Busker HoF 66 – Peter Panic Interview


This Episode proudly sponsored by The Busking Project:


The Busking Project is a not-for-profit social enterprise put together by Nick Broad and Lily Maz. They have buskers on staff, and have created a community of street performers stretching to 662 cities all over the world. 

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Episode Notes:

Comments: After a certain number of years performers who’ve been in the game longer than many of the new generation have been alive take on a mythical status. Add to this the fact that Peter Thomas McLaughlin’s performance persona ‘Peter Panic’ also parallels many of the well known qualities of ‘Peter Pan’ and you end up with a perfect combination of character, mystery and in the end, entertainment. The fact that Peter is also a gifted juggler known for a collection of signature tricks doesn’t hurt either.

Beyond the myth that exists today though, this interview does a great job of winding back the years to discover how Peter got his start. Even before the ‘Peter Panic’ character emerged, there was a ‘Pan-like’ mischievous charm that can be seen all the way back to Peter’s very first performances in high school.

Al Millar sat down with Peter in Grande Prairie, Alberta during the 2015 Summer Tour set up by the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival to pull back some of the 50 shades of green that surround the man, the legend and the enigma that is Peter Panic.

Bonus Images from Peter’s Facebook Page with commentary by Peter:

Once upon a time (1979) there was a 12 year old boy who lived in a house on the edge of a woods in the NJ suburbs. There was a big old ash tree in the front yard that he had been forbidden to climb. Like some original sin-trip from the bible. There were lots of other trees out there, climb any one you want, just not that one. Of course, I did it anyway, with 100 feet of cotton clothesline. Why? Because it was there and the devil made me do it. It’s not really related to performing but I’ve used it as a metaphor for my entire career.

The reason it works as a metaphor? Well, when I was 12, two years before I learned how to juggle 3 tennis balls, I took a hard look at that tree in the front yard and decided to climb it. Like a fool, I talked about doing it, and the sane responsible adults of the world tried to dissuade me by going on and on about all the bad things that could happen, much like certain people have a difficult time believing in an upside to a show business career. After all, what is the upside to climbing that stupid tree? Well, it had never been done before and it just looked like Mt. Everest to me. Death or Glory!


This is the image that’s mentioned in the interview – 0nstage in front of my entire high school… no music, no microphone, sweatpants and a garfield t-shirt. We all have to start somewhere.


This is a shot from the Medicine show I was in. The shot was taken in 1987 with the full cast (I’m second from the left). I did a ten month tour with that show, doing one night stands. sounds a lot sexier than it really was. That was six years before I became Peter Panic.


March 2001 – Huis Ten Bosch, Japan, with Dirty Fred. Martha Foumier, Larry and the Romanian twins dressed as maids for some reason. Dirty Fred and I worked hard on that routine. They would not let me wear green…I had to be a waiter!


September 2001 – Peter Panic with his show on a bike in Boston, MA, USA! I had my show in a cello case at one time w a shopping cart locked in the alley. It was the weekend before 9/11/2001. Note the semcycle locked to the sissy bar and the nils poll hat. Photo by: Dan Shulruff


July 2002 – This is an image from the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival.  I look at that photo and think “son – you are a mess.” Robert Nelson (The Butterfly Man) used to give me grief for using a shopping cart as a prop stand. He was right. Photo by: Dan Shulruff


July 2002 – Another shot from the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. I would like to thank my sponsor…star market – HA! I never actually had a sponsor for my shopping carts, but in the early years in Boston I expected to get hassled for ‘borrowing’ carts so I bought one from Bread and Circus and I made sure to get a receipt. The guy in the store said – “Why don’t you just take one? Everyone else does.” I said, “I want a receipt.” I should have gotten it laminated. Photo by: Dan Shulruff


Love this shot! It was taken at a Renegade Show at the IJA Convention in July of 2004 in Buffalo, NY. The Butterfly Man was the MC. I was proud of this trick because I had never seen it done before.


This is a shot with Juggling GOD, Anthony Gatto. The shot was taken when the Cirque du Soleil Show “Kooza” came to Boston. It must have been 2008 or so? I saw his act seven times. I had first seen him when i was 16 and he was 9. Always a treat to meet one of your heros. 2009-clownsThis was an amazing Clown Alley to be part of, Shanghai, China, Circa 2009. I did that trip to China four times, that was the last one. What a lot of fun to work with such a great bunch of clowns. 2009-VaudevilleThis is a shot of me with the cast of the 2009 Vaudeville Extravaganza – Presto, Peter Panic, Jon Stetson, Me, Mario “Queen of the Circus,” Tommy Curtain, Todd Charles. Great Cast! Great Show! 


 I like this move. It’s a shot from one of the years of a Motionfest and it’s of a signature move. The joke that goes along with the pose is: This is my impression of the Boston Celtics logo. In truth I’m way off. To make it the Celtic’s Logo I should be wearing a hat, and smoking a pipe, and winking, leaning on a cane. Still, I like the the move and the joke seemed to work for most audiences.

And finally – Here’s a video of Peter at a show he did at Motionfest – in Peter’s words – “In this video I gave Robert Nelson what for. You know, I never really met Robert at all. I just jousted with the Butterfly Man.”

Thanks again to:The Busking Project for sponsoring this Episode!

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