Performance Stories

October 5th 2009. On tour with the Duncan Crew.

We had just finished up a nice demo at Old City Kites in Sacramento and it was time to get in the van and be off to our next gig. Emil Lamprecht, Paul Escolar and I piled in and Emil turned the key in the ignition… nothing. In addition to our music for the demo, we had accidentally left too many accessories running in the van for the last 2 1/2 hours. The battery was completely dead.

We asked Anwar, our host, if he had jumper cables. He didn’t but suggested that the workers who owned the trucks next to us might. I talked to the first guy to come out to the truck, and after I explained to him what jumper cables were, he told me he didn’t have any, but his buddy might. The three workers were all Hispanic so the next part of the conversation took place in Spanish. What surprised all of us was that the second guy didn’t say either yes or no, there was a pretty involved discussion and then the first guy turned to me and said, “Yes, we have them.”

The worker guys started digging around in the second truck and pulled out a big coil of electrical wire. This is the kind of wire that contractors use to put in an outlet or run electrical lines through your walls. I thought maybe the jumper cables were under the coil of wire, but no, they were going to use that wire to jump us.

It never would have occurred to me that their method might work, but they were very confident, we only had 35 minutes until our next gig, and I was happy to roll with it, so I got the hood open as fast as I could. Emil on the other hand was pretty nervous about it and asked, “Are you sure that’s safe?” The guy with the wire looked at him with an expression that said, “Of course this is safe, don’t be ridiculous.” Paul was apparently pretty nervous too, but he hid it well.

The worker guys got the big coil of wire out, cut it to the right length and started whittling off the insulation with their pocket knives. It was a surprisingly quick operation, and it was clear that at least one of the guys had done this before. With both hoods open, the worker guys put the wire in place. There was some coordination that had to be done of course: “Negra positivo?” “No blanco.” I suggested to Paul and Emil that they stand far enough back that they couldn’t get hit by any spraying acid from an exploding battery… just in case.

Getting a jump for the Duncan Crew tour van
The Duncan Crew tour van about to get a good jolt.

Getting a jump for the Duncan Crew tour van
The electricity donor.

The thing that was worrying me the most was that the guys were just holding the wire onto the terminals of the batteries with their bare hands. I know how batteries work, and I have heard horror stories about what happens when you accidentally touch a wrench or something to both terminals of a car battery, so I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that their beating hearts were right smack dab in the middle of those two battery terminals. I didn’t think anyone was going to grab on to the terminals with their bare hands, but sometimes you can’t help imagining the worst-case scenario.

Emil got in the van, and after a little more discussion the worker guys gave him the signal and he turned the key. The van started right up as if there had never been a problem.

The three of us Duncan guys cheered and threw our hands in the air, and the three worker guys looked at us like we were idiots. Throughout the entire jumping process there was a wonderful disparity between how freaked out Emil, Paul & I were versus how nonchalant the three worker guys were.

Emil hooked the guys up with yo-yos to say thank you and we were off to the next gig. We made it with 5 minutes to spare.

Almost as funny as the story itself is that whenever Emil is telling it he can never remember the word “jump” and keeps saying that the worker guys “rebooted” our van. Kids these days huh?

I got a call as we were driving home to Pittsburgh from the Midwest for a last-minute gig for the Sheetz Company. They have a big meeting coming up and the CEO wanted to have a fun video as an introduction to his big speech. Since the theme is “road trips”, he is going on an adventure-filled road trip in a go-kart with a racing suit and helmet on. My job was to be him when he pops into a Sheets convenience store for snacks and coffee.

Poised with my juggling-sandwiches.

Lookin’ good!

So I juggled sandwiches, grabbed snacks off the shelf with a juggler’s flair, and I even ordered a drink off the touch-screen ordering system while tossing a sandwich into the air with one hand, and holding a whole mess-o-snacks in the other. It was fun. I have to say that I was very impressed at how easy it was to order my drink. If I can do it while repeatedly tossing a sandwich into the air and catching it again with one hand while wearing a racing helmet, then I think the average Joe should be able do it under more normal circumstances. We finished the shoot with me balancing a stack of something like 10 cups and walking out the door. I tried to do it as a real balance, but the cup lids were too squishy, so we had to use gaffer’s tape to stick them together. After the juggling sequence I believe the CEO is going to bust out and do a little break-dancing (with someone else in the suit).

