Archive for December, 2013

I’m A Dinosaur

December 21, 2013

Thursday December 19th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

This is supposed to be the best time in history to be alive, but I’m not so sure if I’m convinced. Technology offers a lot of wonderful conveniences we only dreamed about not that long ago, but the human side of life seems to be shriveling up before our eyes. Life is changing too fast for me.

I’m not saying I want the world to be Amish, but a little more stability would be nice. Reading is an example. Does anyone actually sit down and read a book or newspaper anymore? It’s all on the internet or kindle, and everything is fragmented. I know I sound like my grandpa, but I’m not in sync with how the world is going and it’s frightening. What will it be like ten years from now?

Quite honestly, there’s plenty of technology to last me the rest of my life. I don’t need to own a video game that decapitates space aliens and squirts real blood through my TV. The video games are becoming more and more realistic and life is becoming more like a video game. It’s insane.

I was left at the starting line growing up in the ‘70s. Video games were starting to take root but I never developed more than a casual interest. I had friends who had Atari games, and I’d maybe play once in a while but it was never an obsession. For whatever reason, I never became lost in it like so many millions are today. It’s a way of life for society, and I’m on the outside looking in.

Maybe I’m an old soul who lived many times before, but I’m satisfied with simple things. I am fully content sitting down and reading a book for an hour or two, and if anything I can’t find the time to do it as much as I’d like. If I had my way, I’d be able to have time every day for reading.

I do spend a lot more time than I would prefer reading and answering emails, but that’s not the same. I’m talking about plowing through a book from cover to cover and opening myself up to a line of thinking or bank of knowledge I hadn’t come across before to make me a smarter person.

It takes effort and discipline to maintain a reading schedule, just as it does to maintain any kind of daily regimen. I’ve managed to keep up with this diary for almost eight full years, even if I’ve missed a couple of days here and there. I always catch up and have an entry for every single day.

Have I physically exercised every day for the last eight years? Hardly. I’ve fallen behind and it needs to change yesterday. I’m out of habit, and it will be hard to get myself back in a groove but it’s a necessary inconvenience. If I let my health go, nothing else matters. I’ll be in a pine box.

It’s much easier said than done though. There’s just too much going on to easily make time for all the truly important things in life. Especially with my lifestyle as an entertainer, I’m constantly on the road trying to get somewhere to do a show, then get to the next place to do another one.

It’s impossible to get on a regular sleep schedule, and making time to exercise on a daily basis is harder than that. Eating right? Who can do that? My idea of a balanced meal is a cheeseburger in each hand, and I know that’s wrong. I was really doing well for a while, but I’m sliding back.

I think there’s something to be said about a simpler lifestyle. I don’t know where that fine line of moderation is, but we as a society seem to have crossed it. I’m enjoying my life as a dinosaur.

Technology passed me by years ago. I'm a Dobiesaurus.

Technology passed me by years ago. I’m a Dobiesaurus.

Hump Day Business

December 20, 2013

Wednesday December 18th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL

I’ve talked about it before, and I’ve even taken action and done something – but I need to carve out a few quality hours at the very least one day a week to work on my business. Wednesday is a perfect fit, and that’s what I’m going to make happen not only in 2014 but for the rest of my life.

There are no more excuses, but there never were any. I’m a flighty ‘artiste’ type, and business has never been a priority because it never interested me. I was totally lost in the creative process that I enjoy, and let my business slip through the cracks. I’m less than thrilled with those results.

I’m looking to totally revamp everything for 2014, and it’s off to a super start. I can already see improvement, and it’s not even 2014 yet. I’m getting a plan and a team together, and that’s what I should have had years ago. I didn’t, so all I can do is look ahead and control the things I can.

One of those things is how I choose to spend my time. If I don’t make time to work on business things, I’ll keep getting the results I’ve been getting. And not only do I have to make time, I have to actually DO something during that time. I don’t think I’m going to be able to handle it alone.

I’m putting a team together to make myself accountable to somebody else. That’s the only way I see as viable to make any real changes. I’ve talked about making Wednesdays my booking day before, and I’ve done it…once in a while. From now on, it has to be every week without missing.

For the last few weeks I’ve been meeting with my ‘pit crew’ Eric Feinendegen. I don’t mean it as an insult, but that’s what his role is. He’s behind the scenes taking care of important details as I’m out there trying to win the race. No races can be won without having both of those in place.

The best driver in the world can’t change his own tires and pump his own gas, and the best pit crew won’t win if there isn’t a quality driver out there on the track. It’s a team effort, but I have fought that concept for years because of my trust issues. That’s comes with being a dented can.

