I worked for Crescent City amusement out of Louisiana and Mcdaniel Brothers in New Jersey. I was a "ride jock" meaning my job was to set up, run, and moves the rides from town to town. I know just about every ride there is but the ones I was in charge of specifically during my carnie career were the Quasar, Tilt-a-whirl, Gravatron (the space ship), and the Star Trooper. I also have extensive knowledge of all the games, how they are ran, how to win them, and tactics used to get you playing. I can tell you all about the carnie life style and put a lot of the myths to rest. I am no longer a carnie, I've settled down and probably won't be going back to it. It is something I miss though.

My proof? aside from the many pictures on my facebook, I can get a job at just about any carnival in the U.S. right now. Here is a link to where carnies find shows looking for workers http://www.carnivalwarehouse.com/classifieds/sub.asp?sub=149&subname=Employment%20-%20Help%20Wanted&cat=30&catname=Basic%20Classifieds

And here is me sitting in the center of a farris wheel, we were working on the lights at the time. http://imgur.com/OnKijvk

EDIT I had no idea this would get so much activity, I've had fun with it. I'm sorry if I missed your reply but I'll be here to respond periodically throughout the night. It's exciting to see other carnies on here sharing their knowledge as well.

Comments: 416 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

BadEgg195170 karma

First AMA that I've actually read all the way through. Good job. Thank you.

leftyatbest89 karma

First AMA i've ever done. thank you for... enjoying it? Here, have an upvote.

inferno123455 karma

If I bring my ladyfriend to a carnival and want to win her the biggest fucking bear on the terrain, how would you go about doing that?

leftyatbest101 karma

Lol, make a side deal with a jointy and be ready to spend some dough.

On a more serious note, if you wanna get a good prize go for the basketball game. It's a massive prize every time and you usually only have to make one in. The hoops are oval shaped, balls over inflated so they bounce like madness but if you put a high arc and make it nothing but net you will get a huge prize. That is the best way I can think of.

TrollinAtSchool18 karma

this works at Sea World too.

leftyatbest27 karma

it's not a winner every time and requires some skill, but it's definitely the most bang for your buck. The prizes are always massive.

ScreamingSlugs43 karma

How well assembled are the rides? I am terrified of letting my kids ride any ride because I have no way of knowing whether the person setting up the ride knew what they were doing.

leftyatbest79 karma

Safety is a HUGE concern to all ride jocks. The rides are very safe. No one ever knows how they are assembled or moved though, well I'll tell you.

Pins, wedges and r-keys. That's what holds the rides together. take the electric-7 tilt-a-whirl for example (there is also a cable driven tilt, but that's an older ride and more complicated). All the pieces are taken off the trailor and assembled on the ground. first the center is placed, the track is build around it with sweeps connecting the track to the center. Then bull-plates are placed on the track and connected to the center, these make the platform the tubs sit on. The bull plates are on wheels that roll along the track. The tubs go on the bull plates. after that the catwalk is built and the front porch and exit. All the pieces are fit together, they all have holes that line up with the pieces they connect to. large pins go through the holes holding the pieces together then r-keys go through the pins so they can't slide out.

Of course all rides are different but 99% of them are held together with pins and r-keys. During inspection one of the main things we look for are missing r-keys. The formans occasionally replace a single r-key with a painted one (like an orange r-key), during your inspection if you don't find the painted one and replace it and turn it into the forman, that means you didn't do the inspection properly and you'll probably get fired.

Rat_of_NIMHrod26 karma

A buddy of mine worked as a carnie. He lost half of a finger setting up The Zipper. Something about lining up bolt holes and other guy dropping the tub while his finger was in the holes.

What is the worst accident you have witnessed, or heard of? Sorry if this has already been answered.

leftyatbest26 karma

I never saw anything like that happen. I've seen plenty of injuries but nothing serious like losing a finger. You have to really trust the people you work with.

iamfuckinganton14 karma

I once saw a scary-ass ride at a carnival where you'd be put into a cage/car type thing, it's attached to this bigass spinning see-saw type thing and you flip around and shit. I suck at descriptions but basically, it was big, scary and I rode it. the thing is, when I got on, I saw that the doors were being held closed by something like a large steel bobby pin. I obviously didn't et thrown out and die, but are those bobby pin things safe? I damn near shit myself when I saw that my life was going to depend on an oversized fashion accessory.

leftyatbest23 karma

lol, the ride you are talking about was probably the zipper. http://www.domainofdeath3.com/images/ridereviews/zipper/zipper3.jpg

And yes the "big bobby pin" was an r-key. they hold together 90% of all the rides and they won't fall out or break. Nothing to worry about. http://www.redbonegames.com/images/products/detail_566_r-key_cut.jpg

They come in every size and thickness you can imagine. Any carny you ever meet will have a dozen of these in their pocket at all times. Its a universal carnie tool, even for holing cages shut.

iamfuckinganton8 karma

that's exactly the one I meant, although I think the one I went on was bigger. Good to know that I didn't actually nearly die, although I'm still not going near that scary motherfucker again ever in my life.

leftyatbest13 karma

the zipper is one of my favorites. Its a smaller ride, but you should check out the looping planes.

thatgengirl40 karma

In your experience, do carnies deserve the "creepy" stigma they carry?

leftyatbest81 karma

That depends on the carnival. There are good ones and bad ones. But yes, there are a lot of ex-cons, drug addicts, and generally bad people who work for canivals mostly because they can't get any other job. It can be a dangerous profession.

