Let me entertain you

It was a 4th birthday party double-header for us this weekend. Yesterday’s party was at the soft play place that we had the girls’ party at (and a million others before and since). Todays’ was a church hall with an entertainer affair.

It takes a certain type of person to be a children’s entertainer. They broadly fall into two categories:

  1. Young, male, tall, skinny, probably doing children’s parties as part of a large organisation to  support themselves through drama school and to earn a bit of beer money at weekends.
  2. Older, male, rotund, trained at RADA, lots of stage work on the CV, along with bit parts in TV dramas and some adverts.

The younger entertainers are, without fail, enthusiastic and clearly enjoy their role, even if it isn’t quite what they might have had planned. Some even stay in the profession, setting themselves up as independent children’s entertainers.

Eventually, there is a tipping point at which the young, snake-hipped entertainer becomes a grumpy old ham. Today’s entertainer definitely fell into the latter category. I’m not going to name names here. I adore the child and family that hired the entertainer. I’m just going to list a few highlights from the afternoon.

We were in a small-ish church hall. The entertainer insisted on having a microphone throughout his performance despite his voice being more than loud, which made said microphone redundant. This meant that the parents on the periphery that wanted to chat had to wait for the quieter moments in the act (there weren’t many) to have a conversation. There was also an awful lot of feedback, which made him quite unpleasant to listen to.

Entertainers generally make an effort to learn at least some of the children’s names (some, impressively, learn all) and he did (to start with at least) but he gave children nicknames based on their actual name. For example (this is fictional but you’ll get the idea), Milly became Milly-Willy. Generally best not to mention willies at children’s parties.

He did a lot of falling over and not much else. 4 year olds find pratfalls hilarious, but they lose interest after the seventy-third ‘pretend fall towards the audience, rescued at the last possible second’ moment. The magic tricks he did were rubbish.  Not ‘looks a bit shit but is actually pretty clever’, actual ‘that’s really shit and no-one, not even the six month old gurgling in the corner was impressed by that’. He made jokes but most of them sailed over the children’s heads and made the adults groan…and not in a good way.

There were 25 children in attendance and in his infinite wisdom, he decided to initiate a game where the children sat in a circle and he chose the birthday child to be chased around the ring by another child. Predictably, this ended when one of the children slipped over and banged her head. The weather was lovely and there was a nice patch of grass outside – why not play the game out there?

I’m just whingeing now. Towards the end of the party, the entertainer finished his act (just realised that no-one clapped him and everyone is normally appreciative of the entertainer) and started handing out flyers to the parents. This is a fairly normal event and the flyer is usually an advert for the entertainer with the contact details and testimonies, should we wish to book them for our own children’s parties.

I’ll give you a few edited highlights from this entertainer’s flyer:

“At present X is appearing in [soap] as a door-to-door salesman….recent work on TELEVISION (caps his not mine) for [hospital based drama series]…..guest starred in [various 80s children’s TV programmes]….toured with the RSC….played character in pantomime….trained at [proper drama schools and theatre companies]….”

So far, so predictable. Then it gets really surreal: “Numerous adverts for ITV including dodgy Video Market Trader in anti-pirate video for 7 years….X has been an actor for 21 years and has worked with Colin Firth, Daniel “007” (quotation marks his) Craig and Clive Mantle at the BBC.”

I’m amazed he didn’t hand us all a showreel DVD. Of course, Dh and I looked him up when we got home. He’s even got his own YouTube channel. I may know very little about his abilities as a children’s entertainer (except to say that he wasn’t great) but I could compile a pretty detailed Wikipedia page for him, should I wish to. (I don’t).

I think R summed it up best. After the entertainer had gone, she turned to Dh and asked “Where did that woman go?”. Dh ascertained that she was referring to the entertainer and, stifling giggles, explained that it was definitely a man.

She didn’t look convinced.

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