Name: John Higby
Experience: 23 Years
Specialty: Performance Awesomeness, Unicycle Areobics, Harnessing Crowd Energy.
John Higby has been to more countries than the average person can name, holds both the 2008 Worlds Artistic Performance Title and a Guiness Book Record.
The best part is, it all started with what he could do with a yo-yo. I was able to coax him off of his Unicycle to talk for a bit.
DrYoYo: John, you are a Painter, Yo-Yoer, Performer, Comic, World Record Holder, Husband, and probably the most well traveled person in the yo-yoing world. What is it that keeps you going?
John: I just learned that the biggest object in motion in nature is the EARTH while we were filming TIME WARP on the Discovery Channel. That is how I feel about the yo-yo and art in general…it is always in a constant state of becoming and getting better all the time! Plus being married to a beautiful woman helps me stay motivated.
DrYoYo: What Inspires you to put down the Yo-Yo, get off the unicycle, take off the flight cap, and paint your creations?
John: Mostly bad weather, really. Any weekend it is 50 degrees and above and we don’t have a gig we will probably be street performing in Boston. I don’t do much art in the summer as we are just gone. I have to do art though; it is like a magnet for me.
DrYoYo: Your most well known character, “Mr. Yodel” is the subject of alot of your paintings. How did he come into creation?
John: I used to draw a comic strip for my high school paper called “Wendell The Guy.” He never really was a yo-yoing character. In high school I started performing and I started drawing cartoons of guy doing yo-yo tricks. I always thought Yodeling is a very comical sound plus it had the word YO in it, so that gave him a name. I met Don Duncan Jr. in Arizona and started buying the original Proyos from him to sell at schools I was performing in and they came to me CLEAR! I started painting them and making caps with Mr. Yodel on them in 1995. I still have the first one too!
DrYoYo: Your winning performance at Worlds (2008) in the AP division was a Potpourri of awesomeness. How did you come up with such a unique string of mini skits that flowed so well together?
John: Thanks a million! I somewhat forced myself to do it as we are always doing some gig in August. I have wanted to go to Worlds for a super long time. The hardest part of the routine was the time limit . Rebecca and I normally have an hour or more of material and our normal performance is 45 minutes long. The Subway theme and the escalator idea I learned from my mentor Won Israel of Seattle.
DrYoYo: He is the one dressed as a Pirate in your video’s right?
John: He also married Rebecca and I, but he has been doing physical comedy for 40 years and he critiqued me this summer when we were both performing at the International Street Performers Festival in Edmonton Canada. I thought it would be a good way to tie in different styles of yo-yoing that I have been doing in our show. That freestyle I did I only did once before for our neighbors the week before in our yard. My favorite part was getting every one at the end 2 handed looping and going down the escalator. Mostly though to get down there and compete was just an amazing and fun experience.
DrYoYo: Do you have any future plans regarding your own line of yo-yo’s, or are you sticking with current licensing agreements?
John: I don’t think I would make a yo-yo line, it is just not my ambition. It is like people asking me if I diabolo. Honestly, I just have zero interest.
DrYoYo: Your performances are very inspiring to yoyo’ers world wide. What advice do you have on the subject of Showmanship?
John: Watch as many shows as you can and DO as many as you can as well. And I mean LIVE!
Street theater is obviously the best way for a person to excel. It is VERY rough at first so you get really good fast if you stick with it. Unfortunately, and especially in the United States, street theater is somewhat of a pain with different laws depending on where you go, but it is the OLDEST form of entertainment in the world. I have friends that are stand up comics and they think street performing is harder so that says a lot to me. Standing and doing tricks with a hat out does not count. You have to interact with your audience. Sometimes our show is more about messing up that gets laughs so it is all in the delivery.
DrYoYo: What is your opinion in the rash of “Torso Camera” shots that plague yo-yo vidso’s these days?
John: Yeah, I just don’t watch most of those. How are you gonna get famous if people can’t see your head?
DrYoYo: What direction would you like to see the industry go?
John: 2 handed.
DrYoYo: What about the future of the AYYA?
John: VIDEOS are important and I would love for it to get a bit more punk rock.
DrYoYo: Can we expect any “mini-Higby’s” from You and Rebeca in the future?
DrYoYo: Can we expect Mr. Yodel to cross over to any other skill based toys in the future?
John: Nothing serious, I’m a hard core yo-yo only cartoonist, man. [Note: John had a killer Skateboard Deck up on ebay recently. You can see his other Auctions HERE]
DrYoYo: Who was your inspiration to get into yo-yoing and take the direction you have chosen?
John: My grandpa gave me a packaged Duncan from the 50s he had in his attic and he showed me how to do the basics in 1986. He was a singer when he was young and then he tuned pianos in Portland Oregon for 65 years and installed pipe organs around the USA. He was always so positive, so I am really in debt to him for getting me started. I feel the same way about yo-yo’s that I always have. They are a magical thing that you can manipulate through space and time. I do it all the time. I have many inspirations though from meeting Don Duncan Jr., Mighty Mo the Yo-Yo Pro, YoHans, Dale Myerberg, Bill DeBoisblanc all in 1996, to the kids now who have such mad skillz. Art in general inspires me and it is everywhere if you look closely
DrYoYo: You have traveled all over the world. Does it amaze you that a comedy/skill routine focusing on toys is what keeps you on the road?
John: It does amaze me yes but it sure FEELS right.
You can see John and his wife as street performers in Boston, or on the web by visiting yoyopeople.com. You can also purchse Johns artistic creations on EBAY.