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Todd Robbins
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In an effort to clear the air, I have a question to ask. Why have you embraced the choices you have as a performer? I'm not asking why you do sideshow acts, but more specifically why have you made the chosen your style of presentation. Some here have a very traditional approach, some are retro, some embrace a more rock & roll/punk sensibility while others have styles that transend easy classification.

I know that the basic answer is "I do what I do the way that I do it because it is right for me", but I wantt to find out WHY it is right for you. And there is nothing judgemental about this inquiry. I think it will be fascinating to find out why people have gone in the direction they have.

I will post my answer tomorrow, but in the mean time, whose first?
The Curator of the Unusual
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Apparently everyone copied Todd and are waiting for him to post his answer so that they can reply "Ditto"....
You come to a point in your life when you really don't care what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself.
Evel Knievel

contact: curatoroftheunusual@hotmail.com
Todd Robbins
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I'm a bit surprise at the number of views but the lack of posts. Okay, so here's my response.

I enjoy presenting sideshow entertainment with a tradional feel. I'v tried to balance presenting an act that could have working in the sideshows of the past with creating a performance that is relevant for a contemporary audience. Though I often perform in a suit and tie, and in venues such as theaters and corporate events, whenever possible and appropriate I like to work in period attire. When I do this I strive to give the audience a feeling that they are watching something that is both accurate for another period and timeless.

Text-wise I combine material that I have gotten from performers of the past with original lines. I try to play against the gross out and shock elements that are inherent in many of the traditional sideshow acts. It's there regardless, so I don't feel a need to play it up.

The choices I've made are not apporpriate for all venues, the I've found that it has broad appeal and has allowed me to take sideshow entertainment into venue where it has not be presented before.

So there.

Next...
Todd Robbins
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Jim,
From the photos I've seen of the BCS, it has this same vintage but timeless quality that I mentioned in my response. I would guess that much of what is behind this choice is presenting a show that the public expects when they go in to see a sideshow.

Do you think that a show like yours would work if it was framed with a very modern or even futuristic design style?

Quote:
On 2011-09-10 10:26, The Curator of the Unusual wrote:
Apparently everyone copied Todd and are waiting for him to post his answer so that they can reply "Ditto"....
handa
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When I decided to do a collection of curiosities, I wanted it to be an extension of myself.

I am a collector and a teacher. This relates to most of what I do. I am fascinated with the odd. This comes through in my performaces, either as a magician, a host character, or the owner of a bunch of cool stuff that somebody is paying to see.

I don't take what I do or myself too seriously. This is all for fun. I want people to be entertained. I want them to smile, enjoy themselves, and maybe connect something that I do with their own lives and memories. I don't mind them understanding that there is a bit of humbug to what I do because I believe that "The Big Lie" should not extend beyond the walls of my tent or the doors of the theatre. However, I am entitled to my secrets as well as bound to honor the secrets of others. As long as people understand that this is all done in fun, and with no intent to either misinform or rip off the general public, I am consistent with my character.

I also want things to look a bit "traditional" (as far as collective memory goes, but I do try to be historically accurate when I can as well) because this is something of interest to me. In a sense, I want to present all of those things that my mother and father kept me away from for my formative years because they felt that it was "a waste of time and money." I celebrate the worthiness of the diversion and those who will take a few minutes to escape from a more mundane world with me.

As a younger performer, I didn't set out to do things a specific way, but found that when things did not fit, it was because ther weren't consistent with the above for me in that particular character.

Chris
Harley Newman
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I'd worked circus, and didn't like the traditional sideshow approach...too much like expository writing, fine if you're doing an essay, but wrong when you're surprising people. I looked at how some street performing friends handled their audiences, how stand-up comedy was working (this is 30 years ago). I liked the stunt work and escapes, and figured there was another way. So I made it up.

Now it's bread and butter, but I have other things to say, other stunts to do...hence, new material.

It would be nice to work like Todd, but I'm not tall enough.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

www.bladewalker.com
The Curator of the Unusual
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Quote:
On 2011-09-10 11:37, Todd Robbins wrote:
Jim,
From the photos I've seen of the BCS, it has this same vintage but timeless quality that I mentioned in my response. I would guess that much of what is behind this choice is presenting a show that the public expects when they go in to see a sideshow.

