Archive for September, 2013

No Guarantees

September 28, 2013

Friday September 27th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I had a tentative gig booked for tonight that was what’s known in the business as a “door deal”. That means the performer gets to keep an agreed upon percentage of the cover charges collected at the door. In this case, I was to get 100% which is as good as a door deal gets. I was optimistic.

The venue held roughly 100 people, and the cover charge was $10 per person. On paper, I had a chance to make a decent payday – not to mention a chance to sell some merchandise. The joint was in an affluent area, and they’ve only tried comedy shows once before. I thought I’d gamble.

What I didn’t plan for was the place closing down completely, which is exactly what happened. I called to confirm on Monday, and was told that they were going out of business abruptly and of course that meant my show was cancelled. I was counting on making at least a little bit of money for the week, but now it’s a total loss. September has been brutal, and has totally wiped me out.

I’m to the point now I can barely put gas in my car. I’ve got work coming up in the next three months, but that doesn’t do me much good right now and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel to make it day to day. I never thought I’d be this low this late into it, but that’s how it’s turned out.

There are a variety of odd circumstances that put me here, and many of them are plain old bad breaks. Woulda, coulda, shoulda isn’t going to change anything, but I sure am in the trick bag for the time being. I’m working hard every day to get myself out of this rut, and I could use a break.

Then just when I thought I was in a bad way, I heard that some comedian friends of mine are in a whole lot worse shape than me. Scot Wickmann is a Chicago comedian I worked with steadily for a few years when I was with a group called Chicago Style Standups. I knew him long before that from the comedy trail, and we always got along well. He was just a guy out making a living.

I was surprised to hear Scot had triple bypass surgery this week, and it made me sad. Scot has had quite a few health problems over the years, and I never wish that on anyone. He’s a diabetic and also has been on kidney dialysis for several years. That sounds extremely painful, but after I got out of the hospital with my own type 2 diabetes diagnosis Scot was right there to help me.

He brought me to the hospital he goes to for his dialysis, bought me lunch and introduced me to his dietician who joined us and made suggestions on how I can change my diet to improve my condition. That was unbelievably nice of him, and I never forgot it. He didn’t have to do all that.

I’ve tried to keep in touch with Scot and a lot of my other friends – comedians or not – but it’s a daunting task with how hectic life gets most of the time. Who has time to connect by telephone much less in person? Time slips away from all of us, and weeks become months become years.

I also received some sad news that another comedian friend Jim Wiggins is going in for cancer surgery in a week. There’s another comic well liked and respected in the business. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Jim, but he and Scot are suffering miserably while boils on the face of the Earth like Charles Manson and so many others are pictures of health. I just don’t get it, but it seems to happen all the time. I’m sad my gig got cancelled, but even more so for Scot and Jim.

Scot Wickmann "The Married Man" - if you pray, please offer something up. Triple bypass surgery is no joke.

Scot Wickmann “The Married Man” – if you pray, please offer something up. Triple bypass surgery is no joke.

Jim Wiggins can use some prayers and good vibes too.

Jim Wiggins can use some prayers and good vibes too.

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Five Funny Friends

September 27, 2013

Thursday September 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Oh, to have even a teaspoon of power and influence in this out of control tilt-a-whirl known as the entertainment business. I don’t want it so much for me, but to be able to showcase as many of my talented friends and colleagues as possible. That would give me as big of a kick as if I did it.

That’s one of the reasons I was such a rabid fan of Johnny Carson – or at least his position. His show was a launching pad for a lot of acts, but especially comedians. He seemed to enjoy putting people on and letting the public discover their talent, and I would love to be able to do it as well.

On a far smaller scale, any time I’ve had radio shows I have always tried to put as many of my talented friends as I could on the air. I love to be able to let them shine and have their moment in the sun, and I have always been secure enough in my own skin to not have to always be the star.

I talked to my friend Dwight York yesterday, and he’s a shining example of exactly what I am talking about. Dwight is one of my absolute favorite comedians ever, and a super guy to boot. It boggles my mind why he isn’t a big star, and if had even a little influence he’d be one tomorrow.

He’s delightfully sick and twisted, and an absolutely brilliant joke writer. He has a book called “The Vile File” which is a catalog of his best work, and he has a hilarious CD as well. Dwight is also one of the hardest workers around, yet he doesn’t seem to get his due. I don’t understand it.

Check him out and see if you don’t agree he’s fantastic. His website is http://www.dwightyork.com, and if you get a minute send him an email and tell him I told you to say hello. You’ll be a fan for life like I am, and make it a point to see him whenever you can. He never fails to make me laugh.

Another guy I’m in awe of is Don Reese. Don is another dark and twisted hombre, and I mean that in a very positive way. He loves monster movies, and looks like he could star in one. I have always wanted to book a tour with Dwight, Don and another comic named Dan Still. I wanted to call them “The Pirates of Comedy”, and I know they could develop a rabid following all over.

