“I was born in Switzerland, in Zurich in 1983 and I grew up in Paris. I am the eighth generation of a circus family. My father, Willer Nicolodi, was an acrobat when he was young, and now he is a very successful ventriloquist. My mother was an actress and a beauty queen in Switzerland, when she met my father and fell in love with him. He was on tour with the Swiss National Circus Knie. They came here to Mallorca in 1979, and to Son Amar. It was not like it is now: they visited me here recently and they couldn’t believe how the place has grown and changed and improved. My father performed at Son Amar as an acrobat more than thirty years ago. Then after that he got a contract at the Moulin Rouge and that is why I grew up in France.
“Even when I was a child I knew what I wanted to be. My mother would ask, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to be a pilot, are you sure you don’t want to be a train driver?’ and I would say, ‘No, I want to be like my father and do the handstand!’ I would watch the show every day. I just wanted to do the same thing as him.
“I started at circus school when I was fourteen and became an acrobat like my father. I specialised in handstands and contortions, but then I started to have back problems in my early twenties, and that is when I decided to change what I was doing. You can’t go on forever as an acrobat, as you get older you will get worse, but as a clown, as a comedian you will just get better. My father helped a lot, he knows a lot about comedy, and he had already made the switch, and that’s how I started.
“My character onstage is called Coperlin. I wanted him to be a failed magician, a cheap copy of David Copperfield, so I wanted his name to be like Copperfield, but not. He is a funny failure, Copperlin pretends he is from Las Vegas, and thinks that everyone believes him, but really the audience are laughing at him. He juggles with Samurai swords, he does tricks, and he works with fire. He gets a lot of laughs. Right from the beginning I had a good feeling with my idea for the character, but of course it was not easy at the start and I had to build it up. Performing in international cabaret shows, you know that the audience will speak several languages, so you can’t really tell straight jokes, some of them won’t understand. I speak six languages, but in my act I speak ‘International’, so I don’t really say that much, it has to be very visual. People love to laugh at the unexpected. When people laugh, when I make people happy, that’s the best feeling. I love to make people forget their worries, and let them relax.
“I almost never get to go home. But this is a good sign; if I had the chance to go home it would mean I had no work. Now I am here performing in the ‘We Are The World’ show at Son Amar, I am here until September, and then I go back to Germany, and then to Basle in Switzerland and then I will be going to America to perform with the Barnum and Bailey circus, which is the biggest circus in the world. I’ve worked in Variety shows all over Europe. And I’ve performed in Australia, and Asia as well. You’ve got to be good if you want to get a job, there is a lot of competition. If you’re not used to travelling you’ve got to be ready for living like a nomad. For me? I am happy to do it all: I like to be in a circus, but I like to be in one place as well. I like to go on tour, but I also love to do cabaret.
“I am a very shy person, but as soon as I go onstage I get into character. Offstage I am not the person the audience think I am. It’s a kind of metamorphosis. Backstage you have to be able to get on with people very easily, you learn how to do this when you are moving around all of the time. I don’t know any other life, but it is difficult to stay in touch with the friends you make once the contract is over and we all move on to the next job. I am lucky that I am married to Marina, she is a trapeze artist from the Ukraine, we met at work of course! We travel everywhere together: that is the only way to make a relationship work in this business; you can’t be apart for a long time. We support each other a lot; she is my best friend as well as my wife.
“This is my first time in Majorca, I think it’s great, I love it. I’ve realised that all of Europe is here, it’s very international, so I feel quite comfortable. I like the quiet places the best: there is a nice beach near to Soller that we love. And I am crazy about golf, I like to play, so having so many golf courses here is great for me.
“To perform at Son Amar has been an honour for me: I am following in my father’s footsteps, thirty years after he worked here, so I am here as well. I would like to develop Coperlin, and see what else the character could do. My dream would be to have my own hour and a half long show doing comedy, magic, juggling. That’s my ultimate goal”.
Comedian Dustin Nicolodi was speaking to Vicki McLeod
First published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin on Sunday July 22nd 2012
Click here: Dustin Nicolodi