We were trying to figure out why our bookings had fallen off dramatically. We still have our Yellow Pages ad, the newspaper classified and display ads, our radio blitz, and even a 15 second spot on local cable news. In fact, our advertising expenses have only increased this year over last but the number of shows per dollar has fallen harder than a husky kid on our home-made Flying Carpet Illusion.
It turns out we have been victimized by the Swine Flu. We were not infected by H1N1, but potential clients apparently fear we could be a carrier of the potentially lethal influenza virus from kids’ show to kids’ show.
We think it was Jonas Salk or Ben Casey who demonstrated the truth that children are essentially nothing more than incubators for disease. Ask any teacher about the infectious potential of any given class of 20 or so little ones. The parents, late for work or enchanted rendezvous, send the feverish kids to school with their pockets full of tissues, noses gushing with a steady, gelatinous aggregation of rapidly mutating strains of parasitic, opportunistic infections; imploring them to share with their classmates.
Parents have no compunction about sending their children to school with a fever and an upper-lip encased in viscous, semi-opaque veneer of mucous. It is ironic that they would worry about us infecting their offspring during our three and a half-hour show (that’s for the kids under 10; we do the full five hour show for the older kids).
Yes, one could argue our show has elements that may seem less hygienic than conventional kid shows. But that is what makes us unique. As far as we know, we are the only act in the tri-county area performing balloon sculpture with saliva; the Losander Zombie Bubble routine without soapy water; or mouth coils made of candy that can be consumed by the kids after production.
We make a big point of telling the kids to wash their hands after eating the edible garland we magically extract from our previously empty mouth. How do they know it was empty? Because we have each kid look and feel around inside until they are satisfied. Really, if you think about it, we are taking the risk. We allow unknown germ pots to run their grubby fingers inside our cheeks and along our teeth and gums.
We assure parents that our mouth is clean thanks to the antiseptic qualities possessed by even the cheapest bourbon. Its protection lasts for up to 15 minutes according to a peer-reviewed article in a medical journal we just made up.
Before the Swine Flu scare, the kids loved our act. We think they still love it but the parents will not book it.
It is always something. When everyone was upset about kids being injured by guns, we had to stop doing the bullet-catching trick even if the birthday boy or girl was strong enough to hold the revolver and pull the trigger.
We stopped doing our Threaded Razor Blade routine when the HIV and Hepatitis scare was in full-swing. Truth be told, we were rarely cut so badly that there was any risk of a kid coming in contact with the blood. But you know how parents worry about their little darlings.
We no longer do our Buzz Saw or Guillotine illusions because some parents thought that part of the show induced “grossly abnormal sleep patterns due to nightmares and hour-long screaming fits.” And our presentations were not even that scary. In fact, we have not performed the Richiardi version of the Buzz Saw in at least 18 months.
About.com’s Wayne Kawamoto, had a great post on this subject last week. Normally we just read his column to rip-off ideas and tricks without attribution but because his article actually supports our position, we are happy to cite him as the author.
Mr. Kawamoto writes:
With Swine Flu on everybody’s mind, I decided to be proactive. In my shows this past weekend, after performing a balls from the mouth segment, I went into my spiel to transition to the next trick. But as I did this, I openly pulled out hand sanitizer and applied it to my hands. I didn’t make a big deal about it, I just cleaned my hands as I spoke. Interestingly, I received a smattering of applause because of my action.
His approach makes sense and we can see how that extra level of protection can help comfort parents whilst their seven-year-olds share amongst each other straws, utensils, food, and a natural curiosity about the nasal passages.
At least they know we are not patient zero for the likely outbreak the birthday party set in motion. So as the kids scramble to grab candy dropped all over the floor by the opening of Sponge Bob piñata manufactured in China out of papier-mâché from mercury-laden flour and water extracted from still, ponds of squalid, run-off from the town’s personal and industrial activities, they can feel safe.
We have seen lulls in the market before. Swine Flu or no, this too will change and we will all be able to get back to what we do best, sharing what we have with those we meet. And isn’t that what makes Magic more than just a public health issue, it is also an art form.