Posts Tagged ‘George Carlin’

Just Cos

July 13, 2014

Saturday July 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Today is Bill Cosby’s 77th birthday, and I challenge anybody to name a 20th century entertainer that has touched more people in a positive way. I sure can’t, and if there is one not only does my hat go off to that person, I will include my head along with it. Bill Cosby stands alone at the top.

My grandfather took me to see him when I was about 14. I will admit I wasn’t thrilled about it at first, mainly because I was a 14 year old know it all punk and didn’t think it would be any fun to have to sit through something like that. Looking back, I clearly see what a flaming idiot I was.

I remember getting to the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee with Gramps early and finding our seats. All that was on the stage was a microphone in a stand, and I remember experiencing an immediate sense of disappointment. I don’t know what I had expected, but it was more than that.

To make it worse, there was an opening act we had to sit through. It was a piano player named Walt Michaels. I don’t know why I remember his name all these years later, but I do. He wasn’t bad, and in fact he was unbelievably good – but I was 14 and knew everything about everything.

Then Bill Cosby came out and within ten minutes both Gramps and I were bent over clutching our sides with laughter. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. He proceeded to pound it out for an hour and a half, and by the time the show ended the entire audience could not breathe.

I was a fan from that day on, and I’ve never stopped. Especially since I’ve done comedy – or at least a reasonable facsimile of it – for so many years, my respect for what he has accomplished is enormous. His place in the all time annals of standup comedy is in stone, but he’s not done yet.

And that’s not counting what he accomplished in television. Fat Albert was a staple of the ‘70s on Saturday mornings, and I watched it regularly as did millions of kids of my generation. After that he only came out with the biggest sitcom of the ‘80s. Most mortal entertainer types would be thrilled to be able to lay claim to any one of those things. Bill Cosby is more than a mere mortal.

Sure, he had a few movies that flamed out. So what? Most of us never get even ONE chance to star in a movie and he got several. People make jokes about “Leonard Part 6” and “Ghost Dad”, but who wouldn’t love to be made fun of like that? If those are his worst problems, he’ll be fine.

I have been unbelievably fortunate to have met more than a few legendary comedians in person from George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks and others, but Bill Cosby is one I would still love to meet. I don’t know what I’d say other than how much I love his work, but that’s enough.

I wouldn’t consider myself a peer, as he’s pretty much in a class by himself. I’m a lifelong fan though, along with millions of others white and black, old and young, Northern and Southern and just about any other kind of difference. Bill Cosby has made more people laugh than anyone else.

Can anyone think of a higher honor than that? There isn’t one. If he’s a dented can he sure does hide it well, but it wouldn’t surprise me. We all are to some degree, but people like Bill Cosby do us all a favor and make the ride a little more pleasant. What an amazing contribution he’s made.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a career he has had. Wow.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a truly legendary career he has had. Wow.

My Legend Lives On

April 6, 2014

Saturday April 5th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Three shows were scheduled at Zanies in Chicago tonight – at 7, 9 and 11:15pm. There aren’t many venues outside of Las Vegas that do that anymore, and I’m probably one of few remaining hardcore halfwits that still enjoys the challenge. If I’m going to work I want to sweat, and this is equivalent to a marathon. It takes a lot of skill to pull off three solid shows, and total focus too.

The 7pm show is traditionally far more reserved, as most people are just getting out and many have not eaten dinner yet. I have to hit them hard, and often wake them up. The 9pm show is the ‘money show’, and is almost always sold out. That’s the prime spot in the week, and it’s usually the easiest and most fun. If a performer can’t nail the middle show Saturday, something’s wrong.

Then there’s that last one. That can be the killer, as the audience tends to be tired, well fed and often imbibed. Trying to break through all that can be very difficult, not to mention having done two previous shows already and not being able to remember if something was already said – and when. Only someone that has been in that situation can relate to that feeling, and it’s an odd one.

Sometimes doing two shows in a night can be confusing, as it can all tend to run together after a while. I know I’ve accidentally done the same joke twice in the same show, and the audience’s silence is an immediate indicator. I can’t believe this hasn’t happened to every comedian at least a few times, and I even saw George Carlin do it one time. It takes total concentration to avoid it.

