Saturday, November 18, 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. He was also one of the co-hosts of the "Morning Loop Guys" on WLUP in 2003/2004. He's previously contributed three columns exclusively for this blog. (Dobie 1 & Dobie 2 & Dobie 3)

Today he makes it four...

… And Justice For Al

By Dobie Maxwell

My grandfather’s name was Avrum but everyone called him Al. Everyone except me. I called him Gramps. I was raised by my grandparents and Gramps told me later he vowed to spend the time with me that he didn’t spend with my father. I was his second chance to be a good parent and he taught me lessons whether I wanted to learn them or not. I didn’t want to learn them at the time but now I find myself thinking back on them often. One of his big pet peeves was stupidity. It was Gramps who first told me ‘The masses are asses’.

I thought Gramps made it up but he didn’t. Alexander Hamilton said it. He’s the guy on the ten dollar bill. He also never was president. I know that because I’d watch Gramps bet people $10 they couldn’t tell him the name of the president pictured on a $10 bill. He did it only to people he thought were stupid and needed to be taught a lesson. He delighted in it whenever disaster struck someone or something he thought deserved it. I get it now.

Growing up in the ‘70s I was fascinated with Evel Knievel and his motorcycle jumping stunts. He was billed as a ‘dare-devil’ but Gramps called him a ‘dare-dummy’ and hoped he killed himself every time he would jump his motorcycle over a load of buses. I never understood how he could wish that on anyone. When I asked him why he said "Because he’s an idiot and he’s asking for it. I hope he gets it. Then he‘ll teach everyone else with a brain what NOT to do and life will be better for everyone else. He’s a human example."

Gramps equated it to telling someone not to touch the stove because it was hot and then they do it anyway. I know because it was me who did it. He laughed uproariously when I did it and said "See? I told you. What part of HOT did you not understand?" I get it now.

I couldn’t help but think of Gramps a few weeks ago when I watched on TV how the airplane of New York Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle crashed into a building in Manhattan.. There is nothing funny about a plane crash…when it happens to innocent people. When it happens to a millionaire athlete who wasn’t experienced as a pilot but put everyone else at risk just because he felt like sight seeing and thought he was bullet proof I find a deep dark part of myself becoming Gramps in the way I think and saying "See? I told you. What part of hot did you not get Corey?" He put the entire WORLD on terror alert because he had to get in a crop duster and storm troop through New York City like the Red Baron. He jeopardized everything and lost his life, his career and left a young wife and daughter. That’s not at all humorous but he was either too stupid or too cocky to realize how much he put at risk all for a plane ride. He is a human example and part of me laughed when I heard about it.

I know that’s cruel but at least I’m brave enough to admit it. We all have a humor dark side, it’s just different in all of us how black the darkness gets. How much pain is funny? If someone should trip and fall in front of us is it funny? According to Gramps only if the person is a moron, imbecile, halfwit or dolt. He thought lack of intelligence deserved a bit of punishment to serve as an example to everyone else. As I get older I’m having a harder time arguing his logic. Why should we call a NASCAR crash a ‘tragedy’? They all drive at over 200 miles an hour. On purpose. Every week. Shouldn’t we expect it to happen?

Look at the problems we have with car accidents in the real world. The speed limit on the freeways is different in different places but it’s never over 75. That’s dangerous as it is but now let’s triple that speed and put a bunch of rednecks behind the wheel on top of that and nobody expects there to be a crash? It’s a ‘tragedy’? No, it’s an ‘inevitability’.

The Crocodile Hunter was another prime example. By all accounts he was a gentle and nice man. He was a good father to his kids and a kind soul. I’m sorry when the world has to lose one of those because there are far too few of them but on the other hand here is an idiot who time after time for years would provoke dangerous animals. On television yet. What did he expect was going to happen? Mother nature must have had enough and sent the old stingray to stop the clock. How many times did he tickle the testicles of a tarantula to tempt the fates? I always saw him flicking his finger in the face of a ferret or wiggling his watch at a wildebeest and I knew it was just a matter of time until he was pet food.

