About a month ago I asked master magician Jason Bishop about comedy juggling. We’d had some very interesting private conversations and I thought he’d have some things to say. To add a twist to the more traditional Q & A, I also asked Jason to ask us (the comedy juggling community) some questions. I had a bunch of other posts planned (read: I procrastinated) so I didn’t get to publically answer his questions until now. I’d love to see you answers too. You can leave them in the comments section here or on Facebook at the Balls & Jokes page. Here is the original post if you missed it or want a refresher:Q’s & A’s & Q’s w/ Jason Bishop.
1. Why do so few jugglers allow us to get to know them during a show?
I think a lot of comedy jugglers come from hobbiests who are then interested in the lifestyle of being a performer. There are no famous comedy jugglers so no one is coming at it from the perspective of “I want to be the next Copperfield”. Mostly you get good at juggling and someone tells you it could be your job. Next thing you know some shady street performer is selling you his old Crate Taxi amp and you’re eating the apple while juggling an egg and a bowling ball.
Personally, it never occurred to me let someone get to know me during a show. I “grew up” in comedy juggling watching guys like Dan Holzman and the Passing Zone. The most personal thing they reveal is their names. It was only as I matured as a comedian that I started to bring myself into the work. Even so juggling doesn’t lend itself to personal storytelling…I learned this trick alone in my parents basement. And this one too. This one too…but this one really means a lot to me because it was right around this time I discovered unicycling…
2. Why are jugglers so reliant on conventional store bought juggling props? (balls aside)
I think most jugglers approach routine building from the stand point of “I have these props and these skills. How can I use them in the show?”. Because most jugglers come from hobbiests, they tend to have conventional store bought props because that’s what everyone uses. It also works. There is a history of succesfull comedy jugglers who use conventional store bought props so why look further than that?
3. When do you know a juggling trick is ready to be tried onstage?
When you can do it without dropping. Seriously though, that’s a good question. When I started, I was lucky to have some great mentors. My first piece of advice about this came from the clown Jim Jackson. He told me that I had to come into the studio and without warming up, do the trick 10 times in a row without dropping. If I could do that, the trick was ready to go into the show. Jim is an old fashioned dude with a ton of skill and consistency and the rule is super harsh. For a long time I followed it without question and as a result I had super safe routines that didn’t change much. As I’ve aged as a performer I’ve loosened up a bit but I still use the Rule of Ten that Jim taught me as a test. If I can’t do the trick once without warming up then it isn’t ready. If I get it 5 or 6 times out of ten, I feel comfortable trying it in a low pressure (low expectation) gig. Any thing in the 7-10 range and I think it’s ready to go in the show.
4. What are the ultimate career goals among jugglers?
I have no idea. What are your ultimate career goals jugglers? I’d like to retire someday.
5. Why do you feel “magic is more popular than juggling”?
I feel magic is more popular than juggling because magic is fundamentally a way for people to address the mysteries of the world. People need answers and they also need questions they cant answer. Magic is away for people to connect with and digest the unknowable without all the doom and gloom. Juggling is just neat. The first caveman who learned the French Drop probably got to eat more than the other cavepeople and the first caveman to learn a three stone cascade probably got eaten.