Your Balloon Act
I look back on my first few times “out” with more than humility; more like, humiliation.
– Dona L. Oliver
- Developing Your Balloon Act
- Ideas For Your Balloon Act
Developing Your Balloon Act
Before You Go Onstage
- Before you go in front of an audience to keep them amused for an hour, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! Just because you know “how” to make balloon animals doesn’t necessarily mean that you should accept doing birthday shows. You are going to be charging for this service. Be as professional as you can be. Hundreds of kids play the piano, but they don’t all go on stage.
- Don’t accept a job that you can’t handle. Birthday parties are looking for ACTS. Either develop an act, or don’t accept the job.
- Some college students around here are advertising themselves as balloon twisters and jugglers for birthday parties, and they have no act. I see this type too. Their whole show can be described just like their price: cheap. On the plus side is the fact that their very nature tells us they won’t last long. Unfortunately, they can give entertainers a bad name. A person hires them, and then they are disappointed. They have a bad taste in their mouths about hiring balloon artists or magicians. Another metaphor I could use: just because you can play neighborhood basketball doesn’t mean that you should play with the Bulls.
- I don’t see the problem. I got my start by going to a couple parties that a friend did and taking part in a few things to get the feel for it. Then, with his help, I put together my own show. So, I’ve never done a party without an act ready to go. But, for the person that advertises as a balloon sculptor, that’s fine as long as the prospective client realizes that’s all this person does. When people tell me on the phone that I charge too much, I suggest they look for someone with less experience that might be in a better position to help them out. I don’t tell them to find someone cheaper. They get the idea that they have to pay a higher price for a better show. If they really can’t afford me, they’ll probably be happy with whoever they get, just because it’s better than nothing. If they’re not happy, they’ve been warned. Several of the people that I’ve sent elsewhere have called me back later, and thanked me for being polite and giving referrals, and then hired me or passed my name on to some community group they’re part of that has a larger budget. If you’ve got a show to sell, you should be able to sell it no matter what sort of competition is out there.
- When to know if you are ready. . . Well, if you can do 10 to 15 one balloon creations and can do each in 60 seconds or less, then you are probably ready to get your feet wet. I don’t count how many renderings of a dog I can do (i.e. dog, giraffe, poodle, etc.) I also don’t do multiple balloon figures unless I know that I am going to have enough time to make one for anyone who wants one. So I don’t count those either.
- Do what you are most comfortable with and enjoy. Try new ideas slowly, incorporating them into your style.
- Study some of the comedy masters – particularly in the area of mime. While he wasn’t strictly a mime, one of my favorites is Red Skelton. It is possible to get videos and study their techniques. They are masters of communication with facial expressions and body language.
- Be prepared for the situation – that is prepare a list of laugh lines for a particular situation. For example, if a balloon pops, I often ask the child, “Did you get a bang out of that?” or “are you a sharp kid?” You can often get lines like that from the various books and videos which have been mentioned in this forum from time to time. Make a list of them and practice saying them with the right inflections and without an accent. That should help them to have better impact when the occasion arises to use them.
- Dogs are another pet peeve of mine. PET PEEVE, GET IT!?! Anyway, I hate to tell someone what to do with their pet in their own home, but a cute puppy cutting across the “stage” makes it all but impossible to regain the kids’ attention. Does anybody out there suggest or insist that pets be put away during the show? With pets well on the phone when the mom’s call I ask about pets, and tell them because of my alergies? I can’t have any animals in the same room I’m in and they all understand.
- As far as pets go… I personally do insist they are not walking about the audience during the show portion of my birthday party package so as not to distract from the children’s spotlight, but if it is a friendly dog or animal I do not complain about it being out and about during the face painting or balloon portion.
- I just came across a company that sells good backdrops: The Michael Group at 1-800-829-1501.
- For customized backdrops, an ads say, “high-impact folding design… RollEase travelling cases for convenient storage and one-person portability…” The two companies I have info for are:
Nomadic Instant: (800) 732-9395
ShowTopper Exhibits: (919) 544-6504
Developing a Character
- You have to develop a character first. Then you develop a routine around it. I know amateur magicians who just dabble in tricks, and their friends hire them to entertain the kiddies. They flop and don’t know what they’re doing.
- Develop a character: When my wife doesn’t want to put on her clown make-up for walk around restaurant work, she becomes Arlene the Balloon Artist. She wears a painter’s smock with brushes and balloons and crayons decorating it. She wears a beret painter’s hat and takes on that personna.
- I feel that the most important part of any pitch is that it is natural and a part of your character, or amplification of your own personality. If you don’t feel comfortable with your own pitch, then change it.
- Make your twisting easier; define your character as yourself. If you are trying to be someone/thing else all day, you are using a lot of energy. Make your character bigger by finding the things people like about you and emphasizing that part of yourself. Your dress can be clean and comfortable, and you can still create visual interest with a balloon hat and decorating the area. If you have a good place to work, you will have a line for balloons whether you look like yourself or like Barney.
- In my opinion and experience, people love accents. It’s half the success of guys like Schwarzie and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Where would Scottie have been if he wasn’t a “Mirracle Warker, Cap’n” ? You dinna know? Aye, I’d probable not be so bloody pop’lar, Laddie… And I’m not even talking about Sean Connery…
Developing Your Balloon Act
- If you do shows, remember: FIRST, you are an entertainer. Second, you are a balloonist. If you are going to do different things in your act (juggling, magic, etc.) and balloons, save handing out the balloons for last. In my experience, once I started handing out balloons it was almost impossible to stop. There always seems to be a constant stream of people wanting balloons once you start making them. Also, balloons are toys. You have to expect people who have them to play with them. I’ve learned that I can’t give out balloons during my shows. I twist balloons during the show, and I give out balloons at the end sometimes, but if I give them out in the middle, I know they’re going to make noise.
- A good show is like a novel. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is a very good book out called ‘Magic and Showmanship’ which deals with setting up your routine and presenting it in a show. It is rather long reading and best taken in small chunks, but there are some real gems of thought in there for the performer. If I were to perform magic, do a few tricks, then pick up the violin and start playing, I would lose people just because there was no consistency in the show. The same would be true of someone performing magic and then saying ‘Okay, now I’ll twist animals for everyone’.
- Start thinking of a good skit: Beginning – Middle – End (a kicker something to leave them smiling and wanting to have you back). Try making one last “special thing for the birthday child” and announce it is your finale. Or you might make a balloon ball and start them in a game of “Keep it in the Air” (as you sneak out to do your business with the parent).
- I do a magic show with balloon animals between each of the four routines. Doing magic, then doing balloons, you lose them. The act must be a routine – not just lots of bits. If I do a trick with rabbit cards, I then do a balloon rabbit. And so it goes. Then I remember that I forgot the birthday card so we make a magic one – then, of course, I forgot the present, so I make a super-duper balloon animal. And so on.
- Your act should be an ever-evolving entity. It should be in constant change, little by little. If you pay attention to stand-up comedians while they do their acts, and then you see the same guy a few years – or even months – later, you’ll notice that the routines have changed a little, and maybe entirely new ones had entered as well. It’s just the evolution of the show. It keeps it all fresh. Sometimes a routine just needs a little maintenance, and, at other times, it’ll need a complete overhaul. You’ll be able to tell from audience reaction, and from your own reactions, as well. Change should be done for your audience, and to keep the material fresh for you. Slow evolution of material, with occasional influxes of totally new stuff still keeps that air of familiarity. Kids like repetition with a twist (change), because they can sing along, talk along, or anticipate what comes next, but still be surprised from time to time with something new.Make every twist an interesting experience. Pay attention to what you are doing as you twist and really keep an eye out for things you do that gets the attention from everyone in line. Remember that particular ‘thing’ and use it often. Soon you’ll build a tool kit of bits and pieces (besides balloons) and find yourself in more and more demand.
- It is a good idea to throw in a few other things that make the show well rounded. Magic is not my strong suit so I do it as Clown Magic and tell the kids that clowns don’t have any magic. I have to get my magic from them and they make up the magic word (my favorite is Pickles in your Pudding!) I also tell them that I do an educational juggling act – I tell them that when I say Ta Da! or anything hits the floor then that is when they should clap! Then I drop something to see how well they learned that lesson. They really get into it. Especially when I do a few drops at the end and then say “I just loovvve applause!”
- When I first started performing as a juggler one of the most important things that I learned was not to take my inspiration solely from other jugglers. To get an original act one should have a look at different art forms, music, dance, poetry, origami, gardening, stand up comedy, cooking or whatever. Sure we need to learn a certain amount of technical stuff from those better at our particular field but the source of good performance is much deeper than that.
- No matter where you go to learn more, I would also suggest that you start learning about comic illustration, proportion of body parts for age and character, as well as common characteristics of any particular group of characters!
- Here are some art questions to inspire you. . . How would you draw the eyes of a wild animal versus a domesticated animal?
What kind of legs do you give a young animal, or a gentle animal, or a graceful animal?
What are the common characteristics of Disney Characters?
How about Peanuts?
How about Garfield?
How do you age a character in shape?
That’s just a few…
- Ideas for a balloon twisting stage show.
- Audience participation show using balloons as prizes for contests and games.
- Storytelling using balloons to make costumes for the volunteer characters.
- Magic show emphasising balloons.
- The book Great Balloons by Jean Merlin talks about a stage show but does not describe it in detail.
- T. Myers’ routine, The Giant Tazmanian Man-eating Devil, has been done as a short show but it’s too short to be considered a show. I think it is best a running gag.
- I’ve never done an all balloon twisting stage show (I’m a magician too) but here are some thoughts:
- Pre-blow up a *lot* of balloons and have them set up on stage before you come out, or on the stage with you as the curtain rises. It would immediately “set the stage” (thank you, thank you) and hopeful generate interest. You can then also get a few things out very quickly. Perhaps tie them so that they are standing up like cornstocks… you could tie up the balloons too…
- A few fast corny jokes; you know, “The World’s Fastest Balloon Animal- a Blue J”.
- Once you’ve established what the heck you’re doing up there, a big but not too long sculpture to show them what you’re capable of. In balloon twisting, of course…
- I think a great ending, by the way, is a balloon barrage, preferably 350s. Maybe you could get a couple (or more) of helpers to help shoot the balloons out into the crowd. Maybe if the helpers had big wacko balloon hats…
- I was once asked to do an hour of twisting “for the kids” at a party with 250 people. When I got there I could count the number of kids on one hand! Turns out the person running the party was not the same person that hired me. The person running the party said I would be up on the stage for approx. 30 min for all the adults. I thought what do I do now a large room full of people… how can I get them all involved? I then decided to make up three large balloon creations in a back room. I started my show with some small talk about balloons and made myself a giant crazy hat. I then had three balloon arrows which I shot out to the people. The person that caught the balloon was then my guest up on stage.The logic here is that you want an aggressive and outgoing sort of person for your volunteer. How many times have we picked somebody only to have them either refuse and make us look stupid, or get up on the stage and freeze. But most likely in order to get their hands on the balloon arrow they must have been at least a tiny bit aggressive. Plus, they’ve now got their own juices flowing a little and will be more enthusiastic – pumped – by the time they get up on stage.
I showed everyone how to make a simple dog. Then I gave each of my 3 guests a balloon and they made a dog as I was making another dog step for step. At the end, the rest of the people voted by clapping for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. I then awarded then the 3 balloon creations that I made before I started. After this I spent some time twisting for the people at their tables.
- I think it’s quite difficult to entertain an audience with a balloon stage show for about 45 minutes. Of course you can stand up on stage and make some great balloon-figures, but is this really entertaining?So you have to do something else with balloons, not “just” twisting. To find entertaining bits / routines for such a long time is IMHO not easy and I would be afraid of loosing the attention of the audience after 20-30 minutes watching me doing something with balloons. But, that’s just my opinion…
Here is something what I am doing in my balloon stage show: Search the guide for “my” figure 8 routine. I tell the audience a story about myself / my life using the balloon for illustration.
Before the show I made a “balloon-baby” (in my case it’s just a teddy) sitting in a real baby’s napkin / diaper. In the napkin is a walkman with little loud-speakers or for bigger shows you can use the stage sound system. I made a tape with noises of a baby crying, drinking and a loud burp. At the correct point in your show, let the sound start, take the baby from behind the stage or behind whatever (the audience should not have seen it yet) show it to the audience, excuse yourself for the interuption, but tell them that you have to feed your balloon baby. Take out a little bottle for babys to drink (whatever this is called) and “feed” it (drinking noise), after this hold it on your shoulder and wait for the LOUD, BIG burp. This always gives a big laugh.
