View Full Version : Stuff I learned

Dan Holzman
02-08-09, 02:10 PM
I thought I would start a thread where people could give out tips and knowledge they have gained through the school of hard knocks that is street performing. I'll start with one I learned last Sunday.

Tip #1 if you give a kid volunteer something that is even the slightest bit breakable, sooner or later one of them will break it.


Lee Nelson
02-08-09, 03:04 PM
Rule No 2

Whatever you use in your show you have to also get it to the pitch.

02-08-09, 03:16 PM
Never think you can win in a fight against a break dancing group.

02-08-09, 05:56 PM
rule #4 - Everyone knows EVERYONE. Even if they aren't buddies. Even if they're hated. Your rudeness to anyone will become the stuff of legend. If you think you might have stepped on someone, buy beer. If you stepped on them on purpose, step hard enough so that the world learns the size of your balls.

Rachel Peters
02-08-09, 09:37 PM
oooo. good one. a truer word has never been spoken.

Rachel Peters
02-08-09, 09:39 PM
***edited my rule, because everyone knows everyone***

02-09-09, 05:59 AM
The most expensive and complicated prop/item/bit you build will be the first you cut from your show.

jeep caillouet
02-09-09, 12:51 PM
Juggalicious,Rachael said it best about dem break dancers A. You ain't worked in the street yet, until you go up against the break dancers. :D

Rachel Peters
02-10-09, 08:51 AM
I didn't say nothin' about nothin'.

However I've learned that the average passer-by still hasn't heard the lame-arss stock joke you've heard seven times in every shown, of every single festival you've ever been to. Let them enjoy it.

02-10-09, 11:50 AM
you can only blame your audience for a bad show for so long

there's always someone who makes bigger hats than you do

big crowds don't always pay the most

save 20% of every show from the day you start
(not my advice but I now sure wish I took it)

02-10-09, 01:15 PM
Always say "thank you" instead of "thanks"

Never say sorry - always make everything seem like it was done on purpose, even if it was a mistake.

You can never smile too much.

02-10-09, 02:43 PM
people want to give YOU the money, not your hat, bucket etc...be sure to hold your money collector, whatever it is, and thank each person who drops something in and look them in the eye when you do it.

02-10-09, 02:44 PM
listen to your audience.

Dan Holzman
02-13-09, 10:08 PM
I Just got home from a gig out of town, and thought I would write down some of my favorite travel tips.

Create routines that you can follow every trip.

For example.

I always throw my hotel key on the closest desk to the front door when I come in so I can find it easily, Plus I never put the electronic keys next to a turned on cell phone because they can deactivate the key.

As soon as I leave my car at the airport parking I clip my keys inside my backpack(I never think about them again until I get back)

Iron your clothes and hang them up when you first get in your room. If you wait until the last minute and the Iron doesn't work or you have forgoten something like a belt or black socks you'll wish you had found out earlier.

Have a safe dining choice for before shows, something you know won't get you sick or too full. Mine is a chicken Caeser Salad.

hope these help my fellow travelers

Rex Boyd
02-17-09, 08:04 AM
When you feel that you've just had a mediocre or even poor show and someone comes up to tell you how much they enjoyed the show, never disagree with them. If you tell them how that show wasn't as good as it should have been,you just end up spoiling for that person what was genuinely an enjoyable experience. And who knows, even your mediocre performance might actually be the best show that they have had the chance to see.

In short, when someone compliments you, you should thank them not disagree with them.

Rachel Peters
02-17-09, 08:08 AM
Agreed. It also makes them feel as though you think they have bad taste and don't know anything.

Mr. Boyd, I always read your posts thinking you're laughing really hartily while you type, because of your photo. It's fun.

Rex Boyd
02-17-09, 08:30 AM
Thank you Rachel.

( I thought about jokingly disagreeing with your compliment, but decided that I had better follow my own advice. )

Butterfly Man
02-17-09, 11:54 AM
Two things:

#1. Get paid before you go on!

#2 Make eye-contact with as many different people in your audience as possible.

p.s. Snickers is better for you than Twix.

02-18-09, 10:02 PM
this i have learned:

1) no matter who you are, there will be another act better than you and there will be another act worse. if you pay attention, you can learn a lot from both.

