For this fourth installment of The Lizardman Q&A, I took the questions offered up in my IAM forum and then went to the vault — pulling out questions I had passed over in previous columns. It seems that material may be starting to wear a little thin. However, I am not yet willing to declare the Q & A dead. What I will be doing is switching things around a bit. I have been lining up a number of interviewees and very soon you should start to see what sort of questions I ask of other sideshow personalities, performers, and heavily modified people*.
If you have a suggestion for someone you would like to see me interview, please send it along to me.
But for now, here’s the Q&A…
ScabBoy: Do you believe in an afterlife?
If it wasn’t obvious from my spirituality column or some of my answers in the last couple Q&A columns — No, I don’t believe in an afterlife. Nothing I have experienced nor any credible experiences of others leads me to believe that there is anything more than this life, which I am currently living to the fullest extent that I can. I will not rule it out as a possibility but under the current circumstances I cannot rely upon it or make it a consideration in my decision making process as it would represent a bottomless pit of ‘what if’ predication.
(If you are still alive) Do you see yourself still performing in 30,40+ years?
Not only still performing but very likely having to perform. I am a self-employed freak. I don’t have a 401k and I don’t have the sort of income that makes it easy to amass savings for future retirement. This is something anyone looking to go into a similar sort of career should seriously consider. I plan on doing a future column detailing and describing the various pitfalls and concerns one should address before thinking of embarking on a career as a freak in which I will discuss this further.
The likelihood is very high that I will perform until my death not only because I want to and I love it (beyond the fact that given what I do I will probably die onstage) but also because it will be a real world necessity for me in terms of supporting myself. The nice thing being that many of those before me have shown that you can have a successful run swallowing swords, eating fire, and the like well into your eighties.
big lobed freak: What is Thanksgiving dinner with your family like?
It’s a dinner. My family (mom, dad, sister, and myself) was never really a big Thanksgiving family. It was just a day we all had off to be together and have a nice meal. Sometimes other relatives would come by, but it’s mainly just that core nuclear group.
lilfunky1: How long was your longest tattooing session? And approximately what area of the body?
The majority of my body thus far has been done in six to eight hour sessions. The longest single session I have done was about eleven hours — that involved outlining and filling in the black designs on my ribs and abdomen. That also became the most tattooing I have had done in a twenty-four hour period since after a short break when the artist (Mad Pup) did a small piece on another person, we started up again for a total of thirteen hours in one day.
ServMe: Is there one question or topic that you’d really like to comment on or talk about in your Q&A column, but has so far not yet been touched on by anyone? What would that be?
I really approach the Q&A with no expectations or goals other than answering the questions that come — hopefully in a fun and informative manner. If I have something I that really want to tackle, then I either do it as a column itself or wait for the opportunity to tangent into it off another question. Very often, the reverse happens — that is, I will get asked about a topic I hadn’t thought much about before or that leads me to something else and that becomes the topic for a column.
Lord_Abortion: Do you plan on going further into your study on martial arts? Like maybe some mixed-martial arts styles like Brazilian Ju-Jitsu or something.
Probably not — at least not open hand styles. I would love to go on, if I could find a dojo that really fit me again. My interest now is shifting more towards weapons. I would like to find a good kobudo club or get back into fencing or kendo. I’m also thinking of going more modern — I grew up with a dad in the military and in an area where hunting was always popular so I grew up with lots of guns around me. However, while I am into fine rifles and shotguns, my handgun knowledge and experience is less than I would like. So, I am thinking of getting my permit and finding a good range in Austin.
Gravedigger’s Daughter: You’ve done so many shows and been so many places. Is there one place you’ve enjoyed visiting/performing in the most? Would you ever consider moving there if given the chance?
There is a big difference between enjoying visiting and performing somewhere and wanting to move there. About the only place I can think of that I really love performing in and would consider as a place to live besides Austin right now would be Las Vegas. As a purely practical matter, it would probably be a very good career decision for me to move to LA but I don’t really want that. Where I live is more a matter of the concerns and desires of those important to me — being that I travel so much, where I hang my hat is not a big deal for me. Meghan likes Austin, I like Meghan, and thus we live in Austin.
serpents: If you could go back and do a full-body transformation into Shawn Porter instead of a lizard, would you?
