Professional comedy jugglers rarely come from kids who grow up wanting to be comedy jugglers. Most of our ranks are from hobby jugglers who are attracted to the idea of making money juggling or who lack the social skills to do anything else. Because we come from the amatuer juggling community we bring along some bad habits. Some commonly held juggling wisdom that is good for the hobby juggler but wrong for the professional comedy juggler.
All Your Props Should Be The Same Color
I heard this nugget so often that I just accepted it to be true and never even thought about challenging it until this year. Everyone who I respected told me that my props should all be one color.
“Juggling props of different colors make you look like a clown”
“You won’t be thought of as professional”
” The juggling patterns look cleaner when all the props are the same color”
“If you can you should have all your props and costumes be the same color”
Okay…no one actually said that last one it was just something I observed.
I agree that it looks better if all your props are the same color. Having all of the props be the same color also makes a trick like Mills Mess look way cooler. I’m just not sure that it is the only choice. I think every comedy juggler should ask themselves if their props are adding anything to their comedy. Is the idea to have the props fade away and to just use them as an excuse to tell jokes? Then maybe having your props be uniform in color is the right choice. Do you want to convince us that you are some kind of idiot savant who can barely juggle and ride the unicycle? Then it probably isn’t very likely that this person owns three matching props let alone three of the same color. It’s more likely that she has one faded red Dube Airflight, one shiny red Henry Pirouette, and a plunger spray painted red.
Challenge the conventional wisdom: look at the routines in your show and ask yourself if the routine could be enhanced if you changed the color of some or all of the props. Also ask yourself if the routine would benefit if the props were of different makes and models?
Learn It On Both Sides
Again, this advice was dispensed to me often and by everyone. When you are learning tricks for the sake of learning tricks, why not? It makes you a stronger juggler. It makes some continuous patterns possible and it is just one of those things jugglers care about. I don’t know how many times I’ve shown some juggler some cool pattern that uses one hand just to have them respond with “How’s your other hand?”. As a professional juggler there is no need to learn how to do it with both hands. I don’t care if my right hand is shit at throwing a ball to a balance on my forehead because my left hand is super consistent at it. I’m only going to be doing it once in the show and so I’m only going to learn how best to do it once. I’d rather spend my time making my left hand perfect at it than making sure I can do it from both hands.
Challenge the conventional wisdom: when learning something new for your show ask yourself what the most efficient way of learning the trick is and what the minimum you need to learn before performing it is. Learn it with your strong hand. You can always learn more once it’s in the show but don’t wait for it to meet a juggler’s standards before using it. Make sure it meets your own standards of quality and consistency though.
That’s A Jugglers Trick
Newsflash! They ARE ALL JUGGLERS TRICKS. Every single one of them. The only reason we think of tricks as not being “jugglers” tricks is because decades of performers have figured out how to best present them to audiences and they’ve become normalized as such. The only difference between a “jugglers” trick and a “mugglers” trick is presentation. If you work at it you can make any trick interesting. Juggler’s tend to think that audiences like tricks that are simple and not difficult but the truth is that audiences like tricks that are accessible and interesting. That can be any trick you are willing to work on.
Challenge the conventional wisdom: take a juggling trick or skill that you’ve always liked but always thought (or were told) that it was for jugglers or that audiences wouldn’t appreciate it. Now that you’ve picked something, work on it. Write jokes for it. Experiment with ways to make it play for mugglers. Sure maybe the Kendama is too small for most theaters. It’s true that the giant Kendama is dumb looking. What other applications for that skill are there? Use presentation to take a trick that is “too complicated” or “for jugglers” and make it for everyone.