Every once in a while, the internet comes to a complete standstill and asks itself: Is it pronounced ‘GIF’ or ‘JIF’? Were Ross and Rachel actually on a break? Does pineapple really belong on pizza? While there’s obviously no conclusion for something as subjective as taste in the latter case, the dilemma hasn’t stopped netizens from whipping out the card against humanity until it self-detonates.
Heck, the debate peaked when the president of Iceland himself declared that he would ban pineapple pizza in the country if he could. While the New York Times and CNN doubled down on the so-called ‘abomination’, people all across the world worried that a topping—no matter how controversial—could indeed be outlawed. As jokes and comments related to pineapples routinely grip the broader internet even today, it’s safe to say that conversations about pizza remain on the tip of everyone’s tongues.
While the industry has witnessed trends in regard to packaging, crusts, and sauces, there has also been a parallel rise of enthusiasts creating literal history in the baking.
Introducing the wonderful world of pizza acrobatics, a performance art and sport that puts the ‘oh!’ back in the dough. In a bid to get a slice of the action, SCREENSHOT sat down with intergalactic pizza acrobat Nick Diesslin, one of the most prominent artists on the scene backed with a mission to save the future—one impressive toss at a time.
At its core, pizza acrobatics are tricks performed with pizza dough—where one spins and tosses the weapon of choice around their backs, across the shoulders, through the leg, two at a time, laying on the ground, standing with one foot on a wobbly chair, and so forth. With costumes and blindfolds adding an edge to the sport, the possibilities are endless and the vibes are always immaculate.
Based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Diesslin first discovered his interest in pizza acrobatics at the tender age of 13 following his fascination with juggling. “When I was learning, there were only a few videos online so I would study them and try to imitate what others would do,” he reminisced.
Competing at the yearly Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, where participants have a chance to woo judges in the World Pizza Games’ freestyle dough tossing event based on creativity, dexterity, difficulty, drops, and transitions, Diesslin went on to be featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Appearing on its talent show segment called Show Me Something Good, the enthusiast instantly floored audiences with his flawless routine which included juggling two pizza doughs alternately between his legs, and the same across his shoulders simultaneously.
In 2021, Diesslin auditioned for the one and only America’s Got Talent (AGT). Starring on season 16 of the iconic TV show alongside 21 competitors, his audition saw him performing to Dead Or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’. The pizza man received “four slices” of “yes” from the panel of judges, including Earth’s harshest critic, Simon Cowell—sending him to the next round.
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During his appearance on AGT, Diesslin also mentioned that he’s a full-time web developer-turned-pizza acrobat by night—which practically begged me to query him about his work-life balance.
“Juggling a career and hobby is difficult, but when you like something enough, it’s fun!” he admitted, adding that if you find a skill that sparks joy, it feels like a dream rather than work. “Pursuing a hobby I enjoy gives me purpose. I have had to give up a lot of social events, but to me, it’s not giving up—it’s investing in myself and what makes me happy.”
While Diesslin has since been featured on The Jason Show, Twin Cities Live, CBS Weekend News, and even Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the intergalactic time traveller ultimately plans on saving the world together with the audience he has drawn with his skills. When asked about his plans, he explained: “In all seriousness, this is the best thing I have: to spread happiness and joy in the world. I want people to understand there is someone who cares about them and believes in them. Sometimes, we don’t hear this enough from the people we look up to.”
As noted by Slurrp, the birth of pizza acrobatics as an awe-inspiring sport can be traced back to the mid-1980s, when TV shows and games involving pizza gripped hearts and appetites alike. Typically, most experts in the industry are pizza makers first and only after nailing the art of dough making do they graduate into seasoned pizza acrobats.
While this norm was born out of the necessity and importance of dough in the craft, it’s safe to say that the advent of the space-age technology called the internet has redefined the list of prerequisites. While juggling with dough is an art that needs constant practice in itself, the knowledge of creating the matter was considered fundamental in order to be a ‘qualified’ pizza acrobat.
In 2022, however, a plethora of video-sharing platforms now educate enthusiasts about the different manoeuvres and routines they can pull off mess-free in their living rooms. Diesslin himself has a YouTube channel, rightly dubbed The Doughjo, where you can train in pizza acrobatics as he delves deeper into the supplies and tossing techniques one can master. A black belt in pizza gymnastics? Sign me up.