Don't worry about it too much though, you can tell a bad show when you see it. If all the lights work on the rides, they have good paint jobs, fancy games and nice food joints and candy poppers, odds are its a good show with clean workers. Don't go to a show where the rides look shabby and old, or the food joints look dirty. You can bet they have a bunch of crackheads working for them.

If you look at the link I posted to matt's carnival warehouse, you'll see many of the want ads specify good clean workers and some of them do drug tests. Talking to some of the carnies who have done it their whole lives, they say it used to be really bad but today carnivals are very safe.

BMW1M38 karma

Have you ever seen people have sex on the ferris wheel, smoke weed on the ferris wheel? Have you ever smoked weed or fucked on ferris wheel?

leftyatbest82 karma

I haven't personally seen sex on the wheel, heard about it happening. I've seen people smoke weed in some odd places at a carnival (on rides, behind games, even in the porta johns. I guess carnivals just attract drugs). And yeah, I've smoked on the wheel before, but never while we were open. Usually at night when the show is over the carnies will party.

There's also a carnie marriage ceremony. Two carnies ride the wheel forwards, kiss, and do the ring exchange at the top, that's a carnie marriage.

ArmyROTC38 karma

Okay game wise lets see...

How do I win the: * Ring toss game where you have to get the rings around the bottle to win the huge stuffed animal? * Machine gun bb game * the balloon pop game

leftyatbest79 karma

The balloon pop game is pretty simple, most of the time the balloon will have a number behind it that is revealed by popping the balloon and that number determines your prize. To get a bigger prize, don't aim at a balloon in or near the center, aim for the outside edges or the ones at the very top.

The machine bb gun game is rigged. You have to shoot out the start on the piece of paper. The sights are never aligned properly and sometimes you even get shorted on bbs, it's not ike you'll actually count them anyways and the guns are preloaded.

the ring toss with the bottles is all luck. the ring toss with the pyramid shaped things is rigged. The jointy will show you that the ring fits over the post, but the way the post is shaped makes it so when the ring comes at it at an angle from the front, it can't fit over the top. Let me find a picture of it...

Can't find a good pic of it. But if you see a ring toss joint with funny shaped pointy posts, don't play it. If it's glass bottles you're ok, but don't even bother aiming at all because it's pure luck. The plastic rings will bounce around on the tightly spaced glass bottles and you'll never get the one you aim for anyways.

Ravenna16 karma

More balloon pop questions: I've played the kind where the more you hit, the bigger the prize. The effed up part is I hit three in succession, then when given a new set of darts I hit the balloon and it doesn't pop!! I should have checked the points of the darts, but it's too late once the though occurred. Do you think they'd give out blunted darts?

leftyatbest40 karma

They do, it's just another trick of the trade. My advice on darts is to throw them as hard as you can, don't worry to much about aiming but generally throw them towards the corners of the board. If you get blunted darts, you can still pop balloons and most people aim for the center so the corners have a better concentration of unpopped balloons. You'll have higher chances of getting a balloon.

Directly34 karma

What was the craziest reason why you have to stop a ride?

leftyatbest83 karma

I've had to stop the star trooper many times because people kick their shoes off when they get to the top, sending shoes flying across the midway. Craziest reason I've seen a ride stopped?

The fireball takes that prize. It's basically a single huge roller coaster loop. I guess someone threw up like ten gallons worth of half digested taco bell at the very top of the loop, and it splattered all over everyone when they got to the bottom. Talk about the worst mess I've ever seen. The other passengers weren't happy.

CoffeeEnemas32 karma

How are the various games rigged? Is there a good way to win other than not playing?

leftyatbest59 karma

Also, in most states a rigged game is against the law. Some joints are set up as "flip flops". This means they actually ARE rigged, but if any police come sniffing around the game can be "flipped" making it a fair game and there is no way to detect it may be rigged at all.

There are also tricks an agent will use to sap your wallet that don't require a game to be rigged. They may offer you to play on a point system or use what is called an "alibi". This is when you might win a game, but the agent will deny the win saying you broke some previously unmentioned rule like you crossed a "foul line" or you hit the rim of the tub before it bounced in or some bullshit like that. It's extremely difficult to argue with them and you'll end up not getting your money back and no prize to show for your success.

undiurnal26 karma

The worst one I ever encountered was when I played the game where a bowling ball is a on track with a dip in it and you have to push the ball just right and it will come to rest in the dip. Anyway--I won, sirens blaring, lights flashing, etc., and the carnie just ignores it and feigns being distracted by a conversation with the guy running the next game over, until the bowling ball game reset.