Can’t have a Q&A without at least one Shawn Porter reference. Hmmm, the no-lube butt-love does make it an appealing prospect, but I have to say no. (and you can’t mention Shawn without referencing no-lube butt-love).
Meghan: Of the four categories in Cranium (Creative Cat, Word Worm, Star Performer, Data Head), which one is your favorite, and why?
I barely remember what they all mean — I like the drawing and backwards spelling challenges, because I’m good at them.
Cayne: Thinking of trying to insert any other power tools into your head via your nose?
Always, and other orifices. The thing about me going into a hardware store, or any other store, is that I am always thinking about the show. I pick up all sorts of stuff and wonder if I can balance it, or swallow it, or fit it up my nose. I wonder how it might look onstage or what else it could be used for in the show. On tour you can often find me juggling toilet plungers in dollar stores or doing impromptu demonstrations in home depot for the sales clerks.
Many of the funnier bits and more unusual objects in my repertoire come from these improv moments and demos. The fork I currently put my nose as part of my blockhead routine comes from the Orlando alehouse. It was last year at Horror Nights in Universal when one night after finishing up we went over there for a couple beers and someone asked about show. As more and more people got involved, a few of them expressed disbelief and were convinced I was putting them on. So, I took a fork off the table and worked it into my skull to prove that the blockhead is real.
wldfire_1: Do you think the average person who sees you the first time, thinks you are a dumb person, not for doing what you have done to yourself, but in general. As no person with any brains would do that to themselves…
Given the context (performing onstage or on TV) that most people first see me, I think most of them realize that I have to be reasonably intelligent and have developed myself consciously to this point. They might not respect or like what I do, but I think they have to recognize it takes some work and brains. I really don’t get much of that sort of response — it is more that they ask ‘Why?’ as opposed to thinking I am just dumb.
After asking ‘why?’ most people tend be obsessed with finding out how much I make for performing or being on a certain show — which just goes to show the misplaced sense of priority that is so pervasive in our culture. The thought that something can make money outweighs any consideration of personal enjoyment, risk, or non-financial consequence.
e_: If you could instantly have and heal any mod, what would it be? (I remember Shannon saying that he would get a fully functional and independent third arm, so the sky’s the limit on this one.)
Hmm, there are lots of wonderful possibilities… It’s very hard to choose. I would love some wings or a serious tail (crocodile-like but more prehensile). Venom glands and spitting cobra fangs are tempting too — I have actually worked on designs for the dental implant equivalents a little bit. Overall though, if I can have a fantasy body mod it is going to be something more subtle and practical like accelerated self-regenerating tissues.
Nullius: What do your friends call you? Erik? Lizard Man? Some other nickname? Do random people you run into on the street know your real name? Or even your stage name? Or do you get a lot of “hey, it’s lizard dude!”
I don’t put a lot of stock in names — I probably use Erik and Lizardman the most in terms of introducing myself, but I also accompany that with the disclaimer that I don’t care what I am called outside of the media, where I want The Lizardman name to be used primarily for business reasons. Other than that, you can yell ‘hey asshole’ and it works well enough to get my attention. Lots of people seem to know my names — it comes with media exposure but I don’t think you ever quite get completely adjusted to people knowing your name and so much about you even though you are just meeting them for the first time. There are still many people who use some of my old nicknames for me like ‘satan’ and ‘freak’ or ‘freakshow’.
Glider: From a marketing point of view, what are the advantages/disadvantages of choosing a name that can’t really be used in conversation (i.e. The Lizardman implies that you also have a “real” name), versus a moniker that “becomes” your own (i.e. Amago)? Or are you slowly shifting from “Erik” being your identity to “The Lizardman”?
I think there is an advantage in marketing to having a name like ‘The Lizardman’ because it implies a singular or premiere nature via the ‘The’ and by being an obviously assumed name it communicates that there is a character involved, which can help create interest. The only real disadvantage, and its not one that I think is serious, is that some people begin to see your real name as a sort of prize or secret and will use it instead of the stage name in situations where it would be more appropriate to call me The Lizardman. It creates a false importance for my given name. There is no difference in the identity of The Lizardman versus Erik Sprague — so there is no need to shift.
How does sideshow culture improve the world?
I plan to address this in more detail in a future column, but here’s the short(er) answer. It primarily provides entertainment — and I think that is often greatly underrated. Additionally, it provides a platform and outlet for the sorts of activities that can inspire along the lines I discussed in my first guest column About Records. It also helps to relieve us of one of the silliest stigmas in modern culture by providing an atmosphere that actually encourages staring and exploring things that we find unusual and even scary.
