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Archive for October, 2009

Hugh Macleod – Quoted

2009-10-31Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Your idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing. The more amazing, the more people will click with your idea. The more people click with your idea, the more it will change the world.”

Hugh Macleod, American cartoonist, blogger and author (1965 – )


“The search for those gem ideas isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth while… Stick with it and you’ll be amazed with where those ideas will take you .”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

Geoff Cobb and I became so discouraged by formulaic street shows that we went as far as to write The Book about what we perceived to be the ultimate in ‘stock material.’ We then built a show that spoofed the idea of the formula while at the same time presenting original characters following a stock formula… It was a weird twist on the idea of being original, but a great adventure on all sorts of levels…

Heather Pilkington • Interviews from the Inside

2009-10-30Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: My first encounter with Ms. Heather Pilkington was at the Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival in 2009…  Her and her partner Cathy Peace were performing a number of different characters that were somehow bridging the gap between the traditional set up and do it circle show and standard roving character work… Somehow the shows were a bit shorter and comprised of less ‘Ra Ra Ra – Hype Hype Hype’ to a finale tricks and more work based on character – Their roving sets were a bit more engaging and in your face than a typical roving act. Again they seemed to bridge the gap ever so nicely in what I would describe as ‘Street Theatre’ of a more European lilt. Anyway, at some point over the week I was in Edmonton the two SWANK girls started doing this sort of wrap performance at me based on a song from the 80s that had been popular in England and my performance character… Went something like – ‘Check yourself before you wreck yourself… Check Check Check Check Checkerboard Guy.’ Their performance of this little wrap number was done with such enthusiasm and love that they quickly endeared themselves to me!


Name: Heather Pilkington.
Birthday: 01 October in the year I am reliably informed was the hottest summer on record in England in the 70’s.
Place of Birth: Lancashire, England.
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: Dressing up down the back street with my sister making plays, and I’ve been showing off ever since.
Discipline: Character actress.
Website: http://www.swank-streettheatre.com/
Venues Worked: O2 London, The Lowry Manchester, Birmingham Rep. and others…

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Neapolitan. A little bit of everything to keep you going.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films. • Just one? Toss up between “Back to the Future” and “The Princess Bride.”
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • A milk float that I used to race down the front street whilst my mate Stephen rode his Go-Kart, Suffice to say Stephen always won.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?Julie Walters is and always will be a massive inspiration along with Les Dawson.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Wile E Coyote. I’m always chasing something.
  6. Name something that scares you.Shadows.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • A brief stint in a toilet paper factory.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? • Haven’t been in a hot air balloon or eaten snails. Perhaps could do both together?
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? •  What’s not to love? Making people laugh and meeting cool people. Just wish there was more work!
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “The bar is open!

The Nugget:

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

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Take chances.”

–Heather Pilkington

I don’t need no Stinkin’ Business Plan…

2009-10-29Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

…Or do I???

I’ve been remarkably lucky during the 28 years that I’ve been performing. When I started I didn’t need to make ‘a living’ out of it but somehow over the course of time and by default it became my career. Opportunities lead to other opportunities and I’ve been happy to follow one thing after another for nearly three decades now. I think to some degree I’ve had a seductive amount of success with what I do. I love performing, I love the work that goes into the getting of jobs etc and the revenue that this circular cycle (promote – book – perform – promote – book – perform) has allowed me to live a very comfortable existence and provide a happy life for myself, my wife and my kids. It does become a bit of a repetitious cycle though.

I had an email earlier this week from a performer who wanted to ask me a few questions. As her email stated…

I am planning on starting a solo performing company, and am now doing some market research.  I was wondering if you would like to help me by answering a few brief questions.

Like I know what I’m talking about – Ha! So I called and we talked for about thirty minutes or so and she asked me a number of different questions related to the style of performing that she’s doing and how best to make a career out of it. I’m not sure I gave her the information that she was looking for, but it was a useful conversation for me because it got me thinking about how I’ve built my career.

Earlier this week I also got together with my good friend David Duchemin for lunch and our conversation wandered all over the map as it often does. One of the things that came up was that although I’ve had great success as a performer, success has been more a result of being busy chasing opportunities as opposed to making a plan, setting myself goals and setting out to achieve them a skill that I recognize in him.

I’m reminded of watching my kids play soccer. When they were very young the entire team ran after the ball in one big throbbing mass of excitement and enthusiasm. As they’ve grown into the game, they (and their team mates) have recognized the benefits of playing position and having a clear plan of attack when it comes to putting the ball in the net. When I relate this image to my own career I think I’m still at the stage of being that mass of excitement and enthusiasm with out necessarily the clarity of playing position and having a plan of attack.

