Entertainer Issues

Feb 14, 2023

Entertainer Issues

These little bags of wind have taken me all over the world, allowed me to express my creative and artistic talents, entertained myself and my clients, brought me many, many new friends AND paid the bills along the way.
– Chris Horne

Being An Entertainer

  • This goes out to ALL TWISTERS… even if you’re “just doing it for my kids” or “just part time.” You should continue to twist and improve yourself. Make sure you’re doing your best to be professional and represent twisters on a positive note. Everyone benefits. (This just means dress clean, be drug free, don’t use poor language, and keep your sculptures new and up-to date)
  • The most important is how the person ENTERTAINS the public with what they do know. Do you know how to do just a dog? Great! Then have it do tricks like stand it on its legs, tell it to play dead and then blow it over! Complex? No. Entertaining? You Bet!!
  • Now, in terms of being entertaining, my best advice is to be your *best* self. Only the most generous and friendly part of you wants to make balloon animals for children. In my case, my personality comes out in the form of jokes and one-liners. But I’ve seen plenty of twisters who never say a word, letting their talent do the talking for them. They almost do mime, reacting with wonder to their creations, as if someone else were doing it. Other twisters are very soft-spoken, gentle and loving in the way they handle the crowd. There are times that you’ll attract more attention by whispering than by trying to out-shout the confusion around you. When you twist, do what feels right to you, and what makes the customers happy. If you aren’t someone who generally invents, remembers, or tells jokes well, that’s okay. Your own unique style, from the heart, will serve you much better than trying to fit into anyone else’s idea of what a performer should do.
  • It is NOT the complexity of the balloon nor is it the number of balloons that you can make that separates you from other balloon twisters. It is YOU. It is how you present your balloon, it is how you touch the hearts of the kids and parents. More specifically, it is how you ENTERTAIN with the balloons that you do know. Can you entertain an audience with your balloons, or are you just an impersonal machine that cranks out the balloons like a robot? OR do you touch each child/person that gets a balloon from you? You can do those things with just the simplest balloon, if that is your repertoire. Wally Boag, used to do shows for Disney at Disney land, from what I understand. He used balloons as part of his stage act. Was he good? You bet! Did he touch hearts? You bet! Did he make a 16 balloon Rabbit? Nope, just simple stuff. So, don’t be worried about how many balloons you can do, or if you can do the latest cartoon balloon. Instead, worry about putting some of you into each balloon that you create and bring light into this dark world with your sculptures. That is why God has gifted each and every one of us with this wonderful opportunity.
  • My main goal, as a performer, is to entertain my audience to the best of my abilities! From the moment I drive up to the show in question, I’m “on!” As I drive away, I’m hoping that the show is still going on, and will continue to do so in the minds and the hearts of those that I have shared a special part of my life with, for many years to come.
  • No matter how fast I twist, I always entertain. That’s a given. If my hands need a rest, I announce an “evil impulse” and shoot a straight balloon out over the crowd. How much straightening out the balloon requires is directly proportional to how cramped my hands are. I may even swat at mosquitoes on kids heads while I do it. I am constantly gauging the audience reaction, and can switch routines in a heartbeat.
  • Needless to say, I love my work, and it shows. I believe the most necessary ingredient I use is genuine love and kindness (and appreciation) which is man’s greatest need.

