Twisting for Other Audiences

Feb 14, 2023

Twisting for Other Audiences

Many adults love balloon creations, even if they don’t readily admit it.
– Unknown

Twisting For All Audiences
Twisting for Teens
Twisting for Obnoxious Teens
Twisting for Adult Audiences
Adult Sculptures
Twisting for Elderly Audiences
Twisting in Spanish
Twisting for the Hearing Impaired
Dealing with Latex Allergies

Twisting For All Audiences

  • Much of the thinking about working applies to adults and kids alike. The details why you were booked (what is the performing situation, who will be there, why they are there, etc.) are important so you can assess the situation and get some idea of what you will face when you arrive. Here are a few initial thoughts:
  • Ask as many questions of the organizer as you can so that you know as much as you need to. Don’t be frightened to do this. It shows you are taking care to make your performance as appropriate as possible. It will often remind them of things they would like to know but have not been offered by their superior.
  • Ask questions about everything that concerns you. For example, ask questions about:
    • Who the guests are and why they are there?
    • Do they know each other? What is their relationship?
    • Are they adult, children or mixed? Age range? etc.
    • How many will there be?
    • Are they arriving together or a few at a time?
    • Are they seated or standing?
    • Is it a served meal or a buffet?
    • What happens before I am ‘on’?
    • What else is happening while I am on?
    • What happens after I finish?

    Now you know how you feature in the overall picture…and so on.

Twisting For Teens

  • The younger set like anything, but teenagers are COOL, so it has to be presented in a little different fashion.
  • Teens put the fright into every balloon busker and waitperson east west north and south of the Pecos! It can go the other way however. You should calmly give a good schpiel, look them each in the eye, try to relax and roll with their jokes. Teens are like sheep for the most part. They really want to fit in with the group. If you tell them that you are not selling the balloons but are working on tips, they may feel group pressure to tip. I had a table of three teens each give up a 5 spot w/ithsmiles on their little pimply faces. That one made up for the smart asses we’ve all had to deal with at one time or another.
  • Teens are generaly nervous, akward and feeling a little guilty about recent hormonal changes. It is important to play it very cool around them. They will latch on to that and feel cool themselves, thus feel more in the mood to tip properly!
  • I make all the “cutesy” stuff for high school guys, too. I use this line: “You must have someone you can give this to…or, maybe you’ll meet someone.”
  • Anything ball-in-balloon is good. If you do it fast enough, teenagers will spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out how you got that in there.
  • I find that they are fascinated by the big multi-balloon figures. Flowers, Hearts, etc are always popular. Not to sound sexist, but if you focus on the females there, the males will gravitate to you.
  • Do 18 year old males really like poodles?
    Yes. And cats and cows and you name it. They will probably want you to teach them to make them. Also, hats are big with that age. Make it a hat party. There are fun balloon games you can find over in the guide.
  • Like you, most of my parties are with the younger croud, but older kids are fun too. I usualy start out having them say the “I will never ever put a balloon anywhere near my mouth” pledge, but with this age group you could probably skip that part. I then hand everyone a pre-inflated balloon (not full). I teach them how to make a three fold dog. It’s fun to do this with the grown-ups so I know the 18 year olds will love it. Once you do that, then make a hat for each one. Do some balloon games. The only game I can think of off hand is to get some of those small bouncy balls from T-Myers and put one in each balloon, but don’t tie it. Drop the balloon on the floor (hard surface works the best), and they bounce really neat. You can have them bounce them to each other in a relay race, see who can keep theirball bouncing the longest.
  • Oh, I thought of another one. A fully inflated and tied balloon (260?) Put their finger in the end and see who can shoot them the furthest across the room.
  • Another twister on this list, Jolene Jang, frequently does what she calls Connect-A-Hats with high school aged groups. Make simple hats and connect as many folks together as you can. It makes walking around a park or mall much more entertaining.
  • The May, 1991 Laughmakers has an article on “Multiple Person Balloon Connector hats.” I’ve done tons of these (with balloons that’s quite a few), and they are the best photo op attention grabbers around. Come prepared with a *lot* of pre-inflated ballons. I even premake a bunch of the hat bases and connectors.Here’s the chance to use a lot of the different sizes of balloons you bought to play with and never used at a gig. What you can hang from the connector pieces depends on your imagination and how many hats you have to hold it up.

    I have found that four people are the most that can run around as a cohesive unit, but that varies a lot with the crowd.

