~ The Checkerboard Guy's Blog ~

Archive for September, 2009

Church Groups

2009-09-30Where in the world am I today?: At Sea aboard the STAR Princess in the South Pacific

In Monday’s post which featured that picture of a Jone Green Apple Soda bottle, I made sure to credit my friend David Duchemin for having plastered his mug all over the bottle and it got me to thinking about a market that David very pro-actively marketed his show to – churches. Now this isn’t a market for everyone, but David happened to have studied to be a youth pastor and his show had nothing in it that could really be deemed to be at all offensive, so for him it was a perfect fit. Because of his theological training he could also put a bit of a ministry-spin on the performance and I always liked how he put it…

“We’re all made in God’s Image, and Laughter is a celebration of the image of God, so when we laugh, we’re in communion with God!”

I’m paraphrasing, but it was just the sort of message that gave his performance an edge in a market that wanted to deliver a positive message to a congregation of like-minded spiritual viewers. This was an audience full of people who didn’t want to be insulted, condescended to or made fun of because of their belief structure and David’s show was a perfect fit!

Now personally I never really felt entirely comfortable performing in a religious setting – somehow I always feel like religious people are trying to convert me – but that’s just me. The truth of the matter is that there are some very large, very powerful, very wealthy religious groups who are happy to spend money on the sort of entertainment that they feel supports and celebrates their belief structure, and this can be a very lucrative market.

I’ve been listening to a radio show put out by Alan Cross in which he discusses the ‘Ongoing History of New Music’ and although variety entertainment and rock shows are a slightly different kettle of fish, I really enjoyed his show on Christian Rock and how certain bands hit it big in the ‘Christian’ market before crossing over to the main stream. The biggest example being Creed.

Christian groups not to mention other religious groups, often have a budget to spend on entertainment, and if you can craft your performance to fit in with their sensibilities (and ideally your own) then this is a market that has a huge potential!

Name Tags… There’s a reason for them!

2009-10-29Where in the world am I today?: Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

So this tip comes to you based on a fairly recent personal experience… Back on the 9th of September (gee… I guess that’s three weeks ago now…somehow it seems more recent than that, likely because it left such an impression, but I’m completely off topic…) I flew from Vancouver up to Ketchikan to join the Golden Princess for a gig. Typically for cruise ship work I travel with three checked bags. One that carries my ladder and unicycle, another for props and a third for clothing and costumes. This trip was no different. I checked all three bags in at the airport in Vancouver, but when I actually got to Ketchikan, only two of the three pieces arrived.

Thankfully the two that did arrive included all of my props and I was able to figure out some bits and pieces costume-wise that allowed me to pull of my performances, but it was a bit of a scramble to make it all happen.

So what happened? Was this simply a case of the bag not making it onto the plane?

Turns out that the destination tag that tells the baggage handlers at the airport where the case is bound for had got caught in one of the conveyor belts and ripped off the case. The only way that the baggage handlers were able to trace the bag was as a result of the name tags that I had on the handle of the case. I also had an Air Canada luggage tag on the case too, so the bag first got transferred to Air Canada’s lost luggage department, then they used the name tag to call my home number.

I followed up with a phone call the next morning and with in two days the bag was delivered to the ship in Victoria and I was good to go for the rest of the contract. Thank goodness those tags didn’t get ripped off the case as well!

So – This week’s tip for Tuesday is this… Make sure all of the bags you travel with have ‘robust’ name tags on them and my suggestion on that front is to laminate a business card with your contact information on it, punch a hole in it then get some thin but durable nylon cord and use it to hold the tag to your case(s). A slightly more accident-proof name tag will give you a slightly better chance of getting your case back should things go sideways and you and your luggage be separated.

My Jones Bottles

2009-09-28Where in the world am I today?: Flying from Honolulu to Hilo then on to the STAR Princess

Today’s cool marketing tip comes to you thanks to my buddy David Duchemin, formerly “The Rubber Chicken Guy!” Dave now works as a humanitarian photographer and has also authored a very popular book on photographic vision entitled ‘Within the Frame.’

Anyway, back in his days as “The Rubber Chicken Guy” he wore a bright green suit and had catch phrases in his marketing like ‘Green, It’s the new Funny’ so this whole green image thing became a very big part of his promotional materials. Then one day he showed up on my doorstep and handed me a bottle of Jones Green Apple Soda with his picture all over the label.

As it turns out, it’s a pretty easy thing to get done. Just head over to


And order up some of your very own soda in a flavor/colour that most suits your image and have your image plastered all over the bottle’s label… It’s the sort of thing that’s sure to leave an impression and is likely something that people will end up talking about well after they’ve enjoyed the soda!

Donald H. Rumsfeld – Quoted

2009-09-26Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

Donald H. Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense (1932 – )


“I used to hide from the critics, now I seek them out… I listen, I learn, and try to remember that not all criticism is constructive. Often the comments that are less useful say more about the person who’s giving than they do about me and what I’m doing, but even in that there’s learning to be gleaned.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

From one quote to another… My Grandfather used to tell me that –

“Everyone can teach you something even if it’s what ‘not’ to be like.”

Criticism in what ever form can be incredibly useful if you’ve got the right ears to actually hear what’s being said and from whom it’s being said. If you can develop a tough enough skin to listen to the critics and glean what them what is useful while disregarding the rest then you’re likely super-human. The rest of us can at least attempt to not have the critics effect us too much!

Alex Clark • Interviews from the Inside

2009-09-25Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: (Project Dynamite – Part 2) I met the Project Dynamite boys on June 30, 2009 in Ottawa in the Byward Market. Through the wonders of Facebook I was headed down to the Market to meet up with Al Millar who was also in Ottawa to perform on Canada Day (July 1) and when I got down to the Market there were somewhat of a pow-wow going on with performers from all over all descending on the Nation’s Capital to do street shows on the Nation’s Birthday. I was totally impressed that the boys were traveling with their own video-grapher and ended up checking out a bunch of their on-line offerings. This eventually lead to them landing a 5-days gig as part of the 2009 PNE Street Stars Program. Great guys, full of youthful energy and the determination to make their show the best it can be.


Name: Alexander Gregory Clark .
Birthday: February 1, 1985.
Place of Birth: Virginia, USA.
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: Started as a balloon twister and stilt walker for Fly By Night Entertainment
Discipline: Comedy entrepreneur.
Website: http://www.projectdynamite.com
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/projectdynamite
Video Link: http://www.YouTube.com/projectdynamite
Venues Worked: This week alone we’ve done gigs in Ontario, Wyoming, Ohio, New York, and Iowa. Anywhere that people like to laugh. Colleges, Art Festival, Fairs, Fringes, Busker Festivals, The Streets, 1 synagogue (never again).

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Cookies and cream. But ice cream is my addiction so it was hard for me to pick.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • The only one I can remember was an oval shaped koala bear that had a pouch in the front to hold cool stuff in.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • The first acts I ever saw were Alakazam and Gazzo in Faneuil Hall. I vividly remember Gazzo saying he didn’t get paid like all the other jugglers there. I believed him.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • When I was little I wanted to be a Disney animator. Then I found out you had to draw naked people all the time and I didn’t want to do it anymore.  I’m going to have to say Max from a goofy movie. Just because I loved that badass dance routine prank he does at the beginning of the movie.
  6. Name something that scares you.Heights.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • I sold digital cameras at Best Buy for a few months in college.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? Skydiving.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • Meeting great great people and then having to say goodbye the very next day. I hate that.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “FINALLY! I’ve been waiting forever for this. Can you sign my poster?”

The Nugget:

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

“I was doing some work for an old lady and when it came time to pay me she asked would I like check or cash.  I was being indecisive and so she said “People don’t know what you want unless you ask them for it.”

