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Look For The Helpers: Denver Vaudeville Troupe Brings 'Joy Bombs' To Streets

The Handsome Little Devils are producing pop-up street performances they call 'Project Joy Bomb.'

In times of distress, a quote from Mr. Rogers often comes up: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

In its recurring segment, "The Helpers," KUNC is collecting stories of people who are going above and beyond to aid others during this time of crisis.

Mike and Cole Huling run The Handsome Little Devils. For the past 20 years, the Denver-based performance troupe has toured across the country bringing audiences their vaudeville-style show.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they were looking for ways to bring their shows to a more intimate crowd, one that might really need them.

"We were talking with some mental health professionals in Colorado about the need to raise awareness about depression and anxiety," Cole said. "And then once the lockdown started, we realized that we need this now more than ever."

The result is Joy Bombs — pop-up street performances featuring a combination of music, magic, art and juggling.

The socially-distanced shows take place through neighborhood streets, as well as outside assisted living centers and hospitals. Performers wear masks and follow strict safety protocols, including maintaining a minimum six-foot distance from audiences, as well as each other. Any performers closer than six feet to each other are already quarantining together, Cole said.

The goal is to bring a little joy to people during a stressful time and as a bonus, the shows have been therapeutic for the performers, as well.

"I was surprised when we would go out (and) little things would trigger us, and then we'd start to get emotional," he said. "It's kind of like someone flips a faucet on that you didn't know was building up pressure. And so it can be really powerful and really surprising because we walk around all day not necessarily quantifying the amount of stress or the lack of enthusiasm that we've gone without for almost two months now."

If you know of a "Helper" making a difference, contact Stacy Nick at stacy.nick@kunc.org.

Stacy was KUNC's arts and culture reporter from 2015 to 2021.
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