Posts Tagged ‘Northern Lights Theater’

Wasted Worries

December 24, 2013

Saturday December 21st, 2013 – LaGrange, IL/Milwaukee, WI

One of the very best pieces of advice I ever got was from a guy I worked with in radio in Reno in the ‘90s. His radio name was Bob Garrison, but his real name is Marty Beimer. It’s funny how many radio people I know by both their radio and real names, and how totally different they are.

I remember discovering that at my first radio job in Lansing, MI in 1990. We had our checks in envelopes to be picked up at the receptionist desk, and as I was rifling through the pile looking to find mine I saw a bunch of names I didn’t recognize. They were all the real names of everybody.

People ask me all the time if Dobie Maxwell is my REAL name. Well, that’s a tricky question. Is that the name I was born with? No. I don’t hide the fact that I changed it legally in 1991. So, is Dobie Maxwell my “real” name? Absolutely. Actually, it’s Dobie J. Maxwell. I thought it would sound classier, so I added the J. Whenever someone asks what it stands for, I tell them “genius”.

Only about one in fifty get it, but those that do laugh out loud. The other forty-nine idiots think I actually don’t know how to spell the word genius and that ruins the joke. It’s too late to change it again, so at this point I’ll just live with it. The only exception would be to “King Of Uranus”.

How funny would that be to have that on a driver’s license or credit card? I wouldn’t do it until I achieved at least a modicum of fame as that character, or I’d be just another kook bag. I think it would be hilarious to sign a tax return or car title with that name, but that’s a ways off just yet.

I digress from the point I was trying to make about Bob/Marty. I was going through the hardest stretch of my life, and I was right in the middle of the whole bank robbery fiasco. It looked bleak to say the least, and there were no guarantees that I wouldn’t be doing significant prison time even though I wasn’t the one that robbed the bank. My lawyer told me that really didn’t matter much.

There were all kinds of horrific scenarios playing out in my head, and life was really a bummer on every level. People were giving me all kinds of cockamamie “advice”, but Marty laid it on the line better than anyone I’ve ever heard. He said “I know you’re scared to death, but 95% or more of all the things you’re worrying about will never become reality. Remember that.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear and it really got me through the jungle at that time. He was totally correct, and almost none of the terrible things I had feared ended up happening except that I had to testify against my lifelong best friend in court. That was a bad experience for sure, but it wasn’t nearly as life ending as it looked at first. Worry can add a high level of stress to one’s life.

I have to admit I was more than a little concerned about the possibility of rough weather I’d be facing today as I drove to my gigs, but it ended up coming off 100% hassle free. I made it to the afternoon party in LaGrange, IL and the people were really happy with the show. It was a big hit, and I was able to easily drive up to Milwaukee with plenty of time to spare for the shows there.

The audiences tonight at Northern Lights Theater were terrific, and were really into both of the “Schlitz Happened!” shows. I’m ready to take this to the next level, and excited about what 2014 will bring. Unfortunately it’s not what one prepares for that’s trouble, it’s the surprise problems.

Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman says it best.

Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman says it best.

Weather Worries

December 21, 2013

Friday December 20th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

Hear that sound? That’s my bung hole slamming shut. There’s supposed to be nasty weather on the way, and it’s really scaring me. I know it goes with the territory this time of year living in the place I do, but I happen to have a lot of places I have to be in the next few days and I’m worried.

There are buckets of money in those places, and if I don’t get there live and in the flesh to pick them up I don’t get paid. They’re not huge buckets and they’re not filled with money, but there is enough at stake to make me risk driving through a blizzard to get it. I do hope that’s not the case.

Tomorrow I have to be in LaGrange, IL at 1:30pm to do an afternoon Christmas party show for Marc Schultz. I performed for this group before several years ago, and they were very nice. They hire a comedian every year, and they wanted me back. That’s very flattering, but LaGrange is far from where I’m living and if there’s ugly weather it could be a nightmare getting there on time.

After that I have to be in Milwaukee for two more performances of “Schlitz Happened!” at the Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Casino. On paper in ideal conditions there shouldn’t be a problem and I will make it with plenty of time to spare. Life isn’t lived on paper. I’m concerned.

On Sunday I have a booking at The Island Casino in Harris, MI which is near Escanaba. That’s in the Upper Peninsula, and that’s never an easy trip even in the summer. It’s a two lane highway north of Green Bay, and last time I did it it was winter and it was white knuckles the whole way.

The people at Island Casino are very nice to the comedians, and I enjoy working there. I enjoy working at Potawatomi too. They treat us about as well as anywhere I work, and the last thing I’d ever want to do would be to give them less than my very best show. I want to get there on time so I can relax and do what I was hired to do. Right now, I have no idea how the weather will play out.

Allegedly, the nasty weather is supposed to hit Wisconsin in the early evening and last through the night into Sunday morning. The Chicago area’s weather reports say if anything it will be later on Saturday as well. I’m going to be leaving the Chicago area in the afternoon, so I hope I’m ok.