Don’s website is http://www.donreese.com and his DVD “It Came From Iowa” is a must have. He’s like the typical bad guy pro wrestler – scary in the ring, but a teddy bear in real life. Dwight and Don are both sweethearts, as is Dan Still. Put them on a comedy stage, and it’s a different story.

Dan’s website is http://www.danstill.com, and his CD is called “Anger Therapy”. All three of those guys get their ya-yas out on stage, and then off stage they’re mild mannered and sweet. I would LOVE to be their manager and build their brand, but who has time? I’ve got my own problems.

Of course there’s my friend “The Enviromedian” James Wesley Jackson. I’m still trying to get his new DVD noticed, and you can find him at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com. He’s someone else I think deserves to get some time in the sun. James has paid his dues, and deserves a payday.

Then there’s my good friend Jimmy McHugh and his “Chicago Comedy All Stars” concept. He is another guy who deserves a break. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. I can think of a lot more, but for now I’ll leave it at this. Please seek out and support these people. They’re ALL tremendous!

Dwight York - his book 'The Vile File' is laugh out loud funny!

Dwight York – his book ‘The Vile File’ is laugh out loud funny!

Don Reese - "It Came From Iowa" is a must own DVD.

Don Reese – “It Came From Iowa” is a must own DVD.

Dan Still looks like 'The Undertaker' - or is it the other way around? www.danstill.com.

Dan Still looks like ‘The Undertaker’ – or is it the other way around? http://www.danstill.com.

What's an Enviromedian? Find out at www.jameswesleyjackson.com

What’s an Enviromedian? Find out at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com

Jimmy McHugh - head Chicago Comedy All Star. www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

Jimmy McHugh – head Chicago Comedy All Star. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

Overnight Frustration

September 27, 2013

Wednesday September 25th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Less than 24 hours ago, I was feeling pretty good about myself for putting time in working on a part of my job that has traditionally been my least favorite. I sucked it up, plowed through, and at the end of the day I thought I had myself some tangible results. Overnight, most of it is no more.

This is why I get so unbelievably frustrated with the business end of comedy, and it never ends. The names change, but the situations stay the same. Everything is a hair triggered house of cards, and it doesn’t take more than a tiny ripple to make everything come crashing down. It’s a bitch.

Of the five days I thought I booked solid yesterday, two of the them (a weekend) were stricken from my calendar when someone from the booking agency called and said someone else working in the office gave it to another comedian and didn’t cross it off the list of open dates. So I’m out.

I don’t know who the other comedian is, but it really doesn’t matter. He or she is farther up the food chain than me, and that’s how it is. There’s no warning, no substitute backup gig, and worst of all no pay. It happens all too often, and booking agents can do it because they know we are all looking for work and don’t want to burn any bridges these days. I have to shut my yap and eat it.

There never seems to be a two way street with these kinds of situations. If I happened to find a higher paying booking for the same date and backed out, chances are the agency would be angry and vengeful go the point where they may not ever use me again. I have seen it happen before.

Another one of the dates was a fill in I thought I’d picked up, but it turned out there was a mix up with the actual date. The comedian who asked me to fill in told me one date, and it wasn’t the actual date of the gig. It was an honest mistake, but I am not available to do the date that’s open.

That booking agent had no choice but to look for someone else and now I’m out that money as well. I already had it spent, but now it’s not coming. I am already booked on the date in question, but it would have been a sweet little bonus to pick up the extra cash in the same week. Not now.

Then, one of the other dates that pays via direct deposit into my checking account sent an email and said I have to reconfirm my banking info with routing numbers and all that, and I had to take time to go to the bank and get someone to fill everything in and fax it to the gig. They faxed it to the wrong number, and the person in charge didn’t get it so I had to do everything all over today.

The people at the bank were nice about it, but it was a hassle to wait in line and have to have it all done over again. It took about two hours out of my day after everything was done, and there’s still no guarantee I did it right. The person at the gig told me I’d hear back when it was received.

Stuff like this drives me up the wall, across the ceiling and back down the other wall across the room. No matter how hard I try to psyche myself up, things like this happen and it kicks me right in my self esteem and makes me feel like I’m small potatoes. This isn’t what I was born to do.

I was born to be on a standup comedy stage or behind a radio microphone entertaining a large audience. Making booking calls and faxing bank account numbers was never what I aspired to.

Frustration is a big part of the entertainment game.

Frustration is a big part of the entertainment game.

My life in a nutshell.

My life in a nutshell.

Hey, it might help. After today I'll try just about anything.

Hey, it might help. After today I’ll try just about anything.

Business Show

September 25, 2013

Tuesday September 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Sorry to bust the bubble for anyone wanting to get into show business, but it’s a lot more like a real job than most people think. There may be a lot more reward – or at least the potential for it – than a regular job, but there’s still a frightening amount of boring minutia that needs to get done.

