Of all the not-quite-translatable words in the German langauge, schadenfreude is one of the best known to English speakers. It's also one of the most delectable.
It refers to the joy one takes in someone else's misfortune.
So it's a fitting moniker for a Barre-based sideshow act full of beds of nails, power drills up the nose and crotch-bound sledgehammers.
There are only two performers in the Schadenfreude Circus: Lady Riggy and Lazlo, both 31. They took the stage at Burlington's Club Metronome last week as part of Paco Fish's Burlesque Vangaurd Tour.
Between Fish's uncanny Michael Jackson impersonations (plus stripping) and more stripping by Green Mountain Cabaret founder Alexa Luthor, Lazlo hammered nails into his nose and rolled a frying pan into a tube with his bare hands. Lady Riggy sliced a cucumber on her staircase of knives before climbing the stairs in her bare feet. She jumped up and down on broken glass, and then, to the horror of many in the audience, did the same on a pile of LEGOs.
Seven Days caught up with the duo after the show.
Seven Days: Do you have day jobs?
The Schadenfreude Circus: Lazlo works for a Vermont insurance company. If you've got an insurance problem, yo, he solves it. Lady Riggy is a hausfrau with occasional breaks for hula hooping.
SD: When did you start performing as the Schadenfreude Circus?
SC: Last year. Before that, Lady Riggy was with other shows, cabaret groups, and street performing. But she was lonely and bored. Much to her surprise, hundreds of miles away, Lazlo wished upon a star (which was later proved to be Mars) that he might someday soon find someone like him ... a sideshow June to his Johnny. They soon learned that fate had been planning the birth of the Schadenfreude Circus for centuries. Nostradamus said something about it ... it is believed to be between the predictions about the French Revolution and Y2K.
SD: How did you discover sideshow?
SC: Many people joke about running away with the circus or the carnival. Lady Riggy actually did. Much like his role-model Gonzo the Great, Lazlo has been entertaining people with his wonderfully horrible stunts for most of his life. To quote Hunter S. Thompson, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
SD: Have you always liked inflicting pain on yourselves/each other? Or is that something one learns to love as a sideshow performer?
SC: Although the acts we perform are 100 percent real (no illusions), they don't actually cause us pain. A good indicator of an act gone wrong is when it begins to hurt. These acts take years of study, knowledge of anatomy and science, meditation, sanitation and safety practices before they are ready to be performed on stage. It is just as important to keep the audience protected, as well as ourselves.
While to the casual observer it may look like we are chowing down on light bulbs and randomly inserting needles into Lady Riggy's flesh, a lot of preparation has gone on pre-show, and will go on post-show to ensure that every measure has been taken so that there is no pain, no bodily harm, everything is kept sanitary and safe, safe, safe. We don't like being hurt. We'd much rather eat pancakes.
SD: Has a trick ever gone wrong and landed you in the hospital?
SC: From time to time things do go wrong, and these things are just beyond our control. Lady Riggy has punctured her stomach with a sword, impaled her foot on a bed of nails, been electrocuted with an electric chair and collapsed both lungs breathing fire. And all blockheads get a bloody nose from time to time when they shove nails in their nostrils, but that's natural. It's just your body's way of trying to get rid of all that excess iron. (Rim shot!)
SD: What is the next big feat of strength/masochism you'd like to master?
SC: We are trying to revive as many of the old-time circus/sideshow acts as possible. While we believe in keeping a firm foundation in the traditions that made sideshow great, we are constantly busy in the Schadenfreude Laboratories inventing/discovering new acts and finding new twists on the classics. Keep an eye out for the Schadenfreude Circus to start getting a bit more western, as we are almost ready to unleash our knife-throwing, whip-cracking antics.
SD: Which is worse, jumping up and down on broken glass, or jumping up and down on LEGOs?
SC: Anyone who has walked through a children's room barefoot knows the answer to that.
To keep up with the Schadenfreude Circus' gigs and whereabouts, check out their Facebook page.