Do you think that a show like yours would work if it was framed with a very modern or even futuristic design style?



The BCS is framed first and foremost from memory and recollection of expierences with shows I have had during my Lifetime..In Short, everything that got me excited about shows as a kid/Adult I have tried to replicate, w/ the reasoning, 'If it got a Mark like me excited, it oughta get others excited also"..Having been raised as a Towner versus being raised as a Show kid has helped me by knowing both sides of the Fence, although that line gets Blurred as I get older..Modern and Futuristic may work, I've never tried it, However, being on a limited Budget, I couldn't afford to take that gamble...I believe that angle would confuse Folks into not knowing what it is, Is it a Funhouse et.?, When Ward and Chris had W0W on the Pups,I asked Ward, would you frame another solid Front and he relied "No!",Hence the more recent WoW is a Rag. Everything the BCS does, correction most things the BCS does is geared for GTFM, Traditional Rag Front = simpler Customer Recognition, High Ticket Box = quick and easy where do I pay, et.as far as wearing Fedoras and slacks w/ dress shirts, Face it, after strolling down Game Alley the Public is quickly educated to AVOID the Show issued shirt!...Why are attractions in Wagons? easiar set-up and So on and so forth, This is a Business and everything is thought out W/ GTFM in mind, Yet, being a Circus Fan, Circus Buff, Circus Groupie long before I ever hit the Sawdust trail, I also do things no one else does that totally goes against GTFM... We sponsor a Bowling Team, We publish Route Cards, We have Set-up and teardown monagramed Shirts, We carry a Tractor (although the tractor has proven to be a asset)starting next year we are going to Fly a BCS handsewn Flag from atop are Our Tent and at the end of the season present it to someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to the BCS ( Stolen tradition from the McClosky years of the ACME Circus Corp.{Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros.})I could write more on the personality my acts of yesteryear, but quite frankly I've spoken too much already...NEXT!....

Here is the Design of the Flag...

Click here to view/download attached file.
You come to a point in your life when you really don't care what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself.
Evel Knievel

contact: curatoroftheunusual@hotmail.com
rossmacrae
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My first response was going to be that "any motion through the water produces ripples from which you can evaluate the shape of your environment - the resistances and free flows you can use to adjust your motion." That's a pseudo-Zen way to think about just keeping on doing your act the way you conceive it until your audiences or clients feed back what works and what doesn't, and adjust accordingly. That's what I did for most of my 26 performing years. I believed that I was very responsive to feedback, and many experiences proved me right.

Then, second thought, "no I wasn't". All that time, I still had many points about which I was resistant to feedback, I knew it, and I still could not make myself get past those points. Of course, as I think any performer might say, some parts of my act are non-negotiable, and that's reasonable. No, I'm not going to be a Santa who does magic. No, I'm not going back to that housefull of twenty-somethings who kept wilfully messing up my act. No, I'm not going to rewrite my act to do didactic point-making effects for a political sponsor.

In direct response to your question, I chose my character largely out of a practical need for ease in transitioning between magician and clown, 4 or 5 shows a day I'd have to be each more than once. And a disgust with the idea of "letting the costume do the work." So, no tuxedo, no yama-yama clown suit or Ringling whiteface - audience, you have to love my show, not my suit.

You might get something out of the explanation I gave prospective clients: see THIS PAGE
Doug Higley
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I grew up somewhat obsessed with the Museum Of Natural History in NY...as well as having a savy Mom who allowed me to go in to the big 'Variety' shows at Coney in the early 50's and we stopped at every Roadside Attraction we spotted on our many road trips. Every birthday it was to Madison Square garden for the Ringling show and it's big side show in the basement. Ripley's and Hubert's were regular stops when in the city. I was thus born to be a curator or showman of some sort. Smile My favorites were the roadside exhibits...mainly I think because it seemed ATTAINABLE. Very much the way magic tricks make show biz attainable to kids who can't sing or dance. When I did put my first Single-O shows together, in 1971, it was an amalgamation of what I remembered and what I saw in Brill's and advice from Pete Hennen. The eventual goal was always to curate a bigger Museum show, which I did in trailers and tents and eventually in a big 5,000 sq ft hard top museum I built and curated in 1993.

