Crispy of The Crispy Family
Carnival - 4/1/03
Q. If you had to describe
yourself to someone who doesn’t know much about the sideshow
industry what would you tell him or her?
A. An oddball who does all the
things my mother told me not to do….
Q. At what point in your life
did you become interested in this style of entertainment?
As a kid I performed as an amateur magician. I let my
family talk me into a “normal” life, but soon found corporate
life boring so I returned to performing. This time I was
also doing fire and sideshow performances on the side.
When I started I really just wanted to learn to do blowouts to
light the annual Burning of the Bunny bonfire. I was
invited by some friends involved with Burning Man to do a
performance with them and was hooked on the rush of being in
front of a crowd.
Q. Once you made the decision
to become a sideshow performer how did you break into the
I started performing for friends who did club shows and
parties for favors and soon started getting booked mostly to
blow fire outside of trendy clubs. Little by little I’ve
worked my way into the concert venues and making contact with
more promoters etc.
Q. Would you say there was a
turning point in your career when you just knew that you had
finally made it to the big time?
I wouldn’t say I’m there yet. We’re getting close,
but as a sideshow we’re still really young. I’d recognize
success more by the respect and friendship with my peers in the
Q. What was the first act you
ever attempted, and how did it go?
The first sideshow acts I
attempted were the blockhead and glass eating. Although I
had good information on the blockhead, the glass eating I later
learned was a stupid thing to learn without a mentor. The
blockhead was just strange feeling and made me sneeze until my
body started to accept the idea of shoving things up my nose.
The glass eating scared me. Although it went right,
psychologically I kept feeling like something had gone wrong.
I kept psyching myself out.
Q. After you mastered those
acts why and how did you go about learning new acts?
Once I had proven that I was a quick study and wanted to
learn more I started seeking out performers to teach me new
acts. I would basically trade techniques and favors for what
they taught me amongst the fire performers. My big break
was when the
Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
came through town. I hung around outside bugging Okra and
Tanya about where to start learning the sideshow arts.
Finally I got a rundown on the glass-walking act and was
Slim Price's Sideshow Discussion. Since then I’ve
learned many of the acts through lots of research and finally
got to attend an advanced studies weekend at The Coney Island
Sideshows by the Seashore last fall.
Q. Can you describe to us your
first performance before an actual audience?
My first performance was as a fire performer.
That performance taught me lamp oil sucks on a smooth stage.
We were all sliding about and our fire breather took a fall in
the middle of a blast. Luckily he was a seasoned performer
and played it off going into some funky break dance spin on the
Q. As you gained more
experience and performed more often did you begin to find fellow
performers to help you along your way?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of great
performers that have taught me a lot along the way. I’ve
almost always performed as part of a group and have found that
most fellow performers are willing to help and teach. I
always try to find ways to pay back the favors, which has earned
me a good reputation amongst the performers in this area.
Q. Your shows include many
other performers, what made you decide to perform as a group
rather than solo?
I find with a group you’re able to spotlight each person’s
strengths and fill in for the weaknesses to make an overall
better show. I’ve also found that the behind the scenes
work is too much for one person unless they’ve gotten to the
point that they can devote their life to the show.
Q. What brought you all
I learned a couple years back that my true father had been
a traveling showman and that I had a number of half siblings
scattered across the country. Wanting to follow in my
father’s footsteps I learned the sideshow arts and began hunting
for more of my siblings. Everyone in the show is either
fathered by this man or involved with one of the family.
We’re still searching for the rest of our lost siblings.
Q. What would you say is the
biggest advantage to performing as a group?
I think working as a group makes it possible to take the
show further than what just one person could do alone.
Everything from the labor to the planning is shared and allows a
good idea to be developed further with more people’s help and
Q. What would you say are the
disadvantages to performing as a group?
Scheduling is tough. Most of us are also involved in
other performances along with day jobs and personal lives.
Sometimes it’s tough to get together to work on the show.
We have even had times when we had to do emergency re-writes of
the show and use guest performers because major characters could
not make it to the show.
Q. On your website you are
described as the “Ringmaster & Father of them all”. What
exactly does that mean as far as your responsibilities go?
Often times it’s hounding the performers to make their
ideas a reality. I train many of the acts and help develop
most of the new acts. I’m also the one who pulled together
all the performers to create the show.
Q. Have you ever had any
problems with one performer wanting to be the star of the show
and out perform the others?
No, we do have a family dynamic, dysfunctional spats and
all. Once we’re on stage though it’s all about the good of
the show and everyone just focuses on doing their parts to the
best of their ability and looking out for the good of the show.
Everyone has been picked for his or her specialty and they don’t
overlap enough for upstaging one another.
Q. What is it like traveling to
so many different venues with such a large group of people
Traveling is tough. We have members who don’t drive
and those of us that do have small cars. We’ve been
separated during road trips, had people break down, and once had
most of our gear stuck with one of the performers trapped in a
blizzard only to get to the venue an hour before showtime.
Traveling with such a large group is also stressful in that even
the best of friends can be annoying during a long road trip.
But in the end none of us would trade the experiences for the
Q. Are you always on the
lookout for new performers to add to the show?
The one thing we’re on the lookout for is a good juggler.
Other than that we prefer to teach our current performers new
acts. With each new person that is added it changes the
dynamic of the group and can be hard while they find their
place. Also rather than making the show so big we have
trouble getting bookings, we host variety shows where we
generally work with a local burlesque group called “Burlesque as
it Was” and then one or two other variety acts.
Q. Where do you see yourself
and the show in 5 or 10 years?
Hopefully this will become my main job and my day job will
become the secondary. I’d really like to tour. I love
traveling and seeing new places so I think life on the road
would be a lot of fun.
Q. What advice would you offer
to a new performer just trying to break into the business?
Practice, practice, practice. And remember, knowing
how to do the act is the easy part. Doing it in a way that
entertains and doesn’t just mimic what others are doing is the
challenge. Anytime you can learn from another performer
take advantage of it. Especially considering a small
mistake or misinformation in this business can put you in the
hospital. Always do right by your fellow performers and
people you work for. Your reputation will follow you in
Q. Is there anything else you
would like to say to our readers?
Q. Finally, is there anyone you
would like to thank?
I’d like to thank, Ses Carny, Todd Robins, The Great
Throwdini, Chris McDaniel, Tyler Fire, Dick Zigun, all the
Bindlestiff Family (especially Tanya and Okra for getting me
started in the right direction), Zamora, KosmiKaos, High Fire,
the Great Lix, Blaze, Blue, Slim Price, Starfish, and everyone
else who has inspired, encouraged, and guided me along this
For more information on The Crispy
Family Carnival visit their site at
Each month we will try and
interview a new performer for the site. Because of the
logistics of it face to face interviews are tough to come by.
A good percentage of the interviews we will be doing will be via
e-mail or telephone. If you are interested in being
interviewed for the site
drop us a line.