Varieté Redux

Varieté etc in Bochum, Germany

My wife explained to me at length that our neighborhood variety theater has a “brunch show” each Sunday starting at 12 noon. When I asked, incredulously, how performers can expect to stay awake through the night to do a  show in the middle of the day, she explained to me that they “go to bed early” on Saturday and “wake up early” on Sunday.


Happily enough, the line-up for the show was the same as when we attended last month. This is, after all, a European variety theater, not the Chuckle Hut out by the airport: artists stick around. As in our previous visit, the performers with the strongest response were bounce juggler Abddi and hula hooper Igor Boutorine. I wrote at length about Abddi in my last blog, so I’ll focus this time on Igor.

Igor Boutorine

Like other performers I know, Igor energizes audience by thwarting their expectations. Most audiences have been conditioned – rightly – to expect male hula hoop performers to show as much passion for sewing sequins onto their costume as they do for craft. Igor, on the other hand, is that rare hula hoop artist who excels in his art and appears to be able to, if need be, kick my ass. From his rock-a-billy music to his hep-daddy hairstyle, every move this Russian makes exudes American masculinity and retro cool. 

(I could go on and on about the importance of not playing to type. If you call yourself a comedy juggler, for the love of God don’t dress in such a way that suggests “comedy juggler”. I wear a suit and tie onstage: it commands a certain authority that any job title with the word “juggler” in it seems to lack. Sure, in a low-key suit and tie (ever heard of Penn & Teller?) I’m not exactly drawing attention to myself. But that’s the point. Why do you need more attention – you’re the only one in this room of hundreds with a microphone for crying out loud! Besides, do you think anybody ever gives a performer any trouble when he’s wearing a suit, tie, pocket square and possesses the only mic in the room? On the other hand, good luck assuming the command of the room necessary to engage in witty reparté with a heckler while wearing a vest and billiard pockets on your hips.

Steve Martin put it best. During the height of the male peacockery of the 1970’s – think Elton John – Martin wore a simple white suit. Why? Because he knew if he looked crazy and acted crazy he’d be like a ton of other performers. It was by looking normal and acting crazy that made the magic happen.)

There. I feel better.

Avatar photo

A winner of the IJA Juniors Championships, David Deeble is a comedian, speaker and the creator of "An Unnatural Act" - a whirlwind display of inappropriate skills.

Leave a Reply