Those on the top end of the food chain can surround themselves with a paid staff to take care of a meaty chunk of their grunt work – but then someone has to watch over them all like caffeinated hawks to make sure everything gets done correctly, efficiently and without getting robbed blind.

That leaves all kinds of unattended cracks for glitches to slip through – and many do. One way or another, performers have to make sure things get done or it’s game over. I always tell anybody who asks me about getting into show business to make sure they love it with everything they’ve got, as that’s what it will take to stay in it. If anyone wants less work, go manage a Burger King.

No offense to anyone who does happen to manage a restaurant, but it’s less work than being in the entertainment business and you can count on your check at the end of every week. It may not have any commas in the total, but it’s there. It’s kind of like a civil service job with a salad bar.

I spent most of today doing many of the piddly little tedious jobs I never liked but have to keep doing to stay in business. I spent a couple of hours going back and forth with several bookers via email, but it did lead to five dates on my calendar for November and December. I still have zilch for this week and it will probably stay that way at this point, but at least I filled some open holes.

That process never ever ends, and although I’ve never liked it I’m learning to at least handle it with more of a regular schedule. Tuesday through Thursday is the prime time of every week for doing bookings, and there’s nothing close to glamorous about it. It’s a chore, but it needs doing.

That chore can fester into a downright hassle when dates fall out at the last minute or a booker doesn’t respond to requests for an open date that would fit perfectly either in routing or schedule.

Today I happened to pick up dates that did both, and the main reason is I’ve been working at it of late. It’s taken a while to see results, but I knew I would. It’s also extra work and I knew that too.

Unfortunately, the extra time and effort I put into it has to take time from somewhere else. I’ve been completely ignoring my act of late to make that happen but I spent a couple of hours on that today just to stay sharp. I can’t just let it go completely. That’s not how it works. It’s my product.

I also worked on updating my bio and resume, as I intend to make a push to get some bookings for holiday parties this year. The economy wiped those off the map for a few years, but it appears as if that market has bounced back at least a little. I have to get out there and let people know I’m available, and there are limited dates in December and January when companies tend to do them.

By the end of the day, I’d put in about a dozen hours of work but didn’t tell a single joke. I sure didn’t get into this for that to happen, but it becomes part of the process to be able to keep getting paid to tell more jokes to different people. Again, “show business” is always said in the incorrect order. “Business” should always get top billing. That’s the most important ingredient in the stew.

Without it, there IS no "show".

Without it, there IS no “show”.

Reflections On Celebrity

September 24, 2013

Monday September 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I’m still on a high from hanging out with Bob Uecker yesterday, but I realize I’m a ways away from being the big star he is and still have to worry about paying bills every month. Most people never come close to such an elite level of success, and he is the exception rather than the rule.

One thing that jumped out with Bob and every one of the other celebrities I’ve ever met is that they are still people and have real people problems and concerns. They might be a little different than most, but nobody’s life is without any glitches. Bob Uecker has problems just as we all do.

Everyone in that stadium knows who he is, and in the city too. Milwaukee is his home town as it is mine, and that comes with a lot of pressure most people never have to encounter. I feel it on a much smaller level whenever I work a comedy club. There is an entire staff of managers, wait staff, bartenders, ticket takers, dish washers and who knows who else that all know me by name.

Try as I might, it’s impossible to remember everyone’s name and that can be embarrassing as hell when someone comes up and greets me by name when I haven’t seen them in a year and am working at a new place every week with an entirely new cast of characters. It’s mind boggling.

Bob Uecker or any other truly big time celebrity can’t go anywhere without getting mobbed by strangers whether they want it or not. Everyone has moods, and what if one just doesn’t feel like talking on a given day? Then it gets out the celebrity is hard to deal with and aloof. It isn’t fair.

But who said life was fair? It never has been, and never will be. Most people don’t get a statue built in their home town either. Bob Uecker did, and he was alive to see it. Most times that never happens. What good is it to have a statue erected years after someone is dead? His is a rare case.

Another thing Bob Uecker has going for him is the right personality to be a celebrity. He has a quick wit and easygoing demeanor, but I’m sure there are days when he doesn’t feel like being a jokester. I’ve heard stories of people saying he wasn’t ‘that guy’, but I can see why. He’s human.

I happened to catch him on the right day, and he was absolutely fabulous. I will remember it as long as I live, and I’m sure he’s had moments like that with thousands of others. How many of us have that kind of clout? Not a lot. That’s why they’re celebrities. It’s a different world altogether.

Some are made for that world, and spend their entire lives there even though it’s very rare. Bob Uecker has been there since the 1970s, and has cemented himself into the hearts of America. His place is well deserved, but there aren’t many openings. Everyone else has to fight for the scraps.

