13 June 2010

The Great Busking Experiment of 2010

George Burns did it.  So did the Flying Karamazov Brothers.  Penn & Teller, Steve Martin -- even W.C. Fields did it.  My homeboy, Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards did it.  Busking.  It's a tradition as old as the bards and troubadours of yore.  The word "busk" comes from the Spanish word "buscar," to look for.  And indeed, I'm looking for something.

As you may know, I get paid to make funny and play my ukulele.

I feel that I've hit a certain plateau as a performer.  I'm not getting any better.  I do what I do, and people like it, but I feel I am capable of much more.

I know a guy who is a professor of math education at a very prestigious math college.  He recently went on sabbatical after becoming tenured.  Did he rest on his laurals? NO!  He took a teaching position at an inner-city high school.  That's right:  He bucked up and put himself in the thick of things.  Rubber meets the road time, for certain.  Boy howdy, was it tough!  An emotional roller coaster, as he tells it.  I respect this guy.  He didn't have to do it.  He didn't have anything to prove, except, perhaps, to himself.

I want to experience the oldest crucible there is for what it is I do.  I want to be made or broken by the street.  I want to hang 'em out there, put myself at risk, and earn it.  I desire the chaos of busking; the unpredictable.  I want to know I can be entertaining in the worst possible circumstances.  I want to make money from strangers--absolute and complete strangers--who didn't even know they wanted to be entertained by me.  I want to bring my talent and skill to the public at large and have my efforts recognized in the roughest way possible.

Assuming I survive the experience, and don't hang up my uke out of shame, I expect to emerge a stronger performer.  I expect a surge in confidence and ease on stage.  I expect to hone what I do to a fine point.  And yes, I expect to make some extra scratch.

I will journal my experiences here.  The beginning of this journey will consist of talking to buskers I know, getting a sense of how to go about doing this.  Yeah, yeah: take your uke out to a street corner and play.  Look, I believe in "know before you go."  A little preparation now should save me considerable trouble later.

This is going to be interesting.