When I’m browsing for VHS tapes at my local thrift stores, I’m mostly looking out for two different categories of releases. The first is those titles that either aren’t available on DVD or will be very hard to find on the format. While a lot of those are really bad titles that almost don’t deserve an updated release, some of them are surprisingly good (or at least so bad they’re good). However, most of my attention is spent on trying to track down hilariously bad instructional videos and other VHS tapes to riff on. This is a very inexact science but one of the biggest tells is usually the box art. Even though I’m getting better at spotting unintentionally hilarious tapes, I will still occasionally run into titles that look like they’ll be very easy to riff on that are surprisingly difficult to do so (usually because they’re surprisingly well-made and/or informative). For my third installment of VHS Files, I will take a look at a title that fits into that category with Hat Juggling with Andy Head. The concept and bare-bones box art made me think there was almost no possible way it wouldn’t be funny to laugh at but there is almost no unintentional humor to be found here. However, if you are in the very small target audience of those actually looking to learn how to do hat manipulation/hat juggling, it’s a surprisingly informative video tape that I would recommend in that case. Hat Juggling with Andy Head mostly succeeds with what it set out to do, but fails in the area I was hoping it would be good at (unintentional humor).
While Hat Juggling with Andy Head may not be an entertaining VHS tape to riff on, it is a reasonably informative release. The video starts off in a rather dull way with an interview with Andy Head that gives a few tips on what type of hat you should choose. This is incredibly boring and should have been left at “get a derby hat” and “buy a slightly bigger hat than you normally wear to give you a little more room for error.” While this interview is only a few minutes long, it feels much longer than that. Afterwards, Head starts teaching the various tricks and flourishes in his repertoire in short segments (most are two to three minutes long while a few are even shorter than that). Overall, prospective hat jugglers (I would call this more “hat manipulation” to be honest) will learn around ten tricks and several flourishes (moves to add “style” in between tricks like fancy “placements” and swinging) in this video’s 36-minute run time. The tape starts off with simple tricks like a “crown spin” and “single spin on head” (that most people should be able to do very quickly) before moving on to more advanced techniques like “flipping from your foot” and “arm rolls.” At the end of the video, he shows off some even more advanced tricks (including some with two or three hats) but doesn’t teach you how to do these (what a tease). While object manipulation and juggling is one of the many hobbies on my list of things to try, it isn’t anywhere near the top of my list. If it was, I feel like I would have learned a surprising amount from this video. Head is a pretty boring presenter but he does know what he is doing and is quite good at pointing out what to do and not to do while learning all of these tricks. Most of the tricks presented should be doable with just a little practice as long as you are reasonably coordinated.
Hat Juggling with Andy Head gets a lot of points for being an informative VHS tape for a very small niche of people (those looking to pick up this extremely uncommon hobby). Unfortunately, as someone who wasn’t watching it to learn some hat tricks but rather to riff on it, there isn’t much here to poke fun at. I thought this would be one of those instructional videos made by someone way out of their league to make a quick buck, but it just isn’t one of those. I also thought that Head’s tricks would make you look like a complete fool but some of these actually look pretty neat. Only a small handful make him look like someone trying way too hard to look cool. I wouldn’t do any of them out in public but they are nowhere near as cringey as I figured they would be. With both of those potential riffable elements out of the picture, Hat Juggling with Andy Head just doesn’t work from an unintentional comedy standpoint. Head is just too good at this to make for a funny VHS tape to watch for comedic purposes. Obviously it wasn’t the point of the video to become a tape for idiots like me to riff on 26 years later. The point was to teach people how to do hat manipulation and juggling and the video mostly succeeds at that.
The mockable moments in this video are few and far between but there are some things I do want to point out that got a few chuckles out of me. Pretty much the only things that are fun to riff on are Head’s very loud outfit (he really loves his dots and suspenders), the “With Andy Head” title graphic (which looks like an opener for a cheesy ’80s TV show), and the time when he juggles his worn tie along with his hats (possibly the only really awkward and cringey looking trick in this whole video). I do suspect that the video used cuts to hide mistakes made by Head (times he dropped his hat for example). There are a few times in the video where there are suspicious cuts in the middle of him performing the tricks which might have been mistakes cut out of the video. I’m not sure but I’m certainly suspicious. In this case the production team was at least professional enough to edit the mistakes out (though not very subtly), which is more than you can say for some of these instructional videos.
For those interested in this title for riffing purposes, you probably shouldn’t bother unless you find it very cheap. There are only a few things to make fun of here. However, for those of you who are interested in learning about hat manipulation (or hat juggling), Hat Juggling with Andy Head does what it set out to do. While it could have been a bit longer to show off some of the more impressive tricks he shows off at the end, it is still a surprisingly informative (though rather boring) video. This is an example of a VHS tape with a high educational/informative factor but a low entertainment factor. It works well as an instructional video for prospective hat manipulators but that’s about it. Unfortunately for Hat Juggling with Andy Head that was a very small target audience when this VHS tape was released and it is probably even smaller today.
Rating: 2/5 (Entertainment Factor-1/5, Informative Factor-3/5)
Watch Hat Juggling with Andy Head: VHS
Next week on VHS Files: Sam Sprocket teaches a group of kids how to bike safely via awful late ’80s rap (and even worse dancing) in Bicycle Safety Camp.
VHS Files is a semi-regular column where I take a look at some of the strangest VHS tapes I’ve come across. Most of the titles I will cover in this post series are either only available on the format or are extremely hard to find on DVD. From unintentionally hilarious instructional videos and odd (and often disturbing) children’s tapes to cheesy B-movies and actually good movies that never got released on DVD, I will cover them all. For more information on this post series and a list of titles already covered, check out the link to my introduction post below.
#002 Winning Slot Secrets: Now You Have a Fighting Chance <– List of VHS Files Posts –> #004 Bicycle Safety Camp (Coming Soon)