Episode #208 — Human Cannonball David “The Bullet” Smith

We’d like to take a moment to send a giant thank you out into the universe for Olivia Newton-John. Actually, make that Dame Olivia Newton-John. She’s beloved for obvious reasons by so many people worldwide, but we appreciate, specifically, the influence she had on our formative years. Was there any child of the 70s/80s that didn’t have at least ten friends who played the “Grease” soundtrack — on vinyl, of course — on repeat in their basement rec room? Do we look back on it now and wonder if our parents ever really listened to the lyrics of any of the songs? Sure. Are we thankful they let us listen to it anyway? Definitely.

And who could forget the movie poster of “Xanadu,” along with the choice soundtrack of Olivia Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, and some Gene Kelly moments? Dame Olivia’s hair was volumized to the gods, and her clothes made us all aspiring Greek muses. On roller skates. (Musical note: It leads to a heated argument when trying to decide whether the ONJ or ELO version of the title song, “Xanadu,” is better. This producer spent several nights in grad school arguing for Olivia’s version when I should have been grading students’ papers or studying. Priorities.)

We can’t do her impact justice, but if you haven’t taken the time to listen to her music catalogue lately, now’s the time. “Twist of Fate” is a great pairing with the rest of this blog. And when you’re done with that, we suggest switching over to “Cannonball” by the Breeders. The lyrics don’t really have anything to do with our guest for this week’s episode beyond the song title, but sometimes that’s all you need!

We had the pleasure of speaking with David “The Bullet” Smith, a human cannonball. Nope, we didn’t type that out wrong. He’s the real deal — a six-Guinness-World-Record-holding, “America’s-Got-Talent”-performing daredevil. Not only that, but he’s a second-generation cannonball who holds records for the highest and farthest-flying cannonball. We’ve talked with our fair share of thrill-seekers for this podcast, but David is in a league of his own.

He’s full of fascinating stories, but one of the most fascinating aspects to us is how matter of fact David is about his job. But once you hear about his family history with performing and stunt work, it makes sense why he’s so level-headed about it all. That’s not to say David doesn’t have a passion for his work — what his job means to him comes across loud and clear. But it’s not just about the performance. It’s about building cannons, logistics, family, and even physics.

We chatted with David about what goes through his mind before he’s about to be shot out of a cannon. He walked us through how he mentally and physically prepares for cannonball shots, what registers in his brain as he flies through the air, and how he sticks his landing. And that’s just the beginning of what we needed to know from a human cannonball. Check out this week’s episode to get even more details, including how many shows a year David does, how his kids get involved, and what makes an ideal cannon for shooting humans out of. For more information on David, check out his website or follow him on Facebook. You’re going to want to see him perform with your own eyes!

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