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Old 12-06-10, 07:46 PM   #1
martin ewen
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Default Volunteers

Volunteers are the swapped spit in the sloppy French kiss that is a street show.
I have a form of psychic Herpes so I tend to keep my distance. I don't kiss my audience, my audience exist to watch me sodomize random passers-by. The tighter they are the funnier it is.
[Ha, I'm so full of shit.]

Volunteers denote the level of trust your audience is prepared to have for you. They are your audiences ambassadors sent out into a strange land in the hope the natives are friendly. They are brave folk prepared to take a risk and should be afforded every respect for this.
That's not to say you can't play with them however you want.

Picking your volunteers is an art in itself. There's a skill in picking people best suited for your needs that is part intuition, part experience and part guesswork.
Like the concept of props there's the potential of amplification at stake. You want someone who has some energy. Sometimes you want a serene type who will survive what you're about to subject them to. Other situations may require individuals whose enthusiasm and ability to take direction makes them OK to take the ball and run with it improvisationally. The risk with seeking live-wires is that some simply have no sense of place. They are unschooled in dealing with the amount of attention you provide them, they become unmanageably excited.
Whatever they are it's you that got them up there and it's your job to keep them safe, they represent the audiences trust in you so you can't abuse them with anything in your heart but affection if you want to get rid of them. They lend you validity.

Some quick 'Don'ts' and 'Nevers'
*Don't pick the bouncing out of their skin person.
*Don't be a sleezebucket with pretty girls it just makes everyone uncomfortable you stupid horny loser.
*Never make them less than they were before you called them up.
*It helps to make some form of physical contact initially. It's calming in a primate way.
*Don't think that you are better than them, you can act like that but never think it.
*Whether guys or girls, if they are in a group of three, Never pick the omega [lowest status], they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by sabotage.
* Always give them some chance to play, even if it's just you setting them up with an easy comeback.
*Always thank them afterwards and give the audience that opportunity too.

Volunteers carry with them a degree of risk however the rewards when they supply the return can be awesome. The right volunteer can carry a show, give you impulse after impulse to work with and show both to you and the audience the very point you are trying to broadcast. That having fun sometimes just means trusting yourself. If your volunteer is given the chance to eclipse you in playfulness let them take it, be amazed. The audience may learn to love you but they automatically love the volunteer.
The more fun your volunteer has the bigger your hat. Just don't get too cynical. I know it's hard but just try OK?
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Old 12-06-10, 07:57 PM   #2
Butterfly Man
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Butterfly Volunteers

“Pick me! Pick me!” said the performer as he raised the hand of a rather nondescript member of the audience. I laughed a little and so did the rest of the crowd. It was the first time I saw anyone select a volunteer that way. Maybe I laughed a little less because I saw a little more.

Picking a volunteer can be risky business for sure. You just never know 100% of the time but a seasoned performer knows what to watch out for. Never, I repeat never, use someone who appears too eager. It usually means they have their own agenda and more often than not, they aren’t funny. That and anyone with dreadlocks, don’t ask me why.

Someone too shy or reluctant is just as much of a problem. If you get that vibe, pick someone else and quick… because it can be a real bummer if your choice adamantly refuses to participate. It lets the air out of your comedic balloon pretty quickly and usually has a viral effect on the next selectee.

You might wonder why volunteers have such power over your act and the answer is simple.
A volunteer, once engaged, becomes the representative of every person in your crowd. Whether they consciously realize it or not, every member of the audience sees themselves up there and well, if your volunteer sucks… nuff said.

Even more important than picking a volunteer is how you USE a volunteer. Watching and listening is an absolute MUST. Many performers mistakenly ignore their volunteer and use them as they would any inanimate prop. Ignoring your volunteer is the same as ignoring your crowd and can have demoralizing results across the board.

Besides, you never know. I mean, you just never know. Some people just have IT. They have that indefinable quality that just comes alive when in front of a crowd. Where most people freeze, they know exactly what to do and like a great performer play their role perfectly. I used a cop once who should have had his own sit-com. You really don’t want to miss out on things like that, you really don’t, so you must LISTEN. There’s gold in them thar’ hills.

Always make eye contact with your volunteer before during and after you use or “abuse” them. Either way you want them to feel like the star they are. The way they feel about being up there is the way everyone will feel and hopefully part of their joy will be generosity. I got five bucks from a guy in a wheelchair once who pulled a knife on me during the act. To this day he’s the best volunteer I’ve ever had.