Adults entering a sideshow temporarily become children again — they are wide-eyed and honestly curious about their surroundings. When you avert your eyes or avoid a subject you learn nothing. Sideshow encourages a sort of direct confrontation that can lead to better understanding and acceptance. We should remember that much of early sideshow was the traveling exhibition that also forms the foundation of the modern museum.
metalheart: Have you ever been offered a role in any movies? If you were would you do it if it was the right part?
I was up for a role in a Jodi Foster movie that has since been indefinitely shelved. Other than that, a screenwriter and independent filmmaker I met doing Ricki Lake has told me he is writing a part for me in his next film. I would love to get into movies — at this point, the right part is pretty much the one I can get cast in. In the late nineties I did shoot and sell some footage of myself for stock use doing things like breathing fire and the human pincushion. To my knowledge it has yet to be used — it was in Universal Soldier 2 (on a TV in the background of one shot) but then the scene got cut.
[Editor's Note: The Lizardman also appears in the upcoming film SAVED]
Just wondering also if you had any pre or post show rituals you do?
Out of necessity before any show that involves the gavage I have to fast for about eight to ten hours depending on what I have eaten. This clears my system so that the pump works more smoothly. I try to avoid superstitions or behavioral ruts that don’t actually add anything tangible. I stretch out before taking the stage and right before the show starts I take a set list and confirm that all props and materials are present. After a show I always feel a bit hectic until I get the chance to clean and pack everything (especially the gavage tube) — again out of necessity since it can get nasty if left to sit. Once all the relevant business is done I get a beer and some food (preferably pizza)… if possible I take hot shower and stretch in it while drinking the beer.
madscientist: Of all the people you would count as friends or acquaintances, what percentage of them are modified?
Well, given my broad view of what constitutes modification (see my columns What is Body Modification? and What is Body Modification, part two) I would say that all of them are modified. However, looking at the more common view of atypical mods being those that make one modified, then I would say that almost all of them have something or other but not necessarily heavy or extreme mods. There are notable exceptions like one of my oldest and best friends who has not even a simple lobe piercing.
A person’s modifications mean next to nothing to me in terms of my opinion or connection to them. I look at actions and attitude. Having mods is not an indicator that I will necessarily have anything in common with a person or want to spend time with them and not having them certainly doesn’t preclude me from wanting to know them.
inkstaingirl: How much would you say you have spent on body modifications?
I guesstimate my total at around eleven or twelve thousand dollars for tattooing, surgeries, implants, and so on. However, that total does not include things like travel costs and the time incurred for procedures and healing. I personally feel that the monetary cost or alleged value of a mod is a very poor rating scale. It isn’t about money.
LilBlueFunk: Do you ever get pre-show jitters?
I sometimes get anxious in the planning and negotiating stages of setting up a gig — where I often have the least control. Once it is set up, I tend to get excited rather than anxious — especially for things that I know are big and have a lot riding on them. When I get ready to step on the stage, I just slip into a relaxed fun state and enjoy it.
Jasonthe29th: What has affected you more as a person, your mods or people’s reactions to them?
In terms of who I am as a person the mods are a reflection or expression. People’s reactions to them mainly tell me about those people. I’m not sure I answered that question…?
Saram: You regularly stick a snake up your nose and perform the gavage. Is there anything that turns your stomach?
I have often suggested to people that the queasy feeling they get when I’m pumping my stomach or working with Cricket the Wonder Snake is not unlike the one I get when I look at so called ‘normality’. The truth is that while I find plenty of things personally distasteful they do not affect me in such a physical manner. Not that I am desensitized, but rather I have excellent coping skills — just as I have learned to accept skewers and stomach pumps and I can also sit through most disturbing images, smells, and the like.
How often do people think that you’re really trying to become a snake, not a lizard?
I don’t know really, it’s not that big a deal to me. What does sometimes get me are the people who think that they are fish scales or even a spider web. I wonder about their ability to recognize patterns and wholes.
Moof: How important to you, if at all, is the shock value of your appearance?
It is not something that I find necessary but rather something that I find useful at times. If the world and people change around me such that my appearance isn’t shocking anymore I won’t be bothered at all.