I was impressed by some of the speakers at the Creative Mix Conference a week ago today because many of them had created definable parameters by which they channel their creativity and creative output. Amazing! Stop chasing your tail and actual construct the roadmap that allows for you not only to channel your energy but realize amazing success. Who’da thunk?

Now in some regards I think we all set about the pursuit of ‘success’ in different ways – just because I seem to have followed a less charted course doesn’t mean that my success is any less valid, but I scratch my head sometimes and wonder if perhaps I might have achieved a different kind of success had I sat down early on and plotted a more coherent direction…

I think many performers who turn to the street as their venue of choice do so because they don’t want to follow a specific set of guidelines or procedures. I totally get this, but as much as I love the street as a venue and the freedom it provides, I also recognize for myself that a bit of structure can be a very good thing so today I’m meeting with the guy who co-ordinated the Creative Mix Conference for a lunch and a bit of a brain storming session with a bit of Career Management as the general topic that I’m looking to throw at him…

I’m not sure if this will lead to self-directed career management or some sort of career coaching, training or just what, but it feels like it might be time to look at alternative courses and approaches to getting the most out of this thing that I’ve had such success doing. Onward and upward!

(giving credit where credit is due – I got the image that accompanies this post here)

The Explorer’s Lounge

2009-10-28Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

This is the fourth of the series based on the venues that I’ve played while working on various Princess Cruises ships and it dawned on me that this series might have been better suited to my ‘Technical Tuesday’ discussions as opposed to work related Wednesday which are usually a place to discuss the actual getting of gigs, but knowing a bit about the venues in advance of actually pitching yourself for work on a cruise ship may in fact effect the decision as to whether you actually want to get work in these venues, so I guess it’s still relevant to the normal topics usually covered on Wednesdays.

I first experienced doing shows in the Explorer’s Lounge aboard the Crown Princess back in September of 2006. The layout of the Crown is a bit different than on the ‘Grand Class‘ Princess ships and some of the other ships in the fleet in that the area at the aft (back) of the ship where the VISTA Lounge is often located instead is home to ‘Club Fusion’ a dance club and bar that also gets used for a variety of other activities including ballroom dancing classes, various game show sorts of events and of course as a dance club. Because there is no ‘VISTA Lounge’ on these larger ships, the secondary performance venue defaults to the ‘Explorer’s Lounge’ which on some of the other ships serves as one of the primary live music venues.

Working on ships is a bit different than working ‘on land,’ but were I to draw comparisons to venues I’ve worked on land, then I’d describe the Explorer’s Lounge as having the feeling of a comedy club. People are seated in chairs at tables and along sofas around the room, and the venue itself is quite a bit smaller than the Princess Theatre or the VISTA Lounge and can usually accommodate a crowd of between 250 – 350 people. Compare this to the between 600 and 800 people that can be accommodated in the Princess Theatre (depending on the ship) and it becomes immediately apparent that this is a more intimate venue for shows.

This comes with both pluses and minuses… On the plus side, playing in a venue that feels really full when there are 250 people in it is great because it’s always more fun to play to a full room. Put that same number of people in the Theatre and it would feel deserted. On the minus side, the powers that be at Princess Cruises feel that to allow as many passengers as possible the opportunity to see the shows that are going on in this venue, they require acts to do three shows a night. This is one more than normal when working in either the VISTA or the Princess Theatre, but the salary remains the same, so it’s more work for the same amount of pay.

Much like the VISTA Lounge that I discussed last week, this venue can be a challenge for jugglers because the ceiling height is quite limited. Like the VISTA this space also has a semi-raised stage that can be retracted during the course of the performance if necessary and for me it usually is. Simply stated, when I get up on my Unicycle I need all the height I can get.

In the image that accompanies this post you’ll hopefully be able to make out the line of the dance floor that meets up with the carpeting in most of the room. The stage is actually set on rollers and pivots around a point in the centre and rotates out from underneath the permanent stage that is set back from the dance floor. It takes about 30 – 45 seconds to roll the stage out or in, so it’s important to allow for this time during the course of your performance if you do need to take advantage of the extra ceiling height. The other alternative is of course to perform the whole show with the stage put away, but I quite like being on stage during most of my show as it improves the sight lines significantly for people around the room to be raised up a bit for the majority of the show.

The seats in this venue are arranged in less of a symmetrical formation than in the VISTA Lounge and seem to have more pockets and alcoves or people to get tucked into for private conversations and such before shows or at other times during the day. Although this doesn’t maximize the seating capacity that this venue could offer, it provides a nice loose feeling which goes had in hand with what the cruise lifestyle is all about and still allows for pretty decent sight lines from around the room.

