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Archive for January, 2010

Picture them in their underwear.

Another great piece by my friend Lee Zimmerman… I’m reminded of that quote from Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come.” Sundays on the blog are starting to turn into the home for guest bloggers and I’m excited by the content that’s being generated. Fantastic stories from the road that help capture just why that old stand by – “There’s no business like show business!”


Talk about your memorable appearances. I got a gig working at the Glen Eden Nature Resort outside of Los Angeles: a family nudist colony. I asked if they expected me to work without clothing, because if you want me naked well, that requires more floor space.They said no, they just needed my regular street show, something for families, not too long, one or two hours, three short sets, people milling about ga blarka blarka.

“Sure, perfect; I’m gonna bring my wife if that’s okay.” Like I had a choice! My wife, (at that time), hears about this job and she insists that she go with me to see the freak show that it promises to be. I wondered if I could do this show politely. I don’t want to burst out laughing, but I surely will. How to prepare myself mentally?

I brought out my regular gear, set up my regular puppet show and cued up my regular sound track, only with one additional sound byte. Everyone knows the old adage about speaking in front of a live audience–if you get nervous, just picture the audience in their underwear.

I hit play. Barney Gumbel from The Simpsons pipes up in a slow, slap echoed voice…”Picture dem in dere undawear!”

And I did. I had to, man! Do you know how few people there are on this Earth that should parade around naked? It’s like three in a hundred, and I didn’t see any of those three here.

There I stood, fully clothed and blushing as I feigned eye contact and stared at my feet…it was just too freaking WEIRD. Teens, oldsters, you name it. I am performing for 50, maybe 60 nekkid families. People of all ages–and most of them were the wrong age to be nekkid!

Too young! I feel creeped out. Or too old…”aren’t YOU creeped out?”

Some of the brown wrinkled flesh bits were hanging down and swinging about, drained of every ounce of natural fluid they ever had and they just dangled, covering the bits you wouldn’t want to see anyway. Teenage girls were asking questions and picking up my props.

I was pretty flustered so I just stared down…then waaaay up…then down…”keep looking over their heads now shift your gaze back down to the stage, yes behold the beautiful dented stage…don’t look at Debra Jo or you’ll fall off your ladder laughing…okay, good…now look up and over their heads…great.”

The shows went fine and I got my cash. I only had one show left to go. Then this one silver-haired Lothario finds out who my ex-wife is, and freaks out. He has her cover issue of Playboy back in his Winnebago, “Could she sign it and could she let him drive her around the facilities?!” Some naked guy just stole my wife. I can see the look of terror in her eyes as he tears off with her in a golf cart. She thinks he’s the naked guy who’s paying us, so she figures she has to be nice. The naked woman who DID hire me says, “Look out, that guy’s a player!” Eeeeeeewww!

He looks a little like a nude bronze “Larry”–Jack Tripper’s horny neighbor on “Three’s Company”…with hideous bushy chest hair and his shirt unbuttoned right down to there–if he HAD a shirt. He wore a few chains and cologne and I must admit, he had a great rack. Debra Jo picks it up here.

“He takes me the loooong way around the park, pointing out this and that. He’s flirting with me, drivin’ around with all this gray body hair and stinky cologne, and his thing is just sitting right out there! He’s telling all the people who are standing in front of their mobile homes, cooking on grills, to head on down to the pool,  ”There’s a big puppet show over by the pool!”

“There were two young girls wearing clothes and they go, “Great! Let’s go!”

But he says, “No! You know the rules, you can’t wear your clothes around the pool!”

“Oh yes we can!” “No, you can’t.” It was making me SICK!”

I did my last show for a lot less folks while Debra Jo signed little scraps of paper for all these nice, but admittedly unusual people…I was off the hook.

The naked worshipers wanted to revere their naked goddess. Listen–I understand the fascination. She’s my best friend, always will be and when we talked about this the other day she was in hysterics, having forgotten her own great joke.

We had to back out of the nekkid parking lot, with throngs of saddle-skinned sun-lovers trailing along by our side. So close was the Silver Fox Guy to our car that I almost ran over him.

Debra said the funniest thing she ever said in the eighteen years I’ve known her.

“Don’t hit him! He can’t go to the hospital…he’s not wearing clean underwear!”

Yoda – Quoted

2010-01-301Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda, Jedi Council Leader
(as quoted from The Empire Strikes Back, Released May 21, 1980)


“Good Actors don’t ‘act’ they ‘are’ their part. Good performers don’t ‘try to perform’ entertainment exudes from every fibre of their being as soon as they step on stage!”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

If you go on stage and try to perform instead of being a performer the audience will call you on it every single time. The degree of the humiliation will vary in degree depending on the venue. At best they’ll be restless in their seats, at worst they simply walk away… I love Street Performing for this very reason, because people vote with their feet and you get pretty immediate feedback as to the calibre of your performance based simply on your ability to build and hold a crowd.