Now to the original question...it was when I did an 18 exhibit 'Lost Pygmy Tribe Of The Amazon' show for the County Fair in Placerville that I had a change of 'tune'. It tanked...made the nut but I had less patience with the "Are the mummies alive?" questions and folks asking "How do I play this game?". This was too much work for the income and my artistic sensibilities were being slighted by ignorant dolts who were confused by either the banners or being asked to step outside of their box...so I decided to go back to the more simple Single-O, leave the museum collections to those who could mount a proper BIG show (kudos to Jimmy Z!) and brain stormed (with myself) on HOW to reach a public that just didn't want to play...the fact was I didn't want to play...thus the occasional Flea Market's became very attractive to my, getting lazy, self. I knew I would have to simplify it all down to a very basic non-threatening presentation because I wanted to GATFM. Meaning not just those interested in the stuff I was interested in but those who couldn't care less if I was a good curator or not...ie: The women and the family groups that wandered the flea markets...G-ALL-TFM. It was then that I remembered the Lou Dufor LIFE show I had seen as a teen. Clear as a bell...LIFE in big white block letters on a blue background. Epiphany. My big fabulous museum in Tahoe was history as well...highly praised but little attended...the Flea market would have to be the place to go and do my thing. I sat down and formulated the psychology and chemistry of an average un-involved every day person and came up with my flea market Strange Thing grind show which worked like a charm. I still ached to be the curator I was meant to be BUT it hadn't worked for me as I wanted it to...this did. But there was more to it that that (sorry but you asked!!!) add to all that the fact that a suitable exhibit for a proper Single-O was expensive!!!! I could put together a museum show of numerous inexpensive exhibits but a Single-O had to hold up to the admission on it's own. be spectacular and PRICEY as hell! So being my usual broke ass self I had to come up with a way to present something that wasn't expensive in way that didn't matter if it was spectacular or not. Every show had Feegee Mermaids of one form of another and they were reveled to be a Hoax a hundred years in the past so were not much more than a secondary (at best) throw away exhibit in bigger and better shows and museums and even then, were shown as a nostaligic 'fake that fooled grandma'.

GATFM...the BLIND front. Drop the term Feegee altogether...and...well...most of you know the rest. A simple, no frills, inexpensive little grind show that works the Flea Markets using original and proven in the field psychological principles that do not fail because they are pure STEALTH. Yes STEALTH.The opposite of traditional and what works on the big midways. Not a patch on the big terrific shows and more spectacular enterprises like BCSS and WOW but happy to be good enough for weekend side money at a local drive-in flea market. And the FUN was back too. There's a lot more to it than that...how I started making the Zibits (and why) and how Homer Tate's legasy changed my life completely. Thanks for asking Todd. More to tell another day as if anybody gives a rat's pitooty. Smile
Higley's Giant Flea Pocket Zibit
Stephon
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My background is in acting, so that is the approach I took in framing my show. I knew I wanted to create a character to perform as, and built on the multiple meanings of the word "geek". Comedy was important, because, up until I saw your on P&T's Sin City, Todd, I had only seen the Jim Rose style, or the "I'm so cool" style of presenting sideshow, and those didn't appeal to me. I wanted to be the opposite--someone who was trying to be cool, and just couldn't pull it off, yet somehow managed to achieve a type of coolness by virtue of doing stunts that most people can't do.

My friend Peter Gross and I bounced some ideas around, I workshopped the act a bit, and then, once I came up with the name, the rest kind of fell into place from there.
~Les S. Moore, The Dapper Dipper
Swami Yomahmi and Cheeky Monkey Sideshow

"Comedy is a man in trouble." ~Bill Irwin
Rotten
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I read this post shortly after it was posted. I haven't read any of the replys but have pondered the question ever since and here is my answer.

I have alway just exagerated who I am. Audiences, people, strangers and friends can smell BS. Why feed it to them?