It’s 100% true about everything. If you want gigs, ask people for gigs.”

–Alex Clark

You can’t cross the finish line until you actually start the race…

2009-09-24Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Have you ever had one of those days where you look at what’s on your list of things to do and you quite simply feel a little overwhelmed? I got an email from my friend Ben Robinson recently in which it sounded like he just didn’t have it in him to get to ‘The Pile’ as I like to call it.

Now typically I face my largest ‘Piles’ when I just get back from a trip and have that stack of stuff sitting on my desk that’s accumulated while I’ve been away along with the stuff that I brought home with me that needs to be dealt with as part of the clean-up/tidy-up from what ever trip I was just on. Sometimes (like at the moment for example) I’m still tidying up from trips and gigs that were completed weeks ago, but I’ve been so busy that I just haven’t gotten to the remaining loose ends yet.

It can be a bit daunting when you stare at an overwhelming pile of ‘to-dos’ with out any real clue where to begin, and this can often lead you to procrastinate and finding just about anything else that can be done instead of just starting something. Trust me, I’m well aware of this syndrome.

In the end however, it’s been my experience that the hardest part of the process is getting started. Once things have begun, choices and decision make themselves apparent. Even if it means starting, then going back and restarting to do things in a better way, it’s important just to take those first few steps towards the task at hand so that you don’t continually stall what ever project it is from any chance of becoming a reality.

This post is a pretty real example of the fact that I’m guilty of putting stuff off myself… I’ve spent the better part of the day trying to get to this post. I typically try to have blog posts go live at 12:01 am each morning and here it is nearly 2:00 pm and I’m still writing it. Doh!

If you find yourself with a desk full of projects or a series of goals that your trying to achieve that somehow seems beyond reach, stop for a moment. Re-prioritize things to determine which one thing you should work on first, then put everything else aside and get to work on that one thing. Chances are you’ll get through it more quickly than you first imagined and there’ll be one less thing in ‘The Pile’ taunting you. Get to the end of one thing at a time until gradually you wrestle ‘The Pile’ into submission and the clutter is replaced with clarity.

Onward and upward!

The College Market Revistied…

2009-09-23Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

A while back I got an email from my friend Guy Collins asking me what I knew about the College Market. I wrote back explaining that my knowledge was a bit limited, much of which I wrote about in a recent-ish blog post here… He took that information, followed up on it and asked another friend, Wacky Chad, some more questions and recently sent me another email with this additional information as a follow-up on some of what he discovered… Here then is some additional information about booking shows in the College Market thanks to Guy Collins and Wacky Chad –

From Guy –

Here is what I have found out about the college gig scene.

1. You have to join sonicbids.com – This is OK but it does cost at least $5.99 a month for a basic EPK (Electronic Press Kit). I have got some good leads from sonicbids but as yet no concrete bookings! Check them out yourself. Typically, agents who book for the US colleges will only look at you if you have a sonicbids EPK though I know Gazzo got enlisted by an agent who just knew of him!

2. If you are going to represent yourself you need to join NACA and or COCA, this is very expensive. $710-00 for NACA and about $250? for COCA. Then you have to be selected to go to one of their conferences which you have to buy booth space at which again costs you approx $250-.

(NACA is North American Campus Activities. COCA is the Canadian equivalent.)

This additional information from Whacky Chad –

When I joined sonicbids I had no idea what to expect, I just put up a really nice EPK on there and an agent saw it and my video – liked it and picked me up. So, based on my experience, try submiting you’re website, and sonicbids EPK to agents.

Also, try walking in to the student activities board (or find the contact us part of local colleges and email them from their website or send them promo to address with special note that your trying to break into the college market). Ask someone at the college who and where to go to give your promo to that deals with campus activities and entertainment. Meet and greet this individual in person if you can. Go to a few colleges in your area and explain who you are, what you do and how long you’ve been around for. Basically do cold calls to your local schools to try and get the ball rolling.

