~ The Checkerboard Guy's Blog ~


Archive for November, 2009

Get Me This Info…

2009-11-30Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

As many people seem to know I’ve been the consultant on who to bring in for the Annual PNE Street Stars Program since about December 2004 when I first met with Patrick Roberge, the Creative Director for the PNE, about reviving the street program at the Fair. My role as point man for the program has been going strong ever since and I’m working on another project at the moment which will take place during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver as well.

The world has chanced a big since those early days when some people were still sending me VHS tapes (I didn’t get many, but I did get some). For about four years DVDs were the way to get me video that I could take in to meetings and demo potential acts for the powers that be. These days, everything has moved on-line and when I meet to discuss acts with the higher-ups these days, this is the info I go into a meeting with -

  • Act Name:
  • Real Name:
  • Web Site:
  • YouTube Video:

Then when we decide on the acts that we’ll be using I typically need the following additional information -

  • Email:
  • Mailing Address:
  • Phone Number(s):
  • Bio (40 – 60 words max):
  • Photo (4 x 6, 300 dpi, jpg):

I’m starting to compile a data base of this information for performers that are being considered for events that I work with so I can quickly deliver these details to the marketing department and the contracting department. Having these details on hand, up-to-date and ready-to-go makes my life significantly easier, so if you’d be interested in being considered as one of the acts for the Street Stars Program at the Pacific National Exhibition which will run from August 22 – September 6, 2010, then getting this information to me will be your first step in the process of being considered.

Even if you think I’ve got your information already, it’s worth touching base to make sure that I do indeed have it and that the information I have is up-to-date and accurate.

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Lily Tomlin – Quoted

2009-11-28Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Lily Tomlin, US actress & comedienne  (1939 -  )

Addendum…

“The RAT RACE eh… Aren’t their better races to be running in the first place?”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

While in Miami recently I got together with a friend from High School for a drink. Hadn’t seen them for years but through the marvels of Facebook we had been reacquainted. Catching up face to face was great, but I was struck by the fact that they perceived my life to be a success not because I’d taken the path most travelled or chased the goals that so many in our society are obsessed with, but because I had taken an alternate route and still managed to quite happily survive… To them this was a success worthily of celebration. I never really thought about it because I’m too busy simply trying to keep up with what everyday presents, but perhaps there’s something to it.

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John Park • Interviews from the Inside

2009-11-27Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: I think I might have first seen John Park at a Juggling Convention back in the 80s, but the first chance I remember really talking to him came at the Victoria Busker’s Festival in the Spring of 1994. The American Dream Juggling Team (John’s former duo-act) has split up by this point and John was figuring out what it took to do a solo show. We had several chats that weekend about what he was doing an how he might improve upon it, and he eventually came to Vancouver for a visit the following winter and we jammed out ideas for his Funny Waiter Character. Less than a year later John also had the distinction of becoming one of the few client for the long defunct “Beaver Street Tour Management Company” that I started up to help build tours for world class street acts. Over the years we’ve bumped into each other at various festivals and events and continue to grow the memories that make up the fabric of our friendship.

STATS

Name: John Park.
Birthday: August 5, 1962.
Place of Birth: Alexandria, VA, USA.
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: December 1978
Discipline: Juggling
Website: http://www.johnpark.biz
Video Link: See website.
Venues Worked: Vegas revue shows, company parties, festivals and fairs, libraries, schools, bar mitzvahs, Pier 39, renaissance fairs, cruise ships, colleges, etc etc.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why?Moose Tracks because a moose is quintessentially canadian!
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films.Midnight Run.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Slinky.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • Greg Dean, Ray Jason, Whitney Brown and Mike Davis.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Sponge Bob.
  6. Name something that scares you.Drowning.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Worked as a office assistant in a Law Office.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? Disposable lighter repairman.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • When the client doesn’t make eye contact after the show.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “One seat left for texas hold ‘em.”

The Nugget:

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

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

–John Park

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The Long Flight Home…

2009-11-26Where in the world am I today?: St. Thomas -> Newark, NY -> Toronto, ON -> Vancouver, BC!

