Posts Tagged ‘career’

An Extended Mess

July 23, 2014

Friday July 18th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

My life is an extended mess, and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s not messy like a lot of people, and in fact my mess is pretty boring. There are no drug or alcohol addictions or cheating on my pregnant wife with a secretary. But it’s still there. A mess is a mess, and they’re a bitch to clean.

I am flopping around desperately like a fish in a boat, with a giant hook in my mouth. My eyes are bugged out and I’m suffocating – with water just inches away. If someone would remove the hook and toss me back in the water, I would have a chance to start over. I would like that chance.

The hook in my mouth is being an entertainer. I have given up everything else in order to attain a skill level most never come close to, but it has put me in an unstable financial position. I can no longer earn a living like I have all of my adult life and my eyes are bugging out. I’m suffocating.

But water is just inches away. All it would take to turn my life around is one phone call with an extended run of bookings somewhere. It could be comedy clubs, casinos, cruise ships colleges or I could write for a TV show. I could also do radio. It’s not like I’m a total zero. I have a skill set.

The skill set I have is very specialized, and those that are at the top end of the scale are hauling in enormous bank. I don’t need that right now quite honestly. I’d be thrilled with medium money on a steady basis, but entertainment is a feast or famine game. I am smack dab amidst a famine.

There are few if any entertainers that don’t experience this at some point, but many have a nest egg put away to fall back on during the lean times. I had one started, and a nice one at that. Then I had a “worst case scenario” pop up in 2011 and health problems cleaned out every last nickel.

This was after getting blasted out of a radio gig in 2004 that would have paid great money and offered full insurance benefits so the crisis in 2011 wouldn’t have been nearly as devastating as it was. But it was. And ever since then I have been watching everything I have worked so hard for for so long dry up in front of my eyes. I know I’m not the only one suffering, but it’s still a mess.

How does one manage to clean up a life mess? It usually takes a while for one to develop, and it can’t be taken away in one fell swoop – even though that’s what most of us expect. It’s like the dieter that took a lifetime to put on that extra 100 pounds, but expects to take it all off in a week.

It’s not realistic, and in fact it’s dangerous to even try. There has to be a slow steady battle plan in place, and it’s neither pleasant nor easy. But that’s what it takes to achieve desired results, and it gets harder as one gets older because so many other things pop up and become obstacles also.
I’ve got so many problems right now I have no idea where to start. I do a little something every day on as many as I can, but then I look at how high the mountain is and I lose hope. What’s the solution? I sure wish I knew. A steady income would make things a lot easier, but how to get it?

I’m working on getting a resume out to ‘normal’ jobs, but I can’t lie. My heart isn’t in it. I need stability, but I sure don’t want to do it this way. Landing another radio gig that lasts several years would be ideal, but who is passing those out these days? Nobody. Back to cleaning up my mess.

Sometimes I feel like a fish sitting at the bottom of the boat - with water just inches away.

Sometimes I feel like a fish sitting at the bottom of the boat – with water just inches away.

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The Unenviable Fraternity

July 3, 2014

Sunday June 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Since I was already on the far south side of the Chicago area yesterday without a gig, I decided to call some of my friends to see if I could find anybody home. I don’t get that far south as much as I probably should, and I have a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. Why waste the chance?

Tim Slagle was the first to call back, so we got together at his house in Dyer, IN. Tim and I are a lot alike in that we tend to polarize people, and then make it worse by not caring what anybody thinks. We have both burned a few bridges in our time, but that happens with a lot of performers no matter the genre. People with strong opinions who don’t have power tend to become pariahs.

If and when these people happen to catch a break, their past sins are often forgiven because of their newfound success. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon then, and that’s just how the game works. Tim and I are two examples of many who made a living, but never hit our jackpot.

Personally, I really like Tim both onstage and off. He is brilliantly funny, and even though his style is completely different than my own I am a huge fan of his work. He’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, and sometimes more than a few. That takes gargantuan testicles, and I respect him.

We are part of the unenviable fraternity of comedians that came through the boom years of the ‘80s but never got a sitcom. It seemed like everyone did – and there were quite a few – but there were a lot more of us that didn’t find our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and are now in our 50s and 60s wondering how we’re going to pay our bills next month. That’s not the place to be.

At least former athletes have a pension plan if they played long enough. I’ve been around three other genres of the entertainment business in standup comedy, pro wrestling and radio, and none of those three have any kind of financial security. One either makes it big or they starve. Period.

I was trying to figure out the actual number of long time road dog comedians that are now in a similar position, and I would guess it to be maybe three to five thousand. I am not talking about part time weekend warriors, as there are thousands more of those scattered across the continent.

I’m talking about people like Tim and me and all the others that came up during the boom and are now struggling to stay booked every week. That was never a problem before, but times have changed drastically in the last few years and that includes a new generation of wannabe comics.

The newbies of today don’t have the opportunity we did to get out on the road and earn a living at a young age. The work isn’t there for them either, and the whole business is changing. It’s the law of supply and demand in full effect, and unfortunately the demand has gone down while the supply has exploded. There isn’t enough quality work for everybody and there needs to be a cull.