If you blow up by mouth, get some (1-3) volunteers on stage and tell them to do the same lilke you. Give them balloons, blow your balloon up (by mouth) and start twisting a simple dog, without noticing the volunteers… I dont want to start the discussion of blowing up by mouth / letting audience members blowing up by mouth again. Do it or just do it not. If you don’t blow up by mouth give them a pre-inflated balloon and start making the dog. They can’t follow you, make some funny comments and then teach them how to make a simple dog, like suggested by Magic Mike.
- Situation: You have 90 young school-age kids in front of you in a small room. You have 15 minutes. They love balloons and want a balloon. What are you going to do!Answer: Just inflate! Are they happy with a balloon that’s just inflated, and not twisted? SURE! Did they ask for the balloon to be twisted? Surely not! Not a one! Did they all have to have their favorite color? Surely not! (Just a couple). I have done a few shows like this, where I am entertaining a large crowd with clowning and with balloon antics, and being in the same predicament as above. Today I didn’t have any time to pre-inflate. Last time I did. Everyone was happy enough in each show. There are certain places where a straight 260 is the best handout. I KNOW this is a twisting forum, but I’ve had a number of twisters think, “How stupid it is for a big crowd just to have inflated 260’s without twists!” Any of you remember IBAC’s opening night last year? It was so cool seeing a large crowd waving 260’s. It was fun!
- I like to perform various “skits” allowing “Twisted Jim” (my stage name) to do all of it rather than to get into various characters. My shows are interactive, and cannot be conducted without audience participation, usually verbal from where they’re sitting. My shows feature humor where adults are brought onstage to get “picked on”. Realize that you can do ANYTHING, there are no limitations. For instance, want a winner? Take 2 adults, bring them up onstage, make balloon hats for them with a balloon circle attached to the front. A.K.A. a basketball hoop hat. Then pick volunteers from the audience and have a three on three basketball game!!!!! You want to keep the audience involved so have them determine the names of the 2 teams, split the audience down the middle and have them root for their two teams!!!!! Have the first team to score 3 baskets on the other teams “adult” be the winner. This activity alone can take up a good 12 -15 minutes and by the time you get everyone back to their seats from the stage probably 20 minutes have been filled, and you only have 40 minutes left to do!!! Hope that was helpful. Use the basketball thing. It works. As a basketball a smiley face balloon works wonders, and let them know you’re using a smily face on the balloon because obviously our 2 adult victims are no longer smiling. :o) Before the game starts, you can lay down the “Rules of the game” in a 5 minute comical monologue, much like a bugs bunny cartoon. Let’s see, how about…….. inflate a balloon, and when giving instructions, let the kids know you can’t hit anyone on the head (and whack the adult in the head) like this!!!…..and you can’t……… You know where to go from there, just take my lead. Remember anything can be done in a stage show, you can be anything, do anything, go anywhere; just use balloons as props for the show and come up with a great monologue. You can even design theme shows. I created one based on different occupations, with each occupation having its own props. Now THERE’s a show that opens a WORLD of opportunities! You have the concept of how it’s done – theme show using monologue combined with balloon props, jokes and physical humor. Look upon this as a recipe, but use your own ingredients.
Ideas For Your Balloon Act
- Ideas for a balloon act:
- A little history about balloons
- Safety tips
- A little lesson about each balloon that you make
- Some balloon science tricks
- Games with balloons
- I take the kids on a trip to the balloon zoo or to the woods in balloon world, and they can see all the animals there. Sometimes we go to the balloon circus, where balloons do all kinds of tricks.
- Look for a “Gag Bag” in your magic stores, catalogs, whatever. It is a bag similar to an egg bag, but it turns in on itself four or five times and each section is a different color. Put a balloon in the last section, and in the other sections put a bone, leash, etc. Then you can produce a “doggie” from your “doggie bag”: ‘I keep my doggie in this blue bag with red inside;’ no dog, turn bag inside out; ‘Oh, this is Tuesday (whatever); on Tuesday I keep him in my red bag with yellow inside;’ no dog, find leash or bone in bag; ‘but we are getting closer;’ turn bag inside out, ‘this is afternoon’… continue with similar patter until you get to the last section and find the balloon. You can then inflate the balloon and make the dog, or continue with the trained dog routine (sit up, speak, roll over, play dead).
- Sit up – Hold the untwisted balloon horizontally and pinch it so that the nozzle end goes up.
- Speak – rub it and make it squeak.
- Speak – I say that my animals are house broken and they never bark, “Well….OK they bark, but only once.” (Pop part of the figure.)
- Roll over – blow on it.
- Play dead – I just drop the dog on the ground.
- Play dead – I drop the dog on the ground and stomp on it.
- Heel – after the “dog” plays dead, I put it by my foot and tell it to heel. People either crack up because they think it is funny, or because they can’t believe a grown-up would actually resort to such corn. It helps if you make a really dumb face while you are doing this.
- Sausage Dog – he has to choose the child to go home with. Each time I put him down to look, he falls over…and so on. Then I talk to him about being good, he nods. I look away and he shakes his head…etc…etc…
- Rabbit : he won’t do bunny hops today. I then poke his front legs out like he’s doing a hop…etc…etc
- Giraffe: I know what all animals look like, and giraffes have short necks…OH NO THEY DON’T??? So, moisten your right fingers and STRETCH the neck – excruciating noise that kids love and adults are scared of “long enough?” I ask, “NO?” etc…
- Parrot on Swing: even in tough parties I challenge them to tell me if this one is so good it can go to the birthday child – never lost yet.
- Heffalump: actually a one balloon butterfly. “Who likes my heffalump?” The quick ones know they might get it if they say yes, plus the by-play with ‘he said it’s a flutterby’ and ‘she said it’s a blutterfly’…
- Ploodull: no pompom on its tail? Child gives me one, I turn round, creating a bubble as I go…
- Dog on a Leash: you can take it for walks, make it bark (rub its tummy) “Does your mom mind noisy animals in the house?” asking a noisy child.
- When I do a Clown show I always make my assistant a “Super-Duper, Really Spectacular, Very Colorful, and Extremely Silly Looking, Helpers Hat.”
- I have giant bubble wands to make bubbles, and the kids can help me make them. Two year olds LOVE BUBBLES. Older kids love bubbles, but they like to play with them.
- Other: Face painting, magic, juggling, puppets, singing, crafts, games, jokes, running gags, skits and stories, music.
- One of my favorite pitches is to (badly) sing kids songs about the figure that I am busy making. I have songs for most of my animals (How much is that doggy, Teddy bears picnic, Butterfly Flutterby, Six little ducks, Never play cards with a cheetah, Don’t shake hands with an Octopus, etc.) The kids will often join in with the more well known songs. If your singing is as bad as mine, you can even use nursery rhymes or just use the lyrics of the songs as a poem.
- One routine I sometimes use on stage is to get six kids and give them each a balloon which I have half twisted into various animals but that are still not recognizable. We then sing ‘I knew an old lady who swallowed a fly’ and I finish the fly, spider, bird, cat, dog, horse as they fit into the song.
- Here are some routines that have been posted to the mailing list. (What a terrible word for an act. . . would you pay to see something that was “routine” ?)
- I bring someone up on stage and ask them to tell everybody what their secret dream career is: working fast food. They repeat after me:”May I take your order?
Would you like fries with that?
Your total is $4.18, please pull around to the second window.”
By the time they are finished, I have put a fast food balloon microphone on their head. And I say, “Now talk into this end here.”
- Someone asked me during an appearance if I could make a Titanic out of balloons. I inflated a 260 balloon and broke it in two. Then I allowed the air to slowly deflate. Then I dropped the pieces on the floor. Laughter and applause filled the room.
- Another bit that I do is: I make a big hat for the guest of honor (bride, birthday, etc). Then I say, ” Don’t worry, no one will even notice that you are wearing this hat.” Then at the top of my lungs I shout so the whole restaurant will hear, “HEY EVERYONE DON’T LOOK AT THIS PERSON WEARING THIS SILLY HAT ‘CAUSE SHE’LL BE EMBARRASSED!” Everyone looks at her, everyone laughs, and I get a big tip from the party.
- Get a large empty prescription bottle (ask your friendly pharmacist). Fill with uninflated red and pink hearts. Put a label on it-one reading “Take One And Share With Others.” Read label, inflate heart, hand to person with the reminder about sharing it with others.
- A few weeks ago I was approached by some schools in the area. I was scared to death, but they have turned out great!. One school I did asked me to pre make a bunch of santas, reindeer, snow men, and candy canes (I love putting the jingle bells inside of them). I was then to come in and show how I made each one. I started out asking the kids if they had any idea how long ago balloon animals have been around. After a lot of guessing, I told them breifly about the history as well as info about twisting in general. It went over fantastic.
- Ralph Dewey has some nice routines you could use in his Gospel Balloon books.
- If you ever have the opportunity to do shows from a stage or some location back from your audience, you need to be able to do larger figures so that they can be seen. I have worked elementary schools where you are on stage. If you do single 260 animals they are really difficult for the kids to see.
- When I work a large event, there is usually a set theme, or I have pitched the school/church/group on doing a show about Christianity, Self Image, Dating, Drugs, etc. Now you are a man with a message who happens to be an entertainer. Most of the time they need or want you to keep your show under 1 hour. So that really doesn’t leave much time. However, in schools they will want you to repeat for other classes. So you need to get there a little early. Fix some big things that are fast but easy. Rabbit, Motorcycle, etc. I use this stuff to decorate the stage as much as I can. Now you are as ready as you can be.The kids arrive. Now here is where I like what has been being said of late on the list. Read the audience. As you greet them, begin to share who you are and what your message is. They’ll see the balloons all over the stage, and you might be in costume, so they know there is more than just a lecture coming. Giving them a chance to warm up to you just a bit and relax.
If this is a church group I would do something like Moses brought the animals and make some balloon animals. Then get some audience participation by bringing some of the kids up asking their names, etc. Then have them share something on topic and have the audience clap for the winner or just let whoever I bring up be a winner, and they would get whatever they see or what I have just made. Next I never give all the decorations out at this point. I set them on stage as I make more, building up to my best stuff. Now is the tricky part, do I give this stuff out before my finale or after? I have done it both ways. Whichever way you do it, I like the end of the show to have a little bang and start them out the door.
When your time is up I like to use something to bring things to an END. Magic is very good or what ever you like to end your show. Use tickets, a drawing, a door prize, or some kind of challenge and have winners. Some random way so nobody feels like you have left them outor overlooked them for the balloons you have created. I will add one last bit of information: never, NEVER end a show for five hundred kids in South Central LA by throwing candy into the audience.
- When a kid asks for a puppy I usually try to make it into the most special “puppy” ever. _This_ special puppy is very smart and it can learn tricks! While I twist it I make sure that it makes lots of noise and I tell them that it has learned how to “speak”. After it is finished I lay it in their hands and show them it knows to “play dead”; I then stand it up in their hands and show them how it will follow my command to “lay down”. As a final aside I tell them that teaching it to roll over is a bit more difficult but with a little nudge it will be able to learn that too! I often have several kids in line request a “special puppy” after that.
- “Puppy Love”: take two poodles with the little balls on the front feet and tie the noses together and twist the feet together to make them kissing. You can even add a 6″ heart to the knot at their noses. This always gets an “Awwwww” from the ladies and little girls.
- Bruce Fife’s “Creative Clowning” has something you might like: use a second 260, nearly fully inflated, to make a hoop by tying the ends together. By squeezing the poodle’s legs together and releasing them spring-like (and moving the hoop so the poodle goes through it), you can get the poodle to do a back-flip through the hoop. Kids love this.
- A great invisible dog (a 260 leash and collar) also goes over big.
- Dress up as a poodle, and make little balloon people…
- Don’t forget to make your dog ‘heel’ by placing it by your foot after he has done his other tricks.
- Squashage dog: because I can’t say ‘sausage’!
- Walking stick dog: has a long curved up tail which, when you waggle it up and down, causes the dog to appear to walk.
- Sad dog: has a long nose curved down, needs a friend who won’t laugh at it.
- Stilt dog: very short body and long legs.
- Happy dog: ordinary dog, hold it with your thumb on its tail and waggle it each time it looks towards the chosen recipient
- Seeing eye dogs are always allowed in restaurants so no matter what type of balloon you have it should be described as a seeing eye dog.
