At just 17 years old, Richter Leland is already making waves on the world theater as a mime juggler. In 2015 at SXSW, what was initially a sideshow nearby a premiere venue (hosting big name acts such as Foo Fighters and Imagine Dragons) rocketed into a viral sensation when Leland continuously juggled 35 imagined balls for three hours and thirty-two minutes, then the world record. With his newfound fame, Leland spent the next two years beating his own record six more times and challenging other, older professional mime jugglers around the world. Although Leland is practically a household name in his hometown of Laramie, Wyoming, many are still surprised to discover that Leland is still in high school. Rolling Stone sat down with Leland in his home one afternoon to get more on this story.
Definitely, it’s my passion.
Mine too. It’s maybe, I think, an obscure sport, though, even if less so than it used to be. What got you interested in it?
One of my favorite sports in high school was puppetry. I designed puppets myself with socks and permanent marker, and I used to sell them for one dollar each until I became better at performing the voices convincingly, at which point I began to identify with the puppets on too personal of a basis to remain comfortable with the concept of ownership over them.
I see. And you’re attending UCLA this fall, right?
Yes! It’s exciting, I register for my classes in a couple weeks. Ideally I’d like to take at least three humanities courses… In the meantime, I’ve been taking those virtual dormitory tours and filled out bunches of the roommate questionnaires on the class Facebook pages.
Would you be okay with your roommate’s boyfriend or girlfriend staying the night?
I would be very enthused if my roommate’s boyfriend or girlfriend stayed the night, and in fact I would insist that my roommate retain his bed and his significant other take my own for the night. My sincerest wish is to be as accommodating as possible. I would sleep on the floor in-between them and it would almost be like I was an equal part in the affections they have for each other and their gratitude for me for keeping them comfortable and secure in their separate beds on opposite sides of the room.
Do you study with music playing?
I do, but it’s actually out of a compulsion that I be studying if I ever hear music playing. Therefore I would request that no music be played in our room if I am not feeling up for studying, as it is a very real disorder that is as easily triggered by the sound of music playing in any adjacent room, so one of our first projects as roommates would have to be figuring out a way to sound-proof the walls in a fashion that is in accordance with University Housing guidelines. We might have to do some research and study to find a solution, so in this instance music would be fine to play.
How often do you talk on the phone?
I almost never use my phone to talk on. That said, I am in near constant correspondence with my friend Gil who will also be attending university in the fall, and our primary form of communication is through walkie-talkie. Gil finds particular humor in using the phrase “over” at the end of every reply, and he insists that I persist with this practice as well. I think it’s all a bit unnecessary, but I don’t mind for Gil’s sake. Fortunately Gil is also a night owl just like me, so we are both able to continue our talks past 2 or 3 in the morning before either one of us grows tired.
Are you “drama-prone” or more easygoing?
I am between the 1st and 99th percentile in ease-going. That said, Gil will probably be over very often, and I am loath to admit it but he is rather dramatic and sometimes volatile in how he reacts to bad news. He is over so often that rooming with me will essentially be like rooming with both of us. It shouldn’t be a concern though because Gil is quite hysterical and even knows this thing where he sticks his tongue into an electrical socket and does a rapid little dance for a few seconds afterwards. The lights in the room go out and everything. It’s crazy.
Don’t be fooled though. Even though we are in constant close proximity, Gil still insists on communicating to each other through walkie-talkie.
How clean do you anticipate keeping your room?
Bacteria is my fourth worst fear, behind only amoebic dysentery, the idea that we might run out of landfills someday, and Gil when he’s in one of his rages. As a result, I intend to keep our place as sanitary as an operating room. But to carry the metaphor further, it takes a team of surgeons to maintain this environment. More literally, it will also take surgical masks. I also ask that my roommate wears gloves at all times and minimalizes exhaling while in the room.
I do, as often as I can. It’s still a fresh experience for me though, so I usually wear a parachute.
That’s good. Finally, when you have an office, what color will you paint it?
My office will be made of pine straw. As I am allergic to pine, I will have the perfect excuse to miss work and claim to be working dutifully from home while I spend the day golfing. There’s actually a country club here I go to. I would have considered purchasing a membership after I was invited to the golf course by my friend Ian, but then I discovered the ease by which the club could be trespassed through the wooded area from the highway, so I was no longer sufficiently incentivized to purchase one, as memberships are expensive and my boss does not pay me as much as she should.