Photo Kate Hennessey
Photo Kate Hennessey

Brent Fiasco grew up a regular and suburban child. It’s hard to remember that as he lies on the floor, his face in a small pile of glass, a nervous volunteer standing on his head. He didn’t officially get into “variety entertainment” until high school when he learned to juggle while riding a unicycle, but says exposure to “vaudeville silliness” was influencing him long before that. He points to the Marx Brothers and movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, specifically. “My show still embodies that sense of nonsense mixed with the teenage me trying to push the boundaries of what my body is capable of.”

Fiasco experimented with more conventional jobs for a while before taking the plunge and going full-time with his sideshow. “The career move was a combination of frustrations that come from working for large companies and knowing I’d never really be happy if this wasn’t my real job.” He doesn’t regret it either, loving the freedom and the fact that he makes people happy for a living, the challenge he says is ‘that each day is
it’s own unique beast is what really gets me out of bed in the morning.
Usually around 11:30.”

He has been performing for over fifteen years now and has travelled around the country, playing everywhere from Warped Tour to weddings. He has been on TV several times, most notably, serving as a street performer consultant and juggling exhibitor on Wife Swap in 2006 and performing and being interviewed for local affiliates of NBC, ABC and Fox. Despite performing at all kinds different events he says, creative control is never a problem. “If a client asks for only a specific stunt or routine, I’m perfectly happy to …oblige. … [N]o one ever tries to get me to do something I’m not willing to, because that’s like ordering something that’s not on the menu. I’d humor odd requests, but just don’t get many.”

With all this experience, he is well qualified to hand out words of wisdom to those aspiring to follow in his footsteps. His first piece of advice is simple: Be better. He points out that lots of performers have a couple of fancy tricks no one else can do and try to ride on that as long as they can without taking a step back and actually evaluating themselves. “It’s important to divorce yourself from your work in order to accurately critique and improve it.” He talks about legendary magician Al Flosso who supposedly said “Be an entertainer first, then learn some tricks”. As well as Scotty Meltzer who Fiasco calls “someone else way smarter and more successful than me,” and who recommends finding a part of your act that others do or say and coming up with a way to replace it with something of your own.

Fiasco follows his own and Meltzer’s advice and comes up with his own material for his acts. New stunts spring from three different sources. First off, from improving old material. Secondly, adapting and abstracting something from someone else’s routine and making it his own. And sometimes an idea just comes to him, which he calls the “ah-HA method” and says defies explanation. The stunts he most enjoys are the ones that surprise the audience and provoke the most entertaining reactions. He compares it to jumping out and scaring trick-or-treaters. Although, he says, throwing knives is especially satisfying. “The thud of a knife going into its board never gets old.”

One day, he hopes perform these stunts in casinos and lounge-like showrooms because such venues would be an ideal environment for his show. But for now he is returning to his old stomping ground in Sacramento to “exhibit outrageous feats of skill and flesh defying sideshow acts using knives, nails, broken glass, pogo sticks and more.” He says the show will be “a nonstop, frenetic performance, laughs, scares, and audience interactions.” Local musicians Julie The Bruce and Darby Crash Bluegrass Band will be playing as well. The show will be on Thursday, March 20th at 8 pm at the Colony. Tickets are $5.

Tube will see you there.

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