But nothing says the snow can’t show up earlier, later, or even not at all. Usually they can get it halfway accurate that we’re going to have some kind of snowfall, and that’s what’s making me a nervous wreck. I need all of this money very badly, and I don’t want to miss any of these shows.

The biggest risk looks like on the way to Harris, but then I have to get back and start my drive to Tucson, AZ where I’ve got shows on Friday, Saturday and then New Year’s Eve. I have a few days of a cushion to get there, but not a lot. Who knows what kind of horrors await on the roads?

I wasn’t able to get a cheap enough flight to make it worth my while, and ones I did find were in and out of Phoenix so I’d have to rent a car anyway. I decided to rent a car and make the drive across country so I could spend Christmas by myself and not have to bother anyone. Again, that sounded great on paper but there’s not a lot of paper between Chicago and Tucson. There’s road, and about 1800 miles of it each way. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it by Friday, but there’s not any guarantee. I’ll do my best, but Mother Nature has the final say. I’ll earn every penny I make.

Hopefully this won't be me in the next three days as I have to get to some shows with nasty weather in the forecast.

Hopefully this won’t be me in the next three days as I have to get to some shows with nasty weather in the forecast.

I'm fine with a White Christmas, but this is a little too white for my tastes.

I’m all for a White Christmas, but this is a little too white for my tastes.

Parallel parking is hard enough. Perpendicular parking is out of the question.

Parallel parking is hard enough. Perpendicular parking is out of the question.

These are the only blizzards I want to see for the rest of 2013.

These are the only blizzards I want to see for the rest of 2013.

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.

Positive Progress

December 9, 2013

Saturday December 7th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

It was back up to Milwaukee tonight for two more performances of “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” at Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Casino. There were light crowds all through the casino because of nasty weather, but those who came out were great.

The early show at 7 o’clock was probably the most enthusiastic audience I’ve had so far. They were really into it, and not only laughed when they were supposed to they threw out memories of their own as the show progressed. That’s exactly what I want, and I can tell I’m on to something.

The 9 o’clock show wasn’t horrible, but they weren’t nearly as vocal and it was a much smaller turnout. That’s a challenge when it’s a one person show and I have to pull off an hour and twenty minutes by myself, but I did it without hitch or glitch. I can feel myself hitting a stride with this.

There is a very different energy required to pull off a show like this compared to what I’m used to as a traditional comedian, and I’m feeling more comfortable each time I do it. As a comedian I am used to closing shows with 45 minutes, but I talk faster than most and cram about 90 minutes or more into that time. I am high energy and ‘throw heat’, and it’s almost always very effective.

A one man show is different in that I have to ramp the audience up and be my own opening act. I can’t come out and be a raving lunatic from the start. There has to be a progression, not only of energy but of content. This show has a theme, and it’s important to deliver it in the correct order.

I’m still in the beginning stages of construction, but I can feel progress and that’s the best I can hope for. At first it was intimidating to have to be on stage that long, but now I’m starting to feel very comfortable and it’s not a problem at all. In fact, I went five minutes over on the first show.

That’s a tremendous problem to have, and I also had material left over. I’ve been closing with a chunk of material that runs maybe 7-10 minutes depending on audience reaction. I intended to do it both shows tonight, but the first crowd was so into it I was able to fill the time with ad libbing.

I needed it the second show, and it went over very well. The issue is no longer being able to do the time. Now it’s a matter of making it entertaining all the way through. That’s the same issue a comedian has, so this is nothing new. It’s a process, and I’ve been going through it for decades.

The good thing is that the audience has no idea this process even exists much less is happening before their eyes. I know I’ve got a long way to go to get this show to where I want it, but they’re oblivious and that’s a plus. They’re enjoying it as is, and I’m giving them all I’ve got right now.

If anything, they’ll come back years from now and say “I enjoyed your show before, but you’re better now.” And they’ll be right. It will be much better, but it takes a plan and hard work now to allow that to happen. I’m putting in my time to construct this just like I did with my comedy act.

I still have four more performances for this run, and I’m going to work even harder for the next two weeks so the positive progress continues. If you’re near Milwaukee, you’re invited to attend. http://www.schlitzhappened.com is the show’s site and Potawatomi Casino’s site is http://www.paysbig.com.

"Schlitz Happened!" is happening December 14th and 21st at  7 and 9pm in Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. You're invited! www.paysbig.com

“Schlitz Happened!” is happening December 14th and 21st at 7 and 9pm in Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. You’re invited! http://www.paysbig.com

Rust Removal

December 1, 2013

Saturday November 30th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

I’m back in my home town of Milwaukee for another four week run of “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst” at Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Casino. I love to perform on that stage, but it’s an adjustment to get myself back in the mode of doing this show.

The biggest obstacle to overcome up front is length of performance. The casino is expecting 80 minutes which is fine, but that’s significantly longer than the 45-50 minutes most standup shows typically are. That’s a lot of time to fill, and it requires a few times through to establish a groove.

