Clark Orwick, Who Performed As Ded Bob at Michigan Renaissance Festival, Has Passed Away

“The Ded Bob Sho” first arrived at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in 1989, becoming a mainstay attraction for decades. Orwick also toured the show to Renaissance festivals around the country for over 30 years.

The performer best known as Ded Bob, who performed for decades at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, has passed away.

Paul Orwick confirmed on Thursday his brother’s death to WDET but wasn’t immediately available to provide further details.

A post on the Ded Bob Facebook page said Orwick had been recovering from a heart attack for the past six weeks at an intensive care unit. 

From the website of Ded Bob
From the website of Ded Bob

Orwick was the voice and personality behind the smart-mouthed skeleton puppet named Ded Bob, which Orwick operated while dressed as a masked character named Smuj.

His comedic act mixed crowd work with Shakespearean and vaudevillian influences, which Orwick enjoyed bringing to contemporary audiences.

“One of the unique aspects of Renaissance festivals is the throwback to vaudeville and the completely unique styles of entertainment that people probably won’t find anywhere outside of the Renfaire circuit,” said Orwick in an interview.

Orwick held multiple performances a day at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly, where he had been performing since 1989. His act traveled across the United States, including stops at similar festivals in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, New York and beyond.

The origins for the show and the puppet itself came from Orwick’s days performing Shakespeare parodies with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company at a Georgia Renaissance Festival starting in 1986, according to a biography on the Ded Bob website.

“Clark brought us all closer through laughter, critical thinking and a persistent poke at our mortality.” — Statement from Michigan Renaissance Festival

Courtesy of Ded Bob website
Courtesy of Ded Bob website

In a YouTube interview, Orwick recounted how his Ded Bob act caught its first break on stage at a Renaissance fair in Colorado. After a mime broke his ankle and couldn’t perform, Orwick was offered a last-minute spot on stage. It took his act from a roving crowd routine that entertained people waiting in line to a signature attraction at many of the fairs he performed at.

In a statement posted on their social media channels, a representative for the Michigan Renaissance Festival said Orwick had “the biggest heart & his humanity touched thousands of people.”

“Clark brought us all closer through laughter, critical thinking and a persistent poke at our mortality,” read the statement. “He cannot be replaced.”

Information about a memorial for Orwick was not immediately available.

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.