Posted by: Mark Nichols
14 Mar 2009
As the unemployment rate rises around the country, it behooves all of us to take stock of our own situations and perhaps consider job options that fall outside the bounds of normalcy.
Consider being a street performer. Practically anyone can become one, and all you'll need is some crassness, some procrastinating skills, and a one-trick pony.
First, let's go over the crassness you'll need to master. All street performers scream and holler to get a group to gather - insults at the expense of a few to get a laugh often work . You could also tout your own skills that you'll soon demonstrate - a crowd might gather wondering what you'll be doing ("The greatest street performance of ALL TIME will soon begin!"). Touting your ability to tout would also be extremely original ("I'm awesome at bringing a group together - hang around to watch the people gather!"). You'll need to do more hollering during and after your show if you see people leave without tipping. After all, you've given of your precious time to entertain them and here they are walking away, giving you nothing in return. How rude! Insulting a few will scare or guilt those who remain into leaving a buck or two in your jar.
Second, you need to work on your procrastinating skills. This ties into the one-trick pony necessity - you only have so much to offer the crowd so you'll need to delay and pander as much as possible so people feel like they're getting some value. After all, people won't leave a tip if the show is only 5 minutes. But there's a delicate balance to strike between offering the value of a long show and the feeling that people aren't wasting time. People are usually only passing by when they decide to watch your show. Strike a good balance by announcing after 5 minutes that you only have 5 minutes left until the finale. Then after those 5 minutes are up, announce that you only have 3 minutes left, and so on. People have committed to staying around, and you just need to offer the carrot of a finale in exchange for a little more time. You could even offer some humor (self-deprecating even) every once in awhile to keep people light-hearted (two I heard recently - "I can't be that good, right? Otherwise the cruise ships would have picked me up!", and "Hide that dollar kid, there's a street performer here").
Third, you've got to have some trick to offer the crowd. The trick of choice seems to be juggling. Adding flames, a unicycle, or knives to the juggling takes the performance up a slight notch. Adding all of them while performing with a helpless kid on your shoulders and juggling aforementioned knives over said kid's mother should bring in a pretty good haul (speaking from personal experience - I was that kid in Central Park back in 1987 or so). But the trick doesn't have to be that complicated, either. I've seen a tumbler - he just jumped through a hoop held in place over a bicycle after prancing around for 15 minutes doing nothing else! I've seen someone doing magic tricks - making large tennis balls appear from under hats was rather impressive, but it didn't need 25 minutes to perform after claiming the show was going to be done in 10. I've seen people just dressed funnily expecting to get tips, people standing still and claiming the tips would get them to do their trick, and of course musicians playing while hoping for a drop in the bucket (some of whom obviously had just started playing the instrument). You could mix and match some of these in the hopes of getting more tips. Dress weird, spike your hair, and sit completely still until someone drops a quarter in your jar. Then play 4 measures of a song. Voila! You'll soon be on solid financial ground again.