Boy. I had so much more to say but then I boiled it down and that is about all I have. Be yourself, slightly exagerated. Be the best you that you can be. No one else in the world is you. That is what made your wife fall in love with you. Made the check out counter lady laugh unexpectedly. Put a smile on a strangers face.

As a kid I immulated many. Harry Anderson, Howie Mandel, Steven Wright. What a combination? eh, I was a kid. Then I grew into something I thought people would buy. That didn't work. Then I started being myself.

As Harry said "I told them the truth and they bought it."

Ted
critter
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This will probably get criticized so I'm a little reluctant to share it. But it's only because it's Todd Robbins asking.

When I first started out I tried to be as different from myself as possible. I was a shy kid and the only way I could talk on a stage was to pretend it wasn't me talking. In fact, the whole reason I got into entertainment was to force myself to talk in front of people. Later, I realized I wasn't so bad a dude and got more comfortable just being mostly myself up there.
Also, venues have dictated certain elements. Most work was at renaissance festivals, so had to play renaissance a lot.
My dream is to be able to do a Victorian style stongman routine as part of a larger variety show that would include other comedy and magic performers. Like a Vaudeville show.
There's nothing I love more than the golden age of guys like Sandow, Saxon, and Cyr.
Poke fun all you want, but that's where my heart is.
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers
Rotten
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For the record: I had my morning coffee and read this before working an afternoon gig and then busking at night so I had plenty of time to ponder. I wasn't able to reply so early in the morning because my brain was still booting up. Todd, some of your deep, provocative, and intellectual (I wanted to say crap but didn't know if it was allowed) questions take some time for me to devour. Great thought. Great question. AND you gave me something to think about as I went throught a day of gigging.

Feed me Seymour.

Ted
Todd Robbins
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It's funny the way our perspective on things can change things. I get a sense that this post of critter's was not easy for him to write. It probably brought up a lot of what made him shy years ago, things he has overcome.

Rest assured that there is nothing in what you posted that will be ridiculed. Your sincerity will make certain of that. That and the fact that you could easily crush like a bug anyone that would be stupid enough to diss you.

Todd

Quote:
On 2011-09-11 01:44, critter wrote:
This will probably get criticized so I'm a little reluctant to share it. But it's only because it's Todd Robbins asking.

When I first started out I tried to be as different from myself as possible. I was a shy kid and the only way I could talk on a stage was to pretend it wasn't me talking. In fact, the whole reason I got into entertainment was to force myself to talk in front of people. Later, I realized I wasn't so bad a dude and got more comfortable just being mostly myself up there.
Also, venues have dictated certain elements. Most work was at renaissance festivals, so had to play renaissance a lot.
My dream is to be able to do a Victorian style stongman routine as part of a larger variety show that would include other comedy and magic performers. Like a Vaudeville show.
There's nothing I love more than the golden age of guys like Sandow, Saxon, and Cyr.
Poke fun all you want, but that's where my heart is.
critter
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Thank you Todd. Con or not, you're a good dude.
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers
Kondini
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Started out with magic and tried just about every limb of it even P&J (I was the worst P&J Entertainer in the world).
Settled on a pickpocket act and did pretty well with it (Worked Comedy Clubs, Theatres and at that time the WMC circuit) Which gave me work 365 days a year.

Had Ken Brooke as mentor over a three year period and in that time did Circus (All aspects of the job !)Smarts,Mills,Carousel and even Martin Burtons Academy had me!!
Always had an interest in Fairground as well so worked as come on for Betty Allen and her Sideshows (Rats, Gators,Snakes etc etc) Betty was a lovely lady to me. Had Wickes (He of top table circus fame) Shout me up with his golden Topper and Tails on so hence the move into Fire-Eating then via Barry Walls into full sideshow. To think this was over 40 years ago now.

Traveled my own sideshow unit which stood showlines throughout the UK,Doctor Death on one side of me, Betty on the other and Allen Fords WOD at the end. You should hear us all shouting a crowd at ten pm, the vocals were a show on their own, so much so that we all saw sense and took it in turns to turn the tip from one show to another!!! Hahaha memories.

The sideshow act found me,,,it was me and portrayed my slightly rough tongue with the image which is not an act cos I am just myself doing the act,,,,,so it fitted me to a tee, like the escapes,,,a bit rough around the edges but the portrayal works for me as me.