- When twisting dinosaurs I tell the kids they have a choice of a brontosaurus, a diplodocus, or a bracheasaurus. Just watch the kids try to figure out which to choose. You can start twisting at this point as they all look the same, a point which you confide in privacy to the kid with the biggest mouth in the queue.
- Kids always ask me for snakes. Sometimes because that’s what a balloon reminds them of, but usually because they are trying to be witty. I make a big deal about how a snake is HARD to do. Lots of laughs. I ham it up. I blow up the balloon all of the way, look at it, and say “Nah. Looks nothing like a snake. Let me try it from the other side.” Then I walk over about 3 feet. Turn sideways, and repeat the gag. More laughs. Finally, after encouragement, I give it one last shot. I wrap the balloons around my fingers and inflate it into a curly-Q and make a Cobra. Gets a great reaction.
- Today I made a cat for a cute little girl who asked for an otter. I told her I couldn’t make an otter, because otters love to eat sea urchins, and sea urchin spines would pop a balloon otter. (She actually bought this, and asked for a cat!!) So, as I was twisting up the cat, she asked me what would happen if the cat scratched itself. I thought quickly and replied “Nothing, all my balloon cats are de- clawed.”
- After making an animal balloon, hold it up and say “Did you hear that?” Then hold the balloon out for the person to hear and say “Mooooo”. Look a little puzzled and say “Hmmm… I guess this balloon was supposed to be made into a cow” (not a dog, bird, frog, etc.)
- I use a D-Light and make parts of the animals light up or I reach into a drinking glass and remove the Firefly or whatever.
- Remember to mention that latex balloons are all-organic, biodegradable, and using them supports NOT cutting down trees in the tropics… very earth-friendly.
- Someone asked about two Japanese people in a balloon – that then explodes to set them free. The event was done by Emily Sugiura on Japanese television. I believe the two people were royalty – but I don’t remember for sure. She used a very soft jumbo balloon produced in Japan.
- I know in North America, there are a few stand-up comics/buskers that get into 10′ Granger balloons (made in Canada – I think). The soft balloon is inflated with air, stretched over the head, then the shoulders, then the whole body. Some air is lost, but the balloon has a large volume… as long as the entrance is done quickly there is still enough air to get inside. The nozzle on the balloon is turned inside out so the performer can grab it once they are inside and seal the balloon. I wouldn’t suggest staying inside very long – breathing is highly underrated. Once the applause has crescendoed, the performer pops the balloon to escape.
- Jan Unestam in Sweden does this in one of his acts at Cirkus Cikor ( kind of like Cirque du Solei). He starts by putting the balloon on his head and starts to crawl in to the balloon, he even get dressed in the balloon. The act is hard to explain – one has to see it. It has been shown on Swedish television a couple of times.
- I saw Jody from Granger Balloons in Mooers Forks, NY get in a 6 foot diameter balloon on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. The balloon before inflated is about 18″ to 24″ round.
- I always make a mouse as a surprise, an extra. When asked to make a cat, I do this first and then, before giving it, make a very small (as small as I can) white mouse. This is made from about 3″-4″ of inflated 260, the remainder serving as the tail. I then clip the tail end (!) into the paws of the cat, as I display it and hand over…a cat chasing a mouse! Never fails to get an ahhhhhhh!
- Another cool bit I do: I do draw eyes, teeth and whiskers on the mouse (the cat too) and, as I put the sharpie away, cop a small squeeker I have in my pocket. Then, just as I hand it over and the ahhhhhhhhhs have stopped (could be hours!) I say, “…..and he won’t bite…..in fact he loves you, you vcan tell by the squeek”. At which point my right forefinger and thumb squeeze the mouse gently twice on its tummy and they hear two squeeks. Perfect cue for laughter and applause.This is not tricky, the sqeeker is simply held in the curled ring and pinky fingers of your right hand. For timing, as your right fingers make the double squeezing motion, your other fingers do a double squeeze of the gizmo.
- One of the things I learned was to make your show look bigger. Instead of just working out of suitcase or trunk. I set up my show to cover more of the stage area this makes it look bigger from an distance, and gives the audiences the feel of it’s really large than it is. The late Bobo taught me this lesson. He would all ways “scatter” his equipment along the front. I use my Balloon Master pump with the side table to help fill the stage. I use the table to hold items such as a dove pan, Hip Hop Rabbit, or other items. I do this even in private parties. This way I am performing things from all over the stage. If I have time I will inflate some 260’s and rap a round the pump to add more color to the stage.
- The most favorite balloon shows that I do at religious events would be the story of Noah’s Ark and the story of Daniel in the Lions Den. The Noah’s Ark obviously works the best since there are so many animals that can be made from balloons and encarporated in a bible story. It can be as short as Five Minutes or you can stretch it out as much as you wish. Try going for like 10 – 15 minutes, otherwise you may loose the kids concentration. Get the kids participating too, whatever it is, Build an Arc and have them put the animals you twist in it, or anything else related to the story. Let me know how it works out.
- Here’s a short show.First – I’m a clown. When I want to, I can take about 5 minutes “blowing” up a balloon. – I start by using the wrong end, I blow it up with my mouth, then let the air in the balloon back into my lungs to “Blow me up” instead, I’ll “huff and puff” except I let the air out inbetween “puffs”, I’ll let go of the balloon while it’s blowing up and let it go flying away and then – finally – when I get it properly knotted, I “accidentally” break the balloon while twisting it.
Finally, I break out my pump which has a sign on the side that says “God’s Love” over a pink heart. I explain that everyone has bad days, days where they feel a useless as a broken balloon – but with God’s love, anything is possible, so I promptly start twisting animals for the kids.
If you don’t want the show to go on too long, make a bunch of animals in advance, put them in a plastic trash bag and give them out at the end of the performance.
- I use a very easy skit you might like. The William Tell Skit. It can be done with an invisible arrow or you can use another 260 and shoot it off the tip of your finger. Here is the way it goes. 1. Pick someone from the audience or your partner inflate a 6″ heart or round. Take your time as you position them just right work on this part to get them just soooooo (Showmanship) Now pace of a distance.Take out another 260 inflate it all the way. Bend about 3″ on each end. Pull an invisible hair out of your hair or somebody’s and tie it to one end of the 260 pull it down and tie it off at the other end. Now test it out this is your Bow it should bend in the middle as you pull back. Okay now you are ready to pull the invisible arrow out of your back pack or quiver. Test this a few times (Showmanship) as you get it all ready and tested. Now you are ready to shoot the arrow at the heart.
As you let go with the first arrow you can either hit your target or let it fly way off target and go over to the ood wall and retrieve the arrow. Come back center stage and set up for your next shoot. Now let fly and as you shoot have the person holding the heart on top of there head pop the balloon. Wala the crowd goes wild wondering how did he do that. If you pull a stranger out of the crowd they are always willing to go along with the fun. Just whisper in there ear what you want them to do. Just when you want them to pop the balloon. This is a very easy skit and always gets tons of laughter. 10 to 15 min easy. Good luck
- Have one clown make a round 9″ balloon, tie it and hand it to a second clown. Then the first clown backs off a few feet and makes a balloon pistol. Clown #1 then “shoots” the pistol, and the round balloon breaks! How? Clown #2 has a thumb tip with a tack in it. When Clown #1 yells “bang!” clown #2 pokes the balloon with the tack. You can make this as complicated as you want – have clown #1 chase clown #2 for “stealing balloons” or have the clowns “mess up” by having balloons popping at inappropriate moments, or whatever.
- Performing magic really makes me the star. However, when I’m twisting, the balloons are often the stars. So I set up my entertaining to include both balloons and magic. For parties I would throw in some games which involve balloons.
- I read this in “Laughmaker’s” a while ago. The trick requires Don Alan’s “Comedy Egg Can” (your favorite dealer or Mak Magic. . . wholesale). The effect has the performer cracking an egg into a can, covering and inverting the can on a volunteer’s head, whipping the cover out (it being the instructions), discovering that was the wrong thing to do (the instructions say “Do Not Remove”) and (with magic) whipping the can off the volunteer’s head to reveal no mess but a load (in the usual performance of this trick, candy). I put (on the suggestion of the anonymous wise magician) 260’s in the load chamber. This trick comes after the magical birthday present production and leads into the balloon animal conclusion of my birthday party show (or some day cares). NOTE: Through trial and error, I discovered boys from 5-7 years work best for this trick. . . the volunteer MUST hold the can still while it’s on his head (pre-schoolers fidget) and the way I build up the (imagined) mess factor in this trick, girls often panic. . . would you want YOUR party dress drizzled with egg goop?When I do the egg can routine I like to spruce it up a bit and add some funny glasses – of course, they are to protect the eyes of the volunteer from all the egg mush. I also pull out a bib with ketchup, mustard, etc., stains and place it on the volunteer. I say that this trick usually works all the time. . . but just in case (as I put the bib on).
I also use the EZ hat loader. Same principal as egg can but are secretly loading your balloons into the hat as you sprinkle magic dust. I did this routine today and produced all the balloon which led into the balloon portion of my show. Went over well. Depending on how many balloons you load, you can load streamers, eggs, what ever will fit. However, I do have once question. Does anybody have any ideas/suggestions for a noiseless load as you drop the load from can to hat? Also, what kinda hat do you use? Some hats which have a plastic bottom make a “kerplunk” when the load lands, and, if the hat bottom is too soft, then the load will show an indent when the load lands. ANY IDEAS???
- My Magical Balloon Show is a “Show” where I perform Magic and do a lot of Audience Paticipation, but I don’t bill it as a Magic Show. Instead I call it “Magical Balloon Show” which means the emphasis is on the Balloons and not the Magic.
- A cut and restored balloon using a dark colored 9″ round. The application is pretty obvious, and the working is easy. Clip the first balloon where the nozzle begins to widen into the balloon. Fold the top of the second balloon so it looks like it’s been clipped about half way. Then tuck the whole deal into the first balloon. If you hold it right, they will never see the seam. Now you cut the out balloon, making sure the piece falls to the floor. Then after a little patter, inflate the “cut” balloon, allowing the shell of the balloon to roll into your hand. Palm it away, and you’re done.
- The Super Needled Balloon is fun if you place a dark colored water balloon inside a large (9-12″ clear round) balloon. You make the point when you insert the needle, and it pops the inner balloon, leaving the outer balloon whole. Again, the application is pretty straight forward.
- I have a wilting tulip routine with a 260 that does well. Hold the tulip between your thumb and the next two fingers. Your fingers must be parallel to the ground. Hypnotize the tulip, and have it follow your commands. Act as if you are pulling on a thread (as an explanation of how the trick is done). In reality, you are putting a little upward and downward motion on the stem of the flower. Not a squeezing motion. Hold the stem at a place low enough that it wants to bend, but does not flop of it’s own weight. Practice this a lot.
- Getting a rabbit from a hat: Inflate a white 260 leaving 2-3 inches uninflated. Twist a simple helmet hat and patter about magicians getting a rabbit from a hat. Then turn around, untwist the hat and retwist as a rabbit and presto – rabbit from a hat. I know this sounds less than spectacular, but the kids seemed to enjoy the silliness.
- The Magic Magazine has a full page ad for the Balloon Box by Andrew Mayne. It works like a large stage trick where you put swords through a person, but instead it uses balloon swords. Has any one had the chance to see this trick performed? It looks like a good stage trick. It sells for $1550.00
- In going back through some of my magic books, I found a nice “ring in the balloon dog” effect. It is found in “Three Miracle Routines” by Richard Osterlind. The basic idea is that a spectator’s ring is borrowed and placed into a ring box. Unfortunately, the ring vanishes — so you make the person a balloon animal to console them. Then you just happen to notice the ring in the belly of the animal. It takes a little practice, but I had it working pretty well for a while. Check with your local magic store, or call Jeff Busby Magic, Inc. (415)562-6340 (Oakland, California) to get your own copy.
- Blow up a 260. Don’t tie it but rather pinch the nozzle and use a marker to write a name of a card on it, nice and visible. Let the air out. Force a card (you guess which one) and voila!
- Put a bubble in a 260 and use it to transfer thoughts or objects. “You on the left have the red cards, and you on the right the black ones. . . I want you to mentally trade the cards, and I’ll use this thought augmentation device. . . now!”
- Find out the birthday child’s favorite color, and stick a bunch of them on one side of a change bag. You somehow keep picking out the favorite color! (Ask them first to make sure they haven’t changed their mind lately.)
