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Archive for May, 2009

David M. Ogilvy – Quoted

2009-05-30Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”

–David M. Ogilvy Advertising Executive (1911 – 1999)


“Never underestimate the power of funny!”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

How wonderful that an advertising executive so clearly recognized the inherent greatness in funny! On my best days I’m at my funniest and it seems effortless. On those days when I’m just not feeling it the funny just isn’t there and neither is the greatness, but when the funny flows… But oh…when the funny flows… Those are the days I live for!


Geoff Cobb • Interviews from the Inside


Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: I met Geoff Cobb at the 2002 Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival where I was performing as part of “The Executives.” Geoff seemed to approve of the fact that we were using the original Japanese version of the Speed Racer Theme song in our show which I believe is where the conversation started… We see the world through much different eyes Geoff and I, but on some weird gut level we connect. Geoff was one of the first performers to be involved in the Street Stars Program at the PNE when I took over as manager of the program back in 2005 and in 2006 we performed together as “The Juggling Sherpas” an experience that just about killed our friendship, but like the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I know I’ve got a lot to be thankful for in our friendship.


Name: Geoff Cobb
March 11, 1968
Place of Birth:
Highland Park, Illinois, USA
Started Performing/Working in the Industry:
Started performing at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in 1992, but my first professional work was as a clown on the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus in 1987.
Sword Swallower
Video Link: http://www.swordswallowing.com/video%20files/Thom%20Sellectomy%20Promotional%20Video%20Med.wmv
Venues Worked: Festivals, Colleges and Corporate Events

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? Vanilla because it is full of possibilities. I love it with a tiny bit of ground coffee sprinkled on top.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great filmsStar Wars (And I mean the real one and I don’t feel I should have to say which episode that is.)
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood?Playmobile, I had a cavalry set and to this day I can remember clearly one specific day of play and the story that I created with the little figures. It involved a lieutenant that had to prove himself after a big mistake. Good stuff.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?The Flaming Idiots, a juggling trio from Texas. I first meet them in 1985 they made me think that I could make a living as a performer. Good thing that I met them when I did as I had just begun the process of enlisting in the United States Marine Corps.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in?Goofy; long and tall and not very sophisticated and often flustered by the obvious.
  6. Name something that scares you.This would be a shorter list if I tried to name things that don’t scare me. But let’s go with birds; I was attacked by a goose as a child and have a full blown phobia of any kind of bird. They fly, they can come at you from any direction, they are like sharks in the air.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had.Because my wife was tired of me sitting around the house, I spent on winter working as a grease monkey at a Jiffy Lube and really enjoyed it, and so did my wife.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try?I would like to learn to sail and then take a trip that would involve being far enough at sea that I couldn’t see land for more than a day.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer?The tedium of travel. Seeing new places is always nice and having favorite restaurants all around the world is nice. But being with my children home and sleeping next to my wife is the greatest thing in the world.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?I am sorry I had you take the long route. (I have had a pretty rocky life.)

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

“I am blessed to have never worked a day in my life in the sense that I love what I do. I do not have everything that a 41 year old man “should” have. But I am so rich in personal happiness. I think people should strive be much less concerned with the things think they need to have, and that would allow more people to spend their life’s energy doing things they love instead of something that will just “pay the bills. There is no need to work the extra time to have the microwave that saves you the time so you can work the extra time to afford the microwave.”

–Geoff Cobb


Giving myself extra time…

2009-05-28Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’m in the middle of a prop building blitz at the moment as I try to get things in place for a new show that I’ll be debuting in a couple of months… A couple of months??? What’s the rush in trying to get it all together now? Well I’ve got a rather busy schedule in June, July and the beginning of August, so my best bet for getting everything done is to have as much done as possible in May and if possible, June. I’m building a show around three stunt parodies and my partner in crime for this show is a six inch long stuffed Hot Dog that I’m calling Willie.

I’m a huge fan of giving myself more time than I actually need or think I’m going to need to get jobs done because my experience is that something inevitably goes sideways… This week for example, I set out to pick up a couple of costume pieces at a used tuxedo shop that I’d been to a number of times. I drove out to Richmond (about a 45 minute drive from where I live) and when I got out there I was dumfounded to discover that the shop had closed down… What? How could they? They didn’t ask me or anything… Well a day of pondering and I ventured over to ebay and found a reseller of used tux stuff there, so hopefully I’ll be able to order everything off the internet… We’ll see…

The other night I got together with my next door neighbour who’s got a fantastic wood working shop to work on a piece I wanted built for Stunt #2 – The High Dive of Death… I’ve got a 12 foot telescoping ladder that I’m attaching a mini diving board to and will have Willie dive from the board into a mere wet sponge… The stuff of legend’s I tell you! So initially I just clamped a saw to the top run of the ladder to see if it would work thinking that I’d eventually replace the saw blade with an actual piece of springy steel… A trip out to the Metal Supermarket out in Burnaby later and the guy behind the counter suggests that I just take the saw blade into a machine shop and have the teeth cut off… It’ll be cheaper and it’ll work… Right… So a trip to my favorite machine shop and they confirm that yes they’ll be able to make the modifications… Right… Before I hand over the saw blade I need to also build a piece of wood into the equation that can handle some additional hardware for a release mechanism for the diving board so it can actually sprong to life on command…

Yesterday was all about the construction of the Willie Cannon Mark II. This required a trip out to a special plumping supply shop to pick up an additional 2 1/2 inch coupling joint and a bunch of time spent cutting and shaping PVC pipe and a trip to the local tire store to have a valve stem installed… Next came the glueing it all together process which was a bit trickier than I would have liked. I wrote to a friend afterwards expressing my frustration with only being about a quarter as good as I’d like to be on the construction side of things, but how great it is to be building things myself… I have to wait about 24 hours to see if the air pressure chamber is actually air tight, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that it works. If not… Well I’ll go buy the ten or twelve dollars worth of bits and piece and spend the time to do it again. I can say with out a doubt that if I do have to do it again the second time around will go more smoothly than the first, but I’m hoping that the first time around version works…

Like I said near the top I like to give myself lots of time in case things go sideways…

It’s a both rewarding and gratifying to see the bits and piece of the show coming together, but on the flip side I sometimes find myself wondering if anyone apart from me will find this silly premise of a show as much fun as I’m hoping it’ll be to perform… I’m buying, building, writing, creating with the hope that it’s going to work, but who knows if it will. Ah the joys of show business and boldly going where you’ve never gone before…

Yahoo… Preliminary tests indicate that we have air tightness in my first attempt with the air pressure chamber… Happy Good Good!


This Just in from my Agent

2009-05-27Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

A few months ago I posted about the various options for landing work as a performer on Cruise Ships. One talked about the option of contacting the lines directly, the other discussed the option of working through an agent.

Since about the beginning of the year it’s felt like there’s been a bit of a pinch on and that there just isn’t as much work for performers as there once was… The cruise lines are looking at cutting back any way then can and this included the entertainment programming. I recently received an email from my agent in Miami that talks a bit more about this and thought I’d share it here just to give people some insight into current trends…

I just want to reiterate that summer is quickly approaching & work is getting more & more scarce.

This year, especially this summer, has been rough. Between the major budget cuts, added production shows, Int’l guests & more & more ships heading to foreign ports, every line has reduced the # of acts that they typically book and is using local acts in the foreign ports as much as they can. Every act has been affected by this. Obviously, our agency has been affected as well, but we keep perservering & trying our best every day. We get so many e-mails from acts, who are concerned about how their bookings have been affected by this & I just want you all to know that we are working really hard, every day, to try to pick up more dates!

I really do believe that things will get better! Everyone has been affected by this volatile economic climate, and, unfortunately, the cruise lines, are no exception.

So there you go… Now you could look at this and see that there are possibly an increase in opportunities for local acts in foreign ports, but the over all trend is fewer jobs for the same number of acts. Not good math for the number of performers who rely pretty heavily on the cruise ship industry for a large portion of their annual income, and likely not good news for people who are looking at breaking into the market either. Will things turn around? It’s hard to say how long the current situation is going to last or if, after implementing these new budget cutting measure, the cruise lines will ever return to the more flush days that appear to be ending… If/when I know more I’ll post it here.


Negotiating Higher Performance Fees

2009-05-26Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’ve been asked a number of times by a number of people how to best determine the price to charge for contracts so that you get the most out of the client with out over charging and putting yourself out of the running by being beyond the client’s budget. This is an enormously tricky subject and in the end, it’s up to the individual to come up with a price that they feel comfortable with and allows them to feel good about giving the best show possible for the performance fee that’s been charged. That being said, I highly recommend listening to a recording by Michael Ammar entitled “Negotiating Higher Performance Fees.”

I first heard the recording almost 20 years ago, but the lessons that are taught and the concepts that are presented are just as relevant today as they were when I first heard the material…

Michael discusses the three stages of the negotiation process then discusses the gambits or techniques for maneuvering for advantage while still crafting a win-win situation for both yourself and the client that you’re looking to work for. The recording then goes on to discuss how to increase the value of your performance so that you can charge even more money. I’ve used the techniques countless times and also look back over some negotiations realizing that I could have handled things better.

Michael now offers the recording as an MP3 file that you can download directly from his website for US$8.95 here –


As Michael points out in the recording, even if you only benefit from the lessons taught only once, it easily covers the cost of the investment for the recording and if you’re anything like me the lessons and ideas that are taught will have an effect on all of the negotiations you make after you listen to the information and start absorbing the techniques.

Now sometimes lessons like these come off as ‘book study’ and feel arduous to learn, but this recording is presented with great examples and a humorous approach… One of my favorite lines in the recording comes after the discussion of the “Delayed Approval” Gambit… Every time I hear –

“I’d Eat a Bug at a birthday party for two thousand dollars!”

I crack up!

If you’ve taken the time to develop an act and want to make a living from it, then taking the time to listen to these techniques and learn how to apply them when you negotiate bookings will have long term benefits.


Collect Letters of Reference

2009-05-25Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Very early on in my career this would have been mid to late 80s, I remember playing with all sorts of ideas of how to promote myself and back in those days it was well before the digital age, the web and all the rest of it… (Oh Dear God I’m sounding like some sort of grandpa… Ya know… Back in MY DAY we didn’t have this newfangled Internet with it’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube…) Oops… Sort of digressed there… At any rate it was a different time and one of the key elements to any good hard copy promotional kit was letters of reference from satisfied clients. Having these sorts of letters and client lists included in a digital promotional package is just as important for the following reasons.

Calling to an outside reference – You can suggest that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread until the cows come home, but when you have a letter from a satisfied client that says not only are you the best thing since sliced bread, but you the peanut butter and jelly, that you are in fact a full meal deal in and of ourself, this speaks volumes to other potential clients.

Comparable Experience – Now in the best of all possible you have a folder full of letters to choose from and can be a bit selective about the letters you choose when courting a potential new client. Ideally you want to show that other companies of a similar size/scope have been entirely satisfied with the services that you’ve provided. In other words, if you’re looking to work for Microsoft, you might show that you’ve worked for IBM or Toshiba or Dell, other companies that are comparable. Basically what this says to a potential client is that if I’m good enough to work for these guys I’m good enough to work for you too.

If you show Microsoft that you’ve worked at your son’s daycare, the local library and did an appearance at a local hockey tournament wrap-up party they may pass on hiring you and decided to look for someone who’s references more closely reflect the corporate image that they represent. You may have an amazing show that would be ideally suited to the event they’re planning, but the perception is that you’re not in their league…

Suitability – Every venue and every client has a different set of parameters that they’re looking to achieve during the event that they’re programming. For example, a stand-up comedy club may be looking for comics with material that push the edge a bit where as a large church looking to hire entertainment has an entirely set of parameters that they want the entertainer to follow. You may well be able to happily satisfy both, but having different letters from different former clients will likely help convince the new client your pitching that you’ll be a right fit. If for example you send the comedy club a letter from a comedy festival producer attesting to your off the wall approach and the howls of laughter that came when you took various risks in your show you may be a shoe in for the headliner spot. The Church group gets the letter from the organizer of the Local children’s hospital family picnic attesting to how great you show was for the family audience that they were catering too and how your clean family-friendly material was a huge hit.

Anything you can do to reassure a client that you are exactly the right choice to satisfy their entertainment needs, the greater the chance that you’ll land the gig which is what this is all about. Get the gig, do the gig and ideally do it again and again and again.

So how do you get people to write glowing testimonial letters? Quite simple – ask them. After every job, make a practice of sending a thank you letter to the client who hired you and ask them if they’d be willing to sing your praises in a letter on their companies letterhead. I’ve sometimes gone to the extent of including an example of a letter I’ve received from another client to help get them started. If you’ve done an amazing show and have given the client everything they wanted and more, chances are they’ll be more than happy to take the time to craft a letter for you thus adding one more potential letter for your file. The more you have, the greater the chance of having just the right one when you’re being considered by yet another new client.


Goldie Hawn – Quoted

2009-05-23Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Once you can laugh at your own weaknesses, you can move forward. Comedy breaks down walls. It opens up people. If you’re good, you can fill up those openings with something positive. Maybe… combat some of the ugliness in the world.”

–Goldie Hawn, US actress & comedienne (1945 – )


“I’d much rather be a part of the remedy than the disease.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I love the idea of laughter being the antidote to the ugliness in the world. All of a sudden my choice to pursue a career that puts laughter into the world seems like a much nobler choice. If, through what I’ve chosen to do, I can lighten peoples hearts, if only for the duration of my show, I feel that I’ve achieved what I was put on this planet to do..

Becky Hoops • Interviews from the Inside

2009-05-221Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: Kingston Busker’s Rendezvous 2008 I’m back for my 10th time in 20 years of the Festival’s Existence… From out of nowhere pops this no nonsense, take control of the situation firecracker of a performer full of enthusiasm, vim, vigor and life… We didn’t talk much that weekend, but Miss Becky Priebe certainly left an impression… It wasn’t until we had a bit more time to hang out at the Nanjing Clown Carnival that we spoke much and became better friends. With out a doubt it was her ‘anything is possible, lets make it happen’ approach to performing that won me over and continues to endear her to my heart. She’s a keeper!


Name: Becky Priebe – Becky Hoops
Birthday: 18 August
Place of Birth: Whitecourt, AB, Canada
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: 2003
Discipline: Clown/Hoops
Website: http://www.beckyhoops.com
Video Link: check out website… there are lots
Venues Worked: uh….lots

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? Chocolate fudge….because…isn’t it obvious??
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great filmsFrida
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? My brother
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?Violet Morrison
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in?Wonder Woman, Marilyn Monroe and a Fraggle (i know its hard to imagine… but I am a weird mix of a girl!)
  6. Name something that scares you.Centipedes
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had.Page at the Alberta Legislature
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try?Biking across Canada
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer?Ugly hotel curtains
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • Welcome

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

Breathing on stage is important. It lets the public breathe and enjoy.

–Becky Priebe


Put it up to Eleven!

2009-05-21Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

The classic scene from “This is Spinal Tap” goes like this –

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…

Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?

Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.

Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?

Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.

Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.

Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?

Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

It’s one of those classic movie scenes that gets quoted over and over and over or at least it does in my world. Just the thought of being able to take one’s performance that extra notch, to have the ability to ‘Put it up to eleven’ has a mythical property that I think everyone feels they’d like to have in there arsenal.

There are those shows when the planets align, when there’s a convergence of the energy that you’re putting out and the way that the audience responds, when you as a performer seemingly can do no wrong… Those heady moments are the stuff of dreams and semi-addictive reason why many performers keep walking out on stage in the first place.

In situations like that there’s almost no need for putting it to eleven… The magic comes seemingly from no where. I’ve actually found that it’s the times when the magic isn’t flowing that having that eleven in your back pocket comes in most useful. One of those days when you’re just not ‘Feeling it’ what ever the reason. The audience doesn’t know that this day is different for you and they should still get a great show.

I’ve actually found that I learn more from my show when I do shows on days like these. Something about being in an off mood lets me look at my show in a different way and either take risks or do things that I might not otherwise do. Taking my show into new territory forces me to react differently and this breaths new life into old routines. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s now, but the simple act of having to think on my feet and figure out a way to make things work usually makes the performance more immediate and spontaneous which means I’m not just dialing it in.

So… On those days when the magic isn’t coming, when you’re just not feeling it, keep a little something extra hidden a way so you can Put it to eleven and thank Nigel Tufnel for not accepting a louder ten as a substitute for those times when you need to push over the cliff!


Working at Sporting Events

2009-05-20Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Vancouver Whitecaps Soccer Club have a long standing tradition of hiring live entertainment to perform at Swangard Stadium prior to games as well as during the half time break. I’ve done the gig a number of times when the Whitecaps have had home games and am usually one of a couple of variety entertainers as well as a live band who are hired to perform. I think it’s awesome that the Whitecaps puts on such a great show for the fans that come to support their team, but this is by no means the only opportunity I’ve had to work the fringes of professional sports.

When the Hockey All-Stars Game came to Vancouver about ten years ago a ton of local entertainers were hired to perform during the festivities. Some went all out to incorporate a hockey theme into their performance, others were simply hired to do great shows for the fans who came to experience all that the All-Star Game had to offer. I was really impressed with the level of organization, audience turn out and how much fun it was to perform in this environment.

My friend Geoff Cobb hooked up with an agent a few years ago who specializes in finding acts for halftime shows and the like and know that Geoff has performed at quite a number of events.

Another friend of mine, Barrett Felker, who performs as one half of the Gizmo Guys toured with the Harlem Globetrotters for a season or two early in his career doing a juggling show for their half time spot.

Vancouver based acrobats Peter Boulanger and Ninon Parent have also taken their show to the basketball court for half time shows.

Other friends, Sem and Teresa of Semcycle Fame have worked for a ton of NBA franchises with their unicycle show.

All this to say that opportunities to perform at professional sports events exist all over the place and some performers have focused a lot of energy on promoting specifically to this market. It’s important to understand before you walk into one of these gigs that you’re rarely (if ever) the reason that sports fans come to these events and many may leave to go visit the concession stands while you’re doing your act, but if you can pull out all of the stops and hammer home a great show you’ll no doubt have a blast performing for a huge crowd in a huge venue… Heck… It’s the closest thing to performing in a modern day gladiatorial ring that you’re likely to experience, so why not jump at the adventure!


Worth the Read

2009-05-19Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

When I turned twenty one my Mom gave me a copy of ‘The Wealthy Barber’ by David Chilton. It’s a pretty easy read and gave me a bit of a foundation for how not to go broke as a Juggler. The basic concept that it taught was to ‘Pay Yourself First’ – take a portion of your income (how ever much that might be) and set it aside as investment capital. The let that investment capital become a secondary income stream and one, thanks to the beauty of compound interest, that would eventually make anyone, even a barber into a wealthy individual.

Years later I was given another book, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki which also affected how I look at money. This book covered a number of different lessons that ‘The Wealthy Barber’ hadn’t, but the points that I liked the most was how it differentiated good debt and bad debt and the difference between an Asset and a Liability. Good debt makes you money and contributes to your cash flow, bad debt costs you money and creates a negative cash flow. An Asset is something that makes you money where as a Liability is something that takes money out of your pocket.

Over the years I’ve read other books on what to do with money as well and have learned simple lessons like – very few people actually get rich off of the income from a traditional job. You need to create multiple streams of income to create wealth. Actually just about every book I’ve read on investment has taught me something.

Now money certainly isn’t everything and if, as a performer it turns into your main drive and focus then you might want to reconsider your career choice as there are much more lucrative careers out there, but if you love being on stage and want to keep doing what you do, then having a bit of financial savvy will likely make the journey a lot less stressful should the phone stop ringing for one reason or another.


Every Job comes with a Uniform

2009-05-18Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I was in Victoria on a port day while sailing aboard the Serenade of the Seas this past week and hooked up with a friend who’s a former stock broker. He picked me up in dirty jeans and a t-shirt and we stopped off at the grocery store, grabbed some sushi and went back to his float home and sat on the roof-top deck and enjoyed a remarkably pleasant lunch and some fabulous conversation…

At one point he started talking about how his job as a stock broker demanded a certain uniform. That there was an expectation that he’d be in a well made business suit and that the Rolex on his wrist wasn’t for vanity’s sake, it was expected. He commented that the day he was able to take the watch off his wrist when he gave up being a broker was one of the happiest days of his life… He was very happy to give up ‘The Uniform’ he was expected to wear.

It got me thinking about the Uniform or Uniforms that I’ve chosen for myself… Early on the checkerboard motif started appearing in my costume and became so identifiable that people gave me the monicker “The Checkerboard Guy” because it was an easy way to refer to me. Because the “Uniform” became so ubiquitous with my show and my performance identity, it soon became an excellent hook to use in marketing. People recognized the pattern and associated it with me – the name followed, the marketing after that. It’s been a successful formula that’s served me well for well over two decades now.

What ever the uniform is that you choose to adorn yourself with when you perform, realized that it serves a multitude of functions not the least of which is how you choose to market yourself. Being conscious of this as you go in may help you make the best possible wardrobe choices that will serve you and your persona both on and off stage.


W.C. Fields – Quoted

2009-05-16Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy.”

–W.C. Fields, US comedian, actor and juggler (1880 – 1946)


“Circular Logic is the friend of the clown and comedian!”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I’m such a huge fan of the way W.C. Fields had some jokes that doubled back on themselves to create a complete circle. The set-up leads to the punch-line which leads back to the set-up… There’s a simple beauty in this justification which breaths a wonderful comedic elegance.


David Lichtenstein • Interviews from the Inside

2009-05-15Where in the world am I today?: Aboard the Serenade of the Seas which is docked in Vicotria, BC at the moment.

Prologue: It’s a bit of a blur really, but I have vague memories of seeing David Lichtenstein at the 1987 Juggling Convention in Saints, France… Though I could be wrong. I do however remember that our paths crossed at the Festival D’été De Québec in 1993. We were both hired to perform at the gig and I remember bumping into Dave and chatting with him between shows. I was struck immediately with not only his impressive repertoire of skills, but also his easy going nature with his audience. The combination of these assets and the cowboy theme to his show made him an obvious choice for the Street Stars Program at the PNE, and it was great to have him be a part of the program in 2008.


Name: David Lichtenstein – “LeapinLouie Lichtenstein the most explosive Lithuanian Jewish Cowboy Juggling Comedian to ever come out of Oregon.
Birthday: 6/5/1960 please update every year starting 2010 to keep me perpetually 49
Place of Birth: Michigan
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: 1983
Discipline: Cowboy Comedy Show
Website: http://www.comedytricks.com
Video Link: http://www.comedytricks.com/Leapin_Louie/Leapin_Louie_Promo_Videos.html
Venues Worked: 22 countries around the world

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? Coffee almond fudge. The greatest juggling feat of my life was when I was 11-years old. I was riding my bike with a double scoop of jamocha almond fudge and coconut when both scoops fell off the cone separately. My hand came off the handlebars, scooped one scoop, the other, back on the cone, and back to the handlebars without crashing. (I could not ride without hands at the time.) It’s been down hill ever since that juggling peak of my life. Perhaps I’ve never faced that degree of life or death need in a moment again.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great filmsFunny Bones
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? GI Joe doll. Play ranged from domestic scenes, eating cereal with GI Joe, to torture.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?Oregon Country Fair performers like The Flying Karamazovs and Waldo– Paul Burke.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in?Gaston LaGaffe, a french comic book character is a favorite influence.
  6. Name something that scares you.Scared of snakes even though we have two in the house.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had.Treeplanter. There’s a good hard Northwest job. Busboy, disherwasher, line cook, bean canner, strawberry picker, school teacher; bad jobs.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try?Scuba diving, surfing, parachuting, novel writing, kiwi farmer, sailing.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer?Always looking for work, for the next job.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?Good try.

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

Time is the only coin of your life. Dont’ let others spend it for you!”

–David Lichtenstein


There’s a reason to pre-test things…

2009-05-14Where in the world am I today?: Aboard the Serenade of the Seas cruising the Inside Passage.

OK… In the foreground of the picture… A prototype rocket I’m looking at using in a show I’m building. In the background a large pine tree that towers something like a hundred plus feet in the air… Inadvertently put the two together – possible Darwin Awards here I come!

Right off the bat I must admit that this isn’t he first time that I’ve used a rocket like this. Back in 2002 I teamed up with John Ullyatt and Iori Mikumo to for a group we called The Executives. In that show we launched the rocket and had it pull underwear out of our pants… Oh yeah… Totally highbrow humor…

This time around the rocket is being used to demonstrate the super strength of my new show partner – William T. Wiener, The Worlds Most Fearless Flying Frankfurter who will attempt to hold back lift off of the rocket with just his super strength and his teeth

Now with The Executives Show I think we actually used 1.5 litre bottles from Japan for the body of the rocket. I have since used 2 litre bottles for these rockets in a more recreational setting, but for this show I wanted to try and used 1 litre bottles for the rocket’s construction. Step one – buy 5 one litre bottles and drink the contents… Step two build the rocket… Step three test the rocket…

It all seemed so easy… Steps one and two came off with out a hitch, but it was when I got to step three that I really didn’t quite think things through…

I should probably also mention at this point that Willie the Wiener is a stuffed dog toy with a squeaker in it… I’m still questioning the sanity of the decision to make him my partner, but that’s a completely different story…

Rocket’s Built… Lets test things out. Now in the context of the show I envision strapping Willie into his Super Hero Restraining Station. Some sort of chair like device with lots of seat belts… For the purposes of the test launch… A string tied to a loop in his fabric – Done!

Haven’t built a mouth for him to hold a ring attached to the string that’ll be attached to the rocket in yet… Hmmmm… No problem… This safety pin should do the trick – right?!? Done.

Rocket? Check! • Hot Dog? Check! • Restraining Device? Check! Every thing is ready to go (or so I thought). Fill the rocket with water, attached it to the launch pad, pump it up with air – All is good. Recheck to make sure things are secure – Good!

And launch…

OK… I have to admit that it came as a bit of a surprise that Willie wasn’t able to actually prevent the rocket from lifting off… Not that it was his fault though… The weak link in the mock up test launch was the safety pin instead of the mouth ring as it really didn’t take all that much force to pull the safety pin open and allow the rocket to go flying. That safe safety pin attached to the string attached to the rocket also acted as a nice grappling hook so as the rocket hit the tree in the back yard around 80 feet off the ground and started to make it’s way down the pin quite happily hooked onto a branch preventing the rocket from falling down the rest of the way to the ground… DOH!

So there I am looking at the launch pad, making sure that my partner Willie is OK.Then turning my head and seeing the rocket dangling about 70 feet off the ground in the pine tree in the back and all I can think of is –

“Hey… I can just climb up the tree and get the rocket back.”

First step – Get a ladder that’ll reach up to the lower branches – done.

Second step – Repeat over and over in my head the following statement –

“I was an idiot to launch the rocket into the tree in the first place I’ll be an even bigger idiot of I fall out of the tree trying to get the rocket back!”

Step Three – Realize that this mantra I’ve repeated over and over again as I climb the tree, retrieve the rocket and make my way back down the tree has actually had the effect of tensing up my muscles WAY WAY more than had I simply climbed up, grabbed it and climbed back down… That or I’m just getting old, but I like the former explanation better.

Step Four – take the rest of the day off and feel my leg muscles just throbbing!!!

Several important lessons were learned by this test launch and I’m pleased to report that subsequent launches have been far more successful than the very first one that had the rocket end up in the tree…

I highly recommend pushing yourself with new artistic challenges as they often shed light on all sorts of unseen possibilities and opportunities for artistic growth. I anticipate as I get closer to the debut of the Willie the Wiener Show at this year’s PNE I may have some other stories to tell of lessons learned. For the time being though know this –

A safety pin isn’t really strong enough to hold back the lift off of a pop bottle water rocket.


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