Book Review: 1001 Tips on Practicing and Performing Your Act by Dan Holzman

Book Review by Michael Goudeau.

Dan has always worked hard. You know him as a skilled, successful, and funny juggler. He’s also written books, he’s invented toys, and now he’s creating a new act just because he loves the art. So, when one of the most successful variety artists of our era writes a book of tips, should you buy it? Of course, you should. What the hell is wrong with you? 

Dan is a great, longtime friend so when he sent me a copy of his book and asked if I’d write I review I thought, “I’m trapped. What if it sucks?” There was no genteel way I could see to weasel out of it. I’m happy and extremely relieved to say that I really enjoyed the book. 

Dan loves lists. If you’re friends with him on Facebook you see that he’s always writing, and posting joke lists. I’m not sure if it’s him or Russian hackers but either way, I’m enjoying them and Dan is getting the credit.

The title is accurate. There are 1001 tips in the book. I was surprised at the range Dan covers. I expected 1001 tips on juggling, showmanship, or writing. I didn’t expect tips on Bubble-ology, Boomerangs, or Blockhead. To be honest, I’m very pleased. I’ve been playing with boomerangs and I needed some tips. There they are. The tips on Blockhead are also very good and reminded me why I don’t want to do Blockhead. 

Some of the tips in the book are ones that I have long touted as extremely important for the professional performer. For example:

Tip number 766: Wear underwear that is the same color as your costume pants, in case you get a rip or zipper malfunction.

I’ve had this happen half a dozen times in my career. If your underwear matches, you have options: 

1: You can ignore it, knowing that no one will notice, or  

2: If you’re in a frisky mood, you can call attention to it and have some fun. 

Dan has also given away some real secrets in this book:

Tip 59: If you can’t find regular fuel, try fingernail polish remover. It works well in a pinch and has a nice smell. 
This is a show saver. Convenience stores and cruise ship gift shops carry fingernail polish remover and are often within striking range when you discover that the cruise line tossed out your can of Coleman fuel. 

There are some tips that make me cringe. I can’t read this and not flinch:

Tip 302: If you are attempting to balance a unicycle on your chin, be careful of it slipping off and having one of the pedals strike you in the face on the way down.

I don’t know if Dan learned this first hand but, ouch. I’m happy to hear this from him rather than learn it for myself.  If this is a trick you’re thinking about doing in your show, this tip alone is worth the price of the book. 

I don’t want you to think I have nothing but kind things to say. As a reviewer, it’s my job to point out the problems as well as the good. It seems to me an inordinate number of tips in the book relate to silicone balls, and the clown makeup tips seem too vague to be helpful. Those are minor quibbles that I’m sure will be addressed in future editions. 

The final chapter of the book is a reprint of an article Dan wrote with Scott Meltzer summarizing Dan’s four steps to writing a routine for your show. It’s a simple and direct way to get you thinking about how to create original material. I can’t recommend it enough and I’m very pleased to see it reprinted here. 

I wasn’t asked to submit tips for the book and since Dan has 1001 there are few I have to add.  However, like every self-indulgent performer, I do have a couple for working professionals: 

1002: If you’re doing a trade show in New Orleans don’t wear your black show pants to Cafe du Monde. They have wire mesh tables and the powdered sugar will get all over you. 

1003: If you’re working Bumfuk, don’t whine about it in person or on Facebook. Do your show and do a good job. If you whine, you’ll find that next year, Bumfuk is all booked up. 

Dan has done a great job of writing, recognizing, and assembling an extremely valuable set of tips. I highly recommend the book. The tips will float around in your head until the day you need them and when you do remember one, it may just save your show… or your face.

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