I have enough material now where I can do bits only once in a night like this and avoid having to make it a major issue. It’s not always like that, and on the way up the ladder one has a limited amount of material and it can be a nightmare. By the third show, it’s easy to become totally lost.

It can be maddening, but I also think it’s tremendous training for someone that is looking to be a professional comedian. Three show nights weed out the weaklings in a hurry, and it causes one to constantly be on one’s toes the entire evening. Three shows mean three different audiences of three different temperaments, and often they react differently to the very same jokes. It’s tricky.

Call me a kook – and I freely admit that I am – but this has always been intriguing to me. I love to get out there and experiment in front of three audiences in one night, especially knowing there are zero guarantees I’ll be able to figure them all out. Most times I’m able to do it, but sometimes I’ll still have a rough one and that’s true for everyone. Nobody ever figures out every audience.

Tonight circumstances went way past standup comedy and reached a point where I questioned my very existence. I thought I had seen it all, but whenever I think that is when I will experience something that surpasses my boundaries of imagination and makes me realize I’m not in control.

Somewhere, somehow, some force in the universe is operating at a level which I am able to neither comprehend nor identify. Something’s going on over all of our heads, and there’s nothing any of us can do but accept it. I feel both helpless and frustrated, and the more frustrated I get the more helpless feel. If I hadn’t seen tonight unfold with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Things started off on quite the positive as I left home extra early, gassed up my car and found a gas station that was a few cents a gallon cheaper than the rest. That put me in a jaunty mood as it usually does – even though I only saved under a buck at most. I don’t know why that feels like a victory to me, but it does. It’s my personal revenge against OPEC, even though we all still lose.

The weather was finally spring like, and I drove into Chicago with my windows down and my spirits up. There was a run of great tunes on the radio for some reason, and I was ready to attack the stage and deliver three rock solid shows at Zanies. I expected to enjoy my evening of work.

When I arrived, I was delighted to discover the coveted but rarely open royal rock star loading zone parking spot on Wells Street directly in front of the club was indeed unoccupied and at my service for the evening. It’s free for any Zanies employee, and everyone fights to snap it up first.

I assumed I would be in for a stellar evening of laid back fun, but that’s when the fun stopped. The early show was one of the oddest I’ve seen in a long time. There was a group of a dozen or so that sat right in front and wouldn’t stop talking the entire show. They weren’t heckling per se, just commenting on everything any of us said. I didn’t fight them, and it evolved into a Q and A.

I don’t ever remember having to babysit an audience like that for an entire show, but they were not about to be quiet and I played the hand I was dealt. I received a healthy burst of applause as I left the stage, and people lined up to get the ‘I (upside down heart) URANUS’ bookmarks I have been passing out of late. I tried to be as polite as possible, but their bizarre behavior baffled me.

As I was walking back to the green room to wait for the second show, the power went out and left the entire club in the dark. I have been working at Zanies in Chicago since the ‘80s, and have never seen that happen before. It sent the staff into a temporary panic trying to locate flashlights.

We all went outside to discover the entire block on Wells Street was dark, and there was a long line of people waiting outside the club to attend the sold out 9pm show. I laughed inside because I knew there would be no show, even though I don’t know why I knew it. This was a Mr. Lucky story, and about thirty seconds later one of the wait staff said the same thing. My legend lives on.

They offered all the people in line some free tickets to another show another night with another comedian, and they dispersed peacefully. I was disappointed because I wanted to at least have an opportunity to rock the sold out cherry show of the week – but that’s never what Mr. Lucky gets.

We sat in the dark inside the club waiting for the lights to come on, and about 90 minutes later they did – just in time to seat the infamous late show. Tonight’s crowd was the absolute dregs of society, and they were blasted before they sat down. There was a big birthday party for a woman turning 40, and she was obliterated beyond recognition. She and her party babbled incessantly.

The other acts did their best, but by the time I got on stage there was no hope. They were loud and rowdy and nobody cared that any show was going on. Eventually the whole party had to get forcibly removed, and I stood on stage alone wondering why I was ever born. I still don’t know.

'Mr. Lucky' can be a really fun character to play on stage - but it's SO not fun to live in real life.

