The In Promptu Juggler 

Is that Latin? 

Why, yes it is. Much like juggling, Latin is considered a dead thing. Somewhere in some metaphorical cemetary Latin, Juggling, and Punk are hanging out. Hungry for brains or at least a decent segue…

In Promptu means “in readiness”. Monday’s post was all about the The Dropp Kit , an entry level foray into entertainer emergency preparedness. Today we are leaving behind the the “I have some dried goods and flashlight” Dropp Kit and are going full “underground bunker filled with guns, anti-radiation pills, and John Goodman to make sure you don’t leave” In Promptu

What is the In Promptu juggler? 

The idea behind it is simple: build a show that you can source locally if your show gets lost or destroyed. A show that you have “in readiness”. It IS a simple idea AND it is very difficult to execute. 

In theory, most jugglers can do this. It isn’t hard to imagine strolling into a Wal-Mart and purchasing everything you need for a show. I mean, most comedy jugglers have already spent a lot of time wandering the aisles of big box stores looking for inspiration. Putting the theory into practice however…is much more difficult. In fact, after my post about having a smaller secondary show in a compact bag, many professional jugglers said that they didn’t need to worry about that because they could source a show locally but I’m not sure how many of them have ever had to do it. Thinking about how you would do it is important but the real test is in actually doing it. 

Prior Proper Planning…

Spend some time and plan out what you would do. Make a list of all of thing things you need for the show (including costume).Start by listing everything in your show that is already purchasable at the average Wal-Mart/Supermarket. Then make a list of your speciality props (balls, rings, clubs, boxes, et cetera) and write down any equivalents: your silicone juggling balls could be replaced by lacrosse balls or Super Pinkies, you could replace your juggling machetes with real ones, and frisbees are awfully close to rings. Free associate all of the things you think are similar. The more options you have the better your chances are for success.

 Finally list all of the things that surround the show: a place to store and dispose of props or costume pieces for example. If you have anything in the show that doesn’t have a non-juggling doppelgänger or isn’t readily available, you will need to replace that routine with a routine that is sourceable at the average store. 

Now that you have your shopping list. Organize your list from Most to Least important and save a copy on your phone and flash drive. Scotty Meltzer, comedy juggler and professional beard, says that you should also save it somewhere digitally where you can access it even if you lose your flash drive/phone/computer. Print off a hard copy as well and stick it in your wallet or backpack. 

When you are in the position of having lost your show, you will probably be stressed and racing the clock. You can make it much easier on yourself if you have a clearly organized list to shop from rather than trying to think about and remember what you need. If need be, you can also hand the list to someone else to do the shopping. 

The Dry Run 

So you’ve thought about what would happen if you lost your show and you’ve figured out what you would need to do the show anyway. You’ve put together your shopping list. Now, go out and do it. On your next gig plan on buying your show locally. Bring your regular show props but pretend that you’ve lost them. Go out and buy everything you need before the show. 

You’ll quickly discover if there are any holes in your theory and maybe that some things are harder to find than you thought. You’ll also discover if you can find everything you need at one store or if you have to make multiple stops. Finally, you’ll learn the relative cost of putting together the show like this. That, I think, is one of the most important lesson of the Dry Run. I had spent a lot of time thinking about having a show In Promptu  but I never did a dry run. When it came time to put my theory (and years of planning) into practice I found that it cost MUCH more than I had anticipated. 

…Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

You’ve done all of the hard bits. You’ve thought about and planned out a show that you could buy locally if you needed to. You have your shopping list.You’ve done the Dry Run and found out how realistic your In Promptu plan is. 

To make sure the show goes well take the time to write/rehearse/perform all of the bits that are not in your normal show. Ideally, you have as much overlap as possible with your regular show and the show you have In Promptu

Here are some things to help make your In Promptu show as successful as possible  

  • Make sure that everything you buy is ready made. You don’t want to have to purchase AND construct your props. You may have just bought your show at Wal-Mart but you don’t want it to look like you’ve bought it from Wal-Mart. 
  • Small modifications are fine (adding tape to handles for example) but the clubs you build out of rolled up newspaper, empty two liter bottles, and electrical tape are going to make you look like a tramp. 
  • Think about how you will store/display your props on stage. Many jugglers use their luggage as a prop stand but when your luggage goes missing…
  • Don’t tell the audience that you are doing this. Just do the show. If you are doing a good job they won’t even notice. It only feels like it’s obvious to you because you’ve seen the show before…they have no idea. If you tell them, it doesn’t matter how good the show is, they will leaving thinking “That wasn’t that bad for show he put together today in Wal-Mart” instead of “Wow, what a great show!” 
  • One way to make the show longer is to add “bumper” music to the acts. 10-30 seconds of music before and after routines as a kind of musical segue. You can also use the bumper music to cover your entrance and exit front the audience and also for the entrance and exit of your volunteers (if any). These little snippets of music really add up and provide a lot of extra time without extra props. 
  • Audience volunteer numbers are a great way to add a TON of time if you need it. Obviously it is the opinion of Balls & Jokes that you shouldn’t use audience volunteers, but this is an Emergency and so you should do whatever you need to. 
  • Be an active part of the juggling community. Go to festivals and local juggling clubs when you can. There are hobby jugglers all over the world and many of them would be willing to help out if they are near-by. Once on a gig in Denver my unicycle broke and someone from the next city over drove his to me to use for the show. 

I hope you never have to do this. It’s not the best experience in the world. It is super stressfull and no fun. It is an incredible feat to pull this off and it takes a lot of work to have a show In Promptu but I think all comedy jugglers should strive towards it. Knowing that you can do this is a good feeling and having that knowledge will help reduce the some of the stress of being a traveling juggler. 

The Take-Away 

Build a show that you can source locally if your show ever goes missing. 

Make sure you try it once without pressure so you can refine the process. 

Regularly perform all of the acts and routines in your In Promptu show. 

Have a shopping list to make the process of buying the show easier. 

Shopping List
My In Promptu Shopping List 2017

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