Saturday, July 15, 2006

Guest Blogger: Dobie Maxwell

Dobie Maxwell is one of the most accomplished stand-up comedians working in America today. I highly recommend his stand up act. If you are in a town that has "The Bob & Tom Show," you've probably heard Dobie many times. He is a semi-regular guest on that show. He was also one of the co-hosts of the "Morning Loop Guys" on WLUP in 2003/2004, and did a daily feature falled the 60 Second Soapbox. I asked him to contribute one to this blog, and he graciously agreed.

Holiday OUT

By Dobie Maxwell

Brothers and sisters, misses and misters, cash tenders and card's title is Holiday OUT.

These are the dog days of the year when it comes to holidays. After the 4th of July we've got a long lifeless stretch with nothing to decorate, no cards to send and no real reasons to have a gigantic party until Halloween. This is not right and I think it's time to correct the flaw.

Oh sure, there's Labor Day but when was the last time you decorated your house or car for that? Maybe some people get together and give one last hurrah to a pair of white pants for the year or get rip roaring drunk every time Jerry Lewis goes to the tote board on the Telethon but that's really not a holiday. I have yet to see a Hallmark Labor Day card with a picture of Ziggy or Snoopy wearing a hard hat and carrying a lunch box. It's a weak sister.

Between now and Labor Day there's NOTHING. It's like driving through Texas. There might be a city or town coming up but it won't be here for a long long time. Why can't we move a holiday into August and spread things around a little? Who said we have to have any of the holidays when they are? Christmas would be a GREAT fit on August 25th. All accounts say Jesus wasn't born in December anyway so why not pull this switch now and make it fit?

Think about it, wouldn't it be fun to be a kid and have Christmas at the end of summer? I grew up in Wisconsin and there was always a foot of snow on the ground at Christmas. If I got a new bike or a baseball mitt I couldn't try it out for MONTHS. There is no reason for that kind of torture for a little kid. Let's give the kids some summer presents and let it rip. Jesus would have loved it if his birthday party had a Slip 'n Slide rather than a wool cap and scarf.

Plus, it would be great to have summer and then Christmas before going back to school. School clothes could be part of Christmas and it would be a perfect fit in that spot. I say we consult the powers that be and get it changed for next year. So what if Santa has to change into shorts and a t-shirt? Most of the fat guys at the mall who play Santa would LOVE that.

Thanksgiving would be way more special if it didn't have Christmas breathing down it's neck a month later. Many times people still have Thanksgiving turkey left over when they go out and fire up another one for Christmas. I'm sure the turkey population would be happy to survive in bigger numbers if Christmas was moved to August. Not many people would be up for making one then. We'd probably have a big old barbecue and some watermelon and the nativity scene in the front yard would have a lawn sprinkler right in the middle of it. Cool!

I guess I'm not a big traditionalist and these ideas all sound great to me. I'm in favor of having one holiday a month and that's it. To have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve all in a short span and having this time of the year when there's nothing is very unfair to me. Let's give it a try next year. Merry Christmas and pass the mosquito repellant.

Dobie teaches a stand up comedy class at Zanies. This is the book he wrote for that class.

Dobie has one CD out and is in the process of putting out another one. Check out his website:

If you want to read any of my previous guest bloggers, click here:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Half Empty: "Your Language is Your Age"

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

"Your Language is Your Age"

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

Once you turn 40, you enter a sort of "coolness" no-man's land. You’re kids are probably too young to let you know if you’re woefully out of touch or not, and you have this nagging feeling that everything you thought was cool is no longer considered cool.

You’re right.

But there are ways to avoid putting a blinking light on your advancing age. The biggest giveaway is obviously your looks, but even those of us who somehow managed to enter middle age without looking like it, can give ourselves away by misusing the language.

Don't overreact to this inevitable crisis. It’s not important to learn the new slang. Not only does that take way too much time and effort; it also tends to make you look a little pathetic.

You can avoid the blinking neon age billboard by simply stopping your usage of outdated slang.

If you use any of the following words or phrases, there isn’t a person in this country who won’t immediately recognize your age. Avoid them at all costs.

1. “Fresh”
The kids still use this one, but they never, ever use it this way: “He was getting a little fresh with me.” There used to be two meanings to this (a verbal and physical one). Now there are zero.

2. “Stinker”
Nobody under the age of 60 uses that word. If you’re playing with a child and you say “Stop being a little stinker,” everyone will know that you are the child’s grandparent.

