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

Funny Isn't Enough

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Saturday August 18th, 2012 – Libertyville, IL

   I was talking with another comedian recently about just how small of a percentage of the entire process that’s required to survive in the comedy business that actually pertains to one’s act and it is shockingly small to the point of being microscopic. Actual stage ability has little if anything to do with the big picture of show business success as a whole - and the smart ones learn that early.

   I was a flaming halfwit unfortunately, and placed emphasis on funny first. What a mistake that was, but it was all I was interested in. It still is. The only part I enjoy about comedy is the process of making a room full of strangers laugh as hard as any human being can. It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever felt, and I never get sick of it. What I get sick of is wrestling with all the other insanity.

   That part is nothing short of maddening, but there are those who play that game extremely well and can manage to carve out a comfortable living if not an actual career. If when I was beginning my journey someone would have offered me one attribute that I could count on, I would’ve taken being funny hands down. It turns out, that’s about the only thing I had and it didn’t mean a thing.

   I’m not bragging, but I have a natural gift to make people laugh. I’ve had it since I was a kid in school cracking up the other kids with my smart ass answers to teacher’s questions. I didn’t have to even think about what I was going to say – it just came out. I developed my game after a while but the natural chops were always there. I may have failed at almost everything else, but not that.

   If someone is born with a natural gift for music or athletics, they tend to be revered. Comedy is rarely that way. It’s usually reviled at first – at least by authority figures. If a kid can throw a ball farther than everyone else, he can be an illiterate lout and still get to attend the finest schools and date the prettiest girls. Sports ability is at a premium. If someone is funny, it can be a detriment.

   I’m not going to lie and say this doesn’t stew my prunes. It totally does. I really thought I’d be able to coast by and make an above average living by now, but I’m struggling more now than my early years because my will to fight is fading fast. I no longer have anything to prove to anyone – especially the idiots. And this is a business and planet packed to the rafters with idiots aplenty.

   Sorry, but it takes intelligence to enjoy well written standup comedy. It’s a subtle art form, and requires the one seeing it to have some depth of knowledge and perception to fully appreciate the product. Monkeys at the zoo might enjoy a mime or a juggler, but they’ll never get a standup act.

   I thought about all of this as I sat around with no work tonight. I haven’t been actively seeking bookings as much as I probably should be, because quite frankly it bores me beyond tears. Why do I need to try to capture the attention of some pencil pushing pinhead who doesn’t know funny from foot fungus and beg him or her to let me work their hell hole at a strip mall in Kalamazoo?

   I’m just not up for that anymore, and it’s a real problem. I have to find something else to do or suck it up and play the game better. That’s a harsh reality, but it’s a harsh business. And I’m too far into it to learn how to be a plumber. I better learn something, but quick. Funny isn’t enough.

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