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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

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

Caucasianitis

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Tuesday July 24th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

    Today was supposed to be my day off. Ha! Right. Those are getting to be about as rare as wins for the Cubs or Brewers these days.  I’ve been putting all kinds of effort into a variety of projects lately and stretching myself way beyond the limits of sanity. It seems like all I do is work lately.

   I don’t know what else to do. If I stop, then I’m really screwed. What are the chances of getting anything I desire without getting off my aspirations and making something happen? Elzilcho. It’s a test of stamina, and I don’t know how long I can hold out. Something has to give at some point.

   As an entertainer I have to keep my name out there constantly, and I just don’t enjoy doing that this far into the race. One would think I’d have my stride by now, but I’m by far not the only one dealing with this issue. Top of mind awareness is something all businesses have to fight to keep.

   McDonald’s never lets up on their advertising, and who hasn’t heard of them by now? It’s not always a matter of hearing of a particular product, it’s a matter of choosing it when it comes time to buy. That’s the trick, and when buyers have a glut of products it makes it harder to get sales.

   This is not a very good time to be a struggling standup comic – especially a white one. There is a horrible disease called ‘Caucasianitis’, and I’ve got a horrible case of it. The world just doesn’t have a burning need to see a white guy they’ve never heard of telling jokes, even if he’s funny.

   Funny is not enough. It doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t necessarily help either. He has to be likeable and more importantly memorable to have a chance at becoming a star with the masses, and that’s not easy to pull off. The mass audience is brain dead as a rule, and I’m never going to get myself over doing what I’m doing. I don’t think it’s in the cards, at least not with the product I’ve got.

   Although all this is very disappointing, I can’t allow myself to get bitter. It is what it is, and it’s nothing I had anything to do with. White males had hundreds of years in a position of power, and we completely mangled it. That’s not my fault either, but I’m paying for the past sins of others.

   Who was the last white guy to really make an impact in standup comedy? Dane Cook? He lit it up there for a while, even though I find absolutely nothing funny about him. That doesn’t matter. He appealed to the masses, and good for him for doing it. I admire his razor sharp business skills.

   After all these years, I’m FINALLY realizing that this is a business. I’ve always done it for the artistic satisfaction, and I’ve actually gotten some. I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of exciting shows where the audience really loved what I did, and I had fun doing it. But as far as taking it to that elusive ‘next level’, something has always been missing. I’ve not been perceived as special.

   There are any number of nameless white comics out there that could go in front of an audience and light them up just like I do. The audience will laugh all night, but if they were asked on their way out of the venue what the comic’s name was they just saw five minutes ago they’d have NO idea – even if there was a crisp $100 bill riding if they knew. Unfortunately, I’m in that category.

   I’m not saying anything other than this is how it is in my chosen field of endeavor, and I’ve got to find a way to deal with it. Minorities of all kinds might have it harder in everyday life, and I’m sorry if that’s true. I wish life were fair for everyone, but that’s never happened and it never will.

   Right now, like it or not, anyone but white males have a better chance of making a living in the comedy business. It’s more of a supply and demand thing than a race thing, but people choose to make it racial and that ruffles all kinds of feathers. All I’m trying to do is keep money coming in.

   This is not a crusade for equality, even though it would make things a lot easier for us all. It’s a cold cruel world we’re living in, and not only that a crew of pure bred idiots are in charge. That’s about the only thing in this world that IS fair – they permeate every last race, color and ethnicity.

   I can’t worry about any of this, and I’m surely not going to change it any time soon. I just want to find a way to figure it out enough so I can carve out a nice living for myself doing what I love. I’ve been able to survive doing exactly that, but I want to do more than that. I want to have a life.

   That’s hard to do when I’ve got to fight so hard to stay booked every week. Like I said, I don’t enjoy having to promote myself week in and week out, but that’s what it takes to stay in the face of those who book shows. There are a lot of acts – not just white males – looking for work every week. It’s a numbers game, and not in my favor like it once was. Funny alone just doesn’t cut it.

   That will take me so far, and I’m probably there now. I can work top venues and pull off funny shows. I did a great job at The Comedy Quarter in Neenah, WI last week, but nobody who was in the crowd would remember my name less than a week later. I was a place holder, and I know it.

   The trouble is, I can’t just magically switch it up and find a magic potion that will change who I am overnight. I have to keep slugging and looking for work, and that’s what I was doing today. I had planned on seeking out the talent coordinators of all the network shows, but the phone rang and my email inbox filled up and before I knew it the day was shot. That happens too frequently.

   It’s a major effort to keep my head above water, and I’ll be the first one to admit I’m not one to focus on just one thing. I’ve got radio in the picture and comedy classes too. I love doing all of it but it’s really hard to give everything the attention that it needs – especially in the times we’re in.

   I find promoting myself and looking for gigs boring. I don’t want to troll for work, but that’s a big part of the game. My phone used to ring off the hook and people would ask me when I could come to work for them. It still happens, but not every week. I have to market myself a lot more.

   But what do I have to market? To most bookers who don’t use me, I’m just another Caucasian from the Midwest who can do the job. I’m a journeyman or utility infielder. Those guys aren’t in the big money category, but they can pound out a nice living if they work hard. That’s what I do.

   It sure would be nice to have a chance at some of that big money, but I won’t get it doing what I’m doing now. I need to find a gimmick that hits, and that’s all that will cure my Caucasianitis.

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