Posts Tagged ‘radio’

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.

An Infamous Anniversary

December 18, 2013

Monday December 16th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Marketing Mark

December 12, 2013

Wednesday December 11th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, this will be the response I get.

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

The Uphill Journey

November 20, 2013

Tuesday November 19th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

I have a full week of quality work this week, and I couldn’t be happier. This is how every week used to be, and it was like that for so long I got used to it and assumed it would never end. That’s pretty stupid, but I wasn’t the only one. There are a lot of road comics in the same sinking boat.

It’s getting harder and harder to stay booked every week, and less and less comedians are doing it. I personally know comedians who have been at it longer than I have and have more TV credits and they’re working less than I am. It’s getting rough out there, and having a steady run is sweet.

November has been pleasantly busy, and I have some better paying work lined up in December with a run of “Schlitz Happened!” at the Northern Lights Theatre in Milwaukee along with a few holiday parties that have come up lately. Hopefully a few more will pop up, and they just might.

People book their parties late, and some companies even postpone until January. My January is looking ok, but after that it’s a snow white calendar. That’s never good, but something will come up as it always does. I just wish I could snag a stretch of high paid work that would last a while.

A radio gig would be great, and I’ve been pushing that of late. Art Bell has quit his new show on XM Sirius apparently, and word has it they are looking for a replacement. I know I could hit a home run with a gig like that, but I have to convince someone at Sirius. My old radio ally Kipper McGee happens to know a few people over there, and said he’d at least find out what he could.

The point is that the process of looking for work and keeping income flowing inward is never ending. The last several weeks have been good, as is this week. Next week isn’t so hot, and so it goes. Months are like that and so are years. After it’s all added up, self employment is unstable.

Tonight’s assignment was hosting the ’10 Comedians for $10’ show at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL. It’s a lot like the Rising Star Showcase at the Chicago Zanies in that there are a lot of acts trying to work their way up the ranks and make it to that elusive ‘next level’. Not all do it.

It’s not always a matter of talent either. It’s a giant numbers game, and there are only so many spots available. The supply greatly outnumbers the demand, and it becomes a log jam. I’ve been lucky to have been on the right end of this particular version of it, but it’s a game I play as well.

A lot of rejection is involved in this game, so I always try to go out of my way to be friendly to the people showcasing. I give them a larger than life stellar introduction, and get the audience to focus on the stage as much as possible. Not every host does that, and it makes the acts feel good.

It’s really not all that difficult to treat people with respect, and I always find it worth the effort. It’s exactly how I’d like to be treated, but too often am not. It’s the old Golden Rule in action and living proof being nice can make a tangible difference. I find it important to set a good example.

It’s funny how the showcasers look at me like I have some kind of power because I’m ‘in’ with Zanies. I’m out there struggling week to week just like them, just on a different level. I hope they aren’t thinking it gets any easier, as it never does. An entertainer’s journey always travels uphill.

The entertainer's road always travels uphill.

The entertainer’s road always travels uphill.

Where’s The Money?

November 18, 2013

Sunday November 17th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I could really use some good old fashioned positive news right about now. I’m not sure exactly what that news could possibly be or where it might come from, but it feels like everything in my life is holding on by a thread and could come crashing down at any time. I’d like some security.

I’ve been working my tail bone raw lately, but only barely treading water financially. There is no way I can keep up this hectic pace, but I don’t see any choice. I have to keep doing whatever it takes to keep money coming in, but that doesn’t leave much time for anything else. I’m spent.

This last week was a perfect example. It took a massive effort to line up the four days of work with three different bookers, and very rarely does it work out the way it did. More often than not there is always some kind of glitch that pops up like a last minute switch or cancellation and the whole week is ruined. It worked this time, but many more times it doesn’t. It’s a constant hassle.

I could afford to fart around with stuff like this in my 20s because I needed the experience. It’s a completely different ball game now, as I’ve got more of that than I will ever be able to use in a dozen lifetimes. All of that experience was supposed to be used to obtain a payoff at some point.

As it sits, that hasn’t happened. What scares me is there’s no guarantee it ever will. I was close to pay dirt with my radio job at The Loop in Chicago, but that’s ancient history now and nobody cares that it didn’t work out except my former partners Max and Spike. They’re still hurting too.

We all went ‘all in’ and rolled the dice by taking that job, and it blew up in our faces. None of us have bounced back to that level, and it’s a lonely road. We had it in our hands and through no fault of our own it was yanked away. The stars were aligned in our favor, and then they weren’t. So far we haven’t gotten a second chance, and I feel my patience draining. Was that all we get?

This is a cold cruel world, and entertainment is even colder. Comedy or radio or whatever it is, there isn’t any sympathy for anyone who has a rough break. That only means something pops up for someone else, and another body is out of the way. It’s definitely a jungle, and I’m in trouble.

I’ve risked all I have to get to this point, and I have no idea if anyone with power will ever find me. I can kick ass on stage and on the air, but I can’t seem to do it in front of anyone that can put me in front of a mass audience. I love to work, but doing it the way I am is ripping out my soul.

How the hell am I ever going to be able to attract a quality woman for a long term relationship when I’m still out there straining to scrape together rent every month? I’m only fooling myself to think any lady of substance is going to want to be with a borderline vagrant – which is what I am. It’s not what I aspired to, but circumstances have backed me into a corner and that’s where I sit.

Landing a steady income would really turn things around – if nothing else in my own head. I’m sick of living like a cockroach, but I have to keep the money coming in so I have no extra time to devote to looking for my dream babe. I was supposed to have a date today with a woman I’d love to know better, but she backed out on short notice because something came up. Maybe it did, but it sure stomps on my self esteem. If I want a honey, I’ll need some money. I think I’ve earned it.

To get one of these...

To get one of these…

...I'll need a lot more of this.

…I’ll need a lot more of this.

Barbecued Buttocks

November 8, 2013

Thursday November 7th, 2013 – Ft. Atkinson, WI

There has been an incredible fire lit directly under my buttocks, and I am motivated like I can’t ever remember. The main ingredient in that fire is fear. If I don’t get myself making money soon I’m going to have some really rough times ahead – as if I haven’t had to deal with any until now.

I have sacrificed my entire adult life to hone my craft, and now it’s time for a payoff. It’s like a farmer taking his crops to market. Whatever it took to get those crops planted, watered, grown to maturity and then harvested is all history. All that matters is how much he can get for his supply.

I’ve got more than one crop to sell, and that’s a plus. I have a rock solid standup comedy show that I can perform to a wide variety of audiences from clubs to cruise ships to a corporate setting. I have never been a ‘saloon act’, and that’s going to be a huge help. It’s not where the money is.

Theatres and nicer venues have always been what I aspire to, and whenever I’ve been fortunate enough to play them I feel totally at home. I played some sweet venues in 2003 when I competed in the San Francisco Comedy Competition, and that has always stayed with me as what I wanted on a much more regular basis. The mythical smoky nightclub has never been where I want to be.

That’s why I totally love doing my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at Northern Lights Theatre in the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. That’s exactly the kind of venue I picture, and everything that I need comes with it. The lights and sound are as good as it gets, and the staff couldn’t be nicer.

They have an advertising budget, and it’s a venue everyone has heard of. This is where to be in my opinion, but there are a lot of comedians who enjoy the bar gig scene. It’s home to them, and I’ll gladly let them have it. I want to focus on performing in venues where I get paid a lot better.

Another crop I have to sell is radio content. I have paid my dues there too, and can either host a show myself or be a funny sidekick. I’ve got years of hands on experience doing both, and would be able to walk right in to any radio station in North America to start a job tomorrow. I’m ready.

Cruise ships are another arena I’ve had experience and paid some dues. It was a big adjustment at first, but I was able to really improve in a short time, mainly because I had so much experience to draw from. None of it came easy, but sometimes farmers have a hard time nurturing their crop. There might be drought or flood or locusts or who knows what? It doesn’t matter. That’s history.

If I can just hang in there, I have to believe the future looks quite bright. I know I’m able to do the big shows – whatever it happens to be – but now I need someone to give me my shot. That’s the next step, and I’ve been putting the word out with as many people as I can reach in these last couple of days. I’m in touch with a major radio station in Chicago, and a cruise ship booker also.

I’m not going to keep doing what I’ve been doing forever, but I did have a show tonight in Fort Atkinson, WI at a bar called ‘Fat Boyz’. I’ve been there a couple of times before, and had a good time. It’s an older crowd, and they love comedy. There were about 60 people in there, and it was a fun show in addition to being a much appreciated payday on a Thursday night. I’d much rather be doing theatres, cruise ships and radio, and as hot as the fire feels on my buttocks I’ll get there.

There has been a fire lit under my buttocks.

There has been a fire lit under my buttocks.

Like a farmer, I have worked hard to develop my crop. Now it's time to get my payoff.

Like a farmer, I have worked hard to develop my crop. Now it’s time to get my payoff for a lifetime of paying dues.

If you're in Milwaukee in December, come see "Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst" at Northern Lights Theatre! www.paysbig.com

If you’re in Milwaukee in December, come see “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” at Northern Lights Theatre! http://www.paysbig.com

Making The Radio Rounds

October 29, 2013

Friday October 25th, 2013 – Springfield, IL

I’m back in Springfield, IL this week at one of my all time favorite stops, Donnie B’s Comedy Club. I’ve always enjoyed working here, and this week is no exception. Donnie B is a hustler of epic proportions, and I mean that in only the most respectful way. He’s a fantastic entrepreneur.

I don’t think I have ever seen a comedy club owner work as hard as he does to get the word out and keep it out. He’s got a car full of posters and flyers and coupons, and everywhere I go I’ll see his club mentioned somewhere. That guy knows how to promote, and he deserves all his success.

Unfortunately, he didn’t pick the greatest town to work his magic and he’s not living in the lap of luxury like I think he should be. The economy has hit him like most everyone else, and he’s in the same boat as almost everyone who has their own business. He’s busting ass just to stay even.

He runs a bar and restaurant in the hotel where his club is located, and that keeps him busy for most of the week. Comedy shows are Friday and Saturday, and he runs the comedians around to get on four radio stations on Friday mornings. Nobody could ever accuse Donnie of being lazy.

I made it into town last night, and was glad to do the four radio interviews. That’s what gets the word out, and even if people don’t come out this week at least it’s awareness for the club. I can’t believe how many club owners and comedians alike don’t realize how crucial radio exposure is.

We did an AM sports station, the classic rock station, the oldies station and the hot hits station “Kiss FM”. Everyone was very nice, and I tried to talk fast and say “Donnie B’s Comedy Club” as many times as humanly possible. Donnie knows I know what I’m doing, and I could see a big smile on his face every time I’d mention the club or plug the shows. A lot of comics don’t get it.

Like it or not, a comedian and a club owner are in business together for the week. It’s not smart to have a hostile relationship, as it will hurt everyone. If the club can get a dozen media outlets to have the comedian on, the comedian needs to get up and go no matter how early or inconvenient.

Another thing I respect about Donnie is that he hosts his own shows. Who else but the owner is able to extol the virtues of a business, and that’s what he does. He talks about drink specials and upcoming events, and personally greets the regulars that happen to show up on a particular night.

He books an opening act to do a very short set – usually about 12-15 minutes tops. It works for him, and I for one am a fan of this system. It might not be the greatest for developing local talent, but from an audience’s standpoint it’s a very solid show. He’s not in the business to develop acts, he’s in business to sell tickets, food and drinks. I grasp that a lot more now than when I started.

Donnie makes no bones about the fact that he’s in business to earn a living. I have no problem with that, and we get along great. He knows I’ll deliver on stage, and I know my check won’t be short or bounce at the end of the week. If every club was this cut and dried, life would be peachy.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t look to be a great weekend due to Halloween and the World Series. Sometimes circumstances can kill even the best of promoters, but at least we did all we can do.

Donnie B's Comedy Club in Springfield, IL is one of the best run comedy clubs in America. www.funnybonecomedyclub.com

Donnie B’s Comedy Club in Springfield, IL is one of the best run comedy clubs in America. http://www.funnybonecomedyclub.com

Can’t Stop Now

October 2, 2013

Tuesday October 1st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

October 1st? Already? I haven’t mailed my Valentine’s Day cards yet, but we’re already in the 4th quarter of 2013. I try to stay current, but I’m only fooling myself. This feels like one big April Fool’s prank, but I know it’s real. Time is sliding away like a runaway toboggan, and I feel like it bucked me off a while ago. All I can do is watch it get smaller as it races down the hill. Bye bye.

This has been a very eventful year so far. I’ve done a lot of fun things, but financially it’s been a major bust. I’ve got less money now than I can ever remember, and that is causing major stress on a daily basis. I need to plug into a steady source of income, and I’m looking for it every day.

Emotionally, I’ve become a human yo-yo. One day I’m bullet proof and ready to take on every challenge there is, and the next I’m ready to donate my organs and turn in my keys. Some people might call that bipolar. I call it the life of a dented can entertainer. There are big ups and downs.

I feel like I’m out at sea in a dinghy during a typhoon. I’m at the mercy of the sea – frightening as that may be. I’m bobbing around with no real direction, and whenever I try to find one a force far stronger than me sends me wherever it wants. After a while, it all becomes so overwhelming.

