If you’re concerned about the ethics of being a traveling magician in the age of coronavirus, Spencer Sprocket has probably thought of it first.

“I’m always really weary that there’s going to be some naysayer saying, ‘It’s really dangerous, you shouldn’t be doing this,’” says the 32-year-old.

Before the onset of the pandemic, Sprocket made a living on close contact, performing at birthday parties, mixers and street shows, where the size of the crowd is a direct reflection of how well he’s managed to engage.

Now he roams the sidewalks, mostly at night to avoid foot traffic, pausing for only a few minutes at a time to juggle or perform a gag. The shows are designed to avoid drawing crowds—he never stands in one place long enough for groups to collect. And if kids still want a magician for their socially distant birthday party, he’ll adapt his set for a virtual performance.

The feedback so far has been uniformly positive. Well, almost.

“There’s literally been one negative comment,” he says. “Someone posted it on Reddit and said that I was ‘sucking up the essential man’s air.’ I still don’t know if it was a joke or not.”

The first time he performed one of these street shows—what he now dubs his “sidewalk circuses”—the reactions began after the first half-block.

“It was at night and I have these LED clubs which are really bright,” Sprocket says. “I remember all I could hear was people applauding and cheering, but I couldn’t see anybody’s faces. It was strange and different.”

The best performances, though, take place in front of apartment complexes and assisted living centers, where the immunocompromised can watch from their windows or balconies with no risk of contact. Sprocket is lucky in that juggling, his first love, can be done almost anywhere.

“One guy actually said he had a really rough day and he rode his bike to get some clarity, and seeing me was some sort of sign that everything was going to be OK,” Sprocket says. “And I was like, ‘Are you working for Hallmark? What kind of comment is that?’ But it really does feel great to have such a positive impact on your community.”

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