Technical support in Explorer’s Lounge is usually provided by two individuals. A technician/crew chief who runs the sound and lights, and a back stage assistant who looks after any on-stage needs during the course of the show. Just as there was a step down in what’s possible when we went from the Princess Theatre to the VISTA Lounge, there is a similar step down in terms of what is possible when going from the VISTA Lounge to the Explorer’s Lounge. I’ve never really pushed the limits of any of the spaces on ships from a sound or lighting perspective as all I seem to need lighting-wise is a general wash on stage and someone to run a few sound cues for me… My low tech requirements may not fully take advantage of what’s possible, but it also means that far fewer things can go wrong and this seems to have served me well over the years I’ve been working on ships.

Much like the feeling in the VISTA Lounge, audience members walk into the Explorer’s Lounge expecting a less formal ‘presentation’ of a show, so this venue suits the style of my show quite well. Sure doing three shows in a night ends up being quite a work out, but ya never know who might be in the audience, and I always try to go out and give it my best and have a good laugh with everyone at every show.

Insuring your Stuff.

2009-10-27Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Got another email from Bob Cates recently with a question about insurance… I sometime scratch my head and wonder if he’s the only guy who reads this blog as he seems like the only guy to comment and make specific requests about content… If anyone else is out there reading this thing and actually has an idea they’d like to share or a topic that they’d like discussed I’d love to hear from you as coming up with content daily can at times be a bit of a challenge…

Anyway, this is the inquiry I got from Bob –

After reading about David Kaplan’s loss, (theft), I’m wondering if you have insurance your props and/or laptop?

I had everything insured, through state farm (which had everything else such as home and auto), but a few years back after review, let it go, because it was costing me like $1600/year! $150 / month seamed like too much. I rationalized that in just two years without loss, I’d save $3200 (after tax dollars) which would be well over $4000 before tax dollars.

So I did a personal risk analysis and decided that if I had some thing stolen (like my $225 ipod was 3 years ago), it would more than likely be a single object such as my laptop, ipod, wireless mic etc. And that if it was, it would likely be less than that aforementioned money I’d save over 2 years.

Two years later, I’m ahead in that I haven’t had a loss and have an extra 4 grand in my pocket so to speak.

The weakest point of the plan, is in the case of a huge loss of course. Such as if my vehicle crashed when full, or someone broke in and took everything such as in your friend’s case.

My question is: do you know of any affordable insurance?

Here’s what I wrote back –

The short answer is that I’ve got a home insurance policy through BCAA that covers my personal stuff then a business rider that comes with a $500.00 deductible on it that costs me $244.00 a year… Cheap in comparison to what you used to pay…

I can also state for the record that I have collected on this policy. A few years back when I was living in a condo before moving to the house I’m now in my condo’s storage locker was broken into and a whole ton of stuff was taken both personal and business related… Now because this fell on both sides of the equation being both ‘personal items’ and ‘business items’ I ended up having to pay two deductibles which sort of sucked, but what’cha gonna do?

Information about the home based business rider available from BCAA is available at the bottom of this page –

Additional Coverages

For those outside of British Columbia, I’d check the CAA (for the rest of canada) and the AAA in the united States to see if they have a similar policy. Other countries may also have similar arrangements via their automobile clubs, I’m not sure.


2009-10-26Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Last week I got to participate in the Creative Mix Ideation Conference and over the course of the day I exchanged business cards with a pretty decent number of different individuals. It was great to be surrounded by a room full of people who, in some way or another, make their living via their creativity and their creative output. I realize now, after the fact, what a great networking opportunity this was and could have likely taken greater advantage of the opportunity had I really set out to schmooze. As it was I had a fantastic time and did come home with a fist full of cards from a number of people I had enjoyed conversations with.

Though I had a pretty busy weekend I made the effort to drop everyone who’s card I had picked up a quick email just as a follow-up. A quick thank you for having given me great feedback on my talk at the conference and an invitation to continue the conversations that we started via email, connecting via Facebook, Twitter or any one of a number of other social networking sites or perhaps even over a coffee and (dare I say it) face to face personal interaction…

What will come from this remain to be seen, but the follow-up post initial meeting is something that’s incredibly important and one of the greatest marketing tools you have at your disposal. The simple act of inviting people to continue the conversation suggests an open-ness that will lead to more chances for collaboration than ignoring that window of opportunity.

The same sort of thing can be said with any sort of promotional mail out be it some sort of electronic mailing or good old fashioned snail-mail correspondence. The initial act of sending something out is like a knock on the door of opportunity, but the follow-up is where the dialogue really begins. Once the door to opportunity is opened that’s when the chances of developing a mutually beneficial business environment really starts to take shape.

You might just be the individual to provide the solution to their entertainment dilemma and simply sending out your promotional reel or a newsletter or what have you is only half of the process. The other half really does come from the act of following-up. Making the extra effort to remember people’s names, remembering something about them that you can connect with, something that either shows that you were paying attention when you first met or, have done enough research to be able to carry out a reasonably intelligent conversation about something that’s relevant to the world of the person on the other end of the line.

