Archive for March, 2013

Off Stage Overhaul

March 31, 2013

Friday March 29th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   Well, it’s a good thing I’m in such a good mindset because I won’t be winning the contest here at Laughing Skull Festival. While it would have been nice to advance, I’m not upset. There were seven Chicago comedians in the contest that had over sixty entrants, and not one of us made it to the second round. Coincidence? Conspiracy? It doesn’t matter even if it was. We didn’t make it.

Some of the other comics were rather miffed, but I’ve been around long enough to know that a contest of any kind that involves subjective judging of artistic talent is about as easy to predict as which rapper will get shot next. It could be anyone at any time for any reason. There’s no logic.

I came here to showcase myself in a five minute set, and that’s exactly what I did. I thought my set was very representative of what I do on stage, and it was in front of about fifty people off the streets of Atlanta who had never seen me before. I was mixed in with eleven other acts and all of us were trying to get the attention of three judges who like what they like. It’s not complicated.

On this night in this crowd in front of these judges, I was not one of the four finalists the judges liked based on their set of parameters – whatever that may include. I’m not bitter, angry or upset at anyone and I wish the comics who won all the best. There are a lot of really nice people with a lot of talent in this festival and my fingers are crossed that the best person wins and gets noticed.

Just because I didn’t win the contest doesn’t mean this was a wasted trip. On the contrary, there were a pair of useful info packed seminars this afternoon that made it worth coming. I was blown away by the presentation Steve Hofstetter made about the business of comedy. Steve is in charge of the festival, and I’m rapidly becoming a fanatical fan. This guy is on the ball and then some.

Tom Sobel in Louisville is a booker I’ve always liked and respected, and he told me how much respect he had for Steve Hofstetter. He told me I’d be impressed with both Steve’s comedy chops and his business acumen, and he wasn’t kidding. I haven’t seen his act yet, but if it’s half as good as his offstage methods he’s going to be a superstar. I shut my mouth and soaked in what he said.

I’m not sure how many of the other comics attending appreciated it, but I surely did. He threw out some fantastic ideas, and I need to implement a whole lot of them in my own presentation if I ever intend to move ahead in the business. I’ve got work to do, but that’s ok. That’s why I came.

Tonight I did two sets at two very different venues. One was at an alternative rock stage called ‘529’ and the other was at the Atlanta Improv. Both sets were solid, and I enjoyed watching a lot of other acts I hadn’t seen before. The vibe was very supportive, and we all got along all night.

I know my business is severely lacking compared to where my show is, and although it’s never pleasant to admit a fault I freely do so I can find a way to improve. I’m going to implement a lot of what I’ve learned here as soon as I get back and I know I’ll show major improvement within a short time. Tomorrow I have a huge treat. I get to meet with master marketer James Gregory, aka ‘The Funniest Man In America’. James has kindly offered his expertise and I’ll gratefully listen.

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An Almost Anniversary

March 28, 2013

Thursday March 28th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   I can’t let today pass without mentioning it’s almost the anniversary of a very significant day in my life I thought I’d never forget. It turns out I haven’t forgotten, but it’s getting buried deeper in my memory than I ever thought it would when it took place twenty years and a week ago today.

On the night of March 21st, 1993 I was coming home to Milwaukee from performing a show in Antigo, WI when I flipped my Mustang convertible completely upside down and almost lost my life. I still don’t know how I managed to survive, but I did and every day since has been a bonus.

In what was one of the freakiest chains of events I have ever seen, a drunk driver heading west on Capitol Drive in Milwaukee somehow managed to knock an electric power pole out of socket and it caused live electric power lines to be drawn tight across lanes of traffic on Capitol Drive.

The lines were about two feet off the ground – perfect height to hook underneath the bumper of my Mustang and flip the car upside down. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and was in the left hand lane on Capitol Drive headed east at 19th Street. I saw the power lines in front of me but had no way to stop in time and I didn’t even try. Before I knew it I was upside down in pain.

Apparently, the drunk driver had hit the power pole only seconds before I got there. If that isn’t the ultimate Mr. Lucky story I don’t know what is. What are the chances I would be in that exact spot at that exact time? It’s beyond astronomical, but there I was. I heard later had I even been in the right hand lane on Capitol Drive I probably wouldn’t have flipped, but little good that does.

I have often gone over in my mind the details of what caused me to be precisely in that place at that time, and it’s flabbergasting. I had the opportunity to stay in Antigo that night, but I insisted on driving home. I had a girlfriend I really liked then, and we had a lunch date the following day.

We never made our lunch date, and it turns out I ended up never seeing her again. I ended up in St. Michael’s hospital with a twice fractured sternum, a broken jaw and a whole pile of problems I would end up paying for for years. I had six months of recovery time, and it was an ugly mess.