Entertaining Styles

  • The word that comes to mind as far as describing my twisting is “Manic.” The faster the better. And I do manage to make a show out of it, wiping the imaginary sweat from my brow and shaking it/throwing it at the person in front of me. I like to “Wrestle” a balloon hat. I take two balloons and make a spiral hat, but as I’m beginning the spiral, I turn it into a real wrestling match/fight between me and the balloon hat. It lasts for a full minute or two, with moments when I’m holding it down and struggling with it to moments when it flips me down onto the ground (prat fall) and starts pushing closer and closer to my neck while I’m struggling (or so it seems) to be pushing it back. In the end, I’m victorious, someone gets a great hat, and everyone gets a great mini show. Try it sometime when there’s a huge line and you’re really starting to feel the pressure, It’s great at breaking that pressure for both you as well as those waiting.
  • I try to give a mini performance with each sculpture. Twisting is only one part of the entertainment package I provide, in addition to music activities etc., so I try to make the most of it. Most kids in my area have rarely or ever seen a twister work, especially doing the multi balloon stuff. They go nuts when I finish the tickle doll character (you know Bruce, the one on airnimations). I build individual pieces and encourage guessing. As for style – well sometimes I weave a story around what I’m doing. To build interest I express fear about that last twist which is the hardest and riskiest – Ooops, I forgot the most important piece of equipment – as I reach for my ear muffs, just in case. I even try to get entertainment value from my balloon buoy pump, pattering about the magic guy inside with an awful cold that helps me blow up my balloons, now stand back… r-r-r-r-r – hey, may as well use the noise to my advantage.
  • I am a cross between a side-show barker and a bartender. I listen and pick up on any and all possible points to inject some humor while completing the desired creation in short order. After many years of practicing and performing I have developed the ability to twist, talk and look at the people in the audience at the same time. This adds an interesting element of suspense when the people wait to see if I make a massive mistake (which can happen but VERY seldom does).
  • There are certain things that require what looks like “rough” treatment and I play this to the max. Exaggeration is a great tool. It can be used in sweeping arm movements, facial expressions, huffing and puffing, squeaking, tweaking and on and on. If something works once, it will work again so it is remembered and checked out. If it checks out, it becomes a part of the ongoing repertoire of balloon antics that make a party a pleasure.
  • Work with the wildness that kids experience when they see the balloons – put it into your show. I use the popping of the balloons, the squeaking of the balloons, and the way the balloons fly around (haven’t you all seen a kid rapidly chase a flying balloon around?). My motto should be, let’s get down and balloon dirty! Once you have a bit of this fun with the kids, some of their energy will be worked into your show.
  • Think of yourself as an artist. Do the art you like doing. Find the venues that allow you to do what you like. Admittedly some of us have to make money doing this, but if you let people know what you like doing and what you do best, those opportunities will surface.
  • You are an advocate for the children. Take the time and make the effort that the parents don’t have time for. Make it worth their wait.
  • Decide what you want to do and do it. If you’re doing a children’s event, work for the children. I would like to point out though that many of the events I’m asked to twist at have no children at all. My tips in the restaurant are always better later at night when the kids are gone.
  • Be yourself. Let the love show, and people will respect you. The balloon is just a souveneir of their visit with you! Absolutely. Don’t just form a shape out of a balloon. Form a memory. The balloon won’t last all that long.
  • For me, the pitch is what makes you a performer and not just a balloon factory. I’m not talking about tip pitching; what I really mean is the ability to chat up the line while you twist. Joking about your balloons, kidding and playing with the crowd, that sort of thing. If I could sum it up it would be: having FUN and showing that you are having fun with it. A few good lines for when the balloon pops, or when you get a crazy request or comment about what you are doing. That is your pitch (in magic we usually call this patter, what you say as you do the effect – the thing that gets them to come to you and to hang around long enough to be entertained and feel that you are worth some of their hard earned cash). There are times when there are so many kids and so little time that you don’t have time for a lot of interaction, but you can still be a “personality” that is fun to be around and look like you are enjoying your work.
  • Frankly, I get a kick out of twisting, and I get a kick out of making kids smile and laugh. I let that show when I perform, and that makes it special for me and them. I do have several “bits” that I like to do: poofing up the last bubble on a poodle tail, taking a bubble off a balloon, tickling a kid with the end of a balloon as I inflate it, forgetting to tie the knot or tying the knot on the wrong end, tearing the balloon in half and giving away free samples (that fly away when they try to hold them) etc. This makes it more than just twisting for me.
  • Having balloons makes you colorful and interesting, it gets the people to come over to you. Whether they stay or not depends on what you do when they are there.
  • Don’t ever give the impression that you are trying to hurry the people through the line. Be casual and easy when speaking. No matter how long the line is, I always interact with everyone that I am doing balloons for. It’s a real part of the experience for them. I usually have the person I’m making the sculpture for help me. It involves them in the performance and makes the wait seem shorter. If I can’t do that, I put the balloons under one arm or hold them between my ring finger and little finger. Be outgoing and energetic. To be a wonderful entertainer, attitude is everything.
  • Most importantly, talk to anyone that wants to talk to you. You can talk while you twist. If you need a break, take it while talking to them. They’re your audience, and they want to meet the entertainer. You never know which of those people is going to hire you for something later. The biggest problem with street entertainment is that you don’t get breaks. As long as people see you, you’re working. You may take a break from twisting for a few minutes, but you’re still under the spotlight. In fact, a lot of people came to me and asked how I got started in balloons, how did I learn, etc. They enjoy finding out about what you do. When someone asks how they can get started I direct them to the books by Aaron Hsu-Flanders (for now anyway) since they’re easy to come by. This is also a good time to point out that you can be available to do workshops if they know of a group that might be interested and have a space you can work in.
  • When doing animals for others, I try to avoid dogs/giraffes/etc, simply because that’s what people expect. Swans are a favorite of mine. But beware of the trap that beginning magicians frequently fall into known as: “Performing Magic for Magicians.” I will label our version as: “Ballooning for Ballooners.” In magic, an altogether sad truism is that the simplest self-working (read basically no skill required) tricks often TOTALLY AMAZE AND ‘BLOW-AWAY’ the lay audience, whereas the incredibly difficult and subtle sleight-of-hand move that takes years to perfect will often barely register a nod of interest from a crowd of spectators. Of course, any magicians present will be ‘drooling’ over the flawless execution and novel technique. Folks, it is DEATH to fall in this trap… death, that is, if you want to ENTERTAIN and amaze and amuse the average audience member!!! Stay in touch with your audience. If you are in a contest with other ballooners to outdo each other, that is fine. Just do not assume that the very latest and greatest creation is what it will take to please the toddler with the outstretched hand and a bulging diaper, whose mother has been patiently smiling at you for forty minutes!!!
  • Until this last weekend I would have said that too. People waited all day for an hour or more to have a 3 braid hat made for them. When they got to the table I heard comments like “long wait, but it was worth it” and “I’ve never seen balloons made like this before; this is great”. Being remembered as a performer is a real good objective. People that remember that will book you in the future.
  • I used to be happy making just a “plain dog.” Then I started working for tips. Believe me, the customers do know and appreciate the complexity of the balloon sculptures. As my sculptures became more elaborate, the tips got larger. You must use some common sense in the number of balloons and the time frame to make a sculpture. I wouldn’t do the sixteen balloon Roger Rabbit at a table. I enjoy taking some time at a table, entertaining and telling my dumb jokes. A three to five balloon sculpture is about right, time-wise, and it allows me to feel creative, have fun and enjoy what I do. When performing at a festival or large event, it is back to the fast one balloon figures, slap ’em on a leash or hat and go on to the next. So it is not a matter of what figures you do, but using the appropriate ones for the situation. And what is wrong with being a balloonist’s balloonist. Hey if it makes you happy! I enjoy the challenge of learning the fifty balloon power rangers.
  • There are many people on the list, and in the world at large, who are exclusively Balloon Entertainers. Making balloons at parties is what they do. Not making balloons at parties means not working, so they have learned to make it a positive experience for all involved, because they have to, and they want to.
  • We sell ENTERTAINMENT not balloons. Never stop twisting at a performance. If lines grow short then do braided hearts, 6 balloon Micky, 9 balloon coyotes, 9 balloon rainbows. . . you get the idea. If you run out of kids, entice the adults.
  • Balloons are only a small part of the big picture. The personality that you convey, your appearance, your entertainment value completes the whole package. Obviously if you’ve been doing this for a long time, your “package” is a good one.
  • I maintain that being able to be spontaneously funny with each audience member with whatever exchange you have with them is more valuable than pre-memorizing a hundred different scripts, or a thousand different tricks. Making soul-to-soul contact with them, in other words, listening to them, using what they tell you in a funny way, and letting them know you heard and understood what they said to you creates a meaningful impression on them that they won’t forget. They remember not only that you’re funny, but also that you actually LISTENED to them in a world where all too often they are ignored.
  • Do you want to present an image of doing “a measly hours work” or present an image of being a professional entertainer? You have to decide. As an entertainer I routinely get booking at a much higher rate of pay than the folks who present a less than professional image in their contract, their appearance or their routines.

Good vs. bad entertainers?

