Friday, February 18, 2011

Smell good, but not too much.

When you're working up close at tables or cocktail receptions, it's always professional (as well as a good personal habit) to smell good. This includes both your breath and your body. To combat halitosis I developed a habit, when I was working on a weekly basis in several restaurants, to place a small handful of strong mints in a pocket. As the evening wore on I would pop a mint every so often and over the course of the night I maintained nice breath. It's now a habit that I continue for stand up and stage presentations because I am still interacting with clients and audience members before and after the show. The brand I currently buy is sugar-free Altoid Smalls. The one habit you don't want to develop is chewing gum to obtain fresh breath. If you chew gum when interacting with your client, my personal feeling is that you give off a unprofessional and an overall negative casual attitude toward your relationship with them. For obvious reasons this applies to chewing gum while performing as well.

Body odour from perspiration is another factor to contend with as a performer. Most of us sweat and some of us, at the very least, glisten from time to time. I have experienced two extremes as an audience member at more than one magic performance. There is the performer who overcompensates his fear of creating a stench by lathering himself up with enough cologne to kill a herd of rhinos at 20 paces. This is not a good alternative for body odour as many people deal with extreme allergies to perfumes, aftershave and cologne. I do not have allergies to perfumes but I do cringe and try to escape the overwhelming intoxication of someone who has overdone it.

At the other end of the spectrum there is the performer who is oblivious to his odour and perspires himself into a rank puddle on stage. Even from a distance this guy smells like a gym locker room full of aging wrestlers.

The main idea is not to be the guy who smells like he fell into a vat of Aqua Velva, or on the other hand smell like King Kong's crotch either.

Somewhere in between is the happy medium that your audiences will tolerate and appreciate.


  1. All true.

    Did you know, the word halitosis was made up by Listerine to sound like a medical condition. There's no such thing, it's just plain ole common-or-garden stinky breath.

    I'm a sweaty man. I still use an old promo video where I am distinctly wet (although it's got me a lot of work so it stays until the replacement gets done). I'm OK smellwise(I have an honest girlfriend who would be qualmless in letting me know if I wasn't) due to cleanliness, packing changes of clothes and a sensible amount of product.

    However, I still glisten. I do a joke about it during the show. Is this a good idea? My thinking was to let people know I know and release tension if they're thinkking it anyhow but maybe I'm just drawing attention to it.

  2. George, I had heard that halitosis was an 'created' term but I didn't know the background, that's great!

    Interesting question regarding whether you should joke about your sweating during the show. Obviously it's apparent to the audience that you are perspiring, and yes I feel that openly acknowledging your situation may release tension (not sure where all the anti-sweating tension stems from?) but...I don't think it's necessary. I have been to numerous one-man shows, jazz concerts, rock concerts, musicals, and even the odd magic show. When a pro is performing and they sweat, I don't think, "Man does this guy know that he's sweating? He should let us know that HE knows he's sweating." Sounds ridiculous I know, but you can see where this is going. Robin Williams is probably the sweatiest big name performer I have seen live. This guy leaves the front row dripping with his own perspiration. He doesn't apologize for it, doesn't mention it. He just has a towel (or two) on stage that he uses once in a while.

    Not sure if that helps, or changes your position. You're a funny guy, so calling attention to it probably works for you, so there's probably no need in changing that.


  3. Hi Bill,
    Just spotted your response to my response and am responding...

    Thanks for your reply. Interesting to hear another viewpoint on it.

    I see your Robin Williams and raise you a Lee Evans.

    He's one of the biggest comedy names in the UK and sweats buckets. It is said dry cleaners refuse to clean his suit after one performance. If you google "Lee evans sweat" you can see how much it bothers/interests folks. He does mention it and even introduced one of his shows with a film clip of his changing room filling up with his sweat and him swimming out of the door before coming onstage.

    I thought this was yucky! But he did acknowledge it. Still unsure but maybe it matters less than I think.

    Enjoy your UK tour. I'll see if I can get down to the Dublin one on the 8th.

    All the best,