Many people ask me how I got into this business. There’s an old saying, I believe that WC Fields said it first: “Never work with Animals or Kids”. Yep. I do both! Why? Because the payoff is great! You never know what can happen. It’s always a surprise.
Ok. Here’s my story of how I got into this crazy business.
I was a struggling actor beating the streets trying to get acting jobs. At the same time, I had a small bookkeeping business running out of my house to help pay the bills. AND at the same time, I was travelling the states with a corporate magician as a stage-hand. I was not a happy camper. The acting was ok, but I didn’t dig the bookkeeping at all. Working for the magician was great, but I was away from my family.
I was sick and tired of “auditioning for a living” and doing a business that I really didn’t like. So one day I sat down with my wife Shelley and said, “I gotta do something different!” We considered a number of ideas. I had a friend that was making a good living performing characters and supplying costumes for others performing at parties. Kind of a character agency. I thought that wasn’t such a bad idea. Another friend made his entire living on cruise ships. Great idea, but I had no experience doing such a thing.
Then it came to me. Magic!! I had worked for a magician, so I knew a lot of the basics. Heck, to me it was just ACTING WITH STUFF. So I got a couple of books, bought a few videos and went to work. I did my first magic show in 1998 in a concrete corridor leading into a ghetto apartment building. The honest truth is that it wasn’t very good. But I walked out with a check for $150.00. Not bad for an hour of work and having a great time!
I did a few more shows for friends, but knew that I had to come up with something different. But what would set me apart from the rest of the pack? All kids love magic, all kids love Animals. Magic with Live Animals! I did my first show with a chinchilla and the response was so great that I knew I had something. I then tried out a number of different animals. I was raised with show-dogs (shelties and golden retrievers) so I knew how to treat them well. IT WAS ON!!!
But what to call this new adventure? Let’s see… it has animals, it has magic… HOW ABOUT “ANIMAL MAGIC!” Truly a no brainer, but that name had power and description. That was it!
In October of 1999 I put the first ad in the Yellow Pages (popular back then). That first year I performed about 100 Animal Magic shows. By the second year I was making more money doing Animal Magic than I ever did bookkeeping. I slowly got rid of all of my bookkeeping clients and by 2001 was performing full time. I WAS A PROFESSIONAL ENTERTAINER! My business continued to increase year after year and built a pretty darn good reputation.
I was one of the first to perform at library showcases in the theme of the summer reading program. In 2001 I showcased for the Orange County Libraries in a space suit. Great idea. That was the first time that I performed over 100 shows in the summer alone. The problem was that I had to do it in a space suit. In Southern California. In 90 degree weather. Not fun. But built my reputation.
I changed the theme almost every year. You’ll find some of my favorite promo shots at the end of this blog.
So, by 2002 I was performing over 300 shows a year. And that was just with libraries and private parties, mainly birthdays. I wanted more. I wanted to affect more people. I wanted to make children’s lives better. So, I started doing schools. Bigger audiences, bigger pay, and more of an affect on more people.
Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to become one of the countries leading children’s entertainers. I’ve added many different shows to my repertoire including The Bully Game, Random Acts of Character, Say No Way (No drug show) and more. If you want to read about how I created those businesses, here’s the link to the story of how I got into the Bully Prevention Business.
Thanks to my many customers throughout the years (some are still with me from 2000), I’ve been able to make my living doing the thing that I love and entertaining and inspiring hundreds of thousands of folks along the way.
I welcome your comments.
Dedicated to adding character to the classroom.
John Abrams – www.AmazingSchoolAssemblies.com
Southern California’s Top Elementary School Assembly Performer
Just for fun. Here are the photos that I promised.