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Strip contortionist Frodo Santini presents his pandemic-born podcast, ‘The Way of the Showman’

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Frodo Santini
Illustration: Olivia Rutherford / Courtesy

Frodo Santini—aka Captain Frodo, aka The Incredible Rubberman—is famous for his ability to cram his entire body through tennis rackets with their strings removed, among other feats of contortion, balance and hilarity. The double-jointed entertainer has been performing since he first played child assistant to his magician father in Norway.

In an alternate, pandemic-free timeline, you could find him co-starring as Major Tom in Spiegelworld’s Opium at the Cosmopolitan. And if COVID-19 had not indefinitely paused live theater, his extreme flexibility and creativity would merit a spotlight in these pages. The Guardian shares that sentiment: “Captain Frodo’s party piece may be dislocating his shoulder, but when he climbs up an increasingly precarious tower made from upturned buckets of diminishing size, his precarious ascent becomes a comment on the absurdity of all human endeavour.”

Of course, in this reality, Santini has been deprived of a live audience for months. And so, while isolating at home like the rest of us, he realized a dream that had been “on the boil for a long time.” In June, Santini debuted his podcast, The Way of the Showman, and its corresponding blog, thewayoftheshowman.com. The first season will consist of 10 episodes, three of which are now available at all the usual podcast outlets. New episodes air on Tuesdays.

For a man who makes a living twisting his arms, tossing confetti and looking clueless, Santini’s podcast is surprisingly deep. Episodes begin with an invitation from Captain Frodo—pilot of “the most influential ship of all time, the showmanship”—to join him on an intellectual and spiritual foray: “The bell is ringing. The time has come. It is showtime, and this is your captain speaking. Come with me. It is time to sail the seas of imagination. All aboard the showmanship for one more journey.”

Santini then uses “the symbology of circus and Carnival life” to explore an array of topics, including secret knowledge, magic, Western esotericism, the occult, science, childhood, education and, of course, imagination. It may be no surprise that this whimsical weirdo studied philosophy at Norway’s Oslo University before dropping out to later take a three-month introductory circus course in England. He describes his podcast as an effort to harness opposing energies—magic and science, humor and intellect—to make them all stronger. For example, “I have an episode called ‘The Song Spectacle,’ where I draw a detailed analogy between alchemy and the act of performing a show,” he says.

For now, the podcast is a “labor of love,” but Santini hopes to have a book to promote by Season 2, about the philosophy of showmanship. He has been secretly writing for years: fiction, children’s books and a column for the Australian circus website carnivalcinema.com.au.

Still, for Santini, being serious is like donning a stiff new pair of shoes. “It’s strange for me, because I’ve always been the funny guy,” he tells the Weekly during a Zoom interview from his home in central Las Vegas. “It’s almost weird to be speaking earnestly about ideas and not always making a joke out of it.”

He’s at his best when he can do both at once, as in a YouTube video of him performing on a grand stage in Montreal. As Santini balances atop an apparent soup can, he pauses to reflect to the audience: “Isn’t it amazing what people can do for a living? I’d like you guys who are here this evening to think about something that you wanted to do with your life but that always seemed too strange or too obscure to pursue. Now that you have all seen what I do for a living, maybe that dream of yours does not seem so strange anymore.” He punctuates the statement by lifting both legs until his feet are behind his head.

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