If you say you’re trying to break into the college market and would perform a show for a discounted price (like $400-$700) they may go for it. Then tell them you’ll help promote yourself around campus, make posters, flyers etc. Basically try and get a lot of students to come even if it costs money out of you’re pocket to do the advertising.

If you go this route, check out – gotprint.com – for HIGH quality flyers, and make your self look as good as possible. Spend the extra money and get the dual side color flyers (not cheap B&W paper flyers). This is very much a case of spending money to make money. Do what ever it takes to secure that first show. I would maybe even print 10 big posters of your act and frame them to hang up around campus explaining when and where the show will be. Make the posters so you can change the date and time and location.

Once you book the show, get a professional to video tape your amazing college show and edit the quality video footage into a slick package that you can then put on sonicbids and you’re own website and make sure you clearly state that you specialize in college shows on you’re website.

Other Important info about college gigs:

  • They like super-funny!
  • Be extremely personable!
  • Make yourself easy to book – this includes a tech rider that is not overly complicated
  • Great promo and easy to download!
  • You’re act has to have “the college look” – that’s what I’m still trying to figure out. One that says this show is perfect for college students.

Phone vs. Email

2009-09-22Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’ve been getting more emails related to my blog recently which is quite encouraging… It means that people are actually reading the content I continue to generate and not only that, but are actually asking me interesting questions and suggesting ideas for additional content… Today is an example of that. I had two recent-ish emails that lent themselves well to being put together into a single post, so here goes.

Bob Cates and I had an exchange in which we discussed the relative merits of doing business over the phone vs. doing business via email. My take on the situation was that I more often than not ignore my phone and try to do most of my business via email… I just prefer to be able to think out my responses and have a written document to go back to if I need to check details…

He countered with –

I find that often, email can take up way more time, and drag things out because

  • you need to go back and forth some times a few times to clarify things
  • some people take for ever to respond (to say nothing of even getting or reading their email, due to who knows why)
  • people (clients) can ignore email
  • on my mac mail, I can’t get a read receipt like in my old outlook (do you know if it’s possible?)

Although the benefits you mentioned ARE good, it can be easier to “connect” by phone.

Good points and I agree with all of them, but I think in the end it comes down to personal preference. Often when I’m away from home in a different time zone or unable to easily deal with whatever it takes to get through on a phone call connecting to wifi and sending a message that the receiver can open when ever they see fit just works more seamlessly for me. This may also seem weird, but although I really love technology, I never seemed to have been bitten by the whole cel phone thing – calling friends all the time, texting, being reachable 24/7… Something about that just never clicked for me… I tend to prefer to go the email route as it allows me to choose when I want to be in contact with the world and when I’d rather not… Just the way I’m wired I think…

And since we’re on the topic of email, I got this from my friend Jay Gilligan recently –

How you deal with emails? What I mean is, especially when I’m on the road (which is all the time these years, have to travel to pay the rent!), it takes me all my office time to just read the new emails coming in, let alone writing back and dealing with all the old ones!!! So usually I let it build up and then once a week I’ll take way too long to write everyone back (like I’m doing to you now!). Truly Remarkable Loon had a nice philosophy a few years ago when he said that he just straight away deletes everything that he won’t write back to right away. Like if he gets an email from a friend that’s nice to hear from… but he knows deep down that even it would be nice to write back, he doesn’t have the time so he doesn’t pretend to worry about it and throws it away. I think he has a very clean inbox!

