The Record
Waterloo, Ont. Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Chairman Bob aka Bob Palmer performs at an event promoting Waterloo’s Busker Festival.
Show a chair-raising experience
Bob and James are haunted by cheap plastic chairs.
The buskers have seen the stackable chairs in every country he tours and every backyard they visit.
They’ve flipped on the television news or scanned through a newspaper only to see images of fleeing Serbian refugees with the plastic chairs strapped to their carts or divers pulling algae-covered chairs from the bottom of a lake. They’ve even seen a picture of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat waving a broken plastic chair in the air to illustrate the damage done to his people.
All these chair-sightings have inspired Palmer and O’Shea to create a stunt show using 22 white plastic chairs. Palmer, who is from Red Deer, and James O'Shea of Vancouver will perform their Chairmen show at the upcoming Waterloo Busker Carnival.
The festival is a volunteer-run event that runs tomorrow through Sunday. The festival will see 16 busker acts from around the world perform outdoor shows on King Street, between Erb and William streets.
"These chairs are everywhere," Palmer said yesterday, after performing one of his stunts at a pre-festival event outside the Rude Native Bistro on King Street South. Palmer and O'Shea, performing under the names Chairman Bob and Chairman Jim, turn as many tricks as they can think of with their chairs. They dance with them, fight with them and turn them into Gladiator-style chariots. They even stack 20 of them into two giant pyramids, which they balance on their chins.
"We're applying our monkey tricks to them," Palmer said. He and O'Shea have performed street shows around the world for about 20 years. They’ve been known to juggle, ride unicycles, and walk on wires in the past, but this summer marks the first time they have ever played with chairs.
"You think working with fire is dangerous? Try riding the chair chariot,"" Palmer said with a laugh, showing off the scrapes and bruises he has amassed while performing the stunt.
Wherever Palmer and O'Shea travel, they encourage their audience to try chair stunts at their own homes. Palmer hopes chair tricks will catch on as a new backyard sport.
"Our show is about looking at something familiar with new eyes," Palmer said. "It's about discovering what's inside."
Although Palmer is quick to philosophize about plastic chairs, he promises there's nothing academic about the show.

"This sounds like serious stuff, but I promise, it's just an incredibly stupid show."

Pull up a flying chair and
enjoy the best of the fest
Two guys wearing ties looked out of place at the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival, but it wasn’t their attire that commanded our attention.
It was their choices of seats.

The Chairmen, a.k.a. longtime festival performers Bob Palmer (Flyin’ Bob) and James O’Shea, put their heads together to come up with a new act using unlikely but easily available props – those white plastic garden chairs.

The pair found a million circus style ways to entertain using the ubiquitous CPC’s (crappy plastic chairs). They stacked, juggled, balanced, and danced with them.
“Kids, try this at home!” Palmer urged as he juggled three chairs with O’Shea.
“This will be the ‘bad advice for kids’ show.”

The pair of 10-year olds accompanying me didn’t need much more prompting. Inspired by The Chairmen’s synchronized chair routine, the boys were butting heads with plastic chairs on their heads after seeing the act at the Wednesday night opening ceremonies, just like the supposedly grown-up pair on stage.