- Stretch a dime or penny into the first half inch or so of an uninflated balloon. Hide the coin in your fingers as you blow up the balloon and tie it. Get a matching coin, do a simple vanish, and “toss” the coin into the balloon as you let the one inside go.
- Practice Dave Williamson’s “Strike Vanish” with an inflated balloon. Combined with the effect above, it’s really neat looking.
- At the very beginning, before you blow up any balloons, bring out a big round balloon. Make sure they see it as round, and tell them if you have any doubt. Offer to show how skinny balloons are made. Have a 260 of that same color hidden in your hand, and blow up that one as you hide the round.
- Turn long crepe paper into a balloon.
- Turn a pencil into a balloon.
- Turn a rabbit into a balloon.
- Turn their big/little brother into a balloon.
- Balloon Sword Swallowing – If you check the archives, you will find this listed there somewhere. The practice has declined with the increased attention to balloon saftey. To appear to swallow the balloon,what you actually do is deflate it from the nipple end.
- The wilting flower (more a manipulation than a magic trick).
- The “needled balloon” (using invisible tape to keep the balloon from popping).
- The “Pencil penetration” (using a paper tube and two pencils: inflate the 260, and make a basic animal. Grab a piece of opaque paper and wrap it around the body section of the animal. As you wrap it around the body, twist the body in the middle. Noting where the center twist is, carefully push a sharpened pencil through the paper so it passes through the gap made by the center twist. Pull out the pencil, and untwist the center as you unwrap the body. Ladies and germs. . . the amazing penciled balloon).
- You take a shopping bag and make a flap about 2 inches from the bottom of the bag with the bottom of another shopping bag. You then make a balloon Poodle and put it under the flap in the bag. You can then show the bag empty. You then blow up another balloon (preferably the same color as the Poodle) and pretend to tie the end, but don’t. As you put the balloon into the shopping bag, you slowly let the air out. Use only one hand and pretend that you are twisting an animal in the bag, but secretly lift the flap exposing the Poodle (not to the audience yet). You then have a card selected and returned and hopefully you can control it to the top of the deck. As you drop the cards into the bag, you hold onto the top (the selected card), and then you mix the cards up in the bag. As you do, put the selected card in between the Poodles front legs. Continue shaking the bag and reach in and bring out the Poodle with the selected card. I hope that this is understandable and that I didn’t over explain it and that you can use it.
- Balloons to Candy trick: You show your audience the interior of a bag to reveal that it is indeed empty. You put an inflated balloon into a bag. Then you crumple up the bag, popping the balloon in the process, when out spills a bunch of candy. This is very straight forward, and it has been a complete and total success with children and adults!
- In Andy Leach’s act he took an inflated 260 and rubbed it on his head. He explained how static electricity causes things to stick. Then he removed the balloon. . . and promptly his head stuck to his table.
- Put a little bit of powder inside the balloon before you inflate it (with a pump – not with moist breath). With a pin hidden in your hand, you can then make it burst in a puff of smoke.
- I do a 15 or 20 minute show such as the crystal cylinder (FUN Technicians) where I proceed to inflate the balloons without tying them and put them into the cylinder and put the cover on and they magically appear inflated.
- During clown magic, I let the balloons “surprise” me. False tie a balloon and then “surprise” it flies away when I let go of the end. Same effect when breaking a balloon in half and asking a child to hold one half which flies away when you hand it to him/her.
- First you blow up a clear balloon about 6 inches, but don’t tie. Then take a Quarter, and push it up into the balloon near the tail, then let the air out. From the front it looks like the Quarter is in the balloon, you can even stretch the balloon and it will not come undone. Now hold the Quarter between your thumb and first finger and reinflate the balloon down to your fingers, now you should be abel to tilt the Quater back and forth, and it looks just like the Quarter is inside (but its not). Now let the air out again and act like you tare, or bite a hole in the balloon, then pull the tailback the opposite way and a hole apears. Now take the Quarter out. Then you can magicly repair the balloon and blow it up again to show it is fixed.
- There’s discovering the dove in the balloon or a card or ring or bill in the balloon or the deck in the balloon or the person in the balloon.
- There’s forcing an uninflated color with a change bag and turning it into a poodle in a dove pan.
- There’s blowing up a balloon in a tube and sticking pencils through it.
- There’s cut and restored inflated and cut and restored uninflated.
- There’s contests like breaking or blowing up a balloon (give the smallest kid or the parent a 3 ft. balloon and you inflate a 9″ round)
- There’s swallowing a 260 or putting one into an orange juice can.
- There’s the guy that puts a 260 in his mouth and out his nose and pops a bubble back and forth.
- There’s the balloon barrage or the Giant Taz Man-eating Devil running gag.
- There’s the fastest balloon in the world, a blue J
- There’s using balloons instead of swords to stick through the lady in the box.
- There’s breaking the end off a balloon and having it stay inflated (because of a ball inside).
- There’s the bouncing 350 (because of a ball inside).
- There’s blowing up a balloon backwards or from the middle.
- There’s blowing a balloon up from the wrong end.
- There’s color changing.
- There’s helium – a magician should be able to do a switch.
- There’s pulling the ball off the poodle tail and putting it back on or discovering it is a rubber ball and bounces.
- There’s all the ball manipulation that can be done with balloon seeds instead of balls.
- There’s changing a red silk into a balloon heart.
- There’s appearing to inflate a round and shaping it into a heart.
- There’s the stretching balloon (or balloon through body)
- A super X levitation can make it appear you are holding yourself up on a 260 or being held up by a helium balloon.
- A balloon down your pants or around your back can be pulled through a paper bag with a hole in the back.
- There’s the William Tell routine using a balloon bow, arrow and apple.
- There’s more but it’s late. It would be interesting to see how long this list can get. Tom Myers
- Petrick has a great trick where he inflates a balloon puts it into a paperbag and has someone from the audience select a card. the card is shuffled back into the deck and the deck is put into the paperbag with the balloon. You then reach into the bag and the balloon has twisted itself into a poodle holding the selected card in his paws. Because this is a marketed trick I don’t feel it would be right of me to reveal how its done you could probably figure it out by thinking it out or call petrick and buy it.His phone # is 702-341-5843. I believe the trick is called doggy bag.
- Zig zag balloon illusion (this is a trick were the balloon is put in a square tube, two blades are inserted and the middle part is pushed aside just like the Late Robert Harbins great Zig Zag Lady illusion).
- The silk in a balloon trick is a good trick. You can order from www.hocus-pocus.com.
Storytelling with Balloons
- I tell interesting facts about the figure or animal I’m making in a way that reveals the recognizable shape just as I finish the story. People are so used to hearing tall tales that they expect it. With the truth as your resource, you’ll have a library of material at your disposal and they’ll fall for it every time!
- I was watching my Mike Decker twisting video last week during which he mentioned that Shari Lewis had produced an audio cassette tape of 1 minute bedtime stories that could be adapted to tell while twisting.
- Storytelling with balloons. Kids give you the major hero (twist him) and major obstacles of the story (twist them, or pop the corresponding parts of you hero, if it’s a gory story), and together you, the balloons, and input from the kids creates your 5-minute epic.
- I’ve heard of twisters with ‘morph’ balloons. They twist a balloon, and retwist it, as the sortie evolves into recognizable other things in the story.
- Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm is a good book to use for story telling. A lot of action where you can use the balloons as you tell it.
- My main gig is storytelling, and I use balloons as a prop/giveaway. It has been very sucessful for me!
- My younger daughter Michelle (age 9) performed in the school talent show last spring in her clown costume and make-up and made a balloon sculpture (she’s been inflating them by mouth since she was 4 1/2 ) as she told the story of the Ugly Duckling. The sculpture: Michelle starts off with an un-inflated balloon, casually displayed as she starts the story. First a small puff of air, to make a 2 inch bubble near the center of the balloon. Cupping the oblong bubble in her hands, with the ends threaded through her fingers and hidden behind the hands, she talks about, “Once there was a nest with a single white egg. . .” Adding more air, she proceeds with the sculpture as she tells the story (short version), timing it so that it is completed as she finishes the story and holds it up for display with the final words “. . .but was really a beautiful white swan all the time.” (A single balloon swan with two loop body).
- Why not write your own story? When mom or dad seem unsure as to the price of 100 C-shells for an hour, I suggest the balloon story at 75 C-shells for 1/2 an hour. They give me all the names of the kids that are going to be there, and I formulate a tale using their names for all the balloons I make. I limit it to 10. Extra kids are 5 C-shells each. If they have 5 more, you’ve just made your 100 C-shells, and in less than an hour. You should see the kid’s faces when I say “Susie the swan”. “Your name’s Susie? No! What are the chances of that happening?” It really gets going about the third or forth kid. By then I’ll be pouting while I say,”You just don’t want to wait for a balloon. That’s not really your name, is it?”. “Uh huh! My name is too Tommy!” You can time the story by putting the long narrative parts where you need to spend a lot of time twisting the critter.
- A fun variation would be to twist balloon costumes for the kids, and have them act out their role. This would quickly evolve into chaos, particularly when the characters on stage outnumber the audience, but if you roll with it, everybody can have a great time. I would have a story in mind, but I wouldn’t be married to it. If one of the kids comes up with a clever line or suggests a different direction for the story, I’d go with it (especially if I knew a twist to go with it!)
- For another twist, there’s a routine I like to do verbally, but would work well with balloons. It’s a sort of “mad-libs” routine where I tell the story, but let the audience fill in the details. (I stole this from Kevin Nealon, who was one of the headliners in a comedy show I was in 13 years ago, before he went to Saturday Night Live.) It goes kinda like this:
“Something weird happened to me on the way to the party today. I was walking up. . . um. . . what’s the name of this street?”
“Yeah, I was walking up Maple street, and right there in front of me was a little barking dog…what do you call them. . . the little dogs with the long bodies. . . wiener dog thing. . .”
“Yeah, a dachshund! It had a long nose, two little ears, short legs, lonnnnnng body, short hind legs and a frantically wagging tail. So I tried to get around him, but I had to go into the street and I was almost hit by a. . . a. . . um. . .”
Audience: “Car? Motorcycle? Elephant?”
“Yeah, an elephant! He had a long trunk like this, two big ears like this, two big legs with piano keys on them, a big fat body, two more legs and a tail! He was rampaging down the center of the street because he was being chased by a. . . a. . .”
Audience: “Tank? Zulu warrior? Power Ranger?”
“Yeah, a Power Ranger!”
You get the idea. After a while, they get into the swing of things, and start suggesting stranger and stranger items. If you want to make something specific, give them more clues (“it had a long neck, spots, rhymes with carafe. . .”), but if they name something you know, you can make what they say, and give it to the child who suggested it, and let the story grow organically.
Not for the faint of heart, but it’s a lot of fun, and it guarantees that the kids will get a unique story because they’re part of the process.
- There is a William Tell routine in Larry Moss’ book (Twisting History). It started as just a silly routine. When I do it now, I tell a rather complete story. I recently started telling the Travelling Musicians of Bremen with balloons. When I have time, I sit in the kids section of the library pulling picture books off the shelves and talking to kids to get ideas of what would work for me. (Yes, I check with parents before I randomly grab a kid to discuss this stuff with.)
- My balloon storytelling session at the library yesterday was a big success. I made a list of 35 balloons I can quickly make with one or two balloons. I typed the name of the creation in large bold type, printed them out six to a page on yellow paper. I then cut and folded them into a small square. Then, on pink paper, printed six to a page and folded, I printed out types of stories – friendship, mystery, adventure, history, travel, and future.I began with a few words about balloon safety and that no part of a balloon should go in anyone’s mouth (I use a Pumpo to inflate all balloons). I then explained to the participants (kids from 2-10) that we were going to tell our own story and use balloons instead of pictures. I had a volunteer write down the story and she read it back after we had created the story.
Participants selected either a yellow or a pink paper. I started by selecting a child with a yellow – she shouted out “horse’ and while I made a horse, we decided on a name. I put the horse on a long straw and placed it on my display stick. Then I selected a child to read a pink paper and the story was about friendship, picked the next yellow – scorpion and together we began a story about how a horse and a scorpion could be friends. The children were involved and amazed as I made balloon after balloon, and they helped with the characters and the type of action and interaction.
If the crowd had been small, my plan was to give a balloon to each child as I made the creation. But since the crowd was very large, the balloons stayed on the display stick, and, after the program, I gave all the balloons to the librarian. Only a few children asked for a balloon and were satisfied with the answer that the balloons were for the library.