  • Good sculptors can inflate the balloon the proper amount for the sculpture they’re creating.
  • Good sculptors have moved beyond the “dog with exaggerated features” school of balloon animals. The sculptures they create should look like what they’re supposed to be.
  • Good sculptors have some variety in the types of creatures they create. If someone asks for a dog, the response should be “what kind of dog? Poodle? Dachshund? Beagle? Sitting? Standing? Jumping through a hoop? Riding a bike/unicycle?”
  • Good sculptors have a friendly patter appropriate to their audience.
  • Good sculptors pace themselves. They work as quickly as their abilities allow so as to entertain as many people as possible, but they also make each customer feel special when it’s his/her “turn.”
  • Good sculptors enjoy the process of making their sculptures, and would rather be doing what they’re doing than anything else while they’re doing it. (Psych yourself into this frame of mind if you want your tips to be great. If you don’t like making balloon animals, there are much easier ways to earn low pay with low prestige!)
  • Lorna. PatNtheHat. Larry Hirsch. Daffy Dave. Chris Lawton. Ed Kennedy. Different people. Different patters. Different styles. Different reasons. Some of the greatest twisters I’ve ever seen.
  • There are many “okay” sculptors, which is what you are when you first start out. Your patter isn’t polished, your repertoire is limited, but we all started there. With practice, anybody can become a good sculptor.
  • What’s a bad sculptor? I saw a clown in Sacramento last fall who made nothing but helmets (with three-twist poodles on them) and swords. He charged a buck apiece. No patter. No smiles. Slapped a kid’s hand for grabbing at a balloon. I’d call that a bad sculptor.
  • I was recently able to watch and talk with several street performers doing balloons (all clowns). Here are a few thoughts, as an observer of street performers:
    1. Many, including all but one of the clowns doing balloons, had dirty costumes (we’re not talking a bit faded here, but dirty and smelly up close ) BIG TURN OFF (this was mentioned by several of the other people walking by as well).
    2. One of the clowns was doing “adult sclupture” with not too subtle patter, lots of kids around. (I may be a prude, but in an open setting, this was at the Fisherman’s Warf, balloons attract kids and this kind of sclupture and patter seemed WAY out of place.) Yes, if it didn’t work (i.e. make money for the guy) he probably wouldn’t be there with that patter, so there must be some demand. But it really bothered me and not a few parents who were dragged over by their kids (mommy a clown with balloons!!) walked off ticked, and will be a bit more hesitant to approach a clown in the future.
    3. Personality counts. One guy was making pretty good stuff, but just sitting (literally sitting on the sidewalk) with no real pitch and no real business. Another was doing nothing special but did blow bubbles at the crowd and joked with them, and he was making some money.
    4. As has been mentioned, balloons sell balloons. The guys with lots of balloons festooned upon themselves or their stuff seemed to have regular business, the others were far more sporadic.
  • As I was told by the Amazing Jody Baran, the difference between a good magician and a great magician is well-shined shoes. Appearance makes the first impression. In our profession, that’s important, because you get about 10 seconds to surprise and delight people enough to stop and watch you (and tip you).
  • I learned a great lesson about the relative values of skill and presentation. Twisting for the multitudes at IBAC, one of the IBAC delegates (Brad) came up to me, and asked if he could help me. Since I had a line clear across the room, I wasn’t going to turn him down. He had never twisted before, so I had him ask the child what they wanted and inflate the balloons while I twisted. Problem was, he didn’t know how to say, “No, I don’t know how to make that”. One child asked for an alligator on an airplane. Brad looks at me, I say “no way” (We were limited to quick two and three balloon sculptures) But Brad decided to try it anyway. The resulting mess looked just like you would expect it to; lumps of green and white everywhere. But, the kid loved it. After that, Brad decided to just make anything he could think of – he just twisted balloons together into abstract forms and named them – “Nuclear reaction at dawn”, “Cherry inside a lemon merangue pie”, “Elephant eating a hubcap” It didn’t matter what the sculpture looked like (and it never looked like its name), it was his personality and presentation that made the kids want his sculptures. It was a real eye opener for me.
  • I approach each animal in an artistic way and NOT as a churn-em-out quick balloon. Each animal is made in a very showy way and always decorated with a sharpie (not quickly but rather with extra special care) making sure that both eyes look alike and the mouth makes sense. When I make 3+ balloon creations I put on a real “street show” so everyone pays attention to all the hard work I’m doing. Anyone can pick up a balloon kit and make dogs or cats. You have to show the staff that you are not only a balloon twister, but an entertainer.
  • Advice to those who only make one-balloon animals: make them slowly and look as if there is some effort to your work. You’ll get bigger tips.
  • I work in entertainment full time for a living. This is not just something I do on the weekends. At the beginning of this year, I was doing a lot of gigs that had absolutely nothing to do with art or creativity. They were simply about money. By the time I got to the summer, I was burned out on my career. I wasn’t as excited to do my job as I used to be. As a matter of fact, I even thought about retiring. Then, something magical happened. I slowly got my “soul” back for what I do. My point is, do what you do for both reasons. There is a balance between the two. Sometimes, some people will just be cheap in tipping you. Sometimes, you’ll hand them a business card, and they won’t tip you, but they’ll call you for a birthday party. And some people will tip you later for the work that you do. And, there are those people who are so nice and so pleasant to work for, I don’t care if they tip me or not.
  • On what do you base your judgement of a “lower quality balloonist”? Is it that they only know how to twist 30 sculptures while you know 300? I think the number of balloon creations — whether they be the super intricate gargantuan creations (cartoon balloons, etc.) or the simple one balloon dogs — that a person knows is not the most important thing. The most important is how the person ENTERTAINS the public with what they do know. Do you know how to do just a dog? Great! Then have it do tricks like stand it on its legs, tell it to play dead and then blow it over! Complex? No. Entertaining? You Bet!!
  • I have also found that when we get thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to, then we get humbled. A person may not know as many as more experienced balloonatics but maybe the ones they do know, the “expert” does not know. This is an ART form, folks. People will not remember the balloon you give them or how many things you can do. They will remember how you touched their hearts. So let’s keep twisting and bring more light into this world. Don’t worry about being the “best” or number one. Worry about being the best you can be. Worry about touching hearts with your balloons.
  • I will tell you what I consider a superior twister to be. I think everyone will agree that an effective entertainer creating simple sculptures can be more successful/ appealing/ etc than a snobby jerk making super-complex creations. In general, the Great Ones are designated that title by fellow twisters (and sometimes competition committees)… not themselves. What have they got that I ain’t got? Well, _years_ of practice for one. Highly intuitive observation skills applied to the balloon art form _and_ the nature/characteristics of latex for another. These are the people that can hear a request for something they’ve never made before, process in their minds the exact bubbles needed to represent the request (be it thing, animal, or caricature balloon) and then just do it in the first couple of tries. (thought process goes: okay, I’ll take the head/ facial features of one past creation, refigure the body of animal X and animal Y in this way, add the feet from some other guys’ fabulous creation from the jam we had last week, and then add these finishing touches… hmmm… that area around the neck looks pretty weak, how can I get some more support for the head?) In addition, the super greats can keep up enough humorous comments to keep the audience engaged while they’re thinking. And many of are also gifted with teaching skills as well.
  • I’d say a ‘flood of low-quality twisters’ would be comprised of a staff of newbies with a bad attitude getting paid low wages for a temporary job. Lots of them, (not all of them) aren’t after that smile from the kids, and they really don’t plan to stay in the business and grow their skills indefinitely.
  • This weekend I was watching a Busker do balloons. He was pretty good. When I asked what he could make he said just about anything (great!!) . He asked each child “What do you want????” twisted the balloon (very quickly) then handed it to the kid and said “Here”. He was about as entertaining as a bag of wet cement. Knowing a million twists and being able to do the poodle in 5 seconds does not make up for not being able to entertain.
  • It does not really matter how `good` a twister (in technical terms) you are, but what you can do with it and how you can present it. I`ve seen twisters with a limited repertoire do wonderful shows. Of course, how you perform reflects on all twisters, but if you`re good with kids, they’ll love you.

