I love a good sideshow or freakshow act. One of my favorite parts of any multi-haunt Halloween attraction is the main stage where these entertainers are brought up to make the attendees go wild. I’ve seen Lady Diabla swallow swords and Insectavora climb up a ladder of swords. I’ve seen contortionists, fire dancers, and performers who have bloodied themselves thanks to lying audience volunteers. It’s like watching a living horror film. Nothing can really go wrong, but it sure does look that way even during the most practiced stunts.
America’s Got Talent has a checkered history with freakshow/sideshow acts. Sharon Osbourne is almost always a guaranteed no when people start hanging tea kettles off their piercings and eating glass onstage. That’s ok. It’s not her thing.
But the audiences always goes nuts for these performers. They’re screaming in terror one minute, laughing the next, then routinely chanting “Vegas” if the act ends on a high note. At the same time, a sizable portion of the audience is turning away, booing, and crossing their arms to “x” the contestants out.
Is the art of the freakshow/sideshow act too disturbing to gain mainstream acceptance? I remember saying something to that effect last year when the glossiest sideshow act yet, Captain & Maybelle, performed live. They were put through to the Quarterfinals as Judges’ Favorites and then were eliminated without fanfare. The act was funny and cute, but still involved abuse of piercings and assumed pain. My exact quote was “Can they survive the producers undoubtedly toning down their sideshow act to appeal to a wider audience? I’m not holding my breath.” I was right.
A good freakshow/sideshow act on a show like America’s Got Talent is a tricky situation. I can’t imagine many people drawn to these performers would regularly tune in to watch a show like this. I can’t imagine the people who vote a safe solo male singer as the winner year in and year out on a variety show are dying to see human blockheads and suspension artists live.
The freakshow performers belong on the show because they’re talented. I just struggle to imagine a scenario where they’ll garner enough votes to win the crown. If the right team does a high stakes act that you can’t ignore and builds to the finale, it could happen. Otherwise, we’ll have to settle for terrible editing with constant crosscuts to the judges/audience/Nick instead of letting us see the hook meet the piercing.
Thoughts? Any favorite freakshow or sideshow memories? Should these performers even bother with AGT anymore? Let me know what you think.