This post is brought to you in partnership with the Carolina Renaissance Festival. All opinions are our own.
Autumn has arrived and with it the return of the annual Carolina Renaissance Festival. For eight consecutive weekends starting September 30 and through November 19, over one thousand Festival participants work as a collective ensemble to bring a big dose of cheer, trumpet fanfare, clashing armor and those giant roasted turkey legs.
Renaissance Festivals are a uniquely American phenomenon that started in Southern California in the early 1960s and expanded across the country to several major cities. Located just north of Charlotte in Huntersville, the Carolina Renaissance Festival first opened its gates in 1994. The Renaissance Festival “circuit”, as it is commonly referred to, provides a living for thousands of talented artists that work in all types and mediums.
Who are these artists and why do they travel the country from city to city for our enjoyment? The answer may surprise you. Join us for our weekly feature as we interview artists you can meet at this year’s Carolina Renaissance Festival.
Ded Bob and his zombie Sludge!
The weekend before Halloween at the Carolina Renaissance Festival is a family friendly affair. Both Saturday and Sunday offer free admission for kids ages 12 and under, free trick and treats throughout the village, costume contests with prizes, a Zombie Joust, and much more.
You don’t have to attend on Halloween to meet the walking dead – or in this case – the carried dead. Performing every weekend is Festival favorite the Ded Bob Sho featuring skeleton puppet Ded Bob who is carried around by his brainless zombie Sludge. This puppet show is not for children. It is a comedy puppet show for adults where members of the audience are pulled on stage to be “Bobmitized” into “Bob Zombies”. We caught up with Muggsy Aarsvold, the man behind the mask and puppeteer, to learn more about the Ded Head movement.
- Tell us a little bit about what you do.
I perform an adult-oriented comedy puppet show hosted by Ded Bob, a skeleton operated in the style of a ventriloquist’s dummy. I operate the puppet as “Sludge,” Ded Bob’s silent assistant. A longtime favorite of Festival-goers around the country, the Ded Bob Show is standup comedy paired with the live audience interaction unique to the Renaissance Festival. It’s often edgy, racy, and very silly. It is not for children.
- Tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to this profession. At what age did you start? At what age did you start taking your profession on the road? How long have you been doing this?
I trained to be a performer in kid’s programs near Minneapolis. I started performing professionally when I was a teenager in a traveling professional skate board stunt show. I later moved to L.A. to pursue careers in music and comedy. At age 26 I landed my first job at the Carolina Renaissance Festival performing insult comedy at the popular Vegetable Justice comedy game where patrons get to throw tomatoes at a funny man being held in “the stocks”. Doing this one-man comedy job lent well to the development of my current job performing as Ded Bob which I have been doing for the last 12 years.
- For how many months out of a year do you travel?
I travel for 10 months a year working and then have 2 winter months off.
- What other cities do you work?
In recent years I have performed in Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, New Orleans, and of course Charlotte; I am usually in a location annually for about 8 weeks at a time.
- What about the traveling lifestyle appeals to you?
I chase the summer season around the country camping and traveling in an RV. I get to experience each diverse landscape at optimal times of year starting with the desert bloom of spring in Arizona and ending with colorful crisp autumn in North Carolina. I travel with kayaks, fishing equipment, and bicycles and try to take advantage of each area’s unique qualities. I also enjoy being able to return to each area annually which gives us a unique ability to embed ourselves in the local communities. I come back every year to my favorite restaurants and community events and have friends there waiting.
- How does life on the road play a factor in your relationship(s)?
I met my partner Collette Dessinque at the Carolina Renaissance Festival and we have been traveling together for almost 14 years. We are able to visit our family members around the country throughout the year, although working weekends and having a travelling schedule can certainly affect our ability to attend holidays or family events. However, life on the road also gives us a lot of time together as we work, live, and travel together with our cat “Applesauce”.
(Colette Dessinque is a dancer and director of the Jamila Lotus Dance Carnivale Show – presenting music and dance at the Carolina Renaissance Festival.)
- I imagine the road life comes with challenges. What motivates you to continue?
The festival provides and very unique and supportive working community that we love being a part of and there are always new people and new projects to pursue. The venue provides a creative outlet for our art as well as the opportunity to keep traveling and doing comedy. After all these years the festival and its inherent community are not only work but “home” as well.
- Do you perform at venues other than Renaissance Festivals? If so, please describe.
About seven years ago Collette and I started doing stand-up comedy at local open-mics as we traveled. We teamed up with a few other performers at the festival, guys from the London Broil Show, the Joust and the Vegetable Justice game to form “The Almost Homeless Comedy Tour”. In addition to Phoenix, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and other cities along our way, the comedy tour has appeared annually in Charlotte for the past 6 years; it’s happened at the Charlotte Comedy Zone and at the Blumenthal Theater at Spirit Square. It has been very successful, and it’s been quite fun for us to interact with fans of the festival in a secondary way. This helps us have a more intimate relationship with the local community.
- What do you look forward to most about coming to Charlotte? What do you do when not performing on a Festival day?
The food in the Charlotte Area is excellent. We love dining at local places. We also love being outdoors and North Carolina is a beautiful place to be in the fall for hiking, fishing, and kayaking! We are near Lake Norman at the festival and enjoy fishing, swimming, and boating there. Charlotte also has a healthy arts scene that allows us to take advantage of great concert music venues, comedy open-mic spots, and dance classes.
- What do you do in the Carolinas when not performing? (Hobbies, additional travel & tourism when in different towns, etc.)
We often take a few days to rent a house in the Outer Banks or in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Hike and see waterfalls. North Carolina is one of our favorite places to visit because it has a very diverse landscape.
- How might fans follow you online and on social media?
On Facebook at: TheBobbyDedTour; MuggsyIsFunny; AlmostHomelessComedyTour
For detailed Festival information, directions and tickets visit www.Carolina.RenFestInfo.com. Check back next week for our interview with Ded Bob!
Want to learn more about the Carolina Renaissance Festival? Click here for more information.