Life As A Master Balloon Artist (Is Full Of Fetishists)
Fame, fortune, sex -- everybody dreams of living the glamorous life of a balloon artist. But is it really all it's cracked up to be? Surely the dizzying highs come with crashing lows. There must be some downside to pursuing a fast-paced life in the inflatable arts. But what? What could that downside possibly be?! To find out, we spoke to Joshua Steinhouse, The Geek Balloonist. He told us ...
The Job Actually Pays Surprisingly Well And Comes With Cool Fringe Benefits
If you walked up to a celebrity and said that you wanted to give them air in a stretchy bag, they'd be signaling security before you could so much as inhale. But because Josh had the forethought to shape his balloons into cool shapes, he was able to hang out with folks responsible for your favorite movies and TV shows.
And also Brandon Routh that one time.
"I've met some of the most famous pop culture icons of TV and film," Josh says, "including Henry Winkler, the cast of Doctor Who, William Shatner, and (a personal favorite) the voice cast of the original Ninja Turtles cartoon ... This one time, after I worked a two-day convention making balloons for all the guests and celebrities, I got to drive Billy West [half the cast of Futurama] back to his hotel, and we stopped for cannoli, and ended up talking for over an hour about his entire career."
Futurama got cancelled and renewed three times during their conversation.
Josh was also invited to the official screening of The Avengers, and was even featured on the third season of AMC's Comic Book Men with Kevin Smith. With a resume like that, Josh can now ask thousands of dollars to perform at ComicCon and other conventions ... and not get laughed out of the room.
Better construction than any of the movie's scripts.
"Long ago, I worked as a corporate trainer where I would teach people about computers and software. None of those paychecks come close to balloon money ... I charge a flat, $5 fee per character, but I can make 20 to 25 balloons in an hour, which is 100 bucks. Multiply that by eight hours at a convention, plus my fee for appearing at the show, and that's my entire rent covered in 24 hours. It's a pretty sweet deal."
And to answer your next obvious question:
Yes, Of Course People Ask For Erotic Balloon Art
Of course people want to fuck balloon sculptures, but it's such a delicate subject. How do they ask?
"Some advice for the dads: there is a time and a place to ask me to make you a penis or a 'sexy' balloon doll," Josh says. "That time is never, by the way. When you're at a kid's party, don't put the balloon artist in the uncomfortable position of having to make a balloon penis in front of a bunch of impressionable 5-year-olds. And yes, it's always the dads that ask for a balloon dick or a busty Dolly Parton."
Please notice, though, that Josh never said he refused to make any of those things. Now please notice this busty Dolly Parton balloon doll.
We'll give you five minutes to finish noticing.
"I didn't have to make an obscene balloon at a kid's party, but the adults are the ones who pay me, not the kids. And not only did that Dolly Parton earn me a $25 dollar tip, but I got three calls from other birthday moms at that party looking to hire me. So you can see why entertaining adults, even at kid events, is vital to the business."
In fact, Josh often performs at adult-only parties. During one of them, held at a strip club, he made this for one of the guests:
She's only doing this to pay for balloon law school.
Seriously though, sexy balloons aren't always a joke ...
Some People Really Do Want To Bang Balloons
"I was dating this girl for a while," Josh told us, "and after we got to the 'sexy times' stage of things, she asked me one day if I'd ever used the balloons for more than just twisting characters for kids. I asked why she wanted to know. 'Well, I don't have a balloon fetish or anything, but, I mean ... they're pretty phallic ... what would happen if we ... used one?' I hadn't really thought about it but I worried about it popping inside of her ... area, so we decided against it and moved on."
A few weeks later, though, Josh's girlfriend brought the topic up again and Josh actually considered it as long as, he said, "I didn't tie the balloon (so that I could control the airflow) and she was properly excited ... In the end, we didn't go through with it, but there has always been a little part of me that wonders 'what if?,' which clashes with the 'these are for kids, you pervert' side of me."
However, if Josh ever does decide to try it, he can just pick up some of the balloon fetishists he comes across in his job, who are as real and weird as the face you're making right now. They're called "looners."
You don't want to see what happens with condoms.
"Because I spend my days knee-deep in latex, I often come across the occasional looner. After my first foray into the adult entertainment world, I started taking more gigs at clubs, bars, bachelorette parties, and other places that involve copious amounts of alcohol and/or loose morals. This has led to some interesting confessions from people, like this one bridesmaid drunkenly telling me, in detail, that she used to date a clown and developed a balloon fetish. Apparently he would practice twisting in the evening before they went to bed to have sex." Which then turned into a weird correlation in her brain between balloons and sex that would make Pavlov burn his life's work out of shame.
You Have To Be A Walking Pop Culture Encyclopedia
Geeks know just about everything about their favorite fictional characters, and therefore, so must Josh. One day he might forget his name and family, but he'll always remember Nathan Fillion's costume from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, or the color of Paulo Costanzo's shirt on Royal Pains.
Or is that Mark Feuerstein. We can't tell the difference.
Josh obsesses about these tiny details because if he doesn't, the fans sure will.
"I've had children break down over the fact that their Minion balloon has one eye and not two, or that their 'Steve from Minecraft' balloon is slightly circular instead of square, because IT'S A FUCKING BALLOON. What's even better, though, is when an adult (usually a dad, sorry guys) asks for a really specific character from their childhood (Darkwing Duck, anyone?) and when you've finished twisting your heart and soul into it, they respond with 'well, you tried, anyway.' Hey. Hey you. Fuck you."
Would you like a Scrooge McFuckoff instead?
"I have a catalog of hundreds of characters in my head. Even then, the 'menu' I bring with me to events is updated about every three months or so, because Disney, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks etc. put out new characters more often than you change your underwear. Usually I'm rushing to the theatre every six weeks to make sure I can see the movie first to get the character design down."
And then writing it off as a business expense, which is pretty cool. Substantially cooler than the other thing the job comes with, which is the assumption that you're a child molester.
People Tend To Assume You're A Pedophile
Magicians, face painters, and clowns frequently perform at children's birthday parties. Now imagine that one of those entertainers showed up to perform in jeans and a T-shirt. You can't explain it, but you've just felt a slight chill go down your spine. For whatever reason, the costume makes it more okay. Clowns being the exception. Clowns are always the exception.
"I perform in a simple T-shirt that I printed with my logo on it," Josh explains. "That might be why I'm constantly having to assure people that I am not the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Although he could probably make him out of balloons.
It still wouldn't be the strangest balloon art he's ever done.
"The amount of extra hassle it takes to convince people I'm not a modern-day pied piper is pretty exhausting at times. I've had moms ask for a criminal background check, dads ask if I'm properly insured, and one time, at a public park event, I was asked to leave because in trying to gather the kids to form a line, I started (very gently) moving them into some sort of order and a parent thought I was touching her kid inappropriately. I personally don't think I was (I had one hand on the kid's back and was edging them into the line), but that was all it took for me to get punted. Meanwhile, I've seen my female counterparts flat-out pick kids up as part of their act, and no one blinks an eye."
Parents are usually more OK with women hanging around their children, even in gender-neutral jobs like children's entertainment. It's one of the reasons Josh doesn't do birthday parties anymore, unless it's for Adam West.
Adam West is also an exception.
If you want Josh to screw you or your wallet with his balloon art, you can check his work out at thegeekballoonist.com, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him at a comic-con near you. Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at email@example.com.
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