Created By: CaveCat on November 12, 2012 Last Edited By: CaveCat on February 21, 2013
Troped

Juggling Dangerously

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While it has been done, in Real Life chainsaw juggling is unusual even for highly skilled professional jugglers who want to add the spice of danger to their act. But it's much more common in fiction -- want to take that juggling act Up to Eleven? Just add chainsaws!

A common yet very dangerous trick that is often performed at sideshows and circuses. It is typical for someone of exceptional bravery to juggle chainsaws while the chainsaws are running. In Western Animation, expect a character to appear fine for a minute before literally falling apart or to fall through a hole in the floor that was caused by the chainsaws.

Of course, chainsaws aren't the only dangerous things that can be used in juggling. People can also juggle flaming torches, tasers, and swords, which makes this trope Truth in Television.

Not to be confused with: Juggling Loaded Guns

Needs a Better Description, Needs More Examples


Examples

Advertising
  • In a Progressive commercial, a man feels so empowered by being given the "Name Your Price" tool that he approaches a man juggling chainsaws and wants to participate. Watch it here.

Newspaper Comics
  • One The Far Side cartoon shows a stage performer who has been juggling nuclear warheads, but has just dropped them all over the place. An audience member complains: "More like defused nuclear warheads!"
  • This Calvin and Hobbes strip.
    Calvin: Where do we keep all our chainsaws, Mom?
    Calvin's Mom: We don't have any chainsaws, Calvin.
    Calvin: We don't? Not any?
    Calvin's Mom: Nope.
    Calvin: How am I ever going to learn how to juggle?

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Bones, Brennan has called in all her interns (instead of the usual one-per-episode), and while they're standing around waiting for her, they decide that they must have been called in to study a body with a chainsaw sticking out of its chest. When Brennan arrives, she scolds them because it should have been obvious that the body was just some silly person who had been trying to juggle a chainsaw, a tennis ball, and another object; not murder.

Stand-Up Comedy
  • Penn of Penn & Teller has a routine where he juggles broken wine bottles (very carefully smashed open at the large end, so he's not going to hurt himself as long as he catches them by the neck every time) while pattering on at length about how this is the most difficult and dangerous thing he's going to do all evening.

Music
  • "Chainsaw Juggler" by the Four Postmen, although most of the song isn't about the eponymous juggler.
    Whatever happened to the Chainsaw Juggler?
    He was a good friend of mine
    I heard he died, but nobody cried
    Instead they all chopped off their arms!

Video Games
  • Dead Rising has Adam, an early psychopath who's dressed as a clown and juggles chainsaws and can use them to cut everyone up. He also can use balloons filled with some sort of gas, but defeating him will only net Frank the clown's chainsaws, and they're arguably the best weapons in the game.
  • In the Amiga game Freddy, you play as a clown going through various circus acts while a mischievous rival tries to sabotage your efforts. In the juggling act, you may end up juggling multiple chainsaws while dancing on a ball.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Soldier's taunts with the Buff Banner, Battalion's Backup, the Concheror, or the Righteous Bison has him juggling 2 grenades on his bandolier and a rocket.

Western Animation
  • In Lilo & Stitch, David juggles torches on stage at a restaurant and accidentally sets things on fire, embarrassing himself in front of his crush, Nani.
  • In the Beavis And Butthead episode "Comedians", the first scene inside the Laff Hole shows a juggler juggling a small white ball, an axe, and a chainsaw. It is heavily implied that his arm is cut off by the chainsaw at the end of the act. At the end of the episode, Beavis sets up his own juggling act involving newspapers lit on fire. Cut to Beavis and Butthead outside the Laff Hole, watching the fire department arrive and put out the fire.

Real Life
  • Michael Goudeau would juggle during magician Lance Burton's show at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. He juggled three beanbag chairs as well as a chainsaw, a bowling ball AND a flaming torch!

Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • November 12, 2012
    WaxingName
    Perhaps you could expand this to include juggling all kinds of dangerous objects, like torches, tasers, and swords (like I've seen on Americas Got Talent beofre).
  • November 12, 2012
    MrRuano
    • Dead Rising has Adam, an early psychopath who's dressed as a clown and juggles chainsaws and can use them to cut everyone up. He also can use balloons filled with some sort of gas, but defeating him will only net Frank the clown's chainsaws, and they're arguably the best weapons in the game.
  • November 13, 2012
    Chernoskill
    Obcure example:

    In the Amiga game Freddy, you play as a clown going through various circus acts while a mischievous rival tries to sabotage your efforts. In the juggling act, you may end up juggling multiple chainsaws while dancing on a ball.
  • November 13, 2012
    Xtifr
    Live-Action TV
    • In an episode of Bones, Brennan has called in all her interns (instead of the usual one-per-episode), and while they're standing around waiting for her, they decide that they must have been called in to study a body with a chainsaw sticking out of its chest. When Brennan arrives, she scolds them because it should have been obvious that the body was just some silly person who had been trying to juggle a chainsaw, a tennis ball, and another object; not murder.
  • November 13, 2012
    robinjohnson
    • One The Far Side cartoon shows a stage performer who has been juggling nuclear warheads, but has just dropped them all over the place. An audience member complains: "More like defused nuclear warheads!"
  • November 13, 2012
    elwoz
    Penn of Penn And Teller has a routine where he juggles broken wine bottles (very carefully smashed open at the large end, so he's not going to hurt himself as long as he catches them by the neck every time) while pattering on at length about how this is the most difficult and dangerous thing he's going to do all evening.

    (I saw the show upwards of seven years ago and have no idea whether Penn still does this.)
  • November 14, 2012
    Chabal2
    This Calvin And Hobbes strip.
    Where do we keep all our chainsaws, Mom?
    We don't have any chainsaws, Calvin.
    We don't? Not any?
    Nope.
    How am I ever going to learn how to juggle?
  • November 17, 2012
    KZN02
    Team Fortress 2: The Soldier's taunts with the Buff Banner, Battalion's Backup, or the Concheror has him juggling 2 grenades on his bandolier and a rocket.
  • November 19, 2012
    TropeEater
    Well there was this Calvin And Hobbes strip that... aw man, beat me to. :(

    But yeah this is Truth In Television, you might want to add a line about that.
  • November 20, 2012
    elwoz
    Thinking about this some more, while it has been done, in Real Life chainsaw juggling is unusual even for highly skilled professional jugglers who want to add the spice of danger to their act. But it's much more common in fiction -- want to take that juggling act Up To Eleven? Just add chainsaws! The joke in the Calvin And Hobbes strip is that Calvin thinks he should start with chainsaws, not that only a Nigh Invulnerable six-year-old maniac would even try it.

    So I think that to have a trope specifically about juggling chainsaws, we need to make it about that difference between fiction and RL. We could also generalize to juggling dangerous objects in general, but then I'm not sure it's a trope anymore, because how is that a thing used to tell stories?
  • November 21, 2012
    shimaspawn
    I don't think the difference between real life and fiction is the tropable thing here and I don't think that's it's about chainsaws.

    The real trope is someone juggling dangerous objects to show that they're some combination of brave, risk taking, confident, and stupid.
  • November 23, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ OK, I can get behind that definition, but then I think we ought to call it Juggling Dangerous Objects or Absurdly Dangerous Juggling Routine or something along those lines, and also I think we need to clearly distinguish between juggling acts that are not nearly as dangerous for a skilled juggler as they appear (knives, clubs, flaming torches, etc), and juggling acts that really are dangerous even for the skilled (chainsaws, loaded guns, etc).

    Penn's wine bottle routine is an interesting case: he made it sound like he was taking a real risk, because the irregular breaks make the bottles wobble unevenly when thrown, so he might in fact catch one wrong. But the man is an expert in the fine art of deceiving the audience, and he simultaneously made it look no harder than juggling knives.
  • November 27, 2012
    shimaspawn
    Once again, the real world matters less than the appearance the work is going for. We don't want a real world rant on the page. That's the place of the analysis page. That said, Absurdly Dangerous Juggling Routine isn't bad.
  • November 28, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ Yeah, agreed, I only bring up the "not nearly as dangerous as it appears" part by way of saying that a fictional depiction of a knife-juggling act shouldn't count as this trope.
  • November 29, 2012
    CaveCat
    ^Understood, but the description doesn't say anything about juggling knives or clubs, just weapons that are really dangerous like chainsaws, bombs, missiles, torches, warheads, etc.
  • November 30, 2012
    shimaspawn
    ^^ If it has the same narrative purpose, it's real world lack of danger doesn't matter. So as long as it meets the important bit of the trope, it would count.
  • December 3, 2012
    CaveCat
    And another thing, I thought that this trope was going to just be about juggling chainsaws or other dangerous weapons.
  • December 12, 2012
    McKathlin
    So this trope does involve juggling dangerous things in general? If so...
    • In Lilo And Stitch, David juggles torches on stage at a restaurant and accidentally sets things on fire, embarrassing himself in front of his crush, Nani.
  • December 16, 2012
    Ianto
    There's a few things that bug me about that trope.

