Keith Nelson is a professional "variety artist," counting among his skills circus mainstays like juggling, prop manipulation, clowning, physical comedy, and sideshow stunts like sword swallowing, fire eating, bed of nails, block-heading, ladder of swords, and broken glass walking. He is a veteran ringmaster for events and circuses, and is widely respected in the international juggling community as a master of manipulative miscellanea, especially in the tradition of the "gentleman juggler."
In 1994, he cofounded the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus with Stephanie Monseu. Their unique style combines elements of circus tradition, sideshow stunts, novelty amusements, and vaude-villainous variety into a spectacle for the 21st century. The Cirkus’ roots go deep into the New York City underground transgressive performance art scene, and its style is deeply influenced by Keith Nelson’s studies in anarchist theory and Monseu’s background in visual arts and physical performance.
Originally created for mature audiences only, the Cirkus now entertains folks of all ages, and has grown into a far-reaching nonprofit arts organization. Educational and mentoring programs for youth, touring, and theatrical productions are the mainstays of Bindlestiff’s activities today.