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War Stories From Chicago Kids’ Entertainers

Four party veterans share their wisdom.

Alisa Rosenthal
The Musician

Alisa Rosenthal

Hair and Makeup: Lauren Ward/Distinct Artists

• It’s never good when you’re not the only activity at an event. I showed up for a birthday party once, and there was a crêpe truck and a petting zoo in the backyard. And I thought, Oh no. It was challenging performing next to goats. The parents had booked me for 30 minutes but stopped me after 15. They were like, “We’re good. Go get a crêpe.” That party was for a 1-year-old, by the way.

• I will show up to a party first thing in the morning and the parents will be like, “Mimosa?” I’ll say, “I’m working, but let me finish the party and I’m down.”

• The climax of the show is usually the shakers. You can’t start with them — there’s nowhere to go from there.

 
Smarty Pants
The Balloon Artist

Smarty Pants

• I spend over $1,000 a month on balloons. It’s my No. 1 expense, not counting health insurance. I use these giant six-foot balloons that I have to order from Italy, and I can’t just order one, I have to order 100, and they’re like $23 apiece, plus shipping.

• When a balloon pops and a kid is upset, I’ll react in a really silly way. If they see me pretending to cry and saying, “My precious baby!” they laugh, and they forget about it.

• You have to be really good when working a bar mitzvah. If you make balloons they’ve seen when they were 6, they’ll destroy you.

• I climb into these big balloons at the end, and I present it as a daredevil stunt: “I’m going to put my life on my line!” They usually know it’s silly, but one kid thought I was really in danger. He bolted onto the stage, grabbed me by the waist, and was like, “Don’t do it, don’t do it!” with tears in his eyes.

 
Dave DiNaso
The Animal Handler

Dave DiNaso

• Not long ago, one of my employees was performing at a children’s camp and had this lizard, about three feet long. Out of nowhere one of the kids just grabbed it, squeezed it, and twisted it, and he broke the lizard’s back. It died right then and there.

• I was at a birthday party and a dad asked me if his child could hold the tarantula. I was not comfortable with it because his son was acting nervous, but the dad insisted. The second I put the spider in the child’s hand, he threw it in the air. Tarantulas are very delicate; they have a very large abdomen that’s very easily broken. When the tarantula hit the floor, it literally exploded.

• I brought out a python once, and this dad, a very large man, said something rude about the size of his own “snake.” I ignored him and told the audience that the snake can swallow something as large as 200 pounds. The dad yelled out, “Wow, that thing can swallow me!” and I said, “Two hundred pounds, not 400.” He came up and high-fived me later.

• I’ve never had an animal get out at a show, but one time while I was driving to one, I felt something touch my foot. I look down, and it’s Chiquita, my 150-pound python, squirming under my seat toward the gas pedal as I’m doing 70 miles an hour on the Stevenson. I had to pull over and get her out, which was hard because she was wound around the seat.

• I was in the middle of performing at a birthday party in Indiana, and I opened the carrier to bring out Ogre. He’s an opossum that I’d rescued years before and was one of the sweetest parts of my show. I was shocked to find that he’d died sometime between when I packed him and when I got to the show. I had already told everyone I was going to bring him out, so I took him out anyway. I told them he was pretending to be dead. Everybody petted him, and not a single person knew.

 
Noah Ginex
The Puppeteer

Noah Ginex

• I was doing a show and suddenly these cardboard blocks just started flying at me. That was when I knew that I need to pick up the pace.

• Kids often try to stick their hands in the puppet’s mouth. When they do that, I have the puppet say, “Do I stick my hand in your mouth?”

• The kids have gotten a lot savvier since I started doing this. Now I’m always going to have a kid who’s like, “That’s the same voice you use for
that other character!”

• Kids are a lot nicer now too. There are less shitheads.

• Sometimes you think about your career and how you should be leading it when you look down at yourself and you’re dressed as a pirate and you’re standing in someone’s basement.

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