There will be moments when the planets align and you click with the person on the other end of the connection, there will be other times when the gears just don’t mess, but a very real part of the business of show is the ability to develop relationships with potential employers and to craft feel good scenarios for all concerned. Do this and your success in this business, heck in just about any business is a given.

Fulton J. Sheen – Quoted

2009-10-24Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”

Fulton J. Sheen, American Bishop (1895 – 1979)


“Being jealous of someone else is to waste time that could be spent developing your own genius. Get creative and rise above the temptation of mediocrity.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I got to enjoy being a part of the Creative Mix Ideation Conference this past week and thoroughly enjoyed being around such a great group of amazing people (inventors, architects, online publishers, photographers, interior designers, and music executives to name but a few) who rely on their creativity to make their living. Perhaps one of the biggest things that I took away from the conference was the concept of surrounding yourself with really great people because greatness inspires greatness. Instead of being jealous of someone else try to take the energy that you would have used being jealous to either spark your own genius or support the genius of those around you and be a beacon of inspiration to others.

Scotty Watson • Interviews from the Inside

2009-10-23Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: Scotty and I met at this past year’s Pacific National Exhibition. He and Rick Kunst made up the Men in Tights troupe and although I’ve known Rick for years, it was my first chance to work with Scotty and quite frankly he made me laugh, a lot! He also seemed to covet both my Digital Still Camera and Video Cameras… Thankfully he didn’t get off with either of them which allowed me to take the picture that accompanies this post. Here for your edification is a bit more about the man they call Scotty Watson, though if you’re to believe the rant he got into at the PNE one night he is actually Randy Bachman


Name: Scotty Watson.
Birthday: April … some time in the mid sixties.  That’s all you get.
Place of Birth: North York… at the time, Canada’s largest borough.
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: I was in a play at the ripe old age of 10.
Discipline: Light Comic Actor
Website: http://www.scottywatsoncomedian.blogspot.com/
Video Link: http://www.scottywatsoncomedian.blogspot.com/
Venues Worked: The Royal Alexandra in Toronto, The Minetta Lane Off-Broadway in NYC and others…

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Tin Roof.  Among lots of other cool features it has these long chocolate twig-like thingies that look for all the world like DNA strands… now here’s the weird part… Tin Roof was around WAY before we knew what DNA looked like… so what’s up with THAT?!
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films. • Number 1 favorite movie of all time is, “Some Like it Hot.”  I would say that at least 3, (and possibly 5), of my top 10 were made by Billy Wilder. In fact, I changed my stage name from, “Scott,” to, “Scotty,” in homage to 2 people.  Johnny Carson and Billy Wilder.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • I had this tin robot that took 2 D cell batteries.  It had a robot’s body and a big square head with a visor.  Inside the visor was a human face.  The face was kind and gentle… which was weird because as soon as you switched the robot on the machine gun on his chest started spraying everything in front of it.  Budda, budda budda.  But the guy inside seemed so nice, I used to think it was some heroic astronaut that had been caught and swallowed by this evil robot that used his kind face to lure unsuspecting aliens into range so he can blast them to pieces… budddda budda buddda…. Should I call my analyst now?
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?Red Skelton, but then I did some research and found out he was a bit of a nut.  But then again, who am I to talk?  I’m weirder that he ever was. Never look too closely at your heroes.  I can still do most of his routines.  In fact, I wrote a one-man show, (Red – The Life of An American Clown), about his life and routines.  I was researching it in NYC at the Museum of Television and Radio.  This was before streaming video on the ‘net don’t cha’ know.  So I’d study Red Skelton vids from 8am until the museum closed at 4.  I’d meet my wife Carol at a theatre and see a play every night, so I’d have 4 hours to kill, so I’d use the sidewalk as my free rehearsal space.  You see, there’s a quiet spot on NYC sidewalks, on the opposite side of the subway entrances, there’s a cement wall, (to keep people from falling into the subway), that blocks the traffic.  I’d set up there and practice Red Skelton routines, (I still use this free rehearsal space on occasion to work my own original pantomime pieces).  Anyway, a crowd would sometimes gather to watch, and everyone recognized Red’s routines.  One classic New Yorker reaches into his pocket and pulls out a buck, but I hadn’t set out a hat, (I wasn’t busking… I was just taking advantage of free rehearsal space), and this guy literally SCREAMS at me. “Ya can’t make any money unless you put out a hat, ya fuckin’ BONEHEAD!!!!” I learned a valuable lesson that day… AND I fell in love with New York.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Wishful thinking… Bugs Bunny.  In real temperament… Daffy Duck.  We’re talking Chuck Jones versions of these characters of course, (is there any other?).  Yeah, I WISH I were as cool and calm under pressure as that Wascally Wabbit… but the fact of the matter is that I let my passions run away with me a LOT and lose it Daffy Style.  I tend to be the one who has, “pwonown twouble,” and ends up taken home and shot in the face.
  6. Name something that scares you. • That’s a tough one, because I tend to do the things that scare me until they don’t scare me anymore.  I used to be afraid of sharp knives, so I learned to cook. I was scared to sing so I did some musicals, (one of ’em Off-Broadway), now I love to sing.  I guess my biggest fear is everyone finding out that I’m a total sham.  But that probably won’t happen, because everyone else is too busy being worried that THEY’LL be out-ed as a sham to ever take the time to find me out.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • I’m ashamed to say that for a couple of years I worked in a stock brokerage.  This was just before, (and a little bit after), my time with The Second City.  Yes… I do understand short selling and credit default swaps.  No, I do not play the market.  In bad times, (like now), the big companies throw us small investors under the bus without hesitation.  In good times we treat the little guys like we love them as clients, but when the bus ain’t got no brakes we use ’em as speed bumps and then buy up their portfolio for pennies on the dollar.  It ain’t pretty and I’m sorry to say that I’ve been a part of it.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? • I’d like to be on Broadway.  This year I started auditioning for Broadway shows, and I’ve come close… but I’m still waiting.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • I hate it when other performers engage in catty behavior.  The business is hard, but we can make it easier if we support each other.  If we back-stab each other we’re playing into the hands of the evil accountants.  Let’s be concrete about it… we’re keeping our own prices down through this insane competition.  Look, competition in the market place is a good thing, but every time we say something catty about another performer we’re undercutting them in terms of income.  “Oh, Bob, he’s… ok,” is going to get Bob a smaller paycheck than, “Bob!  Great guy!  Hell of a performer!”  That’s what I loved about my experience at the PNE this summer.  It was a great group of people, who were supportive, watched each others performances, laughed, joked, brain-stormed… I wish it was a year round event.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • I’m not sure I want to go to heaven.  Look, if heaven exists, then most of my friends will be in hell.  I’d like to hear Mephistopheles say, “We’ve got Del Close down here, and he wants to run an improv set with you, Gilda Radner and Belushi… John, not Jim.”