Mark Hawkins • Interview from the Inside

2010-01-29Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: I met Mark Hawkins on a flight down to Nassau back at the end of 2006… At first I couldn’t remember exactly when it was, but then I pieced it together because I had just finished mailing out a Christmas Card that included a paper model of my S-Cargo and Mark offered to take a picture of it in front of Disney World in Florida… I sat down on the little puddle jumper that took us from Miami to Nassau and he struck up a conversation immediately… As he says –

“We were sitting in the back of an American Eagle Flight. I talked to you first – you just LOOKED like an entertainer.  We all seem to have a sort of look. Funny that. I don’t remember what I asked you, but it led to some sort of conversation that I also don’t remember. It must have been a good talk, though, because we’re still talking.”

A year or two after we first met he sent me an email interview for a book he was working on. I took the time to actually think about my responses and he seemed quite impressed with the content of the responses… Though we’ve never seen each other perform we just connected and were able to speak the same language based on our mutual knowledge and understanding of what it is that makes a show work. Oh, and he’s a cheeky bugger as I’m sure you’ll gather from his responses to the questions below.


Name: Mark Hawkins.
Birthday: None of your business.
Place of Birth: Hospital.
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: I had an improv group in college that turned into a sketch group
and I got interested in doing standup around that time.  I suppose “working in the industry” happened somewhere about that time when I went to the local comedy club to see what THAT was like.  I liked it – and stayed. But I guess the comedy club counts as “working in the industry.” Unless the college show counts. But I don’t think it does. I put together the show myself. It was just a bunch of college kids at a sub shop.  But it was pretty good – for college kids at a sub shop.
Discipline: No. I don’t have that.
Website: No. I don’t have that either.
Video Link: I REALLY don’t have that. I don’t even like that.
Venues Worked: Wouldn’t even know where to start. I started with comedy clubs and supplemented my income writing for comics. I branched out into corporate gigs when I found out you could do that and then spent a little time working colleges. I briefly did a corporate show with another guy and then went back to clubs. I became a seizure patient, which seriously limited my work options, so I ended up working casinos (which allowed me to live in the casino for months on end).  A few years later I found cruise ships (where I can live and who fly me wherever I need to go) and have been there ever since.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Jungle Sherbet from Baskin Robbins.  It had little chunks of Jungle in it.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films. • “Yank My Doodle It’s A Dandy.” Awesome characters, awesome story.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • I was a big fan of the Pet Rock. You could do almost anything with it.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • All of them. Seriously. I could not get enough. I used to go to garage sales and buy any and every comedy album I could get. I loved them all. There is no question the biggest names stand out: Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Bill Cosby, and George Carlin. But I believe they stand out because I learned so much later and I appreciate what they did and their contributions to the industry. When I was young, I laughed at much lesser known comedians just as much. I loved old radio shows, I loved Dr. Demento on Sunday nights, and I loved just hearing jokes from my friends. Who were my inspirations? Everybody. Laughing was my inspiration.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Funny. You love the “just keep swimming” thing from Nemo so you want to see if everyone has something like that. …Um…I like the animated fish at the beginning of “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.” They just swim around in circles and keep saying “good morning” to the same people. I feel like I swim around in circles and say the same stuff all the time. Doesn’t matter that I do new jokes all the time – it FEELS like I am doing the same thing all the time.
  6. Name something that scares you. • A 1040 Long Form.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Oh, I’ve done other stuff. Last job was making pizza. It sucked.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? • Resting on my laurels. That would be great. I would love to jump right to being a “has-been.” It would be great to do exactly what I do now, but be paid a crap-load for it because I was once “Johnny, the next-door neighbour on ‘He’s Our Superintendant!’”
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? The audience. Sure, it’s great when they are nice. But you can’t count on that. And when they suck – and they hate the same joke that killed just an hour earlier, they make it a point of letting you know. They stick around for the whole show, wait in line to talk to you, shake your hand to look you in the eye and say, “You really suck, mister.” That’s my least favorite thing about being a performer. THAT audience.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “Mark Hawkins. You’re early.  You’ll have to go back to earth and come back in about twenty years.”

The Nugget:

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

“When hitting your favorite Taco Bell Drive-Thru and ordering a Meximelt, always make sure you eat it on the way home. The cheese congeals quickly.”

–Mark Hawkins

Uh Oh…Spagetti-os!

2010-01-28Where in the world am I today?: St. Thomas – Antigua – Toronto – Vancouver (a very long day of travel!)

My friend North Darling (formerly of ‘The Three Canadians‘) sent me a link to and Obituary in the New York Times… It was for Donald Goeke, creator of SpaghettiOs.


The obituary sums it up nicely with this short paragraph…

Introduced in 1965, SpaghettiOs has been a fixture in the American pantry ever since. Its memorable advertising jingle — “Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs!” — sung by the pop singer Jimmie Rodgers, is indelibly lodged in the public consciousness.

I certainly grew up hearing that jingle and this product, though I can’t ever remember eating any, is certainly lodged into the annals of my pop culture references…

Getting this obituary elicited a strange sort of sadness… Like a part of my pop culture lexicon had died… It’s weird having never eaten the product to feel this way, but there was an unmistakable connection to the TV jingle and memories of my childhood. The product, for what ever reason had been indelibly imprinted on my psyche, and hearing that it’s creator had died, well… It gave a whole new meaning to the catchy jingle ‘Uh Oh…Spaghettios!’

