I got into this thing because I'm an outcast ... but then it's something else to do that makes you outcast, because you're this weirdo that juggles. I wasn't known as "the juggler", but I was known as "juggler". I didn't even get a "the". But before that I was known as "Jackman's brother", which is pretty sad. Even my friends called me "Jackman's brother".
A lot of things I did I became obsessed with ... I notice several members of the International String Figure Association here. I am also a member. There's maybe a hundred members worldwide and five or six of them are here. That's just not possibly coincidental. I have probably the world's largest collection of paper airplanes, and I've designed hundreds, which I have in boxes. I'll never open these boxes again. I'm sure there's some connection between these eclectic pursuits.
Club passing was the big thing then. I just remember all these quite complex patterns ... which were probably just like a feed, but at the time it was this huge thing. There was no going back after that.
I started street performing at the Los Angeles County Art Museum long before I had any kind of act. I just juggled. Here's some tricks. Here's more tricks. Here's some more tricks. I kept exact records of how much I made every Saturday, every Sunday. You'd make more on Sunday cause it's a Jewish neighborhood. I'd always make about five dollars a day, and I was happy. I didn't have any clue at all. No clue whatsoever.
I was practicing between five, ten hours a day. After school I would juggle. I'd watch the 'Tonight Show', 11:30 to 1:00 in the morning and then go out on the street and juggle some more. I don't know if my parents ever let me do this. But it was good lighting, it was the streetlights and dark sky. That was the best time. It was cool so you don't sweat. You don't get exhausted, and you're already warmed up from all the practice during the day, so that's when stuff would happen. Doesn't work the same when you're 38, but it was great.
I did some tour over the summer after my first year at UCLA. It was at a series of Job Corp Centers all over the country. These were good kids who got in trouble but didn't kill anybody yet. They'd go, they'd work hard, and get a skill or something. So they were a captive audience. It was a terrible tour. It was horrible, but they paid a lot of money ... at least, I thought it was a lot of money. I had no idea that they were ripping me off terribly. But it was way more than I was going to get after graduation in computers. I didn't think long term ... that I could be a senior systems analyst then maybe ... I had no idea. I think you make most of your money there putting a back door in a system and then blackmailing them. I just didn't think ahead.
The other thing was every year I came in and did an act as different as possible. I had very little overlap and I ran out of stuff. I wasn't going to come up with something that was dramatically different. So I was done.
That competing was very important to me. It was terribly, terribly nerve-wracking. I couldn't get out of bed. I'd make the other competitors crazy cause they're just there to have fun. I wouldn't be able to perform anywhere near my level. But when I started to do things in the real world like auditioing, showcasing in the college market or things like that, it was so much easier. You could just do your act. You didn't have to do the really, really hard stuff. It was very helpful to me.
But the majority of the shows are either very good or fantastic. Nice theaters, friendly helpful people, large crowds. It's the only place that I know of where if you decide to do an extra 20 minutes they're happy. Half my material was new every year, if I thought of something, I'd always try it out.
Like in the show a couple of nights ago. I basically loaded up with some ideas... I didn't know most of that stuff until I said it. I don't have the ability to sit down in front of a computer and write it. I have to have audience feedback.
Traveling by myself. Karen was always home. I lived like that. I tended to fall asleep at the wheel. At the time I wasn't getting shows hand over fist either, and it was hard to work hard to get more shows that I didn't really want.
Plus for a long time my career was building, building, building, then I got to a certain level, and we tried certain other things, which didn't work. It's difficult. Maybe not for everyone, but for me it's difficult to tread water. It doesn't matter how much people like you and how your show is going over. If you're just going to be at that level, that's not as much fun. I'd rather be down there coming up then up here staying there. I don't know if that's a character flaw. Maybe it is. But it became difficult.