I don’t enjoy going back to that place in my life, and the farther I get from it the better I like it. I can’t believe I survived not only the accident, but all the circumstances that were around me at the time that went along with it. My best friend had robbed a bank he used to work at and I was the only one other than him that knew about it. Then he ended up robbing the same bank again.

There were all kinds of complicated twists and turns, and all kinds of things were going wrong in my life at once. That girlfriend was lucky she bowed out when she did and I wish I could have joined her. It wasn’t fun being me at that time, but who has a choice of the poker hand life deals?

I had more than my hands full, and looking back twenty years later I have no idea how anyone could have done much better under those extreme circumstances. I actually managed to keep my ship above water, at least enough to survive and be able to look back now and assess the damage.

That was an extremely difficult time in my life, and I was still working on recovering from my childhood which wasn’t much smoother. Chaos and disarray have always been main ingredients in my life’s recipe, but I still haven’t acquired a taste for either. I’d like some peace for a change.

There’s no doubt all I’ve gone through has given me a thick callous in some ways. It also helps explain why some people think I’m a bit harsh and rough around the edges. Sure, who wouldn’t have a few scars after going through the worst part of the hurricane? I’m working on it, but I still have a ways to go. I try to be as nice as I can to as many as I can, but I still have a few detractors.

I guess that’s how life works, but I’m not going to change who I am for anybody. I know I’m a good person deep inside, even with my flaws and shortcomings. I can sleep at night knowing I’m trying my best to earn an honest living and not hurt anyone. When I’m wrong I’ll admit it openly and apologize to anyone I need to. If they don’t accept it – and some don’t – what else can I do?

It’s nothing short of a miracle as to how far my life has come in these twenty years and a week since I thought I would be checking out of life as we know it. I was really down and out with not a lot of resources then, and if nothing else I have learned to be grateful for every little thing I get.

I was to the point of eating food from a shelter and having to learn to walk all over again. I had my jaw wired shut for a while and had to suck my supper through a straw. Still, I somehow made it through and here I am twenty years and a week later living a life I’m enjoying and still chasing dreams. There have been a lot of shaky moments in the years since, but all in all I’m doing great.

I’m doing extremely well considering where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through since that fateful night, but as much as I’d like to forget it the more I know I can’t. Who doesn’t have a list of examples of having to overcome obstacles in life? Mine are just more dramatic than most.

I could have easily died in that car accident, and I’m still surprised I didn’t. I clearly recall how people came running out of their houses after hearing the crash and I lay upside down trapped in my Mustang. I couldn’t yell because of my injuries and most of them thought I was dead. In fact I heard some people talking and they said it out loud next to me. “No doubt about it – he’s dead.”

With all my might I tried to holler something out loud to them know I wasn’t dead, but I didn’t have the strength. It’s all so surreal now, but it was very real that day. I knew right then I’d been given some bonus time in life, and from that day forward I would be playing with house money.

I even remember the Milwaukee Police Officer who filled out the accident report coming to my hospital room and telling me how lucky I was to have survived such a horrific crash. He told me he’d been an officer for 15 years and knew a fatality when he saw one. He told me to enjoy life.

I’ll admit that sometimes I still forget to do that, and that’s exactly why I need to remember the almost anniversary of that fateful moment that changed my life forever. It doesn’t matter how my set in Atlanta at Laughing Skull Festival goes tonight. Win or lose, I’m just lucky to be above the dirt still able to draw breath. I’m grateful for each one I have left. NOW I’m in the right mindset.

The Dice Of Destiny

March 28, 2013

Wednesday March 27th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Atlanta, GA

   Here I go with yet another random roll of the dubious dice of destiny. I am in Atlanta this week to be a part of a prestigious comedy event called ‘Laughing Skull Festival’ and I am excited to be included in it. A huge number of comedians apply to be accepted, and a scarce few make the cut.

It’s designed to be a gathering place for industry people to find the next big thing. I guess it’s a comedy equivalent of the NFL Draft Combine. The powers that be all gather in one place to kick a few tires and compare notes on who the next big stars may or may not be. Eyes are a watching.

All I need is the correct pair to see me and it can open some serious doors. I’ve paid my dues to get here, and I’m not nervous in the least – not now anyway. I doubt if I will be when it’s time to go on stage either. I’ve put my time in and I’ve ripened. I’m ready to be plucked from the vine.

I’m one of the oldest participants here, and that gives me a distinct advantage. I’ve played the role of hotshot young punk, and a lot of mistakes can be made in situations like this. I won’t get intimidated by anything or anybody, and that’s a plus. I know exactly what needs to be done.

In a nutshell, need to get in front of someone who can open some new doors. Exactly who that is I’m not sure, but allegedly they’re going to be here this week. I need to go up and show what I can do, and also show why I’m different than any other idiot trying to get seen. It’s an audition.