The Nugget:

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

“You have to have enough money stashed away that you can afford to be out of work for 6 months or more.  The best way to manage your money is to manage your wants.  If you want that new car, it’ll eat at you.  If you want your career more than you want that new car, you’ll know that that beat up wreck is good enough.”

–Scotty Watson

The Power of the “Oh My!”

2009-10-22Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

When I was growing up in Ottawa with my mom (who, btw, did a pretty amazing job as a single parent) we came up with all sorts of codes to indicate to each other what we ‘really’ wanted. I used to say to her –

“Mom, can I put away the dishes?”

Which really meant, if I put away the dishes would it be alright to make myself some popcorn to enjoy while watching some TV after dinner.

My brother and I developed a pretty specific way of putting the emphasis on the word ‘in-ter-est-ing’ which when said correctly to my mom would indicated that we had absolutely no interest in being involved in the activity that was being proposed – she got the point, she dropped it or helped us gracefully negotiate our way out of the family ‘adventure.’ I’m pretty sure most families develop such codes to communicate to each other that end up becoming a long series of inside jokes that communicate much more than the actual words and convey a huge amount of meaning. Idioglossia is perhaps the accurate term that I was introduced to by my friend Lee Zimmerman.

Lee reminded me of a bit of idioglossia that I had told him about from my family experience with my mom… This particular reference point comes out of almost everyone’s need to be recognized for having done a good job. My Mom comes from a very scientific background. She has a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a PHD. all in botany, but when I was growing up these credentials meant little or noting to me… She was my mom – Period. If she had spent a ton of time working on a paper and needed to be acknowledged she’d find the right time, explain what an enormous effort it had been to complete such and such a paper and I would turn to her and exclaim – OH MY! Likewise, had I spent a month working on a new trick in my juggling repertoire and finally achieved success I would show it to my Mom and she would exclaim – OH MY!

Over time we understood what was needed and would warn the other in advance… For example… I’d find a time that was right and say to my mom –

“Hey… Do you have a minute, I’m going to need an ‘OH MY!’ on this one…”

It was code for – I’ve worked really hard on this, I know you don’t necessarily understand the effort that was involved, but because you care about me and want to encourage me I know you’ll be supportive enough to give me the encouragement and acknowledgement that I need on this… The ‘OH MY’ was never delivered with any sort of condescension, it was simply a chance to provide the much needed positive feedback that I think we all need from time to time.