If I’m going to ever accomplish anything worthwhile, I’m going to have to make a tremendous leap and learn to delegate to others. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been badly scorched before – and I totally have – it only matters that I change my ways if I expect to attain the results I’m going for.

Eric is in place in the role of pit crew chief, and he brings a lot to the table I don’t. He’s from a corporate background, and is comfortable on the phone making cold calls. I’m none of that, but I do understand the entertainment game and I can teach him a few things there. We’ve been trying to get a plan together for a while now, and I see it coming together. We’re teaching each other.

As we grow as a team there will be others added. I can use all kinds of help, and I know a great circle of people that I can call in two seconds if I need anything. Eric has his own list of contacts, and we’ll cherry pick those we want to connect with to get things moving in the right direction.

Wednesdays are the ideal day to devote to this, as I rarely have shows to do or classes to teach. It’s a perfect day to send out my avails, do interviews or work on a newsletter – something I will be starting back up in 2014. If you’d like to be included on my list, send me your email address.

The best race car driver in the world can't win a race without a pit crew.

The best race car driver in the world can’t win a single race without a competent pit crew.

I'm putting together my own personal pit crew. Wednesday is the best day of the week to work on business related things.

I’m putting together my own personal pit crew. Wednesday is the best day of the week to work on business related things.

I'm starting a monthly email newsletter in 2014. If you'd like to receive it, send me your email address at dobiemaxwell@aol.com

I’m starting a monthly email newsletter in 2014. If you’d like to receive it, send your email address to dobiemaxwell@aol.com

Brand New Heroes

December 18, 2013

Tuesday December 17th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I’m finding myself thoroughly enjoying my focused pursuit of improving the marketing aspect of my career, and I predict enormous improvement in 2014. I’ve got a whole new area on which to focus, and it’s one that has been painfully neglected over a long period of time. It won’t take a lot to show significant improvement, but I’m shooting a lot higher. I want to be one of the greats.

That means I need a whole new set of heroes to emulate. When I was focusing on comedy and little else, I studied as many of the greats as I could in that field. I had my personal favorites like Rodney Dangerfield and George Carlin, but even if I wasn’t a fan I’d study anyone that had had even minor success. I watched everyone I could, and learned a lot even from the less than stellar.

The same is going to be true of my pursuit of marketing excellence. I wouldn’t put Dane Cook in the top 500 of comedy acts I’d study. He doesn’t make me laugh in the least and never has, but his marketing prowess fascinates me. He came along at a time where he saw how to use internet tactics to garner a loyal rabid following. He’s a master marketer, and one of my new templates.

I’ve always loved Jeff Foxworthy personally, but his marketing prowess makes me admire him that much more. He’s always been razor sharp in that department, and I am going to revisit what he did to put himself over the top. I respect the guy onstage and off, and there are lessons for me in what he did. I’m studying attributes in people I’ve never really paid close attention to before.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing, and sadly he passed away recently. I was fortunate enough to meet him at my friend Steve Olsher’s “Internet Prophets” event not long ago. I got to spend a few minutes with Jay, and really enjoyed his demeanor. He was charismatic.

Dan Kennedy is another name in marketing gurus. So is Jay Abraham. There are others thicker than bugs on a trucker’s bumper all over the internet, but I’ll start with the top recognized names and work my down from there. I am soaking in all I can, and loading my gun with new bullets.

I’ve always been fascinated by master marketers and promoters, but from afar. Now I’m doing it from a much closer point of perspective, and hope to become one myself. Names 99.9% of the public has never heard of but still became multi millionaires such as E. Joseph Cossman, Melvin Powers, Joe Karbo and others are the ones I’m going to study and model. Those are my heroes.

It honestly doesn’t matter to me if I ever get famous. I’d love to be well known, but that’s not the same animal. Matt Groening of ‘The Simpsons’ is well known. The Unabomber is famous. It doesn’t always pay a dividend to be famous. Infamy is technically fame, but I want no part of it.

Gene Simmons of KISS has always fascinated me. His marketing acumen is off the charts, yet their music is iffy at best. I’ve never been a KISS fan, but I love how they have created a money machine and I’d like one too. It doesn’t have to be as big, but steady cash flow would be sweet.

There are many others I haven’t even heard of yet, but for now I have a giant pile of articles to read and digest, and PDF files I’ve been compiling on my computer for years. I’m going to dig in and get to work. A lot of people have a big head start on me, so I have some catching up to do.