I’m sure this process has happened in other businesses too, but I can’t think of any because this is the one that I have chosen. I was a ring announcer and promoter in wrestling and I’ve seen that business go through changes too. It takes a very specialized set of skills to succeed in that racket. Radio is another business on the slide for many reasons. I guess I just don’t know how to choose a career very well. I’ve had a long run in comedy, but I see the future and know I need a change.

Tim Slagle is a comedian that does comedy for smart people. He's one of my favorites. Check out his hilarious CD 'Europa'. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle does comedy for smart people. He’s one of my all time favorites. Check out his hilarious CD ‘Europa’. It’s a classic! http://www.timslagle.com.

No More Toilets

December 7, 2013

Thursday December 5th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I’ve been in a pretty good mindset the last few days, and I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about the future. I tend to get very down this time of year, but what helps me get through is being booked a lot and performing regularly. I’ve been doing exactly that, and it has kept my spirits up.

I love to be on stage performing standup comedy. There used to be a period after that statement but I’ve amended it over the years. I love to be on stage in a quality venue, performing for people who are there to see me – or at the very least there to see standup comedy. Trying to fight drunks in saloons that have a poor imitation of a comedy night is not nor ever has been my idea of fun.

As I get older, I realize I have spent WAY more time than I should have in places I should not have been working. That’s the only game I knew, but I was too busy scraping together a living to try other avenues. I now realize in this moment of clarity that I have to evolve, and do it quickly.

I have intended to do this before, but I haven’t executed it even close to where I need to. I have made minimal progress, but I see it has fallen far short. I need to completely revamp my method of doing business, and get in front of an almost entirely different audience. I can’t continue as is.

This isn’t good or bad, it’s just a fact. Driving 600 miles for $200 was something I needed to do at one time because I needed experience. Now I have a surplus of that, it’s money where I have a shortage. I have plowed the field and cultivated a time tested product. I have a fully grown crop.

The last place I’m going to get top dollar for it is where I’ve been farming all these years. The comedy club business might make some club owners rich, but comedians – at least those like me that aren’t a legitimate draw – have to struggle to stay booked every week and that’s not right.

It’s also not going to change any time soon, so the one doing all the changing is going to have to be me. I’m fine with it, but unless I throw myself totally into the pool I won’t make enough of a splash to achieve the results I’m looking to get. There won’t be a future without total evolution.

I won’t be able to do it overnight, so I’ll still need to supplement my income with at least a few club dates in 2014. Zanies in Chicago has always been great to me, but they can’t book me every week. The key is to cherry pick the places I really want to work, and not just take any honky tonk hell hole gig that comes along. It goes against my nature to say no to work, but I’ll need to start.

The days of working the toilets need to be OVER, no matter how much I need the money. It’s a big drain on the psyche, and those gigs have never been what I aspire to. I want to build myself a career, and that requires a completely different strategy. I have the necessary skills, now it comes down to how well I can market myself. If I can get in the door, I know I can shine with the best.

My problem has been I have not been knocking on the correct doors. The solution is to change my mindset and go where I need to go to make what I want happen. That may involve moving to another city, and at this juncture I’d be fine with it. I’m not being held in Chicago, and although I really like it here I know I could survive just fine in any number of other places. The number one place I need to survive is in my own head. Once I’m at home there, my base city doesn’t matter.

The Chicago area is a great place to live, but maybe it's time to shake things up and move somewhere else.

The Chicago area is a great place to live, but maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit and move somewhere else for a fresh start.

I've always loved Atlanta. The climate is mild, and the women are gorgeous. It's a fantastic city.

I’ve always loved Atlanta. The climate is mild, and the women are gorgeous. It’s a fantastic city, and I have some great friends there.

Los Angeles has always been a favorite place of mine as well. A lot of people hate it, but that's them. I'd live there in a second if I had even half a reason.

Los Angeles has always been a favorite place of mine as well. A lot of comedians hate it, but that’s them. I would live there again in two seconds if I had even half a reason.

The best choice of all might be Las Vegas. It's close to Los Angeles, and it's an entertainment town. I've always liked it there too - except in the summer. Yikes. "Dry heat" my barbecued buttocks.

The best choice of all might be Las Vegas. It’s very close to Los Angeles, and it’s an entertainment town. I’ve always liked it there too – except in the summer. “A dry heat” my barbecued buttocks. But I’d still move there.

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.

Killing Poe

August 1, 2013

Tuesday July30th, 2013 – Mundelein, IL

   No sleep for me. After my grueling 24 hour marathon return trek from Florida, I was scheduled to be in Mundelein, IL at 10am on the set of the movie “Killing Poe”. I was supposed to film my bit part as a bumbling campus security guard several days ago, but as happens things fell behind.

   I’m fine with being flexible, but it sure would have been nice to get some quality sleep after the serious week of driving I just had. I didn’t get word until last night I would be needed today, and it sucked the wind out of my sail immediately. I did make the commitment though, so that’s that.

   Not showing up was not an option, so after getting to bed at 3am I dragged myself out of bed at 7 to make sure I would get there on time. They told me to “be prepared to kill time”, so I brought a thick book just in case but hoped I could zip in and zip out so I could go straight back to sleep.

