Al Olson is one of a select handful of eccentric, quirky, and entertaining people who helped grow American Renaissance Festivals into being a very popular ticket. He shares his story in his comprehensive book, A History of the American Renaissance Festival.

While attending the University of Minnesota, working nights in a parking ramp and pumping iron at Dove’s Bicep Gym, Al also performed his original songs in the same coffee houses on the west bank of the Mississippi that Bob Dylan had played just a few years earlier. The artistic director of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival attended a theatrical presentation of Al’s original works at Theatre in the Round and hired him on the spot.

Al began performing at Renaissance Faires as a member of the group, “Pumpkin,” writing original Renaissance music. After less than a season, he noted the greater crowd impact of performers like Penn and Teller, Avner the Eccentric, the Flying Karamazov Brothers, and Puke and Snot. As a result, Smee and Blogg were formed out of frustration and a desire to present something unique. The tandem comedic vaudeville act performed for 36 years, singing and dancing across the U.S. and Canada at 56 renaissance festivals and medieval faires.  After the act stopped performing in 2013, Al carried on as the Singing Executioner at renaissance and medieval faires in Texas and Oklahoma to this day.

For six years, he was the co-founder and general manager of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. Over the past two decades Al has performed voice-overs for radio commercials for various festivals. And for the past decade he’s served as the master of properties for Texas Ballet Theatre.