Jason Henderson discovered the art whips in an unusual place: performing an anti-bullying educational program in schools. The circus-themed edutainment show saw him taunting another performer with a bullwhip. He had already been working as a street performer for years, but his first crack was like crack and sent him on the path to a full-fledged rawhide addiction. Two years later, Seb Whipits was born: a sexually ambiguous German SM enthusiast with a penchant for nightclubs and self-flagellation.
“When I was coming up with the character, I didn’t want him to be straight or gay,” Henderson says. “He just hits on everyone during the show. With street performance, there’s a line you can’t really cross before it gets too vulgar, because there’s a lot of children and families around. But with this character I can go a bit further without freaking people out and still keep it playful and fun.”
Henderson spent two years perfecting his accent and act before bringing it to the street. Though he’s sustained multiple welts and a few second-degree burns, his efforts have paid off. In addition to juggling three bullwhips while cracking them (go ahead, try that at home), the finale sees him mount a seven-foot unicycle while brandishing two that are on fire.
“Street performance is a tough job because you’re trying to attract a crowd that didn’t want to see a show in the first place and make them like it so much they pay you afterwards,” he says. “On the flip side, you get to interact with people in a way you never could in conventional theatre. It’s really the most exciting job ever.”