Can you identify this person? It's ok if you can't, he can buy and sell you and me like railroads on a Monopoly board. He's done ok for himself.

Can you identify this person? It’s ok if you can’t, he can buy and sell you and me like railroads on a Monopoly board. He’s done more than ok for himself.

Here's another face you may not recognize, but Jay Conrad Levinson made a huge mark with his 'Guerrilla Marketing' brand. He was a giant in his field.

Here’s another face you may not recognize, but Jay Conrad Levinson made a huge mark with his ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ brand. He was a giant in his field, and his work will live on.

Melvin Powers started the Wilshire Book Company and made millions over a fabulous career in mail order. I bought books from him, and eventually came to know him personally. He's a very generous person and extremely successful, even though most people have never heard of him. www.mpowers.com

Melvin Powers started the Wilshire Book Company and made millions over a fabulous career in mail order. I bought books from him, and eventually came to know him personally. He’s a very generous person and extremely successful, even though most people have never heard of him. http://www.mpowers.com

An Infamous Anniversary

December 18, 2013

Monday December 16th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

This is a date that has lots of personal significance – none of which I care to celebrate. It was in 2004 on this infamous date that I was unceremoniously shown the door at ‘The Loop’ in Chicago along with my friends Max Bumgardner and Spike Manton. It was a blow that we still feel today.

That was our shot at the big time, and we were just starting to hit stride. Nobody predicted that the company would be sold, and we were classic examples of ‘wrong place, wrong time’. It’s too late to change it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. We all took a direct shot to the face.

And if that wasn’t enough, December 16th is also the date in 1991 I rented a car and picked up my childhood best friend and my cousin Brett and we set off for Las Vegas. None of us had ever been there before, and it was supposed to be an adventure. It turned out to be a whole lot more.

Little did Brett and I know that my lifelong friend had robbed a bank where he used to work as head of security, and had two duffle bags full of stolen bank money in the trunk of that rental car as we drove across America. I wouldn’t find out for almost a year, and it ended up becoming the most painful thing I ever had to do – testify on a witness stand and send that “friend” to prison.

I still have nightmares occasionally, and I try not to let my mind go back there but on days like today I can’t help it. It seems like a different person in a different lifetime, but it really happened and it’s a hell of a story. I can say that with full confidence because I didn’t write one word of it.

It just happened, and I got tangled up in the middle. He decided he was going to rob that bank, and I had no idea I would end up involved. Then he decided to pull it off again a year and a half later, and circumstances forced me to have to testify against him and clear my name. At the end of the day he robbed the bank and I didn’t, and I wasn’t going to prison on anyone else’s behalf.

The whole story saddens me to think about, but the fact remains it is a hell of a story. There are lots of twists and turns, and anyone who hears it always says “Wow, that’s a movie!” I agree, but I wish I didn’t have to live through the nightmare that ended up taking several years to play out.

The “happy” ending was that I testified against someone that was closer than my blood brother, and he went to prison. It was a relief when the trial was over, but it was also painful. We’d come through a lot together, and he decided he wanted to be the bad boy and get even with life for the hand he was dealt. He’s a dented can too, and that was his way of fighting back. BIG mistake.

Tonight I was interviewed on WGN radio with Patti Vasquez. Patti does standup comedy, but also goes back and forth to Los Angeles pitching ideas of all kinds. She takes a cut of what gets sold, and she really hustles. I respect her tenacity, and she has agreed to pitch this story when she has an opportunity. We thought it would be a good idea to get the main outline recorded on air.

I told the story in about twenty minutes over two segments. I could see the others in the studio become riveted as usually happens. I’m telling you, it’s a fascinating story that listeners get lost in when they hear it, and I know it needs to see the light of day. Was it coincidence that Patti’s radio invite came on the anniversary? Who knows? What I do know is it’s an unforgettable tale.

I was on AM 720 WGN radio this morning telling a true story I still can't believe happened, but it did.

I was on AM 720 WGN radio in Chicago this morning telling a true story I still can’t believe actually happened – but it totally did.

Patti Vasquez has a show from 11pm to 2am on Sunday night/Monday morning. Thanks to her for having me on the air. www.pattivasquez.com.

Patti Vasquez hosts a show from 11pm to 2am on Sunday night/Monday morning on WGN. Thanks to her for having me on the air. http://www.pattivasquez.com.

