A Night With Friends

Monday February 15th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Tonight, for only the second time in recorded history, Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago billed their show as ‘Friends Of Dobie Maxwell’. Basically, I held down the fort because the booker Bert Haas wanted to have a Monday off. I don’t have a problem with that and I totally understand, but a lot of wannabes read a lot more into it. They think I have power.

Most Monday nights are showcase nights and I host those whenever I’m available. I’ve kind of inherited the job over the last couple of years, only because nobody else wanted it. I looked at it as Monday money is never a bad thing, plus I was already coming to Zanies to teach my classes. Why not stay an extra two hours and earn food money for the week?

The majority of those who come through the Monday showcases are decent people. It’s great experience to do a six minute audition set anywhere, and this is a good opportunity for many of these kids, even though probably half or more aren’t ready to be booked yet.

A common mistake most newbies make is getting a few halfway decent minutes they’ve done ten times or less, and then taking that to every comedy club within 1100 miles of the place they’re from, and they shoot themselves in the foot by doing that. They’re not ready.

Plus, in a situation like Zanies, it hurts them even more. Bert Haas has been booking the club for over twenty years, and he’s seen everyone from Jay Leno to Jerry Seinfeld to just about every other top flight comedian from the 20th Century to now. How’s a little Johnny Fuzznuts, 22 year old rookie greenhorn from Green Bay, going to impress a Bert Haas?

They’re not. But they all think they’re going to be ‘the one’ that makes Bert take notice and immediately insert them as a headliner for big money, bumping everyone else in their path out of the way and making them the hot new thing in comedy. I think they think that. I see some of these kids strut around the back of the club, then go up and eat it big time.

It’s happened time and time again, even when Bert tries to lay it out for each of them in a pre-show meeting he has before each Monday showcase. He looks at me from his perch in the back of the room when another young punk goes down in flames, and rolls his eyes at me as I smile. We’re the two old farts trying to be patient as we watch rookie mistakes.

Since I’ve been associated as the regular host of the showcase shows, many think that I must have an inner track to Bert’s ear. I don’t. He books who he books. All I’m in charge of his hosting the shows. Period. Still, I get all kinds of emails and calls asking me to help someone get past Bert’s rules and squeeze them in. It’s to the point of being maddening.

Now, since the show is billed ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’, a few people think I’ll be in charge now and have some booking clout. WRONG. I’m just filling in so Bert can have a night off to spend with his family. I’m not booking Zanies, and I don’t have any authority. Hopefully that will slow the requests down, but I doubt it. I’ll deal with it later. Tonight’s show was really strong, and I’m sure I’ll most likely be asked to do one again. And I will.

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