Dobie Maxwell is a comedian who has appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson; here is a link to his website:
Q: When did you know you were funny?
A: I was in fourth grade, and whenever I answered the teacher’s question I couldn’t resist going for the laugh. Everything she asked me was a setup to a punchline. It was like my own version of Hollywood Squares. After a while, she’d stop calling on me because she knew I would be going for the laugh. The other kids loved it, and it was too hard to resist.She used to yell at me and keep me after school, and say things like “You’re not stupid, young man. You KNOW the right answers, but all you ever do is crack jokes. You actually think you’ll be able to find a JOB where someone PAYS you to tell JOKES/” I had no idea that was an option.
Q: What’s funny about bad luck?
A: Without question, when it happens to someone ELSE. Anybody else. We’ve all gotten into the wrong checkout line in a store, and as soon as we get there we see it slow down because some imbecile is trying to cash a traveler’s cheque from Guatemala. I have more bad luck on a daily basis than anyone I have ever met. It makes people LAUGH. Period. I wish it weren’t so unfunny to live through personally, but at least I can turn it around and make others feel better about their own struggles.
Q: How do you train someone to be funny?
A: The first thing I tell each and every one of my comedy students – and there have been more than 2,000 – is that NOBODY can ‘make’ another person funny. It’s just something one is born with…or they aren’t. Not many don’t have at least a little something to offer, and those people usually wind up in middle management in corporate America.
Q: Who are some of your comedy heroes?
A: There were three names on my personal “Holy Trinity” of funny people that stood out from all others, and I was fortunate enough to meet them all in person and have it be a pleasant experience. In no particular order, they were Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and Bob Uecker. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rodney for a morning radio show I had in Salt Lake City. His wife Joan was from there, and he was booked for a show. He had no idea I was a comedian and had been studying his career, so he asked me to come to the show because he wanted to meet me. We hit it off, and at the end of the night I asked to get a picture with him. I brought along one of the technical engineers from the radio station, and he ended up not getting the picture. He didn’t tell me until after we got back, so I didn’t get my picture. Still, it was a thrill to meet him. George Carlin came to a club where I happened to be working, and we met before the show. He told me to go out there and ‘show me whatcha got’, and that was very intimidating. When I got off stage, he had left. I was crushed, but the club manager said he had a plane to catch, and that he came all the way back from the cab to make sure the manager told me I was very funny. Whether he thought that or not, it was a classy thing to do and I’ll remember it forever. Bob Uecker is not known for his standup comedy, but he is one of the funniest humans I have ever heard. He’s from my home town of Milwaukee, and I’ve been listening to him him broadcast Milwaukee Brewers baseball games on the radio since I was a kid. He’s hilarious, and I loved him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as well.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and why does it make you laugh?
A: Standup comedy has been my ‘day job’ since 1985. The only other thing I’ve done since than is morning radio – but I never stopped doing comedy. It’s a craft, and the only way to improve is to keep doing it. I love it more now than I ever have, but it’s harder and harder to make a living. Gas prices are killing everyone, both comedians and fans. When someone has to choose between food, clothing, shelter or comedy – guess who loses 100 times out of 100? Plus, the road life gets harder as one gets older. It’s brutal, and the thrill wears off very quickly. The shows are still fun, but getting there is a major hassle. I’m based out of the Chicago area, and I’m trying to keep my work as close to home these days as I can.
Q: What has been your greatest onstage triumph?
A: When I was first starting out, there were no comedy clubs in my hometown of Milwaukee. There was a jazz club that had comedy on Monday nights, but none of us were professionals. It was a showcase where newbies would start out. There was a neighborhood alcoholic pharmacist that showed up seven nights a week to drink, and he was known to everyone as “Drugstore Bob”. He was a nasty and downright abusive heckler, and the drunker he got the more nasty he would be to the comedians. He would sit at the bar and yell up his lines, but he’d know exactly when to step on a punchline and be a gigantic pain in the shorts to everybody. He loved all the attention, and the bar would never throw him out because he was a good customer. On more than one occasion, he would heckle some poor newbie to tears. The guy had no mercy, but he wasn’t an idiot. He was like Simon Cowell with about six cocktails in him, and he pulled NO punches on his opinions of who was funny and who wasn’t. Well, I worked my way up the ranks in that venue, and before long I could handle myself with any heckler – even Drugstore Bob. He started in on me one night, and I nailed him to the wall over and over again. It got huge applause from the regulars, and I knew I had what it took to do this. It isn’t for the squeamish, and I came through my boot camp with flying colors.
Q: How do you deal with a heckler?
A: One important point I think that needs to be brought up is that not everybody that talks during a comedy show is a heckler. Sometimes it can be a great compliment to the comedian because if a person in the audience starts to talk it means the comedian made a connection with somebody. I’ve been doing it so long that at this point hecklers just annoy me. It’s like Mike Tyson going into a bar for a drink and having someone idiot think they’re tougher than him. I have a microphone, lights, a stage and a lifetime of experience. That’s like having a 7th degree black belt in karate. I’m able to defend myself with the best of them, so I’m not worried in the least. For some odd reason I have never been able to figure out, there are people that think they’re ‘helping’ by heckling. I’ve never figured that one out, but if you’re reading this and you think that – you’re WRONG. Stop it.
Q: How did you get booked on Craig Ferguson?
A:I happened to live not far from a comedy club in Chicago where he was booked, and his plane was running late. The club asked me if I would mind being on hand in case they needed me to kill time until he got there. Not a problem, and I ended up doing over an hour. There was a CBS lady that was there and saw the whole thing. During Craig’s show I went into the club office and her purse happened to be sitting there. I took a big chance and wrote her a note and included one of my CDs and asked if she would please pass it along to the talentbooker. She ended up doing it, and that’s how I ended up on the show.
Q: What trends in stand up annoy you?
A:‘Alternative’ comedy. What a joke. That’s just an excuse to not have an act. Standup comedy is HARD, and not everyone is able to do it. If the entertainment genres were to be compared to our solar system, standup comedy would be Pluto. Whether it’s a planet or not, it’s still the furthest from the sun. Standup comedy is THE hardest performing art to master, and if one can do it it will make anything else seem like child’s play. No offense or disrespect to other crafts like acting or improv or music – whatever. They’re hard too, but a good solid standup comic is very hard to find. Another trend that bothers me is how downright filthy newer acts are getting – for no discernible reason. I’m far from being a prude, and there’s no swear word in any language that could offend me personally. BUT – one should learn the craft first before venturing down that road. Whether anybody likes it or not, being able to work clean is a lot harder but it’s also the best way to start getting paid the fastest. “Clean makes green” is something I tell my students, even though some don’t listen. Smart people in it for the long haul will look at comedy as a craft. Others are in it as a hobby, but they’ll soon tire of it and start playing video games soon enough.
Q: Tell me a blogger joke.
A: How many bloggers does it take to screw in a light bulb? It doesn’t matter, as long as somebody likes their latest post. Sorry, that’s pretty weak. I’ll have to work on that. Good thing I have enough other stuff to use on stage. 🙂
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)