Max Koch Uncorked

Wine-soaked adventures through a twisted life…

“Soft Hold Cancelled”

Late last year, a writer friend encouraged me to audition for an upcoming game show (?) hosted by Dana Carvey called “First Impressions.”

Now listen, I am the first to tell you: I never considered myself to be much of an impressionist. Yeah, I made some videos for YouTube that went viral of me pretending to be Tony Soprano, Jack Nicholson, Gary Busey, etc., but it never felt like a craft or skill I was particularly admiring of. Instead, I chose to look at it as an opportunity to explore video-making. YouTube was more about expressing yourself creatively at that time and I was DAMN PASSIONATE about getting my stuff out there as a guy hellbent on paying respective homage to the great actors and characters who inspired me growing up and otherwise. So I deemed these creations “channelings” – which may have came across as pretentious – but it really about methodically inhabiting these personas as if I was some unhinged lunatic literally POSSESSED by the spirit of, say, Tony Soprano. A fictional character, no less!  I mean, I WORKED on those videos. It was a JOB to me. I took them SO seriously. 

And it was a great run.

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The success of the videos brought me a lot of awesome attention, but I also felt it pigeon-holed me in many ways. Like when I started to come up with original characters I’d channel, it seemed a third of my viewership just wanted Tony Soprano over and over and over again. I couldn’t understand why. But now I see, in a post-James Gandolfini world, just how beloved and historic the character was. I mean, I’m not saying I was the next best thing, but let’s face it, Tony Soprano is the greatest television protagonist of ALL time. And when Gandolfini died…in many ways, so did that part of me.

So you can imagine my hesitation to go out for this Carvey project. As it was, I had prepared an entire Christmas scene I was going to do for my try-out in December.  But on the very DAY of my scheduled appointment, the super-sweet casting director called to alert me that they had to move offices…and so we had to re-schedule for January. Well, there goes my Christmas scene. Maybe Nicholson can show up at the Bing to wish Tony and Sil a Happy New Year?  It was back to the drawing board.

Finally, on the day of my audition, there was a TERRIBLE storm raging. I mean, I could barely get out of my car to go in, it was so windy and rainy and bluster-y. But I valiantly forged through the tempest, nearly breaking my umbrella, and did my thing (oh, I should mention I had also received last-minute instruction to not have a scene featuring a bunch of guys talking to each other. So I basically had to wing everything. If only I was more confident at improvisation.) 

I gotta say, I was proud of myself.  For pushing myself OUT of my comfort zone and just…going for it. I really didn’t WANT to audition for an impressionist show, be it a game show, reality show, competition show, whatever…but I DID. And if I got accepted, I would go the distance. Give them whatever they wanted. LIVE it. Be OPEN. Why the hell not? FREE exposure! And if it didn’t work out, well, it wouldn’t, like, CRUSH MY SPIRIT or force me into early retirement from performing. Because what the hell else would I even DO with my ridiculous life?

It would just be…another audition. And I. Have. Had. Hundreds.

Well, next thing you know, I got a phone call saying that I was on a “soft hold” for this week. That the “producers loved me” and I had to fill out a ton of paperwork. And it was a LOT.  But it was also kind of fascinating. Especially the 17-page background check form. Never had to answer any of those sorts of questions before. (No, I have never been a male stripper.)

Meanwhile, I would check in with a few other dudes I know who were involved, and one definitely got in and had been scheduled to shoot this week. I was very proud and happy for him. But where was my call…?

Well, it came today. In the form of an e-mail. My “soft hold” had been cancelled and I was thanked for my time and participation and told that I would be considered again in the future. I wasn’t going to be a player (?), contestant (?), Tony Soprano channeler (?) on the new Dana Carvey show.

And you know what? I’m really okay with it.

Listen, I’ve been bouncing around this business since I was a scruffy kid in a Newsies cap. I’ve had dry spells longer than Howard Hughes’ fingernails. Sure, they didn’t want me, after all, but it coulda been for ANY reason: He’s too old. He’s too fat. He’s too funny. He’s too unfunny. His impressions suck. His channelings are creepy. WHATEVER. I just know I’m not licked yet. I wish the show all the best and absolutely plan to check it out when it debuts. It’s still been a good few weeks for me. I have NEW episodes of “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” airing on Nicktoons all this week, starting tonight (I play Master Mantis), I worked on a Nickelodeon animated film last week (got to voice 3 characters), my horror screenplay that I wrote with my buddy Brett is in the hands of a dude over at Lionsgate Films, who’s had some very kind words for it so far…and BEST OF ALL, I get to go in for a COLONOSCOPY next Monday!  What could I POSSIBLY have to complain about???


