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How to Host a Variety Show

Congratulations, you have been picked (or decided) to host your own Juggling Show. The hints and tips in this article should help you to make the right decisions on how you present yourself throughout the event. There is a massive difference from hosting a Public Show at the British Juggling Convention compared to a Talent show at the end of your Circus Skills Workshop, so use your discretion when picking which of this advice to follow!

This article owes a huge debt of gratitude to the excellent BJC workshop run by Luke Burrage in 2006 at the British Juggling Convention. I recently discovered some notes and ideas I wrote down during this workshop and they helped shape the writing of this article.

As the host, it is your job to do the following:

1) Introduce the acts
2) Keep the show going smoothly, and keep the energy high
3) Keep the audience informed

You may wonder why I haven’t listed “Be Entertaining” as a duty in the list above. The reason is that it isn’t as important as the above tasks. You could end up being so entertaining, that it is impossible for the acts to get as much applause as you receive, and this is to be discouraged. The audience are here to see the acts. If you have done your job correctly, then the audience and the acts will have had a great time, and your legacy will be that the show was deemed a success! If you can be entertaining, then by all means go for it, but make sure that you address the above points first of all and don’t make yourself the star of the show!

The Running Order

Sometimes as a host, you are allowed to help choose the order of the acts on stage. This will at least give you a chance to have some variety in each half of the show and not put 2 similar acts together.

At the beginning of the show, you will be the first person that the audience sees. Do a short opening section. This is the main part of the show for you to educate and inform the audience as to what is coming up. Look confident and in complete control, and this will make the audience feel relaxed also. Introduce yourself, and then you can set the scene by announcing the name of the show and giving a brief flavour of what to expect. The announcement of turning off your mobile phone and no flash photography belongs in this section also. All of these points can be dealt with expertly in under a few minutes, and then without any further ado, let’s get the first act on stage!

How to Introduce an Act

  • Ask the act in advance if they have anything prepared that they would like you to say for their introduction, or whether there is something that is worth mentioning. If they have something, they will be happy that you asked, and you will end up saving some time and effort on coming up with your own thing to say, so everyone’s a winner!
  • Even more importantly, is there something the act would prefer you not to mention about their act (you could accidentally reveal something that is better left as a surprise to discover during their performance)! I would prefer for example not to be known as a “comedy juggler”, as this instantly puts the pressure on me to make the audience laugh at the beginning of my act instead of them simply finding me funny and choosing to laugh without any preconception.
  • If you have to do a performance before introducing an act, make sure that it is entirely different to their act. You aren’t competing with them! Ideally anything you do during the show shouldn’t be very similar to any of the acts on stage.
  • End the introduction with the name of the person/act, even if you have already mentioned their name. This will help the audience remember the acts name.
  • If you know that you are likely to forget the name of some acts, then bring a clipboard with the running order on stage with you and read from it. Don’t just write the name on the back of your hand and try to have a sneak peek at it (the audience will notice)! Look confident at all times, and a clipboard is one of the best objects in the world for making you look more professional than you might be!

Entrance and Exit

If possible, the host and the acts should come off and on from the opposite sides, so there is no awkwardness or bumping into each other. If you have to pass each other, then it is important to acknowledge the act, maybe even shake their hand, high-5 or hug them as you pass, rather than just ignore them.

Before the last act in the first half

Announce that there is a break coming up after the next act. It encourages people to hold their bladders knowing that a break is happening soon, and stops people becoming too restless and unaware of a break coming up.


Announce after the final act of the first half that it is now the interval. Let the audience know how long the interval will be lasting for, and give suggestions as to what they may want to do (head to the toilet, visit the merchandise stall, grab a drink, mingle in the large area downstairs).

What to do after the act has performed

  • If the audience are still applauding wildly or giving a standing ovation, then get the act back on stage for another bow!
  • Don’t have an empty stage. As soon as the act leaves, you come on. This means that you should know how long each act lasts for and what their grand finale is so that you can be ready.
  • Say the name of the act again (acknowledging the act and giving the audience another chance to clap).

FINALE: (get acts back on, they bow, and then they leave)

  • When you bring the acts on stage for the finale, you need to announce them in order from first act to last act. If an act has appeared twice, then make sure not to announce their 2nd act and be looking for them to come on stage again when they are already on stage!
  • Artists to come to the middle of the stage and bow, then set themselves back out of the spotlight.
  • Make sure that the lighting and sound crews (and any other vital people) get a round of applause at the end of the show along with the acts.
  • Either be comfortable announcing yourself at the finale to receive a well earned round of applause, or ask someone else to announce your contribution. You aren’t the main focus of attention for the show but it is important to be appreciated and give the audience a chance to thank you for hosting an excellent show!


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Some Further Advice

Be aware of what is happening on stage at all times. If something major happens such as an accident, you need to be ready to step in and do whatever is necessary, even if this means announcing an early interval while you solve the problem.

Less is more – If you use elaborate and excessive praise and call the next act a legend, and they don’t see themselves in such a way, then you may think that you have been building them up nicely, but they may think that there is no way they can live up to your description, and the act is doomed before they set foot on the stage!

Have a couple of extra bits and pieces you could do if you have to suddenly fill an extra bit of the show (while the sound system is being quickly repaired for example). Worst thing that can happen is just dead air.

It may help to have a clock at the back of the room for the acts to be able to see. Make sure that each act knows how long they are allowed on stage. It is important to keep the show flowing, and one act over-running could mean that the finishing time of the show is pushed further and further back and people may have to leave early to catch their public transport home. It may seem that you are being an overly strict timekeeper, but it is your job!

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