Lizardman - 02-01-2005


Q. Hello Lizardman. Iím going to start off this interview by first asking, what is probably on everyoneís mind; When did you first start your performing career?


A. The first thing I ever did, I think was the first thing I ever performed, and would probably technically be considered sideshow. I did a mailbag escape for a troupe of cub scouts when I was nine or ten years old.  I had some goofy book on magic, from Scholastic Press, that gave me a way to do it. I fell over inside the bag and the screen I had got knocked to the side. It still overall went very well. It was well received. Then there was a break of a few years, but in junior high and middle school I got into juggling and those things. I was very active in the traditional theater, you know, the school plays. I actually wrote two plays that were performed at my school, my junior and senior year. Variety shows, plays and things like that and when I got to college I was doing community theater and stuff like that. And it was about my about senior year in high school and my freshman year in college I was doing stuff like that but I was also picking up the weird sideshow stuff.


I taught myself to eat and breathe fire and started working that into anything I could. Whether outside the theater or trying to find some place like, ďHey Could There Be Someone Eating Fire In This Crowd ThemeĒ in the play? And then I was doing more and more stuff while I was studying performance art in college from í90 to í94 and I was doing things like engraving words onto nails and pounding them into my mind with the blockhead act, to try and do gallery art work. Also in my weird hobbies and stuff I was doing things like sleep depravation, and fasting, and I wanted to lie on beds of nails just to lie on beds of nails. They werenít performance things for me initially and then they worked their way into my performance art and my performance art became more and more sideshow oriented until it became what it is. Basically what I do now is 99% of the time as an artist is perform in the modern day sideshow. With sort of stand up comedy and improv, mixed in with difficult stunts.


Q. So, how did "The Lizardman" come about?


A.  Dumb personal esthetic choice.  I knew when I was looking at stuff like piercings and tattooing, I knew there were things I wanted to do. Like, I was already sticking needles in myself basically just for fun, just to see if I could handle it, which was the beginning stages of being a pincushion. It didnít start off as performance art. It was more like, ďHuh, this guy has skewers through his arm. I wonder what thatís like.Ē Then Iíd do it and it was like, ďOK, itís like thatÖĒ


But when I started looking at tattooing, I came across Japanese tattooing very early and I knew if I was going to get tattooed, I was going to get one big tattoo. And I was looking at people like The Great Omi and I knew I had to have a theme. I looked into a lot of things, like I considered having a full body maze done. I considered words, making a story. I considered a bunch of circles with different images in each one for individualized polka dots. I thought about pin striping. I thought about custom flames all over my body. Ultimately I settled on a lizard because all the other stuff I wanted to do like filing my teeth, and then when I was able to figure out how to fork my tongue it sort of started it all. I thought that I could kind of bring everything together, into a whole, with this reptilian theme. And I like green and I thought scales would be a good way to cover a lot of space on my body in between designs.


Q. Is this when you also decided on the subdermal implants? (horned ridges above his eyes)


A. Yeah, the implants came later on too. When I first started designing and thinking about this, back in í90 or í91, there were NO subdermal implants. But Steve Hayward comes along in the early to mid nineties, and Iím looking at the work heís doing and Iím thinking, just like I do with any body modification like branding or scarification (which just didnít seem to fit into my theme), I was thinking, ďWell, I could get implants, but where would I get them?Ē Then I thought about what you could do technically and I thought I could get horned ridges above my eyes. So I was able to get a hold of him and he put horned ridges into my face.


Q. Where do you see the future of The Lizardman going?


A. Well, once Iím finished with earth, probably move on to colonize some of the outer rings of the universe. Just kidding, seriously though, we are right now in the beginning stages of the production of a DVD, which will be large-scale stunts and acts but with more of a sketch comedy sort of thing to it. It should be, hopefully all together for early 2005. Weíll have it available for sale and order. Thatís one of the big projects right now. The rest of it is just inventing acts and stuff.


Iíve been working on a few new larger scale escapes, but right now weíre building up the whole Dr. Grift character (Lizardmanís assistant). Changing the show to be more centered around the idea of Lizardman as himself, but still Lizardman in character during a show when weíre on stage and the character of The Amazing Dr. Grift and the interplay between them. So thatís really only something weíve added, in terms of Griftís character, so weíre still very much in the beginning stages of trying to figure out how to exploit it and use it for the best effect in the show. Finding those little additional one liners and throw in some bad doctor jokes in there, and see which ones I can turn into stunts.


Q. Do you consider yourself to be The Lizardman, or do you keep that separate as a character on stage? Obviously you have to be Lizardman, because of how you look, but is there any difference between the Lizardman on stage and off?


