Entries tagged with “performing”.

We’ve now finished our second sold-out weekend and gotten great reviews from the New York Times, The Villager, and Barista Kids.

“Extremely Funny” – New York Times

“Dangerous, Amazing, and Wild” – The Villager

“We had such a great time that I’d shell out hard-earned cash to see it again.” - Barista Kids


There are only two weekends left for you to catch the show, and one show is already more than halfway sold, so don’t wait!

I’m creating a new show with my friend Jonathan Burns, called Stunt Lab, and it’s opening in New York City this Saturday. Yes, that’s right, I’ve finally made it to Off Off Broadway. Get all of your Stunt Lab info at www.markandjonathan.com

Mark Hayward and Jonathan Burns in Stunt Lab

From my perspective as a professional yo-yo man, it sure seems as if yo-yos are recession proof.  As the economy tanked almost everyone suffered, and I am no exception. However, for the last two years I have seen an interesting trend in my business. While it has gotten increasingly difficult to book shows, when I can actually get my foot in the door and get in front of an audience, they are buying yo-yos like crazy.


I make my living as an entertainer.  In general the way it works is that people hire me to come and perform my show at an event. I get hired for a wide variety of gatherings: it could be anything from a local library show, a school, a company picnic or holiday party to an international festival in Shanghai China or a trade show in Australia.  I have been around the world with a yo-yo in my pocket, but I mostly work in the Midwest of the United States.  While my main product is my show, I always have yo-yos for sale afterward if I can.  It’s a nice way to let people take a piece of the show home with them, enjoy a part of our national cultural heritage, and have fun with a new toy. For me of course, yo-yo sales allow me to have a little extra money in my pocket, and until the recession hit, “little” was usually the operative word.


So why are yo-yos selling so well now? I think that there are several reasons:

  • Yo-yos are cheap.  You can get a lot of fun out of a $5 or $10 yo-yo, and it’s a lot easier on a strained budget to spend even $50 on a really nice yo-yo than to drop hundreds of dollars on a new videogame system.
  • Yo-yos are fun. You get an immediate shot of fun injected directly into your brain.
  • Yo-yos are easy. Almost anyone can learn a few cool tricks with only minimal instruction, and if you have access to a professional or the internet, you can learn even more.
  • Exercise. While yo-yoing is nothing like doing the decathlon, it is physical activity, and a lot of people are looking for any way to keep kids (or adults for that matter) active.
  • Boost hand-eye coordination. There is no doubt that yo-yos are good for this.
  • Yo-yos are social. Especially in a school environment, yo-yos lead to more social interaction. One person knows how to do a specific trick, so other people come to them for pointers. I had one Principal who was thrilled with the massive inter-grade socialization that happened at her school after I had performed and taught workshops there.
  • People are simplifying. Yo-yos are a classic part of American culture, and remind us of simpler times. They let you feel like you are getting back to basics, and taking part in our traditional culture.

I should point out that I am certainly not getting rich off yo-yo sales, especially since getting in the door to do a show in the first place is still difficult, but yo-yo sales have helped me get through this slow economy. I think it’s fascinating how our behavior changes in hard times. I’ve always known that yo-yos were incredibly cool, and as a professional yo-yo man it’s extremely gratifying that when times get tough, and we as a nation look for entertainment, yo-yos are the comfort food of the toy world.



Mark Hayward is a full-time professional yo-yo man, and he also runs howtoyoyo.com where you can buy your own yo-yo, and learn how to use it. For  more on Mark’s show, and booking information check out www.markhayward.net



The only thing I’m legally allowed to say is:

I auditioned for America's Got Talent

Last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, was the first-ever show by the Happy Hour Heroes. We are: Steve Brown, Mark Hayward , and Aaron Bonk. This group is the brainchild of Steve Brown, who bills himself as the Happy Hour Hero in his solo work. The idea is to be a modern-day Rat Pack with tricks.

The show was part of a party celebrating two years of existence for the thrift store This Way Out that is in the basement of the Beachland Ballroom, as well as the grand opening of Shoparooni, Cleveland’s newest boutique, that is coincidentally owned by Steve Brown and his wife Marlee.

I was pretty nervous for this show because the three of us had never worked together, and Aaron and I had never even seen each other’s shows before. Despite that, and not rehearsing, the show went really well. Of course it will get better as we do more together, but it was a fantastic start.

I was reading up on the original Rat Pack a bit today, and it sounds like they were at the center of a really incredible time in entertainment history. Apparently they would just show up at each other’s gigs and do a group show even if that wasn’t on the bill. The marquees sometimes would read something like, “DEAN MARTIN – MAYBE FRANK – MAYBE SAMMY” That’s pretty cool.

We did two sets, alternating with some bands in the other room, and between sets this exchange was overheard:

“What’s after the band?”

