So you want to be a Sword Swallower?

So you want to be a sword swallower, huh? You think you have what it takes. You are ready for a life of SHOCK and AMAZEMENT. Your friends will think you’re cool and you could be THE next big reality star. Sounds pretty great, huh?

Ever since a young girl was shown on television shoving a coat hanger down her throat, I have been getting a few emails a week from individuals asking me to either give advice or teach them the ways of sword swallowing. The crazy thing is, 75%+ are teenage girls who have never even seen a live sword swallower.

As of today, I have never taught anyone the art of sword swallowing. Well, exceptMaybelle on a few occasions, but it didn’t take very long before she decided it wasn’t for her. I guess my reasoning has a lot to do with my other career, body piercing. That’s right. I have been a professional bodypiercer for over 20 years. That being said, I have worked in a tattoo shop for 20 years. That industry lives by a different code than most. People are brought into the business generally through apprenticeship or as a shop grunt, doing whatever is told of them in hopes of getting their foot in the door of a very tight-knit community. Once you brought someone in the industry, you were held responsible by the remainder of the community for their actions. So people were very reluctant to let just anyone in. Of course, times have changed in that industry. However,

Single Sword Swallow, Bahamas, 2014

Single Sword Swallow, Bahamas, 2014

my thought process has not.

I am still able to help someone out who is thinking about the life of a sword swallowing sideshow performer. The first thing I ask is “Are you willing to die for it?” Sword swallowing is one of the most dangerous stunts to perform and even very skilled sword swallowers get hurt and, quite possibly, killed. You must know that going into it.

Also, sword swallowing is just a tool in the toolbox. How do you plan on using that tool? Do you want to be a street performer, stage performer, clown, motivational speaker, or magician? You see, there is a lot more to being an entertainer than just the physical ability to do a stunt. People ask me what the hardest thing I do on stage is, and I always say “talking on the microphone”. Carrying a show is by far the hardest thing I do. If you just get up there and swallow a sword, you are just another episode of Jackass. People have all seen someone do something dangerous for the shock and entertainment of others. Now, what are you going to do to get them to stay around, tip or maybe even hire you for your skill?

So here is my advice. Find out what you want to do and work on that first. See what it feels like to be on stage, book shows, sleep in cars, bomb on stage, get destroyed by a heckler, spend your last dollar to get to a gig and show up to an empty venue, deal with a drunk club owner to get your pay, break down on the side of a road while your fans are awaiting your arrival… I could go on for hours. Then see if it is for you.

It takes a lot more than swallowing swords to be a success. It takes an entire toolbox full of stunts along with the ability to sell it to others. It takes writing a routine (not stealing one on YouTube from another entertainer) and performing it enough to perfect delivery, timing and to make it yours. Once you have done that, then talk to someone about teaching you their craft. Go to one of the few Sideshow Schools in the country and prove you are worthy of walking the path so many great entertainers have paved. Bring something positive to the industry. Don’t be another half-assed performer giving others a bad name. And remember …be humble.

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The Balance of Work & Play

As we draw near to the finish of October, Halloween season, I turn reflective.

We’ve gone to the Myrtle Beach “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” to perform 12 shows in 2 days.  Exhausted, but managed to walk on the beach at midnight (while beautiful, I have to say that sand fleas SUCK), tossed some brews and whiskey back at The Bowery, and had one of the silliest evening walks ever.  We even ran into an old friend, Ted, on the beach of all places.

We’ve gone to the Gatlinburg “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” to perform 18 shows in 3 days.  Thrilling and so pumped we had a blast!  Walked alongside the river to the Mysterious Mansion and finally went through this haunt!  Enjoyed a nice dinner at a cabin on a mountain. After 5 years, I finally summoned the courage to ride the Ski-Lift, walked through a beautiful aquarium and marveled at the sharks, and had some interesting mountain pit stops to enjoy the changing color of the leaves.

We’ve gone to Atlanta’s Hot Air Balloon Festival, Owl-o-Ween, to perform 5 shows in 2 days.  Enjoyed the massive crowds and the event was a truly beautiful weekend filled with the Fall Spirit!  Saw many friends enjoying their families and the weather and caught up with fellow entertainers between shows.

I suppose what resonates with me after this reflection is the balance between work and play.  We bust our tails traveling for shows.  So much goes into packing props, costumes and ourselves.  Then there’s the household to mind while we’re gone.  The hound goes to the kennel, the children have destinations, lock this, unplug that, leave those lights on.  It can be overwhelming.  But, we do it all together.  People often ask how it is that we don’t kill each other, always together.  The answer is simply… goals.  We have the same goals.  We want to enjoy this life we have. So, we do.

The show is a reward.  I relish eliciting laughter from folks.  Captain prefers to shock the audience.  We both draw different experiences at the end of the day.  But, always remember to work and play.

We’re PUMPED for THIS Friday night!

Captain's personal best!

Captain’s personal best!

For the past few months we’ve been working gigs with one of our personal favorite bands; The Six Shot Revival.  Let me tell you, we KILL it those nights.  Not only are we all doing what we want to do on that stage, we all enjoy the other entertainment, too!  THIS Friday, January 18th, at Ground Zero in Spartanburg, SC, Captain & Maybelle will be hosting a night of music and more with The Six Shot Revival, Shotgun Disciple and Red Seriph.

We have a sweet lineup and sideshow stunts to keep everyone going!  At this club, the first club in the country that let the Captain (aka Chris Steele) take a microphone in front of a crowd, we ALWAYS throw down like we’re at home!  Limits WILL get pushed.  The music WILL get loud.  And the night WILL be memorable for everyone there.

Friday, January 18, 2013  Ground Zero  Spartanburg, SC

Be there!