I think as a group, performers perhaps crave this acknowledgement more than most… Why else would you stand up on a stage in front of a group of strangers and desperately seek their approval… What’s more is that the approval we receive when we stand in front of an audience is incredibly addictive and provides a sort of ‘high’ that if you believe the hype can play havoc with your ego.

Is it wrong to seek out this approval? For the most part I think the answer to this is no, but when you start taking the approval too seriously, start buying into the hype and run the risk of believing your own publicity then you start becoming less fun to hang out with I think. There’s nothing wrong with having confidence with your abilities, but when it goes from well grounded confidence into becoming an ego driven joy ride I find that it becomes less socially acceptable or at the very least, less socially desirable.

This is perhaps why I liked the solution that my mom and I came up with of the ‘OH MY’ system so much… It acknowledged effort, gave praise when it was needed, but no one really took it too seriously. It allowed for a healthy balance between needing one’s ego stroked while at the same time not actually buying too heavily into the hype. A comfortable balance for all concerned that achieved everything that was required.

In the email in which Lee reminded me of the ‘OH MY’ protocol he referred to the absence of getting the required ‘OH MYs’ in one’s daily diet as a ‘Code 11.’ and I thought this was a great extension of the original concept… Remember that it’s sometimes better to give than to receive, so watch for those around you who may suffer from ‘Code 11’s’ and make sure you’ve got an ‘OH MY’ or two handy in case they’re needed. It takes so little effort and can have such great benefits for all concerned!

The Vista Lounge

2009-10-21Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

And so continues the discussion of the various venues aboard Princess Ships. The Vista Lounge is what I like to call the Cabaret venue aboard many of Princess’s Ships. This venue can be a challenge for jugglers because the ceiling height is quite limited, or is when the stage is set in the ‘up’ position. Thankfully (?) my show doesn’t rely on technical juggling that requires too much in the way of height and I can play quite successfully on the stage when the stage is in the ‘up’ position and as it only takes about 20 – 30 seconds to lower the stage for when I need a bit more ceiling height when I perform on my unicycle I keep the stage up for the majority of the show then have the tech crew lower the stage right at the very end prior to me getting up on the unicycle.

Why not keep it down for the entire performance you might ask? Well the nature of the seating arrangement allows for good for sight lines from about the knees up when the stage is in the up position, but only from about the mid-chest up when the stage is lowered. I prefer to keep the stage up for the greatest visual appeal until I get to the end of the show when I absolutely need the extra space for riding and juggling on my tall unicycle.

The seats in this particular venue are arranged in an arched configuration which provides and excellent view of the stage from just about every seat in the house. There are a few support poles in some of the Vista Lounges on some of the ships that impede the sight lines somewhat, but for the most part this arched arrangement works very well. These arches are made up of both sofa like seats as well as individual soft seated chairs and there are an ample supply of small tables for drinks and a bar at the back of the room which lends itself well to the more ‘cabaret‘ feel in this particular venue.

Technical support in Vista Lounge is usually provided by three individuals. The Crew Chief who runs the sound and lights, the Stage Manager back stage who looks after things like raising and lowering the stage (in my case) and may assist a bit with staging needs and the third member of the crew is quite often a spot light operator. Though the lighting effects that can be created in this venue aren’t nearly as sophisticated as those that can be achieved in the Princess Theatre, quite a bit can still be achieved with the creative use of what this venue does offer. Also, as you can see in the image, speakers are hung from the ceiling around the venue and provide excellent coverage for the room so that the quality of the audio is evenly distributed through out the space.

Give the choice of playing the Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge I tend to opt for the Vista as I like the fact that the audience is in closer proximity to the stage. This allows for much stronger interaction with the audience which is something that my show relies on heavily. Being able to hop off the stage and virtually be in the middle of the crowd brings an immediacy to my performances with is much more in keeping with my training working as a street performer and in festival environments. The other nice thing about this space is that it can accommodate about half the number of people (if that) that the Princess Theatre can so if you’ve got a small-ish crowd it’s still a lot of fun to play in this space as it feels fuller than the Theatre would with similar numbers.

For what ever reason people also seem to walk into the Vista Lounge more prepared to play. In the Princess Theatre there seems to be a sense of the fourth wall being somehow more appropriate and shows in that space tend to have a more presentational nature. Shows in the Vista seem to lend themselves more to breaking that fourth wall and mixing things up a little bit more.

The Push I Needed…

2009-10-20Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

For a couple of years now (actually more than a couple of years if I really think about it) I’ve been meaning to get around playing with either Powerpoint of the Apple equivalent, Keynote. These slide show organizing software packages are used in business to make presentations and deliver talks where the visual images/slides are used to help make the points that are being talked about… I’ve been a big fan of watching the Apple Keynote speeches that are typically delivered by Steve Jobs and have enjoyed the way that the presentations have been so seamlessly accentuated by stunning visual graphics, videos, music, impressive text etc and have always figured that given the right situation I’d like to learn how to do this sort of thing and figure out a way to incorporated it into one of my shows.