“There’s another set by that guy who looks like Letterman, and the two bald dudes.”

“Oh cool.”

Friday night I had some time to kill in Manitowoc WI, so I went to see a movie. I was up there because I had a gig the next morning, and I was staying in a dive hotel. The movie I chose to see was Rush Hour 3, and I would not recommend it.

The experience of seeing the movie was kind of strange by itself. I unintentionally got to the theater 45 minutes early, so I decided to try to find a pinball machine to help me kill some time. The theater only had Street Fighter, an out-of-order driving game, and a console that had a bunch of classics that were all out of focus.  No pinball though, so I ventured outside. There was no one on the sidewalks at all, but each of the four bars I went into was packed. It was very odd. It felt kind of like a movie except for the lack of tumbleweeds. There were lots of video poker and Golden Tee golf games, but no pinball to be found.

I went back to the theater, and sat down to read the news on my mobile phone while I waited for the movie to start. There was one other person in the theater who had gotten there way too early, an older woman with a GIANT soda, and I’m sure she was there early because the time in the paper was not the same time that they were actually playing the movie.  Of course I was that early because I had nothing better to do than just show up at the theater without checking the showtimes and hope it would all work out.   I really thought that more people would join us by the time the movie started, but no. It was just her and me… the whole time. Comedies are way more fun to watch in a large group, but the fact that there were only two of us didn’t stop me from laughing out loud at the funny parts… and as far as I could tell, giant soda lady just sat there in silence.

I recently got referred for a gig by a friend of mine. It was a wedding/anniversary celebration in Jackson Tennessee. I actually thought it was a legit gig until we started to talk about money. The guy said that he wanted to get my address right away so that he could have his accountant send me a certified check. That was a big red flag for me. A while back I tried to sell some stuff on craigslist, and they have a great security notice about fake cashier’s checks. You should read it right now if you haven’t already.

Once I was suspicious, I started looking more closely at the whole situation, and there were a bunch of things that didn’t make sense:

  • The guy seemed too willing to spend a bunch of money. We all know that people spend ridiculous amounts of money on weddings these days, but he seemed to be offering a blank check to bring out yo-yo performers who he knew nothing about. It would be different if he was working through a trusted agent, or if he had heard of me or my friend who referred me, but he knew nothing about either of us. That’s just weird. People don’t usually throw money at unfamiliar things. He was even willing to fly my friend out from Texas sight-unseen.
  • His email domain was mixmail.com which is a Spanish language site. By itself, this was no big deal, lots of people speak Spanish, and I’m perfectly happy to work for them, but the majority of scams seem to come from out of the country from free email addresses. This detail was just one more straw on the camel’s back. (more…)

Yesterday, as I was setting up to do my first street show at Summerfest in Milwaukee, there was a big camera crew standing in front of me. I went over to ask what they were doing, and to see if they were going to be staying right there for long since I wanted to do a show. I didn’t go over to talk to them to try to get on TV, but they offered, so of course I said yes.

I did a little interview with Mark and another guy (whose name I forgot, sorry) for the Nickelodeon show Slime Across America. I did some yo-yo tricks while they asked me questions, and at some point Mark asked me if I wanted to have a dance-off with him. I didn’t want to at all, since I can’t dance, but I said, “Do I EVER!” So the other guy did a little beat-boxing and we each got 5 seconds to dance. I won. Of course I had the upper hand since the producers said I could do some yo-yo tricks as part of my dance.

The show is what they called an “interstitial” which means that it is a short show that is shown between other shows. If they use the footage of me, it will be aired on July 26th. The problem is that it’s not a show that will be listed in TV Guide, so I’m going to have to record the entire day of programming on Nickelodeon. I’m pretty excited about being on the show, so I really hope they use the footage of me.

My buddy Marcus Monroe walked by as they were interviewing me, and got interviewed too when I was finished.

One of the reasons that people become performers is that they like the attention. Most of the time that attention comes in specific, expected forms. But I was recently offered an awesome new format: my photo on a kid’s birthday cake.


Elijah’s mom took this photo of us after a show at the Burlington WI ChocolateFest. Then I got an email from her a few weeks later asking if she could use the image on Elijah’s birthday cake. I couldn’t say yes fast enough! What an AWESOME idea!

I’m not sure who was more excited about the cake, Elijah or me.

I went up to Chicago this week to audition for Stupid Human Tricks from The Late Show with David Letterman. It was surprisingly low-key. I figured that there would be at least 100 people in line, and possibly 1000, but as it turned out, there were 18 registrants. I did my marshmallow tricks with the traps, and it went as well as I could’ve hoped, short of leaving there with a signed contract to be on the show. Of course I still have no idea if I’ll get on the show, but I’m hopeful. We’ll see. Some of the other auditioners had lame tricks, and a few had really great tricks. The final choice will all depend on what strikes the fancy of the producers back in NYC.