2) it is harder to be funny-nice than funny-mean. (maybe that's just me, but it is a challenge i've been working with lately)


02-19-09, 03:32 AM
I don't care what kind of good deal you can get on any sort of audio equipment - or how much better your favorite brand is. Get the most common brand possible. Whatever all major audio stores carry -

You want something thats easy to get replaced/fixed when you are in a jam.

I believe the hot thing right now is seinnheiser(but I could be wrong) - anyone else have comments on this?

Mr.Taxi Trix
02-19-09, 09:03 AM
Yeah, do not buy your mikes from Sam Ash. They will not accept a microphone return, even if you only used it to see if it works. Really.
(And they're more than a little snippy about it.)

Sam Ash, if I may say it, can go eat a bag of dicks.

Evan Young
02-19-09, 01:04 PM
create a show with lightweight props.

clients like you to have a positive attitude, no matter how cool you think it is that your exhausted from being on airplanes all week and are used to much more professional stages etc.... I know this seems obvious, but a lot of the college clients we talk to bitch about other artists attitudes. Keep it humble, you aren't that special; just be confident and let them know you'll give them an awesome show.

02-19-09, 01:54 PM
lightweight and small props are INCREDIBLY important - we have to lug around 6 folding chairs - man that is such a hassle.

we're currently working on getting rid of these asap.

to back up Evan again - I'm am totally surprised at how often i hear of other performers complaining about conditions to the client. You should definitely be thanking them for everything - even their mistakes.

Butterfly Man
02-19-09, 02:20 PM
When giving a "pick-up" time for a driver to bring you to the airport (or any important gig), always give a time that is utterly specific down to the minute.


"Pick me up at 9:37" ...

...don't say 9:30 or 9:45...

... they will pay attention... and that's what you want.

P.S. Kurt Vonnegut did this and I stole the idea from him.

02-19-09, 07:08 PM
I mostly agree with Evan...

If you send a technical rider and techincal/staging requirements to a venue for your show: i.e. things that are needed to make your show the best it can be or to work properly and the client, college, venue etc sign off that you will have those things and then you show up and they are not there, then yes, I think you can voice your complaints in that situation.

Evan Young
02-19-09, 07:56 PM
unreasonable riders are a common thing we hear clients bitch about.

seriously, acts that are ready to work through problems, even if they are clearly the clients fault, get invited back and have their praises sung... If you freak out about how bad the sound system and lighting sucks, or how the ceiling is a couple feet too low, they will not like you and won't hesitate to tell others.
Soooo many shows are bad for uncontrollable reasons. You can have them remember you as the guy who treated them like assholes, or the nice guy who tried to make it work.
oh, and pulling it off and being amazing doesn't make up for a bad attitude, they will still talk shit about you.

Evan Young
02-19-09, 07:57 PM
"keep your dick out of the cash register"
Don't sleep with your clients. Common advice that's hard to follow in the college market.

02-19-09, 10:37 PM
I never mentioned unreasonable riders.

If your rider is unreasonable than that is a problem that the performer should address.

However, if you send someone a tech rider, especially when they ask you for one and it lists reasonable requests or if you require certain staging and/or certain lighting to do your performances properly then these are issues that should be taken care of before the show.

When you send a tech rider with your requirements, you should have the client check off that they read it, understand it and have them sign it.

If there are things that are questionable in the rider or unreasonable or just not possible the time to negotiate or axe them is before the performance.

If the client signs off that those things will be provided for you lighting, sound, etc and then you check with them and they confirm that they read and understand your rider requirements and then you show up and they claim to not have those things or whatnot, then yes, you can ask why?

I am not saying put up a stink and say that they suck or the sound sucks or the light sucks, that is bad business and not professional and will definitely not get you hired back.
You should try every effort to go with the flow and still provide them the best show you can do.

There is a way to politely point out that you sent the techinical/lighting and show requirements that they signed and followed up in advance and wonder whether there was a miscommunication on the needs.

Always be nice, polite and professional to your client and give them the best show possible and dont make your requirements unreasonable...I think that is the way to go.

Evan Young
02-19-09, 11:29 PM
We sure spent a long time saying "don't be a dick". I'll be happy to take the clients of anyone who doesn't understand the subtleties of that one..... and I have been. :)

better response than "why don't you have this for me?": "oh, crud, that was on the rider..... ummm, *present solution*." Don't tell them they are dumb or ask them why, let them figure out on their own. If it was your fault, they will tell you.

sorry. we are getting way too specific. We're all saying the same thing.

