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Old 05-28-09, 01:11 AM   #1
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Default How did you get started?

I bet this topic has been done before! I tried to do a search, but came up with nothing. At one point I found a nice post with a bunch of links to other stuff, including "how did you get started" but that particular link did not work.

SO. How did you get started!?

Street performing is certainly no beaten path, and I am extremely curious as to how you found it. I myself met someone when I was very young, and was completely enthralled by their lifestyle of living city to city, performing 30 minute shows and making more than my dad made all week. Now it is some years later, and I am working on developing some "talents", and am inspired to street perform.

How 'bout yall?

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Old 05-29-09, 01:44 AM   #2
Daniel Mooncalf
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Yea, the topic's been done before... By me, at least a dozen times in half as many forums.

My first taste of a real street performer (outside of a renaissance faire) was shortly after I joined the local magic club, and attended a lecture by Jim Cellini. He made it sound so wonderful.

So I bought his DVDs, and watched them over and over. I posted here, and several other busking forums. I posted a lot. Quite a lot. I'm sure my questions became quite annoying. I watched Gazzo's busking lecture dozens of times. I studied the rennie stage guys very carefully. I watched Sonny Holiday's youtube videos. I watched the part of Cellini's DVD where he narrates Sonny's show over and over. These three guys are all street magicians, and have made a career of busking.

Finally... four years ago, I asked permission from an event coordinator if I could come to their place to busk. She let me.

That was my first day. I made around $60. Only a few dollars were profit, after having to buy supplies I left at home and gas (100 miles away). Had I known then, what I know now, I don't doubt I could've made tenfold what I did.

My second day was at that same festival a year later. I finally braved the streets after that one. My only regret, thus far was not having more initiative than fear. This was my first year on the streets.

My first year wasn't good. Tons of trial, and even more error. As I understand, that's pretty common.

Year two was okay... I made enough to pay off some extra debts, but probably not much above minimum wage, after figuring the hours. Thankfully, I had a real job, too.

My real job disappeared just in time for busking season, here. This is my third year of actually hitting the streets, and things are looking up... I've probably made more this month than I did all of year one. I've promised myself I will not be taking another job, unless it's a magic gig, so I guess I have to make it count, now.

What sort of act are you planning to do?

The best advice on "How do I get started" is something I repeat to myself when I start to have doubts...(a skydiving reference... I think )

"Just grab your balls and do it."

Thanks Jeep.
It's a family show, so get your asses over here!

Last edited by Daniel Mooncalf; 05-29-09 at 01:51 AM.
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Old 05-29-09, 11:14 AM   #3
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Jim and I have been friends sense the late 70's. I still do stuff I learned from him. Sunny Holiday taught me my first balloons in 1984. and we've been across the country together many times acting up, in general just street performing.He comes and visits often and there are a ton of stories to tell. Ya know ''you can't drink all day unless you start first thing in the morning!''
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Old 05-29-09, 10:20 PM   #4
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Thanks so far for the replies. I read maybe a tiny handful of "how I got started" stories in the who are you section. But I couldn't find the thread that I am doing now. Must've disappeared in the great abyss of time!

I haven't done one show yet. I plan on working with fire, which I hear is really dumb. I don't want to incorpate comedy, I'd rather it be more serious and awe inspiring, but I don't know if that will work as good. They say laughter is the shortest bridge between two people!

I guess I can still say how I got started. I met someone who I became good friends with years ago, and was totally intrigued at their lifestyle of living on the road, and making tons of money at each show. Then we fell out, and now part of my revenge is to become a street performer too. That, and I was always really jealous of what they did. They used to always tell me that anyone could learn how to do it, and even encouraged me to do something like statue-ing.

I am really shy, but once I get something down, I become a ham in front of an audience. I am mastering my "art" under the tutelage of a sensei and hope to try it out for the first time next year, once it gets warm. A benefit I have is actually being on the road with a street performer, and seeing the ups and downs of everything, from finding a pitch to building a crowd, to getting shut down.

These getting started stories help me, because I know I am going to suck in the first year, and it is good to know I had some company. That, and the entire concept is pretty out of the ordinary, so anyone who does this for a living is inspiring and strange in the best possible way.

