Meet Dan Kamin
What got you interested in the type of stuff you do?
I’m overly susceptible to movies. As a kid I saw the movie Houdini with Tony Curtis, and I promptly became a boy magician. In college at Carnegie Mellon I saw a Chaplin film, and I became a silent comedian. Your readers will be relieved to know that I’ve never seen The Boston Strangler.
How did you learn magic?
I grew up in Miami, a notoriously crime-ridden city then as now. I was taken under the wing of various shady criminal-types who liked to show off their skills at cardsharping and such to a goggle-eyed kid. I became fascinated with the mechanics of deception, which naturally enough led me to a career in show business.
Why did you want to be a performer?
I was desperate for money, and I couldn’t get the job I really wanted, which was to be a bagboy or stock clerk at the local supermarket. Those guys had cars, and girlfriends. The best I could do was magic shows at the birthday parties of hyperkinetic, sugar-crazed children. Unfortunately, I soon learned that girls tended to be repelled by magicians.
After you saw that Chaplin film in college how did you go about learning to do physical comedy?
An amazing mime artist named Jewel Walker showed me the tricks of the trade, destroying what slim chance I had of leading a normal life.
Are you a mime?
That’s how I started, but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. This was fortunate, since now everyone hates mimes. And who can blame them?
Is it just you in your performances?
Usually there’s also an audience. I refuse to go on if I outnumber the audience.
You often perform with orchestras. Do you play an instrument?
I play the buffoon, cheapening the classical experience and making it great fun for everyone except for conductors, who understandably hate and fear me.
What can the audience expect at a “comedy concerto?”
A lifetime of regret.
What happens in “Charlie Chaplin at the Symphony?”
In the first half, “The Classical Clown,” everything gets turned upside down. I play a mime who wants to conduct, and by the end of the show I do, and Grant Cooper and the whole orchestra become mimes. It is truly humiliating for all concerned, and yet another reason to hate mimes. Then we’ll show two restored Chaplin films from 1917, with brand new orchestral scores by Cooper. Cooper is a brilliant contemporary composer who is also music director of the West Virginia Symphony, and that’s enough about him.
Is this your first performance in Albuquerque?
Yes, and it will almost certainly be my last.
What was it like working with Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp?
I taught Depp how to roll the coin around his fingers the way he does at the end of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But does he call? Never.
Do you think it takes a certain person to be able to pull off the type of performance required for these roles?
All it takes is the willingness to endure public ridicule.
How often do you come up with new performances?
I come up with new ones whenever I’m artistically inspired, or someone offers me money. Which may be the same thing, come to think of it.
What other types of places do you perform?
I’ve performed in just about every imaginable setting—factories, the streets of London and in mental hospitals. For the patients, I hasten to add, not as a patient.
What makes these different than performing for a huge audience in a theater?
I love performing for hospital patients or old people because they can’t run very fast. Large audiences tend to turn into angry mobs of screaming, torch-bearing villagers out for my blood.
Have you ever been in any movies yourself?
I did cameos in Chaplin and Benny and Joon and played a wooden Indian who came to life in the film Creepshow 2. I also played a small, uncredited role in D.W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation.
Wait, wasn’t The Birth of a Nation made in 1915?
Do you have a favorite performance?
The next one.
Do you have any suggestions for anyone interested in this type of performing?
Seek counseling at once.