4 Criteria For Being Bad 

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. 

One thought on “4 Criteria For Being Bad 

Add yours

  1. Another exception: You can get a lot of believable comic and dramatic milage out of something that the audience expects you are able to do going wrong, just this one time at this one show.

    Jim of the Jim Show is an excellent juggler, and has already demonstrated that to his audience. But at the show I saw he just couldn’t seem to get his 3-up 360 right. He was sooooo close, but he just couldn’t get it. 16 times. All believable.

    I can clearly ride my 6′ unicycle but sometimes, as my arm goes over my head and blocks my vision, I lose control for just a moment. I think, even though they know I can ride, that moment of comic terror is still believable.

    I agree that struggling to start 3 bowling balls often looks fake. The audience knows that you wouldn’t have brought them out if you didn’t know how to start, but that doesn’t mean that this one show you didn’t catch your finger between two of them by accident.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: