Captain’s Log Episode 4 : Impressive and Entertaining

There’s a long running joke in the sideshow industry. “Safety Third”. Safety Third, because everything that we do in Sideshow carries with it a significant risk of bodily harm. Even the most basic sideshow skill can seriously maim a performer, and with some things that we do, the risk is much greater. Some stunts, that risk is death. Between an injury sword swallowing, and the performer’s death, is typically not much more than 10 minutes. So when we say “Safety Third”, we mean that, for the sake of the show, there are things that come before Safety in our considerations. In such a dangerous art form, what comes before safety, is Entertainment. The whole reason that we put our bodies and our lives at risk, is to entertain our audiences. That’s why, in the opinion of this humble performer, shows that rely heavily on shock just don’t last long. Shock can definitely be entertaining, it can grab an audience’s attention, and sometimes keep it, for a night, but it’s only shocking once. Impressive can only be impressive so many times before the audience has seen it and it’s not impressive anymore. If, as a performer, you want an audience to come see you again, to continue to come to your shows and pay the ticket price, you have to be more than shocking, more than impressive, you have to be a show worth seeing more than once. You have to be entertaining. One of the biggest problems I see in sideshow, is the lack of distinction between an Act and a Stunt. One is impressive, and one is entertaining. When most sideshow performers say “I know how to do the human blockhead act”, the entertaining bit, what they actually mean is “I know how to do the human blockhead stunt”, the impressive bit. The stunt is the physical act that you learn, how to swallow a sword, how to hammer a nail up your nose, how to walk on broken glass or lay on a bed of nails. Those are stunts, stunts are easy. Not to say that swallowing a sword is easy, but it’s something you learn, like whistling or a dance or how to type. The ACT is what takes an impressive or shocking stunt, and makes it entertaining. The act is the why you’re doing something dangerous. It’s the presentation, the joke, the set up. It is everything BUT the stunt. The stunt is the punchline, the payoff, to the act. The stunt is the payoff for the act, the act is what makes the show entertaining. Entertaining shows are worth seeing, and more than once, and getting an audience to come back to see you over and over again is how you take a show from a shocking, impressive, and dangerous hobby, to a shocking, impressive, and dangerous career. Be more than shocking. Be more than impressive. Be entertaining. Be a performer. Be a show worth seeing. See You Down the Road, Captain Darron von Awesome


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