Elvis famous? Sure. How did that work out as far as solving all his problems? Michael Jackson too. They were still flawed humans.

I’m nuttier than a squirrel turd myself and I’ve never denied it but I will say that I’m on a positive roll right now none of the bad things are touching me at all. Knowing that I’ve reconnected with Miss Roberts after so long is a thrill. I hope I can bring a smile to her.

That’s what it’s all about. I’m not trying to sound like Sammy Davis Dr. but just taking a minute to tell someone they are appreciated is a magic self esteem builder all around. If I can do that for someone every day I feel like I‘m doing my job. This is not a time to stop doing what I‘ve been doing my whole life. It‘s a time to turn it up a notch or two. Or six.

The End Of The Party

July 29, 2009

Monday July 27th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

Wow, when the party ends for Mr. Lucky that thing is OVER. Back to my regular life in Luckyland and I can’t say I relish it. It’s like I was wearing the same pair of underwear for a month and then had a full shower, massage, spa treatment and sauna. How would it feel to have to put those old disgusting funky ones back on again? That’s how I feel right now.

My problems have always come in clumps and clusters and today I had to deal with that once again. I’m used to it but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, especially after the event of my life and all the wonderful feelings that went with it. I came back to Earth but quick.

I don’t even know where to start. My radiator is just about to blow and I am nursing my car around hoping it doesn’t explode like the Space Shuttle before I can get it back to the auction. If I take a loss on that car I’ll be even more in the hole than I already am. People think I’m rich because I got on TV for five minutes but that’s totally not the case at all.

Then, my tooth situation is still there. I had to be at the dentist at 1:30 today and fought nasty traffic and construction in a boiling car with no air conditioning wondering if I’d be on time to get drilled on to cause physical pain and then have to pay for it all by myself.

I did end up getting there on time but just barely. I was under high stress that got higher as the drill poked me like brushing my teeth with a porcupine. They fixed my tooth but it still could cost a ton and I have to be extra careful or it will end up being a catastrophe.

There’s nothing I can do about it and have to shut up and pay. It will wipe me out but it can’t be avoided. Period. My car situation isn’t great either and I bought another one that has no guarantees of it not blowing up either. I’m taking a chance with another rot rod.

That was plenty to worry about for the day but I had to be at Zanies to teach a class and host the rising star showcase show. Class is fun but not a money maker right now. We are putting it back together after my ex partner’s little fiasco and now he has decided to come back uninvited and try to vulturize my shining moment. I’m so angry I could pop a vein.

I heard from a lot of people that he is circulating some email ‘congratulating’ me for my network TV appearance and then directing people to a website that he flat out stole from Jerry Agar. There is allegedly an email that is ‘dobiemaxwell@gmail.com’ which is NOT mine and I don’t endorse it in any way. Also, http://www.befunny.com is the site in question.

That was a site Jerry Agar bought and paid for in 1997 as part of the audio program we created called “Be Funny Make Money”. Jerry financed it and I came up with the lessons and we worked very hard on it when both of us were really struggling. This really hurts.

I was in L.A. and trying to dodge bank robbery charges and Jerry had just lost his radio job in Tucson, AZ. We both put a lot of time and effort into that project because we had no money and we poured our souls into it. To have all this happen now is a big insult.

Why can’t this creep just go away and leave me alone? He has never been on a comedy stage in his life and it’s never been his passion. I knew the guy going on 20 years and he never really had much passion about anything except trying to find a way to get the quick buck. He tried all kinds of get rich quick schemes and I guess he thinks this one works.

I remember seeing on VH-1’s “Behind The Music” that Creedence Clearwater Revival had some record company weasel that butted heads with John Fogerty, who was the main creative source of that band. He cranked out the hits and had the passion but the oil can at the record company was a parasite and ended up suing and it got very ugly. I feel for him.

Creative types aren’t very good when it comes to business issues and even though I’m a lot better than I used to be I still have a long way to go with my own situation. I thought it might be turning a corner as I hadn’t heard anything about that guy in a while but now it’s back like a case of athlete’s foot and I don’t know what to do except try to sever the ties.

I don’t wish anything bad on the guy, I just want him GONE. Out of my life forever is a worthy goal and I thought I was on my way there until I heard about this. Now I see this is not going to be as cut and dried as I thought so I guess I have to reassess the whole thing.

