Passing the Hat (Street Performers in America is the subtitle) is a great book by Patricia J. Campbell all about, you guessed it, street performers. Note that this is not a how-to guide, but it is the closest you'll come - street performers like their freedom and mobility a little too much to be book writers. The book is also very thorough. It talks about all the types of acts that were being used (in 1981), gives overviews about how they do it, and contains many biographies and interviews with people about why they do it.

It turns out that most successful street performers aren't homeless or anything so crude, they simply value freedom and dislike being tied to anything. This makes them wonderful conversationists, and hence, an interesting read. The chapter list is as follows:

  1. A Festival in the Streets
  2. The Good Places
  3. Musicians: Soloists
  4. Musicians: Duos and Groups
  5. Jugglers
  6. Magicians
  7. Mimes and Clowns
  8. Comedians and Other Fast Talkers
  9. Madmen, Visionaries, and Circuses (And a Note on Dance)
  10. Working the Street
  11. Hassles and the Law

If you tour most major cities, you'll find some acts that aren't listed nearly as prominently there, in particular, the past 20 years have been a boom market for the human statue act, and so it would now probably get a chapter all on its own. It has aged pretty well, however, and is a fantastic book that is well worthy of your time. Besides the first and last chapter, each section of the book can stand on its own, and it doesn't matter in what order you read them. It can be a bit hard to find, but every serious purveyor of juggling equipment sells it, so you might try looking there if your bookstore doesn't have a copy.

Passing the Hat (Street Performers in America)
Patricia J. Campbell
Alice Belkin
Delacorte Press/New York