The Austin Chronicle

Professors of Pleasure

The Flaming Idiots Are Wise Men When It Comes to Comedy

By Robert Faires, December 22, 2000, Arts

A large beach ball is floating, just floating, about a dozen feet up in the air. It's not really doing anything else, just kind of hanging out in the ether like some serene, vinyl, clown-costumed Buddha levitating as he meditates. It's an oddly fascinating image, this hovering multicolored sphere, and it's made more fascinating -- and odd -- by the forces below it keeping the ball aloft: three men with leaf blowers. They're carefully coordinating their efforts so as to provide a steady stream of air under the ball that will hold it in place over the Zachary Scott Theatre Center's Kleberg Stage. And it's made still more fascinating when, at a pre-arranged signal, these men reach behind them and connect hoses from the PVC backpacks they wear into the back of the leaf blowers. Suddenly, three geysers of silver reflective confetti gush up toward the floating Buddha ball, and for a few seconds, it seems to be suspended by thousands of tiny mirrors, catching the light and sparkling brilliantly as they shoot upward and then drift slowly downward again. The immediate effect is astonishing, in part because it's spectacular and beautiful, in part because it's so unexpected, something you've never seen before. Then, the surprise begins to fade, and the rational part of your brain recovers control and asks, "Well, why would you have seen it before? It's a beach ball and a bunch of confetti shot up by leaf blowers. Who sits around using lawn equipment to get beach balls to hang in the air?"

Well, obviously, the three men wearing the PVC backpacks and wielding the portable wind machines. And that's not all they do. They also juggle beanbag chairs. They juggle blazing torches while standing on the shoulders of innocent strangers. They escape from straitjackets. One of them stuffs a two-foot-long balloon down his gullet. Another makes a bologna sandwich with his feet. This is what they do. For a living. It's their job. Collectively, they go by the name the Flaming Idiots.

For the uninitiated, that name might seem apt. Anyone devoted to such inane pursuits, especially as a career, must be more than a few grains shy of a beach. But to see this trio at work is to know a side to these performers that's anything but idiotic. Whatever stunt they're attempting, be it bullwhip marksmanship, balloon swallowing, or artfully catching coins from off the back of a hand, the Flaming Idiots exhibit a level of understanding of the stunt so nuanced and complete that it borders on the scholarly. Silly though the activities may be, the Idiots know them inside out. And they are able to perform them with a fluidity that makes the acts appear much easier than they truly are. The Idiots have developed an air of effortlessness that only comes with considerable effort. As Jon O'Connor, better known to fans of the trio as the manically exuberant Pyro, notes, "People watch our show, and what they see looks very easy for us to do. We come off like we're just out there having fun with each other and all this stuff kind of happens around us. But there's a lot of work that goes into looking that casual."

It's the same with the Idiots as it was with the master entertainers of vaudeville and the circus. The skilled performers of old took pride in the precision of their acts, however trivial, honing them to a razor's sharpness, and so have the members of this Austin comedy team. From the Renaissance festival circuit, where the performers met and formed the Idiots act, Jon O'Connor, Rob Williams, and Kevin Hunt have taken their particular fringe performance skills -- juggling, floor acrobatics, sideshow stunts -- and worked them again and again before countless crowds in thousands of performances, sharpening their proficiency in these areas to the point of mastery. They have become extraordinarily sensitive to audiences, to what makes them laugh, and can, with an adjustment of a word, an inflection, a second's pause, amplify the comedic response they receive. They have become extraordinarily sensitive to each other as well, able to move as one, to anticipate each other's movements, to know each other's thought processes so well that they can finish each other's sentences. They have developed vivid onstage personas -- Williams' Gyro, the talkative wit with the sandwich-making feet; O'Connor's Pyro of coin-catching fame; and Hunt's Walter, the wildly coifed man of few words and many odd talents -- that set the Flaming Idiots firmly in the line of such past comic talents as the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, Burns and Allen, and W.C. Fields, and make them peers of such masters of modern entertainment as the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Bill Irwin, and the Big Apple Circus.