It’s a good thing I’m still in a very positive mindset and I really am. Had this happened at a different time I may have done something stupid and if he keeps trying to screw with me I still might. I don’t want to think about that though. I want to think about fun things.

The fact is, I managed to get myself on national television as a standup comic using my own method of comedy which I now call ‘The Maxwell Method’. I have developed it for many years and evidently it WORKS, or I wouldn’t have been able to stay in the business this long. The TV shot was a nice payoff and adds a lot of credibility to what I’ve created.

I am going to keep on performing and keep on teaching and NOBODY on this planet is going to stop me from doing it. I will improve and keep working as hard as I can to make sure I’m at the top of my game so anyone with a brain who compares can see my method is the original and the better product. I have to take my personal feelings out of all of this.

In the past that’s been extremely difficult for me and I can’t guarantee it won’t continue to be like that in the future but for now I am bulletproof and just wrinkle my nose at all of his piss ant little attempts to horn in on what I’ve worked for for a lifetime. That’s slimy.

But there are many slime balls on this Earth and quite a few of them are slinking around at the lower levels of show business. I’m sure some of them even crawl up the sewer pipe and make it a little higher up the chain. I know I’m not the only one who’s ever had to get rid of a past business partner and eventually this will be over with one way or another.

The more I can just keep a good reputation growing and pile up satisfied customers they will keep the word going in my favor. The ones who can’t stand me already do so that’s a hornet’s nest that can’t hurt me any more than it does now. Welcome back to real life.

Back To My Future

July 27, 2009

Sunday July 26th, 2009 – Kenosha, WI/Lake Villa, IL

As spectacular as this party has been, it’s time to pop the clutch and switch gears. I had THE best few days of my entire life and no matter what else happens this will be an event that will stand out as a stellar highlight for me. Not everyone gets that chance to live their  life’s dream but I’ve had quite a few actually. None of them compare to this one though.

What I’ve done is hopefully put myself in a position to open some doors and take it to a new plateau. I’ve always talked about that ‘elusive higher level’ but maybe it’s not all that elusive now. It doesn’t matter HOW I got on network TV, all that matters is that I did it.

The reality is I may never do it again but at least I was able to do it once and that’s not a simple task. Nobody can build a career without the first one and now I’ve done that. What I do next will determine if and when it happens again. I need to make some smart choices.

The next logical step for me would be representation. There is only so much I can do by myself and I’m getting close to having done that. I need someone representing me so I can get more TV opportunities and who knows what else? I have a lot of things to offer and it would be to everyone’s advantage to have someone out there shopping me around now.

I know I’m not ‘there’ yet and one little spot can be forgotten about quickly. I’m still on a high from being on TV last week but the fact is Craig Ferguson has done more shows in the mean time and will continue to do more. He’s got a career. I’m hoping to build one.

A quick word about Craig Ferguson: I happen to find the guy extremely funny and I am thrilled I was able to appear on his show for my network debut. I am a fan and he’s also a dented can that is in there fighting every day. I respect him very much and would love it if I could be a regular on that show at some point. I know he and I would hit it off very well.

Johnny Carson loved Rodney Dangerfield and they hit it off. That lasted for years and it put Rodney on the map. If Craig Ferguson and I bonded like that it could catapult me to a spot I’ve always dreamed of and it feels like I am standing at the door now. Will it open?

That remains to be seen. I’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of decisions to make. This is like a puzzle or a chess game and I love those but each move is now very important. If I blow something now it could take me out of the game forever and I sure don’t want that. I waited to long to get here for a chance to play it so I have to think extra carefully now.

I have to come in with a clear head and humble attitude. I’m not cocky because I know I am still the underdog. I don’t ever want to get full of myself or believe my own press and lose touch of reality. I want to be in the right mindset and I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

The standards I have set for myself are far and away light years from what everyone else expects. I am nowhere near where I want to be even though I do feel I’m improving every part of myself all the time. The last thing I need to do now is think I’m a big comedy star.

The fact is, that studio audience was FANTASTIC. Period. For however many times I’d been on any stage anywhere, that particular group of people on that particular day had my back and laughed at exactly the right places and I will be forever grateful to my dying day to every one of them. That set will be how a vast number of people will get to meet me.

