I was going to use today’s blog post to talk about Jon Udry and his ABC Tour (here is his kickstarter). It’s a cool project but the post will have to wait until next week. Something much more interesting has come up.
Today I received this in an email from the agent that handles my cruise ship contracts:
“what percentage of your act is juggling?”.
I didn’t really understand the question and without context it is especially hard to answer. Do they want reassurance that I am, in fact, a juggler? Or would they prefer to hear that I’ve become a hypnotist (someone they can actually sell)?
Did they want to know the literal percentage of my act that was juggling. In minutes? Or was a it a broader question about how much of the act was juggling? I actually know the literal percentage. Some curious stage hands on a recent contract timed me using a stop watch and ended up at 4 mintutes and 43 seconds. That’s the total elapsed time I am manipulating an object in the 45 minute show.
I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but, trust me, it’s plenty. The show FEELS like a show that is about and full of juggling. If you saw it you wouldn’t think it was anything but a comedy juggling show. Still, 4:43 doesn’t sound like a lot and they sell me as a juggler…so I didn’t want to tell them that.
I decided to treat the question like a hostage situation (the hostages being my future bookings). Instead of answering Iasked them to clarify the question and why they were asking the question (classic hostage negotiation stalling technique while I figured out how I would answer). They answered my follow-up questions with this:
“Juggling has somewhat a negative stigma attached to it at redacted but they are separately seeking variety acts. Thats why we want to see if there is a way we can sell you as varied to redacted?”.
Thank goodness. I’m not in trouble. They want to know because they are trying to FIND me work. Perfect. By the way, I redacted the name of the cruise ship because I want to keep my job. If you really want to know, lets just say I wouldn’t be surprised if their ships turned back into pumpkins at midnight, or hated sleeping on peas, or died in auto accidents in London…
We ended up settling on calling me a “Variety Artist” and using my work in Germany as proof. At first I was happy to have found a solution and to maybe have secured another place to work but then I became very sad.
Because, it is shitty that I had to have this conversation. That many comedy jugglers have to have this conversation. Just look at how many comedy jugglers describe themselves as something else.
I think this image problem comes from two things: mediocre comedy jugglers (most spawned by Benji Hill) doing hack shows and good comedy jugglers doing good comedy juggling but who shy away from the term “comedy juggling”. Instead they call themselves stunt comedians, or physical comedians, or they bill themselves as “comedy and unnatural acts” or as the “cure to the common juggler”.
I myself am guilty of this and have been shy about calling myself a “comedy juggler”. I always prefer to be called a comedian. I always felt like calling myself that legitimized what I was doing. I never really thought that it might be de-ligitimizing what my community was doing.
Maybe I should start calling myself a comedy juggler…
Comedy juggling has an image problem and it’s a problem in one of the largest markets for comedy jugglers.
Many comedy jugglers shy away from the term and use a euphemism to describe what they do (I’m going to go with Stuff-Up Comedy)
As a community we can help stop this by doing better shows under the moniker “comedy juggling” to turn the image around OR we can come together and brainstorm enough euphemisms for everyone.