"Oh, sorry, I didn't see a win. Tough luck, kid."

leftyatbest29 karma

lol, that's a nasty trick sorry man.

leftyatbest48 karma

If you could ask about a specific I could give a lot more information. As far as games in general, most of them aren't rigged. They are instead just damn hard to win if you don't know how.

There are some games that are rigged though and the jointy (carnie who runs game "Joints") can decide who wins and who doesn't. The ones I advise people not to play at all are the "bank-a-ball", rabbit joint (where you try to toss a ping pong ball into a glass bowl floating in a pool, most of the time you'll win a live bunny) and tubs joint.

Some of the games that just require necessary skill or knowledge are the bottle-up and balloon pop games. Some games on the other hand are just pure luck like the childrens "duck pond" game but even those are set up so it's extremely unlikely you'll win any good prizes.

Ask about a specific game and I'll tell you exactly how it works, how to win it, or how it's rigged.

psychnurse8427 karma

I won a rabbit at my local fair. I threw the ping pong ball in a fish bowl on the first try. Took the little bastard home and he ate my speakers and wall. Besides getting stuck with a rabbit why do you say not to play that game? It seemed like the easiest one there. Is it supposed to be easy to get rid of the rabbits?

leftyatbest55 karma

because it's rigged. If you won, it's because the guy running it wanted you to. If they just tip a bowl a little and let water into it, the ball will stay when it hits the water. He then pick that one up so no one else can win.

When they do let someone win, they make a big deal out of it, attract a lot of attention, and that gets a lot of people to play it. He won't let anyone win again until the crowd dies down.

one2ruleponys11 karma

What is the best way to win the game where you have to climb the ropelatter?

leftyatbest12 karma

already answered this one in detail. Balance in the center, trat it more like a tight rope than a ladder.

D3VO_Lution29 karma

Whats strangest thing you saw whilst working?

leftyatbest87 karma

I shit ton of LARPers fighting each other with home made weapons on the bumper cars, that was pretty hilarious, complete with a jousting tournament

"washing" the giant slide by spraying it down with soap and water, then sliding down it had to be the most fun way to make it sparkley clean for the show. Never had so much fun on a slide.

Forgetful___26 karma

there's one game where your supposed to throw a baseball (softball actually) into a tilted bucket and have it not bounce out. Familiar with that one?

leftyatbest49 karma

Oh yes, very familiar. Thats called the tubs joint. It is winnable but EXTREMELY difficult and I advise against playing it.

The jointy will demonstrate that it is winnable by stepping out of the joint and tossing a ball in, he can make it every time. What you may not notice it that when he retrieves the ball he tossed in, he will pull out two instead of one. This is because he putposely leaves one ball in the tub before he demonstrates. The ball he tosses doesn't bounce out because it hits the ball that was already in the bucket.

If your ball hits the bottom of the tub first, it will bounce out. To get it to stay in you have to toss it in a high arc so it comes almost strait down and bounces from side to side in the tub. If you try to give the ball any spin the jointy will tell you that's against the rules.

mobileagent23 karma

If you try to give the ball any spin the jointy will tell you that's against the rules.

I hate stuff like that, but I get the feeling that asking "Where does it say that in the 'rules'" or "So putting a ball in the bucket for the demo IS in the rules?" or "Can I have a ball in my bucket at first, too?" are probably just asking to get your teeth kicked in behind the Funnel Cake stand for being a smartass.

If you used air-quotes around "rules", you'd deserve it, however.

leftyatbest20 karma

That's why its an alibi. You don't question these made up rules because you assume the agent's been running the game long enough, he's in charge, knows, and enforces the rules. If he tells you it's a rule you can't argue. If you do, you lose your money, your prize, and maybe any other chances you already payed for. If you notice the ball already in the bucket, you should know it's rigged already and probably wouldn't play anyways.

mobileagent9 karma

you should know it's rigged already and probably wouldn't play anyways.

I'm shooting that damn star out someday.

leftyatbest28 karma

To shoot out the star you HAVE to play twice.

The sights are never lined up right. Sometimes they short you on BBs. To win, play once and aim for the center of the star, judge exactly how far off the sights are. When you play again ask the agent to reload the same gun. Now that you know how for off the sights are, try to shoot out a perfect circle around the star. Don't try to trace the star, that will use too many BBs and will usually leave some of the star in-tact. make a circle around the star instead. If you pull it off the game is winnable.

Secret4gentMan1 karma

What if you noticed it was rigged and said to a jointy "How about you just give me one of those big bears and I won't tell anyone how this game is rigged?"

