Do you enjoy the spotlight? Having the ability to amaze people and to make them laugh is rare. Being successful at working as an entertainer is even rarer. Entertainer Greg Frisbee spoke with College Talks & More hosts Hanna and Cari about how he achieved just that. Greg owns and performs his own show The Frisbee Show. He is an entertainer who likes to give comedy entertainment a new spin. His exciting, inventive and fun show has been honed for more than 20 years of experience at international fairs, festivals, cruise ships, colleges, and corporate events.
I can honestly say that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Greg’s juggling skills in action long before he was getting paid to perform. Although back then he wasn’t playing with fire, yet. As I can imagine, being in the entertainment industry must have its ups and downs. Today, we jump into that and discuss it more with Greg. Would you please introduce yourself and tell us a little more about your college and professional background?
I perform a comedy variety show called the Rubber Chicken Show or the Greg Frisbee Show. I grew up in Massachusetts, and when I graduated high school I was a fairly shy kid. I started off going to Massasoit Community College, which was where I made a bunch of friends and kind of started to explore this juggling, magic, and variety performing world as I kind of emerged from the shell that I was in when growing up.
Rubber chickens isn’t something that most people usually get into. How and why did you start juggling?
I started off entertaining people as a kid. I was a pretty shy kid growing up. Before I even started juggling, I started doing magic, and I would do closeup magic for my friends and my family. It was kind of a fun hobby to have on my own. When I graduated high school, I saw my first street performers in Boston. There was some sort of calling to that where I said, “I’d like to try that”. I wanted to try performing, even though I was the shy kid. I said, “I’m going to go. I don’t know the streets of Boston, but I’m going to try to do some magic from there.” When I was doing magic, I saw jugglers, puppeteers, fire-eaters, rope-walkers, the whole gamut out there. I said, “I want to learn how to do those things. I don’t want to just do the closeup magic. I want to learn how to juggle.” I spent a couple summers learning how to juggle and eat fire and started to explore this Avenue of , “Oh, there’s something about this that I really am resonating with. I want to figure this out.” That’s how the juggling came to be.
It’s not just juggling with the rubber chickens. I do all sorts of experiments, playing music with the chickens, or I fire a rubber chicken out of an air cannon and catch it in a KFC bucket on my head. There’s a lot of different things that come with the rubber chickens in terms of different things that I juggle. I started off with juggling scarves and juggling balls, and then it moved on to Baton twirling and club juggling. As my proficiency grew, I started juggling more dangerous objects, like knives and fire. I think there were some sickles at one point, I tried juggling a chainsaw at another point. I didn’t really like that. After juggling a chainsaw, I made a promise to my mom that I wouldn’t do that. She was like, “I don’t know how I feel about you juggling a chainsaw on the front lawn. Could you please stop that?” That was where the line was drawn on where I should stop.
Did you ever get hurt juggling more and more dangerous items?
I’ve gotten minor injuries. There’s always a danger, even if you’re juggling just regular plastic clubs. You can hit yourself in the face and get bruised pretty good. The biggest injury I’ve gotten from my performances was during one of my finales. I lit my hands on fire and juggled knives. I use these special kind of gloves to do the trick. Well, the fuel had gotten through the glove, and it actually lit my land on fire. There’s the adrenaline of the show happening, and you don’t realize what’s happening until afterwards. You’re just like, “Oh, that felt hotter than normal.” I was like, “Oh geez, I burned myself pretty good on the side of my hand.” But these types of accidents are are few and far between. I take a lot of safety precautions. I’ve taken safety classes. I have insurance that covers me. I have fire permits. I’ve learned a lot about fire safety in general. Over a 20 year career, the major injuries are few and far between. Maybe a small nick here or a bruise there, but nothing too bad except for that one.
Do you do any other things in your show?
Nobody really knows what to do with a rubber chicken, or what they’re really for. I try to explore that possibility a little bit. I do ball spinning on the beaks of rubber chickens. I’ve learned to fine-tune rubber chickens so that I can play music with the squawking chickens. I’ve launched them from air cannons and all sorts of stuff. I also explore different avenues. I can play music by spitting a ping pong ball at a xylophone along with a variety of strange skills that I’ve learned over the years.
How many shows do you usually perform a year under normal circumstances?
It tends to fall somewhere between 200-300 shows a year. A lot of the state fairs and festivals that I perform at, I typically do three or sometimes four shows in a day over the course of a 10 day festival or longer.
Do you travel internationally to perform?
Yes, I do travel internationally with my show to date. I’ve performed in over 30 different countries. I’ve gone to Japan and China for longer contracts. I was in Japan for a little over two months on two separate contracts. I’ve travelled internationally, performing either via cruise ship travel or being invited to perform at international festivals. My main bread and butter with my traveling are the county and state fairs across America. The international stuff comes up usually once or twice a year.
