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

Not Enough Scratch

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Monday January 14th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   The last three weeks have been a continuous adventure of whirlwind travel. I’ve spread myself all over America from Reno to Nashville to the Twin Cities of Minnesota, and pulled off a series of successful standup comedy shows in each place. On paper, that would be remarkable success.

   Had anyone told me when I started I’d be doing that in all those places, I’d have had a difficult time believing it. It would’ve seemed too good to be true, but alas all these years later I managed to pull it off.  None of it was a fluke, and if I were asked to do it again I could easily replicate it.

   The problem is, after paying for plane tickets, gas, food, rental cars and speeding tickets I’ll be lucky if I average a $150-$200 a week profit. That’s a lot of effort for that small of payback, and I can’t see myself doing it on a long term basis. A ton of effort went into all three of those weeks and that includes booking them, arranging travel, physically getting there and doing the shows.

   That’s no easy feat, and I dare anyone to give it a shot and experience firsthand how difficult it all actually is. There are always glitches and obstacles to overcome, and at the end of these three weeks I’m drained and can use some time off. Too bad for me, I needed to be in Chicago tonight for the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies. A chance to earn money on a Monday takes precedence.

   It’s funny to see the same longing looks in the eyes of the new kids that I had when I’d hear of the road adventures of the headliners when I was starting. They’d tell me about where they’d just returned from and where they were going next and it all sounded so exciting and glamorous then.

   Parts of it are exciting and maybe even a tiny bit glamorous at least at times, but after a while it all wears off and becomes an enormous constant chore. There’s always the next plane to catch or car to rent or deadline to make, and then when I get there it’s a matter of dealing with that club or booker’s personal quirks not to mention having to deal with pitfalls of drunk or small audiences.

   There really is a ridiculously long list of potential problems nobody would ever imagine would need to be dealt with when starting out on the comedy trail. We all assume it will be a rocket ride straight to superstardom with nary a glitch to even slow us down. How wrong we are, and reality then commences to beat us into obedience over a long period of time until we finally fall in line.

   Well, I’m in line. I’ve learned my craft with the best of them and can handle virtually any kind scenario one can throw in front of me, and handle it well. The bookers who use me now receive a fantastic bargain in that I’m a Green Beret level soldier when going into combat in their venues.

   The problem – and it’s a big one - is, there just isn’t enough pay involved in doing this to make a decent living these days. It took a lifetime of sacrifice to get to the level I’m at, and seeing what I netted for a major cross country three week swing is embarrassing to the point of humiliation.

   It’s not even worth getting out of bed for that kind of money, and with the amount of wear and tear it put on my psyche, car and body I came out the loser on this trip. How is anyone surviving?  

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