Things I learned while doing this video shoot:

  • If you walk into a convenience store with a racing suit on, everyone will stare at you.
  • I no longer care if everyone stares at me.
  • Racing helmets get fogged up on the inside if you wear them for things other than driving a race car.
  • Despite having a camera crew pointed at you, normal people will always think there is coffee in that giant stack of cups you are balancing.
  • Some people get scared when a man in a racing helmet comes running at them while juggling three sandwiches.
  • Wearing a racing suit in public makes you feel like a super-hero.

Sheetz Inc. seems like a fun company, so I hope I get to work with them again.

The proof is in the picture. Last Friday I got to perform at the annual banquet of the Greater Pittsburgh Magic Network (GPMN), and it was in a real, live castle. Ok, it was a modern castle, and it wasn’t alive, but still.

First there was a close-up show, then dinner followed by a stage show. Since I am new to Pittsburgh no one knew me other than Paul Gertner, who had invited me. Paul was the headliner, so he thought it would be fun to have me come up as an innocent volunteer as part of one of his bits. It was really fun. We planned it so that Paul and I each had a yo-yo, he was telling me how to use the yo-yo to complete the magic trick, and then I showed him up with my yo-yo skills. It was pretty funny. After it was clear that I was a shill, Paul introduced me and I did a routine. It’s always great to be the juggler at a magic show since no one else there does what you do, and thus are not already bored by it.

It’s weird being at a magic show with a bunch of magicians. They don’t clap at the same time as a normal audience. For one thing, they know how a lot of the stuff is done; and for some of the tricks they clap when the secret magician thing is done somewhere in the middle of the trick, not at the ta-da moment at the end when the rest of us clap.

There was a mentalism trick done at one point, where the guy on stage asks for an audience member to pick a “magic” number. Then he takes a marker and fills in some seemingly random numbers into a big 4×4 grid that he is holding. The thing is that the numbers all add up to the “magic” number when you add them together in rows, columns, corners, diagonals, etc. It’s a good trick. What made it totally surreal for me was that as soon as the “magic” number was picked, the guy sitting next to me took out a pencil and his program and started racing the guy on stage to get the numbers of the grid written down. I still don’t know how it’s done (and that’s how I like it), but by itself, the pencil race next to me was really amazing.

This afternoon I had a really fun gig in downtown Indianapolis. It was for a party at RATIO Architects. Every month they have their 4th Friday at 4 Party, where at four o’clock snacks and drinks appear, and for the first time they decided to hire professional entertainment… that’d be me. Being at a place that has a party for their employees every single month almost made me want to get a job.

When I was hired they told me that the president had done a few yo-yo tricks at one of the parties in the past, and after my show today he came up to chat. His name is Bill Browne, and he told me that 30 years ago he and a friend set the world record for the longest session of continuous yo-yoing. They went to a radio station and yo-yoed for something like 30 hours straight! I didn’t get as much information about the event as I would have liked so I went home, got online, and checked out the Guinness Book of World Records site. I didn’t link to it because it is not worth your time. There are almost no records to be found on the site despite the fact that they have a search box, so don’t even bother. I can list more world records from memory than I was able to find in my searches of their site. I KNOW that there are more than 6 records in the category of “food” for example.

Anyway, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m intrigued by this “longest continuous yo-yoing” record. I may just have to contact Bill again and see if I can get more information.

I performed in Rocky Ripple today. It’s the neighborhood that is just a little south of Broadripple… since I’m sure that you all know where Broadripple is. And yes, that’s it’s real name.

It was a fun little fair. Very cozy, very comfy, with maybe 15-20 vendors and a small kids area. They had a little set-up for bands that were playing throughout the day, and they asked me to come to do a couple of short sets while the bands were switching over. Everything was very casual and low-key, and I wasn’t really sure there were enough people for me to gather much of a crowd.

My first set was about 20-25 minutes long and it went really, really well. I kind of felt like the old-time circus that comes to a small town and gets mobbed by spectators. This was not a rural neighborhood or anything, we were right in the middle of Indianapolis, but by the time I started my finale I think I had every person at the fair standing around watching me. It was great. Afterward I overheard one of the people involved in the fair half-joking, “…maybe we should forget about the bands and just have jugglers and magicians and stuff….”

My second set wasn’t quite as long or as packed, but I’m sure some of the people from the first show were still at the fair and wanted to give other people a chance at the front row ;) When I started I noticed that there was a girl in the front row who was about 8 years old and had been at my first show. As soon as I did my first trick she said, “Don’t you have a different show you can do for us?”
“If you’ve seen my show before, then you’re gonna see it again!” I said, and so she got up and left. It was very funny.

I gave out a bunch of business cards, which was my real goal, and we’ll see if anything comes of it.

