Valuable Lessons To Save Your Party
I remember working at a lifestyle convention about a year before becoming Mr Banana Head. There was a stand offering you a chance to become a children’s entertainer for a mere £6,000. They gave you the script for the show, marketing help and a few tricks amongst other things. I knew then that if I ever decided to become a children’s entertainer it would be my way and my way only. This was reiterated a short while after when I was talking to a dad at school who was one of the many Mr Marvels. Even though the bookings were given to you along with training, all the props, tricks, equipment and scripts for the parties it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t a case of me thinking I was better than that or that I knew everything, quite the opposite. I just wanted to be able to express myself in my own unique way rather than performing someone else’s show and ideas.
Whilst this was all very admirable there was a huge risk with this approach; I’d be going in blind without any experience and no idea of the potential pitfalls involved with entertaining children and keeping their attention for 2 hours. This has resulted in a journey full of lessons. They started at my very first party, they’ve continued up to today and I’m sure they won’t stop until my last party. I’d like to now present you with a few of my early lessons. Even though I cringe at the memory of these I’m glad every single one happened as they’ve helped me become the bad dancing, singing buffoon I am today.
Lessons 1 & 2 – Have a back up music source / ensure your own children are under control.
This was my first proper public performance and my nephew’s 4th birthday. K was 3 at the time and liked to wonder around, a lot! My dad, Grandpa Banana Head had one job that day, to make sure K didn’t go anywhere. Sadly, he proved to be an unsuitable candidate for the job. With a mixture of K being the wriggliest child in the world and my dad having very loose arms she kept escaping, running up to me and demanding cuddles. This was a little stressful as I was trying to keep 40 children entertained with no real clue of what I was doing. The stress increased when my 6 year old nephew asked every 5 minutes if he could perform his magic trick to everyone. I’d told him a few weeks earlier he could as I was sure he’d forget all about it. What was I thinking, no child forgets anything, they’re all elephants in disguise. Somehow I made it through the first hour and then stood at the buffet table stuffing my face with beigals and crisps to help me forget about the disaster that had just happened.
I was looking forward to the second half as we were having lots of games with music. I told everyone that we’d be starting with Mr Banana Head musical bumps. I selected the track on my ipod and…………nothing. Well to be precise there was something, my ipod froze. It was the freeze of death and nothing was bringing it back to life. Thinking on my feet, I told the children that I was going to sing the songs and when I stopped they had to sit down quickly. This could have been a passable emergency option if a) I knew the words to any songs and b) If I could demonstrate any resemblance of singing. Unfortunately I didn’t and couldn’t so the children did one of three things. Some walked off and started eating more food, some just sat down and stayed there and a few started crying, clearly traumatised by my disastrous rendidtion of Reach by S Club 7. Parents very quickly started drifting off and I silently wept all the way home having second thoughts about my new career.
Lesson 3 – Winter tyres are your friend
It was the 18th December and out of nowhere around 11am an avalanche of snow descended from the sky and within 30 mins the roads were completely covered. My party was at 3pm the other side of St Albans near the Waffle House. Thinking on my feet again, (but not really thinking it through properly) I put a rucksack and bag in the car along with all my kit and left at 1pm. I reached the end of the road and as I turned left and up a slight incline my car started sliding backwards along with the other cars trying to do the same. I had no option but to abandon the car and walk to the party. I say I had no option, I could have called the mum and apologised for not being able to make the party. Instead, not wanting to let the children down I filled the rucksack and bag with Mango, my props and tricks and set off on the 3 mile trek through the still heavily falling snow.
I rang the mum to inform her what had happened and to reassure her that I was still coming. I also kept in touch along the route to give her an approximate arrival time. She gave me directions which included a short cut through a fence which would bring me out right by their house. Unfortunately, due to the onset of hyperthermia, my urgent need for food and my general confusion I cut through the wrong fence and found myself up to my waist in snow. I eventually arrived freezing cold, starving hungry, desperate for the toilet and with 20 hyper children ready to party. The mum very kindly offered me some biscuits and so I went upstairs to thaw out, get changed and to eat the aforementioned pack of jammy dodgers. Looking back now the party itself seems almost irrelevant as I’m still traumatised by the journey to get there. When I’d finished everything I then realised that I had another 3 mile trek back home again in the still falling snow. I made it in one piece and the next day had winter tyres put on my car.
Lessons 4, 5 & 6 – Balloons are the enemy / Just focus on the children / How many birthday children??
I’d been booked for a party with 8 children celebrating their birthday and with 35 in all. My first job was to memorise the 8 birthday children so I could call them all up to help with a magic trick. When I arrived at the party I was welcomed by the sight of 50 balloons loose on the floor. Whilst that would now cause me to shudder in fear and round them up immediately I didn’t give them a second thought. Instead I went to set up, ready for the show. I decided 10 mins before I started that I wanted to entertain the adults as well so they’d also be engaged. My idea seemed like a stroke of genius at the time. Immediately afterwards I saw it for what it was; a hairbrained, badly thought through disaster. I explained to the adults that I wanted them to have a chance of getting a round of applause so I was going to include some film quotes during the party. If they recognised the film they had to shout it out and if they were right they’d get a round of applause from everyone.
I started off my routine with Mango where he was asleep. When we woke him up I said hello to him and then followed up asking him about his family and what he’d been doing. He then spoke in my ear. What followed was my pitiful and painful attempt at entertaining the adults. “What’s that Mango, I had you at hello?” I looked at the audience expectedly waiting for everyone to shout out, “Jerry Maguire.” Instead there was silence, then a solitary cough. It was tumbleweed city and it was very, very awkward. I then scrapped that idea mainly as I hadn’t thought of any more film quotes to include along with the obvious realisation that it was in fact complete pants.
When I called up the children to help with the birthday trick I remembered their names but once they were up it all went pear shaped. Names were forgotten, mixed up and then suddenly I heard, “Weeeee, my balloon’s an aeroplane.” One of the guests had picked up one of the balloons and was charging round the hall with it. One led to two which led to thirty two. I was then performing my show for 3 children whilst the rest were running round the hall with balloons acting as planes, animals, trucks and aliens from Mars. I quickly put some music on and attempted to get them back by incorporating some dancing games but it was too late. The balloons had won and I had learnt 3 very valuable lessons. As a result of the above the same mistakes never occured again but there were a further 178 lessons waiting to show themselves along my journey……..