As an entertainer so much of my job is audience training. I have to teach the audience how to react to things. I blame the internet and TV for this. I remember when I was a child if I saw something cool I would applaud or laugh or at least smile. And while I may have been a little bit of a weirdo as a child I don’t think my reactions were different then my peers.
Recently I have noticed a change in this. When I first started juggling and performing people reacted with similar reactions. Laughter, smiles and applause were what I lived for. They were what pushed me forward to learn to do cooler things. Now I am lucky if people applaud at all. Most of the time people watch and I get a general reaction of Meh.
It is entirely possibly that my act sucks and that is why I am getting those reactions. I tend not to think so as I have recently become a better juggler and have added new cooler looking tricks to my repertoire. Even when juggling fire while balancing on a Rola-Bola I get a Meh reaction. That is hard and looks cool. Protip: People love fire.
What I have started doing is at the beginning of my show I make sure to use the “It’s ok to clap at the hard ones” or “This is only 3 months of my life” type jokes to jumpstart a reaction from the audience. I also start off with really simple stuff made to get a reaction from the audience. I also make it my personal mission to call people out when they are using their electronic devices during the show.
The next time you are lucky enough to see a variety arts performer remember that they have spent a lot of time learning their skills. Sure they can’t all be as awesome as me, but they are trying, Make sure you give them your full attention and participate in the show. This allows them to spend more time amazing you and less time training you to react correctly to what is going on.
I have been juggling a lot lately. I have been juggling for a long time. About 15 years now and I have been doing the same tricks for about 14.75 of those. Why? Because it was easy. I have been focused the last decade and a half on perfecting my patter and audience management. As such I didn’t really need to have a thousand tricks I just needed about 20 that are hilarious. I also spent most of my time trying to figure out how to get more gigs and performing for children. And to be perfectly honest I was lazy.
Because of dislocating my elbow while running a juggling I had to relearn juggling a little bit. Because of that I juggled a little weird for a long time. My left arm was “special”. Some tricks like chops look weird. I have done very little to fix that in the 10+ years since the accident. Luckily I have been juggling a lot more often and that has forced me to rethink how I do certain tricks which in turn has forced me to relearn some tricks. This is great.
The hardest part about juggling is that the most impressive tricks are rarely the most difficult. And the more difficult the trick the less impressive it looks. There is almost an inverse relationship between the difficulty of a trick and the amount of applause you get. This is why a lot of jugglers that I have watched perform make the “Its ok to clap at the hard ones” joke. That one line starts to educate the audience about what is hard and what isn’t.
One of the harder things about learning new jugging tricks is that it is hard to know when they are performance ready. Is it when you can do it flawlessly? or is it when most of the time it is flawless? or is it as soon as you can do it sometimes? I never really know but to be totally honest I tend to be the kind of person that throws a trick into the routine as soon as I do it once. I also rely on failure to get a lot of sympathy tips… that may not be for everyone.
Embracing failure has been an important part of my juggling show for a long time. This was because I never practiced. I just performed and then waited until my next performance to juggle again. I wouldn’t recommend this as a good juggling practice plan. Since I have been juggling for at least an additional hour on top of my performances I have found tricks that used to be difficult are now second nature and I am more likely to try out a new trick or do the same trick with flair.
I still have drop lines that I use all the time but I find myself getting frustrated when I have an evening of the drops. If I drop more then twice during a show it is incredibly maddening since I know that I can do better. I think this is a step forward for my performances but I am not used to getting frustrated by screw-ups.