What would the likely response be?

leftyatbest2 karma

Go ahead. It will bring more attention to them and more people will play to beat it.

cuzzard24 karma

how much pussy did you get as a carnie? [both carnie pussy and visitor pussy]

leftyatbest53 karma

I gotta say, the gravatron is a pussy magnet. All local pussy, there aren't many carnie chicks and most are just there because their boyfriend/husband is a carny too.

cuzzard30 karma

ever fuck a chick in the gravatron on the side walls while it is at max RPM, PLEASE SAY YES.

leftyatbest79 karma

yes, it's not an easy feat.

AgentArtichoke23 karma

What's the weight limit on rides? I'm pretty fat, although I can fit on most rides and the restraint fits comfortably. I weigh about 250, but my tall beefy friend weighs closer to 350, and every ride operator that has asked me not to ride will let him on.

leftyatbest36 karma

most rides are "if the safety strap/bar can lock in place properly, they can ride" no problem.

Other rides require balance. take the star trooper. When loading we purposely open tubs on opposite sides of the ride to keep it balanced, we try to get heavy people on opposite side from each other. If it's just you trying to ride on a slow ride, we might turn you away or put you and your friends on opposite sides to keep it balanced.

Of course kiddy rides are different, I've had to tell fat kids they can't ride because even though they are under the age limit they are over the weight or hight limit, or they just wont fit in the tub. It's embarassing but if you get turned away, its because of safety.

joannchilada21 karma

1) Where do you sleep while on the road?

2) Is it mostly single people that travel with you, or are there families?

3) Of the people you work with, how long has the longest person been there?

4) Is safety important to your coworkers?

leftyatbest19 karma

1) I just answered that in a reply to someone else. 2) it's mostly single people. 3) I've met people who have done it their whole lives. Oldest one was joe, he'd been a carnie 50+ years, his parents were carnies. 4) it's the main concern of a ride jock.

leftyatbest58 karma

I would tell him hes an idiot, then I'd find the agent that took this guys cash and have a beer with him as he bragged about taking this sucker for all he had.

I have no sympathy for someone that stupid.

Mussorgsky19 karma

How do you win the game where you walk up a rope ladder? The carnie always gets it with no hands

leftyatbest20 karma

Walk it like a tight rope, the way it's connected on each end meaks it spin in the center. Keep your weight in the center and you'll be able to balance a lot easier.

spunkski6 karma

Also watch the agents feet, some of them will put their feet on it to get you started, then give a little push or try to mess up your balance. Make sure they are not touching it when you start.

leftyatbest10 karma

yeah, they will hold it as if they are helping you, but they are just holding up one side so when he lets go it will spin.

NotMathMan82118 karma

I've heard the most thrilling rides can be the carnie ladies. Can you share any good stories on that front?

leftyatbest47 karma

There is a term "lot lizzard". You really don't want to mess around with them. BEWARE. Sure it might be fun at the time. This is basically a carnie slut, if you hook up with a carnie chick pretty easy, odds are she does the same thing in every other town she visits.

This isn't true for every woman carnie, in fact lot lizzards are pretty rare. Be careful messing around with a woman carnie anyways though because if any of the crew even thinks you may do her wrong, you'll have a whole carnie gang stopping you in a dark ally. Most women carnies are treated like queens by the crew.

mcbranch18 karma

Are the people running the games paid on how many customers they get or are they paid hourly?

leftyatbest39 karma

Most jointies are payed a percentage of the money they make (usually like 20%). There are people known as "agents", which means they are fucking expert con-men basically, and they keep a larger percentage of what they bring in, sometimes 40-50%.

I've seen agents make over %4000 in one weekend, and he was only getting 30%, so he made the midway over 12k in two days.

Hearron17 karma


leftyatbest56 karma

carney tales are true.

BMW1M17 karma

Whats the one thing I should never eat at a carnival?

leftyatbest61 karma

All carnival food is AMAZING. Try all of it at least once.

draw4kicks16 karma

Okay so which game do i have the best odds of winning and how would i go about doing it? I always get the feeling that there was an awesome sense of community between the carnies, is this the case? Thanks for the AMA!

leftyatbest21 karma

Yes, there are carnie words and phrases (even a carnie language). On the road we are all a family, very close. We like to play tricks on the locals just for laughs.

For the best odds of winning, play the duck pond. WINNER EVERY TIME! Don't play anything that requires a specific skill.

draw4kicks9 karma

Thanks for the response! Are there many children on the road? If so do many of them attend school or do they just stay with their family and the carnival?

leftyatbest31 karma

Today, carnivals won't hire minors. I did know a couple who had a little girl. She attended school during the winter, and was "home schooled" during the carnival season. She was only like 5 or 6. The whole crew took care of her. You'd think it was dangerous being that little and traveling with a carnival, but she had plenty of people looking after her all the time.

radchadbro15 karma

What was the behind the scenes like? how is carnie culture?

leftyatbest45 karma

It is the most fun job you could ever possibly imagine. It's a lot harder than everyone thinks.

