I have wanted to busk for many years, but lacking the skills of a musician and the bravado of a circus performer, I would need something different.  Doing things differently is my specialty, however, and with the good fortune of finding a free typewriter on the street, I began to incubate ideas.

I had seen and heard of busking typewriters in Victoria, but their performances  lacked luster, they wore no costume, and THEY WERE ONLY PRETENDING TO TYPE.  Making money is important to me, both as an encouragement and financial incentive, I wanted people to engage with me and be entertained.

After considering writing nonsense, and love poems, I decided on writing insults.  Nonsense was dispensed with easily, because frankly, most people don't get it.  Why would someone write nonsense like "your socks are untied" and hand it to someone?  That stuff does much better taped to telephone poles, and bathroom stalls.

The love poem idea died more slowly, but after sitting down and trying to write a SHORT "love" poem, I realized that it is a contradiction in terms.  A love letter or poem's object is to keep someones attention, often through flowery language and stream of thought.  Short ones do exist, I'm sure of it, but they are overcoming a handicap and, in spite of being short of words, they still linger in thought.  My talent does not extend so far as to write short love poems.  Besides, I want people to laugh with me for a moment, leave a few coins, and depart.

Insults were chosen, therefore, by elimination.  I'm not funny enough to go around insulting strangers and have them pay me, so I looked around the internet and found this Shakespearean insult generator.  It's perfect, the insults are even in iambic pentameter, and they are safe for kids.  Now I have a quick and easy source of material, and I can focus on the presentation.

The following things seemed useful:

  • A cool old suite case for my materials, which doubles as a table top
  • A costume with a 1920s look
  • Sign making materials like Jiffy markers, paper and tape
  • A lamp for nocturnal insults
  • Water, coffee, a cell phone, and a ride to the venue
  • A couple of random props and gadgets to attract attention
  • A light stool and table
  • A busker's license ($25 from city hall)
  • A money bin
The resulting first run was like this:
I made money once I started engaging with people.  I would type insults in my spare moments, and then cut them off.  Once someone saw my sign, I would hand them one and say, "Here I wrote this one just for you.  And you can keep it and read it out to anyone you want!".  If they don't engage with me I say, "Ok, I'll just read it out to you - ...", and otherwise, I try to get them to read it out to me or whoever they are with, encouraging them to use their best impression of a Victorian actor.
It was important to have a very brief sign, because that way I could be sure they knew what I was about as soon as they glanced at it.  I believe the example is also indispensable, because Insult Machine can mean many things.  I will make nicer signs at home for next time, using calligraphy.  I removed "by Donation" too, because it was better to give the insults away for free so that people can give once they are satisfied.