Spaghettios don’t really have much to do with performing, though I suppose you could create a really fun (albeit messy) routine with them if you wanted to (somehow I’m reminded of the Blue Man Group’s use of Captain Crunch). But this idea of the iconic status of certain products, people or things is something that’s worth considering as one builds a brand and reputation as an entertainer.

I feel pretty lucky to have stumbled across the world of performance and the checkerboard motif that has been a part of my on-stage persona for coming up on a quarter of a century. There’s something magical to finding something you love, pursuing it and finding a way to make a living at it. Tap into a visual aesthetic and an image that helps people identify you in the sea of other performers and stick with it long enough and who know… You might just become a part of someone else’s pop culture lexicon…

Cirque Auditions Anyone?

2010-01-27Where in the world am I today?: St. Maarten, The Caribbean aboard the Emerald Princess.

OK… I have to admit that I’m both a fan and a bit leery of Cirque du Soleil… I attended La Fete Foraine du Baie St. Paul in 1984 and got to see Cirque in it’s infancy when it really was a bunch of Street Performers from Quebec who got a big ass grant to buy a tent and put on a show and those shows were electric in a way that’s much different than the slick polish that the shows have become. At the time, it really did feel like a group of twenty acts all of whom easily had enough material for their own show, so every night the shows I saw at the Festival were completely different as though the shows had been thought out the day of the show and thrown together from people’s best bits. It was a ton of fun. Gritty, spontaneous, surprising and human on a much different scale. The shows I’ve seen in recent years (some 26 years later) have given up the grit for polish and although the shows are beautiful eye-candy, I find that I’ve left these recent shows with a sense that something was lost when they opted for the polish and I find myself pining for some of what I remember from the companies origins

Man, listen to me I’m sounding like an old man… Yikes!

I’ve always had a sense that I’d end up working for Cirque at some point too. I remember doing street shows in Old Montreal near where Cirque was set up doing shows and seeing a group of performers walk by the pitch where I was working. We looked at each other as they past and their eyes lingered in a sort of acknowledgement of a shared ideology and sensibility…

Over the years I’ve known lots of friends who’ve gotten jobs with Cirque, in fact, I was just talking to one of the Dancers here aboard the Emerald Princess the other day about his experiences working in ‘O’ in Las Vegas. The comment that resonated with me from our conversation went something like –

It was great, but they work you hard!

The overwhelming sense I get is that you either love it or hate it once you start working for Cirque and I’ve always been a bit tentative about pursuing a performance position with the company. I think in my own arrogant way I figured that when the time was right they might come and ask me if I wanted a job with out putting in much of an effort to make that happen myself. I had some sort of weird sense of entitlement about the whole thing which I know is completely absurd, but I was quite content taking other gigs and just watching the growth of the Cirque Monster from the sidelines…

For those of you with more ambition and a less perverse sense of ego than I’ve had for years, you should check out the casting page for auditions in your area.


I had the chance to visit Cirque’s headquarters in Montreal two years ago and was really impressed. They have an amazing facility in Montreal dedicated to building amazing shows and have departments capable of building a show from the ground up – the costuming department alone blew me away with a section specifically dedicated to making just shoes or just hats, or just this or just that… AMAZING!!!

Through an odd set of circumstances it looks like I might given an opportunity to participate in the auditions that are coming to Vancouver in April and I’ll admit it’s got me feeling a little excited. I have no real ambition to give up what I’m doing and pursue a career with Cirque at the moment, but being asked to be involved was a nice feather in my cap (finally someone woke up and smelled the  coffee and realized that I should be asked) and I look forward to seeing what the opportunity may bring.

Bits of Travel info worth noting…

2010-01-26Where in the world am I today?: At sea aboard the Emerald Princess

OK… I’ve got a bit of info to hand to you today that I stumbled over in the last week or so that pertains to travel and stuff I could have/should have/might have done prior to take off, but now have successfully looked after.

The First – For those Canadians traveling abroad, a service that’s provided by the Canadian Government for Canadians traveling to exotic destinations who want to have a bit of a back-up in place just in case things go sideways unexpectedly. If you go to this website –


You can register yourself as a Canadian traveler. Once you’re registered you can access your user account and provide details of any trips that you might have planned. OK, I’ll admit it, it was my Mom who pointed me towards this because I think she wanted to me to register, so I took the opportunity to take the system out for a little test drive on an upcoming trip that I’ll be doing to India to perform at Travel Trade Shows in Mumbai and Delhi. I’m not anticipating any issues with this trip, but who ever does. I was able to log-on to my account, provide my travel dates and destination and also provide an emergency contact in Canada should the government need to reach my wife if for some strange reason I disappear while on this trip. A nice little safety net, and a completely free service that I wasn’t aware of before this week.