i typical carnie week goes something like this. Monday morning we arrive at a new town and set up all the rides and games. Tuesday we finish all the little chores and jobs, wash the rides and do inspections. Tuesday and wednesday are usually pretty laid back, we do whatever needs to be done but typically these are days where we do our grocery shopping, laundry and whatever else. Thursday is another inspection, city officials will come inspect. Sometimes we do a "light show" where we open up at night and turn on all the lights to show the town that we are there. Those nights are usually pretty dead and we close up early around 10 or so. The weekend is where it gets crazy. You've been to a carnival, you have a good idea what it's like. Then sunday night we close the show and spend all night tearing down the rids and packing up to go to the next town.

there is a lot of drinking and partying at night, almost every night really. But if a carnie is drunk when the show starts they'll get fired and stranded in that town. All good midways are VERY strict on safety and take inspections very seriously. Your ride is your baby, you keep it clean, running well and looking good. Most carnies take pride in their work and want to show people a good time. It was also fun exploring the places we stopped at, meeting locals, bar hopping, and visiting local attractions.

skyroket15 karma

What's the craziest shit you've seen people doing in the Gravatron?

(For people who don't know, the Gravatron is a centrifugal spinning room. Some (all?) models have sliding backrests you stand against, then they slide up to the ceiling once the room gets going fast enough, so you have no floor beneath your feet.)

One time, I just got off the Gravatron (smelled like vomit, btw) and the next ride, I heard a big metal clank and someone yelled "Oh shit!" and the Gravatron was evacuated and shut down the rest of the day.

leftyatbest53 karma

The craziest thing I've seen is just called "the wall trick", and I'm the one that did it. I can not only stand on the wall. I can walk up it, dance on it, and run around it while the ride is in full spin. It's definitely a crowd pleaser. If I catch anyone else even trying to stand they are immediately kicked off the ride and aren't welcome back though.

Nouik23 karma

"It's okay everybody! I am a professional!"

leftyatbest38 karma

I've seen people crack their heads open just trying to sit up strait on the wall, I wasn't running the ride at the time I was just riding as ted was running it. He starts to sit up and get higher on the wall, he gets dizzy and falls back hitting his head on a ceiling sweep because he was too high. there was blood.

It took me a while of riding it constantly So I wouldn't get dizzy any more. Then you have to fight the gravity, which is a little over 2x normal earth gravity. And you're balancing on a moving object, not to mention the walls slide up and down depending on the speed. I'm not exaggerating when I say you could die if you fuck it up.

Dramaftw15 karma

I offered a carnie money for a "big stuffed animal win" and he refused, since when do carnies have morals? do they get paid extra if they retain big prizes?

leftyatbest26 karma

They make more money if you play the game. The number of plays it takes someone to get that same prize I promise you is a lot more than you would offer in cash on the spot.

brokenmarionette14 karma


How do carnies spend their day-to-day lives, while not at work? Does it differ from a "normal" person's life?

leftyatbest19 karma

Usually we explore the town, work on the rides or games, or do normal people stuff. We also have hobbies like normal people lol. My buddy and I liked to play music on our off time, I play bass and he plays guitar. We liked to go fishing, we would have to ask locals where to go. We have cookouts and drink beer, listen to music. Living as a carnie is like camping (in a camper trailor) every single day of summer, except you are in a new town or city every week. Always new places to go and explore, meeting new people is awesome.

And as I mentioned, working on the rides and games isn't just a job. It's also a past time, like working on cars. You wan't them to run well and look nice.

At night there is a lot of partying. You can bet if we aren't working the next day there will be a party that night.

citizen_coping6 karma

Have you seen the movie The Place Beyond the Pines?

leftyatbest14 karma


youalwaysmakemesmile14 karma

Ever been to or heard of the Calgary Stampede?

Are the water shooting games rigged at all?

leftyatbest11 karma

Honestly I never looked into the water guns, I guess they just weren't interesting to me.

FreeAssHat9 karma

I worked group games at NYC street festivals for a couple years.

The newer watergun games aren't really rigged. On older models there are ways for the game agent to adjust the pressure to slow people down. (The guy who trained me would use this to help little kids win and douchey assholes lose. Carnies love justice.)

Keep in mind that on group games (waterguns, wac-a-mole, roll-a-ball) there can be good lanes and bad lanes. (Lanes are the numbered stations you play at i.e. your watergun.) So some guns have better pressure, some of the relays respond quicker, etc. It really depends on how well the games are maintained. (There are some really shitty carnivals in NYC and they don't have the same regulation as state fairs do. Stay away from food stands at NYC fairs too.) Watch people play a couple of rounds, if you notice a certain number lane tends to win, there is probably a reason. I always hated when people would figure out a good lane. (Once I had to shut down a lane because it always won and people fought over it.)

Rather than putting an out-of-order sign on a shitty/broken lane, a game agent will tell you so and move you to a working lane. If they don't like you they might move you to a shitty lane without you know until it is too late.

The best strategy to win water gun games is to quickly get your stream of water to hit your target and hold it there steady until the game ends. This goes for most group games: just pay attention to your own lane. If you take time to check on your competition most likely you will screw up, won't have time to recover and you'll lose.