    1) Juggling with chainsaws is not that dangerous. I have a battery-powered chainsaw that's about my arm's lenght, and if that's not running, and I'm wearing gardening gloves, juggling that is not going to be all that dangerous or impressive. So if we stick with chainsaws, it would be necessary to limit it to running (and possibly seriously big ones), otherwise they're just heavy things that are impractical for juggling, that's all.

    2) If we go with 'dangerous objects' we need a clear definition of that danger. Do we assess danger by an independent standard or by the juggler's skill? Do we need to factor the environment into the assessment? How much damage needs to be possible to be actually dangerous? Is it enough if an object is dangerous in and on itself, or does there need to be at least some danger that arises from the juggling of the object?

    3) There is no clear purpose. The way it's phrased at the moment sounds a lot like People Sit On Chairs. If it should demonstrate character traits of the jugglers, which ones exactly and what needs to be the primary motivator? The listed idea of 'some combination of brave, risk taking, confident, and stupid' is extremely vague and I'm not sure all the examples fit it. If it doesn't demonstrate a character trait of the juggler, what information does it give us? What is it that makes it a trope and not an instant of a thing that happens sometimes?

    I think if we want to make it a trope, we need a much clearer definition of what exactly would be an example of that trope.
  • December 16, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ 1) How dangerous it is in real life doesn't matter. What matters is whether the story treats it as dangerous. If the story explains that juggling swords is really much safer than it looks, then it probably doesn't count (though it might if it's clear that the in-universe audience is supposed to see it as dangerous--that would be Invoked Trope).

    2) What matters is whether the story portrays it as dangerous. We don't decide--the author does. Authors are allowed Artistic License.

    3) The purpose is to provide a sense of danger and excitement, or at least suggest it.

    That said, a better name might be more clear. Maybe something like High Risk Juggling. Also, the description might need some work.
  • December 16, 2012
    Ianto
    ^ That's okay then. I just couldn't get that from the description. If the purpose is danger and or excitement, I don't see how some of the examples do that. Maybe get a clear statement on the purpose and then sort out the examples that actually serve that purpose?

    Yeah, High Risk Juggling sounds more like it.
  • December 18, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Or Extreme Juggling?

    (failing which, High Risk Juggling is better than Juggling High Risk.)
  • December 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Music: "Chainsaw Juggler" by the Four Postmen, although most of the song isn't about the eponymous juggler.
    Whatever happened to the Chainsaw Juggler?
    He was a good friend of mine
    I heard he died, but nobody cried
    Instead they all chopped off their arms!
  • January 2, 2013
    Arivne
    Advertising
    • In a Progressive commercial, a man feels so empowered by being given the "Name Your Price" tool that he approaches a man juggling chainsaws and wants to participate. Watch it here.
  • January 7, 2013
    randomsurfer
    This may be a bit too "Troper Tales" to count; many years ago I attended a local Renaissance Faire where one of the perfomers juggled "cannon balls" (really bowling balls). He pulled out three from his bag one at a time. As he pulled them out he tossed them up into the air above his head and watched them drop to his feet, making a loud "plonk!" sound as they landed, demonstrating that they really were big heavy balls. The third time though, he "accidentally" let the ball fall on his face, where it bounced off harmlessly. It was a gimmick soft rubber ball, used just for this effect.
  • January 24, 2013
    NESBoy
    In the Beavis And Butthead episode "Comedians", the first scene inside the Laff Hole shows a juggler juggling a small white ball, an axe, and a chainsaw. It is heavily implied that his arm is cut off by the chainsaw at the end of the act. At the end of the episode, Beavis sets up his own juggling act involving newspapers lit on fire. Cut to Beavis and Butthead outside the Laff Hole, watching the fire department arrive and put out the fire.
  • February 15, 2013
    MaxWest
    Are Real Life examples allowed?

    Michael Goudeau would juggle during magician Lance Burton's show at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. He juggled three beanbag chairs as well as a chainsaw, a bowling AND a flaming torch! (This troper actually saw Goudeau do this live!)
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=tb39rigboa3ywpwscylcrdxx