The answer to this one for me is simple… I do my very best to clear out as many emails from my inbox as I can on a daily basis… I used to be prone to responding to every single email I got, but I’ve learned that some emails don’t actually require a response. For some bizarre reason I always felt like I needed to have the last word in any given email correspondence, but I’ve learned that actually I don’t. If a conversation has reached the end of it’s life after one or two messages I just stop responding. Some emails seem to demand a response, especially ones of a business nature, but others, (like much of the notifications I get from Facebook) can just be filled instantly into the ‘received/read’ bin and left at that. When I do get around to connecting to Facebook I can, with one foul swoop just go in and click all of the buttons at once for a full week or two and be done with it.

Learn to prioritize and respond to only those emails that require a time sensitive response. The rest can wait. Often I’ll get up in the morning, have a look at my inbox, deal with anything that can or must be dealt with quickly then spend the rest of the day letting the content of other emails percolate away in my brain so that when I do sit down to respond to them I’ve had a good couple of hours to determine exactly how much I actually want to write and how I want to write it. By doing this I seem to spend less time trying to figure out exactly what I want to say and get through the inbox two-step that much more quickly…

French scientist, Blaise Pascal once said –

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

And there really is something to the idea of giving your head a bit of extra time to figure out how to say what you want to say in the most efficient way possible… Give yourself a couple of hours to process the information and your responses will come out more quickly.

Got an idea for content for this blog? Let me know I’m more than happen to share the contents of my brain with those that are interested.

Benefits of a Regular Mailing

2009-09-21Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

For almost a year now I’ve been proactively marketing myself to several cruise lines as a way to augment the work that my agent does for me. Now some might say that it’s the job of the agent to pro-actively market me to the lines, but I view my relationship with my agent as team effort. This particular agent only takes a 10% commission on gigs, so it’s not like they’re making so much off me that they can really afford the materials or time to sell me as much as I’d like to be sold, so I ran the idea past them of a semi-regular direct mailing to keep my face crossing the desk of the various entertainment buyers for the cruise industry and they were happy to OK my efforts to assist.

Is it a lot of work? Well, the reality is that these semi-regular mailings (about once every 6 – 8 weeks or so) aren’t all that hard to create and there are only 12 lines that I mail to, so it doesn’t really require all that much effort on my behalf, and the simple exercise of making the effort achieves two things – 1. It puts my face on the desk of the buyers for these 12 lines once ever month or two and 2. – It shows good faith on my part to my agent and demonstrates a willingness to make and extra effort to sell my show. It really doesn’t take that much time to get the postcards into the mail and the benefits far out weigh the relatively small investment of time to make it happen.

What do I include on the postcards? First off I either send out one of my Promotional Postcards or a large format postcard (5 x 7) that I then doctor up with my image so that it shows images of me in some sort of interesting location… I did this at the beginning of the Alaska Cruise Season with a picture of me super-imposed onto the Vancouver Cruise Ship Terminal and suggested that cruise lines consider using a guy who already lives in the place that many of the ships depart from – seemed logical to me…

Each postcard has a similar format. First I put a quote at the top (someone important saying something great about me), next comes the sales pitch where I try to sell the benefits of hiring me. This is followed by an appeal or a ‘call to action’ and each card ends with the contact information for my agent. That’s it. Nothing too complicated, just a chance to have my picture cross the desk of the buyer’s desk and suggest that hey… This is a guy you should hire!

I did this with another agent years ago and after a year of doing it with very little in the way of hard core results I started to question wether it was actually worth doing or not. Then I got a gig at one of the venues I’d been sending cards to and when I showed up, there on the wall next to the desk of the person who I had been sending cards to was a bulletin board covered with my face… I never doubted the benefits of this sort of mailing again. You may not get a gig in the week or the month or the year after one of these mailings has been sent out, but eventually you likely will and if you booked one gig from having sent out five, ten or twenty postcards, well likely that one gig more than compensates for the effort of doing the mailings in the first place.

Jim Hightower – Quoted

2009-09-19Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Do something. If it doesn’t work, do something else. No idea is too crazy.”