Now it’s not the thing if you’re presenting a show outdoors which I often do, but in an indoor setting they can be quite effective. I first saw one used by a performer who was doing an impersonation show. He’d flash images on screen of the voice he was emulating and the power of the visual combined with his impersonation had a far greater impact than what the effect would have been had he just gone out and done a series of voices. The next performer I saw using slideshow technology was a stand-up comic named Jim McDonald on a ship who had a series of great jokes about what life is like on ships and used slides to help make his points. The visuals combined with the set-up and punchlines of the jokes appealed to both the audiences ability to hear the joke, but also to see it as well… The more senses you appeal to, the greater the effect you have on the audience… That’s a given, but as a juggler the visual impact I usually aim for is more directly related to the skills I’m presenting than some other visual that might be more of a distraction than an addition, so I’d never figured out a way to successfully incorporate the power of a slide show presentation with the style of performance that I do.

The chance has finally come though… This Thursday, October 22 I’ll be one of twelve speakers at the CreativeMix Ideation Conference. As the website states –

This conference is for everyone who depends on their creative output—whether it’s a small or big part of their work. The goal is to help individuals take their creativity to the next level! We believe that the next level can be achieved through inspiration that comes from learning and working outside the box.

When I was first asked about doing this I wasn’t really sure how it was going to pan out and to be honest I’m still not sure how it’s going to pan out… I’ve had a pretty wait and see what happens approach to this as it’s been in the works for almost a year, but the cool factor of what this is has just recently started to hit me. I recently took another look at the list of speakers who will be talking and scratched my head and wondered why on earth I’d been included in such a cool cross section of Vancouver Creative Community, but decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and am diving in head first in an attempt to get as much out of the experience as I possibly can…

This includes finally sitting down and playing around with some visuals that I’ll be including in my 25 minute session. I opted to use Keynote as the presentation software as this is what the presenter specifically asked for I figured that since this is what they’ll be using it’s likely best to keep the software packages as in sync as possible so I run into the fewest possible technical head aches. Sat down last Friday and took the on-line tutorials on the Apple website then noodled around with the version of the software that I’ve got (a few generation’s old at this point), then Saturday I sat down and crafted the talk from the ground up and played with the visuals that I’ll be using and put them together in a nice slideshow format so I could meet the imposed Monday deadline (yesterday) for such things…

Having this deadline imposed on me gave me the incentive I needed to make the time to learn the software. Now that I’ve played with it, I’m quite keen to see how the talk goes on Thursday and how it feels using visuals of this nature in the context of my ‘performance.’ If it ends up being as fun as I hope it will be I think I’ll have to start working on other ways I can incorporate this into my regular shows… Hmmm… Fun!

Give it Away!

2009-10-19Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’ve had a call the other day from a friend inquiring about a show at a social function that they were helping organize for a group of about fifty people. We walked through the formalities of talking about the wheres, the whens, the expected audience, all the stuff I inquire about before talking about price, but inevitably the question of price is where the conversation leads…

So… How much will this cost?

Over the past couple of years I’ve been working more for cruise ships, multi-day festivals, trade shows and in situations that are quite a bit different from what this friend was asking me to come and do and I was a bit stumped as to what I should charge… Now it should also be mentioned that this particular friend is well connected with a fairly high profile company with whom I’ve had a connection since 1992 and I’ve enjoyed numerous benefits as a result of this connection so in the bat of an eye and with out really thinking too much about it my answer to the question – “How much will this cost?” my answer was –


I went on to say that because of my long term association with various people at the company and all of the benefits that I’d received over the years that I’d be happy to come and do the show for them. No need to worry about money… I’m sure I’ll continue to benefit form my association with them so consider this favour or perhaps just a deposit into the karma bank…

Our conversation continued after the details were more or less in place and not two minutes later we were talking about an opportunity that, were it to pan out, would more than compensate me for my time and effort for this upcoming show that I’ll be doing for ‘free.’

Never underestimate the power of giving things away. If you’re trying to impress a potential client or have a particular cause that you feel strongly about then contributing your talents in a pro-bono fashion can have huge spin-offs and help get a the ball rolling on what may end up becoming a very profitable long term relationship. Short term loss for long term gain trumps short term gain for long term loss every day of the week, so the hidden benefits of giving a few shows away are quite often worth more than what you might have charged in the first place and long term be worth more than you might even imagine.

Darby Conley – Quoted

2009-10-17Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Sometimes it’s good to contrast what you like with something else. It makes you appreciate it even more.”