Entertaining and Crowd Control

  • I’ve been doing shows as Noodles the Clown for 20 yrs, and I’ve found that if you entertain the children while doing the balloons instead of having them just wait for the balloons, you can have complete control without sounding or acting authoritarian. Try riddles. Who ever answers the riddle correctly gets the next balloon. Have the children raise their hand to answer the riddle. Tell children’s jokes, make puns, anything to keep the children from being bored or idle. I usually try to work from youngest to oldest because the older children usually have a little more patience. If you have a child with special needs (attention deficit disorder or related situation) give them a little extra attention. It helps a lot and is greatly appreciated by the hostess and family members. I have worked all types of audiences and found that balloons are an extremely wonderful asset to the show! Use them to entertain and in that entertainment you will find control.
  • You also may need to train your audience. I run into audiences all the time that are used to the idea that the balloon guy gives balloons to everyone. Kids don’t just demand balloons because they got the idea at that moment. They’ve been trained by other balloon people that this is the way it’s done. It’s your job to teach your audience how you want them to behave at each and every show you do. That extends beyond balloons. Take a couple minutes at the beginning of the show, or wherever appropriate to give people rules to follow. “If I do something you like, applaud. If I say something funny, feel free to laugh. If I act like the villain in a story, boo and hiss at me.”
  • You will find yourself in control of the situation better when using the ideology that you are an entertainer and balloons are your “medium”. Most of the time I am up front with customers and tell them that it is very difficult to do walk around and be an “Entertaining” clown at a large group (note, I said difficult not impossible), and I tell them ahead of time that 9 out of 10 times that a line will form as soon as the balloons appear. One group wanted walk around balloons with a bit of magic, yet when I let them know the chances are slim, they said they were different. HA! Alas, when the line formed, I would stop frequently to perform some comedy and magic busker style. The adults got upset that I made them wait for a balloon for their child. Oh, they wanted to see the show after they got their balloon. After this I realized that people don’t care if it’s a clown, magician, Santa, the Easter bunny, or an insurance agent in a suit and tie. They just want the “FREE” item. It is a shame, but now I am honest with people and don’t get upset when the ballloons are noticed but I’m not.
  • I try to make each child get involved, and I will make it educational if possible. I did a party for 2nd graders, and they all wanted to have a turn and assist me with a trick. I would ask educational questions like – who is the first president of the US? what is the capitol of our country, or the state of MD, what color do you get when you mix red and blue? and so on. They love the challlenge and love to win the chance to assist me. Also the parents love the bits of education. I’ve even had one parent say aloud, “See. . . it pays to learn in school!” I also do a lot of tricks where I act like everything is going wrong, or I don’t know what I am doing, and they think I’ve messed up and then, viola, they are surprised at the ending. I find the best thing to do is involve them. You keep better control and better attention of them. But beware, sometimes the more fun and relaxed the atmosphere, the more of a chance that some of the children will run up and grab your pockets or hat or something else – they think they have earned their way into your personal magic space and that can sometimes get a bit frustrating.
  • If any of you can’t handle the pressure or don’t want to deal with crowd control, more power to you. But don’t kid yourself with excuses. There is no shame in admitting that you are just no good at it or you hate to do it. That doesn’t mean that a party of wild kids is not the place for balloons. Just not the place for balloons from you.It requires people skills and a lot of patience. It requires diplomacy. You must be able to play well with others. You must control your vindictive tongue and diffuse arguments with gentle firmness. You must persuade people to say yes. You must be able to take criticism with calm. You must learn to tactfully say no. Any device, i.e., number taking, tape on the floor, last in line signs, etc., isn’t worth a darn if you don’t have these skills.

    How do you acquire these skills? Get some sales training. Study psychology. Cultural studies may help you. However in some cases therapy may be your best bet.

  • There will inevitably be the parties that you have problem kids (or adults). I start my kids show by pointing out to them that some of the things in the show can be quite dangerous if handled improperly. (There’s nothing the least bit dangerous or scary in the show, but I play it up and make a joke out of it.) For that reason, it’s necessary for everyone to stay in their seats. I explain that if people get out of their seats, others won’t be able to see, they’ll all stand and a riot is likely to ensue while everyone pushes to get a good view. Basically, I exaggerate the whole thing so I can get them laughing about it, but I present that basic rule from the beginning. Then when a child does stand up, I point out that we have that rule for safety, and to ensure that no one gets hurt, I will stop the show until everyone is back in their seats. This is all said with a smile in a half joking manner as a gentle reminder.That’s almost always enough. When it isn’t I get a bit more serious and explain that for the fun to continue, it really is necessary for everyone to follow the rules. Performing to a wandering audience isn’t my idea of fun, and I need to have as much fun as the rest of them. After all, I wouldn’t be attending a birthday party if I wasn’t planning to enjoy myself. It works for me to make it look like I’m as much a guest as all the kids, and I just want to have fun with them. Having gotten my message across, if I need to stop, I do. The longest I’ve ever had to stand quiet before a parent jumped in to help couldn’t have been more than a minute (a really long time with a bunch of kids in your audience). The parents are usually quick to realize that you can’t do this alone.

    The key is to be confident and really be willing to stop if something gets out of hand. You were right for asking for a parent to help before you became the mean one. It’s always bad when you lose your cool. You can’t keep an audience (of any age) if they think you’re not enjoying yourself. I can only recall one time that I actually stopped a show completely. I felt myself losing my cool and thought it best to just end it. I just stopped, thanked everyone for watching, and packed up to leave. After everything was in the car, I found the parent that hired me (all of the parents at the party walked away during the show, leaving me to baby sit), explained what happened and pointed out that my contract said clearly that at least one parent would be present through the show. There was no argument. Mom thanked me for not beating the kid senseless that threw the baseball at me and paid me in full without complaining. Then, I went home and replayed the whole show in my head to see if I had done something wrong that got the kids worked up in a bad manner, or if it was simply a bad audience. While it’s often a troubled kid, you do have to re-evaluate situations like that carefully and be willing to consider that maybe your show wasn’t up to where it should have been. Sometimes acting up is the only way a kid knows how to tell you that you’re doing a lousy job. It’s not a fun way to find out, and it’s completely inappropriate for the kid to act that way, but don’t rule it out. I think it best that we all accept the blame sometimes. It’s easy for us to feel tortured, but consider what you’re doing to a kid who is forced to sit still through a show he can’t stand.

  • When you deal with the public there will always be pressure. It can make you or break you. I guess the difference between an amateur and a professional is the ability to give a good performance – even under pressure. Professionalism is more than our appearance and the quality of the balloon figures that we twist. It also includes our ability to handle any and all situations that arise during our performance. We must all realize that we are not “ourselves” when we are performing. Because the children look at us as something special, we must act like something special. Learn the patience so crucial to all professional entertainers, so you can even smile at someone when they are cursing you out (It drives them mad!). When they’re done, reasonably explain your position or (usually) tell them they’re right, and apologize. It’s amazing how much business I’ve gotten from an earnest, calm apology. Hey, we all make mistakes, especially during a hot, frantically busy day.
  • If a kid is mean to you (I do this in CLOWN), I say, “My mommy says if people are mean to me I’m supposed to go home right away.” This usually stops the kid from being so obnoxious. Also the other kids get on his case because they don’t want you to go away.
  • If a kid is REALLY mean, take his hand, raise it up in the air and yell, “WHO DOES THIS CHILD BELONG TO?!” I haven’t had to use this one, but it sure seems it would fit the bill.

Speed Twisting: Entertainer or Balloon Factory?

In regards to speed twisting, I would like to ask the group, when doing balloons for a paid party, do you spend a certain amount of time with each child as you make the balloon? In other words, do you allocate say two minutes per child, so that you can make each child a little bit special? Reason being is that some of my clients seem to want only quanity (ok, 50 kids, each one gets a balloon and do it in a hour). I try to explain that people enjoy seeing me make the balloons, and I try to spend at least some time with each child, if not just to ask them their names, age, etc.