  • If you’ve been booked for an 18-year-old’s birthday party, it’s not likely that this is going to be a wild “kegger” party with drunken teens smashing windows and slam-dancing. If it is (find out now!), be sure to get there when the party starts and leave before it gets rough (say, fifteen minutes). If it’s a nice group of typical kids, they’ll probably enjoy your normal twisting repertoire. I mean, it’s balloon animals, right? They aren’t expecting Vegas strippers and dirty jokes.
  • I don’t have to change my patter for older groups of kids, for a simple reason: I don’t talk down to kids. Real humor doesn’t rely on four-letter words or double-entendres. The jokes I do for little ones are just as funny to adults. If you’re running around squawking in a dopey voice, giggling like a lunatic and telling the kind of stupid jokes you get from popsicle sticks and gum wrappers, a five-year- old will pretty much think you’re a jerk, too. Who is hiring you to do the gig? Ideally, you’ll know the kid and the audience. If you’re being hired by a well meaning mom who hasn’t a clue, the kids may be pre-disposed to think you’re lame and adopt a TBTBH (too bitchin’ to be here) attitude. Multiply the birthday person by 25 and you’ve got your audience.
  • Peer pressure can be your ally or your enemy. Hats can go over big *if* you give one to everybody as they come in and they get the idea that everyone else is wearing one.
  • You can also turn the event into a costume party, decking people out as spacemen, aliens, pirates, animals, etc. These can go pretty quickly if you make a simple vest, belt, hat and an optional gizmo (like a sword, a parrot, a laser pistol, wings, a tail, etc.). Get buy-in from the host (s/he should have the most elaborate costume, and should be wearing it as s/he answers the door). For this to work, you pretty much have to ambush people as they come in, quickly assembling pre-inflated balloons into a costume before they have time to weasel out of it.
  • How does one amuse the more mature audience?18 year old males are not a “mature” audience…
  • I know most of the one liners to use on the little-uns, but somehow I think that the big-uns will want more. And I’m starting to worry. A Lot!
  • I’d pick on them individually in front of the group and be obnoxious while being entertaining, just like they are to each other. Make them laugh at each other because of what you say and do to each one.
  • Do 18 year old males really like poodles?Well, 18 year old males really like to pop poodles in creative ways (stomping on them, biting their heads off, lighting them on fire). Then they realize that the 18 year old females really like poodles… Work with it – have a creative popping contest.
  • 18 year old males really like creepy-crawly stuff – rattlesnakes, bats, worms, spiders… they like motorcycles, cars… twist up some air – guitars and drum sticks and turn 4 of them into a rock band. Outfit 2 rock bands and have a battle of the bands.
  • Good luck. I’d really plan thoroughly because they will only give you one chance. If you don’t start out with something that works, you will be labeled a geek and they won’t like anything you do.

Twisting For Obnoxious Teens

  • One Question for the List— I love kids and do great with adults, but, man, do teens get to me sometimes. Teen boys cuss you, and the girls all expect freebies. I actually had one kid take a green balloon of mine he found and made it stick out of his pants like a huge male organ (he was obviously dreaming). I called security on that one. Any survival tips?
  • Do you carry scissors? If not, do! Then, if this ever happens again, reach out with those scissors and pop that “male organ.” Then say something like, “Usually, I do my (circumcisions/vasectomies) POST MORTUM!” Look the offending kids right in the eye with as stern or as kind a look as you care to have, and finish with, “Be glad that I made an exception,…THIS time!”. I usually raise one eyebrow at the word THIS to emphasize my point.
  • Of course lay down the law and move on if they get out of hand. I had a group of teens at a gig that wanted me to make a pink sword. Every age group was represented at this event; there were a lot of younger kids and elderly folks. Since I had heard the gist of their conversations I refused to make a pink sword for fear of inappropriate gesturing. The teen who asked me for the balloon kept scowling and asking, “why won’t you make it?” I never answered and just kept making balloons for the next person (there was no line as it was a roaming the tables type of event), and eventually I moved to the next table. I believe the girl who was asking for the pink sword either gave up and let me make her something more appropriate, or just passed altogether when asked if she wanted something else.

Dealing with hecklers

  • Here’s one of the little bits I do at fairs and festivals. I have a bubble gun and a seltzer bottle that I carry in a separate bag from my balloons. (Handy for all kinds of personal stuff, clowny props, magic tricks, and spare things.) When I get a crew of hecklers who don’t know when to quit, I stop doing the balloon I am working on, look their way and then hang my head as I slowly nod it up and down. I look up at the person I’m doing the balloon for and proclaim loud enough for the hecklers to hear, “They’re gonna make me do it, aren’t they?”. So as to emphasize who, I turn my head and look directly at the main heckler, pause and say, “Have you ever seen what someone looks like after `the wash’?” Stand, as you pull out the bubble gun and walk slowly toward the “group”. Point it away from anyone, shoot some bubbles and ask, “Anyone want `the wash cycle’?” The teens will laugh and dare you to do it. I slyly smile at them, turn back to the bag the gun came from and exchange it for the seltzer bottle. While squirting the ground in front of the hecklers, I ask in a loud voice, “Anyone for the rinse?”Let your heart be your guide, but I don’t actually soak anyone (the ensuing water war that could result would not only get you all wet, but your balloon bag could suffer a direct hit and end your day). The threat, alone, is usually enough to break the mood of contempt that they seem to have for the world. They now know that you are a fun person and instead of them having your attention alone, you, now also, have theirs.

    What you do at this point can determine how the day goes. I usually put the bottle away and ask the obvious leader of these bad boys and girls, what their favorite cartoon character is. I then ask the line if they would mind if I make it for them. Most often those in line say, “Go ahead!”. They all have, more than likely, had to deal with one or more of these misfits at one time or another and are probably quite pleased to see someone getting the upper hand. I then make the group’s leader their favorite and before I give it to them (the group), I promise them that I will treat them with respect. The only thing I ask in return is that they do likewise. They will – because you have shown them respect by showing their leader some respect. I don’t remember a single time that this was not the case . . .

    (Well, once, but it was my own fault. I have learned, the hard way, to keep better control of my stuff. It’s the reason that I now put the bottle back in the bag…. I set it on the table next to me “once,” and one of the kids got hold of it. I got soaked, my balloon bag took a direct hit, and had I not had a change of clothes, as well as a gross bag or more of every color 260 in the car, my day would’ve been over. The kid came back and apologized to me for what he’d done. For his discipline, I made him be my assistant for the rest of his time at the event. He ran my errands, fetched my food and drinks, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. He even helped police the line from cutters without being asked. Had I not had to go back to the hotel that night and spent over six hours individually drying all my balloons by hand, I might still be squirting the squirts.)

