Growing up, I thought that the phrase “Bad Mistake” seemed redundant. Mistakes are bad already, aren’t they? Well actually, NO! As an performer, I’ve realized that there really are such things as “Good Mistakes”! And I bet you’ve even made a few.
I certainly have made some, and I’m glad I did. I am referring to the things that go wrong in your act that end up leading you down a new road, or at least leading to you creating a new piece of business. Like the time I broke the fingernail off of a woman whom I had brought up from the audience, WITH A BULL WHIP! I do a blindfolded bull whip act, where an audience member is blindfolded and then unbeknownst to them, I am also blindfolded. I then proceed to break a square of paper towel they are holding by striking it with a bullwhip. On this occasion, when I went to strike the paper towel, she unexpectedly moved her hand to the center and I cracked off one of her very long (glued on) fingernails. She didn’t even notice it happened until later, but it gave me a great idea.
To keep that from ever happening again, I had my brave audience members wear not only large, thick welders’ gloves, but I also changed their regular blindfold to a welder’s mask. The new arrangement not only offered them more protection, but the visual of them standing there with the welders’ gear, holding a paper towel was hilarious! So, that ended up being a good accident.
Then there was the time I was casually holding a pen that had just visually penetrated a borrowed dollar bill, and was again visually pulled out, leaving no hole. An audience member quickly grabbed the pen from my hand, attempting to prove that the pen was gimmicked. This incident forced me to come up with a way to insure that no one would want to try and grab the pen again. The solution: I simply thrust the pen through my tongue, which was a much better and funnier ending to the trick anyway. Another good mistake.
Then there was the time the end of my bullwhip (The cracker, for those of you who know whips) got wrapped around a chandelier in a hotel ballroom. Not only did I have to ditch the trick, but I had to wait for an hour after the party was over for the hotel to bring in a scissor lift and un-hook it. Sometimes all you learn from a mistake is “Don’t do THAT again!”