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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

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Readers Blog: Dobie Maxwell's 'Dented Can' Diary

Johnny On The Cheap

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Thursday July 19th, 2012 – Rockford, IL/Neenah, WI

   When I was a kid, I used to think Johnny Carson had the second greatest life of anyone around. I wanted to be a baseball player then, and that was the ultimate in my book. How fantastic might it be to get paid for playing baseball every day, not to mention travel? Too bad I never found out.

   As my teen years passed, I thought Hugh Hefner held the golden ticket. He was the magic man with the keys to the kingdom, at least on paper. Before I knew anything about anything, I thought there were people who indeed did have carefree lives without problems. How wrong could I be?

   Still, Johnny Carson’s lifestyle intrigued me for years. It looked like so much fun to be the host of such a popular television show, and also get to perform live in Las Vegas regularly. Either one of those occupations would be a blast, but he got to do both. I always wanted to sample that life.

   Then it hit me squarely in the face as I was driving from a radio shift in Rockford, IL at WNTA this afternoon to get to my comedy show at The Comedy Quarter in Neenah, WI tonight that I’m basically doing the same hustle Johnny did. I’m doing it on the extreme cheap, but I am doing it.

  Johnny may have had tens of millions of fans and made hundreds of millions of dollars, but the process was exactly the same. I’m not sure if he worked on TV and live in the same night, but he could have. The Tonight Show taped at 5:30pm, which left plenty of time to make a live show in Las Vegas if he needed to. Maybe he didn’t do it consistently, but I’ll bet it did happen at times.

   I’m nothing less than thrilled to get the chance to do what I’m doing this week, even if it’s on a much smaller scale. I’m doing it on the extreme low end but the fun I’m having is the exact same as if I had to bounce back and forth between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The joy is in the doing.

   Obviously a fill in little radio shift in Rockford, IL is not a network television show, but it’s not without benefits and there’s an exhilarating buzz that comes with being on the air. How different can the buzz Johnny felt be compared to the one I feel when I walk out of the studio after a shift?

   After a while, I have to believe it’s all the same. A good show is a good show, and a bad one is a bad one. More or less may be aware depending on who it is, but the feeling itself is identical. It was a solid show today, and had that been my whole day’s work I’d have considered it a success.

   But, I am also booked this week at The Comedy Quarter in Neenah, WI which is just outside of Appleton. I’d never worked here before, but it was a pleasant surprise to show up to a full crowd who were there to see a show. They were excellent laughers, and it was well worth my commute.

   I’m not going to get rich this week, but I’m doing a lot of things I would have done for nothing when I started. I got a chance to play talk show host and comedian the same day, and get paid for it. I didn’t make anywhere near the millions Johnny Carson did, but both of the experiences went extremely well and that’s the whole reason for doing it. The money would be nice, but I doubt if I’d do much differently than I did today – at least as far as the shows went. The fun is the same.

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