The Flaming Idiots have managed the remarkable feat of remaining a team for 16 years, and they appear to be enjoying a sweet-16 year. They're in the midst of a successful transition from the festival circuit -- as Williams says, "Really, Renaissance was our bread-and-butter for all of our career" -- to indoor stages in traditional theatres. They enjoyed a sellout run at Zach last December and January, and Zach artistic director Dave Steakley made sure to get them back for the holidays this year. They've been popping up on the small screen, on assorted talk shows, including The Tonight Show, where Williams used his feet to fix a sandwich for host Jay Leno. And last February, the trio enjoyed a successful limited run on Broadway at the New Victory Theater. The icing on the cake was a notice from Lawrence Van Gelder in The New York Times, praising the Idiots' show as "a theatrical experience bubbling with constant humor ... footloose, fanciful, free-spirited."

As they once again go about wowing crowds at Zach, the men behind Gyro, Pyro, and Walter, the scholars behind the Idiots, offered to share some lessons in the craft of comedy.

Character 101

Rob Williams: Every single routine in the show, no matter how physical the thing is, in our playing with it, tweaking it and working on it, sooner or later it comes to [character]. "Well, Kevin, you do that Walter sort of moment, to be quieter and give the finishing touch to it somehow. Jon, why don't you kind of freak out on the thing over here a little bit, and I'll kind of talk our way through the thing." It all keeps coming back to that. That's how we frame everything.

Kevin Hunt: We play off our own personalities. I think when we first started, we had no idea about characterization. We did what we felt comfortable with, and it evolved from there.

Williams: Kevin and I did a bit of performing together before Jon joined. I was 17 at the time, Kevin was 21. From the very first, it was natural that I was going to start talking, and I did most of the talking. Kevin was quieter but had his unique skills that he brought in. So right off, Kevin and I had a bit more of our characters going. Jon has always been really strong -- he's a really good juggler and he's a very funny guy verbally -- but there was a time when we were first starting out that Jon was feeling a little like he was not quite there yet. Then somewhere along the way, he found the physicalness and what his sense of humor is and how it fits into things, and he went from being that nondescript third guy to a really strong character.

Hunt: Big goofy loud guy.

Williams: It'd be fun to have Joseph Campbell write a book on what the archetypes are ... [laughter] but I don't think we've ever quite thought of it that way.

Hunt: I think the first thing that I noticed was how things work in threes. You know, in comedy "boom-boom-bang" is funnier than "boom-boom-boom-bang." We realized right off the bat that threes are very strong, and there are three of us. Which is a very strong number for a performing trio. For a trio, three is a very good number. [laughter] It gives you a solid base, no matter who's on top doing the action, you have a very good base below you. Sometime thereafter we started realizing our own personal strengths, as far as how to play to the audience and how it is that you communicate with the audience, to get across the point of the routine. From there, your experience just keeps building, and the next thing you know you're a character.

Williams: We started at Renaissance festivals, as unpaid actors at the festival, so it was in our heads that I'm not just Rob when I'm out there, I'm a character.

Jon O'Connor: These guys worked a year before I joined them, and Kevin was Pyro and Rob was Gyro. When I joined, Rob and I were much more similar to each other onstage, and Kevin was more deadpan, so that's when I became Pyro.

Williams: To me, the name doesn't mean that much. My name doesn't mean that much, Jon's name doesn't mean that much. It's what I call him on stage, but it doesn't make me interact with him on a different level. But Kevin's name has taken on a life of his own. Walter is a name that everybody remembers. They always know Walter, and though he's the most understated, it's taken over his personality more somehow.

Hunt: I'm kind of the Everyman. People can identify with my character for some reason. I'm not sure what it is necessarily. Maybe I'm like their brother-in-law or I'm just kind of the quiet guy that's always adding but not necessarily the focus.

O'Connor: Part of what you do when you're onstage is you create your own world. You create this world and there's a lot of depth in that world that people kind of see but isn't stated. It's like they see that the three of us are very comfortable with each other, that there is a lot of history there, so it's like we belong together but, yeah, there's the mystery about Walter, there's that whole world behind the curtains that shows up in underlying themes. You could take one of our characters and stick him into a different production, and it probably wouldn't work at all. It would have to really change.

Williams: With our show, there's a delicate balance, a balance of personalities and types and all, and if you put one of us in another production, any of us would be strong enough to make a performance that's nice, but he couldn't be what he is in this show. You'd have to discover something new. I think we saw that as a problem with Groucho late in his career. He started doing other roles, and it was fine when he was just being Groucho, just being that character doing You Bet Your Life, but when he would act in other movies, you could see that he hadn't ever really developed any other chops. That was it. He was Groucho, and if he tried to something else, it just seemed a pale imitation. I think it's a similar thing for us. You couldn't take what we're doing and try to transpose it. Jon needs Kevin, just as I need Jon, and I need Kevin, and Kevin needs me. There have been times when one of us couldn't make a gig and the other guys go on. And it's okay. It works, it's funny enough, but it lacks a certain something. Like Jon and I would think we're both quick, we're funny, that's all you need, really. But the show lacks something, that mystery of Walter or that quiet touch that takes it to this other level. Instead, it stays kind of monotone, and it's just not as interesting.