Others get to that world, but only for a little while. I bet it isn’t hard to find Vanilla Ice or M.C. Hammer’s home phone numbers these days. They had their respective runs, but they’re over with no signs of returning. Then there are those who never get there at all. That would be most of us.

What hit me today the hardest was that in reality I made this happen. I pictured in my mind that I wanted to meet Bob Uecker, and I did what I needed to do to make it a reality. On a larger scale I should be able to do the same with a legitimate comedy career, right? Why has it been so hard?

How many ever get to be truly world famous? VERY few. Can you name the current leader of China? I can't either.

How many ever get to be truly world famous? VERY few. Can you name the current leader of China? I can’t either.

Front Row Treatment

September 24, 2013

Sunday September 22nd, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

I can die now. I’m sure there are those that have been wishing that for years, but now I can deal with it with a smile on my face. My personal Mt. Rushmore of heroes to meet is complete, and it was a raging success each and every time. Most people never get to meet one of their heroes, but I hit a grand slam. I’ll have pleasant memories forever, and there’s nobody else I need to chase.

Yes there are all kinds of famous and/or interesting people I wouldn’t mind crossing paths with in person, but as far as super elite status there have only been four – Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, George Clinton and Bob Uecker. I don’t care if anyone else doesn’t agree with those four as having super elite status, it’s my list and I’ll decide who gets on it. Those four are my biggies.

Today I rounded out my awesome foursome in high style as I got to hang out with Bob Uecker for a good 20-25 minutes – on the field at Miller Park no less. Wow, what a dream come true for a native cheese head and it couldn’t have gone any better. Everything was right, and it was great.

I can’t thank my friend Drew Olson enough for making this happen. He knows everyone at the stadium, and although it was no big deal for him he knew it was a big deal to me so he took time to make the call and walk me through the process. I like to do nice things like that whenever and however I can, and when it comes back my way it’s extra sweet. I’ll remember this day forever.

We were sitting in the dugout at Miller Park – something that by itself was worth my trip – and Bob came out of the other dugout and was standing behind the batting cage before the game. I’ve never been on the field before, so the whole experience was surreal from the start and I loved it.

Drew told me to follow him, and we walked up to Bob and Drew introduced me as a comedian from Milwaukee. That’s all it took. Bob’s eyes lit up, and he shook my hand and started rattling off story after story, and it was like we were buddies for years. It was the right place and the right time, and circumstances couldn’t be better. He had nothing else going on, and had time to hang.

Since I knew of his career highlights so well I was able to keep him talking and recalling funny story after funny story. The guy who was his sidekick in the Major League movies is a comedian friend of mine named Skip Griparis, and that helped forge a bond up front even though we didn’t need it. He was warm right from the start. Everything was laid back, and I loved every second.

What was an even bigger thrill was making Bob laugh a couple of times. I tried to just shut up and let him do most of the talking, but on a few occasions I had a quick story to throw in and his head snapped back with laughter more than once. That’s THE most flattering reaction I can get.

We hit on a lot of topics from sports to show business to being from Milwaukee to professional wrestling of all things. He used to go see it in his younger days and he did a fantastic impression of Dick The Bruiser. Drew and I were bent over laughing, as it really was dead on and hilarious.

I really wanted to get a picture, but things were going so well I didn’t want to ruin the moment. These situations can be very delicate, as it’s almost a peer thing. I don’t consider myself on a par with Bob Uecker, but he and Drew are peers and I didn’t want to put that status into jeopardy.

Another delicate situation was a package I brought for Bob with my DVD, CD and t-shirt from my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show. He if anyone would get the list of jokes on the shirt, but again my wack-o-meter went off and I decided not to force the situation. We were having such a good time I just wanted to enjoy it for what it was. I’ve waited decades to get the chance, so I dialed it back.

As we were walking off the field I asked if he’d mind if I sent him a shirt, and he said he’d like to have one but what else would he or anyone say? “No, stick that shirt up your bilge hole. Like I need to wear a cheap t-shirt from some goofus I don’t know to advertise a show I will never see.”

I’m sure he wouldn’t say that and he didn’t. Before we left the stadium, Drew gave the package to one of the longstanding Miller Park staff who said he would deliver it to the broadcast booth – which he did immediately as we watched. I felt a lot better doing that than trying to do it myself.

I have no delusions that he’s going to listen to or watch my act or wear the t-shirt, but if he had a chance to look at the shirt I’m sure he had a chuckle or two. That’s good enough for me, and he hopefully gave it to someone or even left it in the booth and someone else may get use out of it.

One thing I noticed immediately as we were talking was how ‘the kid’ in him was out. I always heard that with any great comedian, their inner child is close to the surface and easy to identify. I definitely saw it in Bob, and I think he saw mine too. That’s probably why we hit it off so well.