I remember the first time that I ever saw my St. performing friend doing what they do. I thought "wow. How did they come to do this."

I find the stories fascinating.
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Old 06-05-09, 12:25 PM   #5
Evan Young
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When I was a teen I would juggle at the local street festivals for tips. In two hours I would make like $40 or $50, and that felt pretty amazing. I had no idea what real street performing was really like. Eventually I learned a few things (bits) I could do to get applause and laughter, so I had a "show" that was about 5 or 10 min long.
After high school I went to Circomedia Circus School, and they ran down basic circle show structure. I remember the structure making a lot of sense to me, while my "artistic" classmates scoffed at the structure as being hack.
When I came home from circus school I wound up spending a summer as a house painter, until my boss tried to take my shirt off; and the next day I was on the road to visit my friend Sean McKinney in Boulder CO. It was the end of the summer so I only spent a week there, but I got the taste of both success and failure.
I spent that winter as a line cook, which was the perfect atmosphere of corruption to prepare me for life a street performer. In February I took a trip with a friend to New Orleans to street perform at Mardi Gras, where I met Scot Nery, Dr. Eric, and Chris Carney. When I got back one of my supervisors at the restaurant asked me to video tape his wedding. I agreed to do that and set my departure date (to run off and street perform) as the very next day after that.
I stuck to that plan to the letter. Once I had my car loaded up in the driveway and I had my keys in hand, my responsible PHD scientist father came out and shook my hand. He smiled and told that my plans to travel around haphazardly was the kind of thing he would have done when he was my age. Months later I would stay with my dad's best friend from high school (now living in San Francisco) to learn all about how much hitchhiking and freight train hoping my dad did in his early 20's.
So, I went to LA, San Francisco, and landed in Boulder for the summer. The first thing I did when I got into town was get a job as a line cook, which took me about two hours. Having a steady and reliable income took the pressure off my street income (I could focus on being a good performer without worrying about income), and getting done at 3pm every day left me available to perform at night.
The Boulder performers had a system and agreement with each-other about taking turns on the pitch. I wasn't allowed to work the main pitches during peak traffic times because I wasn't good enough to maintain the rhythm, and was wasting the space. It was hard and stressful for me, but the pressure to get better was good motivation, and by the end of my first summer I was good enough to be allowed to get in the rotation like the rest of the more seasoned performers.
Since then I've learned a lot and grown up a lot. It's kind of crazy how much things have changed for me.

K, so if you want to do a serious act, you better be damn good at your skills... either that, or be ridiculously good/interesting looking... preferably both.

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Old 06-19-09, 01:50 AM   #6
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Default cool thread

I like this thread - I'm actually in Boulder right now.... I'm about to leave for a gig in Nebraska. I don't know how you guys can be that vocal all summer and still be able to speak - it's barely been a week and I feel like I'm about to die.... (dear evan - still like amp shows more) -

I started in high school with a juggling duo called Juggalicious ( go figure ) I don't really know how I knew that I wanted to do it - but I remember going to Faneuil Hall once or twice and thinking how funny the street performers were. Somehow I just always knew I wanted to make people laugh.

So in high school I found a local act called Fly By Night - they helped my old partner and I craft together a show - which never got good - every gig we booked started with "what the hell are we going to do for an hour". Learned lots of stilt walking and balloon animals from them. Hard Love describes FBN....

Then I went to Emerson College for film. After my first yr I landed a job at a circus camp teaching and learning more circus skills. I was working with Eve Hultgren... who told me her brother was a pretty good street performer.... I had never heard of him and blew it off. A few years later I pieced together that her brother is The Space Cowboy. Too funny.

Went back to college - the following summer I landed a job at Hershey Amusement park in a comedy juggling show - Our year was the final one that they produced that show. Possibly because our humor was to ridiculous. There I met Dave Kaplan - my new partner in our show called Project Dynamite.

Went back to college - next summer I convinced Dave to move to boston with me and try our hand at street performing. We both got night jobs as bouncers at The Comedy Connection in Faneuil Hall. It was some steady income while we made money during the day. I just looked at the numbers - we were only making 80 dollars a day... OUCH - we were sharing the pitch with 3 Different groups of break dancers - all of which had 6 - 10 guys in each group. Almost got in a fight once. What a terrible time that was.

