Sam Johnson, a 1998 graduate of Houlton High School, performed in front of “America’s Got Talent” judges for the second time Tuesday night, and on Wednesday found out that he’d be advancing to the competition’s third round at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Johnson is one of 60 finalists in NBC’s reality show, and is considered one of the competition’s “danger” acts. On his first appearance he climbed up an 80 foot sway pole set up outside the “America’s Got Talent” studios, and then, completely untethered, did a handstand. On Tuesday’s show, he pulled out all the stops, dousing his signature top hat with gasoline and lighting it on fire, before pouring gasoline over his head, and putting the hat back on. He then climbed up onto a slack line stretched across the stage, proceeded to mount a unicycle and then juggled three batons, which also were on fire.
During his previous appearance, Johnson, 34, said he is a single dad of a 5-year-old son, Phinneas, and that he joined a circus when he was younger, with which he traveled around and learned the tricks of the trade – including his death-defying pole-climbing act. He quit the circus to raise his son.
According to WHOU-FM, a radio station in the Houlton area, Johnson is a graduate of Houlton High and was familiar to the community when in the 1990s he performed at various events around town, whether it was juggling or slack wire walking. The Bangor Daily News wrote an article about Johnson back in 1995, when he was a freshman in high school, describing him riding a unicycle on a slack wire and studying with Circus Smirkus, a Vermont-based traveling children’s circus. He is still based in Burlington, though as he said in previous email to the BDN that, “my heart is still in Maine.”