Y’know something?  It’s a lotta work being me. And I’m still the guy so many people in Hollywood just don’t know what to do with. After all these years, I’m still getting it all the time: “We love you, Max…we just don’t know what to do with you.”

WINE PAIRING: Maybe I’ll drive up to Wine Impression in San Francisco tonight. Never channeled a bottle of WINE before. Could be interesting…

(Photo by Jen Goller)

My 2016 Year-End Wrap-Up

Pop a neck brace on, cuz I’m about to give you some WHIPLASH!


All in all, it was another year of frustration, set-backs, neglected goals…and, okay, maybe a few bursts of good fortune. I can also declare 2016 THE most nightmarish year of my lifetime, personally, for politics. Remember those Republican debates…?

Rep Debates

Also, I’ve never seen so many folks get so bummed out by the death of a pop star. I mean, of ALL celeb-types who perished in 2016, it seems to me like David Bowie’s demise was the most catastrophic. I dug Bowie, wasn’t a major fan, LOVED his acting roles, but his chameleon-like visages were utterly inescapable on social media. And it’s STILL going. And how come, suddenly, anyone famous who dies post-Bowie has to now get “Bowie-ized” in a graphic or meme?  This trend bewilders and (nearly) offends me.

Uh…maybe Carrie Fisher didn’t like David Bowie’s music…?

Rebel Rebel Princess

As for ol’ Max Koch himself, 2016 was the year I took things up a notch by FINALLY breaking down and getting new headshots, my first in several years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I apply this only to myself – a face is a necessary evil. If you look around at all the beautiful faces you see in your daily life, mine…just ain’t one of ’em. And that’s okay! I know I have MAJOR physical flaws, but, at this point in my life, I have learned to embrace them. If not continue to strive to improve upon them.

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Yeah, if you think you’re some kind of actor living in Los Angeles…you NEED these. It’s unavoidable. And I hate that about ’em. And why? Because you AGE! And you look little to nothing like you did 5, 6, years ago. So you gotta stay on top of these insipid tools of the trade. (Okay, I just panicked a little that I’m going to turn 47 next year…)

My real goal is to get on-camera work in crappy, low-budget horror movies. Seriously, if I could just be the next Bill Moseley, I think I’d be very, very happy. 

Speaking of acting, I still manage to remain employed from time to time. You always hear me on the radio, but most notably, 2016 was the year Motiongate Dubai opened. I voice Master Mantis all over the DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda attractions over there. I was also Mantis for the 2016 Wix Superbowl campaign and voiced 3 characters for Nickelodeon’s first-ever official animated TV movie, Albert (I can die happy knowing I played a deflating cactus.) I also went out for the Dana Carvey “First Impressions” show that didn’t go so well , and, as usual, wound up in some pretty big rooms for callbacks–“JUST CAST ME, DAMN IT!! I SWEAR YOU WON’T REGRET IT!!!”

Sorry. Lost my mind for a second there.

Let’s see, what else. Oh! My documentary “Gramps: Beneath the Surface” finally came to Vimeo, in celebration of its 10-year anniversary, so now you can watch that for free – and I REALLY hope that you do.

This past Fall, I also started filming a portrait of mine (and Kevin Spacey’s) most-influential high school drama teacher, Robert Carrelli, which I hope to have out on Vimeo by Spring of 2017. THAT has been an extremely rewarding experience as Carrelli has been a major mentor in my life. He’s 86 years-old now and just as vibrant and hilarious as ever. Here he is channeling The Godfather, quite naturally…


Even though I also celebrated 10 years on YouTube, I’ve slowed down a bit on making videos simply because they take so much time and care and the audience for my stuff continues to dwindle significantly. But I did make the effort to squeeze in a 2016 “Halloween Hellshow”, featuring Jack Nicholson, the Sopranos, and a farting zombie toy…and “A Very RAY DONOVAN Christmas”, where I satirically take on the characters featured in my current favorite family crime series. 

2016 was a crazy year for travel, too. While I suffered the tortures of the damned in Key West, I could NOT have benefitted more from my experience visiting Washington, DC with a duck puppet on my hand the whole time. Seeing those “Exorcist steps” in Georgetown alone was not only one of the highlights of my 2016 but of my whole, entire life. 

Let’s see, what else happened? Well, I had my first colonoscopy. THAT was fun. I also got to “space out” at JPL, say goodbye to The Cutting Room Movie Podcast and hello to Magazine Podcast with my Cousin Lorenzo, and, holy shit, wouldn’t you know it, got to even hold my first-ever CHINCHILLA! 