02-20-09, 12:43 AM
"keep your dick out of the cash register"
Don't sleep with your clients. Common advice that's hard to follow in the college market.

Evan.... please don't make me cry.

02-20-09, 02:35 AM
make it clear what you want from volunteers and they'll feel great.

Rex Boyd
02-20-09, 03:35 AM
I agree with the volunteers bit Scot. Especially here in England it's generally agreed amongst the public that the reason for using volunteers is to make fun of them, "take the piss" as the English would say. The truth is exactly the opposite. If you ever do make fun of the volunteer, the audience won't like you for it and the volunteer will just pull back rather than play along and achieve what you are hoping they will do.

The ultimate goal of using a volunteer should be to make that person the star of the show. If the volunteer feels happy, supported and on your side there is no limit to what they'll do. The performer should give up us his ego and status and let the volunteer shine. When it works right the audience will see the "real" drama happening within that person's emotions as opposed to the performer's "rehearsed" drama that happens show after show.

Kenny Ahern
02-20-09, 08:38 AM
Advance an engagement, no later than, a week prior to the gig. Tactfully review the engagement agreement/tech rider points.

Find out if the person you are dealing with before the gig is actually going to be at the gig. If not, find out who the onsite manager is, and contact them too.

If you have "must have" need(s) that will greatly affect whether you can do your show or not ... never assume that the client understands this importance.

Talk to the person, pre-engagement, who is in charge of your "must have" need. I have power requirements for my self contained stage. I always speak with the onsite electrician prior to a gig.

Create an email trail of "written recaps" of your important client phone conversations.

CC emails are a very good thing.

A day before the engagement send a "looking forward to the gig!" email and thank the client for providing your show needs (my subtle reminder).

Never give advice to a client unless it is solicited. And still be weary if they solicit advice. Do they want advice or do they want to be told how great they are?

Evan Young
02-24-09, 12:46 AM
As you make more money, everything will cost more.
It costs more money to make more money.
Having people like you and networking a lot can get you really good deals, which can help cancel out the last two things I just said.

If you wait for a time when you are magically "not busy" to do something, it will never get done. Put it on your calendar and do it.

nick nickolas
02-24-09, 06:15 AM
count your coins with both hands.

don't let all your hats collect up 'till the end of the festival, change the change into notes every day.

read a book when your in the customs lines.

don't have any photos or diaries saying what you do if you are going into somewhere without a work permit.

use kerosine not shellite.

Dan Holzman
03-07-09, 10:55 AM
When you have an idea for a new trick involving a prop that has to be built, make a cheap prototype first, before hiring someone to build a more expensive model for you. I recently had a prop built by a non-juggler based on a picture from an old juggling newsletter. $400 later, I have a prop that won't work, and some more junk to clutter up my garage.


03-07-09, 07:23 PM
Always wear presentable underwear. Seams split.

The audience will always believe the lies you say on stage and never believe the truth - or maybe that is just me.

martin ewen
03-08-09, 03:36 AM

03-08-09, 05:22 AM
No-one ever snarks about the shortest act in a group show.

Rachel Peters
03-11-09, 12:40 PM
"I tell you, if one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of going wrong, one must not be afraid of making mistakes now and then. Many people think that they will become good just by doing no harm -- but that is a lie, and you yourself used to call it that. That way lies stagnation, mediocrity."

~Vincent Van Gogh

Evan Young
03-11-09, 07:08 PM
Sometimes you have to act a little crazy and violent to have credibility and keep people from walking all over you. Most of the time the best trick is to stay calm and let everyone else act like assholes until they say or do something they really regret.

03-13-09, 01:13 AM
Dan taught me 5+ years ago in the Miami airport to not drop my boarding pass! I'm still flying every week and have never dropped one since. Most embarrasing to meet someone I have admired for so long and to have done something so silly in front of him upon our first and last meeting. It was great meeting you Dan.

One of my travel tips is to carry ear plugs. They make the anouncements much more bearable and sleeping on the plane easier.

I also reccomend cargo pants and cargo shorts for carrying your passport, wallet, handkercheif, etc.

Loafers are a must thanks to TSA security theater. Damn that shoe bomber.