Jim Hightower, American Radio Commentator, writer, public speaker (1943 – )


“Eventually, if you keep throwing crazy ideas out there like throwing spaghetti on the wall, you’ll be amazed at what sticks…”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I think one of the things I liked most about doing the new Hot Dog Show at the PNE was the fact that I gave myself permission to try just about anything. Because I didn’t really have any pre-conceived notions about what ideas would work and which wouldn’t I tried just about anything to get a response from the audience. Along the way I was amazed at which things ‘worked’ and equally surprised by the things that didn’t. Not so much a case of teaching an old dog new tricks as it was a chance to play with a mind wide open to what ever opportunity presented and the wonderful gifts I received everyday from the audiences that watched my shows.

Dave Kaplan • Interviews from the Inside

2009-09-18Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: (Project Dynamite – Part 1) I met the Project Dynamite boys on June 30, 2009 in Ottawa in the Byward Market. Through the wonders of Facebook I was headed down to the Market to meet up with Al Millar who was also in Ottawa to perform on Canada Day (July 1) and when I got down to the Market there were somewhat of a pow-wow going on with performers from all over all descending on the Nation’s Capital to do street shows on the Nation’s Birthday. I was totally impressed that the boys were traveling with their own video-grapher and ended up checking out a bunch of their on-line offerings. This eventually lead to them landing a 5-days gig as part of the 2009 PNE Street Stars Program. Great guys, full of youthful energy and the determination to make their show the best it can be.


Name: Dave Kaplan.
Birthday: January 24, 1985 (I expect presents from everyone).
Place of Birth: New York City, NY, USA.
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: At age 15
Discipline: Anything for a laugh.  More specifically stunts, comedy and skill.
Website: www.projectdynamite.com
Video Link: www.YouTube.com/projectdynamite
Venues Worked: Hmm. There have been a ton. My favorites are arts festivals, food festivals, and pretty much anything in Canada.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? Rocky Road because it’s textures range from really soft to crunchy. Marshmellows make life worth living.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films.Forrest Gump; It’s epic.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Believe it or not, it was a stick. Just a regular 3 foot varnished broom stick. I had a lot of toys but to a kid with a good imagination a stick is pretty versitle.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • Keith Nelson from the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Tyler Fyre, the Raspyni Brothers, and of course the one and only Checkerboard Guy! .
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • I have always felt a strong connection with Rocko from Rocko’s Modern Life. Check it out if you have never seen it.
  6. Name something that scares you. • Swimming with fish. Snorkeling and scuba are out of the question. No other fears though.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Candy man. Seriously. I worked in the gourmet candy industry for years.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? Sky Diving.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • Being away from the people I care about for long periods is by far the worst part of the job.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • I would most like him to simply say, “good job” and pat me on the back.

The Nugget:

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

Everything you do no matter how small it is, has the potential to effect someone else’s life forever. Sometimes in a profound way.

–Dave Kaplan

Quirk Appeal…

2009-09-17Where in the world am I today?: Ketchikan, AK, USA on my way back to North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Part of the fun of show building is seeing what sort of crazy props you can find to help tell what ever story your show is built around. Not admittedly I’ve lived most of my life as a comedy juggler and tools of that trade seem to be fairly ubiquitous… Clubs, Balls, Cigar Boxes, Juggling Machetes, Torches, Unicycles, blah blah blah… Magicians (unless they’ve created their own routines from scratch) also tend to carry similar props to one another – cards, coins, ropes, rings, etc. These things become the tools of the trade and it’s not the prop that’s important, it’s often the personality of the person manipulating the props that ends up drawing the focus of the performance.

With my latest adventure in show building, ‘The Hot Dog Show,’ I got to think a bit outside the box in terms of the tools I used to tell the story of a six inch tall stuffed Dog Toy shaped like a Hot Dog who happened to be an Unprecedented Stunt Performing Super Hero. Getting the audience to buy into the concept was the first challenge, but beyond the challenge of getting them to accept the premise of the show was the challenge of finding props that had what I refer to as ‘quirk appeal’ – that unique ability to capture the intrigue of an audience simply based on it’s appearance and perhaps people’s pre-conceived notion of what ‘should’ be done with that object.