Just A Beer

December 18, 2013

Sunday December 15th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

I have a friend I have known for probably thirty years who is unfortunately an alcoholic. He’s a nice person and we get along well, but after all these years he’s still drinking. He’s tried to give it up countless times, but he always goes back. It will probably end up killing him, and he knows it.

On one of his attempts to dry out years ago, he made a point to let everyone know how he was bound and determined to quit once and for all, and it was the most gung ho the rest of his friends and I had ever seen him. We all hoped he would be able to turn his life around and quit boozing.

About a month later I saw him at a restaurant with a beer. I couldn’t help seeing it in his hand, and he saw the puzzled look on my face and tried to explain himself. “Oh THIS? It’s just a beer. Those don’t count.” I didn’t say another word, and he has since slid back into his old lifestyle.

It’s not up to me to judge him or anyone else, but from where I sit I don’t see him ever making a permanent change. He might stop and start and pretend as if he is going to give it up once and for all, but he always goes back. He may be able to fool a few people, but never really himself.

That’s how I feel about my addiction to the Green Bay Packers. I go weeks without watching a game, but then I get an invitation to a friend’s house and I’m right back where I don’t want to be. It kills me when they lose, and despite all my attempts to not care I can’t help it. They’ve got me.

Everyone has left them for dead this year, and I see why. They have had devastating injuries to several key players including star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and they have been humiliated by several teams they likely would have ground into soup meat had they been playing at full roster.

My friend Mark Gumbinger lives in Kenosha, WI and has one of the best man caves anywhere. He’s got a basement that has a huge screen TV with Surround Sound, and there’s a fridge packed with food and drinks behind the bar. There’s a bathroom within 20 feet, and he’s a fabulous host.

That’s about as good as it gets for football watching, and he always sends out invitations for all his friends to show up whenever there’s any kind of sporting event going on. It really is a blast to hang out there, and I often go just for the company. I’ve grown to know and like the main core of guys that tend to show up, and it’s laid back and relaxed. Any guy would feel like he fits right in.

I spent the night in Milwaukee after two performances of “Schlitz Happened!”, and had to pass right by Mark’s house on my way home so I decided to stop and say hello. It was a late game and I ended up getting there right on time. They were playing Dallas in Dallas, and that’s a team they have traditionally had trouble beating. I didn’t hold out much hope, nor did the rest of the guys.

The first half was beyond our worst nightmare as the Packers got smoked like a picnic ham. It killed us to watch, but we’re all hooked so we sat there like idiots and stewed. I intended to leave at halftime, but we started talking and before we knew it the second half was starting so I stayed.

It was like two different games as the Pack came out like gangbusters and took it to the Cowboys from the start. They ended up winning by one point, and it was one of the most exciting halves of football any of us could recall. Just when I thought I was out…I’m IN. It’s “just a beer”. Right.

Any time the Dallas Cowboys and Darth Owner lose in humiliating fashion it's a good day - but it's especially sweet when it's the Green Bay Packers. This is a game for the ages.

Any time the Dallas Cowboys and “Darth Owner” lose in humiliating fashion it’s a good day – but it’s especially sweet when it’s courtesy of the Green Bay Packers. This was a comeback for the ages.

Dez Bryant is another smug punk I couldn't enjoy seeing it get stuck in his face any more. He walked off the field early - good riddance.

Dez Bryant is another smug punk I couldn’t enjoy seeing get it stuck in his face any more. He slithered off the field early like a crybaby. Good riddance!

First it was "The Ice Bowl" in Green Bay. This was "The Ass Bowl" with Jerry Jones and Dez Bryant. What a comeback! It was one for the ages.

First it was “The Ice Bowl” in Green Bay. This was “The Ass Bowl” with Jerry Jones and Dez Bryant. The villains get foiled, what a happy ending.

Strangers Wanted

December 16, 2013

Saturday December 14th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

I can’t keep up with how fast the weeks are flying by. This was my third Saturday of four total in this current run of performing “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” at Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. The calendar is on warp speed.

There is quite simply no better facility I have ever worked, and I never get tired of performing on that stage. It’s the ideal size, and everything about the experience is as fun as it gets. The staff is friendly, and they’ve grown up in or near Milwaukee so they get exactly what I’m trying to do.

I feel so at home because it IS my home. There’s no other place on the planet where I can have that much history to fall back on at any given time during a performance. I was born and grew up within a few miles, so I’m in my element. It’s exactly what I pictured, and it’s working perfectly.

If I’m a draw anywhere, it’s here. People I went to grade school and high school and worked at any number of dead end hellish jobs with not only regularly come out to see me but bring friends along. It’s a venue that has been built specifically for entertainment, and where I want to be seen.