‘Mr. Lucky’ can be a really fun character to play on stage – but it’s SO not fun to live in real life.

It's kind of a cross between Wile E. Coyote...

It’s kind of a cross between Wile E. Coyote…

...and Job from the Old Testament. It's a combination of pain and frustration that's hilarious - when it's someone ELSE.

…and Job from the Old Testament. It’s a combination of pain and frustration that’s hilarious – when it’s someone ELSE’S.

Harold Ramis Respect

February 26, 2014

Monday February 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

It was all over the news today that Harold Ramis has passed away. I wasn’t aware he was sick, and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing. There aren’t many that can hold a candle to his list of accomplishments, and by all accounts I have ever heard he was an extremely nice person.

Where does one start with an industry giant like this? If I could score just ONE of the huge hits he had, I’d be on easy street for the rest of my life. He either wrote, co-wrote, starred, co-starred, directed or acted in several of the biggest and most impactful comedy films of the 20th Century.

The list of his successful projects is staggering, including “Animal House”, “Groundhog Day”, “Caddyshack”, “Ghostbusters”, “Back To School”, “Stripes”, “Meatballs” and quite a few more. Those are all films of my generation, and until I saw the list I had forgotten how impressive it is.

It’s a shame that it takes a person’s passing to get a comprehensive list of all the achievements they managed to attain, but that’s how it works. I knew he was a giant in his field, but until I had heard he passed I never looked at his entire body of work so closely. The man was an all timer.

What I didn’t realize was that he’d moved back to Chicago in 1996. I knew he was from there, but had no idea he came back. I totally should have known that, and I would have loved a chance to meet him even once. I bet he wouldn’t have been difficult to track down, and I wouldn’t have been anything but polite and told him how much I admired his work. I bet we’d have hit it off.

Any time I’ve met someone truly creative, I have always been able to connect instantaneously. That’s who I am too, and it just clicks. Everyone I’ve met from George Carlin to George Clinton to Rodney Dangerfield to any number of others has always been a pleasant experience. I wish I’d had even a few seconds with Harold Ramis, as I bet it would have been a memorable experience.

He might not have remembered it, but I sure would have. I remember meeting Tim Kazurinsky years ago when I opened for his friend Bobcat Goldthwaite. They’d done a couple of the “Police Academy” films together and stayed in touch. Tim was unbelievably nice, and complimentary of my show to boot. Bobcat was great too. I find myself very comfortable around all creative types.

If Harold Ramis was around Chicago all these years, it’s my own fault that I didn’t take it upon myself to cross paths and meet him. It’s not a matter of asking him for anything or pestering him to put me in one of his films, it’s just a matter of professional respect. The man was legendary.

It’s my own fault I didn’t seek him out, and there are all kinds of others that I could have been in contact with as well. Second City is barely a block from Zanies in Chicago, and I’ve worked at Zanies since the late ‘80s. I could have made time to network with those people, but I never did.

I have nothing against improv comedy, but I had all I could handle with doing standup. Still, it would have been smart business to hang out after shows and schmooze with the Second City cast through the years. I was right there, but I blew it. Maybe Harold Ramis would have looked at me as a major schmucko, or maybe we’d have been friends. If nothing else, I would have enjoyed an opportunity to say hello just once. He enjoyed immense success, and I am a huge fan from afar.

There aren't many that can touch the massive success of Harold Ramis.

There aren’t many that can touch the massive success of Harold Ramis. What a run he had!

Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter

January 14, 2014

Sunday January 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’ve been busy like a worker bee getting my new and improved monthly email newsletter ready to send out, and learned today it’s not going to be completely ready by tomorrow which had been the original target deadline date. I’m not disappointed at all, and in fact I’m feeling really good.

The advantage I had going in is that NOBODY is expecting it, and it won’t upset anybody. The only ones that knew the deadline even existed were my pit crew Eric and me. We have both done our jobs like we said we would, and it’s almost ready to go. We fully expected to have glitches.

I’m working on the content side, and Eric is dealing with the nuts and bolts of getting all of the technical aspects handled. He set up an account on a website that will let us send it to up to 2500 people, and we’ve both been working on sorting the email address list into distinct categories.