The vibe for those 4 ½ minutes was pure electricity and it happened at exactly the right time. I’ve had audiences like that before but the only ones who will ever see those shows were those who were there on that night. Even if it was 300 people in a comedy club that won’t do me much good the next morning. In this case I caught lightning in a TV bottle.

It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t perfect in my eyes and it totally wasn’t. I know it wasn’t even close to what I can do but nobody else does, or even cares. Fine by me. That means I have plenty of room for improvement and the next few times I’ll raise the bar even more.

I’ll be able to absolutely guarantee I’ll be better next time but there’s no way I’ll ever be able to predict what the audience will be like. Woody Allen talked about how it’s not able to be controlled and I totally agree. It’s the luck of the draw and I drew a winner this time. It’s recorded forever and now I’ll be able to show it to bookers for potential future work.

Next time it could be completely different but I’ll worry about that then. For now I’m in the position of being the ‘hot new guy’ even though I’ve been doing this a lifetime. There are a lot of people both in the public and in the industry who will see this and take notice.

I’ve got some positive attention and have made a hot first impression and that’s a pretty good start but the next question people will have is can I back it up? YES, YES, YES! I’ll be able to come back and take it even higher because I didn’t touch a lick of my polished and proven material this time. I took a major risk by trying to establish my character first.

It will pay off handsomely later because I’ll have material that’s been honed in clubs for years ready to serve up to a TV audience and I’ll be in my element then. Getting this first one out of the way was a major step and I’m thrilled it went so well. It was a training day.
To have as many people react to it as positively as they have has been a dream come true.

The fact remains that my tooth is still broken and my credit still rots and my car is still a time bomb I bought from the auction and I’m still living in a basement like a spider when most other people my age are starting to plan for retirement. Whatever ‘normal’ might be defined as has never been me so I guess I’ll have to custom make a happy life for myself.

If nothing else at least I’ve made it a priority in my life to have some FUN. Nobody else in my immediate family seems to have made that decision and maybe that’s why most of them ignore me. I wish we could all get along and be happy but that isn’t how it’s been.

The people I do get along with and am happy to be around are the crews of both Jerry’s Kidders and The Mothership Connection. Tonight was a super hot show in Kenosha and again calls of congratulations kept coming all night. Let‘s see what‘s next on the agenda.

King For Another Day

July 26, 2009

Saturday July 25th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

And the hits just keep on coming! I thought all the fuss would have started to fade away by now but I got to be king for another day. This is by far the most attention I’ve ever had and the good thing is it’s all been positive. Jeffrey Dahmer got world wide attention when he broke but I’m sure he didn’t feel good about it. This is completely different. I love this.

I love it for many reasons. One, I think I’m in the right mindset to really enjoy it. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me and it happened in exactly the right way. I earned this from many years of hard work but there was also some luck involved too, and it was good luck for a change. Mr. Lucky is a character but Dobie Maxwell caught a gigantic break.

I’m not going to ask questions or second guess or do anything but enjoy this moment. If nothing else ever comes of it it’s already been the most amazing good experience I’ve had in what feels like a sea of bad ones. If it took the bad ones to get to feel this then so be it.

The hot streak continued today as we gathered for our Jerry’s Kidders bit on WGN. We sometimes get to be on individually before our segment with a ‘get to know your Kidder’ bit where Jerry interviews one of us individually so listeners can hear what we sound like and learn a little bit about each of us. It’s a good idea and today we did it as a full crew.

I was running late because traffic was thick and I have a long way to drive to get to the studio. When I finally got downtown I was held up by the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile of all things and I took out my cell phone and clicked a picture of it. That’s a perfect way for Mr. Lucky to get held up for an appointment and I laughed even though it made me late.

By the time I parked my car and hustled up to the studio I squeaked in by the skin of my teeth with under a minute to spare. I really can’t stand doing that but that’s how it worked out. It sure wasn’t the first time it’s happened and I had zero time to get ready for our bit. I was out of breath and disorganized and that’s never a good way to be right before a gig.

The commercials ended and Jerry brought up the fact that I was just on network TV and the guys made a big deal of it. The producer played a couple of sound bites of it and I still don’t enjoy hearing myself but having it played on WGN in Chicago is never a bad thing. It exposed me to thousands of new people who most likely didn’t get to catch the show.

Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle were very kind and said some unbelievably flattering things about me as I sat there and again it was like a dream come true. Who doesn’t want friends who not only say nice things about you but do it to your face live on the air on one of the biggest radio stations in America? It doesn’t get any better than that and I won’t forget it.

Then we came right back and did our regular Kidders segment and I thought it was way off our usual rhythm. I personally didn’t think we nailed it at all but I didn’t want to bring it up and ruin the good vibe. I never know what the listeners think and for all I know they could have thought we finally nailed a funny one. It really doesn’t matter what I think.

Even if we did stink today, that happens on occasion and it won’t kill anybody. Nobody will care and as long as Jerry still has a job we’ll be back next week and get to tee up and take another swing. That’s what entertainment is all about. Once doesn’t define a career.

Every performance is a brick and the challenge is to shape all those bricks into whatever kind of structure a performer wants to build. Bricks can be used to build walls or they can  be used to build bridges. I like bridges. They connect. Walls separate. I am a connector.

I’m also a reconnector and that’s what this whole experience has done. I’ve been able to reconnect with all kinds of people I haven’t spoken to in a while and one of them is a guy named Mike Sweeney I used to work with in Kenosha when I was doing morning radio.

It’s the same building I do my Mothership Connection radio show now but I worked for the country station then, which no longer even exists. Mike was part of an up and coming crew of hungry twenty somethings then and many went on to do bigger things. Mike went on to be a program director in Decatur and is extremely sharp as were most of those guys.

Unfortunately Mike got a face full of radio insanity and is no longer in the business. He got fired in Decatur for no real reason other than they wanted to make a change and that’s no way to have to live a life. He got the hint early and decided to take a much safer path.

He was ecstatic that I was on TV and I was very flattered to hear from him immediately after it aired. He had an extra Cubs ticket today so immediately after the Kidders I left so I could meet Mike rather than hang for our traditional weekly Kidders lunch. It’s good to have so many options of good friends to hang out with and I recognized that immediately.

How can anyone not have a great time at Wrigley Field on a perfect summer day? It’s a blast just being there and getting a free ticket put it off the charts. Mike and I had hotdogs and caught up and really had a lot of fun. He wanted to know all the details of the process of how I got on the show and he was amazed it was my first shot. He thinks I’m big time.

The thing that really stood out was that after being on national TV once I received lots of positive energy from people I knew and it was wonderful. Three days later I was out in front of 40,000 people and didn’t get recognized ONCE. That puts it into perspective. I’m not ‘famous’ and I’m no better or worse than anyone else. I need to keep that in full view.

After the game I went out to Comedy Comedy in Aurora to visit my friend Dennis Ross who was performing there this week. He’s from New Jersey and one of the nicest comics in the business. Any time he’s anywhere close by I have to see him and I’m glad I did. He couldn’t have been any more thrilled for the TV shot and was gushing about it afterwards in the restaurant as we were hanging out and I filled him in. Even the waitress noticed it.

This has all been a total life changer but now it’s time to get back to work. Winning the Super Bowl is great but there’s always next season and something new to strive for. I got more than I expected out of this experience and I’m grateful. Now it’s time to move on.

Thank You Miss Roberts

July 25, 2009

Friday July 24th, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI

I have a friend from out of town that had a job interview today in Milwaukee. He knew I’m from there and asked if I’d go up and show him around and make sure he was able to find the place he needed to be. I really didn’t want to go but he asked nicely so I said yes.

One place I haven’t been in years is the public library my grandpa used to take me to as a kid. It used to be called the North Milwaukee Library but now it’s referred to as Villard Avenue Library for whatever reason. I parked my car and went in to take a quick lap and check my email. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the library smell.

I used to love going to the library with Gramps as a kid. We’d go at least one night each week and I couldn’t wait. I’d read books there but also bring some home and Gramps had me show him which books I was planning to take home and make sure they were going to challenge me and not just be filled with pictures. He was in my corner more than I knew.

There was a librarian there named Miss Roberts who used to help me find books all the time. She was there for years and I think Gramps might have had the hots for her. She had the typical librarian look but she was far from ugly and she totally loved helping people to find the right books. One week she helped me find a book on ventriloquism and I loved it.

I was maybe 12 or 13 but that book really hooked me in. I ended up getting more books on the topic and I asked for a ventriloquist dummy for Christmas and got it. Miss Roberts asked if I’d want to do a show for the kids at the library and I thought I was Willie Tyler.

My show was horrible and I blanked out on my lines and I remember feeling that sting of major disappointment as I limped out of that room. Miss Roberts came out and lied I was wonderful and handed me a check for $5 which added rocket fuel to my self esteem.

Gramps didn’t get to see me perform that day and I’m glad he didn’t. I would have been very embarrassed and then he died before he ever saw me do comedy at all. If he was able to see me on network TV I know he was screaming and cheering the loudest of anybody.

I talked to the head librarian today and asked him if he knew of Miss Roberts and how I could check if she was still living. He looked her up and said he found a listing but wasn’t sure if it was the same one I was talking about. He promised he’d research it and get back to me if indeed it was her and I told him I needed to apologize for stealing her five bucks.

I really do hope she’s still living and if she is I’m going to send her some flowers or try to find out something she really likes and make her day and say thanks for encouraging a dented can kid who could have really turned out in a bad way. She had no idea how much her $5 meant to a hurting kid and it parlayed all the way into a shot on network television.

I sure hope something I do in my life pays off a dividend like that. If she’s still alive I’ll find her and thank her and if she isn’t she lives on in me. THANK YOU Miss Roberts!

The Amazing Adventure Continues!

July 25, 2009

Thursday July 23rd, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI

One day after the biggest night of my life and the buzz is getting even better. What a big deal this is turning out to be for other people, WAY more than I ever expected. I’ve never been the recipient of such positive energy from so many people from all over the country.

Dented cans have a hard time accepting compliments. Most of us have been mocked for so long and ridiculed by those closest to us that something inside us tells us we don’t ever deserve something good to happen. When a compliment comes our way we shrug it off or attack the person who gives it by saying something like ‘Thanks, but I thought I sucked.’

That usually squelches it right there and the person who gives the compliment usually is in an awkward position and then the conversation is either over or moves on to something totally different. It’s ok to accept a compliment and I have forced myself to learn to do it.

I’m glad I did because there was a deluge of them all day and all night on my phone and in my email. I heard from people I went to grade school with, high school, worked with at jobs before and while I was a comedian, relatives, neighbors, anyone and everyone who’s crossed paths with me at one point or another contacted me to congratulate me. Almost.

It would have been nice to hear from my siblings but I didn’t. I’m not sure if my mother is living or dead and if she was going to contact me I’d have to believe it would be now. I haven’t heard anything from her since 1993, which is the last time I spoke with my sister.

None of that got me down today because I was hearing from so many people who were bubbling over with joy either because they knew I’d be on TV and was or they didn’t and seeing me totally shocked them. Either way, everybody was beside themselves with glee.

How fantastic does it feel to have the phone keep ringing all day with people saying the nicest things anyone could imagine and not having it quit? Cloud 9 is the toilet compared to what that feels like and the whole day was like that. It took me an entire lifetime to get to know how to properly deal with it but I did and it was SO special to feel it all day long.

The D List on ESPN Radio 540 in Milwaukee called and asked me to come and sit in to talk about the whole experience and of course I was happy to do that. Drew and Dan have always been in my corner as has everyone else at the station from Matt “Fish” Salmon the producer to Bill Johnson the PD to Steve “The Homer” True to owner Craig Karmazin.

Whatever problems I’ve had with other radio stations in Milwaukee are over with in my eyes. They think what they think but I went on the radio today and apologized to all of the radio people I may have pissed off in the past and I meant it. I’m in a solid mind set now.

I even thanked the guy at the club in town who still owes me $400 because that’s really the main thing that motivated me to leave town and get good and become a real headliner. That $400 was tuition and I used it to educate myself and learn my craft to the very core.

Days like this don’t come along very often and I knew it from the start so I decided that I was just going to enjoy it all and not think of anything else. The future is what it is but it took SO long to get here that I didn’t want to let one second of the day go unappreciated.

Drew and Dan were extremely kind to me and Fish played clips from my set even if that is pure torture for me, and it is. I can’t stand watching or listening to myself and never did as long as I can remember. Maybe that’s another dent I need to pound out of my can but it wasn’t done with malice. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. They played it as a tribute.

