Eric Haines can juggle just about anything. He walks on stilts, sings opera, dances, plays a variety of musical instruments, and cracks sarcastic humor — sometimes all at the same time.
“I am self-taught on most of the things in my show, like banjo, guitar, songwriting, juggling, comedy writing and prop building,” Haines told the Herald. “I did take voice lessons from an opera teacher for several years, but sadly the field of opera does not allow banjo playing.”
He’ll bring his mix of talents to Jokers on Nov. 28-29 starting at 8 p.m. Cover is $10 for the show only or $22.95 for dinner and the show. Service charges apply.
Haines’ sense of humor was cultivated as a child growing up in Montana listening to the Dr. Demento radio program, reading Mad magazine and watching comedy acts by modern-day comedians as well as vaudeville acts in old movies. One of his favorite old-time comics was silent film star Buster Keaton. He’s also a fan of Spike Jones and City Slickers.
As the son of a tax attorney father and Mary Kay Cosmetics consultant mother, his chosen profession wasn’t exactly embraced by his parents.
“Telling my family I was going to be an entertainer was like telling them I was getting surgery to have two extra arms installed,” he joked. “My dad would have preferred I did something with more dignity, like accounting or selling Amway.”
His dad finally gave up trying when Haines asked for a ride to a neighboring town so he could join a circus, which he actually did.
“I grew up wishing my family was expressive, like Italians or Black Baptist gospel choirs are,” Haines said. “Instead, we ate lefse (Norwegian flat bread) and stared at each other uncomfortably.”
Tri-Citians might remember Haines when he performed at the Benton-Franklin Fair & Rodeo in August. He strolled along the thoroughfares playing his banjo and harmonica with horns, drums and cymbals strapped to his body entertaining fairgoers with his humor and musical talents.
His quick wit is as lively as the music he plays. He’ll kick off his Jokers gig with a little music from his one-band band and jokes blended with unexpected talents creeping into the act just to keep it interesting.
Haines writes his own comedy material and builds his own props, including his one-man band getup. He says his nightclub act might not be for everyone.
“I doubt the Church Lady (from Saturday Night Live fame) would approve of everything in the show, but even my nightclub show is generally considered network TV clean,” he said.
He has worked in nightclubs that were memorable and not so memorable, both of which had interesting outcomes.
“Someone once threw me a frozen walleye fish to juggle while I was on a six-foot unicycle in Minnesota,” he said. “I once caught on fire back when fire eating and fire blowing was part of the show. I did a show 20 years ago where I couldn’t see the crowd through the wall of cigarette smoke, and once in Canada I found out after the show that half the audience (were there as part of) a meeting for deaf people.”