Beginning Routines

Williams: One of those things you get asked a lot is: Where do you come up with these things? To me, it's like you've always got your antennae out, you're always looking for it. For instance, the first year out, Kevin and I did fire-eating. Maybe a year or two before -- I was 16 at the time -- I saw a documentary on a traveling carnival up in Canada, and at one point the fire-eater decides to take off. So the owner of the carnival teaches a guy how to eat fire. It's like he got the guy from the popcorn stand and said, "C'mere, you're gonna be Wallondo, the great fire-eater!" And he sits him down and says, "All right, it's pretty easy. You do this and the fire goes out. Here's a kind of routine, these are some of the other gags you can do." Now, in my 16-year-old mind, I was going, "Okay, that's how you eat fire. All right, got it." So when Kevin and I said, let's put together a show, I thought, "Well, I've got some juggling skills. He's got some juggling skills. We can walk stilts. We need something else." And I thought, "I saw that guy teach that guy how to eat fire. That's how you do it."

Hunt: "I know how to eat fire!" [laughter]

Williams: I thought I should really find somebody else to show me hands-on, so I went to a couple of magic stores. And they'd look at me, going, "I'm not teaching you how to eat fire. Get out of the store, kid!" So I went home and I said, "Well, it's got to go something like the guy did it on the show." And I wrapped the cotton around the stick and soaked it in fuel and lit it on fire. Talk about a leap of faith to be sitting there with a big stick of fire, going, "It worked in the film. [laughter] I'm gonna put this in my mouth. It should go out." And it did. It worked, and I showed Kevin and we were fire-eaters. You see a little something and go, "That's an interesting physical thing to do," and you log it away and then at some point you re-access that. Like the straitjacket routine we do: One of us must have seen that bit where somebody falls back and you catch the person, so we brought that up, like wouldn't that be a funny thing to do, a volunteer bit, they have to trust us, complete strangers, and we catch them. And we all thought, "Yeah, that is kinda funny." But we never worked on it; it just got put aside. Then, at some point, we said, "Let's try a straitjacket escape." So we did, and somewhere along the line, one of us goes, "You know what? That bit that we talked about years ago where we catch the guy? Let's combine these two. Let's put the guy in here, and we'll catch him and that'll be the end of the straitjacket routine."

Hunt: When we first started that routine, it was just the three of us individually in straitjackets, and we would all escape individually. Then we moved to the volunteer idea, then we moved on to actually getting ourselves back to back to back, all three of us tied up, which seems to be the right formula. But straitjackets themselves have a very long history in vaudeville. There's a very well laid-out path of learning how to do that certain skill. And it's a lot different today. You can go to magic store and buy a straitjacket, and in the old days, they would just dig through the Dumpster at the insane asylum for one.

Advanced Routines

Hunt: When we started, a friend of ours mentioned something about human juggling to us, and that's as close as we've come to anybody suggesting a routine for us. For the most part, we found a skill and then were able to build a routine around that particular skill. We have two or three routines that are really old. The pin routine is probably the best old routine.

O'Connor: We've been doing it pretty much as long as we've been together.

Williams: It started with Jon and I doing just one or two six-pin tricks. Then Kevin said, "While you guys are doing that, I'll stand in the middle and mess with what you're doing." And he does that. And we go, "Let's go a little further with that. Okay, Kevin, you've done one or two things. Do a couple more, then throw, and then we'll go into a seven-pin thing." Sometimes routines develop because you're going off what's happened that's strong, but sometimes routines develop off of what didn't work but was still funny. You incorporate it and make that part of it. I don't remember how we started hitting Kevin's hair ...

Hunt: Jon just accidentally got too close to my head once.

O'Connor: It was no accident. [laughter]

Williams: So he brushes his hair a little bit, and we go, "Oh, that's interesting. All right, do it again. Oh, that's a really nice bit."

Hunt: I'd like to mention that I was against that from the beginning. I had to be convinced into standing there letting them get that close to my head. But I am a full supporter of it now.