3. “Sporty”
If your Mercury Sable is “sporty,” you’re old. If you’re new outfit is “sporty,” you may be too far gone for us to help you.

4. “Hunk”
If you see an attractive man and tell your girlfriends that he is a “Hunk,” he is at least thirty years younger than you are.

5. “Hold your horses”
If someone is a little overanxious and you say “hold your horses,” everyone in the room will know that you lived during a time when people did it for real.

6. “Far Out”, “Right On”, “Out of Sight”
These phrases died in the plane crash with John Denver. If you still use any of them, take that country road back to the place where you belong...the old folks home.

7. "Hubba Hubba"
When you say it, expect to hear this from any young person in the room... "Ewwww."

8. “Young Man” or “Young Lady”
If you use either one of these terms at the end of the sentence...”Where do you think you’re going, __________?”...brace yourself. Your grandson or granddaughter may just get a little fresh with you.

9. "Cutting a Rug"
Nothing says "I can't dance" better than "Let's go cut a rug." No one with any self respect will dance with you after you say it. Both of us actually use this to get out of dancing.

Hopefully you dig this groovy list. Avoid them and nobody will know you’re not a hep cat. Use them and everyone will know you’re totally square.

To read any of our previous Half Empty columns, click here:

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Suburban Man: Give Me A Break

By Rick Kaempfer

My wife Bridget was heading out of town for the weekend.

”Are you sure you’ll be OK?” she teased, as I dropped her off at the airport. She had a twinkle in her eye when she asked because she was taking our three-year-old hellion along with her, which meant that I was only going to be responsible for the two older (largely self-sufficient) boys.

“What could go wrong?” I asked.

As I drove home I was planning the weekend in my mind. I figured we might go to a movie, play some baseball in the backyard, or maybe go for a bike ride or two. All of those plans went out the window moments after I returned home. A phone call from summer school delivered the news.

“Mr. Kaempfer?”

I knew that voice. It was the school nurse.

“You better get over here right away. Tommy broke his arm.”

I noticed she didn't say that he "hurt his arm," or "sprained his arm," or "bruised his arm." She said he broke it. I wasn’t used to such confident diagnoses from her. It had to be bad. When I arrived at the school and saw the arm hanging at a right angle, I concurred with the diagnosis. Tommy was in excruciating pain.

“How did he do it?” I asked.

“He tripped over his shoelaces and tried to break his fall with his arm,” she said.

Yup, that’s my son. We Kaempfers are a graceful bunch.

When we got to the emergency room, the triage nurse diagnosed the broken arm right away too. “Are you his Dad?” she asked.


“Where’s his mom?”

“She’s on a plane right now.”

“Do you know his medical history?” she asked.

I nodded. I’m his father, not his cab driver.

“Good,” she said. “This is a pretty bad break. He may need surgery.”

She handed me a stack of forms to fill out, but my first concern was keeping Tommy calm. When he heard the word “surgery” his screams became ear-splitting.

”Does he know what surgery is?” she asked.

I pointed at the screaming boy; exhibit A.

“We’ll get him some morphine to help with the pain,” she said.

Tommy yelped even louder. He knew what that was too. I have to say, that’s about the time I started getting a little worried myself. I never envisioned a situation where I would be discussing surgery and morphine for my ten year old son.

After we got Tommy into a bed, and they finally inserted the morphine drip, the doctor pulled me into the hallway to discuss what was going to happen next. I was thankful that Tommy couldn’t hear us.

“We’re going to have to put him under for the surgery,” he said. “We may need to re-break his arm. It’s very difficult to put back into place when it’s jagged like that.”

“Oh my God,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We do this all the time. Besides, you’ve got bigger things to worry about.”

“I do?”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “The nurse told me that his mother is in an airplane. Is that true?”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“So she left you in charge of watching him?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“And he broke his arm before her flight even landed?”

Ooh. That did sound bad.

“We’ll take care of him,” the doctor said, pointing toward morphine-boy. Then he pointed up toward the sky. “You take care of her.”

You’ll be happy to hear that this story has a happy ending. The surgery was successful. Tommy has a cast on his arm, but he has adapted to it quite well. As for his mother, when I finally got in touch with her later that night, I found out that her flight had been delayed by two hours. That meant that Tommy actually broke his arm before she even took off.

I’m thinking of contacting the Guinness World Record Book. I don’t know what the category would be, but I’m pretty confident that we set some sort of a record.