No two ways about it… Today will be a very long day of travel for me. Up to clear customs and Immigration in St. Thomas around 7:00 am. Time for some breakfast, then the short jaunt from the EMERALD Princess to the Airport in St. Thomas. Continental Flight 1883 from St. Thomas to Newark, New York. Air Canada Flight 771 from Newark to Toronto and finally Air Canada Flight 151 from Toronto to Vancouver. I’m ‘scheduled’ to arrive at 00:47 am on Friday morning. And lets not forget that there’s a three hour time change which will make that 00:47 am feel more like 3:47 am when I arrive… Hmmm… Fun! Then clear immigration in Vancouver, grab my bags (hopefully they’ll all arrive) and the cab ride home… If I get home by 2:00 am I’ll be doing well making it about a twenty-two hour commute…

I’ve gotten pretty good at going into ‘travel mode’ and living through days like these. I can usually get some sleep on the flights which I’m very thankful for. I’ll often stubble across a free wifi connection at an airport that I can tap into for a quick email-check. I’ll also look after the admin-type paperwork that I do after every gig – a thank you letter to the cruise line for the opportunity, the reimbursement form to go along with the excess baggage charges that I can never see to avoid, along with a thank you to my agent for the gig in the first place. I always have my iPod on hand to listen too and am slowly working through a series of podcasts by Alan Cross called ‘The Ongoing History of New Music‘ which are great.

I view these travel days as a chance to shift gears as well because my reality when I’m on a cruise ship is significantly different than my existence when I get home. This trip in particular for a variety of reasons will have me hitting the ground running upon my return. Birthdays, and wedding anniversaries, and prep for Christmas etc… There’ll be no shortage of things to keep me hopping upon my return.

I had a couple of great conversations with hypnotist/mentalist Joshua Seth and his wife Suzie while I was aboard the EMERALD Princess… They were nice enough to come and watch a couple of my shows in the Piazza over the run and seemed to have a long list of questions about how to make it all work when balancing a family and a performance career. It was funny to be considered some sort of authority on the subject, but I think really all they were after was a performer’s perspective because they’re talking about starting a family and wanted to get a bit of a sense of what they were getting into… I didn’t really have a simple answer beyond… This statement…

“Somehow it all works.”

  • Is it ideal to leave my family for three weeks to do a couple of cruise ship contracts? – No.
  • Could I stay in Vancouver and still survive as a performer? – Maybe.
  • Am I able to keep things fairly balanced between family and career? – I hope so…

Life tends to be messy and there are no absolutely right answers to questions like the ones above, but I work reasonably hard to craft a scenario that works reasonably well for all of the parties involved – Me, my wife and my kids. Being away allows me to make a decent enough living so that the home team is well provided for. When I am home I try to be there for my wife and kids and save up work on various projects (when possible) to do while I’m away. It’s not perfect, but I try to approach all aspects of this imperfect reality with a positive outlook and an enthusiasm which seems to smooth any rough edges reasonably well…

So… A twenty-two hour commute today. Not necessarily the way I’d most like to spend the day, but after three weeks away from Emiko, Koji and Owen, I’m very much looking forward to getting back to the happy chaos that is life at home!

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The Universe Lounge

2009-11-25Where in the world am I today?: St. Maarten aboard the EMERALD Princess

I was working on the ISLAND Princess last week which is one of just two ships in the Princess Fleet (The CORAL Princess being the other) that are home to The Universe Lounge. This is one of my favourite venues to play on Princess Ships and ironically the cruise director had me work exclusively in the Princess Theatre… A bit odd, but what’cha gonna do?

So what makes The Universe Lounge one of my favourite venues to play? Well, for one, it’s a great space for jugglers as the ceiling height is significant enough to allow you to do just about everything you could possibly want to do. The lounge is set up rather like the Explorer’s Lounge on other ships, but the Universe had a second level of balcony seats and the ceiling goes up a full two decks which is awesome! The stage (although it’s a bit hard to see from the image because the curtain is down, thrusts out into the audience as well which puts you right in the middle of the audience which, coming from my street performance background feels completely intuitive and natural.

Like the stages in the VISTA Lounge on other Princess Ships, the stage in the Universe Lounge can be raised and lowered. There are actually several different sections to the stage that can be raised and lowered independently of each other and have been very effectively incorporated into a show featuring Broadway/Television Actor, Adrian Zmed. Unlike other venues however, the ceiling height is such that there’s no need to lower the stage in the Universe Lounge when I pull out my tall unicycle. There’s plenty of room to work even with the stage at normal height.

