The Intermediate Forms: Part 1

Form 3: Alternating 

Or if you’re into club passing: Form 3: 4 count 

I’ve already covered the two foundation forms of comedy juggling earlier on this blog. Narration and Exposition, respectively and while most of comedy juggling is made with these two forms there are some other more advanced forms that are just as effective and entertaining. Toady’s post is about one of them. 

Form 3: Alternating:

A juggler tells a couple of jokes and then performs a trick and then tells some more jokes*. Alternating between A (the jokes) and B (the tricks) for the duration of the act. 

Visually it can be represented as A B A B A B…

* often in this form the jokes and juggling are disconnected but not always. 

Form 3 is considerably more difficult to perform than Forms 1 or 2. It requires that your juggling and your jokes are both strong enough to stand on their own. With Form 2 (when you tell a series of jokes leading up to a final trick) you can mask bad jokes with a great final trick or cover-up a mediocre final trick with great jokes. 

However, when you make the choice to have the comedy and the juggling distinctly separate, you invite a more critical eye. The audience tends to focus more on each individual section rather than taking everything together as a whole. It’s a bit like deconstructing a dish. 

Most people like Eggs Benedict. If you serve someone an Eggs Benedict the traditional way you give them all of the components stacked on top of one another and they eat it like an open faced sandwhich. If your sauce isn’t that good or you overpoached the egg it doesn’t really matter as long as the other components are decent. 

On the other hand, if you bring someone a plate with all of the components separate they will judge each separately and if your sauce sucks they are more likely to notice and complain. This is exactly the same with Form 3, and that is the main weakness with the form. There isn’t a ton of room for error. 

One of the strengths of this form is the fact that it is largely a blank canvas. Because A (the jokes) and B (the tricks) are not connected you can change either without affecting the other. This is the perfect form for a juggler who is performing in lots of different kind of shows. You can change all of the “A“s to fit the show you are doing. 

Marcus Monroe uses this form while performing at TEDx Broadway. He switches his normal “A” jokes about having sex with dolphins to more Broadway specific quips. 

Form 3 also lets you use jokes that you wouldn’t normally be able to find a place for: current event jokes, site specific jokes, or random funny things you’ve written. Because the form doesn’t set up any expectation that the juggling and jokes be related you have liscence to do whatever you want. 

When you use this form for a juggling routine, remember that it is important that the break between A and B is clean. The beauty in the form is in it’s separateness. It should feel like they are flipping back and forth between two different channels. 

One way to accomplish this is to use two different stagings. The juggling happens in one part of the stage while the comedy happens in a different place. I use this form for a routine and for the joke portions I sit on the edge of the stage and the juggling happens on my feet, center stage. 

You can also delineate the two sections using lighting or music. Obviously (or maybe not) it works best if the juggling has the music and the jokes do not. 

Again, Marcus Monroe uses all of these things in his TEDx talk. He has a handheld microphone in a stand center stage where he tells the jokes. All of the juggling happens behind this stand. He has loud energetic music that plays while he is juggling and for the jokes he is a little more understated. Marcus has mastered this form and the video of his TEDx performance is a clear example of everything the form can be. He even breaks the form by commenting on a piece of juggling he just finished. You can Google the video.  

Jacob Sharpe is also great at this form. There isn’t video of it online but perhaps enough emails (hint hint) could convince Jacob Sharpe to release his “Telephone and Jokes” Act. I named it…I have no idea what he calls it. I saw him perform the act in Berlin for the 7 Fingers show “Loft”. It was fanstastic. 

The Take-Away 

The 3rd form of comedy juggling is Alternating. 

Form 3 separates the comedy and juggling, calling greater attention to each.  

Using the Alternating Form is more complicated than Forms 1 & 2 and requires additional staging or technical help to function. 

3 thoughts on “The Intermediate Forms: Part 1

Add yours

  1. As always these posts make me think. This time it was to notice I’ve never tried Eggs Benedict.

    Also it reminded me of the old caricature of a vaudeville team where they do a few bars of song and dance and then stop the music for a joke, and then repeat. In that case they have music and excitement during the applause and laughter section (possibly punching it up) and then focus and quiet for the joke. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In did a variation of this quite a lot.


    1. As always Bob, I’m never sure if you are giving a compliment or setting up a joke. You should try Eggs Benedict it’s pretty good.
      This form is definitely a call back to vaudeville times and a time before wireless headset mics. You see it a lot in other forms but rarely in comedy juggling.


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