Pancakes & Insanity at the California State Fair

The California State Fair is a lot like a Clint Eastwood movie. People are squinting, there’s dehydration, and hangings are eminent.

I was performing there 3 or 4 shows per day every day in my friend Frank Olivier’s Show as well as 1 time per day in the demo kitchen area (where chefs are showing the public the obsolete activity of cooking). 62 Frank Shows + 18 kitchen shows = 80 shows in 18 days.


The Good
The shows in the demo kitchen were great. I was introduced by Michael Marks ( a national television produce expert) or his wife each day. The set looked like a quaint suburban kitchen so I was hilariously out of place. Every kitchen show started with a group of senior citizens who needed a place to rest before dying. The first 2 minutes of my set were pure confusion. They had no idea what was going on. By the end, they were going ape and so was the crowd we attracted. I don’t usually perform for old people, and it’s a little intimidating each time I start, but it’s always great fun by the end.

Working with Frank (also a professional juggler) was really fun. We came up with a lot of new ideas and shifted the show every day from a straight theater production to a more interactive and simple-if-you-just-walked-up fun fair show. It’s really educational working with such a seasoned entertainer. He has a great sense for what an audience needs and we could quickly communicate thoughts. There was a little friction because we’re both used to working solo, but overall, we bonded in the battle to make the show great.

The Bad
It was really hot. We figured this would be our major foe and it was a difficult one.

The most bad of the whole deal is the fact that it’s a fair. State and County Fairs are places where performers compete with pig births for attention. People sit in your seats because they just got some deep fried food and they need a place to grow their butts… or for several other reasons that have nothing to do with enjoying a juggling show.

Fairgoers have gulped too many beers, brauts and dip’n’dots to really be happy with any show. They’re hot and tired and they want their TVs. It’s like busking at a bus stop.

The Ugly
The slogan of the California State Fair is “Let Yourself Go” and people were obedient! It’s held in Sacramento — a city better suited to host the Michigan State Fair. I know it’s the capitol, but Sacramento just doesn’t seem very California-y to me.

I thought there would be millions of stunning girls begging me for a glimpse at the life of a juggler, but nope. I don’t really blame Sacramento. These fairs are an opportunity to go out in whatever clothes are most comfortable — Not a place to get sexy.


Fairs are not the perfect venue for me, but it’s really fun to get exhausted doing show after show. You get strong as a performer. Performing in subpar conditions helps with that too.

Everyone was nice and helpful and if I had the chance to perform in the 2009 California State Fair again, I would.

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