Of all the places you have travelled to, which one was your favorite?
I’ve had a few favorites for different reasons. Japan was definitely a highlight, because I got to spend so much time there. I was there for two and a half months over two years in a row. I feel like I got to build and grow a community of friends over in Japan. It was really rewarding to be able to be part of the Japanese culture and to learn and see how things were done. I’ve also had some really rewarding experiences performing in Fiji. Everybody views Fiji as a tourist Island destination, but there’s actually a very developing-nation side to Fiji where the native people live. I was invited to go perform for that side of the Island. It was really an interesting dynamic to see between the pristine white beaches and the developing side of the island. They were just grateful to have this kind of entertainment coming to their side of the Island. That was a very rewarding experience as well.
COVID-19 has closed a lot of our fairs in New England. Do you still have plans to perform at fairs this year, or do you have other options available?
Unfortunately, a lot of the fairs and festivals across the country have been affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic that we’re facing. A lot of the fairs and festivals have been outright canceled, and that goes for the majority of my season. I’m normally booked through late fall of 2020, and all of my county and state fairs have been canceled for 2020. My next fair on schedule is not until April of 2021, where they’re talking about things starting to emerge. Even that’s questionable at this time, because I’m seeing some January and February fairs already announcing that they’re canceling.
Do you do other kinds of shows like birthday parties? Before the pandemic shut down the fairs you perform at, was it hard to book shows in general?
I always tell people that 90% of my job as an entertainer is looking for a job. I spend a good portion of my week when I’m not performing, sending emails, sending inquiries, making phone calls, trying to book those jobs. I try to throw as much information out into the world as I can through various sources, where hopefully enough things will stick, and I’ll meet my year. That’s tended to work every year until this year. COVID has definitely affected that. As of right now, I’m not really leaving the house very much for live in-person shows, just because of safety reasons and social distancing protocol. I started doing birthday parties when I was first performing, but I haven’t done a whole lot of birthday parties over the past 10 or 15 years.
I’ve been trying to create virtual shows to sell to libraries that are doing their summer reading programs online, where normally I would go and perform live at a library event. There’s a lot of programs and venues that have switched to virtual events. There’s some corporate events that are happening virtually. There are library shows that are happening virtually. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these venues offering some sort of virtual performances or virtual interactive things for the kids. This is why I am trying to develop that virtual side of my performing career.
It’s a whole new world that we’re entering right now with the online virtual world and social distancing. I do have one event coming up over labor day weekend that did not cancel amidst all of this. That will be my first in-person live event in about six months. There’s a lot of things being put in place to make it happen, there are barriers being set up and social distancing protocols put in place. I’ll be in Virginia over labor day weekend for my first live event and maybe my only live event of 2020.
How did you break into the entertainment business? And did you find it difficult?
It is definitely a difficult field to get into. You need to develop a thick skin, because you’ll get a lot of rejection. and there is that struggling actor mentality. When you tell people that you’re a full time performer, they say, “So, what’s your real job? What are you doing to make real money?” And there is that constant stigma. You have to kind of fight against it, because you’ll get a lot of rejection. You’ll get a lot of people saying, “Oh, you can’t do that.” It’s about perseverance and kind of pushing through and not always just taking no for an answer. I broke into the business when I started street performing in Boston, back in the 1990s and the early two thousands.
I then moved out to California with the intent that I wanted to be a full-time performer. They had a street performer program that ran year round where I could work on my show. By doing the amount of shows that I was doing out there, I would start to get invited to private events or corporate events. After my shows, people would come up and say, “Oh, here’s my business card. We have a company party.” “We have a holiday party.” I was working various part-time jobs to make ends meet. I was performing as much as I could, but I was working for companies like FedEx, coffee shops, whatever I had to do to make ends meet. There came a point where I was starting to get offered these fairs and festivals.
A fair or festival would pay me more for one week than I would working at the coffee shop for a whole month. I hit that point where I’m like, it’s either make or break. I’m going to take that leap to do this every year. Somehow it worked out, and every year somehow got a little bit better. My first year, I might get one fair or two fairs. The next year I got four fairs, and then I got seven fairs, and I got 10 fairs. I thought, “As long as I can maintain this, it will work out.”
How long did it take you to become known in the area?
It’s a constant build really, as things build and grow, word of mouth spreads. In the entertainment world, you network through online marketing or you call people. The entertainment industry is really a industry of relationships. It’s a matter of connecting with people, and it builds and grows based on that. It’s an ever-evolving process. It’s not, “Oh, I suddenly broke through.” It takes years to build up, to make those connections. I’m still in the process of making those connections and building and growing.
Do you have any sort of team working with you to do social media advertising, reaching out to people, or do you do everything yourself?