Second – As part of the application process to get a VISA for India for the upcoming trip mentioned above, I needed to hand in my Canadian Passport to have the VISA applied to it. This meant that I didn’t have my Canadian Passport when it came time to leave to join the Emerald Princess where I now find myself. Luckily I was born in New Zealand and have maintained my New Zealand Passport and am using it for this particular voyage. As I entered into the United States I was told by the custom’s official that people who are traveling on Passports from countries eligible for a VISA Waiver Program (You fill in the Green I-94 Form as you cross the boarder) need to register on-line that they’re entering the United States. This doesn’t apply to Canadians and it’s the first time I had encountered it, but for anyone who is eligible, the online procedure is a breeze and you get an approval number that they suggest that you travel with. More information about all of this can be found here –


The Third and final piece of travel information that I came across this week came in the form of an email from Air Canada who informed me that –

Effective January 20, 2010, you may bring one standard bag and other necessary items into the cabin on flights from Canada to the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

This is a huge relief because after the attempted bombing in Detroit at Christmas time the Airport security two-step was getting a bit ridiculous and I was wondering how on earth I was going to successfully travel with my normal performance gear given the changes… I had already worked out my system to reduce things as much as possible and here they were wanting me to drop it down even more… Thankfully it seems like we’re more or less back to where were were before the incident in Detroit… Phew!

Happy traveling everyone!


2010-01-25Where in the world am I today?: At sea aboard the Emerald Princess

I was originally going to write about something else today, but then I headed to my email inbox and stumbled across a message announcing a new directory of Canadian comedians, my first thought was… Here we go, yet another social networking site, but this one struck a chord for some reason and I decided to have a closer look… Here’s the content of the original email I got just so you can have a look at what I received. Many of you may have already received this, but if not, here it is…

As a Canadian Comedian it’s time to stand up and be counted!

In an effort to have a definitive record in honour of the ones who entertain us, Comediapedia has begun its search for each and every Comedian in Canada.

Comediapedia aspires to be the first complete living record of everyone who has ever dared call themselves a Canadian Comedian with direct links to Canadian Comedians and other features like:

– a current cross-country comedy calendar of upcoming performances by your favourite Canadian Comedians

– a compelling history of the Canadian Comedians and their stories compiled by Harry Doupe

– Comediapedia’s e-newsletter

– anecdotes and road stories from the comics you’ve heard about, and those that you are going to hear about

We need you! We’ve spent months compiling a list of Canadian comedians for one reason… we are gathering all Canadian Comedians together in one place to highlight the amazing talent that is produced here in our country.  Every Canadian Comedian, from amateur to professional – from sea to sea – with talents in Standup/Sketch/Improv and Musical/Variety  – will receive an invitation to create a profile on Comediapedia.ca.

It’s simple… check out the website to create your profile:


You can share as much or as little as you like… and then spread the word!

Together we can bring attention and regard to our profession.

Without agenda and full of hope, I invite you to join us.

Now, this is with out a doubt a bit ‘Canada-centric,’ but for those performers from Canada who have some comedic content in their show it would be interesting to take a sort of census of our ranks and figure out just how many of us there are in the Great White North… Along with soft wood lumber and hydro electrical power, comedians seem to be something we’re good at exporting – Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers and Jim Carrey to name just a few, so jumping on the band-wagon of that is comedy and comedians from Canada though a bit regionally specific had a weirdly patriotic appeal to me.

The registration process took virtually no time at all and the think I noticed and liked immediately about the way the profile page is set up is that you can add links to some of the most popular other social networks that are out there – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Seems like everyone has their own social network these days, but the fact that this one seems to recognize this and encourage you to tap into your other social network spaces seems pretty cool and allows you to bring all of this information under one roof quite successfully.

The Scottish and I have this thing…

Today another guest blogger comes to visit – This time a piece by Martin Ewen. I’m hoping that these guest blog spots catch on and interesting people contribute interesting stories in my ongoing effort to provide not just a resource of information about performing and performance, but also some great stories from some of the brilliant characters that populate this great world that I get to be a part of… Enjoy!

2010-01-242Call me deluded, call me a muckety-muck but the Scottish and I have this thing.

I was working at the Edinburgh fest in Scotland, working off the main pitch down a small lane. I had a corner.

Just down from me was a jug band whose music I used from time to time to wiggle about to, as I temporarily overcame my character ‘Lurk’s utter boredom.

After a couple of hours the jug band stopped and passed me on their way to a pub across the road and invited me in for a drink when i finished.

I finished immediately and hurried inside.

The 4 piece jug band and I got on famously, I liked beer and they liked beer, I have a mouth like an untethered fire-hose and they were probably sick of listening to each other anyway.

They hadn’t finished for the day however, they had a gig later on in the evening at a club and they invited me along to dance for them. I was into it so we then got ready to leave by buying about another 6 rounds then left.

The club was large, holding about 300 people, we got there early and met the management who were cool and casual and who bought us all a drink.

I checked out the dance-floor in front of where the band would play and the surface was OK, not too slippery when wet and the ceiling was high enough (I’m on stilts) there were two rows of ceiling fans that were not yet turned on and so I marked out their positions with gaffer tape on the ground, it still left me lots of room to move.

The night wore on and the place started filling up a bit, the band only had to do one set so we waited till about 10 before going on by which time the place was pretty much packed, the Edinburgh festival was in full swing

It had been a long day so I arranged to come out for the last 10 minutes of their 30 minute set.

