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Todd Robbins
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New York
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Since this came up elsewhere, I thought a new thread should be started. One simple question. Why do you do what you do? Joke answers are easy. I'm looking for the harder one...the REAL answer.

This area of performance has challenges that like none other. So, why have you gone to the trouble to learn and perform this stuff?
drwilson
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That's a great question!

Because this discussion is taking place in a magician's forum, I should begin by saying that I perform magic as well. As soon as people hear the word "magic" or see my costume, they say, let's see what tricks he's going to do. Maybe we can get him to perform for the kids.

There is a pervasive sense in the public that magic is a bunch of dumb tricks, like the plastic playsets at the toy store, suitable only for children's birthday parties. Once people have seen me perform, I don't encounter that perception very much. I am always looking for material that produces a very strong audience response, and that can't be explained away easily.

I have found that one of the best ways to accomplish this is to do things that are real: mnemonics, glasswalking, and now thanks to Harley's class and Ses Carny's workmanship, the Ladder of Swords. I would also include (some) escapes in this category as well.

When I was first performing my Flea Circus, I was booked at a library for one of my first shows, and told the librarian that I would perform some magic first, then the Flea Circus. She said that they had had magicians at the library before, doing "I'm not sure what to call it - you know, regular magic. Ropes and cards and things."

Doesn't that strike you as a strange idea: "regular" magic? There should be nothing "regular" about a performance by an individual variety entertainer, whether they are a magician, a sideshow performer, a clown or a juggler.

I also remember being dazzled by sideshow banners and ballys at the fairs of my youth. I think that if we discover the things that we truly love and believe in, it is far easier to convey beauty, wonder, splendor and strangeness to our audiences than if we select material because we have heard that it is popular. You can't sell something that you don't believe in.

I am addressing your question, rather than the one posed in the thread title. Fame and fortune is another matter.

Yours,

Paul
Police Magician
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Georgia
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Todd, thanks for this post. Truthfully, I got into it because I was curious. My love for it and performing it helped me overcome shyness and gave me confidence to be in front of an audience. Yes, there is a little show - off in me as well. I don't ever expect to elevate to those who are well known, but I am happy doing magic as both an educational and entertaining medium.

Being that I just four years from retirement from my main job, I hope to get more into magic when I no longer wear the badge. Teaching my grandson, who just turned 14, about magic and puppets keeps me busy as well. As I have told him, the money is good for the short amount of time you perform, but people do expect to get what they pay for. Hence, practice, practice, practice, and develop your own style.

He will also inherit my ash tray collection as well (lol).

Glenn
thegreatnippulini
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of Hell because I've made
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The reason I do what I do cannot be confined to a single answer. If I was forced to (Todd, put the gun DOWN), I would have to say "success". That is what is the culmination of all my inentions of being in the business we call show. This is also what I wish for for everyone else in this business. See, if all of us but one performer is successful, it at least opens the door for the rest of us. Unfortunately the opposite also is possible. One bad stinky rotten bitter resentful performer WILL spoil the fertile venues available to us.

MANY people ask me why I do what I do. Of course I am not a magician and I do not use illusions to make my mark in the world, so the whole Blaine/Angel thing does not apply to me.

"Hey Nippulini, why do you do what you do?"
1. Same reason a dog licks its butt.... because he can! No, no, I'm kidding. The real reason a dog licks his butt is because he knows he will lick your face next!
2. I believe every person is a star in their own way. This is my way. This is my one special thing.
3. It is my true will in life, it is what I am here for.
4. It is my little way of making my mark in the world for the small fleeting amount of time I have here on this planet. Some people put their names on buildings to feel a sense of immortality. I choose to be in the books. Buildings get torn down, ideals don't go down so easy.
5. Publicity.... yep. I like seeing myself on TV, in books and magazines. There, I said it.
6. It SUPPLEMENTS my income. WIll I ever get rich off my nipples? No. Will they put gas in my car, pay tolls and pay for a nice meal when I travel to do a gig? Yes. If I asked for any more it would be greedy. Greed is VERY unnatractive. I have a JOB that takes care of my necessities.
7. It takes me places. Hopefully overseas and on to bigger and better venues, I guess things that will fulfill in reasons 1 through 6.

I hope this enlightens some of you guys into my life and my thought processes. I think everyone here is special in their own unique way. I've seen dozens of performers do blockhead, I even know how to do it myself (who's a one trick pony now!?). I've never seen blockhead done the same way twice. It is unique to the individual. I think more focus needs to go into ourselves inwardly than outward resentment to performers within our own arena whom have received the glory of fame and publicity. Do smug self puffing magicians annoy you? Well, they annoy me. Use that energy, turn it around into something positive. Maybe if you do that, it will propell you into a successful future.