End of that summer we had somewhat of a show - headed out to a fringe festival in Canada - only because Jason Escape said it was a good idea - and did ten shows a day for 10 days. Had a GREAT time. The next summer I was graduated and got some ridiculous job at an editing house. Left to do some fringe festivals over the summer with dave.

Came back - spent a year doing some crappy production jobs. did some more booked gigs. spent all of last year hating having to go back and forth between performing and crap production jobs.

Decided to spend the winter booking stuff. somehow got a great college agent (we've booked 3 colleges already!!) We somehow booked gigs solid from June - Sept of this year. We both quit our real jobs about 4 or 5 weeks ago and we've been going strong. Don't know what will happen this winter. but does anyone?

That may be pretty long. But I'm sure at least one person will read it.

p.s. - I really hate not using a mic for shows- also it's been raining in boulder. SWEET

I have new juggling clubs.

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Old 06-19-09, 02:19 AM   #7
Evan Young
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Originally Posted by Juggalicious View Post
I like this thread - I'm actually in Boulder right now.... I'm about to leave for a gig in Nebraska. I don't know how you guys can be that vocal all summer and still be able to speak - it's barely been a week and I feel like I'm about to die.... (dear evan - still like amp shows more) -
HA! I have to admit, so do I. I loose a lot of really good subtle character material when I can't use an amp. Working without one sure taught me how to project big and be aggressive though. Every day I would ask the girl working in the shaved ice card a couple hundred feet away if he could hear me clearly during my show, and when they said yes I knew I was loud enough.
If you do it long enough you learn how to make your lines really short and dumb, which can be extremely useful on those gigs when you get shoved in the "distractions in every direction" area.... and you also learn how to use your voice (or loose it), and I think it makes you learn to be more aggressive..... but yes, amps are very nice.

when I go back to acoustic pitches now I loose my voice on the first day, and am then fine after that.... As long as there is a break between shows.

P.S. Alex. I read your story, so you've met the quota.

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Old 06-22-09, 10:00 AM   #8
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Hey everyone!
this topic is still in the making for me.

My dad owns a toy shop, so I used to work there when i was a kid, there was this guy working there that was just the funniest guy I knew and he taught me how to juggle, so 8 hours a day, thats what i would do, hockey balls, squishy slime balls, bats and toy rats and baseball bats, soccer balls. looking back it was actually a killer job.

Im from south africa, so I can probably count the number of jugglers on two hands and a few toes, but there was a juggling club, 5 people strong, I was so hooked that pretty soon, i become good enough to impress the guys there so the guy who ran the club started refering me to gigs in malls and stuff. and then i realsied that i wasn't going to earn more money doing anything else that was this fun.

long story short, after juggling for about 10 years on and off, i made a trip to the states last year, where all i had was a couple of clubs a contact ball and some guts, I travelled around doing a 5 minute contact routine with some comedy and I survived for six months... I saw a couple of people that really inspired me to do proper circle shows. my first real street performer i saw was Eric cash, I was blown away at the potential for building a crowd.

thats my story, Im really glad i found this place, there are only 2 or 3 actual street performers including myself so its pretty difficult to learn this shit, because of lack of exposure.

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Old 07-08-09, 02:11 AM   #9
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hi lydia and all,
i'm a musician and round about the early 80s i decided that there was nothing for me but to 'be' a musician. hah. so at that point, i thought conservatory, university, orchestra... blahblah. my parents rebelled with the old 'do something more practical' line, so i rebelled back and became a street performer and renaissance faire entertainer. this got mixed in with a serious psychology of entitlement, one which said why in the world would i sell my precious life and time for a handful of quarters in mainstream when i could make roughly the same amount of quarters and be deliriously happy doing what i love? and so i lived in a van for the better part of a decade and a half, and indeed LOVED IT!!!

that said, you have to be willing to make certain sacrifices (eg: i was without electricity, indoor plumbing and a consistent home for 15+ years) and decide what it's worth to you. and in the words of my dear friend isabella, if you really want to 'make it' with your art, quit your day job and put your back against a wall. great advice! not for the timid, mind you, but great nonetheless! good luck, good shows and heavy hats, friends!
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