Williams: So in tweaking it and playing with it and going with a mistake or a goofing-around moment, it just keeps building. It's like an onion; it's this thin layer on thin layer on thin layer, one little trick here, one little moment there. Part of what made that routine work early on was it was a skill thing. We've never been the types of jugglers that are very technical and very aggressive physically and doing just stellar, stellar, incredible stuff. But that was the one area where we said, "We can explore that. Let's do more pin-passing." It's really the only place in the show that we ever worked on the physical aspect to the degree that the physical is complicated right up there with the comedic. It's hand-in-hand with it.

O'Connor: The version of the pin routine that we're doing now and the version we started out with are completely different. Some of the structure is the same, but the tricks are different, all the lines are different. Since it's the big skill routine in the show, it evolves; we stick more tricks in, throw tricks out, change jokes.

Williams: And there are things about that that remind you of vaudeville, how these guys would come up with their shtick, their routine, and they would do it for 30 years; that's their career. Some routines, like the pin routine, the difficulty isn't so much the creation, the difficulty -- and this is what these vaudevillians must have found -- is keeping it fresh. Any performer has to do it to some degree -- if Barbra Streisand is going to keep singing "People," she's going to have to find whatever it is that first made that fun -- but with a show like ours, where that's our bread and butter, it's crucial to keep it funny, to keep going, "Well, I'm brushing Kevin's hair with a juggling club" and not look like "I've done this so many times, I'm just so bored with this." You have to say, "They find it funny. I have to keep finding it funny and approach it fresh every time." That's a skill as much as anything else in the show.

Basic Crowd Work

O'Connor: Working at festivals, you're surrounded by distractions. You got a guy playing bagpipes over there, some girl yelling about food over here, and you got these street characters walking around. You've constantly got things that can pull the crowd's focus. So you try to keep big. You try to get there quick. Brevity -- to this day, I believe that brevity is the soul of wit.

Williams: Did you want to write that down? You can quote Jon on that.

O'Connor: Actually, we've brought it down to: Brevity is wit. [laughter]

Hunt: There's no "waitin' for the moment" in that kind of show. It's purely get out there, you got your 30 minutes. If you go over 30 minutes, the act behind you is on your case. In that outdoor situation, it's like guerilla entertainment. You have to go out and give 'em your best stuff.

O'Connor: And even before that, you've got to go out and gather your audience. It's a whole other skill getting people to come see your show. You get maybe one or two sentences that you can say to them as they're walking by to show them, "I'm a funny guy." If they see you're funny, they'll go, "Hey, let's check this guy out." Whereas if you stand up there and go, "Juggling show, juggling show," they'll go, "I don't like jugglers."

Williams: There are certain things you can do to always stop a crowd. They call 'em fire whores. A juggler will light a torch and just stand there. And people will stop just because he's got a torch in his hand. And it's effective, but you look at it as a performer and not only is it overdone, it's just so uninteresting, really. I'd rather stop them by being funny and bring out the fire at some other point.

O'Connor: The way we used to start the pin routine, Rob and I would go out and run screaming past each other and around the entire audience and come all the way back to the stage, just screaming, waving the pins around, and then we'd come up and -- boom -- go into a real slow routine.

Williams: That's a funny thing. We started off going, "Okay, it'll be funny if we go 'Hiiii-yah!'" and then start." Then we go, "All right, that's funny. Let's take it a little further. We'll go 'Hiiii-yah!' and run in a circle and then start." And then -- and this didn't happen in an afternoon, this happened over a long while -- "Well, that was funny, let's take it a little further. Let's scream and run all around the audience -- boom -- and then we juggle." And that's what we were doing, though there were times when you'd be performing outside and it'd be 102, and running around that audience screaming, you'd get to the stage and your vision would come down to a pinprick, [laughter] and it was all you could do to juggle, juggle, juggle. But it was a working routine; it got the right reaction. Then, we see a tape of the Karamazov Brothers, and they come out and they're screaming, "Hiiii-yah!" and they juggle. And we're pulling our hair out, going, "I can't believe it!" I'd never seen them do that. I'd seen their show, but I'd never seen this trick. I know we didn't steal it. I know it developed very organically for us, and there's the exact routine. And we had to cut it. If they're doing it and they're so far ahead of us, there's no telling people, "We developed that routine independently of them." "Yeah, right, sure you did."