Another thing I noticed was how he had absolutely nothing bad to say about anyone else. He’d only bring up positives and/or good times they’d spent together. He knows celebrities from many fields, and I’m still not sure if the people in Milwaukee realize just how big of a star he really is.

I listened to him tell a few stories of being inducted into more than one Hall of Fame. How rare is THAT? It’s hard enough to get nominated for even one much less inducted into several, but he is although he doesn’t say it to brag. It was thoroughly enjoyable to listen to everything he said.

He pokes fun at himself for his lack of ball playing prowess, but in fact making it all the way to the Major Leagues is no small feat in itself – especially when he did it. There were only 16 teams then, and he still not only got a cup of coffee but managed to stay in the Major Leagues for years.

That’s a noteworthy accomplishment most people would milk for a lifetime, but he also got on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when that really meant something. Not only that, he was on somewhere around 100 times when people would give up a lung to get on once. It’s amazing.

Then there was a successful sitcom in ‘Mr. Belvedere’ that lasted several seasons. Then he was in two ‘Major League’ movies where he stole the show. He did hilarious color commentary work on ‘Monday Night Baseball’, not to mention rose to become one of the best play by play baseball announcers anywhere. Each one of those would be noteworthy by itself, but Bob nailed them all.

Did I forget anything? Well, he wrote two very funny books and also hosted another funny TV show called “Bob Uecker’s Wacky World of Sports”. And he was part of Wrestlemania for what was then the largest audience ever. I don’t need to go any farther – one is impressed or not. I have always been impressed, and to meet and hang out was a big thrill. I was in the front row for real!

Meeting a hero is a thrill. When he's as nice and funny as Bob Uecker - it's a memory I'll never forget! Thanks to my friend Drew Olson for making it happen. What a great experience!

Meeting a hero is a thrill. When he’s as nice and funny as Bob Uecker – it’s a memory I’ll never forget! Thanks to my friend Drew Olson for making it happen. What a great experience!

Meeting Bob Uecker

September 22, 2013

Saturday September 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I have always admired Bob Uecker. I think he’s one of the absolute funniest humans of our time or any other time, and his multi faceted career of long lasting duration is about as impressive as it gets. He has long surpassed entertainment and is now part of American pop culture. Who hasn’t heard of ‘Uecker seats’? It’s part of our lexicon.

For whatever reason, people like to ask comedians who they think is funny. I’ve gotten that for as long as I’ve been a comedian – and that’s a long time. I don’t know why that should matter to anyone, but apparently it does. I’m a fan of the business and a student of the game, so I like a lot of different people for different reasons and many of those people are not known to the masses.

Anyone not in the business wouldn’t care about those reasons, and I totally get it. It’s an inner circle thing, and nothing is more boring than listening to someone prattle on with shop talk when they’re not in the same business. What the masses always want to hear are names of the famous.

I’ve been very lucky in my time to have either worked or crossed paths with some of the most famous comedians of the modern era including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and that’s not nearly a full list.

I don’t say this to brag, but I’ve been around the block a few times and crossing paths with all kinds of people goes with the territory. I could throw out hundreds of names nobody would care about except me and the people themselves, but that doesn’t capture imagintion like fame does.

Everyone always wants to know “what they’re like”. They’re people, and people are people on all levels. Some are nicer than others, and depending on the day and time you meet them they’re exactly like people are. I’ve rarely been in awe of meeting anyone famous for that exact reason.

As a result, my meetings with celebrities have traditionally gone very smoothly. I’ve treated all of them like people, and that’s how they responded. Only a very few times have I ever been even the slightest bit star struck, and even then in the end it turned out well. Again, they’re just people.

The Holy Trinity of funny people on my personal hero list that I’ve always wanted to meet are (in no particular order) Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and Bob Uecker. I did get my chance to meet Rodney and George, and both were not only extremely warm and gracious but I also was able to make them laugh. The thrill of having that happen will stay with me the rest of my life.

Tomorrow, I am finally going to get my chance to meet Bob Uecker thanks to my friend Drew Olson. Drew was the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for years, and he’s said in the past he’d gladly make it happen. I’ve never liked asking for favors, but this time I did.

The last game of the season is tomorrow, and the Brewers are out of the playoff picture. I don’t like to bother people, but all I want is to shake Bob’s hand and tell him how much I admire what he has accomplished and what a fan I am of his work on so many levels. It would mean a lot, and if I would happen to be able to make him laugh even once it would make my year. Moments like this are what life is all about. I just hope I don’t stumble and stammer and make an ass of myself.

The great Bob Uecker. Thanks to my friend Drew Olson, I get to meet one of my all time heroes tomorrow!

The great Bob Uecker. One of the funniest humans or our time or any other time.

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of 'The D-List' on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of ‘The D-List’ on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

Radio Rage

September 21, 2013

Friday September 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I had breakfast with my web designer Mark Filwett today. He did outstanding work on my site http://www.schlitzhappened.com and he’s about to redesign my personal site http://www.dobiemaxwell.com as well. If you know of anyone that needs web help, contact him at http://www.lakecountygeeks.com.