I used to blame myself if the show didn't go well. Now i know if it worked great last week and didn't this week the audience has some fault in it.



aka Will



03-13-09, 01:30 PM
my volunteers usually make the biggest drops.

when working in italy make it clear to the festival you want to be paid in cash the night of the show. very clear. especially if you do the festival in pescara. actually in pescara ask for the money before you do anything.

experimenting with new bits and the arrangement of your show, working at unusual times, changing things may make you less money at the time but in the long run will make your show stronger and you'll be more flexible as a performer.

Mr.Taxi Trix
03-14-09, 10:15 PM
When you're on a cruise ship, do not, for any reason, do a striptease down to a sports bra.

03-15-09, 03:15 AM
Hell, I once walked across stage naked on a cruise ship. Read all about it.

Nude Cruise
Category: Travel and Places
I posted this years ago but have came back in to make some
modifications to the story. I'm adding things not deleting. And on a side note, my
lunch date ended up being my wife. When I wrote this originally
I didn't know that would happen, but I should have.

Idiot Log February 2005

An organization called "Bare Necessities" chartered our ship last
week. They are a group of people that believe clothes are optional.
That's right friends, they are a nudist group.

When I first got on the ship everything seemed normal. I met up
with a friend in the crew area. We decided to go upstairs and eat
lunch on lido. At first we had the elevator all to ourselves until the
doors opened on deck three and a naked couple walked on. I
couldn't help but grin. Not laughing at them mind you just the fact
that they were naked and there I was fully clothed. Never have I felt
so over dressed. We went all the way up to deck nine.

Once we made it to lido we went to the buffet line to choose our
lunch. Right there in line, naked people. Everywhere you could see,
naked people! I started feeling the nervous giggles coming on. I
express again I was not laughing at them just the situation. I have
also been known to get the nervous giggles at funerals and

My lunch date and I found a nice table outside at the rear of the ship
under an awning. Out in the open air the deck was covered with sun
chairs and you guessed it, naked people. My date started giggling.
We contemplated if we were mature enough for this. Just at that
moment it began to rain and all the naked people jumped up and
started running for cover under the awning where we were sitting.
Right then and there a huge parade of naked people passed by us
and hurdled around ass. Asses and elbows in my face. It really
was all types of people. I tried to show immense interest in my
plate but we were going to get the giggles, they were unstoppable
at this point. So I blurt out to my date, "I love that joke he tales,"
and we burst into laughter.

After finishing lunch (well I lost my appetite from the tension) we
headed back to the crew area. Once we where alone in the elevator
we both burst into giggles again. For my first nudist experience I was
really thrust into it. Pardon the pun it wasn't intended.

Now it's Show time!

We were given the option of performing with or with out
clothes. We of course chose with. Well, Wally wouldn't do
it and I wasn't that keen on talking him into it. Then I had the
misfortune of thinking of a funny gag. Now, if you know me, if
I think of a funny gag I must do it. I just have to. Otherwise I
might regret it later when I'm 80 sitting in a rocking chair. Plus my girl
friend said it was so funny I had to.
So here is what happened.....

Wally was down stage (close to the audience) and the traveler curtain
was behind him and open about 15 feet. He was performing his
cigar box routine, which the finale is him throwing one box in the air
and spinning around, then catching it. Then he throws two boxes
up, spins and catches it. Finally he throws all three of them, spins
and catches.

Well as he threw the two up and spun around a little red remote
control sports car pulled out on stage behind him, stopping center.

Upon Wally throwing all three of them and spinning I walked onstage
following the R/C car from one side of stage to the other in my birthday suit.
I was only onstage for a matter of seconds. Maybe 5. The crowd
went wild and Wally thought the unusual amount of applause was for
him. Even saying "What! I've never had this kind of a reaction!"

I was being modest but in all honesty I received a standing
ovation the second show. I was walking with a little more bounce in
my step. Nough said.

I calculate almost 2000 people saw me nude that night. And yes, as
long as I had another funny gag, I would do it again.

At that point I was the only entertainer to appear naked on stage.
The next night the Cruise Director did it. I swear nudity is
contagious. I don't know how many times I took my clothes off
while at the same time someone else did.

dave walbridge
03-19-09, 10:02 PM
Great tips - thanks. Let me think of a few.


jeep caillouet
03-22-09, 02:36 PM
We have cruse ships in Key West all the time but the best one of them all was the nude cruse, hookers and porn stars. These people where a fun bunch and tipped really well. I wish they'd come back.

