JEFFABEL AND FRIENDS Confused by the Cactus

Grow Your Own, James Angus’s notorious Forrest Chase sculpture, asks passersby to “make a visible commitment to where they live and the other people that live there”. Perth residents responded by promptly renaming Angus’s piece the Cactus, cementing a new icon in Perth lore. This Saturday, April 14, Jeff Ford will pay the ultimate tribute to Perth’s most controversial public sculpture by eating a cactus in front of it. ZOE KILBOURN speaks to Jeff about succulents, his YouTube ambitions, and the logistics of his Saturday livestream.

Who are Jeffabel and Friends, and what’s your story?

My name’s Jeff Ford, and with my cameraman and friend Michael, we are on a mission to deconstruct the very fabric of our society and bring chaos and disorder to the world by eating one cactus at a time. I’m 24 years old and was actually born in Tehran in 1993 before moving to Australia when I was four years old. My father was a diplomat of Irish descent and my mother a nurse. Unfortunately, they have both passed away. Otherwise, I’m sure they’d both be right there by my side at the cactus event this weekend.

Now, years later, YouTube is actually a part-time gig for me that I have been doing since 2012. Most of my time is taken up by my online business. I collect sea shells which have washed ashore then craft them into trinkets and amulets before selling them on my Etsy store. It is a humble business and very rewarding, just not financially, which is why it’s important to keep my YouTube channel afloat.

What was your experience with the Children of Poseidon like? How does Jeffabel and Friends differ from CoP?

The Children of Poseidon were just a young group of friends who started filming funny videos with a camera. Over the years, friends have come and gone and we’ve certainly evolved, hence the name change. Michael and I have been here since day one. Jeffabel and Friends is a refined version of the initial concept of Children of Poseidon. With a lot of experience and knowledge now under our belt, we’re like a fine wine that gets better with age. We work well together and both have separate interests in Jeffabel and Friends and therefore are a force to be reckoned with. Currently, I feel like we are doing our best work and will only improve.

What’s your approach to being a professional performer? What motivates you to do the stunts you do, and how do you decide which ones are workable?

We’re definitely motivated by the support of our fans. It’s also always been the dream to break out of the rat race and live a better lifestyle. Now, with the financial benefits that come from being an entertainer, I’m able to do other things I enjoy, and that wouldn’t be possible without them.  Ever since day one, it’s been an awesome feeling posting content and watching the views and feedback roll in. It never gets old.

We’ve found out what works and what doesn’t through years of trial and error. The number of times we’ve filmed a video and not uploaded it for one reason or another – mainly because we feel it hasn’t been good enough. People really don’t know how much work goes on behind the scenes.

I honestly enjoy most of the things we do. I think both of us enjoy traveling overseas the most and just having an awesome time filming the craziest stuff we can (like shooting rocket launchers with the Cambodian military). There is occasions where I’d rather not do something but in the end, seeing the feedback from the fans makes it all worthwhile.

 

You’ve had a long working relationship with cacti – eating them for YouTube revenue, turning them into smoothies, using them as footballs. What have you learned from your cactus journey?

You forgot snapping a cactus with my bare hands, then bodyslamming one. It’s videos like those that really propelled us forward, made us known, and allowed us to start looking at this as a viable career. My cactus journey has taught me that with enough willpower anything is possible. Cactus spines are meant to deter predators, but I have endured thousands of years of evolution to be top of the food chain. Sometimes I need to remind myself about that.

To be honest I know hardly anything about cactus species. I probably should do some more research before consuming them, but I guess that’s part of the fun. I do have one cactus at my front door which I water once a week. Do they even need water?

What have your experiences with YouTube been like? You’ve had videos age-restricted/taken down before – what’s your workaround?

Our experiences with YouTube have been quite good, to be fair. It’s understandable when they have age-restricted or removed some of our videos, and they have always been quite reasonable when we’ve appealed the decisions.

It used to be a lot easier making money on YouTube, but since they are trying to be more advertiser-friendly and a lot of peoples videos are getting demonitised, we’ve had to adapt and turn to licensing clips for TV shows and getting brand deals from other companies which is definitely the way to go. We’ve got one coming up for 40,000 USD. The two main online video platforms are YouTube and Twitch for live streaming. Nothing else really compares.

What’s your game plan for Saturday? Any medical support or hypemen?

On Saturday the plan is to arrive, we’ve got a bunch of friends coming, meet some fans and eat a cactus. Haven’t really thought through it any more than that. Usually, when doing something dangerous we try to do as much research as possible beforehand. This is not one of those times. We do not have any medical support. Just a table, a chair, and a big spikey cactus.

Are you concerned about the City of Perth council catching on?  Have you had any run-ins with the law before?

There were a few run-ins with the law mainly when we were younger during Children of Poseidon and basically for just being a nuisance in public. The police went to our high school and our houses. We don’t do too much public stuff anymore so this is exciting.

If there are any problems with the police of the City of Perth, unfortunately for them I have given my word to the fans that I won’t be stopping for any man. The cactus is getting eaten and nobody can stop me. If the location is an issue we will move elsewhere with the crowd so they can watch me complete the feat. I won’t be harming anybody else and hopefully not myself so it shouldn’t be an issue.

What are your hopes for the Jeffabel project? 

Jeffabel and Friends is a way of life for us rather than just a project. I feel like because of Jeffabel and Friends and CoP we’ve got more memories and had more experiences than most people have in a lifetime.

The goal is to keep growing and soon get a TV show. As mentioned before, we love the traveling format, and doing extreme stuff in other countries is awesome fun. It hasn’t really been done well before.

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