Mark is nothing short of brilliant in his creativity, and he and I have developed a solid synergy since we’ve been working together on web projects. I must admit I was a bit reluctant to hire him at first, as we were friends from having worked together in radio for years. That can be a minus.

I have often found it’s best to hire a total stranger, as then if there’s a problem sugarcoating it is not an issue. Doing business with friends can be very delicate, but we’ve had no problems and I don’t foresee any. I’ve paid up front to date, and even though it’s not as much as I’d like to be able to pay he gets it and has done stellar work in my opinion. I’m very satisfied with everything.

What neither of us is satisfied with is how poorly the radio business operates and why we have to do other jobs to scrape together a living in the first place. We both have paid our radio dues in full, and have roamed all time zones in America learning our craft in strange cities and towns we likely never would have set foot in had we not had the sick inner compulsion to be on the radio.

There are only a few ‘naturals’ I’ve ever heard on the air, and Mark is one of them. He’s full of both talent and passion for the business, and I always saw him as a big market personality had he chosen to do that. If I owned a radio station, he’d be one of the first people I’d hire to be on air.

Mark put more effort into his shifts than anyone I’ve ever seen. Once in a while I’d be hanging around the station doing something when he’d ask me to be a caller or help him put together a bit of some sort. That always impressed me, and it still does. The guy loves to be on the radio, and it shows. The sad part is there are a lot of Mark Filwett types who aren’t working, while idiots are.

Radio is the one industry I’ve ever seen where the biggest non talents can keep their job for far too long. In comedy, if someone stinks it’s very evident by the consistent silence from audiences. If it’s not working – everyone knows it. In radio, people can sit in a room and not have to see the audience as it’s scattered all over. One may think he or she is doing well when in fact they aren’t.

Any entertainment field is full of insecurity, but radio is the cake taker. I’ve never seen such an insane bunch of self important backstabbing liars, but often they’re the ones that are able to keep their job for twenty years while fresh creative talents get shown the door. Why? They’re a threat.

I could name a long list of dolts, but I won’t. Mark and I listed quite a few at breakfast, and we were both nauseated to the point we could barely finish eating. The only talent these snakes have at all is managing to keep their jobs as long as they do. It’s not right, but it’s common in radio.

There’s no reason Mark or I shouldn’t land a solid job at a major market station other than both of us are more concerned about doing a quality broadcast than impressing an idiot nipple tweaker in charge who has two first names like ‘Mike Michaels’ or ‘Steve Stevens’ and couldn’t produce an original creative idea with a funnel and a magnet. Bitter? A smidge, but we’ve earned a right.

Need computer help? Call Mark Filwett. He's not half as geeky as his logo.

Need computer help? Call Mark Filwett. He’s not half as geeky as his logo.

Desperation Doesn’t Lie

September 21, 2013

Thursday September 19th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

I think I spent the single best dollar I’ve ever spent today. I had a few stops to make in Chicago and one of them happened to be near where I used to live in Andersonville near Clark and Foster. I really enjoyed my time there, but the neighborhood changed quite a bit and rents skyrocketed.

It’s one of THE most diverse neighborhoods I have ever been to much less lived. It’s where the Swedish of Chicago first called home, and there’s still some Swedish influence remaining today including delicious restaurants and a museum. There’s also a large gay population which brings a lot more outstanding restaurants. There are some rough areas nearby, and that brings riff raff too.

It does provide an entertaining mix if nothing else, and I had some time so I walked around on Clark Street to enjoy the show. There’s never a shortage of unique humanity to gawk at, and on a sunny summer day they’re all out. I wasn’t disappointed as I made my way north from Foster St.

As I approached a McDonald’s, I couldn’t help but notice an old woman desperately asking all who passed her for money. I don’t know how else to describe her but one of the ugliest humans I have seen up close in a long time. I don’t claim to be any dreamboat sexpot, but she had a whole face full of ugly going on. She was striking, but not in the good way. Everyone was avoiding her.

My grandfather and I used to take walks when I was a small child, and he’d tell me there were homeless people and there were flat out bums – and there was a big difference. He couldn’t stand bums, as they were just looking for a free ride. Homeless people were an entirely different story.

Gramps told me the sure way to always tell if someone was a bum or really in need was to look them straight in the eye. “You’ll know immediately,” he said. “Desperation doesn’t lie. It will be in their eyes, and you’ll know it when you see it. Always take time to help whenever you can.”

This woman today was a total mess. She looked to be in her 70s, and who knows what sad tale of woe left her in this way? Her clothing was ragged and smelled like she’d just finished a rodeo, and her teeth barely numbered in the single digits. Her skin resembled a well worn catcher’s mitt.

