How were they?

I’ve opened my fair share of novelty-act shows over the years, after my short performance I’ve gone back stage and been quizzed about the audience by performers who were yet to go on. I remember one partular act whould ask me the same question every show, day after day, week after week and I’d answer the same everytime, it became a slightly odd ritual.

We are subjective judges on how an audience reacts to our work. Circus is a particularly difficult art form to do this real time data collection, we physically cannot give the audience all of our attention, all of the time. We cannot impartially survey our audiences reactions while on stage.

Trying to judge if a group of strangers (who are often in the dark and mostly invisible to the performer) are enjoying our work by the noises they make (often covered my music) is probably not an effective data set worthy of any meaningful analysis.

On top of this, the person doing the data crunching is often the person who has just been collecting the data and is doing this post-show digestion after or during an adrenaline rush. Far from an impartial investigation on how one did and what the audience thought of us/our work.

I find the same when I’ve got off stage after group performances I’ve been in. Often performers who have been in the same piece, onstage at the same time have very different interpretations of how an audience was/enjoyed/understood the show. These opinions seem to have a lose correlation with their own success in the show, if ‘performer X’ had a good show (in terms of executing technique) then the audience was positive, if ‘performer Y’ had a bad show then the audience was negative.

If it’s impossible to get an impartial analysis from being on stage we probably shouldn’t give post show feelings based on our own experience too much attention. But where else can we turn to if we want to learn from our mistakes?  We are forced into a feedback loop which we know is flawed but is the best we can rely on given the budget, time and context which the average circus performer typically finds themselves in.

And this is to say nothing about the artistic quandaries about playing to the gallery.

“Every night, after every Penn & Teller show we’ve ever done, Teller and I go out and meet the audience…

Doing this for forty years has made us different from other entertainers. The only feedback other performers get is onstage, so if a crowd is quiet, other entertainers are bummed. But we go out and talk to people, and often the quietest crowds contain the people who are the most enthusiastic and kind when we meet them after the show, when it’s one on one. When I’m seeing a show, the better it is, the quieter I am. I can barely bring myself to applaud when I’m watching (Bob) Dylan. I’m afraid to lose my concentration, to break the spell. After forty years, Teller and I have grown to trust and enjoy the quiet audiences.

You could point out that this is a self-selected sample— that the people who come up to us and wait to meet us are the few people who liked the show, while the rest of the quiet crowd really hated us. You could say that, and you might be right, but you’d be a prick.

Jillette, Penn. Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales (Kindle Locations 2004-2014). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. “



I aspire to be a skeptical person, but try to step back from brink of cynicism. I struggle to make my mind up on how I feel about the concept of quotations. When I see a vague statement written in fake handwriting on a wall like, “Love is the string to my bow” I can’t help but feel disgusted. Can one really distill the complexities of life into a glib sentence?

Yet, when I come across an idea that has resonance with me I try and find a sentence that concisely sums it up and add it to a quotation note on my phone. Hoping that at some point I’ll read it back and find it useful. A shortcut to the memory of an idea.

At the front of my physical notebook I write a few quotes from my collection. I’ve just started a new notebook and have four quotes from Luke Wilson on the inside cover. I’m only now beginning to work out how I can use them to guide my work.

Perhaps the whole subject of quotations for me boils down to, “I like quotations but only when I’ve curated them.”?

“The technique should be a necessity of the performance.”

“The technique is the major tool that we have to communicate our intent.”

“Innovation is creating the right trick for the right moment.”

“Be aware of what you aim to do.”

Luke Wilson.


Remarkable List 3

This is starting to become my yearly ritual. Every 12 months I make a list of remarkable stuff I think worth sharing. It’s really fun to do.

Every so often I send out a short mail with cool links I think worth looking at. If that interests you add your e-mail address here.

5 Things worth enjoying at your desk;

5 Places worth eating/ drinking at;

5 People you should work with;

I hope you get something out of those links, they bring me much cheer.

Have a great 2017.

Remarkable List 2

Here’s my second list on stuff I really enjoy, with new additions from 2015. I hope there’s something new and interesting in there for you. Let me know what you discover.




Sit in:




Work with

Remarkable List

Stuff I find remarkable in 2014 – Seeking it out and then…




Sit in: