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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

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

Ferguson Fallout

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Monday July 23rd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Not only was yesterday George Clinton’s birthday, it was also the three year anniversary of my national television appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It sure doesn’t seem like three years already, but that’s exactly what it was. Any heat it generated has now cooled off.

   It was a wonderful experience and I’m glad I did it, but one shot does not a career make. It was instrumental in getting me hired on Carnival Cruise Lines, but that was mostly because I already knew someone who worked there and he put in a good word. The TV credit only helped a little.

   Other than that, it really didn’t do anything other than give me something to have an emcee say when I’m introduced at the same old gigs I was always doing. If I really wanted to, I could easily have been saying I’d been on that show or any other one for years. I wouldn’t do it, but I could.

   The sad fact is, there are way too many shows on way too many outlets and no one appearance on any of them is going to make anybody an overnight sensation. It’s a nice feather in one’s cap, but since when have cap feathers been declared currency? To reach the top takes a major push.

   As bitter of a pill as it may be to swallow, that could easily have been my one and only shot on network TV. I’m hoping it isn’t, but there are no guarantees I’ll ever get back on. It was only by a long shot fluke that I got on the first time, and that almost didn’t happen. Doing it again will be another major bucking of odds, and I’m not even trying right now. That has to change in a hurry.

   Nobody cares that it’s getting harder and harder to make a living at the comedy game, and they sure aren’t sending TV talent scouts to the joints I work on a regular basis. The Midwest is a vast wasteland as far as the networks are concerned, and to get seen one needs to go where the action is. New York and Los Angeles are the only places where those shows are, so that’s where to be.

   In a perfect world, I’d have lived in both places by now and have connections up the ying yang that know who I am and what I do. I’d even settle for a ying on one coast and a yang on the other at this point, but I’m painfully out of favors to call in. I haven’t been planting seeds on the coasts.

   There are no legit excuses other than the fact I’ve been trying to survive month to month by the skin of my t’aint. Again, nobody cares about that. If I was really going to have a career I’d find a way to get myself in front of someone that could put me on television as much as I could get on.

   I haven’t pushed, nor has anyone pushed for me. I know my limitations. I’m not the young cute pretty boy actor/comedian who they can build a sitcom around. I get that. Still, I am a super solid comic and could do about a dozen five minute talk show spots like I did on The Late Late Show.

   Will I ever get that shot? Who knows? There are a lot of others who want an extremely limited number of slots, and most of them have high powered management of some kind behind them to push for them to get on. I don’t have any of that, plus I’m in Chicago. I might as well be coming from space. The King of Uranus has a much better shot of getting on TV than Dobie Maxwell.

   I remember watching an ESPN documentary years ago about a minor league pitcher who was making his way to the big leagues. It showed the process of what it took to struggle through the minors and how much of a crapshoot everything was. I don’t remember the guy’s name but I do recall he made it up with the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched a single inning late in the season.

   At the end of the show there was a crawl that said it was the only inning he ever pitched in the majors as he was released after the season. Nobody but he and his family and friends would ever remember his moment of glory, and surely nobody cared how much work it took to achieve it.

   I wish I couldn’t relate to that guy’s plight, but I totally can. I still remember feeling on top of the world three years ago today after my appearance ran. I’d gotten emails and phone calls from all over the country, and it felt like I had arrived. Then I went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in front of 40,000 people and wasn’t recognized by anyone. Not once. That put it into perspective.

   There’s only room for a few big stars in any field of endeavor - then there’s everyone else. I’m everyone else, but so are most other people. The stars are always the exceptions, never the norm. Even at the baseball game I went to, most of those players were hanging on to their jobs trying to ride the wave as long as possible. I would bet most of them are not there only three years later.

   I’ve been a success in the entertainment business in that I’ve made it to the major leagues both in radio and in comedy. Doing mornings on The Loop in Chicago for over a year is a respectable achievement any radio person would gladly want on a resume. In comedy, headlining places like Zanies in Chicago and making an appearance on The Late Late Show are no minor feats either.

   Where I’ve fallen short is that I haven’t been able to capture the public’s fancy. I think that has to do with several things coming together, but it’s true. I could make excuses, and some of them might hold up in court, but the bottom line is that I’m still an unknown and nobody cares but me.

   I don’t want fame for ego purposes; I want it for business purposes. I don’t have a desire to not be able to walk out of my hotel room without being mobbed, but having a name would be nice to be able to have drawing power for shows. I’d love to be able to pack theatres around the country.

   Louis CK seems to be the hot guy right now. No disrespect to him, and I admire the hell out of his work ethic, but I know I would kill with the majority of his fans. How to get in front of all of them is my problem, and I’ll be damned if I have any ideas as to how I can remedy the situation.

   Do I need management? Maybe, but can I find somebody who will share my vision and believe in me as much as I do? I know I have the ability on stage, but off stage I feel like I’m trying to do brain surgery with a rusty butter knife while wearing boxing gloves. That’s not the way to do it.

   I know in my heart I could totally nail a Tonight Show, Letterman, Kimmel, Fallon, Conan or even another Craig Ferguson shot but how will I get the chance? I guess the first thing would be to start knocking on all of those doors, but it would be a lot easier if someone I knew could help cut through to the inner circle. I’ve paid my dues, but if I don’t get on TV again it won’t matter.

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