As I got closer to the McDonald’s, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to avoid her pitch. She had persistence if nothing else, and all the rejection she got didn’t seem to bother her. I couldn’t help but see her face as she got a foot from mine and started wheezing her way through her sales pitch asking me for money. She was slow and stammering, and it took her a long time to muster it up.

What those others didn’t hear was, yes she wanted money…to buy a chicken sandwich. They’d long passed before she could get to that part, and she had no takers. I told her I wouldn’t give her money, but if she wanted a chicken sandwich I’d buy her one. That’s when the magic happened.

I saw that look in her eye that Gramps had talked about, and I could tell she was definitely not faking. When I told her I’d buy her that sandwich, her entire face lit up like that giant Christmas tree they decorate at the White House every year. I can’t remember ever feeling such a dynamic pulsating energy of pure and unadulterated gratitude in all my life. It made me step back a little, as it completely took me by surprise. Her entire countenance changed in barely a few seconds.

She was no longer the prune faced old lady that looked like Alice the Goon from the Popeye cartoons I watched as a kid. I felt a beam of spiritual light emanate from her and I gazed into the deepest part of her soul. I can’t explain it other than I felt a very real jolt of energy in that instant.

I asked if she wanted to eat inside the restaurant or if she wanted me to bring her the sandwich to eat outside. She followed me inside, and when we walked in I could feel every eye in the place staring as she limped her way to the counter behind me. It made me feel totally uncomfortable.

Apparently they had kicked her out of the McDonald’s more than once, and the manager came out from behind the counter to shoo her out once again. I told the manager I was going to buy the lady her chicken sandwich, and we’d both be gone in a minute. He was satisfied with that answer and instructed a counter person to take the order. Everybody in the restaurant was still gawking.

I asked the woman if she wanted anything else, and she shook her head no. All she wanted was a chicken sandwich, but I felt like buying her one of everything on the entire menu. I don’t know when she last had a meal of any kind, but if she wanted a chicken sandwich she’d surely get one.

She sat down at a table, and I watched as she gummed that sandwich with the few teeth she had left. It looked like a comedy sketch Carol Burnett would have done, but she had a look of content on her face as if she was eating the most expensive lobster on the menu at the finest restaurant.

Gramps was right – desperation can’t be faked. She needed that sandwich. This woman has had a rough go in life – a whole lot rougher than most of us ever have to face – and if all it took was a chicken sandwich to make her feel that good, count me in. She might have smelled a little ripe on the outside, but inside there was a whole lot going on there. That energy I felt was unmistakable.

As I watched her gulp down her sandwich, I tried to think of any time in my life when I was as hungry as she must have been and I drew a total blank. I’ve seen some troubled times of my own for sure, but nothing close to what must have put her in this bad of shape. My problems are zilch.

She finished the rest of the sandwich, and I asked if she wanted anything else. She again shook her head no and gave me a giant beaming sincere smile of gratitude that laid me out emotionally. It might have been short of teeth, but there was a major punch packed with her pure gratitude.

There didn’t need to be many words spoken. I felt her raw spirit, and it was a sweet one. There was a lot more to this person than that frightening outer appearance, and it felt like I was touched by a being of higher vibration than usual. I know it sounds goofy, but I can’t make any of this up.

I’m not bringing this up to try and pump myself up by what a wonderful guy I am for buying a homeless person a sandwich. I got a lot more out of her than she got from me. There was a very real and vibrant spirit inside her that I can’t remember being able to see so clearly in a stranger at any time in my life. Maybe it was a coincidence, but it sure felt like it was much more than that.

I was going to snap her picture with my phone, but decided against it. I thought she’d suffered enough, and didn’t want to make her more of a freak show. I don’t know why this happened, but I won’t soon forget it. If nothing else, I made Gramps proud. It was the best dollar I ever spent.

The best dollar I ever spent.

The best dollar I ever spent.

More Rejection Please!

September 21, 2013

Wednesday September 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

As crazy as it may sound, I need to have more rejection in my life. LOTS more. It’s no secret I haven’t been doing my due diligence as far as handling my bookings goes, and there’s absolutely no reason for it other than I can’t stand that part of the business and have focused on other things.

That’s going to have to change in a hurry, and it has already started. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is of ultimate importance, and if I ever want to achieve any real success at what I’ve spent so much time and energy on already I’m going to have to learn to like it or hire someone.

Some parts of life just flat out rot, even for the most glamorous of occupations. I’m sure being an astronaut has its fun parts, but crapping in a space suit doesn’t sound like one of them. Life is often a tradeoff, and we have to make sacrifices of things we don’t like to achieve things we do.

I still enjoy being a comedian, and if I want to continue I need to find a way to stay booked on a regular basis where I can make a living. There are more comedians out there looking to get the same bookings I am than ever before, so I’m going to have to step it up a few notches to survive.