That being said, it’s important to note that pizza acrobatics is not all ‘Slice, Slice Baby’ at the end of the day. Juggling with pizza dough is tricky, as every single time it’s tossed into the air, it comes back in a different shape. Considering the fact that the dynamic and elastic nature of the dough makes the task difficult, acrobats require enormous self-control to keep it from ripping.
“It can be tough to prevent the dough from ripping,” Diesslin admitted. “When I do large pizza acrobatic performances, I make a particular dough recipe that has flour, water, and salt. The hydration of my dough is very tough compared to regular pizza dough. This means there is less water in the mixture, making the dough much more firm.”
At the same time, the expert shared that having strong dough doesn’t mean that it’s the best dough. “Sometimes, I adjust my recipes to have more hydrated dough that stretches out farther. More hydrated dough can look more beautiful in the air, but you can’t be as assertive with it. It also does take a lot of practice to understand how to work with the dough to give your best performance with it.”
Diesslin further acknowledged the presence of rubber pizza dough. “I’m a big fan of using these for videos and smaller performances!” he said. “Rubber dough saves a lot of time so you don’t have to always be making dough to perform. They are great for focusing on practice and performing for much longer durations. With rubber dough, I can perform for hours instead of minutes!”
In fact, a quick Google search would enlighten you about countless unique doughs available in the market, including some that glow in the dark. What’s more is that, once you get a grasp on the techniques, you can experiment with absolutely any flat, flexible product in your room like tufted rugs. The possibilities are endless here, remember?
During his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Diesslin essentially performed his routine set to “pizza tossing music” played by in-house band, The Roots. But is there a specific genre of music that is preferred for the choreographies in question?
“I love music with a good beat and pace,” the enthusiast explained. “My favourite genre to use currently is Italo Disco—it’s unique and combines well with how I perform!” Diesslin also confirmed that he has some new moves in the works. “Sometimes, while I am livestreaming, I will create new combinations and moves. Practising allows me to come up with new ideas.”
If you’ve been a chronic TikTok or Instagram scroller, you’d have undoubtedly seen viral videos of chefs impressing diners gathered around an open kitchen. Be it experts plating aesthetic omurice or juggling eggs with fire, the clips go on to prove that entertainment remains a critical factor in defining what we look for in remarkable dining experiences. In the case of pizza acrobats, their entire craft seeks to evoke emotions with choreographies they spend years perfecting.
“Pizza acrobatics is complex, but making it an art means making it expressive,” Diesslin explained. “Performing and adding emotion is always something I have been good at and care about.” When asked about the factors that push pizza acrobatics as a full-blown art form, the enthusiast mentioned that his efforts go into planning his brand and sets, designing outfits with his mom, and allowing himself to make mistakes.
“Mistakes are important—they help us learn and give us ideas on what to do next! I have so much fun performing that it almost always makes me express joy. A lot of people can see this and appreciate it!”
If you scroll through Diesslin’s TikTok profile all the way back to 2021, you’ll notice the enthusiast’s mind-blowing edits themed around pizza acrobatics. With CapCut sketches gripping our feeds now in 2022, Diesslin was undoubtedly ahead of his time.
In most of his videos, he is also seen donning an iconic red cape that flutters behind him while he carries out his flawless and mouth-watering routines. Bingeing on a series of clips that featured the cape in question, I eventually gave into my intrusive thoughts and hit Diesslin up with a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say, if Marvel had a hero called ‘Intergalactic Pizza Man’, what would his superpower and catchphrase be?
“Intergalactic Pizza Man has the power of time travel, but he can only travel forward in time,” Diesslin theorised. “This means he cannot predict what’s next and his knowledge is obsolete. It makes him a relatable character because everyone is a time traveller who moves into the future.” In terms of the catchphrase, keep your eyes peeled for some “It’s dough time! 😎” Look! Up in the sky! It’s a rubber dough! It’s a frisbee! It’s Intergalactic Pizza Man!
Given the lessons gathered from his personal experiences and the rollercoaster of a ride to becoming a pizza acrobat, Diesslin concluded: “No one should limit themselves. If you have a dream, make it long-term and keep trying. Things don’t happen overnight, and a lot of people won’t believe in you. Believe in yourself and enjoy your journey!”
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and cheese the day. After all, pizza truly is the circle of life.