Intro to Plagiarism

O'Connor: We've gone out several times with routines or jokes that were really good, and then seen someone do it and realized that it was theirs to begin with, although we never saw it. Originality is very important to us. I don't like going to a juggling show that's basically a good juggling show and a couple of funny guys use a line like, "And whatever you do, don't bow," 'cause it calls into question every other joke in their show. So I don't want somebody coming to my show and seeing me do something and going, "Oh. The Karamazovs do that." Because now they're gonna question every other routine, every joke of ours.

Hunt: We've always been really good about keeping our material pure. We try not to borrow from others, as we hope they try not to borrow from us. [laughter]

Williams: In our youth, we made the mistake of using [someone else's material]. You just don't realize it until you have some of your peers come over and go, "That's not kosher. You can't do that." You can't use somebody else's joke, even if you have this whole routine that you've conceived and you use just one other person's line somewhere within that routine, it makes everything suffer. Suddenly it calls into question that whole routine, your whole show, you as a performer. Anybody who knows where that line came from, you've lost all their respect and support. In our youth, we needed to learn that lesson, but once we did, we learned it well.

Hunt: We actually learned that one fairly young. Our first or second year out, somebody set us straight on a few things and from then on, you could say we saw the light. Even then, the show we were doing was fairly original; we just borrowed things from other people. And it would have been better had we not known them as well.

Williams: It is hard very early on when you have fewer ideas and less knowledge of yourself to see [other performers] and be influenced in a creative way, not to just take it but to find yourself within it. You can't emulate their skills because you haven't got their skills, and you can't really emulate their personas because that's not your persona. If we'd come at it as great jugglers, we might have gone, "Oh, yeah, let's just do the American Dream Juggling Team's pin-passing routine and call it ours." Well, we just couldn't. We didn't have that skill, so we had to figure out, "What can we do, what trick do we know how to do?" and build on it that way. And since we don't really know who we are character-wise, we'll just be ourselves and we'll find the funny eventually. Because we started from scratch, we couldn't really steal too much.

O'Connor: We weren't that good jugglers. [laughter]

Hunt: We still might not be. We're not sure.

O'Connor: That's the nice thing about our pin routine: It's very much us. It's very much our skills, our strengths, that we use.


Hunt: Timing is probably the hardest part of doing a show. Juggling is something that's fairly complex, but for the most part anybody can learn to juggle. In comedy, everybody's funny at some point or another and can think of something funny to say, but putting the two together and knowing the timing is really the hard part. When we're thrashing out a routine, the timing is always the hardest thing to insert into it. You might know the jokes, you might have the skills, but learning when to say something involves probably the longest learning curve of any part of a routine.

Williams: It's the sort of thing that will never be quite perfected. It's like a racecar: There's always just that little fine-tuning of the timing. So often it's down to a matter of seconds. And you can't really even explain it. I couldn't tell you why if you pause one second longer there, it'll be funny. We come up with so many of our jokes onstage together that you do learn when your partner's coming to the end of a thought. You learn the way he thinks and talks so that as, say, you go off on some improv on something that happened, and he's commenting on it and commenting on it, the audience won't know when he's going to reach the end, but you can listen and go, "Well, that train's comin' into the station right about now," and jump in with the kicker to it. There are times when one of us will go off on a tangent and you're going and going and you have that feeling of, "I really don't know how to finish this." If you're a stand-up, you have to learn to finish it yourself, but in a group setting like this, there are times when you can just go and go, and you get to that end, and sure enough, one of your partners is there to finish the joke for you. Thank god they're there.

O'Connor: One really nice thing about working in a trio for so long is that we all know each other's timing very well, which helps your own timing. To be so familiar with your performers that there's this comfort, timing sort of naturally comes out. It's not a forced thing. A lot of times, you've got to relax and let the timing find you.

Williams: Sometimes the chemistry out there works because it's a balance of egos and a balance of power and a balance of abilities. And it's a delicate thing that fluctuates and sometimes gets out of balance and things do get stepped on. But to keep a group together for a long time is really difficult. That's why you see, say, Martin and Lewis blow out. Almost every comedy group is going to explode at some point, maybe even more so than bands. You find a lot more solo performers in comedy because it's hard to keep getting along for that long, to get to that point where you can think in each other's heads and finish each other's thoughts; it just tends to burn itself out too quickly. So we're lucky that without any sort of auditioning process, the three of us found each other at a young age. And I don't know if it worked out better because we were so young when we started, if it wouldn't have worked as well if we'd started at an older age or what, but it's just dumb luck that the three of us found each other and worked together this well.

