The Swinging Knock Away Routine

A forgotten routine that was once somewhat common in a juggler’s repertoire is what I like to call the swinging knock away routine. In this series of tricks, the juggler places a cigarette in a volunteer’s mouth and has the volunteer hold small lighted candles in his hands and on his head. The juggler then swings a long string with a weight on the end and eventually knocks the cigarette from the volunteer’s mouth, snuffs out the flames of the candles, and then knocks over the candles, all without injuring the volunteer.

Below you can watch the juggler Panto perform his version of this routine, beginning near the middle of the video.

And here is a video of Teddy And Patricio Peiro performing their version of the routine.

This is a routine that I haven’t seen performed by any modern day jugglers, but it would probably be fairly easy to learn. Just be very, very careful!

Another version of the trick was shared in an issue of the Juggler’s Bulletin in the late 1940s. The following illustration by Joe Marsh shows it.

The earliest known video of the routine is a comedic take on it performed by the Zattavas in 1965.

There are two modern variations on the classic swinging knock away trick. The first is using a yo-yo to either knock away a cigarette or to light a match. Below is a video of Mark Hayward and Jonathan Burns performing the match lighting version on the Late Show with David Letterman.

The second is Daniel Holzman’s use of a paddle ball to knock away a cigar. Usually he performs the knock away using the ball, but the following video shows him doing a more comedic version of the routine.


David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 16 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-six books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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