The seating on the main level of the lounge are arranged with tables and chairs as well as sofas providing a cabaret style experience for the audience. This is means a slightly lighter audience density than in the traditional raked rows of seats found in the main theatre, but  it also lends itself nicely to a slightly less formal setting which is well suited to the style of show that I perform. Drink service is also provided by a bar at the back of the room, so after a drink or two people are usually in a pretty good mood by the time the show starts.

Technical support in Universe Lounge is usually provided by three individuals much the way it is in the VISTA Lounge on other ships. You’ve got one guy back stage to assist if needed, one guy who runs the sound and lights and a third who acts as the over all watch-dog of the show, usually the production manager who ensures the overall smooth running of the show. Although I never really put to great a demand on the production team, they are there to make sure that the shows are the best that they can possibly look and that everything runs smoothly.

For about the last week I’ve been aboard the EMERALD Princess working in the Piazza, which might well be my favorite venue to play, but any time I’m offered the chance to play on either the CORAL or the ISLAND I jump at it and keep my fingers crossed that I’ll be playing in the Universe Lounge.

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Loosing Track of Time…

2009-11-24Where in the world am I today?: At Sea aboard the EMERALD Princess

This little tip came to me recently while working on a couple of Princess Ships. Last week I was on the ISLAND Princess, this week I’m on the EMERALD Princess and on both ships the runs crossed time zones. It’s pretty easy to let the days blend together a bit when you’re doing a cruise ship contract because it’s a little like the experience that Bill Murray went through in “GroundhogDay.” The routine, the environment, the passengers all end up taking on a certain ‘same-ness’ to them that create’s a certain sense of deja vu and makes it very easy to miss a clock change or loose track of exactly what day it is. That being said, the cruise director does expect you to show up for your performances on time as to the technical teams from the various venues that you perform in aboard ship.

Though it didn’t effect my performances aboard the ISLAND Princess last week, I did experience a bit of a time-zone anomaly on the day I disembarked in Limon, Costa Rica. For whatever reason the ship doesn’t switch over to local time which is one hour earlier than ship time. I suspect that this is because the ship is only in this time zone for one day and it’s easier for everyone to not have to make the time switch for only one day… I set my cel phone’s alarm clock to wake me up with lots of time to finish packing the morning of my departure but what I didn’t realize was that my cel phone switched over to Costa Rican time when my phone was able to access the local network. This meant that when my alarm went off I actually got up an hour later (by ships time) than I had intended which made for a slightly more chaotic morning as I scrambled to get everything packed and ready to go.

Yesterday aboard the EMERALD I work up with the ship anchored off the coast of Princess’s private island in the Bahamas, Princess Cays. Woke up, went for some breakfast and got about my morning routine when I realized that the ship had crossed over a time zone change and it was actually an hour later than I had originally thought… This meant that all of a sudden I needed to re-think my day in terms of the things that I wanted to accomplish and how I was going to do it given the fact that I inadvertently misplaced an hour…

The simple solution to keeping track of time sits right on your desk in your cabin. The display on the top of the phone gives you the ship’s current time. There’s also the a channel on the TV in your cabin that keeps you up-to-date on such things as the ship’s current position, the time, weather conditions etc. So… When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to double check to make sure the time you think it is on the ship is actually the time that everyone else on the ship is working by.

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2010 Trading Cards

2009-11-23Where in the world am I today?: Princess Cays, Bahamas aboard the Emerald Princess

Well, it’s that time of the year again… A couple of months I put out a bit of a query hoping that I could enlist the assistance of someone…anyone…who might have a bit of design sense who I could convince to help me with the design of the 2010 Trading Card… Nobody answered the call, so I sat down and came up with something myself and sent out the initial design to a few folks who’ve ordered cards in the past to get their feedback. Mike Wood stepped up and introduced me to the Mike Wood Hockey Card Rules (MWHCW).

