While you might be trying to escape that initial shock of first week homework or a long line in Danforth, Brian Rudo has bigger problems. Rudo, a comedic stuntman and professional escape artist whose exhilarating act includes the appropriately named “Adrenaline Rush,” among other tricks and stunts, performed for an eager audience at UR on Friday, Jan. 20 in the May Room. The show was truly fascinating, as well as entertaining, with an irresistible combination of blunt humor and nail-biting tricks.
As most of us clearly do not seek out potentially lethal stunts to perform in front of a live audience, the first question is clear: how did Rudo break into this death-defying business in the first place?
“I heard what a clown could make for an hour at [age] 17,” he said. “I figured with better skills I didn’t have to be a bad clown.”
Dressed from head to toe in what looked like a khaki prison uniform — an oddly appropriate choice for the theme of the show — Rudo was quick to engage the audience with a never-ending stream of quick wit and intrigue while setting up for each stunt. An ever merciless host, he picked volunteers from the audience at random and wouldn’t take no for an answer, but he made sure they were at ease once they joined him on stage.
“My goal tonight is not to entertain you. My goal tonight is to entertain myself,” he explained to the crowd at the start of the show.
And he sure did have a blast.

For his first act he revealed an Australian bull whip and, following some light-hearted banter and a couple of intentional false starts, proceeded to chop off pieces of a celery stick with the bull whip cracking at 750 miles per hour — all while the vegetable was held in the mouth of an anxious volunteer. The bullwhip pared the celery so quickly that it could hardly be seen as it flew through the air — a detail which made for an even more dramatic outcome — and despite the stunt’s simplistic concept its execution was nuanced and engrossing. It was raw — and I’m not just talking about the vegetable — Rudo relied on his own wit and talent to move the stunt along and keep the audience on their toes.

The stuntman really tested his (and the audience’s) limits with “Adrenaline Rush” though. He placed a chef’s knife on one of four wooden boards, covered each board with a paper bag, blind folded himself and asked a volunteer to adjust the placement of the boards. He then, by process of elimination, found the knife by forcefully smashing each bag (all while blindfolded) until he was only left with the one that encased the knife. True to its name, this stunt quickened the heart rate of any an audience member as the probability that Rudo would accidentally stab himself became greater by the minute. It was stressful to watch, but fascinating nonetheless — impressive not just in its necessity for bravery but because, despite the fact that it seemed so implausible, Rudo was able to complete the trick — and with his hand intact, too.

It hasn’t always been such smooth sailing for Rudo though, and, like a true adrenaline-seeker, his mishaps have been anything but minor. He once got stuck in two straightjackets above a pit of fire in Birmingham, Ala. His website also boasts of other near death experiences, including being struck by lightning, getting attacked by a gang and jumping out of a plane with malfunctioning equipment.

The only real disappointment of the show occurred when Rudo had the audience stare at an image which he spun around very quickly, after which he instructed everyone to look at his (now apparently shrinking) head. Although the majority of the onlookers appeared to be in on the illusion, not everyone was able to see the trick.

Rudo ended the show with a real shocker — using a Tesla coil to shock himself with 250,000 volts of electricity to light a torch on fire. Despite the absurdities of this action, Rudo made it look easy and hardly flinched when the electricity made its way through his body.

Everything in Rudo’s show was genuine — and the audience knew it. The potential for disaster was real, but this only served to make the overall performance more engrossing. He didn’t try to hide the truth — if he made a mistake the audience was going to see it. There was one nerve-racking moment when Rudo nearly toppled into the audience off a 2-foot high ball as he attempted to escape from two straightjackets at once while atop the sphere, but he managed to save himself at the last second.

Perhaps he did this intentionally to shock to the onlookers, but from the audience it looked all too real. Rudo gave an impressive performance of gut, intuition and hilarity making pain look easy.

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