To her credit, Bridget wasn’t mad at me. Although, when the shock of the situation wore off, she did parrot my parting words back to me.

“What could go wrong?”

If you'd like to read any other Suburban Man columns (there are 27 of them now), click here:

Sunday, July 09, 2006


By Rick Kaempfer

(From the July 2006 issue)

There’s an e-mail joke going around the internet mocking men and their grills. According to this e-mail, women do everything (buy the food, make the salad, prepare the vegetables, marinate the meat, organize the plates and cutlery, etc.), and all men do is put the meat on the grill and take the credit.

There may be a glimmer of truth to that e-mail, but it doesn’t begin to explain why a man has such a personal relationship with his grill. It’s not just because it’s so easy to grill meat. It’s not just because a man can feel the glow of praise caveman hunters must have felt after they provided meat for a whole family or neighborhood.

It’s much deeper than that.

A grill has everything a man loves--fire, heat, smoke and meat--plus it lacks something a man needs to escape every now and then. It’s a natural woman repellant; more powerful than a cigar. A backyard grill is more than just the place where the meat cooks. It’s the place where men congregate, and women stay away. It’s a place where, if you’re willing to endure a little coughing and sweat pouring from your brow, a man can be a man.

Without women around, we can tell jokes. No one groans when the joke begins. No one rolls their eyes before, during, or after a joke...even with smoke pouring into them. If the joke isn’t funny, we still offer a polite laugh, followed by “That’s a good one.” That’s proper joke etiquette. And the only place we’re certain to experience it is near a grill.

What else can men do while grilling? We can talk about the local sports teams and players without stopping to provide translations (“They call it a field goal in basketball too”) or answering questions that shouldn’t be asked like: “Are you talking about the cute one with the big arms?” We can emit bodily functions without being punched. We can use bad language without offending anyone. We can ask someone to fetch us a beer without getting that glare in return—because the cooler is never more than five feet away. Instead, we’ll hear the correct response.

Bob: “What kind you want?”
Chuck: “How bout a Heineken.”
Bob: “You got it. Coming right up.”

If we don’t have anything to say, that’s fine too. There’s no pressure. We can just stare at the meat together in silence. We don’t mind silence. When we want to talk again, we have a guaranteed topic of conversation. The meat.

Bob: “You might want to flip that one.”
Chuck: “You may be right.”
Bob: “What kind of sausage is that?”
Chuck: “Not sure. The little lady bought it.”

We can use terms like “the little lady” or “the little woman” or “the old lady” freely and openly. We can pretend like it’s our world, like we have some say in what we do, and when the little lady comes to check on the progress of the meat and says something like “it’s not supposed to be black, you know” we can look at each other knowingly.

Then we can wait for her to return with a plate, sipping our beers, stabbing at the blackened chicken or sausage or steak or burger; enjoying our last few moments of male-bonding seclusion. We know that once the meat is done, our little world will be snatched away from us. Our perfect little escape hatch will be closed, and we’ll be forced to return to a discussion of curtains and carpets and imaginary paint colors.

If you pay attention, it’s not the women giving us “too much credit” for our grilling prowess upon our return to the party. It’s the other men—the ones who weren’t lucky or savvy enough to escape to the grill. An overly-enthusiastic trapped male will praise us the second he sees the tray of meat. The conversation will go something like this...

Woman #1: “Is your living room coral or salmon?”
Woman #2: “Would you believe it’s really more of a muted Navajo?”
(Meat tray arrives)
Trapped Guy: “HEY! There they are! Great job on the meat, Chuck! It looks perfect.”
Chuck: “Bob helped me.”
Bob: “Yup.”
(The women all roll their eyes.)

Don’t get us wrong. It’s not that we don’t like women—we really, really, really do. It’s just that every now and then we like to pretend that we aren’t completely controlled by them. Unfortunately, one of the few remaining places to do that is really hot and smoky, but we’ve learned to find the positives in that too.

Chuck: “Why don’t you squirt some more lighter-fluid on the fire.”
Bob: “You mean it?”
Chuck: (evil smile) “Yup.”
(Lighter fluid is squirted.)
Bob & Chuck: “Ooooh!”
Bob: “Now that’s a fire.”
Chuck: (evil smile) “Yup.”

We may be simple creatures, but look on the bright side. We’re very easy to please. Just give us some fire, some heat, some smoke, and some meat, and we’ll let the ladies talk about imaginary paint colors all day long.

We even promise not to roll our eyes.