Routines: A Case Study

Austin Chronicle: What was the genesis of the leaf blower routine?

Hunt: Sears. I remember when I was kid, at Sears they'd have fans and they'd put little beach balls above the fans and they'd float them. And I started thinking about it one day, thinking "Oh, that's kinda cool." We bought some beach balls and borrowed a fan that they had here and tried to levitate the ball and it just didn't work. And I was really disappointed. Luckily, I had also brought a leaf blower, so once I was disappointed by the fan, I started up the leaf blower, and it worked. It held the ball great. Then, we started working on the routine.

AC: How long did it take to develop it from the Sears fan idea?

Williams: About five weeks, coming almost every day to the rehearsal room. Tons and tons of doing it and looking at it and doing it and looking at it and doing it and looking at it, just playing with it and finding what all it could do.

Hunt: [Controlling the balls] is not difficult. You could probably do it right now without a whole lot of practice, but it's maneuvering and learning how far you can lean over before it drops out, being able to tell whenever it starts to make those movements that it's going to fall. And throwing them around -- whenever we do throw them, it's tough to get any kind of accuracy.

Williams: It was weeks of trying different things before we said, "All right, we can do all these different things, but what is the routine? It still needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. What is it?" We figured all sorts of things, like we could toss them to each other, but your success rate goes down a little when you do that. We said, "All right, it looks good. Let's just move in unison," and once we decided it was going to be an in-unison piece, it was just a matter of choreographing it. But we still didn't have the idea of the confetti packs yet.

Hunt: A week before the show opened, it was still an empty routine. We never had a good finale moment for it. Then I had the idea of shooting confetti through the blower. So I bought some confetti, red, white, blue, and black -- I guess black is for when you turn 50 -- then I made one of the backpacks and shot the confetti through it. It looked bad. But they had just finished Evita here and had this silver confetti, and we shot it through and it looked great. Once that silver confetti thing worked, we knew that was the ending.

Williams: That's the hardest thing. You can get all the way to that point and go, "It still doesn't end." I see that as one of the hardest things in comedy. You see it on Saturday Night Live almost every show. It's like, "Oh, funny idea, good characters," but it just ends. "It's over. We couldn't figure out an ending!"

AC: If it came together that late in rehearsals, how did you know where to put it in the show?

Hunt: Until we had the ending, it was all speculation. But once we had the ending, it had to go at the end of an act.

Williams: Because it creates such a mess.

Hunt: And we can't work in the mess that it makes. So once we had the ending, we knew it had to be the end of the first or the second act, and you know, you're not going to end your show with a brand-new piece, no matter how good it is.

Williams: Generally speaking, you put a new routine at the top somewhere so that if it isn't so good, the audience kinda forgets somewhere toward the end. Even if you're put something in the middle, you try to sandwich with a pretty good routine and then a really strong routine so that even if they are going, "This isn't really paying off," they're laughing hard in the next five minutes and all is forgiven or forgotten.

AC: There's a whole art and science to figuring out the order of a show.

Hunt: Oh god.

Williams: And our type of show, it's almost broken down like a musician with songs -- three-minute bit, seven-minute bit. If you get hired for a corporate show, it's 45 minutes. How do we grab 'em right off the bat, keep 'em going, but then pay it off? Some of the routines, we always will finish with those. But other things, it's like, "No, let's open with this one, 'cause they just had dinner, so we definitely want to wake them up right now."

AC: What has the audience reaction been?

Williams: It's funny, because you're so cut off from it. It's so loud, you've got earmuffs on, you've got goggles on, you can't look at them because you've got to stay focused on what's up in the air, there's this real disassociation with the audience.

Hunt: They always give a little bit of a "Wow!" And you can hear them applauding even through all the noise. Last week, we got a standing ovation.

O'Connor: Now that we've seen how it goes and the reaction it gets, it could finish the show.

AC: But you had to see that before you could be confident that it could work.

O'Connor: We have a sure closer right now that every time works.

AC: I think there's a Nobel Prize for physics waiting for you guys.

Hunt: I tell people, it's not juggling, it's physics.end story

The Flaming Idiots perform through Jan. 14, at the Zachary Scott Theatre Center Kleberg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside. Call 476-0541 for information.

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