I had a four week run in April, and that was my main focus then too. I felt myself get smoother with each performance, and I felt it again tonight. It’s a long way from being anywhere close to a finished product, but I have to go through the process and lay a foundation that can be built upon.

One thing I’ve been doing to prepare for this run is dropping in bits and stories from this show in my standup act over the last few months. They’re personal stories about my life with comedy added, and they fit perfectly with what I was doing. The audiences didn’t know I was practicing, but that’s exactly what I was doing. It paid off tonight as I was able to add those bits seamlessly.

I had people show up tonight that saw me in April, and they said “I saw you threw in some new material since last time. I liked it.” Mission accomplished. I also threw in some old material I had not done in several years, and that worked too. I put a lot of work into tonight, and will continue.

This is an ideal situation to shape this show, and I am not taking it lightly. I would never phone it in and cheat either the audience or the casino, but there has to be a place to experiment with the content and order so I can figure out what works best. This will be a constant process for a while.

It felt really good to pull off the 80 minutes on stage both shows tonight, but that’s just the start of the process. The next six performances over three weeks will involve constant tweaking of the order, and deciding what to add and leave out. This is a workshop, and I’ll do my due diligence.

On top of all that, I need to get myself out there and promote it. There are several media outlets in town to approach, and I’ll contact Kim Mitschke on Monday to get that process in motion. She is the media liaison for the casino, and really easy to work with. I’m sure she’ll have some ideas.

I’m glad we didn’t hit it hard promotionally for this first week back. I hadn’t done the show for eight months, and I wanted a chance to get my legs back. There’s always rust to remove, and that was to be expected. Still, we had a respectable turnout and it didn’t stink. That’s all I can ask for.

The next six shows are going to show significant improvement, and I will do all I can to get out there and put butts in seats. It really is a gorgeous facility, and nobody can complain about ticket prices as admission is free when someone signs up for a Fire Keeper’s card. http://www.paysbig.com.

This is exactly the right fit on so many levels. It’s getting me out of the bar gig scene, and into a theater situation which is always better. I know the audience for this show may be limited, but those that get it really love it. I’m going to enjoy the next six shows. http://www.schlitzhappened.com.

This is a caricature of me done by former Milwaukee Journal political cartoonist Bill Sanders. He gave it to me as a gift, and I'm extremely grateful. It's my logo for my show 'Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst'. It's playing the next three Saturdays in Milwaukee at the Northern Lights Theate. www.paysbig.com

This is a caricature of me done by former Milwaukee Journal political cartoonist Bill Sanders. He gave it to me as a gift, and I’m extremely grateful. It’s the logo for my show ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst’. It’s playing the next three Saturdays in Milwaukee at the Northern Lights Theate. http://www.paysbig.com

Ready To Rumble

March 8, 2013

Thursday March 7th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’m really starting to look forward to the run of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows at Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. I am SO ready for this, and I think for once I’m on to a project in the right place at the right time. I’m not fighting the current, but swimming with it.

The timing just seems to be right all around. My generation is getting older as we all are, and is the last generation to remember not having the internet – THE single biggest advancement in the way we communicate as a species since the printing press. We’re the last official link to the past.

None of us had any idea as we were growing up just how much the world was going to change in such a short time, and that can be hard to deal with. Traditions become traditions because of a need somewhere inside us for comfort and security. Passing things down to generations has been part of the human experience since time began. This is the first time we’re changing the standard.

Video games and cell phones weren’t part of our lives as children, but our children not only are comfortable with it all – they have to teach us how to use it. I remember laughing at how out of it my grandparents were when I was growing up, but I’m way farther from hip than they ever were.

This show gives me a chance not only to deal with those issues, but also embrace the city I was so eager to leave for so long. There was a time I wouldn’t admit I was from Milwaukee because I was ashamed of everything about it. Part of that was everything I dealt with growing up, but I’ve matured light years since then and am in the best mental place I’ve ever been and it feels great!

I’m going to rock these shows. I can feel it. I’m not bragging or talking out of school, I am just absolutely positive I’m going to knock it out of the park. I’ve performed on that very stage often, and feel as comfortable on it as anywhere I’ve ever performed. I know the subject matter like the back of my hand, and most if not all the people attending the shows will be on the same page too.

I was going over my material today clearly visualizing myself on that spacious stage in front of a full house talking into that fantastic sound system and feeling a wave of positive energy radiate back at me. I could hear the laughs and see the smiling faces looking back at me the whole time.

Doing the actual shows is not going to be the hard part. I’ll nail those. That work has been done over the entire lifetime I spent learning my craft. The people who come to these shows are going to get FAR more than they expected, and I’m counting on word of mouth to establish a groove.

This will be a work in progress for years, but an interesting one. I will become an authority on all things Milwaukee, and hopefully an ambassador for the city. I want to be active in fundraising for charities, and make this much more than a comedy show. I want to establish a positive brand.

Of course the possibility always exists that this could be a flaming flop, and I will not be asked back after my run in April. I don’t foresee that happening, but it totally could. If it does, I am not going to quit. I really believe in this show, and Milwaukeeans everywhere are going to LOVE it!