   Anyone that has ever been on a movie set knows that absolutely NOTHING ever “zips” in, out or any other direction. It’s a long, slow boring process, and that’s why I’ve never wanted to be an actor. I love the immediate buzz of a live performance, but in retrospect I should have done both.

   The live performance is over forever as soon as the show ends, but TV and film work becomes a time capsule and endures indefinitely. I wish I would have realized that a lot sooner, and made the effort to pursue it even a little bit more. But I knew everything and wouldn’t hear of any of it.

   My role in this project doesn’t require much acting talent, but it is an integral part of a complex story line and it’s a fun character to play. I have seven lines, and I must have rehearsed them five hundred times in the last couple of weeks. I’ve never been good at memorizing lines, but I didn’t want to make me or anyone else look bad so I made absolutely sure I was ready when I got there.

   I’ve always respected the magnitude of any filming project, and the last thing I ever want to be is a prima donna or think I’m running the show. There are a lot of people in one place, and it’s not easy to pull everything together. I totally see why schedules fall apart, as glitches are inevitable.

   I made it to the set right on time, and was immediately told there would be a “slight delay” and they’d let me know when they’d need me. Everyone was very friendly, and I wasn’t about to tell them to hurry up because I knew that’s not how this game works. I waited until they were ready.

   Unfortunately, that took until 6:15pm. I felt the entire day slip away, but there was nothing any of us could do but wait it out. I read my book and shut my mouth, knowing in the long run this is a worthwhile opportunity. It’s my first speaking role in a feature film, and it gives me credibility.

   I should have been doing this decades ago, as I see now how the game works. Connections get made in situations like this, much like on a golf course in the business world. I got to chat with a wide array of people from actors to crew, and even got some one on one time with the director.

   Most of them found it fascinating I did standup comedy, and wanted to know more about it. It became obvious that this is how people network, and I should have been doing it all along. I did everything the director told me to do, and all my scenes went smoothly. I’m glad I showed up.

   It wasn’t the most convenient day to do this, but it was a very significant career leap for me. It will be a legitimate acting credit, and hopefully open doors I should have knocked on long ago.

Buddha, Confucius And Me

June 2, 2013

Friday May 31st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   “Out of chaos, one must create order.” – Dobie Maxwell, Low Rent Philosopher – 2013

   That sounds like something Buddha or Confucius might have uttered, and for all I know one or both of them did. Maybe one ad libbed it during an after dinner speech at a golf outing or awards banquet and the other stole and claimed it since they died only four years apart. (I looked it up.)

   I don’t know how either of their financial situations were, but mine is about as solid as Lindsay Lohan’s career future. In a word, that would be shaky. OH, is it shaky. Shaky like an earthquake. If I don’t do something about it in the very near future, I’m going to be sleeping in a state park.

   I have chosen to attempt to fix it in a way I haven’t attempted in a while – by having a plan and actually working it. That sounds like the easy answer, but for me it never is. I’ve managed to find ways to lose money that should have been in the bank like nobody I’ve ever seen. It’s uncanny.

   I’m out several grand in the last year or so for either gigs that fell out at the last minute or cash I am owed for various reasons – most directly connected to my generous nature (read: stupidity) and kind heart. When I’ve had money I’ve always been generous to a fault, and that has to end.

   I always gave until it hurt, and thought it would ‘come back around’. Well, it’s not coming and I’m really missing it. Also, I was able to get bookings without much effort because I have proven myself to be dependable, booze and drug free and a rock solid act. I was never worried about it.

   Things are changing now, and I need to follow suit. I’m not worried yet, but I am concerned as to how I’m going to make it through the summer months. I’m still a quality act, and I’ll get work again – but it goes in cycles. I just finished up several runs, and I am between booking blocks.

   The right thing to do is find more booking blocks, and contact people farther out. Most bookers of comedy clubs and even corporate work don’t just book one event or venue. I need to rattle the cages of everyone I’ve ever worked for that might book me back, and find a few more to acquire.

   In a perfect world – which it never is – one should be booking about six months out. That’s not always the way many bookers have done it lately, and with work falling out left and right there is more of a last minute feel than I’ve ever seen. I’m used to living that way, but I’ve never liked it.

   I’ve made a career on being available for last minute bookings, and there are always fallouts all over the country. I was always willing to drive from Albuquerque to Cincinnati on short notice if that’s what it took, but with gas prices and my time in the business I’m over it. I need to evolve.

   I had lunch today with Jayne Nordstrom from a group called ‘Visit Lake County’. It used to be called The Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I’ve been a member for years now. I get a few gigs a year, and the people there are easy to deal with. My membership includes help with networking other clients, and Jayne gave me some leads to contact for possible future work.

   Now is the time to start throwing out feelers for holiday parties, and in the past I have not made the effort to land any. I just took what came. Some years were better than others, but I’m in show BUSINESS and I have to get that through my thick skull. I have a bunch of leads to follow up on but they’re handpicked fellow members. Someone has to need my services for a holiday party or awards banquet, right? Chaos is not my preference. I have a sales career, and the product is me.