The chainsaw juggler has opened for multiple groups and will perform at Springfest.
He has starred in a Super Bowl commercial, acted in a major motion picture, set a Guinness World Record and appeared on “The Tonight Show.” He has opened for acts ranging from the Smashing Pumpkins to Phyllis Diller and performed at more than 130 colleges across the country.
“Mad Chad” Taylor has done it all by juggling chainsaws.
For Taylor, who will bring his one-hour act to this weekend’s Springfest carnival, the path that led to a life less ordinary began with a Christmas gift at age 13.
The gift, an instructional juggling book with three beanbags, quickly hooked the Seattle native.
“I was kind of obsessive about it,” Taylor said in a phone interview as he waited for a flight home from a performance in Omaha, Neb. “I just kept wanting to learn one more trick and add one more ball, and I used to practice for hours and hours a day.”
Several weeks after learning to juggle, his parents took him to a Renaissance fair where he witnessed a comedic juggling show.
“There must have been a crowd of like a thousand people,” recalled Taylor, whose family moved to Santa Monica, Calif., when he was 9. “The crowd was just laughing hysterically at every trick they did. The crowd would applaud like crazy. And I just thought it looked like so much fun, to be up in front of an audience like that.”
A year later, Taylor and a friend performed a juggling act at their school talent show.
The duo soon began performing street shows on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, spending their weekends collecting tips in a hat and calling themselves “The No-We’re-Not-Brothers Juggling Company” due to their close physical resemblance.
After high school they moved on to paid cruise ship gigs, but split up after seven years when Taylor’s partner grew tired of traveling.
Taylor has continued on with his comedic juggling act for the last 15 years and now performs between 60 to 120 shows a year at corporate parties, fairs, sporting events and colleges, which make up the bulk of his gigs.
He juggles bats, bowling balls, knives, stun guns and, yes, chainsaws.
The chainsaw juggling began in the mid to late ‘90s, when the director of a Miller Lite commercial asked Taylor if he would juggle a saw.
“I did one chainsaw with two balls,” Taylor said. “Which doesn’t make much sense — (drinking) beer and juggling chainsaws is asking for a lawsuit, but that’s how I learned.”
While liability concerns kept Miller from airing Taylor’s new juggling skill (he juggled beer glasses in the final ad), he decided to incorporate the stunt into his Venice Beach shows.
Of everything he juggles, Taylor said chainsaws are the most challenging for several reasons.
“They’re so heavy,” he said. “Once they’re running they’re vibrating.”
The gyroscoping motion of the chainsaw engine makes them easy to lose control of, he added.
Despite the obvious dangers, Taylor has only been injured by his chainsaws once, when he incorrectly threw one during a theme park performance and the blade tip nipped his forearm.
“It was definitely a wake-up call to — if I was throwing it wrong — get out of the way,” he said with a laugh. “Don’t try and catch it.”
Taylor also badly burned and blistered his right index finger while videotaping a stunt in which he juggled a saw and two flaming tennis balls while riding a motorized skateboard.
“I got a blister almost the size of a golf ball,” he said.
Another unique aspect of his shows is the “audience challenge.” In it, Taylor juggles a 10-pound steel shot-put, a raw egg and a third item chosen by the crowd.
“If they want to bring something that’s breakable, or a weird shape, or something that’d be hard to juggle, they can bring something to challenge me,” he said.
The craziest challenge he’s undertaken so far was at an outdoor fair with a rowdy audience, where a man brought Taylor a used baby diaper.
“I thought he was joking,” Taylor said. “I thought he was just holding up a diaper. And then he handed it to me, and it was … heavy and still warm.”
Taylor was still able to curl the diaper into a ball and juggle it to the crowd’s immense delight.
The comedic aspect of his show is also important, and is situational to his on-stage actions, Taylor said.
Some jokes are thought up ahead of time and incorporated into the show, while others are made up on the spot and kept if they get a good response.
“I found early on that people will watch juggling to a point,” he said, “but if you can keep them laughing, they’ll stick around until the end of the show.”
Taylor said he is also training to re-claim his 2003 world record of 78 continuous chainsaw catches. The record has since been broken several times, and currently stands at 94 catches.
Besides juggling, Taylor acts and has appeared in several commercials, including a 2004 Super Bowl ad for automaker Dodge. He also played the part of a bartender in the 2007 film “Spider-Man 3.”
Taylor is working with friends on a new website called “60secondtv.com.” The site will feature 60-second video clips of funny and crazy performance stunts and will allow others to submit their own videos of a minute or less.
Altogether, Taylor said he has a lot of fun as an entertainer.
“I’m really fortunate,” he said. “It’s cool to get paid to do something you love.”
“Mad” Chad Taylor will perform at Springfest at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday on the Wilson Road mainstage.