  • Once the leader gets his balloon, the rest of the kids usually all want one too. I tell them that I will be glad to make them all one, but that I have good news and bad news for them. The good news is that this is the end of the line. The bad news is that it is the wrong end of the line. I let them know that besides getting in line to wait their turn, I expect for them to be nice and not pester my other friends that all want balloons too. I can’t recall one instance where the teens didn’t comply with my wishes.
  • There I was. Twisting at an *alternative* street fair, with young people, street urchins, people with every-colored hair (not clowns), (maybe in their own way), body piercing booths, etc. A very interesting place. I’ve been there 3 seasons. 40,000 people in 3 square city blocks. Loud music. Cooool. I’m making some great hats for youths. The gang-bangers were a mob of about 20 young men looking for trouble. They were making disparaging comments to women as they walked by and generally scaring people away. They were blocking off people from what I was doing. I was paid for the gig, by the way, but I like to twist while I work, not just stand there. I was not going to approach them to leave, nor did I want to move my set-up. Enter the saving piece – – – my trusty new Pouch pump. I put a ripe 260 on it, blew and blew and blew until it burst with a very loud sound. After about 5 of these very ear-drum breaking sounds, one guy said do more, one guy was asking why was I doing that, so I did about 5 more. The gang proceeded to move about 10 feet away. Success! All this was done in fun, and not antagonistic . Now I know I can entertain (and confront) any crowd!
  • What these teens want is attention. They probably don’t get what they need from home, so you and every other adult figure they encounter gets treated the way they’d like to be treating their parents. Most likely, all the attention they got for the day, if they were fortunate, was their mom and/or dad giving them the keys, the card, and the, “Can you and your little friends go somewhere else to play?”You have a golden opportunity to be a positive adult influence in their lives if you have the nerve to step out and play. I didn’t for a long time. One day I took the chance and have never regretted it. Do I make mistakes? You bet! When you do, tell the kids you messed up, and that you’re sorry. For some of these kids, it could well be the first and only time they ever get to hear a grown-up admit to a fault, let alone give them an apology. How they, we, and everyone learn forgiveness is by example. As a matter of fact, most of life’s lessons are by experience and/or example alone.

Twisting For Adult Audiences

  • Everyone likes the big stuff, but small detailed figures are appreciated by adults. To kids, it’s just a small balloon. There are some exceptions.
  • For adults, Marvin Hardy’s poodle on a motorbike, complete with goggles and scarf, has become sort of a signature item for me. Always fascinating.
  • I work almost exclusively for adults because I find the money to be 100 times better. Adults want entertainment, not balloons. If you’re funny and quick witted, you can make good money. The single most important thing to remember is that the product is the entertainment. Balloons are props. A deck of cards is a prop. Two forks stuck into two potatoes are props. What we add in entertainment skills will determine whether we leave them with mashed potatoes or a classic bit.
  • Q: We all know that adults love these things. I give them to adults when performing close-up magic at restaurants. But getting them to stop for a balloon and tip is another story. How can I attract their attention, when so much else is goingon?A: Balloon Magic the Magazine gave some good pointers for this. The magazine talked about attracting the crowd and using lines to generate interest. Basically you need to put on a show. One of the best lines that I heard from that article was someone who said, ‘Hey mister, would your daughter like a balloon?’ whenever a man and wife walked by. They claimed the line was effective.
  • I remember being rather surprised when I first learned that “grown-ups” like balloon animals too. When there are kids around, they often are quite content to just watch and enjoy the balloons vicariously, but many enjoy getting a balloon of their own. If I’ve announced my “One balloon per kid per day” rule, I just declare any adult who wants a balloon is a “child at heart”.
  • Adults shows are very much like the kid shows with not as many little animals. They love hats, and go gaa-gaa over the Disney and Warner characters. Doing stuff for adults is a great way to polish and practice your patter. Working with adults is cool, because they can truly appreciate what you are doing. Also, hand them a balloon, and ask them to blow it up – give one to everyone. I usually do this once the novelty of the party guest (me) wears off. After trying to blow it up, they will truly appreciate what you do.
  • I have found that adults like the same thing that kids do if you can find the little kid that is in all of us. Fishing rod and reels go over if you have the time – I use a bee body for the reel and a heart (with just a puff of air in it) to make the tiny fish bait at the end of an uninflated 260 ‘line.’ Flowers, Hearts on sticks, parrot (on the shoulder).
  • I find the acceptance of balloons with adults to be very closely tied to the event at hand. If the party or event has lots of children, most of the adults will attempt to stay far away from the balloons. A few women may venture in to ask for something, but not very many. Grandma’s will ALWAYS request something.. that is a given.
  • On the other hand, if it’s an adult party, I’ve always had good luck with the balloons being accepted, and not too many get popped. Hat’s are usually the norm for this type of activity, although some women will ask for critters or flowers. Every once in a while, the men will too. The key is to NOT just make something and hand it out. Pretend to study the person (or really do so) and make something that ‘fits’ THEM… such as a cowboy hat, viking’s hat, workers hard hat, anything sports related, a space helmet, etc. If the party goers are in a good mood, they’ll take what you’ve given them and ‘go with it’. Talking like a cowpoke, giving cat calls to the ladies in the group, singing opera… just don’t make a fishhead hat… they may just start drinking too hard. 8*)
  • It depends on the nature of the party, and the type of people attending. As far as people, I would categorize them in one of three ways.
    1. Fun party animals (the ones you want)
    2. The quiet scared type (can be coaxed, but too much work)
    3. The grown up little brats (age means NOTHING here). These are the folk you want to take off to the side and teach how to choke on a balloon.

    All three types tend to travel in packs. If you find a few at a party, there is a pretty good chance most at the party will fit this sampling.