They’re running a contest format, and my first round appearance isn’t until tomorrow night but I wanted to make sure I got to town a night early to avoid possible travel hassles, etc. I’m sharing a rental car and a room with a funny kid out of Louisville, KY named Jacob Williams. He’s now living in Chicago, and he’s been getting some attention in the clubs around town and on TV too.

Jacob is 24, and has been on ‘America’s Got Talent’ several times. I like him, and see a bright future for him if he stays with it. He’s already been doing it six years, and that’s even earlier than I started. A lot of kids are getting started younger and younger these days, and I don’t know what to think about it. It’s fine as far as stage experience goes but comedy comes from life experience.

I feel like I’m traveling with my comedy son. Jacob is hungry to learn, but he’s also very green as far as road experience. He’ll learn a lot from me on this trip, and we had fun on the drive from Chicago talking about comedy from all angles. The game has changed a lot since I was his age.

We stopped at The Punch Line on our way down, a legendary comedy club that’s been around since the beginning like a Zanies in Chicago or Comedy Castle in Detroit. I haven’t been inside that place in years, and it brought memories flooding back as I looked at the 8×10’s on the wall.

There were early promo shots I’d never seen before of big stars, and others I hadn’t heard of in years. Many of the comics pictured have died, and that was a wakeup call too. We made it to our hotel in downtown Atlanta, and of course they were sold out and we got stuck in the handicapped room. There’s also a $15 a day parking fee nobody mentioned. That’s how it goes in the big city.

A Loyal Soldier

March 27, 2013

Tuesday March 26th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   My busy week continues as I had to be in Milwaukee today to promote the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up sooner than later and also help judge the final round of a karaoke contest being held at the Potawatomi Casino Fire Keepers sports bar. I was flattered they asked, and I said yes.

I have an overwhelming feeling of confidence about how this project is going, and I can feel it becoming a big hit. I’ve been involved with more than my share of flops in my time, and this just doesn’t share the same characteristics. I can feel a positive buzz building, and it feels euphoric.

I’m really excited to be working at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. I cannot say enough good things about that venue, and it’s just a perfect fit from all angles. The customers for my show are the exact same group the casino is going for, and this should be a perfect match.

Once word gets out there’s a funny local show that isn’t dirty, I know I’ll be able to stretch this out for years to come should I choose to do so. My biggest issue was getting the word out, but no more. Potawatomi has a very strong media presence, and they are getting behind me all the way.

Today I recorded a radio interview for WTMJ that will air this Sunday. There’s no way WTMJ would put me on the air as some Joe Shmoe local comic who came up with a half baked show in his basement, but with the Northern Lights Theatre behind it I have total and needed credibility.

It also didn’t hurt that the interview was hosted by my friend Jim Peck. Jim is a talented radio and TV host originally from Milwaukee who went on to be a big success hosting game shows on network TV. I have always been a fan of Jim’s, and am a bigger one now that I know him in real life. He’s got a razor sharp wit and is truly hilarious. He’s a pro’s pro and he made me look great.

Also with me in the interview was Bob Rech, the Entertainment Director for Potawatomi. He’s another guy I like and respect, and he totally knows what he’s doing. He’s not just giving me this run because he has nothing better to do though. He sees the potential this has for everyone in it.

Joe San Felippo of Bonkers Comedy Clubs is also someone in the mix. Joe has booked all the standup comedy shows at the theatre for years, and that’s how I got in. Joe and Bob put together solid shows, and have always been fans of mine and in my corner. I couldn’t be more grateful to both of them, and that’s why my first choice is to have the show have a home base here forever.

I’m a loyal soldier, even in a business where that’s not always common. Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago and I have worked together more than twenty years without a hiccup, and I’d love to establish a longstanding relationship with Potawatomi too. I’m not looking to start any turf wars.

All I want is a place to call performing home. I want to make a fair living, and I want the venue to make a fair profit too. This is a team effort, and I’m happy to have Bob and Joe and everybody at Potawatomi on the same team. Judging the karaoke show was a lot of fun, and there were quite a few talented performers on the bill. Now it’s off to Atlanta to be in the Laughing Skull Festival.

Power For A Day

March 26, 2013

Monday March 25th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Even before all is said and done in life, I realize that I am but a speck of tiny sand on an infinite beach. What I think or say or do doesn’t move the needle one way or the other on the grand scale of life, so all that really matters is to be able to please myself. It’s all temporary, so enjoy the trip.

That being said, I had a chance tonight to make some people happy and I did it. It doesn’t mean diddly squat to anyone but those involved, but that still makes it worthwhile in my eyes. I didn’t do it for any other reason than I know how good it feels to be able to make a dream come true.

