Karma Comedians

Monday July 26th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

The odds are stacked against me that I’ll ever have any real power in the show business stratosphere, but for one night at Zanies in Chicago I was in charge and it felt great. Bert Haas is the booker and he schedules the Rising Star Showcase shows on Monday nights so he can watch people of all experience levels try to audition for paid work at Zanies.

I’m the regular host of those shows, and it’s become a solid tradition in a just a couple of years. Aspiring newbies show up and attempt to knock the socks off of Bert, who’s not an easy sock knocker offer. He’s been there twenty-five years and has seen and booked all from Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld on down. Obscure feature acts face a difficult challenge.

Bert actually tries to help these people get booked by giving a pre show speech each and every week outlining what he’d be looking for in an act for possible bookings at Zanies. It isn’t so much knockout funny as it is the ability to work ‘TV clean’ and be a good host, as that’s where most of the available work would be at this level. The other spots are taken.

Comedy is a numbers game, but everyone wants to bypass that part of it. I know myself I’m replaceable at every single club I work, including Zanies. They wouldn’t miss me in a hundred years, so it keeps a person humble – or at least it should. I know I’m lucky to get a booking anywhere, and so is anyone else. It becomes a matter of a lot more than funny.

Part of it is familiarity. If someone else feels comfortable handing off power, it happens on occasion. Bert Haas asked me a few months ago if I’d handle the Monday night shows so he wouldn’t have to sit and watch newbie after newbie ignore his every point and make life miserable for everyone. He gave me one as a trial and it worked out extremely well.

Tonight was another one. The show was billed as ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’ and I had the responsibility of filling a 90 minute show with whomever I felt like. Word got out fast and I had an overwhelming number of people contact me but I decided to make a point to offer slots to only quality people and create a special show that radiated positive energy.

Everyone on the show wasn’t necessarily the top talent level in town but they all love to be on stage and don’t always get the top of mind awareness from bookers in town. I know how it is to fight for stage time, and a chance at Zanies in Chicago is a big deal for locals. Bert is actually very good about giving chances, but even then it boils down to numbers.

I really looked over the lineup and tried not only to make it a show full of quality people but also diverse and unique acts. It wasn’t just a bunch of twenty something white guys in a row like most open mikes in America. I thought it out and put together an eclectic mix.

All together, this was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done. It won’t mean anything in the annals of comedy, but let it be noted that at least one night nice guys didn’t have to finish last. I tried my best to use whatever power I did have to help some people I thought really deserved it. The vibe in the room was electric. There were no jerks there to ruin it.


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