  • Adults don’t always let you know if they want a balloon sculpture. I always tell people that only those who are under 125 years old can have a balloon. This “breaks the ice” and they are happy to request a balloon. Sometimes I request identification to ensure that they are under 125 years old. Naturally they do not present it but think it’s funny I requested it.
  • When grown-ups want a balloon, I tell them that there is good news and bad news. I say, “The bad news is that these balloons are for children.” As I hold my hand as high as I possibly can, I give them the good news. “If you can walk under this hand, I believe you qualify as a child.” They get right in line with the other kids. My three favorite words? “I want one!”
  • One of the things that really works well for the “adult” set are hats. The crazier the better. Of course, when you “link” hats together with an inflated 260, an instant conga line forms! Supplied with the right music, this is a blast. I use the linked hats with twins and the elderly. Hope this helps.
  • I think a lot depends on your performing character….I lean towards double entendre..puns and the like….you can “shade” the blue area, even cross the line once in awhile..and provide great entertainment for adults….without using 4 letter words.
  • Never fails to amaze me that people see “adult” and automatically assume blue/x-rated stuff….. ( I used to advertise in the phone book, listed entertainment for adults and 80% of the time I got calls for strippers and such….)
  • “Adult” doesn’t HAVE to be sexual in nature…. I know how far that I’ll go, and where the lines are that I absolutely won’t cross…I then let the audience take the lead…if they stay short of my boundaries, then so do I…If they cross them ( and especially often..) I’ll try to lead them back…..If we’re all on the same or similar wave lengths, then I guarantee it’s going to be a great night….
  • For adults, I love multiple balloon stuff: sports stuff,motorcyles, and anything of good quality seem to go over well. (IMHO kids seems to like large.. adults seem to appreciate quality and detail.)
  • Yes, the double entendre is almost a must with a crowd. .If you use one, I find it handy to use it innocently like you meant the OTHER way. Then when folks go ballistic and start expanding on the innuendo, I just look at them and say “*I* didn’t mean it *THAT* way. Out of YOUR mouth not MINE.” Folks just love that kinda mock outrage.
  • I say keep it clean unless it seems as though everyone wants more.
  • A poodle grabbing onto a guy’s leg is always a crowd pleaser. It’s one of those sculptures that just rides the line on obscene. If the crowd is into obscene this could be a good one.
  • I have also discovered that Steve is 100% right. Adults like the large multi-balloon creations a lot more than the smaller ones. Since I do requests, I can see what exactly it is that people expect from me. If a guy wants a girl, I make him one (airheads only), and I give her a bikini. Usually, adults like the “kid” kind of humor though. Treat em like kids, throw in an entendre or two, and they will run with it if that is what they want. My audiences seem to appreciate finding the double entendres themselves and having me pretend that I didn’t mean it to come out that way. I act a bit embarrassed and them go on.
  • Captain Visuals great big balloon book has a few simple designs for large characters that folks seem to like a lot – the bigger the better with adults.
  • I do a lot of twisting for adults and have found that hats always go over big. I make crazy hats, high five hats (with an inflated latex glove), monkey climbing a banana tree hats, crowns, flower hats, wild hats, all kinds of silly stuff. I have found if I start out making primarily hats, people who want figures will ask if I do figures, but if I start with figures people tend to be more shy.
  • The key thing to remember is that adults are only kids in larger bodies. Most grown ups relish the opportunity to act more juvenile (thus the popularity of alcohol).
  • The connect-a-hat idea is terrific, as are “ball in balloon toys.” Weebles are fun – most people have never seen them, and they can enjoy goofing with them without looking dumb. Use 350s, blossoms, hearts and bee-bodies – again, most people haven’t seen them, and the variety will impress them. In spite of your best efforts, though, adults may balk at taking the balloons directly (I’ve had this happen with business groups). This is often because they need their hands for their drinks and hors d’oeurves, or simply because they just don’t want to appear silly. If this happens to you, entertain by letting them watch you create more elaborate sculptures that can sit on tables or hang on the walls. I like to make palm trees (don’t I, Mr. In-the-Hat) and hang all kinds of animals off the branches. 350 teddies holding bouquets are a big hit with any group. When people leave, they’ll ask to take your sculptures home for their mom, grandpa, siblings (anyone but themselves).
  • Adults love hats. Ask them what their field of activities, interests, hobbies,favorite sports, etc… are and work a symbol of this into a hat. For example, if they like to play golf, put a golfclub and ball on top as hat. It takes a bit of improvising, but the reactions I`ve been getting with this sort of thing are great.
  • Not wishing to be sexist but, given a choice, the women asked mainly for flowers and poodles, but I have made them “a man with nice tight buns!”). The men don’t usually ask, but I offered sports figures (man with hockey stick/golf club/soccerball/basketball) team hats (Chicago Bulls, Longhorns) fishing rods with minnow, deer (Marvin Hardy’s is an 8 point buck!) or moose or shotguns for hunters, angel and devil hats for couples…
  • Unpleasant audience member? Peer pressure works on adults too. Don’t get into a contest with bullies – show your exasperation and get the message across to the group that this person is messing things up. if your audience is enjoying the show and get the message, they’ll let this bully know… As a whole we are pretty intelligent beings, and in groups we can wield a pretty big stick – even if it’s a verbal stick.
  • I have found that what is the most popular with people today are items that are:
    • Every day items people can associate with. Sports, occupations, circus, etc
    • Sentimental items. Hearts, teddy bears, hearts and teddy bears kissing, tunnel of love, etc.
    • Fancy names to catch their attention. Frog on a harley, Queen of hearts hat, etc.
  • Many adults love balloon creations, even if they don’t readily admit it. But that’s OK. The hardest situation might be something like a bunch of business men at a conference luncheon. However, it is unlikely you will be asked to do balloons at such an event. But not impossible – I’ve been there – If they readily respond then you have no problems as you can continue to treat them like doing any other balloon show for kids or families. if you suspect that they may not and are a bit scared at a lack of response, then this is what I do:First, don’t dress in a manner that is likely to be totally out of character with the event.