  • I see this as two related questions:
    1. Do we allot a certain amount of time per child, for whatever reason(s), and
    2. What are we selling?
  • I don’t know anyone who has a policy of spending a set amount of time with each child. As an entertainer, one of the biggest advantages we have as balloon twisting *performers* is being able to use the immediate feedback you get from each person to have fun! You can’t place either a time limit or minimum on that.
  • THAT’S entertainment! I have actually lost jobs because I told the prospective client that, even if I made poodles and swans and weenie dogs, I needed to spend a minimum of 1 minute per child. “WHY?” Because they are, each and everyone, special and funny and they deserve the attention. They are spending much more time waiting on me than I am on them. The time spent is already too short. To cut that time even so much shorter is, IMHO, an insult to the art. “I deserve” to get to know each and every one of those kids, too! It amazes me when a child walks up to me and says, “Remember me? I got a balloon from you at the `Art Fastival’ last year,” and for some reason, I remember what they got from me. Bold as ice, I reply, “Yeah! you got a tweety, right? And you got a choo-choo train for your little brother, too, didn’t you?” The wonder in their eyes touches a place in my soul that only they can reach. It is meant for them and them alone. We have a mutual exchange that, at times, passes all understanding. It brings on a peaceful, deep-down-in-your-heart, know-it’s-right, gotta-have-it- again, AND SOON,TOO!, feeling. I know that this is gba stuff, but I enjoy my work and thank my God daily for the opportunity to touch people’s lives and, in turn, be touched by them. “Thanks, God.”
  • I generally aim for 2-3 minutes and 3-4 balloons with each child. I don’t watch the clock. I just try to do what I can to keep the down time to a minimum. Menus help. Posters help. A clever way of saying your 10 figures for the day helps. Setting up the next child (Do you know what YOUR favorite colors are?) while finishing the current sculpture helps. These kind of preparations allow me to go with the flow and add extra balloons if I run across a birthday person while still hitting my time goals.
  • Balloon art is a fickle thing: some people want quality, and they want it in 30 seconds or less. Some parents don’t want to wait 15 minutes even for a free gift that will bring a smile to the child. But often this isn’t true. For the most part, I take the time to make what people ask for. I stress quality and not speed. I get a lot of work because of it. I don’t want to get into a battle over which is better. You need to find the work that you like doing. I’d rather do balloons as a performance art in a crowd than pump out quick figures for a long line. I get paid the same for each type of work. I also get a lot of comments from people hiring me that they like the idea that I don’t just hand out things quickly.
  • My preference is to not have a line at all, but it is possible to have a line and to still take 5 minutes on each sculpture. If you doubt that, look at the lines that caricature artists get. Most caricaturists that I’ve seen take more than 30 seconds for a drawing.
  • So what if you can make a cockatoo or a cockroch, does it actually provide some entertainment value? That is what you need to achieve. You also need to keep your items to 10 balloons or less. Making a 500 balloon Harley is nice for a decoration at a convention, but you can’t make that for everybody at a company picnic or grand opening or birthday party. Let’s face it if you are an entertainer, you are there for everybody. You also need to figure out what kind of entertainer you will be. If you are a speed twister like me and can keep the accuracy with the speed, then you can do the large quantity multiples, but if you can’t keep the accuracy with the speed, then you need to keep it to one or two balloon items.
  • I seldom hire out as a ‘balloon figure factory.’ I hire out to entertain the crowd. If the client wants every child to have a balloon figure, I get a rough estimate of how many children are expected. I make up that quantity of quickly figures in advance and take along an assistant to hand out the figures. I set up on a platform or stage and make detailed one balloon and multiple balloon figures to entertain those present. I give out more business cards that way, and it brings in a lot more business than a “balloon figure factory” operation is likely to do.
  • I have always disliked getting paid a flat fee and being told to entertain and make balloons for free. When you are making balloons for free at a festival – school, church or whatever – the kids (and parents too) can really get rude – you can’t make them fast enough, etc. and it becomes a balloon manufacturing process where you are not having fun and it is basically a miserable experience. After one such encounter last year when ‘mean little kids’ were asking for balloons and then taking them behind me and popping them and then asking for another one – I said – No More!! – No more jobs where I am paid to hand out free balloons.
  • I have a degree in psychology and a little of that goes into every bit of patter that I do. Getting inside people’s heads to find their funny bones is part of what twisting is about to me. I know there are some folks who think the balloons should do all the entertaining, but I’m of the school that believes it should be accompanied by humor at all levels – verbal, physical, or otherwise, and that balloon twisting is a part of the entire entertainment, not the entire entertainment itself.
  • I sometimes read on this list comments along the lines of “I’m not a balloon machine, I’m an entertainer.” I’ve always been intrigued by these statements because, while I’ve got a very successful kid show, when I’m working balloons for a line I’m pretty much cranking them out. I banter with the kids, but I wouldn’t market this part of what I do as a “show.”I’ve always wanted to see what a balloon “entertainer” does, so I bought a copy of the video “Lil’ John: Entertaining with Balloons.” Todd Watson, a.k.a. Lil’ John, performs part of his balloon show, teaches a few simple balloon animals, and imparts the view that if you can do a show with balloons, you don’t have to make every kid a balloon.

    After viewing the tape, here are my conclusions:

    1. It’s an excellent tape. Todd is a smart, talented guy who uses balloons to entertain kids about as well as could be imagined.
    2. As good as Todd is, and he’s really good, if I were a little kid, I would still rather see a good magic show.
    3. As entertaining as the show is, and it is entertaining, if I were a kid, I would STILL want my own balloon and be disappointed if I didn’t get one.

    My only other caveat is that, in order to prove Todd’s case, he should have kept the camera going after the show concluded. I would find it hard to believe that he wasn’t approached by parents asking (demanding?) a balloon for their child.

  • I’m one of the people that refuses to be a balloon machine, and that’s one of the things that I lecture on (it’s also discussed on my CD-ROM), so I’ll try to answer some of your concerns. Believe it or not, there are quite a few shows I do for smaller children where the parents specifically request that I not do magic. Obviously the key is to do age appropriate magic if you’re going to do magic, but there’s quite a bit of magic that will go over the heads of younger kids. (I know there’s quite a bit of kid magic that is very good for those same kids too. I’m just trying to make the point that a magic show isn’t always the better thing for a group of kids.) If I do a birthday party where I’m telling stories for 40 minutes, every kid does end up with a balloon as part of the show. When I’m finished, they’ve enjoyed a 40 minute performance, and they have something quite a bit more elaborate than they would have received standing on a line waiting for me to pump things out.The second really important point I see is that entertaining with balloons doesn’t have to be the job of a children’s performer. While probably 80-90% of the performances I do these days have kids in attendance, less than half of them are children’s shows. Adults like balloons too, and many of them don’t want to go home with balloons. If there are 3 kids in a crowd of 50, make sure the 3 kids go home with balloons. Yes, some adults still ask for something for themselves after, but that’s why I sell beginner balloon twisting kits when my show is over. “If you like the creations I make, you’ll like the creations you make even better. With one of these beginner balloon twisting kits, you can be twisting balloons very quickly. And what better souvenir of my show could there be than your very own kit?”