Very truly yours,
TGN

B.T.W., I will be featured in an upcoming release of Ripley's Believe it Or Not!'s new book in 2006. I told you, I love seeing myself published!
The Great Nippulini: body piercer, Guinness World Record holder, blacksmith and man with The World's Strongest Nipples! Does the WORLD care? We shall see...
http://www.greatnippulini.com
Steve V
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I don't do any of the sideshow stunt stuff, though I would love to learn. I had surgery to straighten my syptom (spelling? I've no clue) and the first thing I asked when told it was perfectly straight was if I could now shove a nail into it. The doctor didn't like the question but I have an urge to go to Coney Island and learn.

If you ask why I do magic it is because I need a creative outlet and I really enjoy the interaction with kids and adults that happens during a show. I have absolutely no desire to be on TV, none, and fame isn't anything I dream of. I went to college with a woman who is a major TV and minor TV star who is likely known by everyone here. When I talk to her and see her it is real clear that fame has put a lot of pressure on her and she is very different when she is 'on' then when she is herself. I also noticed she now needs the fame, when it seemed to be going away a couple years ago she was not in a good frame of mind. It's like if strangers didn't idolize her she felt she was lacking. Fame sucks from what I've seen.
Steve V
Steve V
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I meant minor movie star, she's been in a few movies but nothing big. She's a major TV one.
Steve V
Stephon
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Great question. (*sigh* this answer is really gonna sound like I'm pandering. Oh well)

I've been acting since I was 17. I always enjoyed entertaining people, and the instant validation is very. . .validating.

As an offshoot, I started doing magic a few years ago (wow, has it been 10? I think it's been 10). I found it very satisfying for several years.

As I've said elsewhere, I'm not a big fan of the traditional (or maybe I should say "prevalent") style of magic, so Penn & Teller appealed to me, and I watched "Sin City Spectacular" weekly.

One episode, Todd was performing. It was a real eye-opener for me; I'd seen a few people doing the loud-heavy-metal-music-while-I-gross-out-the-audience type of sideshow performance and found it, well, loud and gross, but not entertaining or particularly interesting. Just more of the "I'm too cool for you" stuff I'd seen so many times before.

Todd's low key, humorous, gentlemanly style was much more to my taste, and suddenly the stunts were intriguing and cool.

Magic was beginning to lose it's luster for me, so I decided I wanted to try my hand at this new (for me) type of performance and began framing my show. The challenge was to come up with something that embodied the qualities I enjoyed in Todd's performance, without being derivative. I've worked hard to make my show and my version of the stunts very much my own. I hope I've succeeded. I think have.

There have been several other performers who have influenced and inspired me (some of them frequent this forum), but I have to credit Todd's performance as being the pebble that started the landslide. (I should also credit Peter Gross with making a suggestion that really helped solidify what my character was all about.)

As for fame and fortune--I think I'd prefer a moderate level of notoriety and recognition to full-on fame, but I sure wouldn't turn up my nose at some fortune. In the mean time, I have job satisfaction, and that ain't bad.
~Les S. Moore, The Dapper Dipper
Swami Yomahmi and Cheeky Monkey Sideshow

"Comedy is a man in trouble." ~Bill Irwin
Doug Higley
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Can't sing or dance and never wanted to. Wanted to Fire eat but never had the oportunity to learn. Wanted to Sword Swallow but gag on a rice grain.

But like most Showmen, I have the inate and compulsive urge to share something interesting and unusual with those who need a bit of a disconnect from their daily life. If I might without getting yelled at here's what I put on my site to answer just that question that Todd asks:

" Who buy's these 'things'? If you understand what follows...maybe you...

"There is a certain type of person that 'gets it'...a person who deep inside is a 'born' Showman who enjoys sharing the 'wonder' and the fantasy and the stories...this person lives in all parts of the world and this person will have fun! How do I know? I'm that person too and I have dealt with that same kind of person since the 70's...I have heard the positive feedback over and over as to how much fun they have with their strange 'zibits. .....
Not everyone will make money or buys them to make money...many just want the 'zibits for whatever reason, maybe 'nostalgia' ("I always wanted one of those!").......and in ALL cases have had a great time too! And that's what it's all about afterall. I think the lack of any negative feedback is also about the 'match' between the buyer and the artist, we are the same person inside and so far we've all become pretty good friends. (There's a certain amount of whimsy necessary to show a Mermaid!)