Sometimes you just aren’t lucky and the volunteer is an absolute jerk or worse, a jerk that thinks he or she is “entertaining”. Good gawd, I wanted to kill this one blonde I once used, I should have known better. The line: “No, no, its MY fault… I picked her!” still resonates in my head.

So, yeah, it’s a roll of the dice but you can load them, so the odds are in your favor. Just remember that in choosing a volunteer you let your instincts be your guide, but when using them then your means to an end is clever setups and failsafe jokes. Paying attention pays off.

And last time I checked, people will pay for a happy ending.
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Old 12-06-10, 08:26 PM   #3
martin ewen
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Lurk So we've done the easy ones,

Robert and I would appreciate some help in choosing topics so are throwing that out there.
We have one more on the way , 'Hecklers' and then we'd rather field topics than simply talk about our illustrious selves.

Last edited by martin ewen; 12-06-10 at 08:29 PM. Reason: whim
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Old 12-07-10, 12:17 AM   #4
Gregory Rush
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Default Volunteers

The subject is funny, I am enjoying this dang now the phone rings....paused mid letter.. OK wow after being on the phone for a while the browser is still open...
One of my bits is deliberately sending back an audience member cuz " They did not make enough noise for you , sorry you have to go!" I do it on purpose cuz it is really his good looking female companion I am after, it doesn't make me look like a slut! No! So then I grab her, and the audience knows they better make a lot of noise for her or she has to go too...dang slut audiences! Mostly I just pick any woman though that looks to have well balanced energy, only thing i really look at seriously is height, for this bit she need to be semi tall. I only had one person not catch fire when I throw it at them with zero warning...only had one person fail when I did a handstand on them, and none of mine have ever done it before, so it is fun for them , fun for me, and pretty crazy over all. I like to have as many as 6 or 7 up at a time, minimum 4 though for my finale building bit. hehe , they usually always scream when i throw the fire at them and like I said only one person missed but she tried, cuz hey if they drop it....well lol, not good, the trick is they only have a about a half of a second to catch the torch coming at them and have that same half second of warning that it is coming at them so instinct kicks in and I worked out the proper hang time to give them exactly what they need to grab it, scream ,and their hand every time does this reach for it, pull back, reach for it , pull back, really fast during that half second of indecison then they catch it , its fun for me!
Scarey for them, then fun, then funny to everyone, then scarey to her some more.....thats just my character though, I am not gonna throw a plastic club at you, thats not near as much fun , for everyone!
Sure you seen the fake fire throw, I throw it, and I would NOT recommend it to anyone, it just works for my bit, then again if you saw my bit and stole it, I would have to throw one at you, after i doused you with lighter fluid cuz HEY i don't steal your bits!
Hope ya have fun with the constant visual I am providing

Hmm next topic you say? How about when to give in to cops and when to get arrested when they tell you to stop?
I kept going in Nawlins at the Fountain at the Moonwalk and was detained for inciting a riot when I would not yield i told the cop HEY I jut have to dive over those 7 people I have kneeling on the ground pass the hat and I am done, then I got the crowd to boo the cops, bad move good move? Mardi Gras day...luckily I only got detained my the french market " police" security and they let me go.
Then after mardi gras they tried to make us stop using fire, then tried to make us stop all together , some performers had to organize, get a lawyer or two and fight them in court ..YA NAWLINS of all places, they yielded in court of course, but made us get permits.. that did not last either. This was 1981 or maybe 1982? So I dunno might be a good topic, other stories or advice on how to react when cops try and take away your rights, your props, your show ,your fun...btw Can jugglers street perform comfortably in Branson Missouri anyone know? I might pass through there never been there, is there a good chance I can do a show? Or even get arrested for doing one anyway? Either one is fun for me

Last edited by Gregory Rush; 12-07-10 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 12-07-10, 02:10 PM   #5
Dan Tastik
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what is it?
Dan Tastik: Organised Mayhem
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Old 12-07-10, 03:49 PM   #6
martin ewen
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Success, what is it.
Gee Dan that's quite a question. That's the kind of question I fear could strain my Guru-gland.

But it deserves an answer.
so the order so far is, hecklers, cops, success, what is it?
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Old 12-07-10, 08:02 PM   #7
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First, thank you!
Second, I would like to add to the list: Likeability & Hats.
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robert/martin, street theatre advice

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