I was performing up at the Wisconsin State Fair last month and after my show I was handing out my new super-hero themed trading cards. One kid got his, took a few steps away, and stopped to look at it. After a minute or so he came back over to me and said,

“In this picture it looks like you are wearing a cape.”

“Yeah, I am.” I said.

“Ok… then why aren’t you wearing a cape now?” he said.

It took me a second to suppress my smile and come up with the right response.

” Well, sometimes I like to keep a low profile and just go out in my civilian clothes.”

“Oh, ok.” he said, and walked off.

It did make me wonder though, of all the people who see my show, what percentage of them would actually think the show was better if I was wearing a cape?

Get your own Mark Hayward trading cards here.

I had a near catastrophe at the Wisconsin State Fair this year. The last routine that I do in my outdoor show is a combination trick where I do a whole bunch of stuff at once. I juggle two balls in one hand, do Loop-the-Loop with a yo-yo in the other hand, spin a top on a helmet on my head, pump a foot-pump that is attached to a squeaky balloon with my foot, and blow a party horn with my mouth. Not surprisingly, I need some help to get the trick started, so I always ask for a volunteer.

When I select my volunteer I usually point at them and mention what color they are wearing, or if they have a hat or glasses or some other distinguishing feature. Then, especially if they are unsure who I’m talking about, I sometimes say, “Yeah you, the one with the head… and the arms.”

I was doing a show for a really big crowd at the Wisconsin State Fair, and when it was time to pick a volunteer I picked a little Asian boy who had his hand up. He hesitated, so I started to say my standard thing, but since he was partially obscured behind another kid I said, “Yeah you, the one with the head… and the arm.” It was a good thing that I switched to the singular because when he stood up, everyone could immediately see that he only had one arm. The crowd got nervous.


I just finished up three days at the Cass County Fair in Cassopolis Michigan. It’s a nice little fair with barns, animals, food on a stick, a demolition derby, and a tractor & truck pull. You know, all the good stuff. The problem was that it was 97 degrees and humid each day with a heat index of 114. Ug. It’s hard to get an audience involved when they are so hot they don’t even want to breathe. The show must go on though. I actually got lucky most of the time and had at least one family or group at each show who was into it despite the heat. Since there were no air-conditioned buildings for me to rest in, I was trapped in my car between shows. I’d just go park in the shade somewhere, drink lots of water, and read or take a nap. I didn’t want to have to spend that much time in my car, but it was way better than being in the heat.

Another thing that helped (mostly) was that the kids from the nearby vendors and stuff would come to every show. Sometimes they couldn’t help themselves and just had to spoil a punchline before I could say it, but for the most part it was just great to have people watching. This was my first year at the fair, so I don’t have any basis for comparison, but the heat had to be keeping people away.

My favorite regulars were Ernie and Mike. They came to the fair every day and watched every show that they could. After Mike finished with his job at McDonalds the brothers would come over to the fair grounds, wander around for a bit, and watch all three of my shows… without giving away any of the jokes.

Halfway through my last show, after suffering through the heat for three days, a cold front moved in. It made that last show a really good one since the audience was much happier, but I couldn’t help but be annoyed with my buddy Wayne Francis since he was coming in to work the last three days of the fair and wouldn’t have to suffer like I did. I asked the ladies in the fair office to punch him for me when they saw him.

Yesterday was the first day of Summerfest in Milwaukee WI. I had already done my two street shows for the day and was getting ready for my 4:00 appearance on the Children’s Stage when the power went out for the entire Summerfest grounds and surrounding area. But of course, the show must go on.

Instead of using the now dead in-house PA, I just hooked up my portable battery-powerd PA and we were off and running. I got one of the best cheers I’ve ever gotten at Summerfest when I announced that “Summerfest may not have power, but I DO!” It was followed closely by a woman saying, “You must be the Cool Yo-yo Man!” “Yes I am.”

Right after I finished my set, my ventriloquist friend Wayne Francis, pointed out that out of the 75 acres and 10 major stages, I was the only powered act on the entire grounds. As it turns out, he wasn’t exactly right… I was one of three… all variety acts. After my set I let the Dance School use my PA for their big public showing. Without me they couldn’t have done their show at all. That’s right, a juggler, a magician, and the yo-yo guy SAVED Summerfest! Maybe now the big dogs will once again see the value of having us there, but somehow I doubt it. Don’t worry though, I’m going to milk this for all it’s worth… and then some.

I spent this week on the road doing shows. Monday was the Summer Music Clinic up in Madison WI, Tuesday and Wednesday down in Evansville IN, and then Thursday back up North to Skokie IL. It would’ve been nice if I could have had better routing so I didn’t have to do so much driving, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.


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