Follow TV Tropes


Street Performer

Go To

Head of the Thieves' Guild: [Vetinari] does have all the street-theater players and mime artists thrown into the scorpion pit.
Head of the Bakers' Guild: True, but let's not forget that he has his bad points too.

People performing music, skits, juggling, magic, or stunts in public in order to get money from spectators, often seen at Renaissance fairs or during outdoor festivals. Also known as "buskers" in Ireland (a word ultimately of Celtic and Iberian origin). Some street performers are a solo act, such as a One-Man Band, or an individual magician or juggler. Other street performers perform in small groups. For example, two jugglers may work together or a magician may have an assistant.

One common element is having a hat, open guitar case or some other container out in front in which passersby can toss money into. Some street performers have an assistant who brings the container to audience members to encourage them to give tips.

In Real Life, street performances are subject to regulations. Performers may have to apply for permission and follow municipal rules on the location (to ensure they don't hold up traffic), hours of operation (to avoid disturbing residents), and/or duration of performance (to ensure one performer doesn't monopolize a street corner all day). Some street performers also get hired to perform in circus shows or festivals, in which case they often get a fee rather than ask for tips.

Likely to be stigmatized either as New-Age Retro Hippie or "wannabe performer with no talent". However, a small number of these artists have become successful and even world-famous.

Street Musician and Organ Grinder are Sub Tropes. "Fire Breathers" are also possible roles for this.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga  

  • Yukito from AIR tries to make a living by performing tricks with his magically controlled doll. His level of success varies wildly, though.
    • Yukito tries it again Kaginado, but he's outdone by every other street performer, especially Kotori from Rewrite, who can basically do the same as him, but much better and more spectacularly.
  • Hina from Hinamatsuri briefly becomes a performer after being kicked out of her home, using her telekinesis to impress passerbys who think she's just a genius illusionist. A rock group notice that she's stealing the show and invite her to combine their talents, which attracts such a huge crowd that the police has to intervene.
  • Ragi from The Snow Queen (2005) performs his poems in the streets he goes to make a living.

     Comic Books  

  • One issue of Simpsons Comics shows Sideshow Bob unemployed after being released from prison. He briefly considers making money by performing Shakespearean soliloquies on the street, and we then see an Imagine Spot of Bob reenacting the "dagger scene" from Macbeth - and Comic Book Guy, assuming that he's seeing a poor imitation of a comic-book story, throwing tomatoes at Bob.

     Film - Animation  

  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, Charlie attempts to help a boy make it as a professional street magician. The boy had to compete against several other street performers for the attention of the pedestrians.
  • A number of scenes in Aladdin, in particular the "One Jump Ahead" sequence, where several Arabic buskers (inadvertently) help Aladdin escape from the palace guards.

     Film - Live Action  

  • Bert in Mary Poppins was a One-Man Band busker, pavement artist, chimney sweep, and kite salesman.
  • Also in Tim Burton's Batman, the Joker disguises himself and his Mooks as street mimes to kill one of the dissenting mob bosses.
  • Batman Returns features the Red Triangle Circus Gang - many of whose members seem to be right out of the European busker tradition, especially an Organ Grinder played by Vincent Schiavelli.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance, when they're tearing through Central Park in a stolen Taxi, barely missing several picnickers, Samuel L. Jackson asks Bruce Willis "Are you AIMING for those people?" "No, no... well, maybe that mime."
  • In Zorro's Fighting Legion, one of the baddies is a Dreadful Musician mariachi who poses as a busker so he can receive and pass on secret messages hidden inside coins tossed into his hat.
  • Several such characters appear around Paradise Square in the Five Points (now downtown Manhattan) in Martin Scorsese's 2002 Civil War-era epic Gangs of New York: all of them Irish, and most of them singers or fiddlers. One of them (played by folk singer Finbar Furey) temporarily takes center stage when the camera takes us inside Satan's Circus, a large tavern that is "neutral ground" for all of New York's street gangs. He appears to acknowledge our presence, and then we follow him into the tavern as he sings "New York Girls" to the accompaniment of some unseen musicians.
  • In Hot Fuzz, a "living statue" is seen a few times pestering people in Sanford's town square. The town council regards him as such a nuisance that he ends up dead.
  • Gak-seol and Min-gu from Punch! used to have a dance act in a a cabaret, but after the cabaret closes, they're forced to resort to street performances in open-air markets. It's a hard life.
  • Madame Rosa: When Madame Rosa's home orphanage business starts failing, the oldest orphan, Momo, starts a little puppetry act on the street to earn some extra money.
  • Rags: To try and make enough money to buy-back his mother's old piano from a local pawn shop, Charlie plays music in the street with some other performers, always drawing an eager crowd and getting a decent amount of cash in his hat. When trying to help Kadee play her own music, he takes her to do their own street performance, which gets cut short by a cop.

  • Discworld:
    • Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, is (in)famous for rarely, if ever, being known to have innocent people just dragged off to dungeons without a trial: The notable exception to this rule are mime artists, whom Vetinari despises. Vetinari banned all mime performances from Ankh-Morpork shortly after taking power. Mime artists who violate the ban usually find themselves hanging upside down in Vetinari's scorpion pit whilst reading a sign saying ' learn the words '.
    • He's also said to hold Views on modern art. These are considered his good points.
  • KonoSuba: Kazuma notes that Aqua's use of Nature's Beauty, a showy but useless skills, to impress crowds could make her a good street performer.
  • Mask (2020): The San Francisco area has a lot of street performers. They tend to be part of Side-Splitter's army.

     Live Action TV  
  • In Baskets, Chip is befriended by a group of street clowns in Paris, who also eventually come to visit him in America. All of them are accomplished jugglers, dancers, and tumblers. During his stint as a hobo, Chip takes up busking himself and is surprisingly good at it.
  • Once on Bones, they investigated the death of a dancer who we learn was a busker and meet some other buskers who knew the victim. Bones pontificates (as she often does) on the anthropological significance of the busker lifestyle.
  • Broad City:
    • In "What a Wonderful World," Abbi and Ilana drum on buckets and rap in the hopes of making enough money to buy Lil Wayne tickets. They don't make any money, but a woman who starts breakdancing to their drumming makes lots of money. When Abbi and Ilana quit in frustration, everyone boos.
    • In "2016," Ilana takes up tap dancing on the subway after she's fired from Deals Deals Deals.
  • CSI: NY: The guy who commits the misdemeanor in "Crime and Misdemeanor" is an unemployed man who earns money for food by posing as a Living Statue for tips outside a subway exit.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • Gary Larson spoofed the concept in an installment of The Far Side. A doctor is shown performing risky surgery on a patient on a street corner before an appreciative audience. His profession? "Street physician."

     Tabletop Games  

  • 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The Complete Bard's Handbook had a kit called the Jongleur that sometimes performed this way.

     Video Games  

  • Cute Knight series:
    • In the first game, Cute Knight, one of the careers your character can end up as in is a street dancer in the market.
    • In the second game, Cute Knight Kingdom, the player character can dance on the beach for money when it's not winter.
  • An Evil Karma activity in Infamous 2 is killing these guys.

     Web Comics  

  • In Questionable Content, when Pintsize wants to demonstrate that women hate a 'voice of reason', he gives Faye the following spiel: "Hey, Faye, you're NOT too fat to eat nothing but ice-cream all day! 500 dollars is a perfectly reasonable price for a pair of shoes! And you should totally kill that mime!" She admits that, while all of his propositions seems highly tempting, the bit about the mime in particular speaks to her. "It's like honey in my ears. I LOATHE mimes!"

     Western Animation  

  • Best and Bester: In "Sing for Your Supper", when Best and Bester get suspended from their jobs at the mini-golf course, Bester convinces Best to become a busker to raise money after hearing him play the banjo. He becomes even more successful after Bester's growling stomach causes the sounds of his playing to reverb (she turned herself into a subwoofer to project Best's music more loudly). He then starts force-feeding Bester jalapenos until she quits and starts busking against him.
  • The Ghost And Molly Mcgee: While Molly tries to be friendly with all the people of Brighton, one of the few people she can't stand is Irving the Illusionist, a clumsy and incompetent street magician. Though this is less because of Irving's lack of skill and more because Molly has a distaste in general for stage magic.
  • Goof Troop: In "Close Encounters of the Weird Mime", Goofy tries to start up a career as a street mime. After graduating from mime school, he decides to try his hand at performance but can't find a good costume. He finally decides to just wrap his body in aluminum foil - inspiring Max and his friend, who have to make a video for a school project, to also wrap themselves in foil and pretend to be invaders from outer space. The boys accidentally broadcast their video all throughout Spoonerville - so when the local police see Goofy performing, they assume he's an alien and have him captured by the military!
  • Invader Zim: Zim and Gir resort to this in order to get bus money.
  • The Mr. Bean episode "Mime Games" begins with Mr. Bean pestering a living statue (disguised as Cupid) to perform for him, not realizing that the "statue" will only move if you give him a coin. Later on, a mime pesters Mr. Bean in the point of outright stalking him: following him home, sneaking into his house, and eating all of his food. Mr. Bean finally gets rid of the mime by throwing an "invisible lasso" around his waist and dragging him out of there.
  • Ferb does this in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Ain't No Kiddie Ride" so he can get a quarter to slingshot into the souped-up mall kiddie ride Candace is riding on before she falls to her death.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Life of Crime", SpongeBob and Patrick are mistaken for these when they try to "act naturally" after stealing a balloon.
  • Unicorn: Warriors Eternal: Dmitri Dynamo was a street magician prior to becoming the current host for Edred.