    …In order to prove Todd’s case, he should have kept the camera going after the show concluded. I would find it hard to believe that he wasn’t approached by parents asking (demanding?) a balloon for their child.

    Once you walk off the stage, who’s going to chase you down? If you don’t have a back stage area to hide in, you can always answer the parents appropriately:

    “At smaller venues, like children’s birthday parties, I can make sure to give balloons to everyone. Unfortunately, this isn’t the right place for me to do that. Here’s my card. Feel free to give me a call.”

    I don’t want it to sound like everything is a sales pitch. Just try to turn around the negative and make it something positive. The kids want balloons. You want more work. You may as well offer your services.

    Most importantly, if being a balloon machine is what you do well, and it works for you, that’s fine. No one is telling you not to do it. There are just a lot of us that prefer not to do that kind of work and can succeed at what we do. If you don’t like being a balloon machine and do want to be more entertaining, you have to realize that some venues just aren’t appropriate for what you want to do. You have to be willing to tell the client what you will and won’t do so that there are no surprises. You will most likely lose some jobs because they want to hire a balloon machine. Don’t be afraid to refuse them. As soon as you feel confident about what you want to do, you’ll be able to find the work that pleases you.

Performance Anxiety

  • To relieve SOME of your performance anxiety. . .
    • Carry 3X5 cards with drawn directions on how to make some of your balloons.
    • Don’t worry about if someone will like you or not. If you are doing something FOR someone else, they WILL like you!
    • And yes, pray. There’s NOTHING like the power of prayer.
  • I can only speak from my own experience, but I remember in school, how nervous I’d get if we just read a play out loud in English class, let alone get up and give a speech or talk. Now I hardly think twice about getting up in front of large crowds, or just talking with someone that I’ve never met. Balloons and Magic have changed all that for me.
  • When I’m performing, they’re coming to me “on my turf.” I know what I’m doing, and because of that, I can concentrate a little more on what they say and do, which allows me to turn that in my favor. Even with really nasty people (which have been few and far between for me), I can have fun with the situation and even if the nasty person doesn’t come over to “our” (me and the crowd) side, I won’t have fun at the “bad guy’s” expense (at least I haven’t had to do that so far), but I will not allow them to ruin things either.
  • I think you’ll find that the more you do to “find your character,” the more relaxed and in control you’ll feel. Also, it’s possible to turn the nervousness in your favor as well. I’m a lot more relaxed and laid back than I used to be, but I still get nervous and shaky once in a while. So the “me” that performs is a little nervous, a little shaky, and a little strange (I’d compare the performing me to Christopher Lloyd’s “Rev. Jim” from the TV show taxi). This way if the nerves do hit me,it seems like part of the character.
  • You may never completely get over the anxiety. It’s great to hear encouragement that you’ll do better over time. The problem with that is that if you don’t get over it, you start to worry that something’s wrong. I haven’t gotten over it. For a while, I worried. Maybe I shouldn’t be in this business, I thought. Maybe I’m just not cut out for it. Then I read an article somewhere about the number of big name performers (sorry, I don’t remember which ones were mentioned) that have the same problem.
  • I’ve been performing on stage since I was 5. I was never a duck or a tree in one of those silly costumes that completely hides the kid, but playing the violin, and later moving into magic and balloons. I’ve been performing professionally for over 11 years. I still get nervous, no matter what the gig is. From birthday parties to stage presentations to business meetings, I shake violently at the start. I end the show with a performer’s high.
  • If you can work it into the mannerisms of your character, no one needs to know how you feel. I found that I would always drop props if I tried using them right from the start. So I don’t start a show with props at all. I talk. Or, if I’m juggling, I’m prepared to drop stuff. I sometimes even do it intentionally now. 2 or 3 minutes into the show, with laughter building, I forget I was ever nervous, and I can move on. If I’m just twisting on the street, I make the first few things for me as I set up. I can drop stuff, and I can pop balloons. It doesn’t matter. It looks silly because I play it up, and I draw attention.
  • The most comforting thing I ever heard was that I wasn’t alone. Realize that. You may find yourself feeling better just knowing that you’re no different from a lot of other people that make their livings this way. When the pressure’s on, you’ll remember the twist. If you don’t, you’ll remember a line to use to get around it. You find ways of not making what someone asked for, but keeping them entertained and happy with you at the same time.
  • Anxiety is normal. Actually, I get anxious before magic shows, but ballooning is so much less technical that it’s a break (perhaps a poor word choice) in comparison. My major concerns are making sure I have enough balloons and the proper directions. With ballooning you get to focus on the *fun*!
  • Many of the reasons for preshow jitters can be handled with a really good preshow questionaire for when you book the show. Directions, contact people, alternative phone numbers, date(s) and time(s), specific info on where you will set-up or if you will walk around, competing and distracting events/people around you, etc. That way, you will be forewarned about most of the potential logistical problems ahead of time. The people who book you will be impressed at your thoroughness and professionalism. Check the Guide! 😉
  • As BOZO the Clown used to say, “Just Keep Laughing”. When you catch yourself being too worried or serious, start laughing and smiling and talk to the people as if you are interested in them. I learned on my radio show, when you are discussing an angry topic, it is best to sometimes smile and laugh at it. It sort of lets you take a step back and control the situation.