From when I initially sent the design to Mike for review to when we eventually settled on the final details of the 2010 design it ended up taking about a month I’d say. This process took longer than I had anticipated, but having two sets of eyes looking things over means that the end results are stronger than they would have been otherwise. The more we tweaked the more I found that certain basic design concepts kept coming up and in the end I felt like we achieved an uncluttered simple elegance to the design. In Mike’s words -

This year’s card is a modern update of the classic sports trading cards of yore. Think late-70s hockey card. They’ve got everything but the chewing gum stain. They’re a little asymmetrical for one thing, which was a trick that helped those old timers hide the fact that their donkey-powered machinery often cut entire sheets of cards completely askew. To keep the whole thing looking like a set, the base colour scheme is white, with navy blue for the details (text, pin-stripes etc.). For the accent colour, any shade within the spectrum of visible light is up to the individual player performer to decide. Back in the day I used to love when O-Pee-Chee used a colour in this way to highlight something other than team affiliation. One year, all the defensemen got a green outline, and the rookies all got pink. Good times…

I sent my cards in to be printed a few weeks back and am looking forward to getting them back in about a week or so. The order information went on-line shortly after I had made my order and I made an initial announcement on Facebook after everything went live at:

http://www.superstarperformers.com/regular-season-order.html

I’ve discussed how great these trading cards are in a previous post so I won’t bother going into the hows and whys of my love affaire with this particular piece of promotional material, but those who order these cards once often end up ordering them again and again and again. If you’ve ordered the cards in past and want new cards for the start of the 2010 Season then get your orders in soon to ensure that the cards are in your hands before the beginning of the new year. If you’ve never ordered these cards then why not treat yourself to something new in the way of self promotional tools… If you have even half as much fun as I do with these, then you’ll have a blast handing these things out!

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Andy Rooney – Quoted

2009-11-21Where in the world am I today?: At Sea aboard the EMERALD Princess

“Don’t rule out working with your hands. It does not preclude using your head.”

Andy Rooney, US news commentator (1919 – )

Addendum…

“I love to juggle because it keeps my body busy and somehow focuses my thoughts”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

When I was growing up our house was right next to the High School I attended. Early on in my High School Career I figured out ways to get two lockers side-by-side and would put my school books in one and a collection of juggling equipment in the one next door. The halls of the school were well lit and a great place to practice and I’d often spend a couple of hours after school working on various tricks and skills. I have vivid memories of juggling before exams because the act of juggling was almost meditative. Instead of getting all wound up with nerves before the exams, the juggling actually focused my thoughts and allowed me to write a better exam as a result.

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John Higby • Interviews from the Inside

2009-11-20Where in the world am I today?: Grand Turk aboard the EMERALD Princess

Prologue: Around the mid-1990s I started to hear about this guy… This Yo-Yo Guy who had started making the rounds at various street performers festivals, but it wasn’t until I ran into John at the Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival in 2000 that I actually got to get to know him. I have vivid memories of enjoying a team show that he did with Mike Battie and his tutelage of a young yo-yo player named Jensen Kimmitt who was a pretty accomplished player at a very young age. John’s good natured ways seemed to encourage collaboration and creativity. I also learned that he was a pretty gifted cartoonist and a couple of years later he produced a series of cartoons for me that I still use to promote my show. Great guy and now glowing from having recently become a father.

STATS

Name: John Higby.
Birthday: May 26, 1975.
Place of Birth: Bellevue, Washington.
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: December 1992
Discipline: Practice any open moment, the yo-yo is in my pocket!
Website: http://www.yoyoshow.com
Video Link: http://vimeo.com/2942037
Venues Worked: Disney World, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Disney Cruise Lines, festivals in 18 countries.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Ice cream is okay but my wife Rebecca got me a culinary torch so I can now make my favorite, Creme Brulee!
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films. • Just saw Gus Van Sandt’s Paranoid Park and it is genius my favorite movie of the year.  My dad was a film student so I am hardcore film buff.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Grandpa gave me a Duncan Tournament Yo-Yo when I was 11 so that would have to be it!
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • Performing?  Zip Code Man was the first street show I saw and I was blown away.  Reid Belstock, The Jim Show, Hilby, Lee Zimmerman, Glenn Singer, Big Nazo there are so many that I am in awe of.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Bugs Bunny is a wizard and is still funnier than anything ever especially Chuck Jones episodes.
  6. Name something that scares you. • Religion.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • I got a really sweet job right out of high school as a sign maker for a natural food store and I did that for a few years while I did street shows in the summer time.  When I’m not performing I do a lot of painting and my canvas have been a success for me… www.johnhigby.com
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? Hot air ballooning!
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • Checking in at the Airport with all my gear.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • I don’t believe in god, I believe in Art.