I dutifully pranced out and wiggled and waggled and kicked my legs about and generally simulated being groovy wearing my white face and tank helmet until about half way through and for reasons still a mystery to me to this day–

— I must have strayed into the territory of the now rapidly whirring metallic blades of the fans. The first blade merely dug superficially into my tank helmet and flung it from my head without thankfully damaging the blade or slowing the fan down at all.

My reactions (which is why I could have been a fighter pilot or game show host ) were lightening quick and I tilted my head back as I moved forward so that the next impact only broke my nose at the bridge sending a minor torrent from both nostrils and the gash at the top of my nose itself.

All this paled into insignificance with the third strike which carved a 6 to 8 inch slash right across my forehead.

Now as some of you know head-wounds tend to bleed profusely, but even with my prior head bleeding experiences this one immediately impressed me.

I was staggering blind round a nightclub with blood pouring down my white face and cascading in a constant stream from my chin.

I think people found it hard to ignore me which was a shame really,just at that moment, there were loud screams and panicked footfalls as people tried to avoid being bled on. (I did hear later that at least 3 people fainted)

Being a true professional I stayed upright and eventually found a wall and sat on a ledge where I peered curiously through my scarlet veil at the enormous pool of blood forming in the lap of my stilt trousers.

A barman holding a huge handful of soggy tissues appeared and pressed it to my face as I wrestled with my stilt-trousers and then my stilts, towards the end I could hear the wail of an approaching ambulance.

I was then led through the crowd pressing a red soggy mass of toilet paper to my head. ( I can remember seeing a few sympathetic looks passed my way by pretty girls and had it not been for the medical professionals I might have stayed.)

At the hospital I spent 3 hours getting stitches across my forehead and having my nose plugged. I also seemed to be a source of entertainment to a constant stream of nurses who would peek into my cubicle while trying to keep a straight face then depart down the hall giggling.

Once released at about 3am I faced a choice, I could wander back to my hotel and wake the next morning all streaked and swollen and potentially embarrassed, or I could return to the bar.

I walked back in and ordered a beer, the barman said ‘You were really good, if we’d known we would have turned the fans off.’ I had a couple then left.

I found the next day that my helmet covered the stitches on my forehead nicely and my white-face covered the mess of my nose but would just bleed a bit when I removed it so luckily I wasn’t without an income.

It was years later I was told by other performers that everyone was calling me ‘Frankenstein’ behind my back and laughing. I didn’t care then and I don’t care now.

The best memory I’ve kept from the affair was walking into some bistro days later and having a table see me, stand and clap. I must have given them a dirty look from underneath my stitches, one approached me quite gently and explained that they weren’t taking the piss, that their ovation was sincere, that they were all staff at the bar I got my head chopped up at and that they were applauding me for having returned to the bar from the hospital.

As I’ve said, the Scottish and I have this thing. Call be deluded, call me a muckety-muck but alcoholism can sometimes possess a certain brittle dignity.

André Gide – Quoted

2010-01-23Where in the world am I today?: At Sea aboard the Emerald Princess

“Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.”

André Gide, French critic, essayist, & novelist (1869 – 1951)


“I like those moments in my show when the gods of comedy come and give me a little gift… At such times the best thing I can often do is sit back and enjoy the moment with the audience.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

We’ve all had those moments during the course of a performance when something unexpected happens that make the moment hugely more entertaining than anything you could have ‘planned.’ I like referring to these as gifts from the comedy gods. Those prevaors of frivolity who occasionally bless a performer with an extra ounce of humour to send the audience into hysterics. In moment’s such as these do everyone a favour and don’t get in the way of the funny!

Daniel Forlano • Interview from the Inside

2010-01-22Where in the world am I today?: Grand Turk aboard the Emerald Princess

Prologue: I first met Daniel Forlano at the 2004 Waterloo Busker’s Carnival. His was one of the few shows that I sat and watched from start to finish at that Festival. I made the effort because many of the other performers at the Festival had given me the impression that his was a show to see so I very specifically made the time to check it out. Really enjoyed the show and really like the stuff he did with his freestanding ladder… He had quite a slow deliberate pace that seemed in sharp contrast to the chaos of the street and the shows on either side of him, but the pacing totally worked and the show revealed itself very successfully in spite of the chaos that surrounded it. Didn’t get as much of a chance to chat with Daniel following the show as I would have liked, but such is often the case at these festivals. Attention gets distracted by the many shinny objects and interesting conversations to be had with fellow performers, oh, and it rained a lot that weekend and I think I was likely busy dealing with wet props for a chunk of my time… Still it was good to meet Daniel and we’ve been in touch many times since. He’s a stand-up guy I reckon!


Name: Daniel Forlano.
Birthday: August 8, 1975.
Place of Birth: Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: Summer 1996.
Discipline: Clowning, comedian.
Website: www.danielforlano.com
Video Link: http://www.danielforlano.com/shows-theatre.php
Venues Worked: Krystallpalast Variete (Germany), Edmonton International Street Performers Festival (Alberta), The Comedy Studio (Cambridge, MA), Wellington Fringe Theatre Festival (New Zealand), Cape Town Comedy Festival (South Africa), Moisture Festival (Seattle)

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Mocha – Because I like chocolate and I like the taste of coffee.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films.Gattaca.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Lego.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • Bill Irwin, Richard Pryor, Peter Sellers, Charlie Chaplin.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Muppets included? Yes? Cool! My answer is Beaker.
  6. Name something that scares you.Altitude sickness.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Paper boy.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? Deep water soloing.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? Promotion.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • I’ll save this answer for James Lipton.