Talking To Kids

  • There is an underlying flaw in some children’s performers. Some clowns think that when you perform for children you have to be very broad in your mannerisms, wait for them to get the joke, explain it if they don’t laugh, etc. Kids are too sophisticated for that (not just now, they always have been). Mr. Rogers doesn’t talk down to kids, Beakman and Bill Nye don’t talk down to kids, Soupy Sales never talked down to kids. If your act is not entertaining to adults, then the kids won’t like it either (that does not mean doing so-called “adult” humor – look at Winnie-the-Pooh, Animaniacs, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Beany and Cecil for humor that appeals to both adults and children). So when you do a bit of business, deliver it with respect for the wit and intelligence of the audience. Don’t draw it out and overplay it to be sure that they all “understand.” Expect them to stay with you. You’ll be shocked at how much they’ll catch and how little you can get away with.
  • Watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood with a three-year-old sometime. They are absolutely transfixed. Mr. Rogers knows how to talk to pre-schoolers with respect for their minds. He uses words they can understand without talking down to them (as opposed to a certain large purple tyrannosaur). I wish I were half as good with children as he is. He actually has a website that I stumbled across last week. In his website Mr. Rogers takes the time to explain why he does what he does the way he does it. Good info for people looking to improve their interaction with the Kindergarten set.
  • Do a Kids birthday party well and you’ll learn an awful lot about yourself, your act, your timing, your abilities. Hell, I do a lot of my kid show stuff when working at the bar and get VERY good results. Yea, I’ll use some blue language with the adults that I would not dare do for the kids, but the comedy/entertainment is not a result of the language, it’s there only to be able to fit with the environment… it works just as well regardless of the language.
  • If I use a nickname for a kid, I stick to something global and innocuous like “this intelligent young man,” “this dapper fellow,” or “captain,” “general,” “your majesty,” “Superman,” “tiger,” “sport,” “ace.” For girls, it’s “this intelligent young woman,” “this artistic genius,” “captain,” “general,” “your highness,” “Wonder Woman,” “Sally Ride,” etc. I’ve also found that you can compare any kid to any popular movie star, no matter how absurd the connection, and they’ll always get a kick out of it. Don’t try to fit the race, size, or physical characteristics – just make a positive association, and it will be appreciated. Any boy can imagine himself to be Schwarzenegger or Jackie Chan, any girl can imagine herself to be Uhura or Xena. Tie the character in with the balloon you’re twisting, and turn on their imagination!
  • I beg to differ on the idea of making fun of people’s names. Dale Carnegie will tell you that a name is off-limits. It’s just too personal. We identify very strongly with our names, so getting a name wrong or playing with it is like making fun of someone’s physical characteristics. While it’s true that it always gets a reaction, it’s not necessarily a good one. It can backfire in a couple of ways:
    • Siblings pick up on it and torment the child with it. (“Nick Pickle! Pickle Head! Pickle Nick! Dickle Pickle Nickel Nick! Tickle Pickle Nick Nickel Dickle Butter Brickle” and so on for the next three weeks.)
    • The association you make is somehow hurtful to the child in a non-obvious way. I heard “Dennis the Menace” too often as a kid, and I resented being compared to the stupid little brat from the paper.
    • It’s a childish form of humor. Entertainers can be childlike, and should identify with children, but when they act in a childish way, it’s embarrassing for the kids and the adults.
  • I find I don’t even look at the adults when I do a kids show – even if they outnumber the kids. You can’t easily do a show at a kid level and at an adult level.
  • I very much talk at the kid’s level. I talk about the adults as growed-ups. For instance, take asking a kid his/her name. Have you noticed that if you ask a kid you’ll find that they are not called anything? No, not a joke, it’s their NAME that’s called something. They don’t identify with the word ANN, it’s just a label. So I ask, ‘What’s your name called?’ Try it – the kids think it quite natural!
  • I say “squashage dog” cuz I can’t say sausage. Lots of kids identify with this and say ‘you can’t say sausage, can you?’ Then tell me about words they can’t say. Empathy is the name of the game. They love you for it!

Blue Material

  • If one is looking for repeat dates, etc, follow the route of the big names in the business. . . Do not use “adult material”. You will severely limit your potential horizons for future engagements in the entertainment business. Why grovel in the dirt as others do… Those who stay around in this business do not need to stoop to this level. Look at Red Skelton, who is the King in the clown business! If you follow his lead, you have nothing to be concerned about!
  • I was a singing waiter in Newport Beach (CA) for a couple of years, whipping out my ukulele during slow times and entertaining with a wide range of novelty tunes. Most of them were Tom Lehrer, Homer and Jethro, Dr. Demento kinds of things, but we always did a set of sing-along limericks in the bar at least once a night. I adjusted my content for the current group, and if there were children in the bar area, we saved the limerick song for later.
  • The key here is to use *funny* material. Blue material is not inherently funny. In fact, it is inherently a low form of humor. Look at Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” for an example of a truly gifted, funny comic wasting his talent.
  • On the other hand, I’ve seen several ventriloquists who slide very easily between G and X ratings. In both cases, though, they do essentially the same routine, with appropriate twists for the current audience. Their core schtick is funny.
  • Since balloons are identified with children, it’s usually most effective to use double-entendre rather than 4-letter words, and play an ingenuous character who doesn’t realize that others might “misconstrue” what’s been said. That doesn’t work for everybody, but, if you can pull it off, you can get away with a lot of material that’s entertaining for both children and adults (see the Simpsons, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Rocky and Bullwinkle for examples of humor that works on several levels at once).
  • I would encourage anyone thinking of working for adult groups to work on being funny first, and only introduce blue material if it enhances the performance. In most cases, it won’t help, and will reduce you to the level of the drunken hecklers we all love so much (keep in mind that if they feel you’re on their level, they’ll act as if they’re superior to you and will probably create situations that will escalate into shouting matches and fist fights).
  • Most associate “adult” with “not appropriate for children under 17, 18, 21, whatever.” This is not necessarily the case. You may simply be looking for ideas that would appeal to and hold the attention of audiences who are not children. To use an example: If I’m playing music for a group of people, I’ll usually play any of a variety of my usual repertoire (traditional), but if a wee one comes up and is enraptured, then I’ll very often (in a blatant display of enlisting the child as a co-performer) play “Mary had a little Lamb” or “Twinkle, Twinkle” little star. The kids love them (usually). Now, I think of those tunes as “kids tunes,” and by extension the others as “grown up (or “adult”)” tunes. That’s only because of the fact that few adults like to sit and listen to “Mary had. . .” and the little ones like hearing a tune they know. Neither is “inappropriate” for the other, just more accessible. I’ve a feeling it’s similar for balloons. I know it’s similar for, say, cartoons: to wit, Animaniacs. Kids enjoy it, but there are some lines, cultural references and the like, that’ll go over their heads. *That’s* “adult” material, isn’t it? But hardly something “inappropriate” for young, shell-like ears. (If you don’t know the show, just remember the original WB cartoons. Aren’t there bits in them that you find funny now, that whizzed past in ages past?) Similarly for stand-up comedians. Kids like jokes, adults like jokes (even clean ones), but often different tastes. How often do you hear Jerry Seinfeld telling knock-knock jokes for a whole set (even particularly funny ones), how often does Steven Wright appear on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood?(and if he did, how did I miss it)
  • I’ve always felt (very strongly) that you are not worth much in comedy until you can make people laugh with a routine that’s ‘clean’. (and I say this with over two-years of street theatre/ improv experience, with many of my old troupe members taking classes… and doing quite well with The Second City)
  • I think the clowns, magicians, and family-oriented twisters will agree; anyone can stand up in front of a crowd of frat boys and yell cuss-words to make them laugh.
  • My advice would be to keep it clean and fun, and build a reputation on solid, good comedy. But that’s just my choice. I do know there is at least one balloon book out there with adult material in it. If T. Myers doesn’t offer it, I’d guess he could give you the reference.
  • On the humor thing – Garbage in, garbage out. Anyone can say dirty, vulgar words, and crack dirty jokes (Eddy Murphy) . . . but, if you look around in life, all the “jokes” you need are right under your own nose, the funniest jokes I have ever heard, have been “clean” (Red Skelton, Lucille Ball), in fact, I don’t think I have ever remembered nor repeated (well not many….anyway…ha ha) any “off-color” jokes I have heard.
  • As a family entertainer, I like to keep my act clean. Dirty jokes are like “cussing.” Once you start, it overflows unintentionally to other areas of your life and work. So why start?
  • I actually get more laughs (not what I am trying to do) by being natural and interacting in a natural way with my “audience.” If they let their mind go in the gutter while I’m manipulating the balloons, I let them. I get a little blushed, or even all out embarrassed (I am just a bit naive). They get a kick out of it, and I just say, “now we won’t go there” and laugh WITH my audience. We have fun together, and it is natural, not forced, not rehearsed. . . just a fun interaction.
  • These people, even though they ARE adults (are also parents and grandparents) and may also pass you over when looking for an entertainer for their own family parties if think your “colored” humor inappropriate for their child/grandchild, etc.) Also, I don’t make getting tips the focus of what I do. Maybe that helps me to relax and takes the pressure off somewhat, and I can focus on having fun making outrageous balloon creations (great tips are just a bonus to having had a good time).
  • What kind of balloonist do you want to be known as? Your answer make effect other people’s (namely prospective clients) perception of you. For instance, we all have the ability to do the pornographic balloons When I was first ballooning, I prided myself on that ability. Someone asked me to do a dirty balloon so I did. However, I noticed the people around me and THEIR reaction. Many times, I could read their faces and they were OFFENDED. I had to decide what kind of balloonist I wanted to be known as. Now I tell people who request those pornographic balloons, that there is enough smut and garbage in the world so I refuse to do them. I find I get more respect for my skills. In the world of comedians, who still has the staying power? Bill Cosby for one… the ones who can make you laugh without the swear words… Anyone recall Andrew Dice Clay? hmmmm… must be something to it.