Prior to the show’s debut I tried to get as many of the elements in place as I could, but it was inevitable that during the course of the run I came up with other ideas for things I’d like to add to the mix to increase the resonance of the performance and add funky little elements to the scene that would give me more to play with and provide an increased intrigue for the audience.

The show itself is set up around three super stunts, and prior to the show debuting I had a red flashing light that I pulled out at key moments of the show to help build tension before the execution of the stunt… Over the course of the run I wanted to find more stuff to help create this anticipation before each stunt and came up with the idea of tracking down a cymbal playing monkey that I could bring out to add not only to dramatic tension, but also a completely abstract element of ridiculousness to the scene – a stunt Hot-Dog accompanied by a demonic looking cymbal playing monkey… How great would that be…

So I turned to the worlds largest garage sale – eBay – and sure enough I came across a ton of cymbal playing monkeys… The one I’m after is referred to as the ‘Jolly Chimp’ and though I’ve put bids in on a few that have come up I haven’t won my very own ‘Jolly Chimp’ yet… I will though… Trust me… I will! I mean look at that scary looking monkey… Even if, in the end, I decide not to add him to the cast of The Hot Dog Show, he’ll find a nice place on my desk and keep me company for years to come… No if I could only get my hands on one of those dippy birds… All in good time my friends… All in good time!

Trade Shows

2009-09-16Where in the world am I today?: Cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska aboard the Golden Princess

I’d totally forgotten about mentioning Trade Shows as a great market to work in until I had a woman approached me at the Pacific National Exhibition while I was doing The Hot Dog Show. She asked if I’d be interested in being an animated ‘Pitch Man’ at a trade show that her company had coming up in October. I gave her my email address and sure enough a few days later she followed up on our original conversation with an inquiry as to what would be involved in employing me.

Now, as it turned out, this particular opportunity is a show where one distributor is putting on demos and introductions of new products for their existing clients, and not quite the same scenario as a full blown trade show, but it got me to thinking that this would make an excellent topic for a post.

The picture that accompanies this post shows me at one of the Travel Trade Shows that I’ve done for the Canadian Tourism Commission in China. For what ever reason, my goofy performance really seems to connect with the Chinese public and I’ve been very lucky to have been asked to gather crowds to the Canadian Exhibit Space on the show room floors of several different show in China.

Now there are trade shows for just about every industry under the sun. The travel/tourism industry, the computer industry, the toy industry, the car industry etc. etc. Each of these industry shows are typically the same. Exhibitors pay for exhibit space, the larger the space, the more it costs the exhibitor.

The basic purpose that all exhibitors are aiming to achieve is to sell their product to the people who attend these industry shows. As a performer you can vastly increase the exposure of a specific exhibitor’s product if you are able to gather a crowd and create a dynamic interactive sales pitch for the product. This often involves creating a custom script that covers several key points that the exhibitor wants mentioned and incorporating them into a dynamic show that takes advantage of everything you already do as a performer. Basically you’re creating a hybrid of what you normally do the sales pitch for an industry related product.

My friend Anders Boulanger has been pro-actively trying to get more work in this market and took a course offered by a performer who had done trade show work for years. In a recent email to me he mentioned these very astute points –

  1. What I have been taught is that you create a crowd, convey a message and collect the leads.
  2. When I work for companies I am able to charge a message integration fee. That’s because I also “write the script” and create the metaphors I will use to get the benefits across.
  3. I urge companies to let me do some of my regular schtick so that I can “leverage their ability to communicate their message.”  The more I can make my skills an asset the more value I have and the more I can charge. I’ve found that you must tell companies what they want because most companies have no idea what they are doing.