03-23-09, 10:28 AM
While sharing a pitch with Bike Boy last summer, I picked a kid as my volunteer that was standing with his obviously Middle Eastern family and seemed to be enjoying himself while watching the show.
As soon as I got him in the circle he just froze and really killed the energy; and from there on out the show tanked.
When I finished and walked over to sit down with Bike Boy he looked at me like I was an idiot and in such a way that he made me feel that I had broken the highest most holy law of busking said:
“Never choose the Lebanese kid!”
I must have missed that day at school.

Also when you first meet buskers from somewhere else in the world you will be judged on your Bike Boy impression, so be ready.

Lee Nelson
03-23-09, 10:31 AM
And that little kid who has seen your show 100 times does not make a good volonteer.

martin ewen
03-23-09, 11:24 AM
Dealing with passing teen males in groups of three or more it is always the lowest in status who will heckle usually the smallest. If no-one engages you leave them be but if they do be merciless on number three. It breaks up their dynamic but strengthens all above the omega.
In rare cases it's going to be the alpha full of himself, that's harder because your counter ridicule threatens the whole group.

Juggler Bob
03-23-09, 11:53 AM
Here's a good tip I have learned. When working Death Row and the inmates out number the guards 4 to 1, be sure to make fun with the prisoners not at them. That way you will be the only one not dying to get out of there. :laugh:

Mr.Taxi Trix
03-23-09, 02:40 PM
And that little kid who has seen your show 100 times does not make a good volonteer.

And, avoid the ones with horns.

Kenny Ahern
03-23-09, 02:55 PM
When you ask for volunteers, never pick the kid who holds their hand the highest.

I kinda snapped once with a "repeat show" kid. I duct taped him to a pole that supported the outdoor stage roof. I place all my props within his grasp or on his person; since he knew my show, he handed me my props as I needed them. He was in my control and got to be a part of my show for 20 minutes or so. I let him squirm a bit after the show was over as I packed my props away. He did not come to any more shows.

Marcus Wilson
03-23-09, 09:46 PM
Never post a video on p-net for critique.

I'm kidding (sort of)

03-23-09, 10:30 PM
And, avoid the ones with horns.Anti-semite.

03-24-09, 03:25 AM
Also when you first meet buskers from somewhere else in the world you will be judged on your Bike Boy impression, so be ready.


No, wait, I can go slower and more dour. Hang on, let me try again!

The Renaissance Man
03-24-09, 05:35 AM

martin ewen
03-24-09, 05:44 AM
big show! free beer!

dave walbridge
03-25-09, 09:25 PM
Hear this in a workshop long ago - Get wheels on your prop case - the kind that remove for flying.

Rachel Peters
03-25-09, 09:47 PM
And "heavy" is accumulative.
What doesn't seem heavy on your first day might eventually, after regular lugging, day after day, make your back spasm out and ruin your career for a year.

03-25-09, 11:06 PM
I have to agree with Rachel & Dave. Stuff that doesn't seem heavy at 1st can VERY quickly get heavy when lugging it to & from your pitch. I suggest adding a shoulder strap to anything that you can, and finding double uses for everything.

dave walbridge
04-08-09, 01:18 PM
Create a mailing list of clients early. Keep it up to date.

Kenny Ahern
04-08-09, 01:28 PM
Always travel with a few wooden wedges for door stops. It is a huge time saver for load-in and out.

dave walbridge
04-08-09, 01:56 PM
Kenny, That reminds me - what to put in the 'box of stuff you'll need backstage' box;

Tape (3 kinds), markers, paper, flashlights and plug in lights, multi-tool, wrench, leather gloves, first aid kit, headsets, batteries, batteries, batteries, pre-show music cd ( spare)...

06-23-09, 03:22 PM
slow down!
thanks Dan...

dave walbridge
11-21-09, 12:04 PM
...Sometimes, its OK to turn down a show that isn't right for you.

Lee Nelson
11-21-09, 01:42 PM
sometimes its OK to take a show that scares you a little

Doctor Eric
11-21-09, 02:49 PM
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience too much credit. We call them "punters" for a reason.

I was happy to see (and remember!) a few of my quotes in that pamphlet, Mart.