A. The only real difference between Lizardman on stage and who I am normally, because I donít really care what name Iím referred to as, is that I am Lizardman, but when Iím Lizardman on stage itís turned up to a much higher level. So itís like just a concentrated dose of one part of the person that makes up who I am.


Q. Where do you see the future of the sideshow going? Do you think the classic sideshow will ever come back to the carnival midways to be what it once was?


A. On a carnival midway, because of the problems of competing with rides and things like that, I donít think youíll ever see what it was historically, on a carnival midway. Thereís still a buck to be made if people want to go out and do it that way, but youíre better off I think with a sort of museum show. A lot of people are willing to pay fifty cents to see something weird, but when you get into the up keep of having all those performers to put on a good show, it gets hard. You know, you pay a buck, you go in, you see a stuffed monkey or whatever like that, and youíll feel fine. But the cost to have a full cast of performers there, youíll have to start charging people like five and ten bucks to get in and if you donít give them a really kick ass show theyíre going to rightfully think, ďI just paid five (or ten) bucks for what?Ē as opposed to a dollar for seeing the stuffed monkey.


But right now I think with all the overhead of having live acts, I really donít think anyone should be looking to do it now. I know people have told me theyíve done it years ago and I ask them why they want to go back to it. Not that it was bad or anything like that, but everything changes and evolves. Historically, itís already happened. The spit has already occurred. This is what live acts, and performers, and variety entertainers do now and this is what the carnival is now.


Trying to jam it down someoneís throat to make them go back to something that most people today donít even know of anymore, is very counter productive in a business sense, Ďcuz itís kind of silly. Yet people still want to see the acts. They still want to see the entertainment the sideshow provides, but theyíre not even looking for it at a carnival anymore. I mean, everybody knows that association, but most people want to go to the carnival and buy their ticket and ride their ride, but they donít want to give out more than five bucks out of their pocket for something like that anymore. Theyíll come out to the comedy clubs, the punk club, the rock club or what have you. Theyíll come out to a legitimate theater and pay the ticket price. Itís like magicians. They used to be part of the circus sideshow but at one point they knew to leave that part of them behind and go into the larger theaters, playing to larger crowds, for a higher ticket price.


Donít get me wrong...Iím astounded. I love the history of it. But I also think from a business standpoint that youíve got to learn to adapt and evolve. The problem as I see it is a good performer deserves more than minimum wage, and with all of the overhead and lot costs and insurance and everything on a carnival midway, you just canít afford to pay a performer more than minimum wage. But as being a performer, all I can really say is that like all other sacrifices you make in your life, you can only do it if you love it. And if you love it enough and love the idea of doing it, like the carnival sideshow, you can go and do it as a love.


Q. Have you ever sustained any severe injuries while performing?


A. Iíve never been hospitalized. Itís almost like the old sports saying, ďI was hurt, never injured.Ē I was still good to play in the game. Back in í99, out with Godsmack, the day before our first day, our rehearsal date, I almost tore my ear lobes off. Thatís why I have two almost inch long scars that go up into the cartilage. But being that the show must go on, I super glued my ear lobes together every night until they healed which took about six weeks after the tour ended. Which it was stupid to do that, because I would go out on stage every night and rip open the super glue open that I used to put them back together. And then finally after the tour was over, I had enough time off that I could rest and let them heal back up.


Q. Besides your appearance, is their anything else that is unique to only your show?


A. I donít think there was anybody doing the pierced weight lifting with full helicopter spins like I was doing back in í93, í94.  Thereís the blockhead blow gun that I invented, and I donít think anyone else has picked up and started doing yet. I donít know that anyone has pulled a car with their ears yet and I did that a couple weeks ago. I know Nippulini has done it with his nipples, but I donít think anyone has done it with their ears. Like I know people have done the Gavage before me and done it after me, but I think Iím the only person whoís doing the Gavage 100 or more times a year. Like thatís the most technically involved of all the acts I do. I donít think itís particularly dangerous to do. Itís just an all day affair.


Q. Thank you very much for your time. Do you have any final thoughts that youíd like to share about your show or the sideshow in general?


A. My final thought? My Jerry Springer final thought? Jeez, I donít knowÖ


Q. OK, what would you like people to take with them as they walk away from your show?


A. A Lizardman T-shirt! For one low, low price, available online, shipping included. Iíd like to be remembered after the show. Not after Iím dead. If someone wants to remember me after Iím dead, I donít give a damnÖ Iím dead. Ha, Ha, Ha! Seriously though, after the show I want people to walk away thinking, ďI had a really good time.Ē I want them to be happy that they spent the last hour of their lives hanging out and watching me do dumb things to myself.

Interview by Ses Carny.  Conducted on 9-12-2004.



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