BY Kelsey Carey
Published October 21, 2009
Almost everyone attempts to juggle at least once in his or her life. You pick up a few bouncy balls, apples, or even pairs of rolled up socks and you throw them into the air trying to master the juggling technique. Some are more successful than others, but most put down the apples after a few attempts and continue on with their lives. But not Mark Nizer whose life is juggling. He puts down the apples and picks up soccer balls, bowling balls, and even propane tanks and just keeps juggling. As a professional juggler and comedian, Nizer does whatever it takes to put on the best performance possible. Whether he uses 3D lasers, knives, unicycles, or his own wit, Nizer has proven to the world that he can put on an amazing show. He used his two greatest talents to win the International Juggling Championships and the Comedy Entertainer of the Year presented by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. Nizer will be performing at the Lyric in downtown Blacksburg this Saturday, October 24th, at 3:00pm.
The CT: How do you become a professional juggler?
Nizer: I took a juggling class when I was 12 years old and I took 2 weeks of that and learned a bunch and then kind of learned the rest of it on my own, most of it at MIT in Boston where there was a big juggling club
The CT: When did you start doing comedy?
Nizer: I started doing stand up comedy when I was 17 in San Diego at The Comedy Store and then I did it in New York City at various clubs and then Los Angeles as well.
The CT: What made you want to start doing 3D shows?
Nizer: I wanted to stand apart from everyone else so I added visual arts into my acts.
The CT: What kinds of visual arts do you use?
Nizer: Anything really. I use ping-pong balls and things that wouldn’t consider juggling. Lots of different things but the cool thing is that it’s all totally real. Like a magician is hiding what they’re doing, there’s nothing hidden at all, everything is completely how it appears. There’s no magnets or Velcro or anything making it something else; everything is done with regular, every day objects.
The CT: What are some of the juggling tricks and techniques you have invented?
Nizer: I invented this Laser Diablo. Basically we turn all the lights off and then I start spinning these 4 lasers around and it makes these really cool tunnels, and we fill the stage up with fog and fire up the 3D glasses and we have these red tunnels flying around people’s heads out in the audience. And I invented this trick I’m going to do with toilet paper that I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s kind of the finale. I also juggle propane gas tanks, electric carving knives, and a bowling ball. That’s all original stuff I came up with.
The CT: What are some common tricks that you do in your shows?
Nizer: I do a trick where I spin a ball on my right index finger, like a volleyball, and then I balance another ball on my forehead and then I kick the ball with my heel and it rolls down my back and it comes up and lands on top of the other ball and they spin together.
The CT: Wow! How long does a trick like that take to learn?
Nizer: The one I just described took me seven years just to get one time. Other tricks usually take about one to four years to put in the show. It takes a long time. I have a trick where I juggle five ping-pong balls using my mouth. I learned that in a swimming pool. That way they wouldn’t drop on the ground and get all disgusting. Plus I didn’t have to take bathroom break. I won’t tell you what pool I used. It wasn’t on campus!
The CT: Well that’s good! How often do you practice juggling?
Nizer: I juggle every day mostly for fun to work on new things. I also write jokes every day; a little bit of both to keep on creating new stuff. Some days I do more of one and less of the other. It keeps me in shape and keeps the show getting a little better every time.
The CT: What is your favorite prop to juggle with?
Nizer: It changes all the time. But I could be perfectly happy with a single soccer ball. I could spend my entire life practicing with a soccer ball.
The CT: Really? Do you just like soccer or is it just the way the ball is?
Nizer: I can roll it all over my body. I can roll it around my head. I can bounce it off many part of me. I can catch it on my toes, balance on my feet, things like that. There’s no end to what you can think of.
The CT: That’s so cool! What would you consider to be a successful show?
Nizer: It’s really all about the interaction of the audience and having a good time with them. Having them relax and trust me and then we can start playing together and have a good time. The best show is when the audience is involved and I’ll say something and they say something back to me and we get to really have a connection, which makes it better. Really, when it comes down to it, it’s about having fun with people. The performance is what it is, but the best part and what people remember the most is when we have this moment together on stage. That’s really the ultimate kind of performing.
The CT: Have you had any embarrassing events happen during one of your performances?
Nizer: All the time. I’m doing a 90-minute show; nothing is ever perfect. I’ve had my pants rip and I’ve had the tip of my finger cut off. It was bleeding like crazy, and I put some duck tape on it and kept going. I’ve had some hand sticks break and glow sticks go flying. One time a fog machine was leaking and the oil was really slippery and I went sliding right off the stage. You never know. I try to keep and open mind and go with the flow.
The CT: Definitely! Do people often ask you to teach them to juggle?
Nizer: Yup. I teach for nothing. It’s free. I’ll teach anyone that wants to learn. I have some people here I practice with and teach. I can only help you get started and then it’s about you being willing to put the time into it. Anyone willing to show up I’m perfectly happy with teaching.
The CT: Do you think people can easily learn to juggle?
Nizer: I think anyone can learn. It depends a little bit on their background, but I’ve taught people in their eighties to juggle and I’ve touch children as young as six. Just a matter of believing you can do it. So many people that don’t learn decided before we even start that they can’t do that. You’ve got to believe you can do it.
The CT: So what do you like to do in your free time? Or do you spend most of it juggling and working on your comedy act?
Nizer: I like hang gliding. I have a video in the show of me hang gliding and juggling over some mountains in San Diego. I also do a lot with computers. My computers run all the lighting and video and music for my show that I control with a remote control on my belt.
The CT: That’s so neat! Have you always known you wanted to be a juggler, or did you have a different career path in mind?
Nizer: I have a degree in Pre-Med, so I could have gone on to be a doctor, but by then I had been sidetracked. I worked at university of New Hampshire and San Diego State. I just never perused it after I got my degree.
The CT: When people ask what you do, what do you tell them?
Nizer: I usually don’t tell people because it’s too hard to explain. If I can show them on a laptop I will, but by the time I explain it’s too confusing. I’d rather just tell them I’m a district attorney. But if I can show them the video of my show then I will.