|Krista Brown Robbins
Todd Robbins (born August 15, 1958) is an American magician, lecturer, actor, and author.
Todd Robbins was born in Long Beach, California, the son of a soap executive and a schoolteacher. At the age of 10, Robbins was introduced to magic, enrolling in magic lessons at the B&H School of Magic every Saturday afternoon. His regular interaction with these seasoned magicians and "carnies" led to an interest learning the secrets of Sideshow Arts. He became the first Junior Member of the Famous Magic Castle school of magic.Soon after, Todd joined the Long Beach Mystics, a troupe run by the students and hosting professional magicians and variety acts, including an up-and-coming young juggler/magician named Steve Martin.
With a new interest in performance, Robbins attended the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco where he earned his degree in Theatre Arts. It is here that Todd met scene partner and friend Annette Bening,and in 1980 he moved to New York City to pursue a career in theatre.
He went on a myriad of auditions and landed some small, low-paying roles. "I found it all very dubious. I did a few readings, a couple of small shows in basement spaces, which was all kind of fun but it wasn’t paying the rent." It was around this time that the new vaudeville movement made a comeback with the likes of Penn and Teller and Bill Irwin gaining in popularity.This gave Robbins the incentive he needed to make a change, thus resurrecting his interest in magic and carnivals. He began working at Coney Island in an amusement park sideshow swallowing swords, eating fire, hammering nails in his nose, doing all those great, classic old-timer acts.
Robbins inherited the sideshow tradition almost literally, from Melvin Burkhart, one of the pioneers in the field. Born in 1907, Burkhart worked venues from Ringling Brothers to Ripley's Believe It or Not, making a name for himself as the father of the Human Blockhead act—hammering a nail into one's nostril. Burkhart's last performance took place on October 8, 2001 at Robbins's wedding to Krista Brown. About a month after the performance, Burkhart died, leaving his props to Robbins; his costume and signature enormous nail arrived in the mail. His cremated remains were also left to Robbins, who subsequently sprinkled the ashes at Coney Island.
Robbins is known for a variety of sideshow acts such as sword swallowing, Human Blockhead, and glass eating, including wine glasses and light bulbs. Robbins estimates he has eaten more than 5,000 light bulbs throughout his career, sometimes consuming up to 21 per week.
Robbins has been featured on more than 100 television shows, which include multiple appearances on David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien; Masters of Illusion ; and the NBC special Extreme Variety. He was a featured guest on Criss Angel Mindfreakand is also the main subject of the 2005 documentary American Carny: True Tales From The Circus Sideshow directed by Nick Basile.
Robbins is one of five partners in the longest running off-Broadway show, Monday Night Magic.
He starred in an off-Broadway show Carnival Knowledge which ran from 2002to 2004 and featured Robbins eating light bulbs and swallowing swords. It was also nominated for a Drama Desk Award. He also served as dean of the sideshow school in Coney Island, where for $600 he would teach about the history of sideshow acts as well as instruct the students how to swallow swords or lie on a bed of nails.
In 2008, he toured as part of a stage show called Hoodwinked with Bob Arno, Banachek and Richard Turner.
In 2009, Robbins was featured in a Ripley's Believe It or Not! cartoon panel noting that he had "chewed and swallowed over 4,000 light bulbs."
In 2010, Robbins starred in Play Dead , written by Robbins and Teller of Penn & Teller, a "throwback to the spook shows of the 1930s and ’40s" that ran September 12–24 in Las Vegas before opening Off Broadway in New York at The Players Theatre.
Todd Robbins has worked for Ripley's Believe It or Not!and was also a ringmaster at the Big Apple Circus.
He has been associated with the Big Apple Circus for more than a dozen years (performing in various roles including the ringmaster) and can often be seen playing piano with Woody Allen's jazz band at the Cafe Carlyle. Todd currently performs regularly at New York’s longest running Off-Broadway magic show, Monday Night Magic.
In 2015, Robbins began hosting a TV series on ID network titled 'True Nightmares' in which he presents 3 strange but true characters known to history as nightmares that came all too true.
In 2019, Robbins began hosting and producing a weekly showcase of stage and close-up magic in New York City called, "Speakeasy Magick", at the McKittrick Hotel.
Inspired by his off-Broadway show and co-written by Teller of Penn & Teller, the film combines a tongue-in-cheek, skeptical humor, which will be familiar to Penn & Teller fans, with elements from carnival sideshows, magic shows, séances and haunted houses. This Grand Guignol revivalism hearkens back to the early days of the 1940s spook shows when gruesome surprises awaited an unsuspecting audience. A theme of blind faith runs throughout, and gives Robbins and Teller the opportunity to use and then reveal the illusions put forth by mediums, calling them out for the criminals they truly are.In his "Meet the Skeptics" interview from TAM 2013, Robbins admits to having a "fascination for people... who are frauds [con artists and spiritualists]", who claim to have supernatural powers which are, in reality, proven sideshow techniques Robbins performs himself. In his words, this is "reality at its most amazing."
