By Jack Rubinger
SE Portland’s Not-Your-Average Joe Mishkin remembers performing magic shows for the neighborhood kids in Indianapolis when he was seven years old.
He started doing restaurant table magic and birthday parties while still in middle school and worked at a magic shop through high school, later expanding to corporate events.
I first saw Mishkin perform for a group of preschoolers in Laurelhurst Park. He was constantly cracking jokes while simultaneously twisting, pinching and pushing and pulling balloons from a blower contraption on his waist.
Before long, he was juggling then blowing all kinds of Jew’s harps, flutes, recorders – some original, some modified, and then he went back to the balloons. Then he went back to the juggling. The kids and parents were digging his craziness and having a blast.
Mishkin is entirely self-taught in musical instruments, juggling, and balloons and you can find him performing almost anywhere in town from the Flying Pie on Stark to kids’ parties, Kennedy School engagements and memory care and assisted living community performances.
“I love McMinnville’s annual UFO Festival,” he said. “That’s always a crazy one. I also love Forest Grove’s annual Chalk Art Festival. It’s way cool seeing all that art,” .
He goes from loud and outrageous to funny and energetic to thoughtful and interesting. The way he weaves his performances is improvised and with a purpose.
Mishkin prefers audiences with at least a few children present, because they help the rest of the audience loosen up quicker.
I tracked him down to do a senior center show and he was equally engaging and effervescent with Bob, Florence, Sylvia and Charlotte who were treated to balloon monkeys, Harleys, hats and bouquets. It’s all very physical and very interactive and soon he was working up a sweat.
Mishkin’s almost manic energy and electrifying smile make him seem about ten feet tall when you see him perform, but he’s actually only about 5 foot 4 inches tall. He connects with people of all shapes, sizes, and ages.
“The personal connection I make with each and every individual is hands-down my favorite part about performing,” said Mishkin. “I love interacting with so many cool and interesting people. I have forged enduring bonds with people over the years.”
Mishkin’s “act” has evolved over the years in many ways.
“It’s more rewarding to embrace being an artist rather than a purist,” said Mishkin. “A purist will only do things a certain way. An artist will give anything a try. I don’t have to be loud, zany and wacky to be entertaining, though I do still love to be super silly.”
Mishkin prefers colorful and comfortable handmade African batik dashikis, though in a carry-over nod to his magic shop days, he was in full tuxedo mode at gigs for some time.
Someone just the other day called him the Inspector Gadget of percussionists during a set with his band Jenny Sizzler, which he thought that was pretty awesome.
Influences include Steve Martin, magician David Copperfield and The Flying Karamazov Brothers. He’s been influenced by many people who aren’t famous too who have graced him with guidance and support.
After the gig at the memory care community, I walked him out of the building and we talked about doing social work, giving back to the people, and doing something you’re supposed to do.
Mishkin got quiet, serious and more than a little emotional about the joy of bringing joy to people, which is where we connected.
“I keep following my passions, and teaching myself how to do the things that interest me the most. The show has more or less followed the same trajectory: magic, juggling, balloons, music. Who knows what’ll be next?,” he said.
To find out more, visit joemishkin.com.