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BWW Interview: Brett Loudermilk's Swallowing For Halloween

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Sword-swallower extraordinaire Brett Loudermilk will be presenting THE BRETT LOUDERMILK HALLOWEEN SPECIAL Zoomed live online October 29 & 30, 2020

BWW Interview: Brett Loudermilk's Swallowing For Halloween

This year's semi-finalist on America's Got Talent, sword-swallower extraordinaire Brett Loudermilk will be presenting THE BRETT LOUDERMILK HALLOWEEN SPECIAL Zoomed live online October 29 & 30, 2020. Special guests for this self-described 'Cirque du Soleil meets PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE' include Gilbert Gottfried (and other surprise celebrity trick-or-treaters).

Brett managed to take some time away from his ever-sharpening of wits and festive Halloween planning to answer some of my queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Brett!

So, how have you been keeping safe and sane in these crazy stay-at-home times?

The first couple months were as crazy as everyone else was experiencing. Wiping down all my delivered groceries and trying to figure out exactly when I'd have to resort to using the cat as toilet paper.

After the first few months, I was thrown straight into America's Got Talent land, so it was super surreal.

When did the idea for THE BRETT LOUDERMILK HALLOWEEN SPECIAL first pop into your brain?

After my AGT journey, was thinking of ways to keep that momentum going, I thrive on a real live audience, of course... but I thought the next best thing could only be a Zoom show. But, one that was unique... not your normal "living room"-style show. I wanted a production.

What cosmic forces brought Gilbert Gottfried to you to guest as Dracula?

Have you ever, ever seen Gilbert's reflection? Neither have I. How old is Gilbert? No one knows. Gilbert is Dracula. It's not a well known fact, but it's true. And as far as how I booked such an incredible guest? I just asked.

Can you tell us what other guest stars you possibly might be having show up? Or do you want to keep us all in suspense?

Here's the thing, I LOVE a good secret. I come from a magic background, so my stock and trade are secrets. However, I will tell you Puddles Pity Party is going to stop by,

BUT THAT'S ALL I WILL REVEAL!

I will say though, it's a live show and ANYTHING could happen.

(After this interview, a friendly apparition told me Elvira, Mistress of the Dark will also be making an appearance.)

I saw your America's Got Talent audition segment with you trying to direct Sofía Vergara in assisting you. Soooo funny! I was so impressed with your confidence and take charge attitude. I think most contestants would be been much more intimidated, or at least nervous, trying to wrangle Sofía. Would you credit your early experience as a street performer in New York City as where you sharpened your audience interaction skills?

A thousand-trillion percent!!! A large part of my success on stage has come from performing for people that didn't ever plan on seeing me. I've had to learn how to deal with every situation you could come up with. With Sofía, everything went wrong and it couldn't have been better for the act!

What were your first street acts? Swords? Eating fire? Cards? Walking barefoot on broken glass?

By the time I was on the streets working, I already had my core set of skills and I incorporated everything to various degrees. But I would always start my show with fire-breathing and throwing temper tantrums when people wouldn't stop and watch. It was the tantrums that really drew in the crowd.

Do you still eat fire or walk barefoot on broken glass?

Whenever I need money.

I believe you've been quoted as saying that there were only about 30 sword-swallowers in the world when you started in 2004. How many now in 2020?

Something like that! When I started, I was the youngest sword-swallower in the world. I couldn't tell you an exact number now, but there was a bit of a sword-swallowing 'boom' a few years back. It got really popular. I'd estimate in the entire world, there are probably around 200 of them. But I'm the only one with their own Halloween special.

What was your folks' reactions to you announcing your intentions of becoming, what at first, a magician? A sword-swallower? An actor?

I was always dressing up in costumes, putting on plays and making up outlandish stories. They weren't shocked a bit. Worried, but it certainly didn't catch them off guard.

How many sword-swallowing routines did you have to come into the AGT competition with? Three? Four?

In all honesty, I came in with ONE. I'm big on doing things last minute, getting right down to the wire, and I like to think I'm good on my feet. I let each of my AGT performances inform the next. It's a very difficult show to do as a variety act. Most of us spend years perfecting only one piece.

BWW Interview: Brett Loudermilk's Swallowing For HalloweenWhat you do involves more than the act of swallowing a sword. How long does it take for you to create a new routine with the sly, witty banter to envelope it?

Yeah, it's one thing to swallow a sword, it's another thing to make people want to watch. I tend to write on my feet. I like to go onstage with a concept and an idea of where it needs to go, then I just fill in the gaps. The good stuff sticks... we don't talk about the bad stuff.

Do you call what you do 'tricks'? Or do you prefer 'stunts'? Or...?

Eh, I don't care as long as the check clears... Here's the thing, the sword-swallowing, the glass eating, the hammering nails into my face, it's all real. They're tricks, just like a double backflip is a trick. They're stunts, just like jumping a burning bus on a motorcycle. It's up to you!

After all these years on the stage, do you still to need to practice daily?

Practice? I barely practice new things! I'm pretty sure I'm one of the laziest people in showbiz... that said, I'll defend my laziness with the fact that I really like to stay fresh on my feet. What self-imposed obstacles can I put in front of me? Oh, perhaps forgetting how to accomplish a secret move mid-effect? Recovering from stuff like that is fun for me.

You must have been a very charming 15-year-old. How did you convince magician/carnival performer Todd Robbins - in a cold call - to teach you how to sword-swallow?

Simply by saying, "Hi, my name is Brett Loudermilk and we should know each other!" That was my opening line. I followed it up by telling him about all the other showmen and carnies I had reached out to. I guess I dropped the right names.

Looking at some of your past videos online, I must compliment you on your great hair and hairstyles. Would you say that your hairstyle is as much of your act as the costumes you choose to wear on stage?

I don't know about that... I used to look like a straight up pirate. I had long hair and a curly handlebar mustache in an attempt to look older so I'd get more work, when I was in my early twenties. I ended up having to cut my hair and shave after I booked a spot in a touring magic show, they said I looked "too magician-y".

You've performed at the Magic Castle? What magician invited you to perform there? Neil Patrick Harris?

Yes, many times! The first time I went, I was underage and snuck in through the back door. But soon after my 21st birthday I was hanging out there regularly. Eventually the castle started booking me for Halloween events and it went from there, I've performed in several of the theaters there and it's one of my favorite places on Earth. Neil happens to be a great friend whom I met at the Castle.

Can you tell me the secret behind Magic Castle's pianist Irma? Or would you have to kill me after?

Sure, Irma used to live in the Castle, she died, took up the piano and hasn't left. Now, I must kill you.

Pre-pandemic, you performed in the Spiegelworld show OPIUM at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Did you get the chance to see other shows on the Strip? Did you hang out with other magicians there?

Over the years I've been in five shows here in Vegas. So I've spent quite a bit of time around town. I'd have to say Mac King and Penn & Teller are among my favorites.

Your last name 'Loudermilk's quite uncommon, isn't it? What's the origin of it?

It is unusual. Most people think it's a stage name, but it really is my given name. Maybe it came from my distant German relatives that were very noisy dairy farmers?

What post-pandemic performing projects do you have?

Well, who knows when that will be... all I know is, once I'm able and it's safe, I'll be on stage in front of crowds, doing the only thing I know how to do...

Thank you again, Brett! I do look forward to you being my Halloween treat this stay-at-home year.

For tickets to Zoom THE BRETT LOUDERMILK HALLOWEEN SPECIAL October 29th or 30th, log onto brettloudermilk.com


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From This Author Gil Kaan