I worked a balloon pop watergun game. Primary colors tend to pop quicker IMO and the smaller/newer balloons pop easier as opposed to the stretched out one, but most people notice the latter anyway.

Almost all group games have a counter that knows how many games were played to ensure the agent isn't skimming off the gross or giving away free games. Don't try to haggle or get a deal at these games, either pay up or don't play.

leftyatbest10 karma

"carnies love justice" oh yes, the cruel irony of watching someone talk up like how they are soooooo good and can't be beaten just to sit down and be beaten by their grandma or little sister is priceless.

scoot23ro14 karma

where do you sleep and while traveling are you riding with the truck drivers as your mode of transportation?

leftyatbest18 karma

We live in what is called a "bunk house". Think of a camper trailor, but instead of being one long room, it is separated into four smaller rooms and a bathroom/shower each with its own door on one side of the trailor. They are small, but on the road you don't take a lot of stuff with you. Normally you just have a mini fridge, microwave or toaster oven, a foldable grill, a lawn chair. I always had my laptop, guitar and amp in there with me too and still had room. As I said before, it's like you're camping all summer.

Ltmgb13 karma

Why aren't you a carnie anymore?

leftyatbest54 karma

I have a son now. I wouldn't leave him for anything. I've given up the carnie life for him and gotten a respectable job. I've finally turned into that dreaded "upstanding member of society" which I used to go out of my way to avoid becoming.

14bowlingz13 karma

What ride tends to break down the most and why? Have you ever seen any big accidents like when a part of a ride at my local carnival broke a few years ago?

leftyatbest21 karma

I've seen a tub pin on a tilt break, no one was hurt. It was a big deal and it was the jocks fault for not checking it. Aside from that, the ride that I saw break the most was the swings, it had hydraulic problems and would just slow to a stop. No one was ever hurt on it, they just had to get off (tickets refunded). I can't tell you how many times that damn swing would just stop working.

scoot23ro12 karma

how was the money working as a carnie?

leftyatbest26 karma

Pretty good. As a jointie you're payed on comission, but as a ride jock (what I did) you are payed a flat amount weekly. Starting out you might get ~$300/week. The more rides you know, the better you are, the longer you've been a carnie the more you'll get payed.

A lot of the pay is more about how much money you save rather than how much you make. On the road you don't have to pay rent, utilities, gas, insurance, all you have to spend money on is food and cloths. All the money you make goes right in your pocket. Imagine all the freedom in the world and no bills.

IWannaBeACatLady12 karma

Best tricks of guilt-ing people into playing your game (Please specify which tricks are for which ages & genders, if there is different ones...)

And also, what is the best way to turn down a carnie, when they try to force/guilt you into playing their game.

&One more: How old are most of you, because at most carnivals I have been to, the carnies look super young, almost high school age. But are you really allowed to travel across the country to do that?

Thanks!! :D

leftyatbest33 karma

My FAVORITE tactic for getting suckers paying customers is to spot a couple together, and fuck with the boyfriend. Example "hey honey, is your boyfriend think you're ugly or is he just to cheap to win you a prize?" "I hope he's better at throwing darts (ball, hoop, whatever) than he is at pleasing his woman"

Or you can find a family with a bunch of kids and give JUST ONE OF THE KIDS a free play and let them win a little toy. Then the parents have to pay to get all the rest of them a prize.

The best way to turn down a caller is to just ignore them. Dont look at them, ESPECIALLY don't say anything to them.

I became a carnie at 19, I'm 22 now. It's definitely a lifestyle appealing to many young males. The freedom and traveling is what makes it such a fun job.

IWannaBeACatLady5 karma

Wow! That sounds like so much fun!

I always feel so bad when I just ignore them.... So I normally just politely say No, thank you. Or just give them a little smile.... Woops. :/

I remember one year I was with all my friends at the Carnival and this one carnie just kept appearing everywhere I was and it was kind of scary. But he just kept asking for me to smile. It was kind of cute... Lol.

leftyatbest6 karma

I've pulled that lol. I was foreman for four major rides (Tilt, grav, trooper, and quasar) at one time and I'd go around giving breaks to the operators. It was priceless seeing someone get off one ride and walk around just to see me also operating the ride they get on next, then the next.

Chola4Life11 karma

Where do the rabbits come from? I won one a few years ago, worst prize ever. I should have gone with the Stewie Griffin plush, the rabbit pees on things. Also, some of the carnies seem really nice and clean, while some seem sketchy. Do multiple groups go to the same fairs? Is there a conflict between the nice ones and the sketchy(methy?) ones?

leftyatbest20 karma

Yeah, a lot of the bigger state fairs and things like that will have multiple midways playing it. Ride jocks and jointies typically don't get along well. The clean carnies who actually give a shit about the show always hate the dirty, drug addict, running from the law carnies. Seriously, I hate those guys too. They give all carnies a bad name, they don't care about safety, they don't care about their appearance. they get no respect.