I ended the program with a magic trick that produced a miniature Tootsie roll for each child and then each received my Activity Page which includes a coloring section and a word search puzzle. I had fun and feel that I really entertained the participants in a novel way.
- I’m doing lots of library summer reading programs this year. One library asked for something different so I suggested telling stories with balloons. Rather than find a story that includes lots of animals or things that I can make out of balloons, I’ve decided to tell a progressive story. I’ve made a list of all the balloons creations I can make quickly, printed out the creation name on a 5 X 7 card in large letters. Each child will get a card. We’ll start with one card, and while I’m making the balloon, the audience with tell the story.Example: start with a monkey (while I’m twisting) “Once upon a time, a monkey (what’s the monkey’s name?) “Oh, Alex – once upon a time, a brown monkey named Alex” (select the next child – tiger) (while twisting a tiger) “peeked through the bushes and realized that he was a long way from home because he saw a tiger enjoying the sunshine”
We’ll make up our own story using our creativity and each child will get a balloon to take home. I plan to have extra cards with repeat items if the crowd is large.
In the Los Angeles area, libraries share their success stories, and I’ve been invited to perform at several libraries because of a show last year.
- Here’s a story book that lets you twist balloons into different figures in order to tell the story. It’s a very simple and short story about a girl who didn’t believe the story about the city where all the balloons go to (“Balloonia”) and what happened to her. The name is “Balloonia” by Audrey Wood Child’s Play (International) Ltd. Child’s Play Theatre edition with additional Song and Pillow Talk.The curious thing about this (soft cover) $1.25 book is that there is even a (balloon) song to go with it (but I don’t have it. . . yet!). I just read what the song said and it sounds nice for kids. I’ll bet anything that kids will like it!
- Also, for church work, I’ve found Jonah and the Whale works nicely with balloons. Ralph Dewey’s books have a nice treatment of it.
- I do a different take on story telling with balloons – I schedule extra time with the parent(s) and work this with kids 7 y.o. to 12 y.o. I have the children decide what their favorite animal is, and use face painting and balloons to *costume* them as that animal. After outfitting the kids (the other kids can go play out their characters and animal sounds while I do the costuming). One of them is always a dragon (I ask who wants to be it), and I have some wonderful red shiny strips that act as fire from the mouth of the dragon. The birthday child is always the hero, playing the wizard or wizardess. Then I narrate a story for the children to act out wiith their animal sounds and scurryings and crawlings, and the good wizard helps the dragon find a way to get along with everyone, and also to get over his nasty hayfever, which has been causing great forest fires, as he throws flames when s/he sneezes. It’s a cute, environmentally friendly, let’s all get along story that the kids often dig, and it has evolved in the last few years. Not many parents opt for this party option. I just really save it for the ones who are into it – they get the most out of it. The kids then act it out again for the parent(s), and this is where it is really fun, cuz they get to ad-lib and add more.
- I have a story I tell while I make the birthday boy/girl an extra special balloon hat at the party. People have generally liked it, but its use can be a little limited. If anyone has any hat stories which might be appropriate to tell while making that extra special hat, and wouldn’t mind sharing them, I’d be most appreciative. In the meantime, here’s the one I tell, in case anyone would like it.
“I love hats. I really do. In fact, I had a dream last night where there were hats all over the place. Hats on the floor, hats on the table, even hats on the ceiling. I figured a dream like that must mean something, so yesterday I went to (name of a local racetrack). Sure enough, in the first race there was a horse running named Fedora. Since a fedora is a kind of hat, I bet all my money on the horse named Fedora, and you know what? He won! The horse named Fedora won the race, and I won a lot of money.
“Then, in the fourth race, there was a horse running named Panama. Since a Panama is also a kind of hat, I took all the money I won before and bet it on the horse named Panama. And you know what? He won! The horse named Panama won the race, and I won even more money.
“Then in the last race, there was a horse running named Chateau. Now, since I’d won all that money betting on the horses named after hats, and Chateau is French for hat, I bet all my money on the horse named Chateau. And you know what? He lost! The horse named Chateau lost the race, and I lost all my money. I still don’t know what happened. Isn’t Chateau French for hat?” (Someone will point out that chapeau is French for hat, not chateau.)
“What? You mean Chateau isn’t French for hat? Oh, no! No wonder I lost all my money. Oh, well. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The winner of that race was a Japanese horse named Yarmulkah.”
- You could also tell some parables with balloon animals. It’s a lot like using Aesop’s fables while bending animals. As you make an animal, talk about some problem it had that will bring it into the topic you want to teach on. That way, they get to see the world famous balloon guy teach, do magic, and do balloons.
- Make the children sit down in a circle, and incorporate your twisting into a story. Only distribute the whatevers when the story is finished and all figures are created. Then with a small group of children, they all get their balloons at the same time.
- Try the kid`s section at your local library. Ask the librarian which stories are popular and well-known by both adults and children. Try to find some simple stories which you could tell with balloon sculptures. Try using as many simple or quick figures as you can. Making them on the spot always gets better reactions, but you could also include a larger sculpture or figure you made ahead of time. I found that even simple stories appeal to adults if you make the actual balloon twisting captivating enough
- I used the same idea for a family christmas performance, recounting the poem of “The Night Before Christmas,” and I got great reactions from both kids and adults. I finished by revealing a large sculpture of Santa, the sleigh and the reindeer, which was covered up until then with a white sheet representing snowy slopes, and I even got applause (which, if you would know my family, is a small miracle indeed).
- I used story telling and told the ginger bread man story in rap as the kids clapped and sang the chorus then told the history and made up the characters. It went over well for the kids. I didn’t have time to make balloons so I gave them little toys via Oriental trading company. I never realized how much more you can do than just twisting them. It was so much fun, and I know that those kids will remember me long after the balloons are gone.
- If you are doing a party, about how long does the story last?
- I am a storyteller primarily, but I use balloons in all of my acts. For children’s parties my standard rate is for up to 12 people, and it lasts approximately 30 minutes (I state that my rate is per half hour, if I go over by 10 minutes then my customers think they got a deal). I usually tell for about 15 minutes, and then do an elaborate bit producing enough balloons for the participants which lasts another 15 – 20 minutes.
- How many shapes do you include?
- That depends on the theme of the stories. I range from three to twelve. Some morph into others.
- Do you give them out during the story or hold on to them? Do certain kids lose interest in the story after they get their balloon?
- I don’t give them out until I’m done, as my main act is storytelling. I have seen some very sucessful acts where the artist will give away balloons during the story, but I present them for display and recap the stories afterwards, pointing to the various figures to encourage participation in the recap.
- Do you find that 3-6 year olds like this sort of thing?
- I have told to all ages, and everyone enjoys the balloons. Especially the adults who say “Gee, I bet the kids love you!” You will find that this is a clever way of saying “Boy, I wish I could have one, but they’re for the kids.” Offer one to this adult, and watch his or her eyes light up.
- I am sure that there are a lot more questions which I didn’t even think to ask so in your infinite wisdom, could you please answer those also?
- When I first began, I fell into the trap of concentrating too much on the *give-away* aspect and not too much on the entertainment. This is odd, as I began as a storyteller and introduced the balloons just to add colour and motion. As I discovered just how incredibly versatile these latex wonders are in expressing myself artistically I began to investigate different ways to use them. When I began to be called out more to serve as a *balloon factory* than an entertainer, I rethought how I would promote myself. Never sell yourself short as an entertainer. The balloon you give to your audience is a memento of the excitement and the wonder he or she experienced at your show.
- How long does the story last?
- Mine lasts 40 minutes if I can keep it rolling.
- How many shapes do you include?
- I dress the “volunteers” in balloon costumes and they act out the story. It varies, but around 8 characters.
- Do you find that 3-6 year olds like this sort of thing?
- First time I did it I was amazed. I was at a Country Club and was near the pool. A small group of kids came over from the crowd. But as I told the story the group grew and grew. Not one person left after joining the group. Even adults with no kids came over. Several people had toddlers on their laps and not one of them made a peep.
- I am sure that there are a lot more questions which I didn’t even think to ask so in your infinite wisdom, could you please answer those also?
- Out of the deep stores of great wisdom hidden in my bosom, I think I better warn you of one drawback. After the show, as I was leaving, several parents stopped me and challenged me with the big, “You didn’t give my precious little darling a balloon”. (My heart was bleeding.) All I could say was that I hadn’t been hired to make balloons but had given them to the volunteers who helped with the story. Certain types of parents feel their kids are entitled to whatever they want and this explanation didn’t seem to help much. Oh well. Since then I try to find a “back way” out whenever possible.
- More free wisdom: I think this is a great way to satisfy that customer who has a huge crowd but doesn’t want to pay for the hours it might take to make everybody a balloon.
- Age is a factor here. And you’ll need to make a judgment call before you even start telling the story — how have they been up to this point? If they’ve been a problem, don’t give the balloons out until after the story. As a performer, however, I would suggest that if you hand out the animal balloons, that you immediately, before you finish standing up straight, continue with the story so that the children don’t have a chance to change their focus from you, and they know that the story continues. Then you retain control, and the focus doesn’t go to the child or the balloon. In magic, you learn that peoples’ eyes will follow the motion. With your body in motion and your voice still telling the story, you should still hold their attention. If they start to fidget, suggest that maybe you should hold onto it until after the story.
- I give the balloons to the children as I make them. If the character repeats itself and it is not to detailed or takes to much time to make again, I will remake the characters as I go.
- This makes it better for you, you can embellish the story to give you more time to finish a figure, you also get better, because you will hear yourself speaking more and will add more color to your words and voice and facial expressions, thereby making the experience much more enjoyable for everyone, including yourself =-)
- My favorite storytelling websites:
- Also, you may do a search for Aesop’s Fables, Hans Christian Anderson, etc., for more tales to tell. I have a couple of favorite sites for those, but, not sure what folder they are in =-)
- Does anyone remember THE RED BALLOON, written by Albert Lamorisse? Originally published as Le Ballon Rouge in 1956, this book was made into a movie that I saw countless times as an “afterschool special” while growing up. It is the story of Pascal and the balloon he befriends. Pascal’s balloon has a life of its own and together they get into one mini-adventure after another. I won’t spoil it by giving away the ending, but go to the library (or Amazon.com where it’s still available after 43 years!!!) and get a copy for yourself. It’s a natural for balloon story-telling. You won’t be disappointed.
- Pooh party: choose one of two options: either tell a story using balloon figures as cast, or tell the story using the children as cast and dressing them up as the characters.To find inspiration for the story, I suggest consulting Pooh-books for small children and first readers. Their stories have simple plots, and can easily be adapted to fit a balloon routine. (I’ve done so with other stories).
Whatever option you choose, costumes or balloon figure characters, it is advisable to make the more complex ones beforehand. This will keep the story in pace. Remember that to keep the children interested in the story, the action has to pass at a sufficiently fast rate.
If you check out BHQ, you’ll find lots of suggestions for Eeyoor, Piglet, Tigger, Pooh and the rest of them. Make some balloon trees as a backdrop for the Thousand Acre Wood. The rest of the accessories will depend on the needs of the story.
You may want to have both alternatives at the ready, because if you have rowdy (do they still use the word rowdy?) children, using them as actors may be a tad too exciting for the little dearies.
The rest depends on your storytelling abilities….
At the end, the kids will either have balloon costumes to wear, or have one of the characters or props as their own. If necessary, make some more to give each kid an equal share of balloon, and do something extra for the birthday boy or girl.
- BTW, I’ve used a similar setup, but with a different story (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) at my niece’s kid’s birthday, and it worked like a charm. There were only about nine kids, which meant I had to have some kids play different characters, but it did give each kid a more or less equal part in story participation. The kids were between nine and eleven. I played the wicked witch myself (with a witches hat on and a broom made of balloons. I had a basket with real apples, which were distributed to the kid, but the poisonous one was a balloon apple. Although It was hard to keep the kid’s attention to the story, I think it was a successs.
Balloons and Comedy
- I would question the wisdom of doing balloons in a comedy routine. Only for the reason that whenever I think of balloons and comedy, Steve Martin comes to mind. If I were to stand up in front of a bunch of people and perform I wouldn’t want them saying I was a Steve Martin wannabe. Comedy uses few props. The props that are used are usually unique to a performer and hardly ever repeated. (Who else is smashing fruit with a mallet like Gallagher?) I’m just curious as to how you could do a routine using the same props as Steve Martin and keep it fresh and unique to you.
