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Behind the Scenes: The Life of an Applause Performer

Behind the Scenes: The Life of an Applause Performer

One curtain that doesn’t often get pulled back enough in the events industry is that which leads to the lives of the performers of the events. What goes on in their heads?

We sat down with our resident performer Josh to discuss the life of an event performer, political correctness, and sexy Christmas elves. Some details have been changed to preserve privacy.

Applause: How long have you been working performing at events?

Josh: I have been performing for 15 years, starting when I was 8 years old and did theatre and drama while I was in school. My first job out of school was performing at Movie World on the Gold Coast. From there, I’ve worked in film, TV, theatre, commercials, and also jobs as a corporate entertainer. I first joined Applause about 5 years ago doing a lot of Impersonator work, and then I started doing Murder Mysteries, hosting Game Show LIVE, and so on.

A: What does a typical performing weekend look like to you?

J: Recently, I had a weekend where I had a gig every night. I remember that each of the gigs had very different briefs and different audiences, which is a good example of what I could deal with as an events performer.

A: Walk me through those gigs, what was Friday night? What did you have to do?

J: That was a corporate Murder Mystery. Corporate gigs can be a bit tricky because you're usually dealing with businesses who may have varying policies in place to make sure that no one is offended, which is fine. For example, not too long ago I was hosting a gig where you couldn’t refer to anybody using gendered words. So, I couldn’t say “welcome ladies and gentlemen”, I had to use words like “people”, “humans”, things like that.

This Friday’s gig wasn’t quite like that, in fact they were quite willing to get a bit drunk and boisterous. I was expecting to have to be a straight up-and-down serious host, but they were quite encouraging in that they gave me the flexibility to work the crowd with more risqué humour.

A: How often does this happen for you on other corporate gigs?

J: It really depends on the demographic. Obviously, no matter what freedom they give you, you have to be wary to not say something that will offend the people present. I do find that younger groups are more open to riskier, innuendo humour, but older crowds are slightly more conservative.

A: Is that what happened to you on Saturday?

J: Saturday was also a Murder Mystery, but it was for a 50th birthday out in the country. And yes, that crowd was rather conservative. Not only that, there were also about 20 children, all around or under the age of 6.

The Murder Mystery was a Christmas in July theme, and the script has a little bit of naughtiness built into it…one of the characters is a “sexy elf” that has a fetish for stealing sleighs…yeah…it’s a little strange and random. Very quickly, I realized that I had to re-assess my normal approach, and find another way to entertain this particular crowd to win them over. I still had to make sure they're able to put their trust in me and walk away with a memorable experience, except through a different route.

A: Was this particularly challenging?

J: Yes, and no. It definitely kept me on my toes, because I had to be consciously and actively thinking, but I think that’s a blessing in disguise for me as a performer. But yes, it definitely takes a certain type of performer to be able to spontaneously change gears and come up with a new way to entertain the guests that aligns with their needs.

child covering eyes

A: And what was Sunday about?

J: Sunday was a totally different deal. It was a Hoax Waiter gig, which is basically an actor hired to be at an event to prank the guests. So, I was hired as an actor, but I’m playing a waiter. I wear the same uniform as the venue wait-staff, I’m being told what to do by the venue manager, handing out canapé and serving drinks…BUT I’m being inappropriate, quirky, and just a little terrible at my "waiter" job.

As the hour goes on, I will just get progressively more “drunk” with fake alcohol, being “discreet’ but still making sure that the guests see me drink. It’s really fun, and at the end we get the venue manager to “fire” me publicly, and I yell at all the guests that it’s their fault, then do a big reveal that I was actually a paid actor, hired to pull a prank on everyone present.

A: That sounds really crazy!

J: Yes, but I LOVE it. It’s one of the most interesting kind of events that I do with Applause. It's very different from performing for events, and it's more like what you'd do for film or TV. What I mean is, you have to be very natural and believable to get away with it. It’s such a big adrenaline rush, because I have to be acting the whole time, but no one can know that I’m doing it. It’s a great test for me as an actor, but also remember, for most of the act you’re dealing with reality, and real people who don’t know it’s fake. I still have to gauge and read my audience very well, or it could go pear-shaped.

A: How do you adjust your mindset to all these different types of events?

J: A part of it is good preparation. If you know the demographic of the guests, you can prepare ahead of time and get into the right mood. Of course, things change all the time, and you don’t always get what you expect. So honestly, I will say there is nothing you can do to prepare yourself. What helps for me, is having 15 years’ experience of being able to weigh it up in the moment.

That’s what I’ll say to performers who haven’t been doing it for very long, or just starting, is that this is something that can take a long time to find your feet. I remember when I was younger, I had a bit of a reputation at Movie World – I didn’t have a mute button. I just said whatever came to my mind, because it can be hard to create comedy when you are censoring yourself.

But then what would happen, being an 18 year old, is the things that come to my mind were inappropriate and offensive, so working at a family theme park, I really had to learn how to manage that. That helped me work in the corporate industry, balancing letting the comedy come from a spontaneous place, but also putting a censor over it before I let it out of my mouth.

hoax waiter applause

A: What do you personally think about this push of political correctness?

J: I personally think that it might be pushing it a bit too far, and that the majority of the time people aren’t going to be worried about political correctness. Having said that, I highly believe that if there was even one person in the crowd who was going to find it offensive, and something would upset them as a person, I am much more inclined to do what is not going to upset that person, even if it’s saying “people” instead of “ladies and gentlemen”.

Our performers are incredibly professional and talented, with years' of experience working with various event types. It's because of them that we at Applause Entertainment can so confidently provide you with the best entertainment options for your event. You can find out more about the types of events mentioned in the blog above here:

Murder Mystery Corporate

Murder Mystery Private Parties

Hoax Waiter

Game Show LIVE

To find out more about how we can help you curate the most exciting event entertainment, call 1300 261 545, or enquire with us now.