The days of the old time 'rip off' carny showman are, fortunately, pretty much over...oh I guess there are a few out there somewhere that couldn't care less what they put on display as long as they can win the money from the public but thankfully I haven't dealt with them. I don't cater to them and if contacted by someone like that I can usually weed them out and send them elsewhere. I put a LOT of hard work into every 'zibit to make it unique and the best for those who do 'get it'. It also has to be fun for the viewer (who you just charged 50 cents to see it) as well and hopefully wrinkle a brow and crack a smile.

Most all of us are in this for the nostalgia, the minor disconnect from reality and the fun of persuing an entertainment aspect that was almost lost to history. We as Show Men & Women, as Entertainers, cause a person to stop for a brief moment and consider a 'wonder', step outside their box and thus to think 'could it be?'

PT Barnum was one of us...the most famous 'one of us'...he loved sharing the mysterious and the silly and the bizarre because he loved these things himself...bottom line is, he was an Entertainer, who didn't sing or dance or act...but he did tell stories...and had a wonderful time doing it! Me too!

A few reading this will understand. For the rest..."Wanna see something really STRANGE? The Strangest Thing you will ever see?"




I edited out some sales related stuff.Smile
Higley's Giant Flea Pocket Zibit
Daniel Santos
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LOL I love the answers you all are coming up with. Unfortunately, mine will be nothing of the sort :-P

My start was a bit different...no member of my family before me had worked in this area of entertainment...or 'areas' rather.

When I was roughly three years of age, I saw a magician on television. I can't remember if it was Burton or Copperfield, but it was one of 'em. At that moment, I fell in love with it. "It was like love at first sight..." LOL

The following year (age 4) I picked up my first magic set from Port Jefferson. I remember it well. It was a Houdini magic set. I didn't really know much about magic of course, so I fooled around with the props day after day but I just didn't know what the little plastic thumb was for or how to make the rice double in the red bowls. I never bothered to read the instructions (give me a break, I started Kindergarten that year! ;-)).

Since then, I've just tinkered around with gadgets until the instructions proved to be of some use. I knew that if I wanted to get somewhere, I had to get a good start. So, by fourth grade I was purchasing "professional" props.

In sixth grade (age 11), my first show. It was at a public library for a Christmas party. It went along very well (even though when I watch it today I can see SO many mistakes :-P). This is also around the time that I found the computer to be of much help. I could access magic stores that carried tricks I had never seen at the store I used to go to! In late winter/early spring, I decided to learn how to juggle. A few months of hard work and I was juggling balls pretty well, then moved on to clubs, and multiple balls (still stuck on 5..LOL).

I met a friend who told me about contact juggling, so I learned a couple of simple moves.

Then came hypnosis. I bought The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hypnosis in 6th grade, thinking it would teach me to get people to quack like ducks. I was wrong, but I tried out some of the stuff on my parents and friends, but I knew something wasn't right. I gave up for a bit...until a couple of months back. I found a homestudy course on stage hypnosis and I'm still waiting to find out my score on the exam....

Let's see...oh yeah. Escapes came around when I learned that there were actually people who escaped from anything and everything for a living. I thought it was challenging, unique, and more importantly, fun. I decided to give it a try. I would grab rope and have my family randomly tie my hands together. Shortly after, I had found a cheap Siberian Chain Escape. That's when I decided to keep working at it...

Unicycling....I bought my first unicycle in fourth grade when my parents told me they saw them at the magic shop. I got excited, thinking that it wouldn't be too hard to learn. Boy was I wrong...:-P I gave up until this past summer. David Straitjacket and I were talking on day and he ended up giving me some pointers on how to learn. I worked hard at it and within a good month, maybe a bit less, I was riding a good distance. (The only problem there was that I needed a new uni because I was 5'6" riding the same 16" that I got 4 years before...LOL)

I loved everything that I was learning, so I decided to explore even MORE into what show business has to offer (or more like what we have to offer show business ;-)). I've always enjoyed watching David's video clips on his website and I thought to myself, "Man...if I could learn that stuff I my life would be complete!" (yeah right! :-D) So, I learned the blockhead/balloon animal in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth bit and I've been working on sword swallowing.He mentioned using a coat hanger bent in the shape of a sword, so I kept at it for about a month and I finally was able to stick the thing down my throat...lol Except now my friends always yell, "DEEPTHROAT!"