The Nugget:

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

“Be absorbed in what you do and others will respond. What you practice is what you become. Practice now who you want to be.”

–Daniel Forlano

Water for Elephants – A Review

2010-01-21Where in the world am I today?: St. Thomas, joining the Emerald Princess

A few weeks back I was traveling through Orlando on my way to join the Monarch of the Seas and had the delightful pleasure of spending some time with my friend Penny Mathis. Penny picked me up from the Airport and drove me out to Port Canaveral. I insisted on taking her to Waffle House for a brunch as part of this journey and before dropping me off at the ship she handed me a copy of Water for Elephants a book by Sara Gruen.

A quick stop by wikipedia gives you this quick synopsis of the story –

Water for Elephants is a historical novel by Sara Gruen. The novel centers on Jacob Jankowski and his experiences in a travelling circus called The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

Gruen did extensive research of both circus archives as well as searching out and recording various people’s personal accounts of their lives on various circuses in the United States and this research paid off as she seems to have captured some of the gritty realities of what the life on the circus was like during the great depression.

Years ago while working at the Edmonton Street Performers Festival a casting agent from Cirque du Soleil came to scout talent at the festival. Also there that year was my friend Geoff Cobb who performs as Sword Swallower, Thom Sellectomy. Geoff seemed to have a certain distain for what Cirque du Soleil represented because to his mind, Cirque wasn’t really a Circus… They were far to clean and far to polished and over the course of the week at the festival I got to hear some of his more gritty stories about some of his experiences while working as a clown on the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus in the late 80s.

Reading ‘Water for Elephants’ reminded me of some of the stories that Geoff told that week and really gave me the impression that the story not did a great job of relating the twists and turns of an old man’s memory of how he met his wife while working on the Circus, but also captured and did justice to the gritty realities of what life on the circus must have been like during the great depression.

The best possible review I could probably give this books starts with this confession. I’m an incredibly slow reader. It takes me forever to get through a book and this one I devoured in about three days. It’s a quick read, the story is engaging and the world and characters that Gruen created kept the book in my hands. Well worth the read.

52 weeks in the year…find the balance.

2010-01-20Where in the world am I today?: TorontoCharlotteSt. Thomas

On Wednesday’s I try to find some sort of topic about a job opportunity, a possible market worth considering or something related to the execution of  the getting/doing  of gigs. Today I thought I’d take the opposite approach and ask this questions… If there are only 52 weeks in the year ask yourself this.

How many of them do you really want to be working?

I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve successfully migrated my career from one that was seasonally dependant when all of the gigs I did were in the summer months, to one where the season seems to bear little relevance to how busy I am. I’ve got work in various markets that keep me busy all year round.

Even when I worked almost exclusively as a street performer I found ways to follow the sun because it’s always summer somewhere. The 1989/1990 calendar was a perfect example of this for me because I worked a ton over the course of the 1989 Summer in North America, stuck around to do a slew of Christmas Gigs, then hopped on a plane and headed to Australia for three months during which I hit various Festivals and events as well as just street performed at various pitches. Following this I had a two month run in Japan which brought me to the beginning of May, and shortly after that I was back into the full swing of the North American summer season. I was 100% successful at keeping myself busy, traveling and working over the course of an entire calendar year.

That was the year it really started to click with me that, if I really wanted to, I could be busy 12 months of the year and I actively started to pursue just that, as many jobs as I could possibly book myself each and every month of the year.

With this sort of driven work ethic however comes the risk of burn-out. One of the things I really enjoyed about the seasonal nature of the North American Street Performer’s Season was actually taking some time off during the winters when I could recharge my creative/performance batteries and refresh myself so that when I went back to the day-to-day routine of a more demanding performance schedule I actually had something in the reserves to give to the audiences I was performing for.

There was a year in the late 90s when my touring season started in January and was pretty non-stop until the middle of November at which point I started into the Christmas Performance season. It was the peak of my work in Japan and the contracts that I was doing in Japan at the time were the typical three shows a day, six days a week sort of scenario. After three of those contracts over the course of the year each of which were roughly a month long combined with a very busy North American Summer Season of touring and performing I sort of felt like I was running on fumes and didn’t have much to give to my audience when I stepped out to perform.

I remember taking a year off between high school and university. I traveled, I performed, I explored anything and everything and at then decided to go back to school. I had a blast at the University of Ottawa. I studied general arts with a concentration in theatre and loved filling my head with interesting lectures and new ideas and at the end of the year at school I felt like my tank was once again full and when I went back to performing I had so much more to give to my audience.

There’s something to refilling your tank so you’ve got something more to give. Some people are successful at refilling their tank along the way, which means their tank never runs dry – this is awesome. For myself however I think I occasionally need a complete change of scenery to really re-charge my batteries. This past year I had the amazing opportunity to take about three weeks away from performing and travel to Peru and visit Machu Picchu… I came back with full batteries which was a pretty important thing because I walked straight into performing a new show at the PNE.