I am mostly a one-man operation. I wear so many different hats, and this is not just as an entertainer, but anybody who’s self-employed in general. You have to wear all of those hats yourself. It’s a full time job looking for a job. 90% of it is looking for work. I am my own social media manager. I am my own marketing person. I am my own booking person. I do outsource things where I can, where I don’t have the expertise. I have hired graphic artists over the years. I have hired web designers. I’ve never hired a social media team, but I probably should at some point. It would take that off my plate. The only thing I do have is various agents that I work through to do the shows. I have an agent for cruise ships. I have an agent for the college market. I have an agent for fairs and festivals. That’s my team. Every week I check in with the cruise agent and say, “Okay, here’s what I’m available for. Are there any leads or anything coming through? Other than that, I would probably say about 90% of the job, you have to kind of do it yourself. You wear all the different hats.
What are some of the ups and downs that you have faced working as a performer?
The ups and downs are there. There’s always the constant uncertainty of “Oh maybe this is my last job.” There are so many highs that you get from performing in front of hundreds or thousands of people, and feeling that connection, and interacting, and the cheers. It’s those magical moments that make those downs easier to manage, because they happen. Like right now, for instance, my last gig was in March. I had this whole summer planned. I was supposed to be on the road. Right now, it’s the middle of August as we record this, and I am supposed to be on my summer tour. I was supposed to be traveling across America right now. And because of a global pandemic, my work is just gone.
Can you tell us about your involvement with sheep theory and what it is?
Sheep theory is kind of a new direction I’m going with. Over the past two years, I started to shift towards wanting to be a motivational speaker and coach to try to help people to work through their creative blocks. I have a belief about being your authentic self. The tagline of sheep theory is “thinking outside the flocks”. We all have flocks that we gravitate towards, whether it’s our family, our friends, or our job, etc. We all have these outside influences pushing on us from all these different directions. Deep down, most of us know who we are, or who we want to be.
The idea of sheep theory is that it’s a speaking and coaching platform that I’m trying to work on and develop to kind of push that message of authenticity. I want you to be your more authentic self and find whatever those self imposed limitations are, to try to break through and open those doors for you.
Did you write the book sheep theory?
That is one of the things that I’m working on. That book is almost done. Actually, I just finished a draft, and it’s one of the things that I’m hoping to get published in the next month or two. It’s a book about sheep theory thinking, The Flocks and 50 Ways To a More Creative Outlook, and there’s different tips and exercises that you can do from home, from your office, or wherever you might be feeling a creative block you need to push through.
What advice would you give to an entertainer that is just starting out?
The advice that I would give is don’t give up, it’s a process. I think a lot of people give up too soon, they try something and they quit. They might be on the edge of that breakthrough moment and they think, “Oh, this is too hard.” As I said before, 90% of it is putting as much stuff out there as you can. You’ve got to wear all these different hats. You have to throw enough stuff against the wall. You have to be working on the craft. Practice getting in front of audiences as much as you can. You can learn from books about the acting and performing, but a lot of it also has to come from doing. You have to get out there and do it. If you’re in school, and you want to be an actor, audition for the play, audition for the musical, get involved in the media department. Build the skills by implementing the things that you learn or that you read.
Have you ever met anyone famous while doing a show?
I have met a few famous people over the years, either at a show or behind the scenes at a show. My most famous and memorable one would be Robin Williams. I got to spend about two hours with him in the green room at a theater. And I wasn’t even performing at that theater. I was there helping another performer friend of mine who was doing a show at the theater. Robin Williams showed up in the back greenroom, and he decided he was going to do a set, like an unannounced set. I got to hang out with Robin Williams for two hours just talking about life, his love of bike riding, and all sorts of stuff. That was an amazing opportunity. It was probably a year or two after that, that he passed away.
A little over a year ago, Steph Curry came to one of my shows with his daughter. I was performing at an event out in California and he to one of my shows. The guy who had hired me, who was the producer, said, ” Hey, just so you know, Steph Curry is out in the audience watching your show with his daughter.” That was really neat.
You swallow fire. How does that taste?
It doesn’t really have a taste at all. As long as the torches are fairly clean. The fire burns very hot, but it doesn’t really have any taste to it. You have to learn how to breathe a certain way while you’re doing it. You don’t want to inhale the fumes or the fuel or the fire, because that’s incredibly dangerous. But the torch itself doesn’t really have any distinguishable flavor.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about juggling and the entertainment business?
I would say that if you have the inkling to do it, get out there and do it, because you’ll never know if it’s something you really want to do until you try. I think that in general, people should try to follow their dreams. We live in a remarkable time with so much information available at your fingertips. If you want to learn how to juggle, if you want to learn magic, if you want to learn how to be a performer, we have those resources that are there. I think that anybody can do anything that they want to with perseverance and belief in themselves that they can do it. I say, go out there and do it. Stick with it and give it a go.
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