Interview: Rod Laver, “It was much funnier and had a much bigger wow factor”

“A triumph! Bizarre, breath-taking…truly unique…” – high praise, particularly when it comes from none other than Derren Brown. Those were the words Brown used to describe Rod Laver, who has gained a reputation for being one of Europe’s most entertaining and innovative jugglers over the last 30 years with his unique brand of ping pong juggling.
It’s a career that has been recognised with awards, television appearances and through his appointment to the position of Head Of Juggling at Circomedia in Bristol and The Circus Space in London – the UK’s two major circus schools. We caught up with Rod to talk about his career highlights and what we can expect from him next.

Q&A with Rod Laver

Hi Rod, thanks for talking with me about your incredible career. When did you first realise you had a talent, and a passion, for ping pong juggling?

I was at Circus School in the early 90s and I saw a VHS video of someone doing it. All the jugglers at the school tried it and I found it much easier then anyone else. I also quickly realised that it was much funnier and had a much bigger wow factor than other juggling.
You set the Guinness World Record for the most ping pong balls fired into a target using the mouth in one minute with a sensational 50 balls – how daunting was it to make a world record attempt on television?
Daunting and exciting but as it was a new record, I had to agree with Guinness a challenging target. They looked at me practicing and thought 38 was fair. On the day of the show I was so pumped that I did 50. Now it is very hard for me to break it again. I wish I had just got over the line with 39 or 40.
You’ve performed in festivals, on television and won awards around the world – are there any particular moments that stand out to you as career highlights?
Winning Bronze and being the first juggler to juggle 8 ping pongs at the International Jugglers Association championships in 2000. It was a bit like the juggler’s Olympics. Getting standing ovations twice on the amazing “Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde” French TV show. Representing the UK at Kamiwaza in Japan (A world variety TV competition) and fulfilling a lifetime ambition of performing at the Wintergarten in Berlin.
You’re part of the cabaret duo “Rodney & Alexandra” as well as being Artistic Director of “The Decadent Rabbit Cabaret” along with Alexandra. How does performing solo compare to performing as part of a duo, or a larger ensemble?
Solo gives you time and space to make artistic and comic decisions as well as varying your timing with tricks and audience interaction without affecting anyone else. My duo with Alex is great because it is sexy and outrageous and for twenty years those adjectives would never have been applied to me! Being onstage as part of the Decadent Rabbit Ensemble is great as aside from the feelings of camaraderie there is a sense of spectacle which a solo artist with a few ping pong balls can’t achieve
What can we expect from you next?
I have just begun performing a solo one-hour show for the first time in my career and will be doing more of that this year. Also, a new Decadent Rabbit Show will be appearing later in the year.
You can stay up to date via Rod’s website: