I was reading a random magazine that I found in an airport. I never figured out the title, it was far too hip a publication for such trivialities. The magazine focuses on the concept of excellence. Mostly it was business related though there were some interesting articles about how perfection relates to excellence (spoiler alert: it doesn’t!). The most interesting article (to me) was about the opposite of being excellent: being bad.
It proposed 4 criteria for being bad. One of the most popular performance styles for comedy jugglers is something I like to call “the idiot savant”. Appearing to be terrible or unskilled while hiding a butt load of craft, finesse, and foresight. Being “so bad it’s good”. Here are Magazine X’s 4 Criteria For Being Bad through the lens of a comedy juggling blog.
1. You Can’t Already Be Good.
If you’ve already shown us (the audience) that you are skilled and in control of a skill you can’t all of a sudden be bad at that skill. It doesn’t quite play if in the first part of the show you are able to juggle seven balls but when you are juggling three apples you can’t quite figure it out. Same goes for showing us an impressive three club routine but “struggling” with machetes.
2. You Can’t Try To Be Bad.
In the original article they wrote, “like every Ogilvy (?) book tells you: the consumer isn’t a moron; she’s your wife”. Well…your audiences aren’t morons either; they’re your wives. You’re not going to convince the audience you can’t ride the unicycle you brought. Why’d you bring it if you can’t ride it? Also if you try to be bad and it goes wrong, you look terrible.
3. You’re Probably Average
In reality you’re not terrible and you’re not Anthony Gatto. So don’t try to be one or the other. If you’re not capable of pullling off the idiot savant thing for the entire show: don’t bother. You have to be great to seem terrible.
4. You’re still “On Brand”
The reason “bad” juggling works is that it speaks to the contract that you’ve created with the audience. Frank Olivier is a great example of a performer who establishes himself and his brand of manic energy so well that the audience fully believes that he can and can’t do everything he pretends to be able to do (or not do). People will believe that he brought things to the show that he’s never juggled/ridden/seen before. It is his “brand”. Even if he does a flawless seven ball routine we still believe that he somehow doesn’t know how to juggle clubs or have a normal conversation at dinner.