Mighty Mike: Political Science major to Strongman

(Courtesy of Robin Gartner and Josh Fee)

Mighty Mike, York political science alumnus, will perform The Last Strongman from Nov. 15 to 18 at the Passe Muraille Theatre, his street performance that challenges traditions of masculinity and explores the capabilities of the human body.

The Last Strongman is a project funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and has been a huge challenge to create,” shares Mike. He adds that he views his performance as mostly an art rather than a sport. “I’ve done this for 10 years now and I still discover things every year about what could be the best possible show of strength.”

Mike took his dream beyond the borders of Halifax. In 2016, Mike set his first Guinness World Record for making the most juggling catches with three 10-pound bowling balls in one minute. He broke another Guinness World Record in 2022, for the most bowling balls ever juggled. This year, his performance made waves in the US, making him a featured act in October at the Texas State Fair.

“Every show I destroy a hot water bottle, a horseshoe, a two-pound steel bar, and a pack of playing cards. All the other street performers think I’m ridiculous for doing this,” says Mike.

During his performance, Mike wants the audience to think about questions like: “Does masculinity have to look a certain way? Does being a man involve doing things we don’t want to do? Is a man still strong if he struggles or asks for help?”

The performance calls attention to what we define as strength — both mental and physical.

Stepping onto the stage in a Roman-inspired toga, Leopard print shorts or a 1920s swimsuit that shows off his hard-earned muscles, Mike wrestles a 10-pound sledgehammer while engaging his audience in a reflective discussion about what we expect masculinity to look like today.

“With the tattoos and the moustache, I look like a clipart image of ‘strongman’,” Mike says. 

It wasn’t always like this for Mike, though. 

“When I was 12 years old, I was bullied for being a ‘fat kid’ in Bedford, Nova Scotia,” he says. Despite growing up in a hockey town, he didn’t enjoy playing sports. “I did magic and juggling to distract people and avoid the bullying. 

“I was bullied a lot as a kid for not fitting into traditional male roles […] My goal when I perform is to inspire anyone in that same situation to be themselves and be proud of it. I’ve been watching street performers since as early as I can remember in Halifax, Nova Scotia.”

While Mike may hold a political science degree, doing a circus-style solo performance has been his dream for his entire life.

“These days I work out all the time — it’s literally my job. I bend steel and juggle bowling balls […] Except the closer I get to being in ‘great shape’, I still stare at the mirror and find parts to hate. The pursuit of an ‘ideal body’ can become both a virtue and a vice.”

The Last Strongman, while being an exemplary feat of human capabilities, proves to audiences that strength is much more than physical power. It requires us to overcome our own mental barriers to explore and reach our greatest potential.

For tickets to Mike’s performance, click here.

About the Author

By Sam Martin


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