    If you think it likely that approaching a table of diners and asking “who wants a balloon?” (in whatever style you do) is going to be met with silence or “the kindergarden’s next door” or whatever, then don’t ask that. Instead, go to each table and announce that the organizers have asked you here specially to make a decoration for their very special table, as a thank you for coming. Make one of your best free standing creations, get your applause as you set it down and move on to the next table. If you only get around the room in your allotted time, then you have earned your money, and provided entertainment for each and every person there. But ….. if you still have an hour or so left, you go back to each table (or selected ones who responded well), and say “People have been asking if they can take home the models to their husband, wife, child, postman… of course you can, but no fighting. Can I make anybody else something special for a loved one?” Now you can make more variety, smaller things, wild things, etc., depending upon whom they are going to give it to. Sometimes just a simple tulip presented to a man to give to his secret desire later may be enough to get the ball rolling.

    If there are not many tables, it is at these gigs that you really get a chance to show off all that clever stuff you have learned like clouds and rainbows, spiralling balls, mint roller, games with moving parts etc. Sometimes you get to show people how to make their own dog or flying mouse starting, of course, with blowing up the balloon.

  • Adult balloon gigs can be great, just be prepared for it to start off a little differently. They may not come crowding around you like kids do.

Adult Sculptures

  • Restaurant work and adults – About X-rated stuff, my response is, “Sorry, clowns are family entertainment.”
  • People will ask for anatomically correct balloon sculptures, on a hat, in a restaurant. For the most part, customers don’t want them in the restaurant. Just tell the client the this is a family restaurant, and that you’re not allowed to do THAT kind of sculpture there. If they’re persistent, tell them to ask to talk to the manager, and if HE (or she) comes to you HIMSELF to tell you that you can do it, then no problem. Otherwise no way. I’ve never had a restaurant manager say yes to one of those, and I’ve never asked them to approve it. I only send them to ask on the days that the General Manager is working. The GM always says “no” and then thanks me for having them ask him. People complain to me that I won’t do them. I explain that if they want that kind of balloon, then they can hire me for a private party, and I’ll be glad to make them there. After all, the last thing I need is to have someone say, “Hey how does your daughter know what *that* looks like?” and then to hear the reply “oh, she got sex education from the balloon lady at Friday’s.” NOT! It’s not worth it! I’d lose my reputation as a balloon sculptor. I refuse to be responsible for *that*!
  • How do you handle the occasional request for ‘adult sculpture’ when kids are present? I just tell people that “I’m not even allowed to makes jokes like that – my boss wouldn’t like it!” If they continue to pester me, and they usually do, I ask them, “would most of the parents out there want their child to receive sex education from the balloon artist/clown?” I can hear it now! ‘MOMMY WHAT IS THAT?’ and… well… you get the idea. They always do, and then I hand them my card and tell them that “adult” balloons are for private parties and special occasions. 99.99% always understand and get a big laugh.
  • When someone asks for an adult balloon, and they are told we don’t do them, they usually ask if we could. I always answer that I probably could if I wanted to, but that, as is said on my business card, “family rated twisting.” Usually they have no problem with taking something else we make. If not, I’m sorry. I have set my standards, and plan to stick to them.
  • “The only reason I’m even mentioning this is that all too often I hear people complain that blue material has no place in magic (or balloons). Normally, it has no place in my act. . . but at times. . . you just have to.” Because “blue” (x rated) material is generally forbidden, it can be a very lucrative genre while busking. I have even made blue material for certain restaurant managers, who will remain nameless. It is wise to make “cheesecake” sculptures outside of the venue or in a very dark corner with assurance of discretion, i.e., “Please do not wave the balloon phallus about in full view of the diners while shouting drunken obscenities!”
  • When someone asks for an adult balloon, and they are told we don’t do them, they usually ask if we could. I always answer that I probably could if I wanted to, but that, as is said on my business card, “family rated twisting.” Usually they have no problem with taking something else we make. If not, I’m sorry. I have set my standards, and plan to stick to them.

Twisting For Elderly Audiences

  • I went on Meals On Wheels today and twisted balloons for the folks on the route (they are all soooo lonely and really, really, enjoy chatting and getting a balloon!).
  • Don’t think that adults aren’t interested in your balloon entertainment. There are any seniors who eat at this reataurant I work, and they love getting balloons created for them – not their grand children.