- I identify Steve Martin with a banjo, an arrow thru the head, and balloons to a lesser degree. I don’t think that because it’s been done, that it can’t be done again… It shouldn’t be re-done, re-hashed, or copied….but I can see a lot of directions that balloons can go in, and it would mostly depend on the personality/character of the performer which one (s) to choose.. Anyways, the point is that I think you can do/redo anything you like if you put yourself into it…it has to be you, or at least major components of you. I love Steve Martin, but I would never try to do his stuff, it’s not me. but balloons is/was only a part of the whole package, why can’t other folks take balloons as an ingredient in their package.
- Adding hats, earrings, flowers, etc. to the space you are working in, as you present your stand-up would be a great addition to your act. Having twisted for people in many different bars. (local country bar, in the bar at an academic conference, in a ballroom, out west for coal miners and hunters, and hangin with old college buddies) I can say that balloons liven up any bar-scene.
- Working in comedy clubs I found that a balloon act is no good unless you also do COMEDY. That’s what the club is for. Of course the funny look when you look at an odd shaped balloon will present itself to a funny bit. I found that making odd hats, clothes, handcuffs, etc to someone that joins you onstage will create some great bits. The few times that I did a set with balloons, I was telling story jokes while I was twisting.
- Here’s the best advice I can give about comedy clubs and novelty acts: I was the only magician hired at a comedy club in Rhode Island. When I asked the club booker why he liked to book me at the club he explained that I had more laughs per minute than any other magician he ever saw. “Most magicians take 3 minutes worth of set up time and then the climax of the trick has a laugh. Too late for me.” As Bozo the Clown always said….KEEP EM LAUGHING!
- Country and western singer Mel Tellis had (has?) a genuine stutter and like any great performer he used adversity to his advantage. Anyone who has a stutter would be well advised to take advantage of the comedy possibilities. But…. if your stutter is not genuine I believe that it would be in very bad taste to use it for comedy. Mel Tellis made stuttering famous. He pauses or stutters at a moment in a joke or story that leaves you hanging. It really makes him special and people love it. I heard he went to speach therapy and conquered it but returned to it for his audiences’ sake. Play it up instead of down – it could be great. Another good example of this is WC Fields. He was terribly sensitive about his nose in private company but used it frequently in his comedy.
- Throw-away lines: You say them so fast that most people don’t realize what you’ve said until you’ve moved on (there’s usually a two-beat delay before the laugh). It’s something you say as you’re arranging the kid onstage, getting set up to do the stunt.
- Don’t take a throw-away joke and extend it into part of the act. It’s not funny when it’s given too much of the spotlight. It’s obnoxious. That’s why so many people hate clowns – they’ve seen too many of these hacks who don’t know the difference between a bit of business and an act.
- A lot of magic tricks and clown skits that use an audience assistant are some sort of a “sucker trick”. Personally, I think a “sucker trick” is OK once in a while as long as the whole act isn’t just “sucker tricks” and that there’s no hard feelings. After all, we are there to entertain others, not use others as entertainment.
- I don’t do “sucker tricks” in my magic show because I want my helper, child or adult, to get the applause for making magic, not being the butt of the joke.
- One of my fun items was to have the swinging end of the animal bop the kid on the head as I completed the rear legs, which usually makes them laugh, but yesterday I started doing it to myself, which was even more fun!
- A funny thing happened at a restaurant where I work. A child had asked for something I couldn’t make at that point. I promised I would bring it back for him next time, but for now how would he like a Snoopy. . . well, actually a Snoopy on a unicycle. . . his eyes got a bit bigger. . . hmmm. . . how about a Snoopy on a unicycle juggling three balls?? Really? he said. . . then I said nope. . . it’s a Snoopy on a unicycle juggling three balls ALL out of one balloon . . . bigger eyes yet. . . made behind my back. . . WOW was the response. . . then I topped it off. . . With my eyes closed!!! He just about dropped with amazement as the parents cracked up about my saying with my eyes closed as I made it behind my back realizing of course if I were making it behind my back it certainly wouldn’t matter if my eyes were closed or not!! They all had GREAT fun with it and thought how cool it was that I could do it behind my back. The whole thing here is the going on and on part and just taking it all the way and having fun with it. The sculpture itself is actually pretty simple, but playing with the patter and the people make it really fun and entertaining.I found it fun too if I couldn’t make a particular balloon behind MY back… I would start off saying… behind my back and then say better yet… behind HIS back… and stand behind someone to make it… this always got a good laugh.
“Who wants to win this?”
“This is the best yet – I’m going to keep it!”
- Speed twisting involves lots of patter – I need to entertain the waiting crowd as well as the person in front of me. Heck, I can teach anyone to pump up and make a few simple hats. So why should anyone pay me the big bucks? 1) Because I entertain, and 2) I know how to control a crowd.
- Patter works great. Come up with funny routines and verbal spars, perhaps even developing a few diferent character voices and have them hold conversation with the adults, the kids, even with each other (Cybil, eat your heart out!) Whatever you do, always practice your speed and creativity, even with the patter.
- Patter – I always have the kids blow on the balloon when making an animal’s tail. I tell them it helps make the curl. Parents further back in the line and listening actually believe it and will tell them, “Honey, go ahead and blow on it. It makes the tail curl better.” Kids get pride in anything they get compliments for doing. I use a lot of affirmation in my patter.Be careful with this one, but, when making a cap like T. Meyers, I have the teenagers blow the bill when I’m shaping it. Then I let go, so it smacks them lightly on the snout. It gets a laugh at their expense, but it is taken well. Rule # 1 though is to never get a laugh at your audience’s expense.
- My twisting would be classified as corny! I tell dumb jokes while I twist, and adjust my speed to the size of the crowd. My style with handling balloons is soft. I wear gloves, and have a soft touch, I rarely pop balloons in the restaurants. I work with kids a lot, being a clown too, so I love to joke and play around with the kids.
- I too am of the firm opinion that ANYONE – no matter what – has something to offer. I have learned from folks who JUST picked up a balloon that day. You need to keep your mind sharp and open to new ideas. Some of the best lines I have ever heard came from folks who couldn’t make a three twist dog to save their lives.
- Here is a piece of patter I use when I notice that someone who usually doesn’t buy balloons brings their child up to me. After I do my usually bid of tom-foolery I’ll squat down to be on eye-level with the child and I say, “Hey Mary/Pete do you know that you are double lucky today? Well, you are ! I’ll tell you why. You got yourself a great balloon xxxxx. Would that be true? That makes you lucky AND more important than that you got a great Mom/Dad/whoever that thinks you’re special enough to buy you a balloon. That makes you double lucky! Now would that be true? Well remember to give them a great big hug when you get home, won’t you? And make sure you don’t run over anybody with that motorbike, etc.” Next!I do this especially if a parent has three or four children. I’m quite sure you guys know the sort of parent I aim this at. It doesn’t take a genius to work out when a dad’s got his kid for the weekend or a Grandparent is taking junior out for the day.
- Another idea is to watch what the kids wear. Being from Wisconsin, a lot of kids (and adults) are wearing packer shirts. If you can remember the main players numbers, #4 is Brett Favre, I will go “Hi, Brett, boy you sure look smaller in person than in real life…” This patter can go on for a while. Most kids go right along with it and act as if they are a player. Other clothes, Superman shirts etc, can bring the same comments. Never make fun of what they wear (common sense?). If you remain alert to your surroundings and who is coming up in line, you will have some time to come up with an entertaining comment.
- Another sure fire laugh is to ask if the child is married and see where it goes from there!
- Most of all be yourself and have fun. I do not know of anyone who entertains who is not out to have fun!
- Best advice that I could offer on this subject is to know your balloons inside and out, freeing your hands from your mind (sounds kinda Zen- ish, and in a way, I suppose it is) allowing your mind to wander and your ears to listen. Sooner or later you’ll make a connection. Something silly/funny will pop up, then you have to decide if it’s worth throwing out there and how people will react to it. Then you either go with it, or put your mind back into wander mode. I like to think of it kinda like a fighter pilot, cruising along, free to look for his own targets ( but hopefully there’s only laughter left in the wake)
- On another side of this, the real skill IMHO, is making it look like it’s coming off the top of your head. I know, in my case, it’s probably 98% routine (developed from improv) and 2% improvisation (taking whatever works from that 2% and weaving it back into the routine while discarding the junk that didn’t go) and trying to make it seem “fresh” each time.
- As a clown, a lot of what I do in my show is “wisecracking,” observational comments, sarcasm, “unintentional” mistakes, some really BAD puns, and many other quick verbal tools. However, when necessity requires, I also know how to shut up. Even though I enjoy being a clever-bottom sometimes, I also spend a lot of time performing totally silent. Put simply, physical comedy works. There’s no reason why most routines that you normally do with patter can’t be done silently. If you ever get a chance to watch Floyd Shaffer sometime, do it. He’s a totally silent clown. He is the grand-daddy of modern clown ministry, but whether you do ministry work or not, just watching HOW he does things is a lesson in the art of silent performance.
Balloons and Music
Getting the Word Out
- I’m looking at getting a PA system for my larger jobs. I need something with a wireless mic and that can run off batteries or be plugged in. Do any of you out ther have any advice? I don’t know where to start, but I need something quickly.
- OK. Here’s my secret. I use a GREAT Wireless system. It comes with 2 mics (both wireless) and the speaker/receiver is only 5 pounds! It covers a gym or an auditorium with ease. You can even hook up a tape recorder to it. Contact: Florida Magic Co. 1-800 818-5698 and ask for details on their Sekaku Portable Sound PA. It sells for $389. The best investment you’ll ever make.
- I have a system from Lectrosonics. It is battery operated. I have had it for over two years now and love it. You can plug a tape recorder into it and an extra mic. There phone # is 1-800-821-1121.
- I personally have the Anchor Audio System (the Extreme model) and it is AWESOME! I also use a SHURE wireless mic with it. With the particular model I have, the receiver is built right into the system which makes it great. The model I have gives out 135 Watts, has unbelievable sound, input for the wireless as well as another mic, input for radio/tape/cd player (I use a Sony boom box and the sound is unreal), and availability for another speaker which I haven’t needed, (I have handled crowds of over 500 with this system which is only the one unit) and is AC powered but they do have ones that are battery powered as well. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Anchor systems. They have different models to chose from depending upon your needs of course. Everything is packed into one unit that is soooo easy to bring along and yet is very very very high quality sound.
- Joe Lefler of Funtastic Entertainment sells Anchor Systems and is a GREAT guy to work with. He will really work with you to help you figure out which system will meet your needs for both budget and usage. They are a bit on the more expensive side but completely worth it. This was the second system I have purchased and I really took my time researching it before I got it. It was completely worth the wait and time to look into… none others I have seen even compare. Joe can be reached at:Joe Lefler
1070 Bank Street Ext.
Painesville, OH 44077
- I have a wireless mike system that my husband purchased from Radio Shack. I think it was about $300 or so. It works wonderfully…I use it with my karaoke machine, purchased for about $55 at WalMart. I can also use it with School sound systems. The karaoke runs from batteries only and has a built in mike. The wireless mike (main system), however, has to be plugged into electricity.
- Wireless mike is a SHURE and the karaoke is a Lonestar. Sound quality is great on both.
- I recently got a sound system for my shows. I ended up getting mine from Florida Magic Company 1(800) 818-5678 They sell one for $389.00 plus battery and charger. This has been the best investment for me. I like it so much because it is so small yet can cover a gym. I don’t leave home with out it. I use it all the time. This sound system has made my job easier, because I don’t have talk LOUD for hours on end. Plus it’s a great crowd controller. Florida Mggic. 800-818-5698 or 954-473-1902. Their web page is: www.pocc.com/~floridamagic
- The local Toys R Us has a toy called MEGA MIKE. It is a portable speaker/microphone that is pretty powerful for a toy. The speaker clips on your belt and works on 4 aa batteries. There are also 6 buttons that create sound effects; clapping, booing, laughing, rimshots, a buzzer and some music. There are separate volume controls for the mike and the sound effects. This is great for outdoor twisters who have to make an announcement or for twisters in noisy restaurants. It is manufactured by YES GEAR.
- I’ve found this incredibily efficient for a one-man act! ShowTech Programmable Remote Control Sound System Plus: Memorizes 5 different program sequences, up to 50 tracks CD stereo mini disk Remote track cuing, volume control, auto-pause, auto-fade Ankle transmitter included for hands free operation Case is 6 X 9 X 12, two-button controller like valet switch Kerry Pollock, Wireless Wizardry, 216-845-7799. Kerry is a fulltime comedy magician and an electronics wiz.