Callers and emailers were extremely kind and I even got a pizza sent over to the station in my honor from Zaffiro’s with my name written on the inside of the box in a dark magic marker. It said ‘DOBIE MAXWELL – CONGRATULATIONS!’ That really felt fantastic.

I used to live not far from Zaffiro’s and I absolutely love their pizza. It’s thin crust and a Milwaukee institution and what a treat it was to enjoy the pizza on my very special day on the radio where people were all telling me I was hilarious. It’s what everybody dreams of. Most people never get that and even fewer dented cans do. But I did. And it’s spectacular.

After the radio show my phone was full of even more messages from well wishers and a lot of people who heard me on the air. Richard Halasz called and he’s a Milwaukee comic I’ve known since I started. He was beaming about the show and we went to celebrate it at our favorite restaurant, Crawdaddy’s in West Allis. Whenever we can hook up it’s there.

After that I drove out to Giggles Comedy Pub in Brookfield where I will be performing August 13-15th.  I was on such a high I didn’t want to waste it and went up for a guest set. It was only five minutes but I wanted to do what I love the best – perform for an audience.

Phone calls kept coming in and when I got home I was swamped with even more emails than before. One of them really caught my eye and it wasn’t from anyone I know that well at all. We’ve met a few times and are friendly but he sent a wonderful email saying how it could be easy to pick apart the bad parts and second guess what went wrong in my eyes.

He’s totally right. That’s what a dented can would do. Instead he said to enjoy it all and know very few ever get to do this and relish it for all the right reasons. I will keep it for as long as I live and I asked him for permission to share it with my students. It’s powerful.

The fact is that I really did deserve a shot on national television. I’ve been blessed with some comedic ability and I also paid my dues and even with the mistakes I made and bad breaks I had it was an amazing feat to get the shot. Was I lucky? Yes, but I earned it too.

It would have been nice to get it when I was 26 but I know I wasn’t ready then. I’m very ready now though and I know I can handle myself like a professional should more of this come my way. Why wouldn’t it? Why SHOULDN’T it? I really do think I have a chance to parlay this into other things and it’s up to me to decide what to do and where I want to go. But that’s not for today. This was a day I allowed myself to enjoy my biggest night.

The Biggest Night Of My Life!

July 23, 2009

Wednesday July 22nd, 2009 – Chicago, IL

The dented can has landed! What an emotion packed experience today was and it took a lifetime of hellacious struggle to both achieve and appreciate it. Had I known back when I started it would be this difficult I have to say I may not have made it to tonight’s payoff.

But I did. And I’m thrilled. I feel like I knocked out the champ and climbed Mt. Everest by myself all in one day. I feel emotionally and physically drained right now but it’s not a bad feeling at all. It’s what Vince Lombardi talked about when someone gives their all at something and there’s nothing else left to give. After all these years I’m finally legitimate.

I really wasn’t 100% sure my segment was going to air on The Late Late Show even if I did hear from the talent coordinator yesterday. They’d switched it around a few times and I must admit I was a little apprehensive about it airing at all. Unfortunately that’s how the dented can mind thinks. We’ve been disappointed so often in life we come to expect it.

That’s not an easy pattern to break especially when it’s drilled into the very fiber of our beings as children but this wasn’t the day to think about that. I was told it would air and if it didn’t, life would still go on. I did have an appearance on CBS 2 Chicago this morning to promote the later appearance so at least I’d get to be on a local station. I was excited.

Rick Gieser is the publicist for Zanies and we’ve been friends a long time. He got me in with a phone call and I wanted to take advantage of my big night, if indeed it was to come off after all. I was on with Roseanne Tellez who is a Chicago TV icon and a total stunner.

She was even more gorgeous in person than on TV but she was also friendly, intelligent and down to earth too. This was no propped up news bimbo. She came prepared and even asked me about comedy classes, which I totally didn’t expect. I thought she was a real pro and I see why she’s stayed on TV in Chicago this long. But how does she stay so young?

It cost me $20 to park but it was an investment in my career. I received several calls that I didn’t expect from people who were watching and that alone made the trip worth a drive into the city in rainy weather and road construction. This was my day to enjoy so I wasn’t upset at all. Tomorrow I may be a schmuck again but this was my “King For A Day” day.