Visiting Nursing Homes and Retirement Communities

  • I do many nursing homes as my way of giving something back to my community. One of the things I have found is that many of these people are still quite sharp and not as limited in their senses as many would believe. Don’t aim your show at the oldest and most decrepit. You’ll miss entertaining the majority.
  • Depending on the *level* of care required at that particular nursing home, it can go from retirement home (minimal disable) to full hospital care. At the higher medical care end of the scale, many of the same rules as a regular hospital apply. In clowning, “caring clowns” are clowns who are trained to entertain in hospitals. There are classes given at some clown conventions and books written on the subject. You may want to include reading through a few of the books, as preparation.
  • When I entertain I do many of the same things that I do for any mixed group audience. I do try to pick magic tricks that have larger props, but I do that for most large groups for visibility reasons. Generally, my show will consist of a little slapstick humor, a few magic tricks, and a round of visiting while making each one an individual balloon creation.
  • Actually, I have found that the visiting is more important than the balloon. What most of them want is a little attention. A smile, a hug or gentle squeeze of the hand, a pat on the back, and a little personal conversation mean more to most of them than anything else you will do in your show. Don’t treat them as if they were dying, handicapped, or senile. Just treat them like you would any other group of people.
  • One of my most memorable experiences happened at a nursing home. I spent a couple of minutes talking to a gentleman and making a balloon and got no response from him at all. Not even a facial expression. The nurse, not wanting me to be upset, explained that he never acknowledged anyone. Before I left him I leaned over and whispered a joke in his ear. I got no response, but, for the rest of the day, whenever I passed him he would smile. Kinda’ gets you right here 🙂
  • Almost every nursing home event I’ve worked was a party for the staff as well as for the patients. This meant that there were also kids present (children of the staff). Most of the seniors get a big kick out of seeing the kids entertained. Your “outdoor” event may turn out to be more like a company picnic with a larger than usual number of “grandparents”!
  • At one event I had an older gent in a wheelchair just follow me around and watch me twist and interact with the other people. He seemed incapable of speech and indicated he didn’t want one himself but just wanted to watch as I made them for others! I took this a compliment!
  • Just your being there and paying some attention to them one-on-one means a lot, even if they don’t know what to do with a balloon once they get it. A parrot on their shoulder or other colorful balloon placed where they can see and enjoy it will bring a smile for days.
  • I was an Activities Director at a Skilled Nursing Facility. The residents were very challenged health-wise, only one ambulatory man out of 80, the rest in beds or wheelchairs. Organized activities were appreciated but had much less impact than sincere, heart-felt personal interaction. Above all, touch was the number one most appreciated offering that I could give.
  • In most old folks homes they’re sharp as tacks!!! Most facilities are filled with people whose vision is fine. However, the more incapacitated they are, the more ‘up close and personal’ interaction they’ll want to have. Something I’ve noticed about seniors, they all love an entertainer. Especially one who knows comedy from their generation. “Slowly I turned…” by Abbott and Costello will always get a smile, too. All that old comedy material brings back a wealth of memories for them. They know it’s someone else’s (so do you), but it’s a familiar old friend to them.
  • At my nursing home shows, I do magic, comedy, music and balloons. Balloons are a big hit because they are so visual. Music is always a hit. Just leading them in a round of “When the Saints Go Marching In” or “Bicycle Built for Two” gets them immediately on my side. No matter where I am, older people aren’t shy to sing or hum along to old favorites – and you don’t have to be a musician to start up a chorus of “You are My Sunshine”.
  • I do nursing home/ retirement homes quite frequently. One thing I discovered was a tape by Joannie Bartels called “SillyTime Magic.” I had a tape of a lot of older songs, but it got left behind at some point and time. When I arrived at a center, I pulled out my tape box and found that the tape was missing. Oh Boy! Well, I had SillyTime Magic in my “Boom Box.” So I played it, and everyone started singing. It has some older songs as well, and they just loved it. I usually play music and do balloons. While a lot of them like a little animal, a lot like flowers too! I always make a motorcycle for one of the men and tell him he can take it out for a spin. I usually get a nice smile out of that!!!
  • I’ve done several convalescent hospitals and have word of caution… many of the residents were upset by the noise of the balloons. I’m thinking in particular about an incident about 15 years ago where I had a bag of balloons that I’d just purchased but had been on the shelf for a while. They tended to squeak and pop, so more than once a startled person would smile and thank me and assure me that they didn’t need a balloon today, but it was so nice of me for coming (nurse, please make him stop!). I ended up going into a side room and twisting 20 animals, then walking around and distributing them already made. They were all happy to have a visitor who would smile and *listen* to them for a minute or two, and they didn’t miss the show of the construction as much as they would have hated the cacophonous creation process.Since then, I’ve made a point of carrying talc and randomly sampling the balloons for a new bag before any gig. I know most of you already do this, but I think it’s particularly important when working with the elderly, who have earned a little peace and quiet.
  • These sorts of homes are easy. Do your regular patter. Throw in a bit or so from the golden era of comedy. Do a little up close and personal twisting and joking. I think you’re on the right track. And remember that personal contact is the key. Not all oldsters want to hug the performer, but individual attention makes them (or anyone else for that matter) feel special.
  • I’ve had some wonderful experiences visiting ventilator dependent patients at a nursing home. I visited several times over a period of about 6 months. The balloons I made for them certainly lit up their eyes. Once I went back and the bed of one of my favorite patients was empty… she passed away. It made me think… we never really know how much power we have in touching the hearts of people, regardless of whether we are “big-time” or not.
  • I hope many of you twisted at nursing homes this week. It was “National Nursing Home Week.” When I do nursing homes I twist according to the crowd. If I walk around, then I do lots of the same thing (flowers, pink panthers and 2/3 balloon creations). Today at Gentle Care in French Lick, IN, it was a stand up show. The sequence was one balloon, 2/3 balloon and then a cartoon ( 6-9 balloons). Except for special requests, there were no repeats. The schedule was for one hour but ended up 2 1/2 hr. The pay is poor, but ooooh the fringe benefits of their eyes, smiles and words. Please let me encourage you to do a nursing home soon. I go during a meal.

    • The residents are all in one place at one time (no special trips for staff).
    • What a chance to practice patter/new creations/table hopping.

    I often stop on the way home from a gig. I even walk into places I’ve never been before. I have only been turned down 1 time in 9 years of offering free balloons/entertainment.

  • By the way, thanks to all of you for the ideas on the 70 year olds: kissing swans, fruit basket, musical notes. I think I will leave ball puzzles around also for people to play with. I will also offer the braided heart found on this site as a center piece with two hugging bears. I also have dancers that I can make to dance around the heart.