Its the only type of act I feel compfy with.
Add the asides to this, the Zibbs,the swag dems and magic sales and its me making a living.....just !!

So to digress, sideshow found me and I embrace it, the preservation of this unusual entertainment is paramount to my work, to carry on the Barry Walls, Betty Allen and Chief Miletti (From Abacus, no less) Is my aim. I hope I can do it justice.

Hell, there is a tear in the eye,,,just thinking about it all (A manly tear of course).

Ken.

Todd, thanks for asking.
Lurchenstien
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Ok, perhaps it's a bit early on for me, being that I've done one sideshow type gig, but this is how I ended up where I am.

I guess it started when I was maybe ten, a circus come round to the school, we got to try out some basic skills, and the better ones got to be in a show, somehow I made it into the show as a clown. I didn't get up to much in the way of circus acts for a few years, then at fourteen I bought myself a unicycle, learned to ride it, rode it pretty much everywhere I went, even got into a local paper for doing my paper round on my unicycle. About seven years ago, I saw a picture in bizarre magazine, of a woman doing bloakhead, so I started researching into the act, pestering blockheads for advice in learning, then I learned it, then mental floss followed shortly after. I moved six years ago, joined a fire / circus skills group, learned fire eating - breathing, and fakia, I took up street / trials unicycling and got sponsored by a local skate company, whilst continuing with blockhead.

I've always been a quiet person, never liked being the centre of attention, I done a gig with the fire group on unicycle, liked the unicycling, didn't like the crowd. A couple of years ago, the guy who runs the group I'm with found out I can do blockhead and mental floss, and so there was a place to put what little sideshow acts I had to use, and I've since been learning and researching more acts. I done a sideshow gig in August, looking forward to it so I could see what others think of what I was learning, but dreading working with the audience. As it was, once I'd started the acts and saw the reaction I was getting, I got in to the swing of it, had a great time, and found that getting the reaction I got was fun to do. I still need to work on my "people" skills, but that said, I can't at the moment see me getting bored / put off any time soon. There's a couple of other people doing sideshow in the local area, but they don't look to be going into it very much, just picking at what little info is available to the public. That is making me look into the acts more, and to be as versatile with the acts as I can, learning the acts that interest me, and the variations that go with them.

I may well have more to add further down the line, but at the moment, this is the answer I'm happy with.

L.
Lurchenstien
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I will add, that as for a particular style of performing, I'm not yet set on one, I'll have a go at some more in future gigs, and see what I'm more comfortable with.

L.
dough
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Todd, I have thought really hard about our question and I must say, I can't answer. I don't have an act and I don't act, my performance style is just me and I am evolving, sometimes hourly. Asking me why I have made the performance choices I have made for my show is like asking why I have made certain choices in life and I am sure my family would love to hear the anwers to that. Right now, at this moment, it is the basic answer, it suits me, the next show, who knows. Am I the way I am because of nature ot nurture? I think a combination.

My Mom and Dad always encourged me to do whatever I wanted, as I have with both my children.
I was raised a townie also, no showfolks in the family tree, and the first sideshow I saw as a kid was The Headless Woman and I was hooked, the first one I built, many years ago, The Headless Woman, still have that somewhere and yes my wife was she, used it for a haunted house we had. After the children were grown we ran away from home and joined the carnival life with just a single-o, which we still have on the road and it has evolved too. I also do psychic demonstrations, fire eating, animal traps, and thanks to Gwyd mousetraps, if you should thank anyone for that, and a few other things. A special thanks to Doug for getting me out there, giving me encouragement and basic help, although I have corrupted his sytem to suit my needs.

My wife of 25 years says I am the way I am because in a past life I did the same things I am doing now and was hanged for it, hence the neck problems I now enjoy.

The above I guess is why I am the way I am, and perform the way I do, but for me, this question is the equivalent of asking for the meaning of life, and that I cannot answer. But it has made me think and I thank you for that.

Now, if you want to know why I have made the choices and changes to the framing, purely for the money brother . . . . . purely for the money. . . . . .
"One of the Last Ten in One Sideshows"
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