How many pingpong balls can you fit in your mouth?

Posted July 12, 2012, at 10:21 a.m.

Most visual comics and performance artists can juggle and do a few magic tricks. But few, if any, can do the things Michael Trautman can do with pingpong balls — starting with the amazing ability to stuff five of them into his mouth at once.

With cheeks that stretch like Louis Armstrong’s and an elastic body kept limber through daily aerobics, Trautman is known for his frenzied performances. He uses his mouth for everything from juggling pingpong balls to shooting them at cans while bent over upside down.

Trautman went to college with a plan of becoming a lawyer — but after four years he decided what he really wanted out of life was to have fun. So he embarked on a study of physical comedy, including mime, magic and visual storytelling, in Maine and in Paris. That led to a career as both a solo performer and as a clown in the Big Apple Circus. In 35 years, his career has taken him around the world.

Trautman, who lives in Portland, is performing this month at the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival in Alberta, Canada. Before he hit the road, he put on a show for a couple hundred kids from local summer camps at the old Lewiston Armory.

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