Twisting in Spanish

  • Mama Clown has a great tape on Spanish for Birthday Parties. It’s basic but good, and she covers a lot of animal names, numbers, compliments to give to children and adults etc.You can contact her at:

    420 N.E. 152 Street
    Miami, FL 33162
    (306) 945-1830

  • Balloon Supply House (888)289-2741 has latex and mylar balloons printed in Spanish.
  • BalloonDude Chris majored in Spanish and has also worked as a translater. He writes:Everytime I work, at a restaurant or festival, I speak Spanish with either the waitstaff, bussers or customers. Since I make approx 350 things, I’ve translated all the names so I’ll know what to call them, including my having my business cards AND my name in English and Spanish depending on who I’m twisting for. If you need to translate, ask a native speaker or get good dictionary, like LaRousse. Usually, the first entry is the most common translation, but sometimes words are different depending on where the person is from. Also BEWARE OF SPANGLISH. DON’T USE IT!!! Always use REAL Spanish. If you have any questions or need a name/item translated, let me know. BalloonDude—-El Chavo Globero

    Some words for your lists:

  • “balloon” has 2 words most commonly used, about 50/50:
    • (el) globo (this is the word I learned)
    • (la) bomba (this is also used)
  • The majority of native speakers call me (EL) GLOBERO for balloon twister/balloon person. Sometimes they call me (EL) PAYASO, but that is the word for “clown” (which I’m not).
  • Here are some translations to get you started:
    • Blue — azul
    • Black — negro
    • Orange — anaranjado
    • Purple — morado
    • Green — verde
    • Red — rojo
    • Pink — rosado
    • Yellow — amarillo
    • Long — largo
    • Short — bajo, corto
    • Big — grande
    • Small — menudo, pequeno
    • Airplane — un avion [m]
    • Alligator — un caiman [m]
    • Bear — un oso [m]
    • Bee — una abeja [f] (sting — picar)
    • Cat — un gato [m]
    • Dog — un perro [m]
    • Duck — un pato [m]
    • Flower — una flor [f]
    • Giraffe — una jirafa [f]
    • Horse — un caballo [m]
    • Lobster — una langosta [f]
    • Monkey — un mono [m]
    • Mouse — un raton [m]
    • Poodle — el perro de lanas [m]
    • Squirrel — una ardilla [f]
    • Platypus — ornitorrinco
    • Ostrich — avestruz
    • Teddy bear — oso de peluche
    • Dog — perro (the one we all started with in balloon school)
    • Poodle — perro de lanas
    • Wienie dog/dachsund — perro pachon
    • Dalamtion- — perro dalmata
    • Beagle — sabueso (ex. Snoopy)

Twisting for the hearing impaired

  • We had a week-long discussion on performing with balloons for hearing- impaired children. The results boil down to this:
  • Keep in mind that deaf people are surrounded by hearing people everyday and know how to deal with this. Treat a hearing impaired audience like any other audience, but:
    • Maintain eye contact to bring them into your show with you – if you don’t look at them, they can’t communicate with you.
    • Have the host provide an interpreter for you – you can’t sign while your hands are busy twisting. But make sure you always address the person your message is meant for. Play to your audience. Don’t look at or talk to the interpreter. The audience will look in the direction they need to look. If you only look at the interpreter, the audience feels left out. Just remember who your audience is. The interpreter is only there to help the communication process, you’re not actually talking TO the interpreter. The one big difference between a sign language interpreter and a foreign language interpreter is that the sign language interpreter needs to be visible. The foreign language interpeter is often in a place where they can’t be seen. A trained sign language interpreter will know how to be seen.
    • Do a lot of visual stuff; physical comedy, silent magic, sight gags, pantomime. Your polished lines don’t work, and your squeeker is no good either, but the children will watch every move you do since they can not hear you.
    • Overplay the physical aspect, and you’ll be surprised at how well it works – exaggerate facial and physical expressions as if they were the voice intonations and fluctuations used in everyday speech.
    • Make interactive visual sculptures like “balls in balloons,” shooting ray guns, etc.
    • Speak at normal speed. Don’t rush and don’t slur your words if you can help it, but do stick as close to your usual speech as you can. Many do read lips and many will hear enough sound to help determine what you are saying. Speaking slower rarely helps. Those that read lips have often learned the skill by watching TV, or interacting with people around them. A character on TV, or a random person in a restaurant probably won’t slow down for 1 person. When you speak slower or emphasize syllables, you’re making your lips look different than what they’ve learned to identify. Most people try to OVER-enunciate when they know someone is lipreading. It really distorts your mouth, sometimes to the point of making the words even more ambiguous than they are without sound. So speak normally. Don’t rush and don’t slur your words if you can help it, but do stick as close to your usual speach as you can. I have spoken to several deaf people about this. They all said that they prefer that people not slow down or treat them differently.
    • Have a foolproof crowd control method.
    • When presenting music in a show, or even using it as background, providing deaf or hearing impaired audience members with a round, helium inflated balloon to hold in their hands will enable them to “feel” the music to a degree you’ll not believe possible until you try it yourself.
  • To prepare, go get a book, video, software program, etc., and learn a few quick/easy signs for some of your balloon sculptures. Most libraries have American Sign Language books. I would recommend “The Joy of Signing” for some basic signs. Especially learn how to sign the colors, greetings, thank you, you are welcome, etc. For individual words which will be useful for kids (as opposed to becoming conversational in sign), I enthusiastically recommend the Sesame Street sign language book put together some years ago by Linda Bove. When you are doing balloons the sign for “POP!” is great. If you couple this with learning the manual alphabet to be able to fingerspell (as an alternative to learning entire word signs), you’ll have some powerful tools at your disposal even without being a fluent signer. Do a web search for “sign language,” and you will find the basic information you need. Watching actual signing is the best way to learn.
  • You will find that the children who communicate with sign language are bright and intelligent, have superb fine motor skills and are very quick learners (even the youngest in the group). I’ve taught the kids how to make a balloon animals with great success. They will be watching every move your fingers make and because of their advanced fine motor skills will follow easily.
  • When it come to entertaining the deaf or anyone who speaks a different language, let the universal language of balloons come through. Remember, if an entertainer is truly funny and entertaining, it’s the performance that makes them entertaining, not the words. Most routines that you normally do with patter can be done silently. Watch Floyd Shaffer sometime. He’s a totally silent clown. Just watching HOW he does things is a lesson in the art of silent performance.
  • So, what went over well? They loved my tightrope walking routine. They all wanted a turn when I did the “shoot the balloon apple off the kid’s head with the Super Soaker” routine. Also, back then I was doing more magic than I do these days, and they loved it when I “changed” a bag of flour into a bouquet of flowers. Bottom line, be visual. Make a lot of eye contact. Bring them into your show with you! Overplay the physical aspect, and you’ll be surprised at how well it works.
  • If you decide to make balloon animals, you won’t have to worry about scaring them if the balloons pop! Make very BIG AND VISUAL things for the kids, as well as interactive things, like balls in the balloons, shooting ray guns and so on. These things were a HUGE success.
  • I have performed for the deaf, but it was requested that I leave out the balloons or do them in a separate room, as the children who had partial hearing or hearing devices, had intense pain when the balloons pop. This will depend somewhat on the hearing device they use and on each individual’s sensivity. If you’re asked to wear a microphone for the hearing impaired folks in the audience, remember to treat it like any other microphone. It will amplify sounds, including the popping of balloons. Make sure you don’t twist the balloon too close to the mic. I recently forgot during a show that I was wearing one of these mics until I saw a girl in the front row with her hand on her receiver the whole time. It turned out that she was adjusting the volume on her ear piece every time I picked up or put down a balloon. She didn’t wait for a pop. She just adjusted it to eliminate extra noise.
  • If you do a good job, you’ll get referrals and may end up doing a LOT of parties for the deaf. People refer you to others that they know and work with. I do quite a few gigs a year where there are at least a few deaf people. I still don’t sign. I know some basic signs because I did take a class at one time. The problem I’ve run into is that in order to sign, I can’t twist, so I never get the practice I need. I usually end up working with an interpreter.
  • Just remember when performing for a deaf audience or anyone who speaks another language, balloons are a universal language. When I encounter someone who speaks a language I don’t speak, I just make them a balloon! It requires no words, only smiles!