If there were hatches to batten down, I would. But a dinghy doesn’t have hatches. It’s exposed, and the waves come blasting up over the sides. I could read all the books I want on how to steer, but when those winds start blowing none of it matters. There’s nothing to do but wait things out.

The fact is, I really need a break. I have paid decades of dues and even those who think I’m The Antichrist will admit I have ability. Why it’s been this difficult to land somewhere and stay put is far out of my realm of comprehension. All I want is the opportunity to work in a field where I’ve been given gifts, and earn a decent living. It’s either feast or famine – and right now it’s famine.

All it would take is ONE little break to turn my whole life around, but where is it? In my mind, I should be working as a comedian every week – or at least every weekend – to full houses with people there to see me. I’d also love a steady radio gig and to continue teaching comedy classes.

Charity functions would also be a priority, and I would be the nicest guy anyone has ever seen. I would sign every autograph and pose for every picture, and make people feel special like we all want. It would be The Golden Rule in action, and we would all be better as humanity. Why isn’t it happening? I was ready for it years ago, but I seem to be going farther away rather than closer.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it feels like I’m never going to make it. I work harder than any other comedian I know personally, but it doesn’t pay off. It feels like I’m trying to get a new roll of toilet paper started, but I can’t find the first square to get things going. It’s frustrating me to no end, and I’m trying everything in my power to make something happen. What else is there to do?

The only consoling fact I can think of is that there have been a lot of people that have gotten to the point I am – and that’s when something popped. Lewis Black tells how he’d resigned himself to the fact he wasn’t going to make it, and that’s when he got a break with Comedy Central. I am way past the point of no return, so there’s nothing for me to do but keep on working even harder.

Life can be an emotional yo-yo.

Life can be an emotional yo-yo.

The 4th quarter of 2013 is here.

The 4th quarter of 2013 is here.

Radio Rage

September 21, 2013

Friday September 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detour To Janesville

September 9, 2013

Friday September 6th, 2013 – Rockford, IL

   Today was my last official day filling in on the air at FM 100.5 WNTA in Rockford, IL. I have fun doing it whenever I get a call, but as I’m saying much more often these days fun doesn’t pay the bills. It’s not like I don’t want to chase all of my passion projects, but I have to make a living.

   As fun as it is doing the radio show, I barely break even after paying for gas not to mention the outlay of time it takes to get to the station. It used to be bad enough, but now with the especially inconvenient ripped up road situation it makes it almost impossible to say yes if they ask again.

   I really do like helping people out whenever I can, but right now I have to help myself. There’s got to be a steady source of income out there somewhere, but I’m having a hell of a time locating it. Every week is still a struggle, and after all these years I thought I’d have it figured out by now. 

   I don’t, but I’m still out here trying and at least the things I’m doing are mostly fun. Today was a perfect example as circumstances worked out so that I could have comedian Brad Tassell come to the studio and sit in for the entire two hours as he was on his way to a show in Janesville, WI. 

   Janesville is right up the road from Rockford, and it worked out perfectly. I had heard he would be coming through town from Harry Hickstein, another act on the show. Harry was running a bit late and couldn’t sit in, but Brad did and it was a win/win for everyone. That’s how it should be.

   Besides doing comedy – which is more than difficult enough for anyone – Brad got his degree in counseling and does workshops around the country for schools on bullying of all things, and is also a published author of several books including one about his comedy road stories called ‘Hell Gig’ which is basically an early version of what I do here. It’s a peek behind the comedy curtain.   

   Brad is very intelligent and handles his business with an impeccable efficiency. He’s one of the few road dogs who has done it right, up to and including the process of becoming an LLC. I have always respected Brad, and he continues to flourish when many of us are barely staying afloat.

   His backup plan was his degree, and kudos to him for getting it. The bullying issue isn’t going anywhere for a while, and he does great work that helps people. Quite a few kids have told him if it wasn’t for his program they’d have committed suicide. Now THAT’S work that has meaning.    

   We were able to keep it light and fun on the radio, but also delve into some deeper issues and it made the time fly by. We had callers chime in, and for a while I felt like an actual talk show host. Brad was an outstanding guest, and some of the office staff at the station mentioned it as we left.   

   After the show, I followed Brad to Janesville where we met Harry Hickstein for an absolutely delicious dinner at the venue called The Armory. They have a top notch restaurant, and feed the comedians as part of the deal. I volunteered to host the show, and my meal was included as well.

   They didn’t have to do that, and I greatly appreciated it. They got a quality host for their show, and I hung out with two really good guys and had fun. There are worse ways to spend a Friday.