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The year has been winding down peacefully as I reflect on what was and what is to be. One of the fun little holiday ideas my wife and I conjured up was to sadistically subject ourselves to a bunch of REALLY SHITTY Christmas movies we’d never seen before. Well, we only managed to get through 3: “Christmas With the Kranks” with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, “Surviving Christmas” with James Gandolfini and Ben Affleck, and – gasp – “Deck the Halls” with Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick. Turns out, we kinda actually LIKED the one with Gandolfini. He was GREAT. Well, he was always great. I mean, you SO believed how badly he wanted to whack Ben Affleck with a snow shovel. Man, I miss that dude…


Hey, speaking of Afflecks, SAG Awards screeners have started to arrive and I can’t even tell you how much I got out of this “Manchester by the Sea” which stars Ben’s brother, Casey. If you’re into “grief porn” like me, I highly recommend you check this one out. 

Listen, death has been a real punishing theme of 2016. And that’s why I really wanna make sure I keep living as hard as I can in the new year. Of course, I will drink wine and watch movies and snuggle with my pugs. Sure, I’ll hang out with my brilliant, beautiful wife and awesome-ass friends. You bet I’ll fly out to Grapevine, TX to celebrate my ridiculously-lovable nephew’s 2nd birthday. But I will also work even THRICE as hard to entertain people and try to make a difference out there. 

It’s funny. The older ya get, the more fearful you are of not leaving behind some kind of legacy. I frankly don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I have plans to enact, books to draw, movies to make, and hummingbirds to feed.

WINE PAIRING: I’ll be popping a bottle of Champagne Pommery, and once again toasting the Central Coastline…counting my luckies. Happy New Year, my friends.

Been Takin’ A Look Back…

Tony Soprano said it best: “Remember When is the lowest form of conversation.”

Now as much as I agree with T, I still can’t help but reflect on my 45 years of life thus far…mainly because I am now focusing hardcore on an autobiographical graphic novel-type project I’ve been starting and stopping for years. I don’t have a title for it yet…but just know that I’m having a pretty good time putting it together as of this writing. It’s finally found it’s groove. It’s structure. It’s point. It’s purpose. Of course, knowing me, that all could flip over tomorrow and I’ll be cursing my lack of motivation and abilities again. 

I dunno. Maybe it’s a “middle-age” thing, this looking back nonsense. I mean, my future certainly feels VERY uncertain. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it can be a little daunting. Unlike my wife and friends who basically have guaranteed work for the rest of their days…my employment can be a little…spotty? Spurt-y! Let’s say spurt-y. That’s more fun. And it would just be so rewarding to have a new Max Koch “product” out there. Something tangible you could hold in your hands to pair with your vino. Not since the Gramps: Beneath the Surface DVD have I had anything to offer on, say, Amazon. I’ve been told to start a line of t-shirts or greeting cards, but…that just doesn’t grab me like a book or video does.

Which is why it’s so important that I take FULL advantage of these down times as an opportunity to create. I also got hooked up with some seriously nifty software my friend Steve Epstein sent me called Handbrake, which essentially allows me to rip old footage I had earlier transferred to DVD from VHS into new video files I can edit into iMovie and post online.

So, for starters, I have been uploading clips to my main YouTube channel from a solo show I wrote and performed back in 2000 called The Uncompromising Pain Continues: A One-Man Agony-fest with Cartoons. The clips are accompanied by new introductions to the stuff I’ve recorded, explaining the context of it. My half-baked premise with these has been that I have an actual wine cellar, and behind one particular rack of bottles, I found a box containing a bunch of old tapes…footage I had long forgotten the existence of. Something like that. Look, it’s really just a goofy excuse to scatter some golden nuggets from my past out there. I hope you go and check them out!

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You will definitely be hearing more from me on this blog as I’m spending more time than ever at my desk these days. I’m also re-doing my workspace (AGAIN) so I’ll like spending more time in here. Why, just this weekend, I unloaded an Ethan Allen hutch I’ve been keeping since I was born. It just wasn’t me anymore, man.

So there ya have it. For right now, once again, creating alone is my full-time job. Listen, it beats the crap out of drinking alone…sitting on the couch watching horror movies, feeling sorry for myself. I’m sorta sick of that pattern, I think. I’d rather earn that kind of reward. 

It’s funny. My life has sort of ALWAYS been a one-man show. I just hope to keep my audience coming back for more. 🙂

WINE PAIRING: The filmmaker David Lynch once said, “Ideas are the best things going.” He also wrote a fantastic book called Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativitywhich I recently re-read in preparation for this graphic novel project of mine. So I think you should definitely reflect on YOUR life with a glass of 2013 Mystique/Big Fish Zinfandel from Rabbit Ridge Winery and Vineyards in Paso Robles. Who knows. YOU might even get inspired to create something…