Tonight my cousin Wendy came out and brought about a dozen people to the early show. Most if not all of those people have seen me before, and that always makes me work harder as I like to do at least a little something different that they haven’t seen. I want to make it worth their while.

Music is completely different in that people are disappointed if they don’t hear the hits they’ve bought tickets to hear. That’s why they buy tickets in the first place. Comedy is on the other side of the coin. If people hear something they’ve heard before, they tend to feel like they’re cheated.

I do notice that there are a core of fans for any comedy performer that love to hear the hits over and over, but that’s not the majority. Brian Regan has rabid fans that will call out specific chunks of material they want to hear – kind of like asking a band to play hit songs – and then he does it.

I’m starting to get that too, at least a little. I have a chunk of material I’ve done for years about a waitress named “Doris the Porkasaurus” that seems to resonate with fans who enjoy what I do. I frequently have people ask me to do it, and there’s a fan named Harriett Leo that comes to see me every time I’m at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL and brings a group along with her.

She’s heard that bit dozens of times, but it’s her favorite and she always makes it a point to ask if I’m going to do it. I always do whenever she’s there, because that’s why she shows up. I want to give whatever fans I do have whatever they want, and she always comes back so it’s working.

I feel the “Schlitz Happened!” fan base building, and it’s exciting. My cousin Wendy showing up is great, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support. Unfortunately, strangers are the ones I need to win over but that’s working too. I’m seeing those who have started to become regulars.

I know in my heart there are at least a million people that would enjoy the Milwaukee flavor of this show, and I want every last one of them to come see it. There are two more chances with this run, and I hope many strangers show up. My aim is to turn them into friends. http://www.paysbig.com.

Six 'Schlitz Happened!' shows down, two more to go in this run. The final performances are Saturday December 21st, 2013 at 7 and 9pm. www.paysbig.com.

Six ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows down, two more to go in this run. The final performances are Saturday December 21st, 2013 at 7 and 9pm. http://www.paysbig.com.

Christmas Comedy

December 14, 2013

Friday December 13th, 2013 – Antigo, WI

Who says Friday the 13th has to be full of bad luck only? I caught a major break with a comedy fill in Christmas party booking in Antigo, WI tonight, and I couldn’t be any more grateful. Roger Radley is a comedian from Wisconsin, and he originally got this booking but already had a gig.

These next two weekends are ripe for company Christmas parties, but unfortunately sometimes multiple opportunities come up that aren’t doable and need to be passed on to someone else. I’ve been there myself and it’s frustrating to have to leave money on the table, but there’s no choice.

Once in a great while there are two parties in the same area at different times, but that’s pretty rare. Next week I have an afternoon party on Saturday in the Chicago area, and then I do ‘Schlitz Happened!’ in Milwaukee that night. I get a double payday, and life is sweet when it works out.

More often than not it doesn’t, and that’s why Roger passed this party on to me. He’s working a show somewhere else for more money, and that’s great. I am thrilled he thought of me for this one, and hopefully he can come in next year and get the payday here. They were all nice people.

The company was called Volm Manufacturing, and my contact person was a lady named Tami Stueck who couldn’t have been easier to deal with. She was extremely on the ball, and I wish all contact people were like her. She got back to me immediately with any questions I had, and was always pleasant to deal with. She sent me a contract, and every detail was followed to the letter.

Christmas parties can be difficult for many reasons, a major one being that the company is not in the entertainment business. They know nothing about putting on a show, and often conditions can be downright nasty. Tami made sure I had a sound system and a DJ to give an introduction.

The DJ was a great guy too, and took great pains to get my credits so he could give me a solid introduction. Not many DJs will show that kind of respect, but this guy totally did. His name was Brandon Irish, and goes by ‘DJ Irish’. He gave me a stellar intro, and that always makes it easier.

There were several hundred people in attendance, and it was a wide range of ages. That can be an issue, much like trying to DJ a wedding. No matter what song gets played, someone will hate it. It’s a challenge to grab an audience like this and keep everyone for the whole show, but that’s the job so I did my best. In these situations it’s always best to err on the side of clean vs. dirty.

Indirectly I was representing Roger, but Tami was the person at risk because if I got out of line it would bounce back on her. She was such a sweetheart to deal with that I wouldn’t want to put her in that kind of a spot, so I found myself being extra cautious so I wouldn’t put her in danger.