Darby Conley, US cartoonist (1970 – )


“Life is full of dualities… Hot and Cold, Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Love and Hate, Work and Play… No… Hang on… Work and Play are the same thing… At least for me.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I wake up everyday and thank my lucky stars that I happened to fall into something that makes me enough money to have a comfortable existence that I derive so much enjoyment from! When ever someone asks me how a show went my typical answer is – ‘Sure beat’s working for a living!’

Jonny Flash • Interviews from the Inside

2009-10-16Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: The year was 2002, the city was Osaka, Japan. I’d been in touch with Jonathon Tardif aka Jonny Flash prior to this, but this was the first time we met face to face. We decided to hook up at Yodobashi Camera in Umeda and grabbed a drink at a shop in front of the electronics super store and yacked away for an hour or so… He also indulged me as I had a few things to pick up in the electronics department and helped encourage my lust for technical gadgets as we walked the aisles of Japanese Tech Heaven… Funny that we should hook up in Osaka as I knew that Jonny had been in Vancouver for quite a while, but circumstances just sometimes work in the strangest of ways… Often there’s some sort of meaning behind it all, sometimes it’s just chance, but it was good to finally put a face to the name.


Name: Jonathon Tardif aka Jonny Flash.
Birthday: July 26, 1976.
Place of Birth: Cranbrook, BC, Canada.
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: 1998.
Discipline: Juggler/unicyclist/comedian.
Website: http://www.jonflash.com
Video Link: http://www.jonflash.com/en/video-street.htm
Venues/Cities Worked: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Portland, San Salvador, Osaka, Chiba, Okayama, Fukuoka, Kobe, Edinburgh, Victoria.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Turtle Trails cuz of the toffee in it.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films.Ravenous with Robert Carlyle.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • My Incredible Hulk doll.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?Byron Bertram, Tom Comet.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Robin Hood.
  6. Name something that scares you. • Canadian complicity with US torture protocols.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Doorman.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? • Have a radio show.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • Some other performers who fall into the trap of letting positive audience reactions to their character overfeed their egos.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “Granpa has been waiting for you to get here.”

The Nugget:

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

“Over-emphasis on competition wrecks peer solidarity and holds performers back as a group.”

–Jonathon Tardif


2009-10-15Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’ve been collaborating with Mike Wood on the design of the 2010 Trading Card design. I had thrown out the request for brilliance for a trading card design a while back on the blog, but the resounding silence that echoed in my inbox after that plea went out suggested that the job might get done more quickly were I to tackle it myself… I started plugging away on things and when I got a tentative-ish layout together I sent it out to a few folks… Mike responded almost immediately with ideas an feedback and I started to make tweaks and slowly massage things towards where I’ll hand over the finished design to the printer and get them to set things up for the annual run. This process has been going on for about a month and yesterday I got an email from Mike with the following –

The back is really shaping up, and I think we’ve approached (or perhaps just breached) David Aiken’s Ninety-Five Percent Perfection (DANFPP).

It made me laugh and re-affirmed a couple of things to me.

#1 – I am indeed a perfectionist. I’ve known this for years, but the pursuit of perfection can at times hold me back because quite often more can be gained by setting a goal and a dead-line. Do your very best given the deadline, but then let go of the pursuit of perfection and let the project go so that it doesn’t become all consuming and never ending.

The best example I can give of this comes from my parents. Both went to the University of Minnesota to upgrade their educations and both set about getting their PHD’s. My Dad, the perfectionist (that’s likely where I get it from) never finished because he wasn’t able to submit work that he felt was less than perfect. My mom set herself a deadline, did the very best in the time she was given and then handed the thing in once the deadline was reached. She knew that it wasn’t ‘Perfect’ but she also knew that she wanted to finish, and this seemed like the best way to do it.

#2 – Mike Wood ‘gets’  it. He understands some of my specific idiosyncrasies and not only does he draw them to my attention, but he does so with humour. This allows me to recognize the point he’s making and have a good laugh about it. In my experience his is a far more effective way of communicating than to take a critical observations and make it sound like a dig or put down. Nine times out of ten the individual receiving the feedback is well aware of what’s being pointed out, but even if they’re not, you’ll likely get a warmer reception to the comments if you spice them liberally with comedy.

I have to admit to being a Fan of Mike’s comedy anyway, and for those who’d like to check out some of his humours writings you should visit his website and head over to the ‘Gallery’ and read his Funny Writings. I’d also suggest following him on Twitter as he’s set the task for himself of being funny once a day and Tweeting it to the world… He’s had some really funny one! This likely being my favourite to date –

Living with a girl, you think it’s “our house” until you realize you don’t know where anything is. Then you know you’re basically a pet.

It’s funny ’cause it’s true.

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