Utahn shares the joy of busking at Salt Lake City's Buskerfest

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SALT LAKE CITY — Marcus Wilson, AKA "Marcus, funny man who does tricks," knows he is a busker at heart, but he doesn't live in busker town. Not enough pedestrian traffic, he says. Except for this weekend, when sidewalks became a stage for Buskerfest.

Wilson is the only local performer at the relatively new event.

Five days a week, several hours a day, you'll find him in a corner of the Olympic Oval in Kearns practicing his craft – refining old tricks and polishing new ones.

One morning, he was playing table tennis on a court he holds in his mouth, catching a bowling ball with his face and working on a new trick – throwing his hat onto the end of an extending painting pole he's balancing on his head.

"It's really fun for me to practice," he said. "I've been practicing three to four hours a day."

Wilson fell in love with performing in a middle school theater class, learned to juggle oranges and dinner rolls at a job washing dishes in high school, and got his first job in show business entertaining at kids' birthday parties.

"And then she goes, 'How much do you weigh?' I'm like, 'Around 170 (pounds).' She's like, 'How tall are you?' I'm like, 'Six-foot," he recalls the phone call to the birthday party agency. "She goes, 'You want a job dressing up as a Power Ranger for kids' birthdays?' And I'm like, 'Well, yeah. Who wouldn't want to do that?'"

Busker Marcus Wilson spinning a top on his tongue.
Busker Marcus Wilson spinning a top on his tongue. (Photo: KSL-TV)

Eventually, Wilson moved on to doing tricks and telling jokes. Still, he didn't learn how to make it as a street performer and gather a crowd for what's called a "circle show" until he was hired to entertain people outside a major league All-Star game one summer in Detroit.

"There's a definite formula of how to gather a crowd, do a show, pass the hat," he said. "The goal is to get a crowd of people to stop and watch, and to keep watching and to build the crowd. In order to do that, you really want to do, like, one or two tricks and have there be a whole bunch of anticipation for them waiting for that trick."

At a Dutch King's Day at Millcreek Commons, he gathered people around him by throwing pins high in the air and asking spectators to yell to alert others about his show. Pretty soon, an audience of a few dozen were laughing at his antics – spinning a top on his tongue, spinning a top on his tongue while juggling, blowing up a balloon with his nose, and juggling knives while balancing on a table.

Marcus Wilson, aka “Marcus, funny man who does tricks,” spoke with KSL about the art of busking.
Marcus Wilson, aka “Marcus, funny man who does tricks,” spoke with KSL about the art of busking. (Photo: KSL-TV)

"There's just something really satisfying about, like, you go on the street and people are walking by you and looking at you like, 'What is wrong with this guy?'" Wilson said. "And you start, you know, you're playing some music, you're yelling at people, and a couple of people stop, and then a few more stop. And then by the end of this show, you have a crowd of a few hundred people there cheering you, and then they give you a hat full of money. There's just really something satisfying and rewarding about that. That's just really fun."

"There's something really satisfying about knowing you brought a crowd of people pleasure," he said.

Salt Lake City's Buskerfest ends Saturday night at 10:00.


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