This is going to be a huge project, and a continuous work in progress. We’re both up for it and know what it entails – or at least we think we do. There will constantly be names being added to the list, and others will fall off. We hope to be able to grow each month but we need to start first.

Eric has about 1500-2000 email addresses to load into the system, but that total is deceiving. A significant number will probably bounce back, as I haven’t contacted them for a while. Many of the others are personal friends or other performers. It’s nice to say hello every month, but they’re not going to book me. I know that going in, and I’m not getting cocky about having a large list.

The long term plan is to collect fans everywhere I go, and keep them aware of when I might be back. There are places like the three Zanies Comedy Clubs in the Chicago area or Donnie B’s in Springfield, IL and several others where I perform regularly. I want to become a legitimate draw.

99.999% of comedians would not have dreamed of doing this years ago, but this isn’t years ago and I’m not a comedian anymore – at least not in my marketing strategy. I’m a HUMORIST, and humorists get paid a whole lot more to basically do what a comedian does. It’s about perception.

Humorists also have a ton of products for sale. Dave Barry has a library of books, as do people like Lewis Grizzard, Erma Bombeck, Al Franken and several others. George Carlin wrote books toward the end of his career, and Woody Allen wrote them at the beginning. I need at least one.

Building a list is the smart way to go, and worth all the time and effort we’re investing now as we breathe life into it from absolute zero. I went over to Eric’s house tonight and we plugged the content I wrote into the template we chose, and of course there were glitches with the actual text.

It didn’t line up correctly, and wasn’t pleasant to look at. It had poor eye appeal. It had nothing to do with content, but we still have to deal with it. Eric will figure it out, and that’s why we’re a team. I am not good with those types of things and I know it. He’ll get it fixed and we’ll send it.

But that’s just the beginning. We’ll need to keep cranking it out month after month to more and more people and that will go on perpetually. I’m calling it “Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter” after the Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. If you’d like to get it, send your email address.

'Humorists' are revered and get paid big bucks. 'Comedians' tell dirty jokes in saloons. That's the perception - at least with those who pay to hire performers. I'm a humorist, thank you.

‘Humorists’ are revered and get paid big bucks. ‘Comedians’ tell dirty jokes in saloons. That’s the perception – at least with those who pay to hire performers. I’m a humorist, thank you.

My monthly "Maxwell's Silver Humor Newsletter" is about ready to launch.  If you want to receive it, send me your email address.

My monthly “Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter” is about ready to launch. If you want to receive it, send me your email address.

Supposedly, women like a man with a sense of humor. I wonder if she thinks I'm funny?

Supposedly, women like a man with a sense of humor. I wonder if she thinks I’m funny?

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

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!

Versatility Pays Peanuts

May 8, 2013

Tuesday May 7th, 2013 – Lake Zurich, IL

   Versatility in the entertainment business can be a two edged sword. On one hand, it can allow a performer to have the luxury of more than one option to receive a paycheck. On the other, there’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” stigma that tends to go with it and that can cause confusion.

   Those known for ONE thing and one thing only have a much better chance at mass recognition – IF they happen to find that right thing. Mel Kiper Jr. is a perfect example. What the hell has he ever done except claim to know about the NFL draft? He’s got the title of ‘draft expert’, but what does that mean? Can anyone truly say he is or isn’t? It doesn’t matter. He’s carved out his niche.

   Rachel Ray is another. She has books and videos and is always on TV whipping up some kind of miracle meal, but again what else has she done? People like that just appear on television one day and become part of popular culture, and everyone knows who they are for that single reason.

   Dr. Phil bitches at people. That’s it. Nobody knows anything else about him. Does he have any knowledge about the NFL draft? It doesn’t matter if he does or he doesn’t? Can he make himself breakfast? That’s not important either. All that matters with the public is that one source of fame.

   A few select people have been able to parlay fame into more areas, but more often than not it’s one thing and one thing only that anyone becomes truly known for. Rush Limbaugh was hired to do NFL pregame commentary on the basis of his radio show, but he’ll always be known as being a radio host. Howard Stern is the same thing. He did a couple of movies, but he’s a shock jock.

   I’ve never been known for exclusively one thing, and part of that reason is I’ve been able to be versatile for many years. I’ve done standup comedy and radio, and also was a ring announcer for professional wrestling in addition to promoting live shows. None are easy, but I need to pick one.