Your Act Comes Alive, With the Sound of Music…
- Music is a universal language and children respond so well to it. In my act I do comedy/magic/juggling – some to talking, some talking with music and the rest to music only. I don’t just use it as pad behind the actions, but I work with it integrated into each bit, actually choreographing my movements. I’m kind of fanatical about getting “the right” piece of music for each segment, and it takes a lot of rehearsing to know the music well. But it has been so worth it as the kids really respond to this. If there are words in a song, I tend not to talk, having chosen the words to match a theme of what I am doing (example, “Pretty Paper”, Willie Nelson, for a paper tear trick).
- When you use music in the act, consider the many working magicians using music. Watch Copperfield, watch old magic show videos. Get a book catalog from Magic Inc. (1-312-edi-bull) and find books that explain how music is choreographed to a show. The music should underscore the act, not overpower it.
- Any music in public domain can be used without paying royalties. I use a lot of classical music in my act. A great one for kid’s shows is CHILDREN’S FAVORITES, The Carnival of the Animals, London Records.
- There is a lot of good music out there. Or, if you are like Blackstone, have some guy with a MIDI keyboard sit in your orchestra area and just accompany your act with incidental music. I also play guitar and sing in the act and have even had friends write and record music for me that I use.
- Play a balloon by controlling the amount of air released from the balloon while holding the nozzle to create a squeaking sound. (Do the same bit, only put one of those bird squeekers in your mouth to do the song. No one will know the difference. Learning the mouth squeeker is easier than learning the delicate instrumentation of the balloon.)
- I have an entertainer friend who maintains that he has played balloon “professionally” in a bar band. He uses a round balloon, and rubs his fingers along it at various speeds to create sounds. I’ve heard him do it, and while I wouldn’t call it enthralling I’ve heard worse things labelled ‘music’.
- I’ve experimented with blowing up a 6-12 inch bubble in a 260, tying it, then stepping on the knot and pulling the uninflated part taut, and playing it upright (plucked) bass style. I haven’t quite managed a real scale (and probably won’t) but it’s a nifty bit anyway. Pull (stretch) one of the inflated fingers on an inflated surgical glove and then let it thump back down, for a base beat. Inflate a 260 3 inches, and make a 1 inch tulip twist,and pass it thru the center hole of a large Geo. Stretch the uninflated portion and strum it for a really cool bass!
- While twisting on long jobs I always play tunes on a blaster or portable sound system. I also use music stings in my stage shows.
- Chum up with your local radio station and ask them about POWER PARTS or CENTURY PARTS. These are CD’s with thousands of musical interludes, sound effects, atmosphere sounds that they use in commercials and production. I have used many of them in my act.
- I have found some great background music. TELEVISIONS’S GREATEST HITS, 65 TV Themes of the 50’s and 60’s by TeeVee Tunes Lonetown Productions, Distributed by TVT Records. Each song is about a minute. Everyone recognizes these themes – Mission Impossible, Mister Ed, I Love Lucy, Hawaii Five-O, Woody Woodpecker etc. There are also a lot of CD/tapes out with short sound effects (anything you can imagine).
- There’s a great CD out called “The Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music” which features 99 well-known classical themes (just snippets, not the whole piece). Most of them last 30 seconds to a minute. I use the CD a lot in video production, but it’s worth a glance for those of you seeking quickie music bites. The best part? The CD costs 99 cents at Tower Records; I’ve seen it elsewhere, but never over 5 dollars. It’s a promo for their line of classical music for people who hate classical music.
- I use a lot of classical music, but it can be overwhelming to pick out in the record store. One of the best is the Carnival of the Animals but another good compilation is CLASSIC GREATEST HITS by RCA Victor (Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony and Boston Symphony) It has William Tell Overture (Lone Ranger show), 1812 Overture, the Sabre Dance, Flight of the Bumblebee, Blue Danube (Skater’s Waltz) plus others which I have found work great and the recording is good.
- THE CARL STALLING PROJECT Vols. I and II – Hal Wilner (SNL music producer in the Golden Age) has assembled two treasure troves of music cues from the Warner Brothers (“Looney Tunes”) cartoons. Great stuff and well-mastered.
- HANNA BARBERA COLLECTION: THE MUSIC Vol 1 – Rhino Records (surf the net) has put out some outstanding collections and this has tons of USEFUL cuts between the familiar jingles.
- In “The Linking Ring” Richard Wayne Productions offers a “Magician’s Easy Edit Music Kit Vol. I” on CD. The COPYRIGHT FREE music on the disc is designed for cross editing, looping and other fancy stuff that makes the package seem ideal. I haven’t worked my way to picking it up, but you can call 1-800-MAGIC-71 or P.O.Box 335, Boiling Springs, PA, 17007-0335.
- Also, HOOKED ON CLASSICS by K-Tel, has snippets of great classical music all strung together – really fun.
- I use Joannie Bartels tapes a lot in my shows. Both for children and for retirement center gigs. Try her Dancin Magic and her Silly Time Magic. I think they are tops – she has 3 or 4 others, but these are definately tops in my book! Dancin Magic has a real “jazzed up” version of the Hokey Pokey that is a lot of fun, especially for a clown.
- When I started using music to my show I preferred old jazz and swing using Les Brown, Ray Bryant Combo with some yakkaty sax and Ray stevens (everything is beautiful as closing) If you are a clown, why not use the calliope music found in Laugh Makers and WCA magazines?
- I’ve been using music for eight years as a clown. I often sing silly songs while I’m twisting, but I play guitar and sing when I do shows. It really has set me apart as “something different.” I love it. If you check clown history, you can see a thread of musical clowns. The problem is copy rights. I have been doing other people’s music, and I have one song which has become my “standard.” All the kids expect it. But I am more and more uncomfortable doing it. Every time I see those video camera’s rolling, I get nervous. Well, I have a head full of original songs that I’m beginning to write and perform. I hope to eventually compile them and maybe sell them for other clowns to perform. So recommending specific songs in such public a forum is a huge risk. We clowns are a creative bunch! Try to develop some original stuff. And be careful using the other. Try the library for kid music tapes. Good place to start!
- I’m very careful to use royalty free CD’s and MIDI music written by guys who’ve been dead for a while. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you go to the MIDI section on Compuserve, the songs are in the public domain and safe to use.
- I use music from Jay Scott Barry, who is a magician and also a composer. His stuff is cleared for re-use. Very modern but no specific theme. More Sci Fi than anything. www.jayscottberry.com
- Garry Gardner aka Professor Wonder writes:
My daughter is a Music Composition major at Iowa State University and has several tunes that she could make available in either MIDI or audio CD format. She would be willing to grant performance rights to the purchasers, so there would be no copyright infringements (unless you were to make unauthorized copies 🙁 ). If you’re interested, drop me an e-mail E-Mail Professor Wonder with a description of what kind of music you’d like, and we’ll see what we can come up with. Prices would be reasonable for existing works; custom compositions would be considered at negotiated prices.
- I use christian songs with my gospel stories, and they work fine. When I use gospel, though, I stick to songs that apply to what I am teaching, and I really don’t use too many fun songs that don’t have a message in them. I guess it all depends on usage and what your goal is. As for the gospel, most childrens songs will work if you study their message. I like using a lot of Ron Hamilton (Patch the Pirate) tapes because his songs are the most solid I have heard as far as the message is concerned. I have also heard that Psalty the singing Hymn book is another good song resource for gospel as is the Doughnut Man. Gaither music is another good source.
- Disney has just put out a cd called Mannheim Steamroller Meets the Mouse. It is available at THE DISNEY STORE and has some great background music for balloon twisting.
- One Way Street can be found at www.onewaystreet.com. Or call 1-800-569-4537.
- In this issue of LaughMakers there are two ads for music. Check out www.soundsofthecircus.com and www.mrrecordings.com.
- I’ve been working at clearing my desk and came across a letter from Merianne telling me about a release from CRI Records back in July, 98.
Composers Recordings, Inc
73 Spring Street Ste 506
New York, NY 10012-5800
Piece for Solo Tenor Balloon, Bluebird, Champagne in Mexico City, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime, Blown Uncut, Rubber Patchwork Quilt Featuring Judy Dunaway, balloons with Yasunao Tone and Dan Evans Farkas, electronics.
Emergency Music CD 778
From the performance lofts of lower Manhattan since the early 1990’s, Judy Dunaway has forged a new and insistent musical voice with her trademark family of musical instruments – balloons. Into an amplification system she strokes them with moistened hands and inflates and deflates them to form rhythms and shape irregular melodies. In her notes to this CD Dunaway describes the development of her balloon techniques and also speaks passionately about the magical powers of latex to seal, protect, hold breath, and spark imagination. In an era when it is difficult to be truly unique, Judy Dunaway succeeds at communicating a personal and powerful new art.
Check Stock on:
New York Guitars (featuring Dunaway’s 60-two-10) (CD698)
Your Act Goes To Jail, With the Sound of Music…
- DJ’s and dance halls are not the only ones who need to pay music royalties; ASCAP and BMI will actually send people around to restaurants to check if music is being played. If you are offering music as any part of the service you provide and collect money for, the law says that you have to pay royalties.
- You can (and it has happened), be fined $5000 per song *YES, $5000 per song* you play. In fact the law provides for damages of not less than $500 and not more than $20,000 (or more if infringements are WILLFUL) for each song infringed, plus court costs and in the court’s discretion, reasonable attorneys fees. Word to the wise: get ASCAP/BMI real soon.
- A dj’s licensing only covers him when he makes the money himself, or is playing at a wedding or party were he is the only one making money off of the music played. If you work for a club/group/assoc that charges admission, both you and the club/group/assoc must pay ASCAP/BMI licensing fees. Everyone making (well, at least charging) money must have the license.
- ASCAP and BMI (two separate and to some degree competing organizations) act as agents for the music copyright holders, who are the writers/arrangers/artists or “their” music publishing companies. ASCAP/BMI serve as a clearing houses whereby the copyright holder can get a return on use of their material without having to deal directly with thousands of users, and the users can meet their obligations with without having deal directly with thousands of copyright holders. It also provides a standardized and non-discriminatory arrangement and fee schedule.
- One may asssert that ASCAP and BMI are big bad “monopolies,” but the system is fundamental to the way that the music industry works, at least in the US. When you switch from playing records for your own enjoyment, to playing them in a public venue or as part of your “business,” you also switch roles from being a musical “fair use” consumer to being a part of the industry and you need to understand the rules.
- The Canadian version of BMI, SOCAN, soaks all musicians, agents and hotels, halls and anyone who might book a band or DJ. If you perform at one of those places you are covered. IN CANADA: DO NOT succumb to the entreaties of SOCAN to pay YOUR dues if your principal business isn’t playing or booking music. YOU DON’T HAVE TO. However, if you are on the road with a huge stage show which incorporates non-original music… think twice because you’d hate to get nailed some day.
- In the ACSAP/BMI Q & A flyer it reads:
- Is my business affected by the copyright Laws?
Copyrighted music is a property and its use must be paid for as any other neccessary business expense. So as long as your business plays copyrighted music, you must pay a license fee. This includes aerobics, dance and exercise studios; hotels; discos; nightclubs; shopping centers and malls; hospitals; colleges; restaurants; country clubs; cruise ships; industrial plants; skating rinks; trade shows; conventions; expositions; meetings; telephone music-on-hold systems; and radio and television stations—as well as many others.
- What if I only play from the radio or a tape?
Wharever the source of music —tape, record, compact disc, live musicians or the radio (over the speakers, to include your phone) –you still must pay a licensing fee for the right to play that music as part of your business.
- What happens if I continue to play music but refuse to pay?
BMI will check your music programming, and when our music is played we will take approiate legal action. BMI is committed to protecting our writer’s and publisher’s right to the full extent of the law. And the penalties for copyright infringement can be substantial…from 500 to as much as $100,000 per copyrighted work. So paying a norminal fee now can save your more money in the long run.”
For all the details browse: BMI or ASCAP Otherwise call BMI at 1-800-669-426 [212-586-2000] or ASCAP at (415) 574-6023 [212-621-6403]. They have the answers.
- Is my business affected by the copyright Laws?