What ended up helping was a lone Minnesota Vikings fan who’d had a few decide to pipe up at me from the bar. I easily put him in his place, but not in a nasty way and that got the audience on my side. I didn’t have to get ugly, and the crowd loved it. I’m there for them, so I’ll do whatever is necessary to please them. These aren’t career gigs, but they are decent money and every penny of what I made tonight after expenses will go to paying off my credit card. I’ll take bookings like this any time, and shut my mouth. I stayed in a nice hotel and got my check. Thank you Roger!

 Friday the 13th doesn't have to be bad luck only. Today Mr. Lucky caught a break and I'm grateful.

Friday the 13th doesn’t have to be bad luck only. Today Mr. Lucky caught a break and I’m grateful.

Wisconsin comedian Roger Radley had another gig tonight, but he recommended me for a Christmas party in Antigo, WI. Thanks Roger!

Wisconsin comedian Roger Radley had another gig tonight, but he recommended me for a Christmas party in Antigo, WI. Thanks Roger! http://www.rogerradley.com

Tami Stueck and everyone at Volm Manufacturing were both easy and pleasant to deal with.  A sincere thanks to them as well.

Tami Stueck and everyone at Volm Manufacturing were both easy and pleasant to deal with. A sincere thanks to them as well.

New Sheriff In Town

December 14, 2013

Thursday December 12th, 2013 – Stevens Point, WI

I have a comedy booking tomorrow in Antigo, WI, which is about an hour away from Stevens Point where my cousin Leah lives with her husband Rob and their daughter Janine. Leah’s father and mine were brothers, but neither should have sired. Their parenting skills were nonexistent.

Despite the fact they rarely if ever got along in life, they both left this world the same cowardly way by defiantly refusing to help their children and neglecting to pay their bills leaving a horrific mess to clean up. They both took dysfunction to a whole new level, but never showed remorse.

My father died in 2007, and Leah’s on New Year’s Day of 2012. She bent over backward to be ‘the good daughter’, yet he crapped all over her and her brother Brett. I still can’t understand the reasoning behind how he or my father acted, but now they’re both dead and nobody misses them.

I hadn’t seen Leah in a while, and it was good to catch up with her and Janine over a pizza at a great little joint in downtown Stevens Point called “Bill’s”. It has become our traditional meeting spot, and we’ve made many fond memories there – a lot more than we ever had with our fathers.

Janine is going to be 20 next month, and she’s just a peach. I’ve watched her grow from a baby to a teenager and now a young lady, and even though she’s technically not my niece she calls me Uncle and I think the world of her. She won’t have the dents in her can like Leah and I still do.

My attempt to escape the horrors of childhood was to become a comedian and roam as far from Milwaukee as I could assuming that would dilute the pain. Leah’s was to marry Rob and move to Stevens Point when Rob found a job as a corrections officer. They wanted to start their own life.

I wouldn’t last very long in a small town, but I respect them for having the guts to pack it all up and start over from scratch. They distanced themselves from dysfunction in their own way, and it worked. They raised Janine with love in a house in the country, and for them it was a good plan.

Rob had to work and couldn’t join us to eat, but Leah told me he’s running for Sheriff in 2014. That’s a major undertaking by any standards, and he’s got a lot of work ahead of him. I’m happy he will be taking this gigantic step, and I really hope it happens for him. He’s paid a lot of dues.

I don’t know of a harder working or more straight shooting guy than Rob, and if he gets elected he will do a stellar job. He truly cares about people, and has the demeanor to pull it off. He loves living in Stevens Point as does Leah, and even though I kid them all the time and call them “The Clampetts” I have nothing but respect for how hard they have worked to build themselves a life.

It takes gargantuan gonads to go after a dream, and that’s why I’ll support Rob to the bitter end with this effort. Win, lose or draw, he’ll run an honest campaign and give his best. Very few ever lay it on the line, and he is. How exciting! My father and uncle went to their graves not swinging.

There are no guarantees Rob is going to win, but I’m extremely proud of him for going through with it even this far. He’s made up his mind to go for it, and that’s the kind of spirit I admire. It’s an adventure and that’s what life should be for us all. My father and uncle never got that concept.

America's favorite Sheriff is Andy Taylor of Mayberry.

America’s favorite Sheriff is Andy Taylor of Mayberry.

Running a close second is Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit.

Running a close second is Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit.

My cousin Rob Golla is running for Sheriff for real in 2014. Go cuz go!

My cousin Rob Golla is running for Sheriff for real in 2014. Go cuz go!

