Art of the Hat Line
Got your show down? Beginning, middle and end ready? They're laughing, they're
staying, and your puzzle is "How do I fleece 'em properly?" Read on, streeter,
here comes your cash rewards program.
Hold on to your seat; I'm about to blow an assumption. It's not your hat line.
In fact, the moneyest* acts out there are not using a hat line at all, but
we're not about to tell you that. When you've been at it a few years, it's
no longer a hat line, my dear: (cupped hand, straight to your ear whisper...)
it's a hat conversation. It goes two ways. You are the source of what they
hear, and the source of their final statement, which, hopefully, will be delivered
on paper. Your management of what they say to themselves about you determines
your hat size.
There are factors all over the street on this, and it's a puzzle I love to
continually play with. One factor is 'costume.' Some street performers dress
down to play up the guilt angle...Don't. Let your clothing be an expression
of who you are as a performer. One great example of this is the huge cargo
pockets Hawaii Two-0 use, which can hold their bowling balls. Marcus Marconi,
now performing for Elvis and Jimi Hendrix, (miss you, funnyman) gave us a street
performing workshop at the Montreal IJA Convention back when McDonalds was
on its first million burgers. His take on it? "Find a costume you can machine
wash. And do so. Frequently."
Clean, see, would be the point here. Why discredit yourself with how you look?
Your appearance is a nuance; a punctuation in the hat conversation. Manage
the appearance of yourself as someone who is listened to. (Doesn't matter why...
because his hair sticks straight up, because she's so eccentric, because he
must be brave to wear that blonde wig and tutu... only that you are listened
to.) Your costume should work for you, drawing them to you, and communicating
a message to them: "I've prepared something for you."
The man who wrote the Book of Love, Martin Ewen, has
a decent overview:
is basically your whole show being a subtle (or not so subtle) feat of social
engineering that uses tags (mentions of intent, ie money and amounts) combined
with structured skills, personality and timing to illicit a herd response at
its end wherein your crowd, because you've made them feel grateful, guilty,
obligated or even entertained (and quite often a mixture carefully calculated)
stampede forward like mindless drones to deposit the beginnings of your mortgage/orphanage
donation/binge, in your hat.
Acerbic, as always, and one hopes the stampede is mindful, not mindless, but
the holistic view of what it takes is in that paragraph. Lets look.
Tags: Yes. They work to inform your crowd, on the way through, that
you are at work here. This implies that in their sticking around, a deal is
being made, without demanding anything. I sometimes thank everyone for coming
before my finale, and announce that everything up to this point was free, and
if you are a person planning not to pay, thanks for coming; seeeeya.
Structured Skills: Oh Yes. End high. Do your homework, and then do more.
No one walks away because the trick is too outstanding.
Personality: Have one. Larger than life. And I disagree with some of
the convention on this; I like to stay in character through the hat. Some people
want you to let them tip 'You,' not your character. I don't think so. And I'm
Timing! Not much time for this one. I've gone so far as to announce
that if you do plan to pay after this trick, please rush right up and set the
example. This could easily be under-explored in terms of re-defining audience
participation. Hmm, mabe I should delete that. Bill Ferguson goes so far as
to go through a man's wallet, and tell him and all gathered exactly what the
man can afford, then take same. To pull that off, you might want to become
Bill Ferguson first. This can be easily done, but as always, first, ask your
Have three mentions of the hat in your show, at least, if you want to pay the
rent at this game. Have fun with it! Create blown up versions of why you need
money from your reality. Take what is really in your life and make it funny.
My partner Ned used to tell 'em at South Street that he needed to make a payment
on the Audi. Always got a laugh. So did Ned, especially when someone from his
crowds would go "HEY!" when they saw him later, in the Audi they thought was
the stuff of sarcasm, pulling out of the expensive parking lot.
I still love the idea of strangers dumping their money into my hat because
I chose, on that day, to make it happen. Don't be shy. I know plenty of "artists"
who are squeamish about asking for money for their talents. You find that sort
taking "real jobs." It's a worthy line of inquiry. It's a fun puzzle. Go get
'em, and then come tell me what worked.
*If you have a problem with made-up words, you are reading the wrong author..
Taxi Trix is originally from
Queens, NY but now lives in western Connecticut. He is quietly gaining on
Martin in the 'Number of Articles in the Library' race.