VEISHEA 2011: Alternative acts
By Vincent Geerts
When Evan Young and Jonathan Burns first performed together, it wasn’t necessarily their own choice. The two were trying to sell their individual acts to colleges at a trade show; Burns with talents like magic, comedy, juggling, contortion and fire-eating and Young as a juggler and comedian. Prospective buyers kept asking if they worked together.
“We said ‘no’ to a few people,” Burns said. “Then we realized we should be saying ‘yes.’ Really, it was the people’s choice.”
“So we wrote some material and gave it a go,” Young said.
For the past five years, Young and Burns have been traveling together much of the time as the Showoff Show. Their material started as a merger of their own individual performances, but has since become more refined.
“It was kinda weird at first,” Young said. “Jonathan has a very unique writing style. He would come up with some ideas and I’d be like ‘Uhhh OK, let’s try it out,’ and it would work and I was surprised.”
Their show on the Friday of VEISHEA weekend will be more than just comedy. Circus-style tricks and stunts along with vaudevillian contortionism and juggling are just a few of the things the duo can do. The audience can even take some of their pranks home with them – part of the act is teaching the crowd some amusing tricks.
“You not only get to see something and be involved in the show, but you also get to learn something to show your friends afterward,” Burns said.
The two met long before they decided to work together on performers.net, an online community for international performers. Burns was asking for advice on attending Circomedia International Circus School in Bristol, England. Young had already attended the school, and advised against enrollment unless he wanted to be part of a real circus team.
After he got his degree from Millersville University in Pennsylvania, Burns decided against attending the formal circus performance school, and went straight to street performance. Young had a somewhat similar history, beginning his street performances in Boulder, Colo., after leaving the school.
The street teaches skills that can’t be learned in a classroom and was an important stepping stone in their careers.
“You have to learn quickly if you want to make money,” Burns said, “It’s all based on the people who stop to see you. You learn how to work with the people and get them to stay. You learn a lot of stage skills you can’t learn anywhere else.”
Eventually the two met up in their line of work, performing on the streets of Baltimore, Md., in an amphitheater with plenty of tourists to entertain.
They had both enjoyed their work from a young age.
Young was the class clown and left his hometown of Colombia, Mo., to attend circus school immediately after high school. He learned to juggle in the Boy Scouts at age 15 and has loved making people’s days more fun ever since.
Burns grew up next to a magic shop in Jonestown, Penn., and was always bringing new tricks home to entertain his friends and family. He started performing at birthday parties in middle school, and throughout the rest of his education continued to add more and more to his act.
“I always loved sketch comedy and just watching comedy central and standup performers and stuff, so I started adding comedy,” Burns said.
He got into fire-eating and juggling during his college career, encouraged by his friends to continue his work. As for contortionism, Burns said he was born with it.
“The big difference is that some people when they’re young can put their leg over their head, and at some point they mature and they realize ‘Hey, I shouldn’t do that anymore,’ but I never matured out of it,” he said.
The Showoff Show
When: 9 p.m. Friday, April 15 and midnight Saturday, April 16
Where: Central Campus (rain location: Great Hall, Memorial Union)