Combination Trick

A Little Bit of Everything? 

I spent the last year deciding what I wanted this blog to be about. I had a bunch of false starts and a lot of ideas. The bulk of them are interesting and usefull enough for an entire blog post. There are few though that I want to share but don’t think can support an entire post by themselves. Much like spinning one ring on your foot isn’t exciting enough by itself these snipposts are (hopefully) greater than the sum of their parts. 

A Pandemonium of Parrots

A herd of cows, a quiver of arrows, an armory of aardvarks, and a never-thriving of jugglers. Wait. What? Out of all of the possible collective nouns jugglers ended up with “never-thriving”? That is so sucky. As a group we can’t even make it through a dictionary without being made fun of. It’s not even unique as there are lots of other things you could describe as never-thriving: ventriloquists, the market for mercury, or the career of any person who ever won Norway’s Got Talent. 

Here are few alternatives: a catch of jugglers or if you don’t like jugglers: a drop. Also: a toss of jugglers. 

It doesn’t seem fair that juggling gets one but magicians get several: a coven, a wand, or an illusion. I’d like to propose one more for magicians. One that you’re more likely to hear: a deposition of magicians. 

Pro Tip #1

If you are working in a show with other people learn how to warm-up your juggling without being in anyone’s way. Find a quiet out of the way part of the backstage or a time to warm-up when you are not disturbing your castmates. If you can’t find a way to be out of the way or the backstage area is small then take the time to explain to everyone in the show that you need to warm up for X minutes and will require X amount of space. Additionally you can check in and make sure you are not bothering anyone and do your best to take up as little space/time as possible. No one likes being beamed in the head with a club or scrambling out of the way of an errant ring. 

Pro Tip #2 

No one spends more time with your show than you do, make sure you like it. 

Pro Tip #3 

If you find a costume piece that you like in a store buy 3. One to wear in the show and the second as a back-up for the first. The third you should take apart to make a pattern. That way even after the clothing article in question is no longer commercially available you can still get a costumer to make you a new one.  

What if? 

Recently I was performing on a cruise and in addition to myself there were four other performers. Each one a white, middle aged, piano playing singer. The audience loved the first singer and he got an enthusiastic standing ovation. The second singer was also well received. The third not so much and the fourth felt like an organized group nap. It made me think about an impossible scenario: What would it look like if it had been four comedy jugglers and one singer? 

That would never happen. I’m not even sure there are four working comedy jugglers at any one given time. I still found it super interesting to think about. Here were my conclusions: 

If I were 1st: I’m pretty sure my chances are high to have a succesful show.

2nd: I have enough material to draw from that I could do a show after another comedy juggler and not repeat anything. 

3rd: I would have to be very lucky to have 45 minutes of material that an audience hadn’t seen some version of already. 

4th: Not a chance. 

In a more micro thought experiment: how many comedy jugglers could you follow in the same show? Assuming you are doing, I don’t know, 4 minutes. 

Both of these questions are hypothetical in the extreme. I’ve never performed in a venue where every show that came before me was a comedy juggling show and I’ve rarely been in a show with more than three comedy jugglers. Some would argue that those facts make these questions useless but I disagree. I think the larger question both of these questions ask is: How creative are you? Are you making work that is new? Are you bringing something unique to the field? 

From the Field

It’s come up twice that I’ve performed in a venue and had a comedy juggling show directly follow my comedy juggling show. In both instances I made sure the juggler following me had my set list. It included every prop I used and the kinds of jokes I made. I also made sure to include any observational humor I had made about the city/venue/recent news. 

I’m not sure if it made any difference to them but I know I would have loved to get a letter like that. I think I would have found it extremely helpful to know that they did a bunch of jokes about the funny name the theater had or that they performed a trick similar to one I had planned for my show. 

There isn’t much discussion about the ethics of variety performance. In theatre there are strict behavioral rules that one MUST follow. Courtesies that you are expected to extend but in my experience variety is a free for all. I bring this up because I did what I thought was the responsible and decent thing to do but both performers seemed genuinely surprised that I had done so. 

A similar situation came up when I worked on America’s Got Talent. I had just finished my two weeks of prep leading up my live performance in the quarter finals. It was mostly two weeks of miscommunication and frustration and in the end I didn’t end up getting any of the things the producers and I had agreed on. It wasn’t intentional on their part I just wasn’t a high priority or a squeaky wheel so I didn’t get the grease. I called the juggler who was on the week after me to warn him and let him know that if he wanted a specific prop or costume piece it would be wise to bring it himself. 

This guy was supposedly my competition and we wern’t friends but I still felt like the right thing to do was give him a heads up. I hope someone would do the same for me. Or you. 

The Take-Away

A group of three or more jugglers is called a “never-thriving”. 

When working with other acts be mindful of how much space you take up as a juggler. 

Build acts and shows that you like to perform. 

Buy three of every costume piece. 

Ask yourself how many comedy jugglers you could follow in the same line-up. 

Think about how you can be ethical in your work. 

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