The Torture King
An interview with Tim Cridland

Jim Rose once called Tim Cridland the most complete sideshow act in history. Cridland (aka Zamora the Torture King) has since positioned himself as a one-man juggernaut who inhales fire, "conducts" electricity, and skewers assorted pieces of his own anatomy, all in the name of audience amusement. His disposition is straight out of a Johnny Cash ballad and his voice resonates with a matching inflection.

See also...
... by Chris Koentges
... in the Whoa! section
... from December 29, 1999

The Torture King spoke with me moments after chugging down a platter of broken light bulb shards.

GETTINGIT: What's the nutritional value of a light bulb?

TORTURE KING: It's very low in nutrition but it acts kind of like a gizzard, so it chews your food up a little more on the inside.

GI: So how about coming out the other end?

TK: [Winces] Ooh, how 'bout it. Uh, yeah. That's the part of the show people don't get to see. It's pretty dangerous and I'm prepared for it... it's not something I just do. There's a series of internal exercises so it'll all pass through me. The most dangerous part is in the stomach. It can get punctured and lead to a fatal injury. So don't eat broken glass -- like I have to tell you.

GI: Is this something that can be taught or is it strictly God-given?

TK: It's something I've trained myself to do. I've trained the way my mind works and my body reacts. I don't have any differences [from ordinary people], but I don't have an infomercial for it yet, either.

GI: Do you feel like you're living in the wrong era?

TK: Not really. Part of the fun is bringing it back to this type of audience ... we were doing shows and it was very, "ooh, this is like the underground," but actually it used to be very mainstream.

GI: Now, there's Impervo the Painless, a character on The Simpsons. Any relation?

TK: Obviously the people who did the show heard of the sideshow on Lollapalooza, which I was a part of, and based this character loosely on people from the show. There's a pain-proof guy, and it had to be me. You know, there's only one pain proof guy on the Lollapalooza sideshow and that was me. He didn't look a thing like me, but he was the pain-proof guy, so I'm taking credit for it.

GI: How'd you get along with the Lollapalooza troupe?

TK: A lot of them I had good relationships with, but the guy running the show I kind of had a difference [with] about where the show was going. I'm not doing any nudity, crudity, or swear words or anything like that ... but his show is going more towards this kind of naked fat lady wrestling and I just felt it wasn't very respectful.

GI: Who could make you cringe in the Rose show?

TK: Well, you know, Matt and the Tube, doing that Tube thing down his nose is just always eeeww ... that's the type of thing I won't do. People love it, but I'm doing the traditional stuff and I actually find that kind of … like eew, why would somebody want to do that! Especially people drinking it afterwards. I'll tell you, the people coming up and drinking it was the most bizarre part of the show. I mean people sometimes fight over this guy's stomach contents.

GI: Is there any meaning in your show beyond entertainment?

TK: I got into it from the entertainment angle but I wanted to get into the deeper meaning of it all. I started studying the aspects of yoga and Chi-Kung, which is a martial art, and some Middle Eastern philosophies.

GI: Where do psychedelics fit in? Ketamine, for instance?

TK: Things like that are good for opening up rooms to go look around in, but I wouldn't want to use them for anything permanent, you know, try to base my life around something like that. But it gives you a different perspective on life and whenever you get a different view it changes the way you think about things ... but it's not involved really with the stage show at all. I actually have to keep my head very clear and focused. I'm drinking non-alcoholic beer now.

GI: I checked out your Web site...

TK: It's a little out of date.

GI: A bit out of date, but the feedback's pretty current.

TK: [Grinning] I give them that public forum there, and [the fans] just write anything.

GI: Someone placed a curse on you…what was that all about?

TK: I have to figure out who that is. And they didn't, of course, put their name on it, so it's an anonymous curse.

GI: I think they damned you to a lifetime of pain. Kind of picked the wrong guy.

TK: Yeah, an eternal death of pain. Things like that. Whatever. I put "snipe at me" up on my Web site, and that's part of the risk of letting people say what they want to say.

GI: There's no middle ground with the way people react.

TK: It's something you don't see very often. It's pretty extreme. You're going to react to it, guaranteed.

GI: The conquistadors had their El Dorado, scientists have cold fusion, what legend do you aspire toward?

TK: This guy used to do this thing in the '40s where he'd have a sword go through his back -- near his spine -- and come out right in the solar plexus, and he'd do this over and over and over again. And that's something I've been threatening to do again and again. It's a very risky thing, very life threatening, but I'm certain I can do it.

GI: So you've done it in practice?

TK: No, not in practice. In theory. I've read a lot in medical journals. The guy was checked out by doctors; he let himself be x-rayed while it was through him. I've read a lot of the accounts. I've got newsreel footage of him doing it. I'm still doing research, but that's something I hope to do.

Chris Koentges maintains that The Simpsons ripped off his likeness for the character of Hans Moleman.