I don’t have to watch the news long for a story that would have made Gramps cheer up. Just the other day I saw one about a gang banger who died trying to spray graffiti 90 feet up on a billboard. He slipped and fell to his death halfway through his defacing of public property. Would he have climbed 90 feet without a net or any safety ropes to get a job as a painter? NO. Instead he decided to make a human example of himself. I find that funny.

I don’t want to mislead you about Gramps. He had a heart and so do I. I am also not at all trying to say that I don’t do stupid things once in a while. Maybe someday I’ll be one of those masses Alexander Hamilton was talking about and I’ll make an example of myself too. If I do, you have my permission to laugh at me as well. If I’m as dumb as the people you just read about then I deserve it too. I’ll leave earth with levity and justice for Al.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Half Empty: Million Dollar Holiday Gifts

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.

Million Dollar Holiday Gifts

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

This holiday season we are really in the giving mood. In fact, we’re prepared to give away millions of dollars.

It’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them actual fish, right? That’s why your good buddies Rick and Dave are handing out six of our business ideas from our “Million Dollar File,” absolutely free.

That’s right. The following ideas are all potential goldmines. They only need a fisherman to cast out the line. With a little gumption, a little spit and polish, and a little start-up capital, these businesses could each be worth a mint.

1. Uri-Geller Auto Body Shops
The man can bend spoons with his mind. It’s a total waste of his talent. Think of what he could do for Chevys and Lincoln Town Cars (with no overhead costs!) He wouldn’t return our phone calls, but that doesn’t mean he won’t return yours. Good luck, and please wish him our best.

2. Players Association Fantasy Camps
At the existing fantasy camps featuring players from the 60s and 70s, participants play baseball with the old stars. At this fantasy camp featuring more recently retired players, participants will be taught how to hold out, how to demand your own personal trainer, how to inject your buttocks, and how to manage your financial portfolio. It’s much more realistic than those other “fantasy” camps.

3. Topless Tapas
We’ve had closed-minded potential-investors claim that nobody would go to a Topless Tapas restaurant because only couples go to Tapas joints, and only groups of guys go to Topless joints. They didn’t see the potential of bringing couples and groups of guys together. This is a unity business, one that will allow us to live in harmony. You get it, right? Good. Now open one up. We want to bring our wives.

4. The Dead-Head Job Hunting Guide
We starting writing this book in 1995 (when Jerry Garcia died) as a service to all those poor souls who could no longer follow the Grateful Dead around the country. We figured they would have to get jobs, and wouldn’t have the necessary skills. Our handy guide gave them important interviewing tips like “wear shoes,” and even provided a glossary to explain the real definitions of terms like “business trip.” For some reason we never finished the book, but the deadheads still don’t have jobs. If only someone else took the ball and ran with it…

5. The Deaf Comedy Jam
The HBO people weren’t receptive to our pitch a few years ago, but the new executives working there now will probably see the wisdom of a comedy concert for the deaf—a totally untapped comedy market. A simple word of caution, however. Don’t try to stage it without HBO. They threatened to sue us for copyright infringement if we staged our own, claiming…are you ready for this… “people might confuse it with the Def Comedy Jam.” Right. Talk about paranoid.

6. The Sound of Music Gift Shoppe
OK, let’s start at the very beginning—a very good place to start. We’ve each been to Salzburg and were blown away that there wasn’t a single Sound of Music Gift Shoppe in the town the movie was filmed. What Sound-of-Music-fanatic wouldn’t want to bring home some “raindrops on roses” or “whiskers on kittens” or “brown paper packages tied up in strings” as souvenirs? Yes, Austria is a long, long way to run, but the hills are alive there…with the sound of euros.

There you have it. Millions of dollars you didn’t have five minutes ago. Enjoy your new found wealth.

All we ask is that you think of us when your butler brings you a pina colada at your Bahamian winter home.

Happy Holidays.

If you missed any previous Half Empty columns, click here:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Suburban Man: Public Tantrum Tips

By Rick Kaempfer

I call it the “Parenting Book Black Hole.”

Even though there are literally thousands of parenting books on the market offering tips on the best and most productive ways to discipline a child, as far as I’m concerned, none of them have the answer when it comes to the most humiliating parental moment: the public tantrum.