The Nugget:

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

“My grandpa said something to me that really stuck.  He told me to pick something I really love and stay with it and after a period of time you will be rewarded.  He tuned and installed pipe organs for 65 years and was so passionate about music and sound.   Also, the bigger the company you work for the harder it is to get paid on time even though they have the most money.”

–John Higby

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Getting in the habit…

2009-11-19Where in the world am I today?: St. Thomas boarding the EMERALD Princess.

I was trying to come up with a clever image to go along with this post and I’m not sure dental floss is really the best thing I could have tagged to go along with the thought that’s buzzing around in my head for today’s post, but it’ll work to demonstrate the point I’m trying to make…

Back when I was in middle school, I must have been 14 years old or so I convinced myself that I needed to have better dental hygiene. It might have been a particularly bad check up at the dentist or a visit to the school from an oral hygienist, or some other freak thing that just tweaked in my head, but from that point forward I determined that I would made a habit out of regular flossing. At the time I learned that it took between four to five weeks for most things to become ‘habit’ so I set about the task of flossing religiously for a month and by the end of the month it had indeed become habit. Something I didn’t even think about and something that has, ever since, meant that my visits to the dentist are far less expensive than had I not set about developing this habit reasonably early in life.

I keep going back to how impressed I was with Jim McDonald and the discipline he demonstrated to the craft of writing comedy while we were working together on the ISLAND Princess last week. Every day he’d sit down to write and every time he went up on stage he’s try out two or three new lines that he’d written either that day or that week. I was just really inspired to try and get into this habit of daily work on improving my show. The post I wrote about ‘Scrivener’ spoke of my initial efforts to organize my thoughts so I had places to put ideas and bits that pop into my head that I think would be good additions to the show and I’m moving slowly towards making a habit of more diligent efforts on my show which feels good.

This blog is another example of getting into a regular habit. When I started at the beginning of the year I had no idea if I’d run out of things to say or topics to discuss and would certainly welcome ideas from anyone who happens to be reading as to content suggestions or questions that they might like answered, but somehow, even with out too much feedback I’ve managed to come up with things that I was able to write about for the last ten and a half months and the well doesn’t seem like it’s even close to getting dry yet, so I’ll just keep generating content…

I’ve mentioned Mike Wood’s Funny Once A Day project that he mounted on Twitter… Another great example of setting a goal and making a habit out of it. There’s great strength in creating these work habits as it generally separates the people who succeed and are able to continually generate material, content, new works, what have you, and those who get complacent and stick with what works with out ever really pushing past a certain creative plateau… If possible, escape the seductive lure of such complacency and keep pushing forward with new challenges and new habits that keep you looking to improve on what you do. The sooner your able to get into the habit, the more you’ll benefit from it over the long haul!

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Three Little Questions…

2009-11-18Where in the world am I today?: Miami -> St. Thomas, US. Virgin Islands

I got an email from an agent that I hadn’t worked for in ages recently about a Christmas Gig. The gig wasn’t offering very much in the way of a salary which got me to wondering if it was one of those scenarios that I’ve encountered in the past when I do a gig for an agreed upon fee, then find out that the agent actually charged the client twice what I was getting paid… On the one hand I agreed to do the gig for the prescribed fee, but on the other hand I feel like I’m being mis-represented to the end client if the agent is taking such a huge cut off the top before I see my fee.

So… Before agreeing to anything I asked about how the agent was now operating and in my experience it tends to breakdown into one of the following scenarios -

  1. The Agent gets a fee for the performer then tags a commission or finders fee on top of that for themselves?
  2. The Agent determines what the client can afford, pitches it to you as an act then takes a certain percentage commission out of the total payment.
  3. The Agent charges a fee to the client, pays the performer from this fee, but keeps all of the details confidential.

I always get a bit nervous about business dealings when the talent broker or agent operates under scenario #3. I feel like I’m flying blind which I always find a bit unsettling. In scenarios #1 and #2 all of the cards are laid out on the table. I see what transactions are taking place and agree to the terms of the transactions before I go into them, nothing is hidden.