A Marketing Mark

December 12, 2013

Wednesday December 11th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I tried to come up with a rough estimate of the total number of people I’ve performed for in my entire lifetime, but it’s almost impossible to be anywhere close to accurate. If I had to guess on a round number it would have to be right around a cool million. It gets confusing, but let’s explore.

I began performing standup comedy in November of 1983, but that was once a week for maybe 40-50 if I was lucky. It took a while to get going, but by 1985 I was working steadily in comedy clubs six or even seven nights a week. That’s how most clubs ran then, and stage time was easy.

I worked year in and year out, even when I had my various radio jobs around the country. I was always diligent about getting on stage, and even though it was often a five to ten minute guest set I still count that as performing. That steady unfaltering consistency lasted roughly through 2010.

The last three years have been much slower, but it’s been that way for everyone. Few clubs are open six or seven nights a week as was commonplace in the ‘80s, and all too often my work now boils down to a weekend. Sometimes it’s only one night of that weekend. It’s just not like it was.

Some shows I’d perform for 30 and others 300 – sometimes on the same night. If I had to pick a number to average it out, I wouldn’t have a clue. Let’s just throw out 100 as a round number to start with, and multiply that by roughly 250 shows a year. Sometimes it was even higher, but for the most part that’s probably pretty close to how many it was the years between 1985 and 2010.

That’s 25 years of averaging around 250 shows a year for roughly 100 people each show. That adds up to 625,000 people, but who knows if it’s accurate? What if the average was 150? It may or may not be closer to reality, and that would bump it up to 937,500. That doesn’t count the two years it took to get up and rolling or the last three years where I did still work as much as I could.

And I’m not including any of the radio or TV I’ve done. I’m just counting live standup comedy performances, and to the best of my backwoods figuring capabilities I’m somewhere close to the one million mark of those who have seen me perform live. Out of six billion, I’d say that’s low.

Not only is it low, it took a lifetime to achieve it. Granted, I was told that the audience on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” reached about two million viewers. I don’t remember who told me that or even if it’s accurate, but that’s what I heard. I also was told our weekly number of listeners when I was on the morning show on 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was around 250,000.

I’ve been on the Bob and Tom radio show six or seven times, and they allegedly have several million listeners in roughly 200 US markets. All these numbers don’t mean much, and I have no way of getting a realistic head count so I won’t even try. I’ll just say I’ve been around the block.

The point I’m trying to make is that my goal is to get $20 from all of these people. That could be a ticket to a live show, a CD, DVD or all three. Maybe it’s a t-shirt, baseball cap, fishing lure, codpiece or any other bauble or trinket in any conceivable combination. Live shows are fine, but merchandise is what shoots income over the top. All the great marketers are documented masters of “back of the room” sales, and I intend to be right up there with the best that have ever lived.

It’s not just a matter of hauling around a bunch of random doo dads though. I think there needs to be some thought put into it, and the products have to have something that sells them. I guess it could be called a gimmick, but I don’t want to rip anyone off. I want to find what sells a product and do just that. I have no idea what that is right now, but I intend to find out sooner than later.

Say my first estimate of 625,000 people was accurate for argument’s sake. What if I had begun selling a lot earlier than I did, and gotten $20 from only 10% of those people? That’s still the tidy sum of $1,250,000. Even after taxes, that would be a nice little chunk of change to have handy.

I started selling CDs in 2003, only because people were asking me for one. I did sell some, but also gave away a whole lot too. I thought it would get my name out there, and it has. I get people sending me emails saying they had a friend loan them my CD and now they’re a fan. That’s nice.

‘Nice’ doesn’t cut it however. Would it be that difficult to get their email address and put them on a mailing list? Not at all. Then they could find out where I’m performing, and maybe it would even be in their area where they’d come out and see me live. If I had other products, they may be so inclined to buy some or all of those as well. I have missed out on literally millions of dollars.

I remember having the idea to record an album back in the late ‘80s. NOBODY back then was selling anything once again with the exception of James Gregory and I have always respected his vision. Comedians used to poke fun at him for doing it, because they were ‘purists’. Right. Those ‘purists’ were too busy guzzling booze, snorting cocaine and chasing waitresses to be marketers.

I was never a partier, but I also never focused on my business either. I had more than my share of other problems to worry about, but had I been smart I would have done that album when I had the idea. Nobody was doing anything like that then, and even though it likely wouldn’t have been very good I bet I could have sold some just because I had it. It would have been worth the effort.