There are 52 weeks in every year. Yes working during many of them is important because if you want to make a living, but equally important, I think, is setting some time aside to make sure your tank is creatively and playfully full so that when you step in front of the audience you’ve got something in your well to give.

So, figure out what your financial nut is and make sure you’ve got enough gigs in the schedule to look after that, but also give some thought to your creative nut and what it’s going to take to make sure that it’s being nurtured and satisfied as well… If things get out of whack balance-wise you run the risk of burning out, and if what you really want it to be able to sustain a career as a performer and creative a person, then striking a balance between commerce and creativity is critical!

Staying Connected…

2010-01-19Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

It was one of those days when I seemed to be reaching out and staying connected with various clients, friends, potential employers, service providers, you name it – I had a crazy busy day, but as with so many things in business, it was all about creating, maintaining and nurturing good relationships with people.

The work I’ve done with the PNE Street Stars Program over the last five years has kicked up a gear or two as I’m looking at what I want my role in that position to evolve into… I have the sense that there’s something bigger on the horizon, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I do think it’s important to continue to gather names of people interested in performing at the event and keep the names organized  so I can successfully find those ‘connections‘ when I need them, so part of my day was spent working on the systems for that and starring at my computer screen…

Had a meeting with a performer who contacted me as we have several mutual friends and it just felt like we needed to meet face to face and ‘connect.’ It was an awesome meeting during with the conversation flowed incredibly easily and what I first thought might have been a chat that would last an hour or so ended up not being done when we absolutely had to pull the plug on it two and a half hours into the yap-fest. We talked about a huge variety of things and I felt like we had a lot to offer each other though what would very clearly become not only a business relationship, but a friendship.

Yacked on the phone for about a half hour with (and I have to admit it feels weird to say this on some levels) my new MANAGER. I originally met Corwin Hiebert through my friend David Duchemin. Corwin then asked me to be involved with the Creative Mix conference back in October and I was so impressed with the job he did running that event and with some of the work that he’s been doing with creative professionals in Vancouver that I knew this was going to be a guy who could help me stay current, revamp some of my systems and help me stay ‘connected’ to clients and friends. We’ve got a few projects in the works already, and many more floating around in the percolating stage as we like to call it. Fun stuff.

Touched base with Lee Zimmerman and Martin Ewen about writing guest blog spots for this blog and have a sneaking suspicion that I may end up migrating this blog over to it’s own web presences that is less branded by my Checkerboard Guy persona… As I wrote in an email to Lee, I’d love to morph this blog into something like the Rolling Stone Magazine for Street and Variety performers… Have guest bloggers contribute content, continue to generate content myself, but build this into more of a community so that I have a vehicle for staying ‘connected’ with the industry that I get so much from.

Sent a Facebook message back to a guy who has asked me to be an administrator for the facebook Jugglers and Magician group on Facebook. In his message to me he talked about wanting to grow the group so that we’d have a stronger presence in numbers. That all being ‘connected’ could bring some very real benefits, and as I both agree with and support this sentiment I indicated that I’d be happy to be a part of the admin team.

I think in this day and age when social networks like Facebook and Twitter have become semi-addictive, people’s need for these connections has grown and will continue to grow. Successfully finding ways to grow these connections and build relationships will mean greater success in both your personal and professional pursuit, so here’s to saying connected!

Downloadable Marketing Materials

2010-01-18Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Had a phone conversation with a producer this past weekend about a job coming up in March and at one point in the conversation he asked me about posters and other graphics that he could use to promote my performances at his festival.

It’s all on-line,” I said.

Being able to point people to a downloadable source of photos, graphics, posters and other information that they can use to promote you is something everyone should include on their website. I’ve had a number of other conversations with other producers who, when I asked if they needed any promo materials, informed me that they’d already downloaded everything they needed from my website and that if they needed anything else they’d let me know…

It’s actually funny sometimes to see what images people pick to promote my show because I have images that are relevant to various markets that I work for and sometimes people will pick an image to promote my show that I wouldn’t necessarily say matched the market that the image was specifically designed for, but wha’cha gonna do? By putting the information up for general consumption you sort of leave some room for interpretation on the other end of the connection…

Even though some images make more sense for certain markets, all of the images and all of the graphics were designed to promote me, so what ever image is picked tends to be OK and if there’s really something off with their choice it gives me fodder for conversation and jokes at the beginning of my shows anyway so I’ve never really felt too mis-represented by having someone mix and match the images I’ve got on across various markets all that much.

I suppose I could avoid this eventuality by not posting the information on-line and instead providing the appropriate promotional images each time a client asks for something, but I’ve received more positive feedback than negative about having on-line options that make life easier for those in charge of putting together festival brochures and flyers because of the ease-of-use my site offers.

Keep it clean, keep it easy to navigate and make it easy for people who need to access and download your promo and you’ll make a lot of friends with people behind the scenes as well as those who are in charge of booking you.

