Comedian learns juggling can be controversial
With one performance, Chris Bliss shook up the juggling world.
He inspired tens of thousands, captured the attention of millions – and angered a handful of jealous peers.
Bliss, a stand-up comedian who will perform Monday, Dec. 17, at MontBleu Casino Resort and Spa, often ends his routine with a juggling act. He juggles in time to the final three songs on The Beatles’ final album, “Abbey Road.” Bliss performed the 10-minute juggling act for the French-speaking audience at the 2002 “Just For Laughs” festival in Montreal. He nailed the routine, which festival organizers filmed.
“In 30 years I never had a great piece of tape of that performance,” Bliss said. “I really was focused, and it was one of those magic things where they don’t happen very often. I was in the right place at the right time, I was focused and we had the right audience , so I put it up on my Web site basically just as a sales tool. And it literally took off all on its own.”
The Web site crashed by late February because of the downloads. Bliss described it as “Jenna Jameson numbers.”
By March, Bliss was receiving 300 e-mails a day.
“Most people were saying ‘This uplifted me and got me through a bad day, a bad time a bad period of my life,’ ” Bliss said. It would run in cycles. One week they were from parents of autistic children, then a week of humanitarian aid workers from African refugee camps saying thank you. ‘What do you mean thank me? Thank you. You’re the one whose a saint.’ “
Bliss’ video was referenced on “Desperate Housewives,” it was uploaded to Ringo Starr’s Web site, and Bliss received an invitation for perform for the king of Sweden.
“After the king of Sweden e-mailed, I decided to sit down and watch it again,” Bliss said. “It was the emotional content that resonated because juggling is never going to reach people at that level. It’s not a major art form. People seemed to understand, from a piece where I did not speak a single word, who I was and where I was coming from as a human being.”
But not all the feelings were warm and fuzzy. Bliss had to take the video off his Web site because of the high cost of all the downloads. However, somebody had already downloaded it onto a YouTube, which was just starting to become popular. Five years later, the video still gets a quarter-million hits a month.
Bliss, who is a three-ball juggler, became the object of envy for other jugglers, such as Penn and Teller’s Penn Jillette, who reportedly goaded fellow-five-baller Jason Garfield to make a parody video. While the new video brought more publicity to Bliss, he wasn’t happy about it and even refused to comment when a “Dateline”reporter wanted him to talk about the “juggling wars.”
“I didn’t want to get into some mudslinging deal,” Bliss said. “I was having the most positive experience of my life.”
Bliss continues to tour the country doing stand-up, ending his shows with the famous and infamous “Abbey Road” juggling act that remains on the former Beatle’s blog.
“Right below on Ringo’s site is a video called ‘Cool video of a dog on a skateboard,’ ” Bliss said. “That’s the thing about the juggling world. You’re never more than a half-step from the circus. You’ve got to keep things in perspective.”