What does Jack Dag­ger do for a liv­ing? He’s a knife-thrower, duh!

Jack Dag­ger – one of Amer­ica’s best-known blade-flingers, whose live shows al­ways pull a crowd – on in­juries, knife fights and what he plans to per­form in Dubai some day

Friday - - Contents - Knife-throw­ing calls for years of prac­tise and should only be at­tempted by pro­fes­sion­als.

When was the first time you threw some­thing sharp? I don’t re­mem­ber how old I was, but as a kid grow­ing up in Louisiana I re­mem­ber my mum try­ing to get me to help her weed the gar­den, only for me to take the tools and run around throw­ing them into the dirt. I found that if I threw them in dif­fer­ent ways it af­fected their spin, and it be­came like a game to me. The maths of it all made sense in my head and I think that’s what paved the way for fig­ur­ing out the physics of knife-throw­ing.

When did you start tak­ing it more se­ri­ously? I’d picked up some in­ex­pen­sive throw­ing knives and they were junk, re­ally: sharp, dan­ger­ous and they tended to bounce back at you. I kept try­ing to fig­ure out what was wrong with them and then in about 1988, I read an ar­ti­cle in Blade mag­a­zine about a man named Harry McEvoy who owned a com­pany named Tru-Bal­ance Knives. He was known as the grand­fa­ther of back­yard knife-throw­ing, so I wrote to him and he of­fered to sell me a good one, which I bought for $35 [Dh128].

What makes a good throw­ing knife? It has to be the right size, for a start. They need to be at least 12 inches (30cm), prefer­ably around 14. Any smaller than that and they ro­tate too quickly and de­velop such ro­ta­tional speed dur­ing the throw that if they bounce out of the tar­get it can be pretty haz­ardous. Longer than 15 inches and a knife be­comes more like a sword, and is pretty dif­fi­cult to turn.

Why do you do it? I’ve al­ways been a per­former – ever since do­ing som­er­saults down the aisle at my aunt’s wed­ding when I was two. As I got older I re­alised that knife-throw­ers are just a kind of weird breed of peo­ple and we just have a cer­tain thing where throw­ing knives flips a switch for us. I love it. There’s hun­dreds of peo­ple in the world who love it, too, and when we meet up at com­pe­ti­tions it’s more for the fel­low­ship of meet­ing like-minded weirdos than any­thing.

How of­ten do you com­pete? I don’t any more. I com­peted very well un­til an in­jury made me think it was the per­fect time to step away and move more into the ad­min­is­tra­tive side. I still per­form, but I no longer com­pete.

What was the in­jury? Not what you might ex­pect. It was af­ter a gig in LA, I had a small car and my tar­get board was 6ft (1.8m) by 4ft and two inches thick. It weighed a tonne. Af­ter each gig I had to haul it on top of my car and this one time as I was do­ing it I felt some­thing pop in my arm and it turned out I’d ripped my bi­cep ten­don. From that point for­ward I couldn’t throw things with any great dis­tance.

When you came up with ‘Jack Dag­ger’, did you try out any other names first – such as Ste­vie Sharp or Barry Blade? Well, I was born Todd Abrams and that does not pack the right kind of punch. I slaved over the choice of names – it took for­ever. I even­tu­ally set­tled on Jack, be­cause my grand­fa­ther was called Jack and I’d al­ways thought it was a cool name, but it still took me years to add the ‘Dag­ger’. My friend wanted me to use Lance Steel but I thought that sounded too much like some­one from a ro­man­tic novel.

What do peo­ple love most at a show? Well, there’s one thing that I’m known for, called the Cu­cum­ber Slice. My as­sis­tant holds a cu­cum­ber on the in­side of her fore­arm par­al­lel to the ground, and I throw a few knives around her arm and then the last knife bi­sects the cu­cum­ber, slices it in half. I ac­tu­ally per­formed that on The Tonight Show with Co­nan O’Brien in 2009. Maybe I’ll get to do it over in Dubai one day. I have lots of friends who’ve per­formed over there and my num­ber’s got to come up some­time.

Do you of­ten cut your poor as­sis­tant? Not re­ally, be­cause the knives aren’t sharp. We go on and on on­stage to al­low the au­di­ence to be­lieve that these are ra­zor­sharp knives, but it’s non­sense. No­body throws a sharp knife be­cause that’s stupid. If the blade was sharp, I’d cut my hand when throw­ing it.

The tip looks pretty sharp… Yeah, the tip is the only part of the knife that touches the wood. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean knife-throw­ing is easy. That tip of the knife is still mere inches away from the point where it could the­o­ret­i­cally punc­ture the skin.

Do in­juries never hap­pen, then? I’m not say­ing that. But lit­tle grazes – not griev­ous wounds. One time at an out­doors show I was up a lad­der, my part­ner was up a lad­der and my lad­der shifted be­tween the cob­ble­stones. That repo­si­tioned the throw­ing dis­tance and caused a graze. From then on I stopped stand­ing on rick­ety lad­ders. You’re al­ways learn­ing.

Fi­nally, is your back gar­den lit­tered with the graves of former as­sis­tants? No – but there’s a huge desert be­tween here in LA and Las Vegas. That’s where you’ll find them.

The time Jack won’t throw a knife? A fight (not that he picks many). ‘I don’t think I’d take a per­fectly good weapon and throw it. I think I’d hang on to it.’

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