leftyatbest18 karma

I have no idea where the rabbits come from, must be a trade secret for the game owner or something.

shuckyou11 karma

Does declaring shenanigans help me win a prize?

leftyatbest21 karma

It will make you feel better and alert fellow carnival goers to the shenanigans, unfortunately it won't help you win.

polyester_molester10 karma


leftyatbest9 karma

As far as I can tell they are the same ride. The waltzer does look better with the lit up top on it, usually a music ride too I think. I have no idea why there's a difference in popularity.

jesterjim10 karma

Have you ever got into fights with other carnies over whatever, like turf, not pulling out when boning an older carnies daughter etc.

leftyatbest29 karma

lol, no. I've seen carnies fight because of some stupid shit though, like a pissing contest over who has the harder ride or who can tear theirs down faster. Basic "whos the bigger badass" stuff. I never got into anything like that. everyone knew I was the biggest badass on the lot :)

BMW1M10 karma

Are children abducted from carnivals on the regular?

leftyatbest21 karma

No, although I have heard horror stories. The reason people think it happens so much is because it gets more publicity than other kidnappings, sensationalized. "Kid gets kidnapped by carnie" is a more interesting story than "kid gets kidnapped from mall" because it generates fear. Carnies already have a bad reputation.

BMW1M12 karma

Sir, I did not mean to imply that Carnie's were doing kidnapping. I just meant kids going missing in general at carnivals.

leftyatbest19 karma

I guess it could, I really don't know any statistics on it.

JaredOfTheWoods10 karma

One time a guy working a bank-a-ball game tossed a ball at me and then told me not to toss it back cause I could break his arm. I tossed it back and he got "mad" at me. Is that a common tactic?

leftyatbest11 karma

Yes, even if you don't play the encounter will draw the attention of everyone else around. he is challenging you to challenge him, if you don't surely someone will and he will make money.

Shhimhidingfuker8 karma

What are the living arrangements while you're on the road?

I saw in the classifieds that many shows provided lodging, but I don't recall ever seeing a living area for the workers. Is that set up at a separate lot or something?

leftyatbest10 karma

that depends on where the show is. Sometimes the bunk houses and trailors are just hidden behind the midway, sometimes we rent space and a parking lot or something.

Some_Random_Nob8 karma

  • What made you join the carnival?
  • What did you want to do before?
  • What do you do now?

leftyatbest27 karma

I ran away because I needed freedom adventure, I wanted to travel and I got exactly what I wanted.

In high school I didn't really have any future goals. I just knew that when I graduated I'd get out of that shitty town. I know every young dumb teenager wants that, I eventually missed it and went back. It's like a whole new place when you go back.

Now I've settled down in a new city, got a well paying factory job. I have a son, I won't be going back to the carnival life. I'm thinking about college.

buggzzee7 karma

What's a duker?

leftyatbest16 karma

Haha, it's probably someones name. Almost every carnie I ever met or worked with had a nick name. Some of them I worked with for a long time and never knew their real name. My ride forman at crescent city went by "hands", I never knew what his real name was and he was my boss!

andruca6 karma

How did you actually start working as a carnie? It seems like an awesome experience to have someday (im from Europe so we dont have these kind of things in Spain) and im interested in atleast trying it out. Awesome AMA btw.

leftyatbest12 karma

The next one that comes through your town, ask if they need help. If they say yes, work for the weekend and see how the show suits you. If you like it, tell them you can travel and they'll probably offer you a job and assign you a bunk. Or you can go to the website in the original post and start making calls but all of them are in the U.S.

i got into it through a friend who had done it, he referred me to his former boss and I was travelling the next day.

Hearron6 karma


leftyatbest10 karma

A swinger is a game where you try to knock an object over by swinging a ball connected to a rope hanging from the top of the joint, the trick is that you have to hit the object (a bottle usually) on the back swing.

A razzle is just a crooked game or a game being ran in a crooked way. You want to avoid a razzle, that agent will steal your whole wallet without blinking an eye.

Those are old terms, I don't know what you're referring to as blower.

da_asparagus6 karma

Do you ever deal with snot-nosed, bratty, awful kids?

At our local fair, we have a "fair admission" thing, where we pay $10 and we can ride all of the rides we want as long as the fair is open. How many places you've been do that?

What's your favorite town/city you've been to?

leftyatbest14 karma

Yes, we get bratty little shits all the time.

That's usually called "wristband night" or sometimes its a whole wristband show. You pay a single price and get a wristband good for the whole weekend.

Shreveport Louisiana was fun, and Newark New Jersey.

