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

Working Clean

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Sunday January 13th, 2013 – Minneapolis, MN/Kenosha, WI

   It’s always hard to fall asleep after a show, and then even harder to get up early to start the long drive home. The strong temptation is always there to roll back over and catch what is intended to be a few more minutes of sleep but always turns into hours and makes the long trip even longer.

   I resisted that temptation this morning and hauled myself out of bed to take a shower and pack. I’d told Dan Ronan to be ready by 7am, which in my head meant I’d hoped to leave by 8. I didn’t want to put pressure on the kid, but part of being a road comic is being on time for transportation deadlines. Buses, trains and planes won’t wait, and it was good training for him to have to get up.

   We were checked out of the hotel and in the car by 7:20, which is pretty impressive for comedy timing. Both of us wanted more sleep, but I needed to be back to do The Mothership Connection radio show in Kenosha by 8pm and didn’t want to have a stressful ride home chasing a deadline.

   I can’t say enough good things about this kid Dan Ronan. He’s got the chops on stage, but he’s also got it off stage as well. His demeanor is laid back, and he takes direction extremely well. He never complained about the long drives or having to get up early, and he handled the whole week like a trooper. He did his time on stage, and didn’t bellyache about having to work clean either.

   That’s a major issue in comedy, and isn’t going away any time soon. There is a perception by a significantly large percentage of the public that standup comedy shows are filthy, and it prevents them in droves from coming to shows – especially to see a comedian they have never heard of.

   I’m not saying this is right or wrong, but it is a factor that needs to be addressed. It’s extremely difficult to offend me personally, but I understand that people don’t want to be exposed to certain words, subjects or ideas and I respect their wishes. Working clean is a skill well worth pursuing.

   I preach this to my students until they’re sick of hearing it, but they need to not only hear it but put it into practice. Nobody wants to follow a dirty act, and everyone starts at the bottom and has to work their way up the ladder. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of grey area of what ‘clean’ means.

   It’s not just a matter of using or not using ‘the words’ that defines what’s acceptable. I’ve seen countless newbies (and some not so new) go up and be completely gross and disgusting and then not get why the audience was repulsed. There’s a definite line of taste, and smart performers will not only know where it is but not cross it – especially at a type of venue we played this weekend.

   We were in an upper scale restaurant that features comedy shows on the weekends. That’s a far cry from an actual comedy club, and I knew that going in. I was specifically chosen for this week because of a large party that requested a clean show. I have a lot of experience and can pull it off.

   The truth is, there are MILLIONS of people who would love what I do but getting them out to see me is a different story. The people this week loved that I worked clean, but I doubt if any of them could remember my name other than “that guy”. This is a problem that needs a solution.

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