I’m not talking about the everyday whining for candy that every parent has to deal with at the checkout counter.

No, I’m talking about the Super Bowl of tantrums: the uncontrollable screaming, kicking, and punching by the demon-seed exorcism-candidate you brought to the store with you. The kid whose eyes look at you through the tears to say: “What are you gonna do about it in front of all these people?”

Kids are smart. They know that strangers don’t look at a rampaging kid and think – “Wow, that’s a bad kid.” They think – “Wow, that kid has bad parents.”

So…as your child convulses and squeals, you go through your options in your mind.

1) You can ignore the tantrum and let the kid stew in his own humiliation. That’s what some of the parenting books recommend. Unfortunately, the parenting books aren’t written with demon-seed exorcism-candidates in mind.

2) You can threaten serious consequences in a hiss-like voice with a smile on your face. Unfortunately, this takes years to perfect, and he knows you won’t do anything in front of strangers anyway.

3) You can try reasoning with him. Of course, you’re arguing from a position of weakness, and kids can smell weakness. That’s why you’re in this position in the first place.

4) You can give in. You know this is wrong on so many levels, but hell, the damn toy only costs six dollars and that’s a small price to pay for an end to your humiliation. Although, if you do that, you’ll face the exact same response next time.

None of those options will work, will they? And those are the only possible options, right?


I have three new options for the pragmatic parent. These simple approaches will allow you to leave the store without getting reported to DCFS, and without succumbing to the demon-seed. They aren’t going to win you any Parent-of-the-Year awards, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

1) Elicit onlooker sympathy
If you can’t force yourself to deny the child is yours, say this in a loud enough voice to be heard by all onlookers: “I’m sorry your mother left us too, honey, but I’m doing the best I can to raise you and your brothers by myself. If I buy you that toy, we can’t eat dinner tonight. You can play with your lump of coal when we get home.”

2) Pretend you’re on TV
Wave to a rack of clothing. Talk into your sleeve. Say this: “Are you rolling, Bob? Good. He’s rolling, kid. Now keep that up, and remember not to look at the hidden cameras unless you hear the director yell ‘Cut!’ Got it? Great. Keep screaming. You’re a natural.”

3) Appeal to onlooker patriotism
Don’t underestimate the power of the flag. Say this: “You just go ahead and scream, Ali. I know you weren't allowed to scream like that in Iran, but here in the good ol’ U.S of A, we have freedom. Me and the missus are just pleased as punch to have you join our family.”

These options may seem a little distasteful, but they’re guaranteed to stop the peanut gallery from camping out and watching you flounder.

Without a disapproving crowd, your child’s tantrum loses steam, which allows you to regain command. That’s when you remind him how sorry he’s going to be for putting you through this ridiculous experience.

And when you get back into the nearly soundproof car, you can exercise your own lungs.

An eye for an eye. An ear for an ear.

It’s practically biblical.

If you missed a previous Suburban Man column, click here:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Renewing My Vows

This week five years ago, Bridget and I renewed our wedding vows live on the air. I described it in this short section of my book..."The Radio Producer's Handbook." The photos are a bonus for the blog readers.

The John Landecker show did a week of live broadcasts from the Dominican Republic. Every morning there were huge technical issues to overcome, but the shows were quite memorable. Rick Kaempfer and his wife renewed their vows live on the air (for their tenth anniversary). The ceremony was perfect for the radio. It was a surprise for Rick’s wife, but every element of it was pre-approved by Rick and John.

There were visual elements (the bride arrived on horseback, the groom arrived on burro) and audio elements (music, crowd reaction, and an audio play by play provided by John), plus it was all captured by the digital camera and instantaneously placed on the station’s Web site.

The live audience felt like they were involved in something special. The show ended with Rick and Bridget, each holding one of their young sons, slow dancing to their wedding song. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience, and the listeners at home got to listen to the song, and see the pictures on the Web site—a truly multi-media experience.

The only problem with this wonderful moment, of course, is that whatever I do now for our 15th anniversary (Thursday) will pale in comparison.

I'll probably just get her a card.