Dramaftw5 karma

I have a trick with the dart vs wall of balloons game. the darts are obviously dull but I use this to my favor, I throw the dart lightly at the top so it hits a balloon and goes to the board but doesn't stick so it just falls down and pops some or most of the balloons on the way down. How common is it for customers to try and cheat like this and do you know any similar tricks for the games which annoy the workers?

leftyatbest7 karma

I've seen this done and usually the jointy will only count the first balloon. The trick that annoys me is when someone shoots a strait line across the paper (basically cutting it off the line) on the "shoot out the star" game. This is clearly cheating and never counts.

flipHKD_65 karma

Why are the basketball shots so hard? I heard the rims are smaller or bent. Also, have you ever seen a ride break down mid run? If so, anyone get hurt?

leftyatbest11 karma

The hoops are oval shaped so they look larger than they are, really they are just barely wide enough to let the ball through. The balls are over inflated to if you hit the rim or backboard at all it will bounce out. The only way to win is with a high arc, nothing but net.

I've seen a tilt tub break, no one hurt but it could have been bad if someone was in that tub. Needless to say that jock wasn't on the midway the next night. He didn't inspect his ride properly.

war_lobster5 karma

You say it's dangerous. Dangerous how? Is it just accidents setting up and breaking down the rides?

leftyatbest11 karma

Yeah, some of the things required to set up or tear down a ride are dangerous. For example, putting the canvas on top of the gravatron. You have to unroll the canvas while balancing around the top edge of the walls. Putting together the tilt is dangerous because the bull plates weigh a ton and you have to maneuver them and set them on the rude using a boom with a wench, ive seen split fingers but no lost fingers. Putting the center bolts in the wheel is dangerous for anyone standing under you, it's high up and if you drop one it could do some serious damage for anyone it hits. Not to mention there aren't any safety harnesses, BETTER NOT SLIP!

Berlchicken5 karma

The grabber. How do I win the grabber?:)

leftyatbest15 karma

You mean the claw machine like ones found in any wal-mart entrance? practice and luck.


Is living the carnie life as romantic and awesome as i imagine it? Have you ever read Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz? If so what did you think?

leftyatbest10 karma

Never read the book, but I'll check it out (I just read steven king- hearts in atlantis and I'm still emotionally traumatized by it).

Yes, it is exactly that romantic and awesome. It's hard work and a dirty job though, set up and tear downs are brutal.

TastyBeerYum4 karma

Hey, what's your favorite game?

leftyatbest11 karma

I like the bottle up. The bottles are on a small platform, you are given a stick with a string tied to it and a hoop on the end of the string. You have to stand the bottle up using the hoop. It took me months to get the technique down but now it's easy.

OhMyMoogle4 karma

Are any of the games actually unwinnable?

leftyatbest11 karma

Some games can only be won if the jointy wants you to win it. Bank-a-ball and the bunny joint are the two common ones.

jigsawkane4 karma

How clean is the food? For some reason carnival food fucking terrifies me.

leftyatbest14 karma

That depends on the show, if its a shitty run down show I wouldn't trust it either. If its a good, very professional looking show the food is clean and excellent. I Could eat funnel cake all day every day and never get tired of it.

MinnieErva4 karma

Where do you sleep/live? (when I was a kid, I thought the carnies got to sleep on the rides while they were running... I wanted to live on the Viking Ship.)

leftyatbest5 karma

lol. again, I just answered that for scoot23ro.

Breezosaur3 karma

Do you work at one of the fairs with a lot of people from what I assume is New Zealand and Australia? If so, why do the midways hire so many of these people? Anyways, thanks for answering all these questions and making this.

leftyatbest9 karma

I did work for one show that hired a lot of people from south africa and mexico. They're probably illegal immigrants who can't get a legal job. Carnies are payed under the table.

vapiddiscord3 karma

Do carnies and circus people associate with one other? What job do new people typically get when they start?

leftyatbest7 karma

Carnivals and circuses are confused a low but they are two very different things. The carnival (or midway is the technical term) is a collection of rides, games and food stands. A circus is a show you sit and watch, they have the animal acts, clowns and jugglers and other feats of skill. I love circuses as well but I've never worked for one.

Typically a first time carnie will get a kiddy ride or a really simple joint that doesn't require any technical knowledge to run (winner every time type games). i personally started off on the star trooper, but that's just because I helped my boss set it up my first night there and made a very good impression.

scoot23ro2 karma

Have you met any weird or cool people while doing it? Such as other carnies or just people going to the carnival?

leftyatbest6 karma

Ive met a lot of awesome locals, many of whom are now facebook friends I talk to all the time. I've also got a lot of close carnie friends. Like i said, on the road the crew is family.

NiggalisCage2 karma

What game will I be most likely to win?

leftyatbest6 karma

duck pond

GrantYoungH1 karma

So random local girls would want to bone you, even as a carnie with the myths that are so prevalent?

leftyatbest1 karma

I ran a spinning dance floor fully equipped with blacklights, strobes, and a big ass sound system. Let them dance as the ride is slowing down, show off with the wall trick, offer them a free ride (for a small favor) and they get pretty slutty open minded.

GrantYoungH1 karma

Ya, it's bound to be the wall trick. Anything half way skilled will get a slutty little girl to jump a dick haha. Any of them actually hot, or typically like a little trashy girl?

leftyatbest1 karma

I'd have to check I.D.s (that's not a joke.)