How many pingpong balls can you fit in your mouth?

Posted July 12, 2012, at 10:21 a.m.
With cheeks that stretch like rubbber, Michael Trautman fits five ping-pong balls into his mouth.
With cheeks that stretch like rubbber, Michael Trautman fits five ping-pong balls into his mouth. Buy Photo
Now you see them, now you don't. Michael Trautman prepares to makes five ping-pong balls disappear into his mouth during a performance in Lewiston in June.
Now you see them, now you don't. Michael Trautman prepares to makes five ping-pong balls disappear into his mouth during a performance in Lewiston in June. Buy Photo
After jamming five ping-pong balls into his mouth, Trautman sticks out his (fake) tongue.
After jamming five ping-pong balls into his mouth, Trautman sticks out his (fake) tongue. Buy Photo
Trautman gestures during a mime performance.
Trautman gestures during a mime performance. Buy Photo
Trautman shoots a ping-pong ball off a paddle before catching it with his mouth.
Trautman shoots a ping-pong ball off a paddle before catching it with his mouth. Buy Photo
Trautman juggles a ping-pong ball with his mouth.
Trautman juggles a ping-pong ball with his mouth. Buy Photo
Trautman shoots a ping-pong ball out of his mouth, knocking a can off the head off a brave boy he pulled from the audience.
Trautman shoots a ping-pong ball out of his mouth, knocking a can off the head off a brave boy he pulled from the audience. Buy Photo
Trautman shoots a ping-pong ball off a paddle (held by a girl he plucked from the audience) before catching it with his mouth.
Trautman shoots a ping-pong ball off a paddle (held by a girl he plucked from the audience) before catching it with his mouth. Buy Photo
Trautman uses a kazoo, and a girl from the audience, during a skit about an imaginary mosquito.
Trautman uses a kazoo, and a girl from the audience, during a skit about an imaginary mosquito. Buy Photo
Trautman shares some of the secrets of his performance tricks with kids after a show in Lewiston.
Trautman shares some of the secrets of his performance tricks with kids after a show in Lewiston. Buy Photo
Trautman performs at the old Lewiston Armory for kids from local summer camps. Trautman, who has performed around the world, was headed to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for his next show.
Trautman performs at the old Lewiston Armory for kids from local summer camps. Trautman, who has performed around the world, was headed to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for his next show. Buy Photo

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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