I certainly don’t mind paying for the service that is provided by and agent because I am getting a direct benefit for the service that they are providing. They’re getting me a job that I didn’t get myself. They have established a relationship with that client, they should get paid for brokering the gig.

Some may argue (some agents anyway) that the same scenario is in place in the third scenario as well, but in the third scenario the details are kept from me in a way that feels borderline deceitful or at the very least somewhat dubious. If this is how the agent operates I’m quite happy to not work for them and thankfully I’m in a position where I can choose not to take gigs that fall into that sort of a scenario.

In the situation of this recently offered Christmas gig, the response that I got back from the agent was that they operate under the #2 scenario which is my personal favorite. The client pays the agent, the agent takes the commission and then I get the balance. Commissions rates vary from agent to agent and I’ve heard figures that range from a commission figure of 10% all the way up to about 25%. In this scenario the agent is taking a 20% commission which is on the higher side of things, but the gig itself isn’t a huge huge money gig so the 20% doesn’t amount to a huge salary for the agent and he’s gotta make a buck too, so I didn’t have a problem with it. That being said, knowing all of the details allowed me to feel good about how this deal transpired.

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Scrivener

2009-11-17Where in the world am I today?: Miami, Fl, USA

While I was working on the ISLAND Princess over the past week and a bit I was super impressed with how diligently Jim McDonald worked on his act. It inspired me to sit down and start the process of organizing all of my bits into one big document, a data-base of routines where I could see all the stuff I’ve got in my checkerboard chest of wonders and create a catalogue of all of the material that I currently do on a regular or semi-regular basis. My theory being that after shows if I’ve had a particularly good ad-lib, this database will  give me a place to make notes on each routine and beyond just the organic nature of ad-libs during a show I’ll also have a place to work on writing new jokes that could be incorporated into existing routines or have a place to look at completely new routines and material.

The software I picked for this job was Scrivener. How did I discover it? Well, months ago my friend, David Duchemin, told me about this very reasonably priced ($39.95) software package that he uses to organize his thoughts for the various writing projects. Now before I go any further I should state up-front that this is a Mac Only program, so if you live in the PC world you’re S.O.L. on this particular software package, but I’ve found that a majority of performers seem to gravitate towards the Mac platform, so hopefully this might be something that will be relevant to a few performers out there.

The integration between Scrivener and the Mac OS is pretty great and the ability to format text, spell check and shift between documents will be familiar to anyone who’s used Mac Programs like Mail or Keynote… It’s certainly not as robust a word processor as say Microsoft Word, but what it does, it does very well and having used it for a couple of projects now I can state that the more I use it the more I like it. It’s has been a great package for me to lay out ideas and plot a course with projects that I’ve developed from the ground up like the Hot Dog Show as well as a way to organize my thoughts and ideas as they pertain to the routines I’ve done for years as The Checkerboard Guy. Being able to look at everything in one umbrella document will, I hope, make the process of revisiting those old routines in an attempt to re-invent them and breath some fresh new life into them a much easier task that it would be in a standard word processor document.

The website does a much better job of describing the features and work flow that the software allows you to implement and the on-line tutorial videos do a great job of explaining the software’s interface and will get you up and running in less than an hour should you choose to watch them all. The Free 30-day trial version of the software is also an excellent way to try before you buy which is exactly what I did when I started to use the software in the Spring. With the work I did over the course of the last week aboard the ISLAND Princess I can easily confess to being a big fan of this software as both a venue to write down my ideas and more importantly a place to keep them organized.

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Powerpoint or Keynote Slides

2009-11-16Where in the world am I today?: Limon -> San Jose (Costa Rica) -> Miami, Fl, USA

Almost a year ago when I was working on the GRAND Princess the image that accompanies this post was created to promote my show in the Princess Theatre. The technical staff of the theatre asked me for a photo then took that image and created a Powerpoint slide to project on the side screens of the Princess Theatre before the show began. The ability to quickly provide them with a jpeg to use in the slide meant that they had an image of my selection to use for the slide and at the time I was happy to have them create the slide that got used to promote the show.

