“Sit, Grasshopper. Sit by the still waters with me and reflect. Hey, no splashing!”
If you spend enough time as an entertainer (or human being), you end up trying out a lot of new things. In Hollywood it would be spouses. In New York, maybe restaurants & temp jobs. In Dallas, for Gretchen and me, it was new acts and characters. But over time you learn that it’s your audience that tells you what they’d like best to see you do, and as my Shaolin Master often said, “Ya gotta give ‘em what they want, baby!”
It was Dallas’ party heyday in the 80’s and 90’s. We were doing loads of gigs as comedy magicians, and making good money, too. So, Gretchen and I started re-investing some of that money (and a lot of time and sweat) on what might just be the next big idea – the next thing that will propel your career forward. We tried to stay ahead of the curve. In the mid 80’s, futuristic parties looked like they were going to explode. So, Gretchen designed and built great futuristic costumes for us. You couldn’t even rent futuristic costumes at that time. We then spent a couple of months, and 4 grand, designing and building a full robot costume, named “Bobot”, for me to make appearances in. We booked Bobot quite a lot for a few years, then the party themes changed and it went into storage. Good thing, too. It was a bear to get on, borderline dangerous to walk around in, and even harder to get off.
In the 90’s lot of corporate conferences were looking for early morning eye-opener acts to start of a long day of speeches and meetings (this was before the invention of Red Bull). So, my “Jukebox Magic Revue” was born. (Click now to see a very short excerpt, if you didn't click it above.)
At one point there was an uptick in demand for acts that were both musical and funny, so “Groucho and the Coconuts” were born. The Coconuts were around in some form or another for 15 years.
Other acts and costumes followed, including a Disco Stilt Costume, A Zoot Suit Riot Magic Act in which ties appeared, disappeared, sang, danced and levitated, and many, many other schemes and themes. Sometimes your idea was well timed and it clicked with the agents and planners, running for a long time. Sometimes, even though the act was solid and entertaining, it just didn’t take off. But we never stopped thinking and creating; and we NEVER gave up! “Reach for the stars!” my Shaolin Master would say, “You won’t even come close, but it looks like you could use the exercise.”
And so, Grasshopper, that is your lesson for today. Don’t give up! Don’t constantly compare yourself to others. Don’t settle. (And don’t ever pick up a hot cauldron with your forearms.) Give all you have to give. Leave all of yourself out there: on the stage, or in the office - wherever you do what you do. And never short-sell your abilities, your experience, and your resourcefulness. (others will be glad to do that for you). And finally, never underestimate the voice of your audience, your close friends and loved ones. They’ll let you know if you should be Splishing when your Splashing. They’ll always let you know how you are REALLY doing. Listen to them. And always remember what my Shaolin Master said, “If you say the word “gullible” backwards, it sounds like margarine!”