The painful truth is, 99.999% of humanity doesn’t know I exist. That’s true for most everyone, but it’s especially bad for politicians and entertainers. If I am ever going to have a career instead of just a job in this business, I need to overhaul my methods and do it right. It’s been a weakness.

Getting rejected is unfortunately a major part of this game, and I’ve had a heaping helping of it for decades onstage and off. Sometimes I’ve handled it well, and other times beyond poorly. The onstage rejection I’ve learned to completely ignore. I have leathery thick skin, and have tanked it so many times it doesn’t affect me at all. Off stage is where I need to improve greatly, and I am.

Nobody likes being told they’re not good enough or worse yet totally blown off altogether, but that’s what happens on a daily basis as we try to procure work from people most of us wouldn’t choose to have personal contact with in any way if we didn’t need what they have. It’s insincere in my opinion, but also necessary. If we want work, we have to be known by those who have it.

I’ve always preferred to work for people I like and respect, but times dictate that is not always possible. Work is harder to come by than ever before, and nobody can afford to blow off possible bookings just because of a personal jag. Fortunately, I’ve already had my fallings out with most of the top flaming weasels in the business, and/or they have excommunicated me from their fold.

My big mouth has gotten me into trouble, and I’m not going to deny it. I tend to say what’s on my mind, and often it hasn’t been popular with the powers that be. It wasn’t necessarily smart to be that way coming up the ranks, although I still find it refreshing to know I had the guts to do it.

Guts are one thing, but smart business practices are another. I could’ve just as easily kept quiet and gotten a lot more bookings over the years than speak out and burn bridges like I did. It’s too late to change those particular situations now, but it isn’t too late to change how I handle myself. There are all kinds of bookers I’ve never worked for before, and I have a totally clean slate with all of them. Most if not all have no idea who I am, and it’s up to me to sell them on my ability.

I’ve said it before and it’s true more than ever – my true profession is now sales and marketing. It always was, I was just too stupid to see it. I was busy trying to be the ‘artiste’, but that’s never where the real money is. Art is fine, but that pesky word “starving” is all too often in front of it.

I’m not a fan of living like a cockroach, even though I’ve grown very accustomed to it over the years. I don’t mind a frugal existence, but I want it on my terms. Ramen noodles and Spam don’t taste that bad, but they’d taste even better if I had a million dollars in the bank. Just knowing that I could have filet mignon any time I wanted would do me fine most of the time. I’d like security.

So, is that “selling out”? I’m sure depending on the person being asked that term would pop up immediately, but so what? I’m sure had I been asked the question twenty years ago it would have made me flip out and go off on a tangent about staying true to one’s artistic vision and all of that.

I’m still very much into artistic vision, but there has to be business acumen along with it or it’s a dead end street with no way out. I know a lot of talented people who have sold themselves far too short – or worse yet not at all. If nobody knows I’m out here, how can I ever expect a career?

This is often a Catch 22 for most performers. Going to New York or L.A. was traditionally the main way to “get seen”, but that’s not where the pay is. Comedians or bands needed to get out on the road to pay the bills, and that’s the trap I fell into at an early age. It’s great to cut one’s chops on the road, but at some point there needs to be a payoff. I am now ready to get in line for mine.

I have been paying extra attention to this part of the process of late, and today I took part in an online seminar talking about marketing skills for entrepreneurs of all kinds. It was a solid hour of interesting tips and hints to make everyone’s online presence better, since that’s so crucial now.

I’ve got Facebook and Twitter accounts for both my comedy and ‘Schlitz Happened!’, but I’ve not taken them very seriously quite honestly. The seminar today had three ‘experts’ I never heard of preaching how important it was to grow and maintain relationships with social media contacts.

They made a lot of sense, and that’s just for ‘regular’ people with ‘regular’ businesses. I should be ten times ahead of the curve if I’m in the entertainment business, and that lit a fire in my pants to get out there and DO it. I need to be seen by more people, but that comes with more rejection.

Too bad. I chose to be in this racket, so I’m only cheating myself if I don’t put myself out there to EVERY SINGLE PERSON that could possibly book me for a show, and make myself readily available to get hired when an opening occurs. It’s a numbers game, and if I’m not out there with everyone else how can I ever expect to move ahead? This is a simple truth, but I haven’t done it.

The good news is, I can and will change it immediately. I already have a proven act, now I just need to let more people know it’s available for hire – and at reasonable rates to boot. I’m sure I’ll get rejected a lot in the process, but I’ll also get more work too. I’ll make that trade in a second.

If you aren’t my Twitter friend, would you please connect with me? I’m @dentedcandobie and @schlitzhappened. I also have a King of Uranus @UranusTweets. I’ve got Facebook accounts at http://www.facebook.com/dobiemaxwell and http://www.facebook.com/SchlitzHappened. I do appreciate it.