I plan to venture more into all things weird and bizzare...but I guess my main reason for staying in magic for so long (which led me to everything else) is because I had the "power" to make the impossible become a reality. The part I really enjoy is knowing that I can just be myself...and I can express myself in an amusing, entertaining way (you should've seen the day I got mad at my brother and I pulled out the bang/flash wand...HAHAHA!)Also, I've always had this thing with people thinking I'm weird and stuff and...well....darn...I don't know how to explain. lol I LOVE it when they call me names like that but ever since the first time I realized that's what they thought....well, let's just say I've got a bit of Napoleon Syndrome ;-)

I do what I love and I love what I do...it's all cool. Smile
If it is to be, it is up to me.
Daniel Santos
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P.S. I can be a wee bit long-winded sometimes...
If it is to be, it is up to me.
poolos
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I do it for the women.
poolos
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Sorry couldn’t resist.
Harley Newman
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I've met your girlfriend. I think you're a bit off, about what she finds attractive. Please say hi.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

www.bladewalker.com
Andrew Richmond
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This will sound a bit cheesy but first of all for the interaction with thousands of people each year.. You get to meet people from all walks of life and create a moment they will not forget.

Secondly because I am still a kid at heart (I think we all are here) and buying those expensive toys is like Christmas when the package arrives.

Thirdly because life is short and sitting in an office for me is sole destroying.. Please note I pass no judgement on those that do. I have many friends in the financial world and they get a buzz from closing a deal, negotiation and client building.. It's just not for me.

Why do you do it Todd?

A.R.
"Take a card any card!"
"Why?"
"So I can find it."
"Why?"
FacadeTheStiltBoy
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I mainly started because I wanted to prove it to myself that I can do it. The stage work came with the territory.

I was first attracted to doing fire when I saw GWAR back in 99 when "We Kill Everything" came out (Gwarmageddon tour) and saw Danielle doing fire breathing at the venue (Slymenstera).

Flash ahead a few more years.

I ran into Crispy from the Crispy Family Carnival at the Colorado Dark Arts fest and a few weeks later at the Gothnic where he was doing fire performance work. I talked to him, and he helped me out getting started with fire eating and fire breathing. After that, everything else fell into place quicker and quicker.

So for the most part, I don't do it for the money, considering I don't get paid that much, I do it more for myself, and that I make people happy when I'm performing.
KingStardog
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As far as sideshow things I only eat fire. Three torches, a 'single load' fuel bottle and no fire breathing at all. My bridge builds heat rather quickly so I don't teeth hold, but instead light my tounge and transfer fire between small torches. Simple not too dangerous without the fireball. Done outdoors before a magic set about a half dozen times a year. (yep that's it) Because of the variables I never mention it, and just do the short routine if everything is right. (safe) I don't call the razor blades or some of my other things real stunts either.

The real answer is: I wanted to share something really special with my spectators. Something that was until recently a declining/vanishing art. I know most of them have seen it on TV, but I want them to have that one time at least in their lives they could say that hey! I was 3 feet away from him and was so fluid and beautiful. I even saw his mouth on fire and him lighting torches from it. More to share an intimate moment that would be remembered for a lifetime. A reason for them to go home and say man your never going to believe what happened!

that's why. Not to impress people, or for fame, fortune, or money. Just to share a special time and a very special art.
...think not that all wisdom is in your school. You may have studied other paths,but, it is important to remember that no matter who you are or where you come from, there is always more to learn.
Todd Robbins
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Why do I do this stuff? When the guy that shot President McKinley was asked why he did it, his reply was, "seemed like a good idea at the time." The same goes for me and the sideshow.

See, I told you the joke answers are easy.

I'll give the real answer soon. I gotta run now.
Scott Xavier
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I do it for the excitement that brews inside me. The feeling of power. The respect of being the only one. And the pay checks!
Steve V
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Well, at least you really get a paycheck...the rest is imagined. Don' bussa cap in for for letting you know G.
Steve V
Todd Robbins
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Okay, here's what appeals to me about this material. It instills a sense of wonder in an audience that goes beyond anything I have done. In my act I end with this:

"I've tried to show you some things that you didn't know where possible. And that idea, that the impossible might be possible, is a powerful one.

The desire to find out what is possible in life is what makes people go on and do great things with their lives. And it all begins with amazement, because when you are amazed you, being to wonder. How is possible to eat glass? What goes into walking over broken bottles?Where does that nail go?

And that means you are thinking. That’s the greatest thing of all, for we have too much fear in our world today and not enough rational thought. So if you have been amazed here tonight, then my job is done and yours is just beginning."

I try to expand the audience's perceptions of what is possible. Add to this that I'm helping to keep alive a wonderful arcane form of performance.

Making this stuff play is a challenge, and success is not assured, but it's a challenge worth undertaking
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