The day I met the Mayor Of Show Business

(This post was contributed by Mr. Lee Zimmerman about his experience when he first moved to LA many moons ago… It’s a treat to have him contribute this post to the blog and I hope the feedback is such that he is encouraged to write more…. d. – checkerhead)


Back in 1991, I got a chance that few people ever get. I met a magazine editor named Richard Waner. He said he really loved my show after seeing me perform in Venice, Ca. and that he could hook me up with “something better than the street.” I had only arrived in town about five weeks earlier from Philly, so I didn’t know if I could believe anybody. But, boom!–he had great connections. He arranged for me to perform a six minute showcase at The Improvisation in Hollywood.

I was never as nervous before or since as I was when I saw who was performing there that night, their names scrawled loosely on a chalkboard next to the bar. Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Lovitz, Bill Maher and six other people I admired…I read the name Roseanne Arnold, which was the style at the time.

It was obvious that I was a little freaked out. Budd Friedman the club owner said, ”Why don’t you take a quick walk around the block, you got time” and I sharped, “Great idea!” I shot out the door ka-CHUNG! for a fast walk and tried to calm down…yeah, right.

I turned right and walked up Melrose Blvd, contemplating my entire life up to that moment. It’s the first week of June. I remember that the sun was just heading into the golden hour. I turned left on Fairfax and saw the Hollywood sign for the very first time since moving to L.A. That made me feel better, actually… It felt like I’m getting closer to my dreams, and why not? I really had worked hard, put in the hours, paid my dues, suffered for my craft, performed in the cold.  I actually did try new things, develop and enhance my material as best I could for years, hell; maybe I CAN do this. And if I CAN do this, why I never have to question my talent or worth as an entertainer again! If I pull off even a decent show, the Mayor Of Show Business will cut a sash with my name on it, kiss my cheeks and squeeze my bum. I never have to do another thing in this industry. It will mean that nine years of hard work equal true validation, once and for all. Anyone who ever mocked my dreams could just take a great big ol’ SUCK.
And I can have ALL OF THIS if I can just get my heart to slow down to a survivable rate for a mere six minutes. Impossible!

I skulked in, grabbed my stage gear and hovered by the main door with Budd. He said, “Don’t worry. If you fuck up, only two or three people will be fired.”

They announce my name and I saunter up to the stage, but I’ve never really worked with a mike before. I muttered something about being a little scared.

“What are these people thinking, hiring a puppet show to work at the Improv?”

They giggled nervously for me.

I set up my little stage and cued the sound guy for Jimi Hendrix, “Rock Me, Baby.” Right off, I can tell it’s working. They start moving and even screaming at every new sight gag and I’m thinking to myself, I swear I thought this–“all those years of street–having to be funny every eight seconds! Other comics take their time, a laugh every fifteen seconds because they can…not on the street, man. I am absolutely killing right now! This can’t actually be happening!”

Everybody there wanted me to do well, you could just feel it. They were feeding me energy in waves. I am nothing if not foolishly honest, and I tell you this–I could physically feel the power of that audience wash over me.  So, I kept on hitting it really hard and really fast…God bless Street Training!

The audience is whooping it up, just loving every little thing, getting up on their feet to see it all, and I’m giggling nervously, having an out of body experience. I’m barely able to stop smiling. I don’t think I ever did actually–except in the really sensual parts, where Jimi’s solos force me to make that Jimmy Page face that I make when I’m on stage. Goofy guitar hero gushy faces and winces and a pile of expressive whatever it is…can’t help those, man…and I always always always do a little dance on my ladder. This is no exception.

I’m giving up a solid performance, maybe a seven or an eight. I mean, we all know our skill level and if you judge as harshly as I do, I gave ’em a nice strong eight. I can live with an eight. I am OPENING with my finale and doing so with no tangles, nice and clean. When I hit the last note–BAM–the puppet drops, Jimi’s paper mini-amps fall over. There’s a split second beat, a vacuum gasp of air from the audience and then ‘WHAHH!’ APPLAUSE! There in the dark, a bunch of standing people. The volume and intensity actually knocked a little bit of wind out of my chest. Validated!  Mark Lonow is standing in the light of the sound booth. He’s the other owner of The Improv and after more roars from the crowd, he opens up the sound man’s mike, because it’s obvious to everyone that I couldn’t actually speak.
“I think we found someone new!” More applause. I gulped it together, but I had to wipe my eyes as I bent down behind my backdrop, reaching for the next puppet.

I won’t lie; my eyes were a little wet from the sheer ecstasy of this moment and I giggled up a twisted little release of air. I just stood there for a second beaming, trembling with relief…I said something that got a nice laugh, then I did David Byrne, “Who Is It?” One minute, forty-four seconds. It absolutely KILLED. The audience reactions were getting bigger and bigger and then it ended with a giant crescendo of laughs and applause–Boomf!

6 and half perfect minutes on stage. I walked on clouds on top of feathers braised with marshmallows for the next five hours. The staff was flipping out, I finally relaxed and I got to meet all my comedy heroes–Jerry Seinfeld was on that stage just a few comics later.

I had just set foot in town six weeks earlier, with a broken heart and 243 dollars. This was the day that I really arrived in Los Angeles.

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