Video Taping Your Show

  • The only time that I allow video taping is at my birthday parties. I have a lot of local cable people ask if they can video tape my magic show so that they can show it on their system. If they want to show it, I need to get something out of it. I don’t need the publicity (I can’t take half the calls I get now). If I get a copy of the tape for me to use, I will let my show be taped, but we have a contract that the show can be shown only a certain number of times. If they pay me, even better. I know someone whose show was taped privately, and it still ended up on cable. People don’t usually get upset about my policy. I tell them up front so there are no surprises.
  • Video-policy? We don’t allow videotaping except at a birthday party. We tell the parent that they can tape bits and pieces but NOT THE WHOLE THING. If we see that happening, we politely ask them to shut the tape off, or we move around a lot so they can’t keep up!
  • I was working for Carnival Cruise Lines, and they had a policy of no videotaping at the shows. Well, once in a while, we’d see the little red lights in the dark. When we complained, the Cruise line response was, “What can we do about it? They are our guests.” Well, I’ll tell you what happened to two tapes of our act. I was working an electronics trade show and happened to look across the aisle at a booth that was demonstrating camcorders. What do you think I saw on the tv? I saw ME on Carnival cruise lines doing my act! This guy was using his vacation photos to demonstrate the camcorder! The other video story that comes to mind is seeing a guy who looked very familiar to me videotaping our act. We did a magic routine that we created years before, and, when we were home on vacation, we were watching a David Copperfield Special, and not only did we see the guy from the ship assisting Copperfield, but he was DOING OUR ROUTINE!!!
  • I do close to 300 school programs a year, and a few years ago I was sick with the flu. As I lay on the couch feeling sorry for myself, I surfed the channels and came across ME on TV doing my History program! A few phone calls to the Cable access program revealed that a Mother had video taped the program and passed it on to her son in College who worked on the College TV station. He previewed the show and found nothing “offensive” and then asked her if permission was granted for broadcast. She said yes! I NEVER told her it was okay. Plus my attorney informs me that if you allow it, you can lose any copyrights that you have on it, because you are giving it away for free.
  • I have walked up to a camcorder lens and explained the sign I have posted for no videotaping. My show is also copyrighted! It took a lot (and I mean A LOT!) of work to get it legally protected and to have some joker make a camcorder copy is wrong. I allow parents to video tape their kids in the program, but not the entire show, as I put WAY too much work into it for some nitwit who has no creativity to steal it away from me.
  • I’ve been doing my comedy concerts for about 9 years now. Initially I had no problem with people taping the shows. . . as long as I got a copy of it, so I could edit anything wonderful they happened to catch into my promotional video. They were always pretty good about getting copies to me. . . when I reminded them later, that is.
  • Last December I had my Christmas Show professionally taped, and I intend to put it on the souvenir sales table after the concerts this Fall. Once I decided that there might be a market for these things, it changed my attitude about folks with camcorders. Now I don’t allow it. Why would they buy mine if I let them tape their own? (Money-grubbing little Capitalist Pig that I am.)
  • Last month I had a guy in the fourth row aisle seat running a camcorder during the first twenty minutes of my show. I’d just finished the magic segment and was about to put on my Clown makeup when I noticed him and stopped cold. I handled it thusly in front of the whole theatre. . .Me: By the way, I just want to let you know that this entire performance is copyright 1999 by Dan Wolfe, The Amazing Earl and D. Wolfe Entertainment. (Walking down the aisle toward the guy with the camera.) That even goes for the folks watching the bootlegged videotape this joker’s making. I just want you to know that HE DIDN’T ASK ME FIRST! (Audience booed at him.)

    Guy: Can I tape your show? (audience laughs)

    Me: (Directly into his camera) No.

    After that I did a gookie (Harpo Marx Face) into his camera and returned to the stage. The audience applauded, and the guy put his camera under his seat for the rest of the concert. Audience reaction was great. It got the point across, and anyone watching that tape will KNOW that I did not condone what he was doing and had not given my permission. I should do this gag with a stooge at the beginning of EVERY show!

    In the future if someone is taping, I’ll likely do the same thing. If they persist, I’ll just stop again, whistle for the Camcorder Police (Ushers) and let THEM deal with him. That’s what they’re paid for anyway. . . .

The Top 18 Signs You’ve Hired the Wrong Clown for Your Child’s Party

18. By the end of the party, he’s got every damn kid doing the “pull my finger” trick.
17. Clown car must be started with breathalizer device.
16. Keeps screaming, “My name’s not BO-zo, it’s bo-ZO!”
15. References to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are lost on most 5-year olds.
14. Props for his “disappearing” trick: a moving van and your wide-screen TV.
13. Scares the holy hell outta the kids during the “Severed Limb” trick.
12. Tells the kids he killed Barney in a blood match in Newark.
11. Didn’t bring any balloons, but manages to twist your dachshund into other animal shapes.
10. Prefaces each trick with, “here’s a little number I learned in the joint.”
9. Not exactly the Peewee Herman impression you were expecting.
8. Wears a T-Shirt that says, “Drug-free since March!”
7. More interested in squirting seltzer into his Scotch than into his pants.
6. Those huge ears look too darn life-like, and the entire act consists of showing charts and complaining about the deficit.
5. A sad clown is one thing — a clown who spends the entire party with a gun to his temple is another thing entirely.
4. Only balloon animals he can make are a snake and a “snake on acid.”
3. Business cards include the phrase “From the Mind of Stephen King…”
2. Price list includes “lap dance” and “around the world.”

and the Number 1 Sign You’ve Hired the Wrong Clown for Your Child’s Party…

1. All the balloon animals are ribbed and lubricated.

MB 2/12/96
MB 6/12/97
SMB 8/13/99
SMB 9/24/00