Abstraction

What Makes Comedy Juggling Unique? 

One of the things that separates comedy juggling from stand-up is the addition of a visual medium: juggling. We are making comedy with and about our props. I know that for much of my career my relationship with my props was simple and mostly focused on color. At first I juggled things that were my favorite color. As I matured as a performer I realized it was important that my props match my costume and particularly my Chuck Taylors. Even further down the road I settled on white props because of their clean look, the ability to easily light them, and they never fade into any curtains. I don’t think I’m only comedy juggler to travel this path (I think I may have been the only one to perform with Radical Fish clubs spray painted black though).

It took me a long time to think about how color was affecting my audience. My “AHA” moment came when switching balloons for a trick. I’d been using random colored balloons for about a year and when I couldn’t find a mult-colored package I settled for a bag of white balloons. I couldn’t believe the difference in the response. People were much more effected by the white balloons. To experiment I tried many different colors and talked to people after the show. Here is what I learned: 

  1. When the balloon color matched the color of the dart I used to pop it or the color of the bottle balanced on it people assumed it was a magic trick or rigged somehow. Red dart, green bottle: no red or green balloons.  
  2. Black balloons did the same thing. Maybe it was the level of opacity? 
  3. This is my no means scientific but one audience member commented that the white balloon seemed “innocent” and they almost didn’t want me to pop it. 
  4. I used yellow balloons for large show and maybe 50 people told me that it was ugly. 
  5. I was having an audience volunteer throw the dart at the balloon and they hit the red balloons more often than any other color (on the first try). 

That’s a lot of information from a seemingly minor thing. I’ve never done a focus group about it but I’d love to. Color plays a huge part in psychology and in marketing. Film makers and photographers use it, so why shouldn’t comedy jugglers? Color is only one small part of design. There are so many other things to think about!  

Abstraction 

This isn’t about comedy juggling directly, why is it in a comedy juggling blog? I think it can help. Anything you can do to make your ideas clean and clear will only help to serve your laughs. Netflix just realeased a docu-series about design called “Abstract”. It is fantastic. If you don’t have a Netflix account you can borrow your cousin Ray’s log in (thanks Ray!). 

Do yourself a favor and binge watch it. Have your notebook handy and take some notes. 

The Abstract Trailer

3 thoughts on “Abstraction

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  1. Famed American Conservatory Theatre founder/director William Ball wrote a book “A Sense of Direction: Some Observations on the Art of Directing” that has a few pages on “Connotative Color” and the nonverbal value it has in props and clothing. Pages 153-156
    I find the book one that I return to time and time again for thoughts and inspiration. It’s a treasure trove of insights into performing, theatre and direction.
    Available for purchase online and it looks like there might be a pdf download

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  2. This is really interesting. I’m not a public performer but I would’ve assumed that brighter colors would be the most attention-grabbing and therefore the best. I never even thought of all-white props. It sounds kind of boring, but the more I picture it in my mind, the more I can see why it could work.

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    1. It’s amazing to think about. Bright colors certainly say one thing while all white props don’t say much. It’s also fun to think about texture: how would audiences respond to fuzzy clubs or glass ones?

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