Jacob the Great

Before I had kids, I always wondered what the appeal of performance art was for some people. And by some people I clearly mean the seven people who like to hang out at MoMA and guys with beards who live in Berkeley or wherever. And then I had kids. And now I really don’t get it.

I mean, if you want to spend your free time watching a guy dump seventeen jars of pickles over his head before sitting down cross-legged atop a papier-mâché earth splashed with red paint and eating with his hand from a jar of peanut butter, my kids (or pretty much any other kids I’ve ever met) can easily whip up something similarly confusing and boring anytime you want. And at least with the kids there will be some level of cuteness to make it close to bearable. At least for five minutes or so before the luster wears off and you start checking your phone.

So go ahead and get to procreating. Then, after you nurture your child for three or four years, you’ll have all your performance art viewing needs met on demand, right under your own roof. And you won’t even have to pay! Except, of course, for all the money you’ll have to spend on food and clothes and everything else for the rest of your life. But still, free performance art!

Of course, I realize that some of you might not be able to have children for various reasons. In that case though, I have the perfect solution: Find a kid somewhere to borrow for a few hours. You can even borrow mine if you’re not too weird. Once you read about the piece my four year old, Jacob (or Jacob the Great), put together recently, I expect all the childless among you will be beating a path to my door. Because, when you think about it, borrowing a child is actually the ideal situation. None of the childrearing overhead costs, but all of the free performance art.

The Magic Show

This piece started with a single magician and minimal props: a bar stool and a banana. As is the case with all great magicians, the show is in the sleight of hand, not the pomp and circumstance. Jacob the Great set the slightly oxidized and browning banana down on the stool. The petals of the banana peel were splayed in all directions exposing the half-eaten banana inside.

Jacob brought a small microphone (i.e., a toy Paw Patrol water cannon) to his mouth.

“Everybody! Everybody! It is time to watch the show!”

He then turned his attention to the banana, but after a quick look, returned to the mic.

“I am not ready to start the show right now,” he said, still in full announcer voice. “Daddy. I need help with this.” He gestured toward the disheveled banana.

I rearranged the peel as directed and returned to my seat.

“I will now make this banana come out of its peel. Abracadabra!”

With a flick of his left hand he said the magic word while carefully moving the petals of the banana peel aside with his right hand. Then he grabbed the banana from inside and held it up triumphantly.


His two-year-old brother, Bennett, perched on another bar stool nearby responded with great appreciation. “Yayyyyy,” he exclaimed in a persuasive monotone while clapping his hands excitedly.

The audience had little time to recover as Jacob quickly moved on to the disappearing objects portion of the show. Soon, a series of items--a Spider Man car, a ball, a stuffed animal--were placed one-by-one on the stool and magically batted aside with great gusto.

“Disappear!” Jacob shouted as he slapped each item across the room with his hand. I had to be on my toes because I was directly in the line of fire.

Next, Jacob placed a peek-a-boo teddy bear on the stool and announced into the mic, “Everybody! Everybody! I will now make this bear’s arms move.” Interestingly enough, and I hope I’m not giving too much away here, he chose to move the bear’s arms up and down with his hand instead of pressing its foot, which typically makes the bear’s arms move to hide its face with a blanket in the manner of peek-a-boo. That’s kind of the point of the toy. The audience gasped because, needless to say, none of us saw this twist coming.

Then came the ball portion of the show. Really, it was what we’d all been waiting for. Jacob led us through a series of carefully choreographed tricks such as bouncing a ball off of the stool, bouncing a ball on the floor, and tossing a ball into the air. Don’t be jealous, but I caught the ball that bounced off the stool. I was pretty pumped because I never get chosen for audience participation. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to catch the ball.

However, despite my egregious disruption, Jacob asked me to take over the mic and announce the rest of the show. After he completed each ball trick, it was my job to get the crowd going.

“Yo-Yo-Yo! Give it up for Jacob the Great, y’all!!” As it turns out, my announcer persona is, for some reason that remains unclear, a mixture of ‘90s hip-hop DJ and sharecropper.

Unfortunately, Jacob reprimanded me for not projecting loudly enough, which is pretty typical. My voice is even too soft to announce a living room magic and variety show. Whatever.

The final portion of the show was an extended musical sequence. Because, of course it was. The grand finale was a song about poop. Because, of course it was. In case you were wondering (and I know you were), the song was called I Love Poop and it slayed. At least with Bennett and Jacob. Because, of course it did.

With that, Jacob took back the mic and announced, “The show is over! Clap!”

We all clapped. And only thirty-seven minutes after we started, our long family nightmare was over.

Please email me to book Jacob the Great for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, and hipster gatherings of all kinds. There’s no charge. The only requirement is that you take him out of our house and sign a poop-related waiver.

If I don’t get back to you right away, don’t worry. I’m probably busy eating peanut butter out of a jar, but with a spoon, of course. I’m not an animal. Nor am I a performance artist. We already have enough of those around here.