Robbins and Teller are now in development of this show into TV series. "The series chronicles a traveling theatrical troupe that, under the guise of performing a quirky magic show of spooky amusement, presents experimentations of alchemistic procedures for the resurrection of the dead", writes Robbins.
In North America, a sideshow is an extra, secondary production associated with a circus, carnival, fair, or other such attraction.
Penn & Teller, Penn Jillette and Teller, are American magicians, entertainers, and scientific skeptics who have performed together since the late 1970s. They are noted for their ongoing act that combines elements of comedy with magic.
Penn Fraser Jillette is an American magician, actor, musician, inventor, television presenter, and author, best known for his work with fellow magician Teller as half of the team Penn & Teller. The duo has been featured in numerous stage and television shows, such as Penn & Teller: Fool Us and Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, and is currently headlining in Las Vegas at The Rio. Jillette serves as the act's orator and raconteur.
The Jim Rose Circus is a modern-day version of a circus sideshow. It was founded in Seattle in 1991 by Jim Rose and his wife BeBe Aschard Rose. The sideshow came to prominence to an American audience as a second stage show at the 1992 Lollapalooza festival, then called the "Jim Rose Circus Sideshow", although they had toured the Northwest and Canada and had several US TV appearances before this time. Rolling Stone magazine called the show an "absolute must-see act" and USA Today termed Rose's troupe "Lollapalooza's word-of-mouth hit attraction".
Erik Sprague, known professionally as the Lizardman, is an American freak show and sideshow performer. He is best known for his body modification, including his sharpened teeth, full-body tattoo of green scales, bifurcated tongue, subdermal implants and green-inked lips.
Teller is an American magician. He is half of the comedy magic duo Penn & Teller, along with Penn Jillette, and usually does not speak during performances. Teller, along with Jillette, is an H.L. Mencken Fellow at the Cato Institute
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The Enigma is an American sideshow performer, actor, and musician who has undergone extensive body modification, including horn implants, ear reshaping, multiple body piercings, and a full-body jigsaw-puzzle tattoo. His tattooing process began on December 20, 1992, under the needle of "Katzen the Tiger Lady", whom he later married, and has since divorced. To date, the Enigma has had more than two hundred tattoo artists work on him, with as many as twenty-three tattoos underway at one time.
Jamy Ian Swiss is an American magician, author, speaker, historian of magic, essayist, book reviewer, and scientific skeptic. He is known for sleight-of-hand with playing cards.
John Robert Fox was an American professional sword swallower and sleight of hand expert.
Harry Lewiston was an American showman, freak show director, and barker. He wrote his memoirs under his stage name, published posthumously in 1968 as Freak Show Man: the Autobiography of Harry Lewiston, as told to Jerry Holtman.
Chayne Hultgren, known professionally as the Space Cowboy is a world record-holding sideshow, street, and freak show performer.
Captain Frodo, also known as “The Incredible Rubberman”, is a Guinness World Record breaking contortionist living in Australia. He is the son of a famous Norwegian magician known as “The Great Santini”.
Carnival Diablo the Ultimate Sideshow is a travelling sideshow operating primarily in Spencerville, Ontario, Canada. Performances by the troupe follow a traditional Ten-in-One format featuring such acts as fire-eating, sword swallowing and a human blockhead, with show times lasting two and a half hours. Carnival Diablo opened on April Fools' Day 1992 by Scott McClelland, whose family goes back three generations in the carnival and side show business. Shows have been performed across Canada, including shows at The Calgary Stampede, Edmonton's Klondike Days Regina's Buffalo Days, and the Canadian Tulip Festival. In 2008 and 2009, Carnival Diablo was a featured act at Carnivàle Lune Bleue, a dedicated revival of a 1930s old-time carnival located in Ottawa, Ontario.
Magic, which encompasses the subgenres of illusion, stage magic, and close-up magic, among others, is a performing art in which audiences are entertained by tricks, effects, or illusions of seemingly impossible feats, using natural means. It is to be distinguished from paranormal magic which are effects claimed to be created through supernatural means. It is one of the oldest performing arts in the world.
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Shade Rupe is an American writer, editor, and filmmaker.
Melvin Burkhart (1907–2001) was a sideshow performer known as the Human Blockhead for driving a large steel spike up his nose with a hammer. He was also known as Melvin the Two-Faced Man, due to his ability to wear different facial expressions on the two sides of his face, and as Melvin the Anatomical Wonder for his abilities as a contortionist. His act also included magic, sword swallowing, fire eating, and an electric chair.
Water spouting is a sideshow regurgitation act in which a performance artist drinks a large amount of fluid, such as water, and regurgitates it in a controlled manner with muscle control. Typically, the act includes an element of stage magic in the transformation of the fluid; for example, ingesting water and regurgitating it as a stream of red wine or milk.
Pearls Daily is an American actress, dancer, burlesque artist, filmmaker, and model. She has credits in theatre, film, television, and commercials.