There was a story in the news last year about an Easter Bunny getting into a brawl with some guy in a New Jersey mall. Naturally, there was footage, and it was pretty funny. The kind of funny when you know you should not be laughing, because… do I need to say it? There are kids standing around horrified.
That’s the part that makes it funny, actually. A performer losing his cool and getting violent is not humorous. In any way. It’s only the fact that the guy was dressed as the Easter Bunny and was destroying the fantasies of innocent children in a shocking display of masculine behavior that makes you want to laugh. I know, horrible, right? Yet you laugh.
The guy was wrong. The guy playing the Easter Bunny, I mean. I feel for him, but he was wrong. Spectacularly wrong. Chances are the other guy was wrong too, but that’s part of the deal. When you perform at kid’s parties, you have to get used to horrible behavior. Not from kids. From their parents.
It is inevitable that you will come across some entitled guy who thinks that you are not treating his precious angel fairly, or are showing preference to someone else’s precious angel, and so he will feel slighted. Then he will get in your face and start embarrassing himself in front of the kids. It happens all the time, and you have to stay calm and do whatever you can to diffuse the situation, hyper aware that the kiddies are not seeing you. They are seeing Micky Mouse. Or Winnie the Pooh. Or the red Teletubbie.
So you have to let the guy be the jerk. Everyone will see it. You be the hero.
I’ve never played the Easter Bunny. Kind of remarkable, since when you start out as a party entertainer, you usually do the costume characters before moving on to clowns or magicians or putting together an act of your own. The Easter Bunny, naturally, is in big demand this time of year.
Well, I almost played him, once. The call came from an agent I’d just started working with. I’d played Woody, the cowboy from Toy Story, at my first gig for them. It went well, and they called with a second job. As the Easter Bunny. For Meryl Streep.
She used to throw an Easter party every year for her extended family, and my second job offer from this new agent was to be the Easter Bunny at that party. What a great story that would have made. “Yes, I remember the time I played Peter Cottontail for Meryl…”
Unfortunately, I had just ten minutes earlier booked another big job. The NY Knick’s had made the playoffs, and I was going to be a living statue at Madison Square Garden. I knew nothing about basketball, and cared even less, but it was a high visibility gig, and I was excited that it might lead to others.
That excitement lasted exactly ten minutes, when I had to turn down a job for Meryl Streep. Crushing. The agent understood, and wouldn’t have wanted me to cancel a prior commitment. That would not have made a good impression. What kind of performer was I? If so willing to drop one gig for a better gig, then how soon would it be before I did the same to them?
So I never played the white rabbit, but I have plenty of other stories that might have ended on the six o’clock news, had I not been able to keep my cool. Or that might have ended with kids screaming and running from the room in tears.
Actually, that has happened. The screaming part, not the news part. Although, I was not the reason the kiddies were in tears.
I used to love playing Steve from Blue’s Clues. I looked enough like him to pull off the impersonation, and I had all of his songs recorded in my key, at my tempo. Sometimes I would be booked along with another performer, who would play Blue.
On this particular day, they hired a very tall man with a deep voice. He had never seen the show. He did not know that Blue is a girl dog. An extremely cute girl dog. With a distinctive way of speaking.
“Bowp bo baaaawrrrrr!”
Blue was adorable. So was Steve. The whole show was sweet and positive and filled with delightful songs and dances and puzzles to solve and into the room barged this seven foot tall man howling like a wolf in a deep, scary, gravelly voice.
The shrieking was enough to shatter glass. Kids went running in all directions. The poor birthday girl was hiding under the table and would not come out. She was hysterical. Floods of tears streaming down her face. Yuppy mommy and yuppy daddy spent ten minutes crouched under the table trying to coax her out.
Luckily, it was not my first time playing Steve. I was confident in the character. First, I told the other performer not to speak any more. It was clear he didn’t know the material, and would ruin my act if he didn’t follow my instructions, to the letter. Then I carried on, as if nothing was wrong.
I knew that if I simply continued with the show, the kids would be interested, and they would come back into the room to play Blue’s Clues with me. Including the birthday girl. I was right. That is exactly what happened.
As for the Jersey mall bunny, I’m guessing he was fired. Probably for the best. Not everyone has the temperament for this job.