After practically twisting himself into the proverbial pretzel to perform “contortionist push-ups,” juggling a running chain saw and cracking up the crowd with his cheeky jokes, Al Millar's grand finale involved perching on a 12-foot pole and keeping three long knives and himself in the air while his specially made “Triple-Trouble, Double-Ended Ice Axe Blender Blade” twirled over his head like a perilous propeller.
“If you like the show, tell your friends. If you did not like the show, keep it to yourself. No one likes a whiner,” Millar joked before he put the handle of the homemade blade in his mouth and sent it spinning.
Apparently, this is what going to work looks like when you're an internationally known contortionist/comedian with the stage name ALAKAZAM and the job description “The Human Knot.” And, really, it must be seen to be believed.
The native Australian is this year's official street performer for the Festival of the Arts, which means three times a day during downtown Oklahoma City's annual “rite of spring,” he does his feats of flexibility and daring in the clearing between Stage Center and the food and artists tents.
The festival's street performer tradition goes back to at least the 1970s, said Emily Trotter, communications manager for festival organizers at the Arts Council of Oklahoma City.
“It's the biggest crowd I've ever seen for a street performer here. It's very entertaining,” Trotter said Thursday as people gathered on bleachers, curbs and grassy spots to watch “The Human Knot” tangle and untangle himself. “He's not just juggling bowling pins here, folks.”
Millar wiggled his entire 6-foot, 155-pound physique through the frame of an unstrung squash racket.
“No way!” squealed students from Mustang Creek Elementary School as they watched Millar squish and squirm his torso and limbs to maneuver the small round of plastic from his head to his feet, all while spouting self-deprecating, occasionally bawdy one-liners.
“I just like to try all kinds of stupid stuff. ... This is not for everyone,” Millar said after the show as he explained how he started with his racket trick. “There's lots of things I've tried that didn't work.”