After the TV shot I was too late to head up to Milwaukee to be on ‘The D List’ with my friends Drew Olson and Dan Needles. I really wanted to but I couldn’t make it in time so I went home to check emails to see if I’d heard anything as to whether the show would air or not. I didn’t receive any emails from CBS so I ended up going over to the car auction.

My one Toyota Camry sold and I plan on selling the other ASAP. I need a new vibe all around in my life so I wanted to see if there was anything that might interest me. Since it was scheduled to be my network TV debut and also George Clinton’s birthday I figured it would be a good day to pick a different car and start over, which is what I did. I bought an extremely clean one owner ‘96 Toyota Corolla. It’s cherry red and very clean and I like it.

After the auction I went to have .15 chicken wings with my friend Sheri who used to be a Zanies manager in Vernon Hills. She just bought a house out in Island Lake and there is a great place there that has wing specials and they’re delicious. Sheri is fun because she’s into show business stuff and knows about comedy. She was excited about the whole deal.

I won’t deny that part of me was really afraid that it wouldn’t air at all tonight. Yes, it’s hilarious that Mr. Lucky would get bumped on his network TV debut but there’s part of a dented can’s deepest darkest brain that really does expect it. I think back to all the broken promises of my father and being abandoned by my mother and it really does bother me.

It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if they bumped it to Friday but it’s been four months since the taping and I just wanted it OVER with. I nodded out for a while just as I saw it was probably time for it to air if it indeed was going to and when I woke up I saw a pile of emails and my phone had a pile of messages and texts and I cried like a little baby.

I read email after email and text after text of congratulations and support and dare I say it…love? Damn…I don’t think I’ve ever felt love in my life and it overwhelmed me in an extremely positive way. Tears flowed down my cheeks as they kept coming and coming.

I always dreamed of this day and quite honestly I was probably ready as a comic several years ago. Mentally and spiritually this is coming at a perfect time, even though it’s a late start as far as TV debuts go. I won’t blow it though. I’m SO ready for some opportunities.

I used to dream of getting on TV only so I could ‘stick it in the ass’ of my father or that club owner in Milwaukee who to this day owes me $400. That was the wrong reason and I know that now. Are the people I’ve clashed with total bastards? A few maybe, but that’s not even something I want to think about. I want to use this achievement to spread good.

I want to inspire other dented cans to never EVER give up and acknowledge those who are great souls but may never get to experience the thrill of standing on that stage with the TV cameras rolling. It really was a tremendous thrill and it took my entire life to attain it.

This high is going to be hard to beat but I want to try. I also want to dedicate this whole experience to my grandfather, my comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis and also the funniest comedian of all time in my opinion – Rodney Dangerfield. This day was for them as well.

I also remember my friend Jimmy Miller who died of leukemia at 37 in 1993. He was a Milwaukee comic who would have LOVED to see this. This is not a time to gloat or give any attention to those who think I’m a wanker. This is a time to pay respects and be very gracious and humble and just enjoy the moment. It’s been way too long in the making.

I’m always going to be a dented can but this is a major milestone in my life. From the place I came from to the thrill of tonight is flat out miraculous. Nobody expected it and I was beginning to doubt if I’d ever get here myself but this isn’t the end. It’s a beginning. The real work can start now and that’s exactly what I intend to do for as long as I’m here.

A Thrill And A Drill

July 22, 2009

Tuesday July 21st, 2009 – Chicago, IL

Got the magic word today from the new talent coordinator that my spot is scheduled for tomorrow night, July 22nd. She asked me for intro information and said it still my change but as of now that’s when it was scheduled to go. This is the first time I heard from her so I’ll take her word and plan accordingly. At this point I’m just thrilled it will finally be on.

I’m trying to line up my ducks so I can hit the ground running when I get the DVD. I’m hoping the show will send me one but if they don’t I’ll be prepared anyway. I bet I’ll have at least fifty or more people recording it for me so I’m not worried about getting a copy.

I had lunch with Marc Schultz today and he’s as or more excited about all of this than I am. He wants to get a copy of the set so he can send it out to people he’s been telling so it strikes while the iron is hot. Hopefully it will lead to more corporate work and I know it’s never going to hurt to have a current national TV credit to sell to bigger paying buyers.

Marc thinks he can start selling me to places that have booked older acts and want to try some new blood. I’m the youngest of the older comics and am at a point in my life where I can start doing higher paying gigs I never could before just because I wasn’t in the same age demo. That’s one of the good parts about getting older, there’s more money involved.

