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

Self Worth

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Saturday December 1st, 2012 – Michigan City, IN

   There really is no fair way to put a price on what a comedian does. Like a collectible, it’s only worth what anyone will pay for it. Just because some price guide says a Hank Aaron rookie card or a first edition Spider Man comic book has a value of several thousand dollars, it doesn’t mean I can put a down payment on a house with it. It’s not true currency, and that’s easy to overlook.

   Just because I have managed to find a way to get paid for telling jokes since 1985 also doesn’t mean that gravy train will keep running into perpetuity. I need to keep securing gigs everywhere and anywhere, and that’s getting to be harder for everyone for several reasons. It’s a challenge.

   In a perfect world – which it never is – I should be able to charge significantly more than most comedians working today simply because I’ve paid my dues and have the most experience. I can handle virtually any situation, and I’m not bragging when I say that. It has taken a lifetime to get to this level of expertise, but now that I’m here I see that most people buying comedy don’t care.

   Price is a major issue with most people who put random shows together, and there are plenty of low priced acts who will jump at the chance to get a booking anywhere for any price. That makes it extra difficult for people like me who have come through the fire the hard way but that doesn’t change the situation. Life has never been fair, and it’s not about to start now. I’ll have to adjust.

    Tonight I had a booking at a country club in Michigan City, IN. It was their maiden voyage for trying a comedy show, and the degree of difficulty couldn’t have been any higher. The show was held in a banquet room with a ‘stage’ that was basically a big wooden box that resembled a giant coffin. It was about five feet from the ground, with some extremely steep steps leading up to it.

   The microphone was in a stand with an elbow in it – exactly the wrong kind for comedy. It’s a common mistake, and that’s why I carry a regular one with me in my trunk at all times. I’ve had to use it a lot more often than I wanted to, but at least I have it. ‘Regular’ people have no clue as to how to set up a room for entertainment, and that makes it that much harder to pull off a show.

   I politely told the person in charge we wouldn’t be using the stage, as it would have been crazy and dangerous to climb up that high and talk down to the audience – especially without any stage lighting other than a Christmas tree about ten feet behind it. These were not ideal conditions by a long shot, and my instincts told me I needed to stand in front of the stage directly on the floor.

   I have enough experience that I was able to pull off a show, even if it wasn’t the best situation to have to do it. I shouldn’t have to deal with obstacles like this so far into the game, but it never seems to end. Incompetence is everywhere, but if I complain about it I get the reputation as being ‘hard to work with’. My ass. I’m trying to be professional, so I can give people a quality show.

   I feel like a plumber who gets called, then finds the job way harder than first thought to be. The plumber would charge more to do the job, but I have a set price. And If I don’t take this gig, fifty others will. Times are tight, so I shut my yap and got paid. And I earned it. But it wasn’t enough.

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