Hungry for an audience, entertainer finds creative outlets
I equate this to the old days of busking on the streets, where you have street performers on every corner putting out their hats . . . That’s kind of what it’s become: online busking.
— Pierre Vachon
MIDDLEBURY — Over the years, modern day Renaissance man Pierre Vachon has worn many different hats. The Burlington native has been known as a professional wrestler, a stand-up comedian, a piercing artist, an event producer at the Marquis Theater in Middlebury, and a DJ with Big Guys Entertainment, which he started with his friend Vinny Herbert. But, when most in-person entertainment was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vachon found himself scrambling for a place to exercise his imagination … and to earn a paycheck.
Well, the Middlebury resident is doing what he does best: getting creative. He’s started a few different projects since the entertainment industry shut down in March, which have ranged from making hand sanitizer and masks to delivering groceries. Ultimately, however, Vachon wanted to find a way to do what he loves and what, he believes, is vital right now: making people laugh.
With this in mind, Vachon has most recently been working on a “COVID Calendar,” a comedic spin on boudoir-style calendars. It is filled with playfully provocative images of Vachon and encapsulates what he calls a “cultural snippet” of popular trends and phenomena during the age of COVID. The calendar goes to print next week.
“There’s a lot going on in the world that’s really intense, between COVID and everything else,” Vachon told the Independent last week. “I wanted to make something more fun and lighthearted, something for people to laugh and smile about.”
It started with a spur-of-the-moment decision to hop on Facebook Live, an online live-streaming platform, one night during Vachon’s lonely spring quarantine. “When everything shut down, I had this huge void,” said Vachon, who lives alone. “I was used to being out every weekend doing shows and giving people that chance, when they had a bad day — or a good day — to have some entertainment and enjoy a little bit of time away.”
So, Vachon began live-streaming his thoughts on life and quarantine in what turned into his nightly “Quarantine Show.” He found that people were just as hungry for laughter and connection as he was. “It was a way for me to outreach to people,” Vachon said. “It started just joking about random topics and interacting, and people would ask me for advice. With COVID, a lot more people are reaching out and wanting advice, and just needing someone to talk to … it took on a life of its own.”
At one point in the show, Vachon discussed a “dudeoir” photo shoot he had taken part in a few years ago (“dudeoir” is a masculine play on the French “boudoir” for a woman’s private bedroom). With the encouragement of Laura Flint, the owner of the Middlebury UPS store and a fan of the “Quarantine Show,” the idea for the calendar was born.
Beyond the laughter that he hopes the calendar will inspire, a big emphasis for Vachon was on body positivity, which he believes is particularly important during the pandemic. “I see people being so negative with themselves, especially while we’re all stuck inside in this reflection state,” he said. Instead, Vachon focuses on staying positive. “Part of the humor of you is the faults you have that make you who you are … I wanted people to know that you don’t have to be ashamed. Just own up to what you got.”
He acknowledged that this isn’t always easy. In fact, making the calendar was a vulnerable process for Vachon himself. “It’s nerve-wracking. I’m putting myself out there in a way that I normally don’t,” Vachon said with a laugh. “I’m not normally half-naked in a picture out in the world. So, it’s a little weird, but I’m still try trying to be funny but also be confident.”
The calendar, which is available online at livethelifeofpierre.com and at the UPS Store in Middlebury, and the “Quarantine Show” are only two examples of the ways in which Vachon has had to adapt his work since the pandemic. In addition to his grocery delivery service, which he started as a way to get food to individuals in Addison County, Vachon’s Big Guys Entertainment DJ company is currently hosting weekly online trivia and game show nights, as well as a weekly talk show called “Big Guys Banter” on bigguysentertainment.com.
Pierre and Vinny aren’t the only performers to move online. In fact, as Vachon noted, every performer seems to be embracing these online media platforms, which can make it challenging for performers to distinguish themselves amid the content overload. “I equate this to the old days of busking on the streets, where you have street performers on every corner putting out their hats. If you can help them out, great. If not, they’re just happy to be entertaining. That’s kind of what it’s become: online busking,” Vachon said.
Vachon noted that, while he can’t replace the earnings he had from his various in-person events, people have been generous in helping out entertainers like him, through methods such as virtual tip jars and the content subscription platform Patreon. A community has even grown among online performers. Vachon, for example, uses his show to promote other entertainers, and asks that they do the same for him.
Online platforms also allow content to reach a wider audience. In addition to his strong Vermont following, Vachon has fans nationwide from his two-decades-long career in wrestling, many of whom would never have been able to see him perform had it not been for his shift online.
Vachon is excited about the release of the “COVID Calendar” next week and says he plans to continue the “Quarantine Show” indefinitely, citing the power that entertainment has to connect people and make them feel good.
“In this time more than ever,” he said, “you need to be able to applaud for yourself.”
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