Amazing Arthur once took the stage seconds after attendees learned that a co-worker was being taken off life support (“How do you pick up from that?”). He has managed countless hecklers and worked around endless interruptions like ringing cell phones and wailing babies.
Offstage, there’s “helpful” criticism from people who don’t get jokes, such as his tagline touting “As viewed on YouTube 9 times!” or the fake anti-theft tag on his jacket. He’s had to listen to people appraising his looks while he’s standing right there. And he has to constantly deal with the disappointment of event organizers when turning down perpetual requests for free performances.
With his education degree, he could spend his days in a relatively calm and climate-controlled classroom, but Amazing Arthur just can’t stop doing what he really loves: entertaining. And being amazing, of course.
“About a decade ago, I came up with ‘Professional Showoff.’ It’s all-encompassing and you know right away this guy does something, he’s a showoff of some kind,” he says. “And it’s easier than saying, “Comedian, mentalist, magician, juggler, it-just-goes-on-forever.’”
Using the stage name Arthur Fratelli (he’s Arthur Silknitter, Jr., in his civilian life), the Papillion family man makes a living doing hundreds of shows a year all
over the country, managing his own marketing and serving as his own agent.
“I’ve been doing this since I was in high school. I used to go the Old Market and street-perform and it slowly gained steam with the clientele as people would ask for my card. I work mainlyword-of-mouth now,” Fratelli says.
Then he quips: “I think 99 percent of it is good looks. I’m extremely attractive.”
He may not take himself too seriously, but Fratelli is actually a serious businessman, offering his
card to everyone he meets and constantly thinking of the next booking.
“Seriously, I’d say it’s just the tenacity of working. The more you work, the more you work. I just do a good show and the calls come in,” he says. “It takes time and consistency. I try to give you a good value for your money, try to offer a variety of things, not just magic.”
Fratelli’s versatility means he can customize his performances for the client’s audience. and his business has expanded to handle bookings for other entertainers, like his real-life sister, balloon artist Poppin’ Penelope.
The father of “three beautiful children, four total” (he admits that his wife doesn’t really love that line) is also already grooming the next generation. Fourteen-year-old son Joey has taken the Fratelli stage name with his own juggling act (his first paid gig was at 13), where the years of watching his dad perform have paid off in a stage presence beyond his years…never mind the fact that mom and dad still have to drive him to and from shows.
Fratelli says the neighbors may get a little nervous when they spy flames in the backyard, but he assures them that Joey isn’t just playing with fire. Well, he is sort of playing with fire, but it’s all part of taking his juggling to the next level, and the proper safety precautions are in place.
With Joey stepping into the flaming hot spotlight, 11-year-old juggler-in-training Lauren has taken her brother’s place as Dad’s occasional audience plant, with Fratelli letting his audience in on the joke sooner or later with the line, “I’ll bet her father is really good-looking.”
As for the other two, Fratelli reports that his four-year-old daughter is still completely unimpressed with the family business at this point, but “my nine-year-old is very eager.” So if the youngest doesn’t warm up to the notion of professional showoffery, it would still work either way: the family could eventually become the Five Fratellis or top out as the Four Fratellis, both in the spirit of Amazing Arthur’s confessed love of alliteration.
No two shows are ever the same, Fratelli says. He makes a point of staying up on pop culture so his stage patter is topical, and he relishes improvisation and audience participation.
“A lot of entertainers who are onstage live perform as if it’s a movie. They press ‘play’ and it’s the same scenes at the same time. If something happens—a phone goes off, somebody leaves, somebody walks in—I have to incorporate it; that’s why I can’t do a rehearsed show,” he says. “I have to be able to work with the audience.”