- If you are using music in your act in a public place and getting paid for the act, ASCAP can tap you. I have found two sources for tapes which the fees have been paid and you are able to use the music in your act. There are probably more sources out there. Duane Laflin of Laflin’s Magic and Silks sells a set of two or three tapes and you can contact him at (970) 522-2589. Steve Kissell in Norfolk, Va also carries some tapes. This music is either in public domain, or the fees have been paid for the music to be used for performers in public. I have a couple of the tapes, the music is cute and upbeat. Out of respect for performers who make their living in music, using these types of tapes is just the right thing to do.
- I do a lot of cable access TV, and music is always an issue. Even when a song enters public domain, performances of it can be copyrighted. So, to get around any potential legal problem, I’ve started using MIDI. If you have Netscape, you’re already MIDI capable (a MIDI player is also included with the latest releases of WIN95 and Mac OS).For those who haven’t worked with it before, MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It was first used to allow a computer to control an electronic instrument such as a keyboard or drum machine. Now it’s used as a fast and economical way to send music from one computer to another.
MIDI files are small (not much larger than an email message in most cases, about 10K for a pop song or up to 100K for full orchestrations of lengthy classical pieces). Digitized music (like a CD) records the frequencies, decibel levels, of an actual performance in order to reproduce the sound. MIDI is like sheet music – it records the instrument, notes and dynamics, so that a computer or keyboard can interpret the music to the best of its ability.
The nice thing about MIDI music is that your computer is the performer, eliminating the problem of using someone else’s recording. Some MIDI music is copyrighted, though, and there will be a message saying so when you download it. Most of the composers are willing to negotiate a *very* low fee for its use.
There is a huge selection of MIDI music available on the ‘net. You can find classical, rock, country, new age, every genre you can think of. Just do a net search on MIDI.
When you open a MIDI file with Netscape or most browsers, it will automatically play the song. All MIDI files are not created equal. They have all been created by *people*, either typing in the score or playing it on a keyboard. Some of them have klinkers, some of them are poorly orchestrated, but most are worthwhile.
In the studio, I use my laptop computer to play the music, and I’m quite satisfied with the quality (piano, guitar and drums sound particularly good off of the MIDI program). For performance, you might want to record the music from your computer onto a cassette tape. You can get a cable at your local Radio Shack that can connect from the speaker port of your computer (if you have a sound card or a Mac) to the microphone port of your tape recorder.
If you want to take this a step further, there are some great software packages out there to let you compose your own MIDI music. I bought the package Encore, which I can use to transcribe sheet music and turn into a MIDI orchestration, or reverse engineer a MIDI file to sheet music. With this software, I can change the orchestration, add a verse, or make any other changes so that the music lasts exactly as long as I want, plays at the tempo I want, uses the instruments I want, etc. It was under $400 at Fry’s.
You can send any questions to me, Cap’n Denny (the Red Flash) or go check out the volumes of information about MIDI on the ‘net.
- The following copyrighted article was written by Rick “Pretzel” De Lung, and is reproduced here with Rick’s permission. Thank you Rick!
Copyrights and Trademarks
Are you using music in your act? Or using music to play behind you as you facepaint, do skits or clown magic? I’ll bet 99% of you are now raising your hands! The next question is: Did you know that you are most likely breaking the law?
Wait a minute! What do you mean I’m breaking the law? Well, guess what . . . I’ll bet you my last pair of striped socks that most if not all of you who use music are doing it illegally! Now the next question is: What do I do to avoid breaking the law, other than turning off my tape player?
Let’s answer your questions by explaining the laws that govern the use of copyright materials and trademarks.
If you play music in your act, you are probably cheating out one or both of the two music agencies that were founded and formed to protect musical copyrights. These two groups are BMI and ASCAP. ASCAP stands for the American Society of Composers and Publishers. BMI stands for Broadcast Music Industry. These agencies were created to protect the rights of musicians, song writers and composers. You see, every time that a song is played, either on a stereo, radio or broadcast medium, the song writer, performer and/or composer was not getting recognition and reward for his or her good works. That is why ASCAP and BMI were formed to give these men and women a means of collecting fees that were rightfully theirs because the music they wrote was being used for something that they weren’t being paid for. Each has a number of songs in its registry. ASCAP has over six million songs, with literally thousands being added by the week.
As it was explained to me, the use of music is a property issue. You can use music in Private (Home, Car, etc.) You can not use it in Public. Now the courts have defined the term PRIVATE as: the normal gathering of family and friends. This means that anytime there is a group together for a normal type “family” gathering, then it’s okay to play music. Examples of this would include: while at home, driving in your car, attending a Birthday Party, at a family wedding, attending your parent’s Anniversary Party, a housewarming when your folks moved into their new condo, etc. This is group who came together and are having fun in a normal “family” style setting.
A PUBLIC use is where there is a gathering of people that are more than just normal family and friends. This can and does include events like: High School Reunions, a performance at a Flea Market/Swap Meet, a gathering at a Company/Church Picnic, a special presentation at the neighborhood Elks/Moose/Eagle/Waterbuffallo Lodge or Country Club, and also any special skit you perform at the next Clown Convention.
You can quite simply use almost any song or music out there . . . if you pay for it. You can purchase an ASCAP Per Concert License for a very small amount. For example, if you do a company picnic that has up to 250 people there, and there is no admission fee to attend this picnic (unlike a concert ticket to get in. This doesn’t mean that you have to pay for parking in a regional park), then ASCAP allows you to use any of their registered six MILLION songs for a fee of only seven dollars. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. And you don’t have to pay each event as they happen. You can report your work to ASCAP and then pay the amounts on a quarterly basis. They even send you a form that you use to keep your records accurate and accountable. Plus they offer a quantity discount if you know that you are going to do a lot of events with the same music. After 25 events, ASCAP allows you to deduct 20% off of the fees charged after your first 25. Or better yet you can pre-pay for 100 or more, and then you get a 5% discount on all of them. Depending on how many events you do, this can be a substantial savings over the total figure. The fees for BMI are very similar. For more details on either of these, you can contact them directly at the following phone numbers: ASCAP has offices all over the country. I called one on the West Coast – (800) 910-7348 ext. 52. BMI is based out of Memphis, Tennessee. You can find them on the web.
So let’s say that you decide to ignore the law, and you want to go out and play a neat album or cassette tape that you bought at the local record store. Sit down for this information. The Infringement Damages can be costly. Fees and penalties for use of copyrighted music without permission or arrangement can range from $500.00 – 20,000.00 per song! And this means every time that you play the tape again, you can get hit with another penalty or fine. This can get very expensive after a very short length of time.
So you want to follow the law, and do what’s right . . . but you don’t want to have to pay any fees unless you have to. You do have loopholes. Many of these are set up and you don’t even know it. For example many of the arenas that a clown, magician, juggler, facepainter, or what ever entertainer you are plans on performing at, the fees are already paid for by the arena itself. For example, County Fairs, Restaurants, Shopping Centers, and Casinos have to pay a fee to ASCAP for the use of music in their establishments. That means that if you are brought in to perform for people or guests in their establishment, then you are covered and you don’t have to pay the fee. However, you want to make sure that you are covered by asking the person in charge if the fee has been paid for. That way you are protected.
Let’s say that you get a call from a client who wants to hire you for their annual Company Picnic or Christmas Party and they happen to have to put you on hold for a moment . . . listen carefully. Do you hear music on hold, like a radio station, or a tape of pop music? If you do, then chances are the company has paid for a Business Multiple Use For Corporation License. That means that they have paid the fee to ASCAP and/or BMI for music. Again it is best to ask them if they have paid the license fee.. Be safe and not sorry.
Public Domain Music
Another loophole is the use of any music you find labeled Public Domain (PD) music. That means that the music is no longer under copyright, and you are free to use it without paying royalties to anyone. Much of the public domain music is “Classical”. There are a lot of popular and folk songs that are public domain also. Don’t think that all classics are Public Domain until you check. Plus keep in mind that just because your record says (PD) doesn’t mean you can use it. The PERFORMER has a royalty coming to them if you use it straight from the record. You can use the song by having someone else perform it, and you don’t have to pay the royalty fee. For example: Have your niece play the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven in a “Jazzy” tempo, on an out of tune piano, and that is fine! Two excellent sources for folk music that is Public Domain are Great American Folk Songs, published by Dell, and Folk Songs of the World, published by Bantam Books. You should be able to find these at your local music store, or library.
Speaking of libraries, you can take care of your music needs by purchasing what is called a Music Library. This is a collection of pre- recorded background music from which you can select the pieces or parts of pieces that you want to use for your act. In just about every thriving metropolis there is a struggling musician or two who wants to sell their skills to movies, television or the legitimate stage. All you need to do is look in the Yellow Pages under MUSIC and see if there is a listing for a recording studio in your area. Call around and ask for music libraries. You can even find companies that sell music libraries in the classified sections some music or guitar magazines.
Some places charge twice for music: once for the collection of music, and then a “per use” or annual fee to use the music. I suggest that if the studio wants to charge you twice for the use of the music, keep looking. Now some music libraries can get pricey too! They have what is called “Needle Drop” charges. This means that they charge you for each song. A song can be a short as 10 seconds or up to 6 minutes long. You have to look around and ask about the fees for these. Most good studios collect the same music libraries and will charge you by the hour’s worth of music. For example: a company here in my town of Anaheim charges $15.00 per hour to be alone in the studio to listen and select the songs that I like. They charge $35.00 per hour to have a technician in there with me to help run the CD player. If I want something weird like a sound effect, they charge $85.00 per hour to use the computer generated music sounds. If I want to record my selections onto a tape they charge $35.00 for a 1/4″ tape to record my music selections on. Or $50.00 per hour to record it to CD. Plus of course, you need to buy a blank CD at the cost of $20.00. So let’s say I hit it lucky, and I find a group of 20 songs that I like. The combined total of the music equals one hour, and it took me 4 hours to find them all, plus another 1 hour to record it to a blank CD; that would put it at $67.50 to find the songs I like, plus $52.50 for the technician to record it over onto my $20.00 CD. The grand total is $140.00. This is probably the most expensive CD I will ever own, BUT the music is cleared of ASCAP/BMI restrictions. That means it would have paid for itself in 20 picnics, and every other show after that is free of any fee at all! Sounds good . . . doesn’t it!
Because of this need for restriction free music, some musical groups have put together CDs and tapes of free and clear music for the entertainer. You will see an occasional ad in Laugh*Makers or other entertainment magazines.
Fun Technicians has one CD called Music for Magicians and Artists. I personally have this one and love it! Check it out! Others that I have, have heard of, or know about include:
Illusionworks has two CDs: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Magician’s Easy Edit Music Kit: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Milt Larsen of Hollywood’s Magic Castle owns Electric Lemon Records who will soon have CDs of Circus style music available.
You can even find some discarded Music Library albums in your local Thrift Stores or Goodwill. The only problem that I have found with these is that the music is very “time honored” and “Seventy-ish or Disco” sounding. Unless your clown character or Magician is wearing a Polyester Leisure Suit, you may not want to have a “Bee-Gee” sound behind you.
If you go to your local recording studio, music store, Guitar Center, or College you may find a musician or two who can compose and perform for you an original song. This can be a start for some up and coming composer, or it can be a dramatic savings to you from the fees of an accomplished musician. I have found that most original songs can cost anywhere from $500.00 on up. A good friend of Pretzel and Kritters composed our theme song, and he gave us a major break by only charging us $300.00 for both! Most composers charge a per page fee in the area of $180.00 per page. You can expect a musical rendition to go through a page of music in about 20 – 30 seconds. If you want a theme that lasts 3 – 4 minutes, you can see the dollars going quickly!
A Final Musical Note
ASCAP, BMI and most everyone else is a money making institution. They are there to actually do something that needs to be done . . . protect the rights of musical performers and composers. They don’t want someone using their works without due compensation. But they really don’t care about the little guy. That CAN include you, if you picture yourself in that light. However . . . your integrity is up to you. But if you do work conventions, large company picnics or corporate events . . . protect yourself by purchasing the license and not having to worry if you are asked to cease and desist by a man in a dark suit carrying a briefcase and a money hungry grin on his face.
To sum it all up, there are things that we need to do as entertainers to add sparkle to our shows. Music is one, and facepainting can be another. If you do either of these things, I implore you to make sure that you are doing the right thing, and not breaking the law. Many of the companies out there may not really care about the little guy, but it is quite simply wrong to break the law. Let your conscience be your guide and do what is best.
Rick “Pretzel” De Lung
2034 E. Lincoln Ave. Suite #101
Anaheim, CA 92806
P.D.A. Productions. Reproduced with permission.