Keep in mind this isn’t a market to look into if you don’t like working hard. At a typical full blown trade show you can expect to do a show every hour and can often end up doing between 6 and 10 shows in a day depending on the length of the show and the needs of the exhibitor. The days are long, but the rewards are also size-able, so if you’re able to convince a company that your ‘their guy’ when it comes time to sell their product at a trade show you can make big bucks in this market!

Create an inventory of your stuff!

2009-09-15Where in the world am I today?: Skagway, AK, USA aboard the Golden Princess

Part of today’s post was suggested by fellow performer Bob Cates who thought the following information might be helpful to other performers. Today’s subject is all about having an inventory of your stuff when you travel or a Carnet.

The benefits of having a ‘CARNET’

A carnet is a list of your equipment, stamped by customs, before you leave your home country, so that when you return home with all your equipment, you can “prove” that you had it before you left. This can potentially save you the time and frustration of being subjected to a long search as you return home. About 5-7 years ago, I kind of made my own, and discovered it was very helpful and not too hard. Here is what I did:

I typed up a list of all the equipment I travelled with (yah, pretty hard to estimate, so I just made the list of like everything I possibly ever could or did travel with) and their serial numbers, if a available. Then I drove down to the local customs office with the list and the equipment. I told them that I was a performer, which got them laughing and joking, and showed them my list. Then, after they have inspected my stuff (which after the first time, they NEVER did again), they just stamped my paper with a customs stamp.

Then, at the airport coming home, when asked if I had a Carnet , I would say yep, and show them this stamped list of all my stuff. Poof – no problem!

Bob also provided a link to an article about carnets that he found on the internet here.

A more recent example of where having an inventory list like this would have been useful came during the PNE this year. Project Dynamite (Alex Clark and Dave Kaplan) had their van broken into and had several items stolen including their laptops and a bag that contained one of their passports. I was really impressed by how ‘in stride’ the boys took the loss, but was also amazed with the frustration that hit periodically as it dawned on them  the extent of their loss when they remembered yet another thing that had been taken and to top it all off they didn’t have any insurance to cover the loss.

So, along with the suggestion of getting insurance to cover theft of your props comes the added suggestion of creating an inventory of what you travel with so that if you ever do get hit by theft and need to show an insurance company or police what was lost, you have a list handy that included an item description (along with serial numbers if available), when it was purchased and what it cost. Having a copy of this list that you can access on-line (much like a copy of your passport that I discussed here) would allow you to access it at any internet café in the case of emergency.

Help… Anyone???

2009-09-14Where in the world am I today?: Juneau, Alaska aboard the Golden Princess

Quite a while back I posted about how much I love the annual Trading Cards that I get done up… Well it’s that time of year again… The time of year when I need to either put my nose to the grindstone and come up with the new design myself, or else track someone else down who might be interested in helping come up with some design ideas/concepts that could eventually become the design for the 2010 card…

In the last couple of years I’ve opted to sit down and tackle the process myself… I’ve been reasonably happy with the results, but beyond the certain pleasure I get from coming up with the annual design, I’ve tried to avoid the challenge of having to explain how to create the design to someone who doesn’t necessarily get it…

Because I’ve been involved with the cards since the first year (1999), I totally get what the process is all about and have a pretty good grip on how to deliver a design that will look reasonably good when people mess around with the color scheme and put their own picture into the basic frame that gets created.

The challenge for me comes from wanting to have a design that’s eye-catching enough to provide a certain dynamic to the cards, yet not too over powering to what ever image is put inside the frame. One also needs to keep in mind that the printing/cutting process isn’t an exact science, so having a bit of space in the design to allow for these production variances is also a very good idea…

One of the things on my list of stuff to do while aboard the Golden Princess this week (beyond just doing my shows) was to start formulating a design for the 2010 cards… If anyone out there reading this blog has any brilliant ideas that they’d like to send my way I’d be more than happy to hear them… You can reach me via email or leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

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