I’m now thinking that with a little bit of effort I could come up with something far better in the way of a Powerpoint or Keynote slide or perhaps even a full slide show that could run for the 15 – 20 minutes prior to my show starting much like those trivia contests that run in movie theatres before the feature begins. People are in the theatre, if the side screens are available people will get sucked into watching them… Why not take greater advantage of this as a resource for not only promoting the show, but also engaging the audience, and prepping them for the nature of the show to come?

I’ve just finished a contract aboard the ISLAND Princess and thoroughly enjoyed working with comedian Jim McDonald who, to my mind, has taken the concept of using a slide show to a whole different level and has incorporated it into his act. The slides get such a strong reaction from the audiences that this is what he uses to close his shows.

Now stand-up comedy is quite often an art form that primarily appeals to the sense of hearing. Sure the gestures a comic makes on stage ad a certain visual component to the act, but it’s amazing to watch the audience get sucked in to not only the words that Jim is saying but also the visual clues that are provided by the slides and video that he has prepared for the end of his shows. By increasing the scope of the visual appeal of his show, he increases the overall resonance of his show.

This notion of audience appeals is discussed in a great book geared primarily towards performers of magic called Showmanship for Magicians by Dariel Fitzkee. Though this book is now decades old, it does a fantastic job of discussing various ways to appeal to an audience and suggests that the more ‘appeals’ you can incorporate into your performance the greater the impact you’ll have on your audience…

All this from the original concept of projecting a slide (or slides) before your show to promote to the audience what’s to come. I’m fully prepared to admit that I haven’t taken full advantage of this appeal to the audience and view it as a potential gold mine opportunity to market myself, my website and my sense of funny to each and every audience that I play to when projected images are possible prior to the beginning of the show. It’s not possible in every venue to be sure, but where it is, why not take advantage of it.

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Oscar Levant – Quoted

2009-11-14Where in the world am I today?: Cartagena, Colombia aboard the Island Princess

“I’m going to memorize your name and throw my head away.”

Oscar Levant, US pianist, composer, author, comedian (1906 – 1972 )

Addendum…

“Here here! Having a head is highly over rated!”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I kick myself sometimes in the middle of a show… I know I just asked a volunteer their name, but I turn around to grab a prop and when I turn back their name is just gone gone gone!

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Brent McCoy • Interviews from the Inside

2009-11-13Where in the world am I today?: Aruba aboard the ISLAND Princess

Prologue: The year was 2008 and I found myself back at the Kingston Busker’s Rendez-vous for the tenth time in the last twenty years… Some performers question why I’ve gone back so many times to this particular festival and there are a variety of reasons. A). I enjoy performing for the crowds in Kingston who seem to come out to see my show no matter how many times I take it back – how fabulous is that? B). There’s a great post show social scene with the performers who show up for this festival with parties almost every night and a great hang. C). I inevitably meet new performers every time I got to this festival and I love seeing new acts and different approaches. This is where I first met Brent McCoy. In a festival that was dominated by huge sound systems and people stomping on each other volume-wise here was Brent doing a silent clown show. It was refreshing to see something different in the group and fun to get to know him a bit. We ran into each other again in the Airport in Shanghai, China in October of 2008 as we had both been performing at festivals (not the same festivals mind you) there and just happened to be passing through the airport on the same day. Great guy, nice take on performing and a really fun show.

STATS

Name: Brent McCoy.
Birthday: June 27, 1981.
Place of Birth: Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: December 2005
Discipline: Street Performer, Physical Comedian, Clown.
Website: http://www.brentmccoy.com
Video Link: http://www.brentmccoy.com/promo.php
Venues Worked: Numerous Buskers, Clown, Fringe, and Vaudeville festivals around country and the world,  Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA. Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, VT.  Theaters all over the East Coast, NYC, and mainly Vermont and Maine.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Ben and Jerry’s Vanilla with maple syrup or pie. Needs no explanation.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films. • Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Legos.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • Fritz Grobe, now of Eepybird.com.  Danny Frank, a former Ringling Clown.  Clark Mcfarlan, aka, Mario Queen of the Circus.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Appa, from Avatar.
  6. Name something that scares you. • The thought of my dad passing away.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Waiter at John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street in Manhattan.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? • Ummm… scuba diving.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • All the driving.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “Everyone’s waiting!

The Nugget:

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

“Good shows come from who you are more than what you do.”

–Brent McCoy

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