Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ask a Busker: Weirdest Experience with an Audience Member

Hi folks!

Welcome to the year Twenty-Ten! Every time I say it out loud, I try to make it sound like I'm narrating a mental hygiene film from the 1950s. I hope you enjoyed your holidays. I sure had fun in Utah. One high-light was being put on the spot to do a show for a billionaire Mormon and his family of twenty. I tell you, life is never dull! I came back to Toronto to give some rocken performances and rang in the new year in true busker fashion with an impromptu street show right in front of my house!

But the life of a touring street performer is hardly quiet (okay, okay, it usually is in January and February), and I'm currently in a Greyhound heading towards the Big Apple, the city paved in gold, the place that, allegedly, if you make it there, you'll make it anywhere.... and I have free wifi so, I figured what better time to post up another question for you all to read!

Over the holidays, somebody sent me a link to a film made by Neil Gaiman called Statuesque. It's basically about something I deal with on a daily basis: creepy living statue stalkers! Well, it's supposed to be a cute little love story, but, instead of making me feel all warm and melancholic or whatever, it instead got me waxing upon some wacky experiences I've had with strange fans and such, and coincidentally, I received a question in my email from a Malpingu (that's the internet handle, folks) asking, "What is the most bizarre (and/or inappropriate) behaviour exhibited by someone towards you whilst performing as a living statue?"

First of all, thanks for the question, Malpingu! Clearly, I had to answer it due to the proximity of me watching this film and you asking the question in the first place. Secondly, do I want to know what Pingu did that made him so angry?

So.. what is the most bizarre behaviour I've experienced? Whew.. jeez. This one's a toughie. For the most part, I have WONDERFUL experiences working as a living statue professionally; I take joy in knowing that I am probably the only person on a busy street corner who gets to watch all sorts of little narratives play out, and notice minute details about people that is often lost in the shuffle. I guess you can say it appeals to my sentimental side, as a result. Among the amazing experiences, however, I have had some really mind-boggling bizarre shit happen.

This is a bit difficult, however, because I want to avoid the obvious acts, like folks who like to goose me, or touch me inappropriately (although in the last year or so, people have totally convinced themselves I'm transgendered so I hardly get manhandled these days...), which has happened in the past.

The first thing comes to mind is the time a dog mistook me for an actual statue and tried to pee on me in front of my crowd. I scared him, and as a result, he continued to pee, this time out of fear. Hilarious.

In Toronto, there's a local figure who went by the name Zanta, who used to terrorize the downtown core with push-ups sans shirt in sub-zero weather, and his trademark "yes yes yes!!"
since Zanta had to be retired at the insistence of the city of Toronto, the guy formerly known as Zanta sometimes takes advantage of my regular pitch to talk about the evils of whatever. Occasionally, it's entertaining, but more often than not, it's irritating.

One time, in Europe, I got into a turf-war with a Charlie Chaplin. If you ever street perform as a living statue in Europe, you'll realize there are a lot of Charlie Chaplins out there. In fact, in the city I was working in, there were TWO (one of which I coined, "nice" Charlie, the other, "dick" Charlie). We got into a little bit of a fight over crowds (kinda like that one Pixar short 'One Man Band') and eventually it almost came to blows. The idea of seeing a Marie Antoinette and Charlie Chaplin punching each other on an old cobblestone street is funny enough, but I can only imagine what the poor crowd thought. Embarrassing, but still hilarious.*

*for the record, this was on the street and not in any festival whatsoever. If, y'know, any booking agents are reading this blog!

Hmmm. What else can I talk about that's strange and/or inappropriate... I often get REALLY bad poetry in my hat. I think only once I've received a poem that totally impressed me (for the record, dear readers, while my writing often does not express this education, I did study literature in University, however briefly, and I am known to read Russian lit on the can). I get some AMAZING stuff in my hat, from type-written letters asking me out on dates, to photos people took the year before, but this is not really a post about Stuff I Get In My Hat...

I think the most inappropriate thing that ever happened to me, though, was at the hands of another performer. This will totally lead me into a bitchfest about sexism in the workplace and all that fine crap I thought we'd have already put to rest, seeing as how we are now living in the Year Twenty-Ten.. but apparently we still are having these discussions. Unfortunate, really. Once, at a festival, another performer, who was NOT in costume, planted a kiss on my lips right as I was performing for a television spot. The interaction leading up to that point was my resisting his attempts, but the comedy was lost on me when he actually did manage to do so while I was performing. Not. Cool. Maybe I was being over-sensitive, but I read very deeply into that action and I definitely made my position known at the time. Now, if the guy was in costume, I would have thought it to be a part of an act and totally would have played along; but, how can i distinguish some creepy schmuck from a well-intentioned performer if he's not clearly in a costume? far, that's about all I can think about. I may re-visit this topic when something else super noteworthy pops into my head, but as for now, I'm totally drawing a bit of a blank because I'm tired and hungry... Hopefully what I've written is entertaining as it is! I'm gonna eat an orange and start reading some Archie comics I got for Christmas.

Thanks for reading, everybody! And remember, if you gotta question for our resident expert, please send your questions for "Ask A Busker" to:!


  1. Welcome to the Big Apple, Kate!

    If you see a lady playing the musical saw in the subway - that's me - come and say 'hi'!

    All the best,

    Saw Lady

  2. Heya Saw Lady! For sure! What're your regular pitches there? I'd love to swing by and say hi!