So it got harder and harder to get up for the shows. Once I was on the stage I was fine, but I wouldn't sleep at all on the road for three or four days at a time. It was like I was challenging myself. "Let's see if you can do a good show now without sleeping for four days." I knew that one day I'd just go on stage and do just a horrendous show, and I'd never work again. I started to fear that I would go on stage and just really lose the audience ... that I would blurt out something obscene or drop my pants. What's the chance of accidentally blurting out something obscene? And I would always start my act for some reason with the hardest things. I'd start off with rings, which I'm crappy at. Right in the middle of the show, I could do it, but I can't do it at the beginning. I'm nervous then. I'm an idiot.
I had three good shows in a row. A lot of ad-libbing, lots of impov, I was cracking up on stage as if I were totally lost -- really funny stuff. When the audience sees you are really, really laughing, they laugh hard. They were three of the best shows I'd had in years. I was afraid the next show might suck and I'd have to live with that memory. I didn't want my last show to be crappy. I decided I'd rather quit.
I started missing performing. Remembering what it is that I wanted to do, I had forgotten about the road and things I didn't like about it. I guess the same thing with childbirth ... you're screaming and crying and then about a week later you're saying, "Hey, let's make another one of these." You forget that it hurt. So it's basically, I had the childbirth syndrome.
Money also ... my wife switched over from being an agent to being a manager, reducing the number of clients she handled.
I don't know. I always felt good performing. I always felt I enjoyed it.
I went and did a club in a small town so if I sucked, no one would know. I worked there for a week. I knew the juggling I would need practice, but my timing was off. The stuff I never had to work on. I wasn't me. It was weird.
I'm seeing more things I can't ... don't want to remember.
At first I wasn't in shape. I could practice a half an hour. I'd get tired. I practiced just too hard. I'm not precise. Think, juggle, juggle. Think, juggle. I don't do that stuff. I'm not as productive, but it probably feels more productive. Now I get two hours a night. I get bored before I get tired now, but at first it was not easy. Seven balls came back slowly. Five clubs ... it wouldn't work. It was very very annoying. Performing on stage came back faster.
It was painful at first, because I didn't realize what things weren't there. I wasn't sure what was going to come back. It started like a brain injury. Weird. And it wasn't fun. But now I'm better than I ever was and practicing is as much fun as it was when I was 20.
I think colleges and corporate are a good mix. The colleges because I can still do anything new I'm working on. I look at the old stuff, and I go, "This is stupid." I throw it out. And it's so much more fun to do something new. New to me means that every time I do it, it's different. Every time I add another line. Every day. Another line. Another line. Some of the routines I have started off as a single joke, and then I would do a tag to it because somebody laughed, and then I'd add a tag to that, and all of a sudden it's a five-minute thing. That's so much fun because I'm the first one that gets to hear it ... just before they do, and I know, "Oh, this is going to be so funny."
The shows I have done have been a lot more fun. I'd like to do more. That's also weird because I had such a long time where I always had more work than we could do. Especially the colleges because of the showcases. That means, "Here, I want to do a show at your school." Then you get a hundred people saying, "Do a show at my school." You can't do them all. I felt guilty about it. I'd see other people asking how you do it. I just say, "Oh, you do a showcase, and it's so easy. It's easy to get work." And now it's not so easy to get work. It's a good thing I wasn't an asshole before. It's very humbling.
Can we back this up and start over? Oh, Jesus Christ.
On stage the other night I opened up about my past misses. That's the kind of comedy that I like when I see somebody else. Somebody risking going on the line, telling about themselves, letting us learn more about them than whatever they're talking about. I'd like for my whole life to be that. I'd like to be doing that. I don't want to feel like I'm tricking the audience. I want to use me on stage more. The way it is in this interview. That's what's fun for me.
If I do a joke, and it doesn't work, it didn't work, so what? But if I open up and give myself like this, and they don't like me, I ain't got nothing else. That's it. And every good comedian that I like has bombed miserably on stage many times. I don't bomb. But in not bombing, I give up that ultimate thing.
I'd like to use more of myself on stage. If I'm going to continue performing I'm too old to be doing "an act". It should be me.
© 1998 Juggling Information Service. All Rights Reserved.