Brad Tassell is from my comedy generation, and he wrote a book called “Hell Gig” about what it was like to live on the road and do comedy. Nobody else had a book then, and I always thought Brad was brilliant for writing it. He sold them after shows, and I bought one out of respect for his effort. He was far ahead of his time, and it’s still available today. Find it at http://www.streetjoke.com.

Heywood Banks is another terrific marketer from the standup world. At last count there were 6 t-shirts, 9 CDs and a book available on his site at http://www.heywoodbanks.com. Actually, he’s from the music world but crossed over into standup many years ago. Most comedians are poor at sales.

James Gregory is a self admitted ‘salesman who tells jokes’. He’s another all star marketer that used standup comedy as his sales base. His site is http://www.funniestman.com, where you can buy his products 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The internet has only made the great marketers greater.

Larry Winget is a master marketer in the speaking world. He’s got a ton of books, and I always see his emails announcing a new one. His site is http://www.larrywinget.com. Dale Irvin is another one who has released a collection of books. I believe his total is 8. Count them at http://www.daleirvin.com and sign up for his ‘Friday Funnies’ email and/or video. That’s another brilliant hook he’s known for. I have plenty of stellar examples to follow – now I need to make my own mark as a marketer.

It wasn't at first sight, but I'm growing to love marketing - or the 'business' side of my 'show'.

It was far from “at first sight”, but I’m growing to love marketing – aka the ‘business’ side of my ‘show’.

Hopefully, this will be the response I get.

Hopefully, this will be the response I get – figuratively and literally.

Redd Foxx

December 11, 2013

Tuesday December 10th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I’m a day late, but I would be remiss if I didn’t remember the birth date of John Elroy Sanford – aka Redd Foxx – who was born on December 9th, 1922. He was influential to comedians of both his own generation and those that followed him, and in my opinion has always been under rated.

I first discovered him like most Americans from his role as Fred Sanford on ‘Sanford and Son’ in the ‘70s, but I later came to realize how important a figure he was in the bigger picture of the 20th century standup comedy scene. He was a groundbreaker and trendsetter with ‘party records’.

Those were recordings of standup comedy shows that were risqué for the time, but pretty tame by today’s standards. Before cable TV and the internet, it was the only source of entertainment at most parties and it filled a void. Redd Foxx realized this, and was smart enough to carve a niche.

I saw an interview with him years ago where he talked about having the reputation of doing X rated material or ‘working blue’, and he said the only reason he did it was that there was no place else for the public to get it at the time. It was strictly a business decision, and it worked for him.

Redd appeared on about 50 of these records, and I remember owning several through the years. I’ve moved so many times I eventually ended up dumping all my vinyl albums, but I do wish I’d held on to an autographed album I bought at a rummage sale for $1. I should have had it framed.

Redd worked the ‘chitlin’ circuit’, which is a nice way of saying he played hell holes sweating to squeak out a living just like I’ve been doing my entire adult life. I can only imagine the glut of horror stories he must have had trying to pry payment out of club owners and living on the road.

He wasn’t paid nearly enough for his record sales, even though it did help make him a name to sell tickets for his live performances. He came along at a time where there wasn’t much recourse but to keep working and squeak out a living. He paid his dues, and deserved his eventual success.

I thought Sanford and Son was a very funny show, and still do. Redd’s character holds up well in my opinion. It was always a highly rated show at the time, and my grandparents both loved it so that says a lot. They had different senses of humor, and as a kid I liked it too. It was universal.

Jerry Dye is a Chicago comedian who was born in Mississippi, and is in the generation before me. I worked with him many years ago, and he told me he used to write for Sanford and Son. He said that Redd was notorious for putting as many of his chitlin’ circuit friends on the show as he could. It might only have been a small speaking role or even an extra, but he took care of them.

I always thought that was classy, and should I ever have the ability to do that I’d absolutely do it too. It would be a thrill to be able to give people national television exposure, especially those who have paid dues and deserved it. Redd shared the wealth, and I loved hearing that from Jerry.

Unfortunately, Redd had some nasty issues with the IRS. Rumor has it he owed millions when he died. He was a performer first and business wasn’t a priority. Boy, can I relate to that mindset. Still, Redd Foxx was a pioneer and I greatly respect all of his work. He’s up there with the best.

Redd Foxx was the undisputed king of 'party records'.

Redd Foxx was the undisputed king of ‘party records’.

His major fame came from his role as Fred G. Sanford - the name of his deceased older brother.

His mainstream fame came from his role as Fred G. Sanford – the name of his deceased older brother.