After meeting with Marc I went to meet with one of my former students Bob Williams, aka “Wilbur”. Bob is a comedy lifer even though he stopped performing years ago to be a husband and father and live a ‘normal’ life. Like all lifers, he kept returning to comedy in one way or another over the years and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that at all.

I’ve taught a lot of closet comedy lifers over the years and I always tell them it’s totally fine to be one. Many times spouses or parents or siblings or children can be the worst for providing support of a comic’s dream. In a way it’s not their fault because they just don’t get it. On the other hand it can be cruel and painful so I always try to encourage the lifers.

Wilbur is flat out FUNNY. He really is. I’ve known the guy for many years now and he lives, eats and breathes comedy. He loves everything about it, maybe too much. I’ve had a lot of students that really love comedy and I enjoy being around them but unfortunately in the real world most people don’t get that deep into the inner workings of the laugh game.

I can sit and talk with Wilbur about comedy because he’s studied it and even though it’s more of a hobby than a career it doesn’t mean he isn’t passionate about it because he sure is and that’s what we talked about over one of the best hamburgers I’ve had in a long time at a place called Brandt’s in Palatine, IL. It was very enjoyable on many levels as we met.

Wilbur has been contributing jokes to the Jerry’s Kidders bit on WGN and has been one of our strongest writers. Many people have been sending stuff and I appreciate all of them but a few have really stood out like Mark Matusof in Washington D.C. and Tony Boswell in North Carolina. Wilbur is another one. These people have been consistently hilarious.
I want to hire a guy like Wilbur to not only write for Jerry’s Kidders but also for Uranus Factory Outlet too. He thinks funny and can crank out lines that could be bumper stickers or t-shirts and he’s done it for other companies in the past. I really have a solid respect for the guy’s talent and I wanted to meet up with him and start putting together a solid team.

This is my one secret weapon that nobody can ever take away. I can spot the funny in an instant and know how to squeeze the most out of it. George Clinton talked about having a talent for working with the craziest musicians around and getting the most from them. I’m able to nurture comic talent and Wilbur is a guy I want on the team. We can both benefit.

I had time to meet with Wilbur because I had to be in the city for my latest dental ordeal and didn’t want to drive all the way home and turn right around a couple of hours later for another trip. I used my time wisely and showed up dead on for my 7pm torture treatment.

I can’t lie, I absolutely DESPISE sitting in that dental chair. I’ve done it all too much in my life and I’m WAY over it at this point. I dislike everything about it from that blinding light shining in my eyes to the sharp metal walnut picker the dentist uses to poke around my gums like he’s trying to pop the yolk on a sunny side up egg to the sound of the drill.

That’s where the real torture comes in. First it’s the needle that ‘might bother just a bit’ which feels like a vaulting pole being rammed into my jaw. Then it’s the feeling of being poked like a potato about to be put in the microwave. Then that drill just adds the whole feeling of what hell must really be like. How ‘bout that smell of burning teeth? Mmmm.

Better yet, how’s about that feeling of when the drill goes all the way into the cavity so deep that it gets stuck? The vibration goes all the way down through every single nerve in the body and it stays there for the rest of the appointment. And who hasn’t felt that stinger when the Novocain hasn’t quite taken full affect yet? I felt it today and it made me flinch.

My dentist really is a good guy though. I like him personally and he’s a total pro who is very respected in his field. Since he and his wife are Russian he has a few others working there too. The dentist who worked on me tonight was a Russian woman who was actually very friendly even though she didn’t tell me her name. She was competent but it still hurt.

I broke the filling right at the gum line and have to go back on Monday to get it looked at again to determine the extent of the damages. Tonight I just had it cleaned and refilled so it wouldn’t hurt anymore but I cringe at the thought of what it’s all going to cost me.

Jerry Agar called as I was driving home and we met up for a hot dog to discuss ideas for Jerry’s Kidders. I had a hard time eating the hot dog with half my face frozen and it might end up being a funny scene in a movie someday but for now it was yet another big hassle.

Lots of things are bubbling and brewing right now. I can feel it all rumbling and it’s still overwhelmingly positive. Getting on national TV is a big step and I’m very grateful for an opportunity this late in the game. Most people never get it at all. Now the fun really starts.