   Rodney Dangerfield never did radio, and Vince McMahon never did standup comedy. They are both icons in their field, and although Rodney did movies that’s a logical progression in what the comedy business entails. Rodney was known as a comedian. Period. Vince McMahon has tried a few other pursuits, but he’s known as the king of modern day professional wrestling promoters.

   Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but not many. Most people who ‘make it’ become known for one thing, and that’s enough to sustain them for a lifetime. J.K. Rowling doesn’t have to do another thing in her life and she’ll be known after she’s dead for bringing us Harry Potter.

   I’m still looking for my ‘thing’. I don’t think I’ll ever be known for my standup comedy, as it’s not that radical unfortunately. I can rip it up with the best of them, but I’ve never had the massive appeal of a Carrot Top or Adam Sandler or someone else who’s a crowd pleaser. I have my style and a lot of people like it, but I haven’t been able to carve out a niche in all these years of trying.

   Tonight I had a show for 50 church group seniors in Lake Zurich, IL. They were part of a tour group and were all from Wisconsin. Visit Lake County is a group I’m a member of, and they are the ones who set up this gig. It went really well and it was fun, but it won’t make me a big star.

   As I was performing (without a microphone) for this group who was loving it, I tried to picture Rodney or Carlin or anyone else in this situation and I couldn’t. I bet there aren’t five comedians on earth that could have pulled this off, but who cares? Versatility does pay – but it’s in peanuts.

Power For A Day

March 26, 2013

Monday March 25th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building A Brand

March 22, 2013

Wednesday March 20th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

Today I needed to be in Milwaukee for a recorded video interview with Jason Evans who owns and runs a website about Milwaukee comedy called www.mkefunny.com. Jason is coming up the ranks as a comic himself, and I like him a lot. He’s a student of the game, and is paying his dues.

Jeff Lampton was also there, and he’s another Milwaukee comic I like and respect. Jeff has his own style and agenda, and it’s not one that most people would have the ‘nads to do. Jeff chooses to do what would probably be labeled as X-rated comedy, and that has always been dangerous.

Lenny Bruce chose that route as did George Carlin, Redd Foxx and a precious few others in the annals of standup comedy. There is an audience for that style of comedy, but more often than not those kinds of performers get blackballed and aren’t able to work places most other comics are.

It’s difficult enough trying to hack out a living as any kind of entertainer, but trying to fit into a controversial niche cranks those odds up past astronomical. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it sure does make the trip more difficult. I respect anyone who sticks to their guns and follows their inner creative vision, which Jeff is choosing to do. Hats off to him, and I wish him only the best.

I never chose to go that route, and it was a conscious business decision. Foul language doesn’t offend me at all. I’ve been around it as long as I can remember, but this style of comedy isn’t just about swearing. It’s about trying to make points about subjects that can be considered volatile or controversial by a large percentage of the public. It takes guts and skill to do that style correctly.

Lenny Bruce and George Carlin got arrested for what they said, and although it was wonderful publicity for both of them I never wanted to rattle those cages. I want to get laughs, and that will hopefully get me paid. Does that make me a sellout? So be it. I’m there to entertain my audience, and there is more opportunity to get work for someone who can work clean if word can get out.

That’s why I drove up for the interview, as it was about my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up in April at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. Hopefully I can attract comedy fans that follow Jason’s site, but I want to take it much farther than that. I want this to be part of the Milwaukee community as much as the subject matter I’m talking about. I want to be a brand.

   In a perfect world, this will be something that will be in demand locally from everything from church festivals to libraries to private parties to a stage at Summerfest or the State Fair. It will be a totally clean show, and I’m consciously choosing not to use any swearing at all. NONE. It’s not a nightclub comedy show. I’ve done that, but this isn’t it. This is designed for a broader market.

I want Milwaukeeans who have never been to a standup comedy show to become loyal fans of what I’m doing so they’ll come back again and again and send others. It will never be exactly the same show twice, as I’m going to allow for some audience input at times which will freshen it up and make each performance unique. It’s taken a lifetime to develop this show, but I am SO ready to make it a success. I’m grateful for this chance, and those who come see it won’t get cheated.