Laughter and wonder is anticipated at the Grand Victorian Theatre this Friday and Saturday when comedian, magician and ventriloquist Andy Gross takes the stage.
“It’s kind of a triple threat,” Gross said. “I like to mix things up, so it’s not just one thing. It’s not your traditional magic show, with the birds and the feathers and the top hat, its more comedy magic along with some ventriloquism and a lot of audience participation.”
Gross began his performance career in his mid-20s. He had spent much of his early life as a professional racquetball player. According to the biography on his website, at the age of 15, Gross was the youngest professional player in the history of the sport.
Gross said he was about 25 years old when the sport died and he turned to his childhood hobbies, magic and ventriloquism, to begin rebuilding his life. He began attending open mic nights throughout Hollywood. Because most of these events were hosted by comedy clubs, Gross knew he needed to add comedy to his act.
“I said ‘well, I gotta be kinda funny, I can’t just go there and do straight magic.’ So I added some comedy, went to these open mics, they started asking me to come back and MC the things and do the middle act and before long I was headlining,” Gross said. “And then I started doing cruise ships and corporate shows and theaters and I never looked back. I’m proud to say now I’ve never had a real job.
Gross performs over 150 acts a year, including numerous TV appearances, such as a recently performance on The Ellen show. He is also considered an internet sensation, with more than 150 million views and counting.
While Gross has performed in the Portland area before, this is his first performance in this area. Gross said the Grand Victorian is a great fit for his act.
“I play a lot of these larger theaters now, which are great and a lot of fun, but like I said, I started in comedy clubs. I started performing in front of maybe five people sometimes on a Sunday night,” Gross said. “There is something about those intimate places that I still love. I love connecting and talking to the audience and, ya know, being a little more personable with the audience rather than the big theater where you really can’t get to know someone.”
Along with card tricks and voice throwing, guests can expect plenty of audience interaction and laughs from Gross’ performance. One portion of his act will involve what Gross calls a “human puppet,” where a member of the audience will join him on stage and he will put a mask on them, becoming his ventriloquist dummy.
“I’ll tell you one thing, people walk away from the show — and I love when they do this — and say ‘wow, we didn’t know there would be so much comedy’ or ‘we didn’t know it would be so funny,” Gross said. “I love when they do that, because I think first and foremost they should be entertained, they should laugh, and the magic and everything should come second.”