If only for one night, I had the power of deciding who would be on the show at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago. Zanies is one of the top comedy clubs in North America, and getting the chance to book a show is like having the chance to manage a Major League Baseball team for one game or decide on the set list for The Rolling Stones for one concert. It’s a feeling of power for a day.

Bert Haas is the regular booker of Zanies, and that’s no easy task. Booking any comedy club is a challenge on many levels, and I could go off in many directions on how it’s often done poorly. There are a lot of behind the scenes factors that the public or even other comedians seldom see.

Bert trusts me on occasion to put together a ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’ show on a Monday to basically give himself the night off. He spends a lot of time between the three Zanies clubs in the area, so once in a while a night off helps recharge the batteries. I get that, and I’m glad to help.

I’ve been around the block enough to know how to put a standup comedy show together. I also know literally hundreds of standup comics on all levels, and every one of them would love a shot to work on the Zanies stage but rarely if ever have gotten the opportunity. I felt it was my duty to put as many deserving acts as I could up tonight to let them have their moment of fun in the sun.

Granted, it was a Monday night and the audience was stiff but many of the people who went up will never forget this day for the rest of their lives. Having a chance to make that happen for one person would have been a thrill, but there were several tonight. I got to play Santa and I loved it.

I’ve had similar experiences in my own life, and I’ll never forget those moments. I got to meet George Clinton, George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield in person, and even though it was only a brief meeting each time, I will cherish all those memories until the final breath of my dying day.

I tried to squeeze as many acts as I could on the show tonight, and I hosted and gave them all a stellar introduction like they were going on at Carnegie Hall. I wanted to make their experience a pleasant one, even though in the big picture the only ones it will make any difference to is them.

One by one, they all came up and thanked me after the show, and I told them all they were very welcome and I meant it. They offered me the chance to do something nice, and that gives me the feeling of extreme satisfaction that I was at least able to make a tiny difference and do something good for someone else. Maybe I didn’t stop any wars or cure any cancer, but this feels SO good.

Pleasant Problems

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.

An All Star Experience

March 25, 2013

Saturday March 23rd, 2013 – Spencer, IA

   What a euphoric experience it was in Holland, MI last night. Who’d ever think a show like that could happen in a place like that? There was no real reason for it, other than everyone showed up at the right place at the right time. That doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s a real treat.

Those are the shows that keep us all out there chasing this goofy dream, but in reality I actually caught it last night. It only lasted for a few minutes, but I did catch it. When I started, shows like last night were exactly what I dreamed of. I wanted to hear eruptions of laughter from audiences. Period. Location of those audiences was never part of my dream. Holland, MI works fine for me as does anywhere else. All that matters is there’s a live audience and they’re enjoying the show.

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to be king of Las Vegas or Los Angeles or any other place that’s considered the epicenter of the big time, but I think that’s a big mistake. People in Holland, MI or Spencer, IA don’t laugh any differently than the people anywhere else. Laughs are laughs.

There were a lot more of them tonight in Spencer, IA with the Chicago Comedy All Stars. This was another red hot crowd, but it sure was a major effort to get in front of them. It was 530 miles from my house to Spencer, not counting the drive from Holland, MI to my house. I’m delirious.

In reality I should have said no to the Holland show last night. I always hate to turn down work though – especially when it’s as much fun as that whole experience was. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the effort on a financial level. By the time I pay for gas and wear and tear on my worn and torn car, I will barely break even. I don’t like to admit that, but facts are facts. It was inefficient.

It would have been a lot smarter to have driven to Spencer with the other acts on the show. Jim McHugh, Tim Walkoe and Mike Preston split a rental car and drove out yesterday. We thought we had a Friday in the Des Moines area, but that fell through last week. I was offered the gig in Holland, so I took it without thinking. That was my problem. I should have thought it through.

A quarter of the rental car and gas cost would have been a lot easier than driving by myself like I did. Also, it would have been a blast riding with three of my favorite comedians and having fun busting balls the whole trip. The camaraderie of hanging with comics is a big part of the fun of it.

We did get to do that at the actual show, and it lived up to the billing and then some. Again, the audience was really into us, and we tore it up one more time. All the acts on the show are veteran performers and it was like a night off only having to do about thirty minutes total. They fed us an incredible dinner before the show, and everyone treated us like stars. Is there an issue with that?

Again, people anywhere else wouldn’t have laughed any more or harder than these people this evening. They loved the show, and we loved performing for them. None of us loved the drive we had to make, but that’s just something that goes with the territory. It’s a tradeoff. To get that rush of live performing, we all have to sacrifice our comfort and find a way to make it to the venue so we can get our fix. It’s an addiction. There’s no way around it, and it comes at a very high price.

No Glitches Tonight

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.

Behind The Scenes

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?

Building A Brand

March 22, 2013

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.