Take in an Al Simmons show

Are you feeling winter-weary? If so, then you need your inner child recharged and I can’t think of a better way to breathe life into your sagging soul than attending an Al Simmons concert.
If you are as poorly-informed as me, then undoubtedly you will pull your eyebrows together and utter, with a most perplexed voice, “Who?”
Al Simmons. Every Canadian should know who Al Simmons is; he should top the list of Canadians who make life better.
Al Simmons, the entertainer. Al Simmons, the Juno Award-winning entertainer. Al Simmons, the Order of Manitoba-receiving entertainer. Surely you have heard of him?
Al, as my Manitoba-born mother would confirm if she was able to, is a Manitoban treasure. He was born in Winnipeg and now makes Anola, Man. his home. He is the MacGyver of children’s entertainers—dazzling audiences with his gizmos and gadgets, his boundless energy and joy, and his humanity that exudes from his very pores.
Al brought vaudeville into the 21st century.
I recently attended one of Al’s shows. I grumbled about going, not because of Al, but because of my social laziness and because I still was feeling the burden of having just barely survived February—leaving me feeling like a overly-withered balloon.
I am so glad I went to the concert. We sat three rows back from the stage and in the future, I may move a few more rows further (but I’m not telling you why other than some water was involved).
I giggled, I laughed out loud, I guffawed, I jumped out of my seat, and I sang along shamelessly. I was transformed into a child, waiting for the next prank, sitting on the edge of my seat; my breath held expectantly as I watched Al and his creative wizardry.
I am careful these days to which individuals I extend my admiration. We all too often get caught up in equating elite athletic skill with super-human integrity. Those individuals we have held in high regard in the past have proven false idols—a reminder that we all come with our own version of flaws and imperfections no matter our outward appearance and list of skills.
But when you collide with the likes of Al Simmons, your assessment of human nature receives a huge shot in the arm. Al Simmons has “played” at his game in the very best form: Al Simmons’ game plan is all about fun.
Al’s CD, “Celery Stalks at Midnight,” won him a Juno for Best Children’s Album in 1995. Though Al is surely proud of this award, and he passes the Juno around for his audience to touch and examine, I doubt very much it is the accolades that are the measure of this man.
I think he very much believes in what he does; that his laughter and his creative engineering that entertains children, be they six or 86, has far greater positive influence on society than anything else he might have undertaken as a career.
I have read that his home comes equipped with a fire pole, a real train bunk car, and a playroom lined with pillows. Al told me “hearing [people’s] laughter is my life force.”
Al’s parents encouraged him by example to let the laughter out, to make others happy, and Al followed their advice and has been an entertainer since he was 20 years old. He tried it all—“rock band singer, birthday party clown, baggy pants vaudevillian, and stand-up comic”—and all those pieces have melded together to create the entertainer he is today.
Al is a grandfather now, a privilege he undoubtedly embraces with devotion and humour. His family always has been the backdrop of his career, his wife an integral part of his shows “from day one.”
She has been his clown partner, co-writer, accountant, roadie, director, driver, stage manager, costume designer, and confidante.
I don’t know the “man” that lives inside Al Simmons, but if you watch his “Human Jukebox” on YouTube, I guarantee you will see a man who is an example of someone who created a space in this world in which he could be the best version of himself.
If only we could all find and take the opportunity to do the same.
If you get the chance to catch an Al Simmons’ show, I hope you will. You’ll be glad you did.
wendistewart@live.ca

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