Dealing with Latex Allergies

  • I was in a restaurant earlier this summer serving a whole team of kids. A mom approached me and asked me to stop because her daughter was allergic to latex, and any popped balloons could seriously affect her daughter’s health. I didn’t know what to do (I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but I was in the middle of the group her daughter was a part of, and other parents were getting impatient as we tried to work it out). The restaurant manager stepped in and worked out a great compromise.The compromise was that I could continue if I kept a “safe distance” from the young lady in question. Her mom pointed out that even the dust from a popped balloon was enough to affect her breathing. I made out okay, and the family was happy. I’m sure glad that particular manager was there because I could see the family’s point, but I was also feeling the pressure from the other families in the group. (Not to mention my tips — but tips aren’t worth anyone’s life.) I asked him if he had any ideas, and he spoke with the mom and came up with the compromise.

    I managed to keep about four or five tables between me and the young lady during the time they were in the restaurant, and that seemed to be fine. I was able to talk with the family later and do some magic for them. They weren’t rude or disagreeable. The mom said she was in as much of a learning curve as I was. If you ever had to have a first time with it, this would have been a good one.

  • Almost everyone born with Spina-bifida is allergic to latex. Think of all the latex uses in the medical field. The reactions vary but are always harsh. For 4 years now, we’ve done balloons for the annual Point Extravaganza at Bachman Lake in Dallas. They have several kids with this affliction. I do see to it that they get to have a balloon just like everyone else does. I park my carcass so that I am down-wind of everything and start doing balloons. The allergic kids come to see what’s going on just like the rest. I ask them what they would like. “No go! Allergies, you know?”, they say. “I got it covered”, I say. I make them the balloon they want down-wind of their location, put it on a cello-straw, take out a fresh handi-wipe, clean my hands, and get another to clean the stick. Then I hold out the balloon to them and tell them to hold this while I get my camera. I then shoot a Polaroid picture of them and their balloon, take the print and exchange it for the balloon. I then get down-wind of them again and proceed to pop the balloon in a trash bag with a bit of glass in the bottom. I tell them that they now have a picture of them and their balloon to remember the day that they got to have a balloon animal. I popped the balloon so that they could honestly tell everyone that that balloon was made just for them, and nobody else even got to touch it. My eyes leak everytime the mom’s and dad’s eyes meet mine and theirs are leaking, too.
  • I do an event every year for para and quadraplegic people, some of whom have Spina Bifida. I make each of the kids with this problem a balloon, but I put it on a striped stick for them to hold. I take out a “fresh” baby wipe and run it over the stick to get rid of all the dust from my hands. Holding it out to the parents by the wipe, I let them approach the child with the finished product (they know the actions of their kids best). Mom and dad take their picture with them holding the balloon, all proud and gleaming. Then, so they won’t have to, I pop the balloon so no one else can have their balloon. This is all done in strict accordance with the children being down-wind of all the balloon activity. I am even aware of where balloon dust may have settled from previous children, so as to keep even the wheels of their chairs clean. Some of them are THAT allergic to latex.

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