Mark Nizer can juggle many talents and tricks

By JODI DUCKETT of The Morning Call

The sight of a human juggling a burning propane gas tank, a running cordless electric carving knife and a 16-pound bowling ball ought to pop your eyeballs wide open.

But if that doesn't do it, Mark Nizer is bound to rivet you when he juggles five ping-pong balls with his mouth or spins Chinese yoyos called diablos. Or maybe he'd get you going with his brand of silly commentary that last, year prompted the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities to name him Comedy Entertainer of the Year.

Nizer will be performing at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at Kinderplatz, but it's a small stage for a man who has commanded audiences around the world at venues like Lincoln Center in New York and The Improv in Los Angeles. He has opened for stars such as George Burns and Barry Manilow. He traveled overseas with Bob Hope. In other words, Nizer would likely captivate the large crowds that gather at Americaplatz or Kunstplatz.

The 36 year-old from Sylmar, Calif., just north of Los Angeles, doesn't complain much about being relegated to the kid's area. That's where most jugglers perform at festivals. But he says it's grown-ups who will really appreciate his act. "The kids aren't going to get the jokes. The parents are," he said.

Nizer, who won first place in the International Juggling Championships as a college student, describes himself as "a good juggler who's fun as opposed to a comedian that juggles."

But whatever you call him. he vows "you're going to be laughing in 1 minute and 20 seconds. The first piece is all music and it's a minute and 20 seconds long, so you better not be laughing then."

Nizer has been performing for 26 years, ever since his mother sent him and his sister to a juggling class because "she thought my sister and me had too much energy and was tired of us wreaking havoc in the house."

"As soon as I did it, I knew it was my thing," he said. "I just loved the feeling of learning, and juggling combines your brain and the body."

Nizer said he was never much of an athlete -- one of those kids who always got picked last in gym class. But juggling was something that he could get good at by practicing. And he was funny. "Now I can balance a soccer ball on my head for three or four hours!"

Some of Nizer's stunts are copied from world-class jugglers, but he has invented his own flashy tricks.

Nizer has outfitted large diablos with lasers so when he spins them at 1,000 rotations per minute, they create colorful patterns over his audiences. (He'll do the act at Musikfest without the Lights.)

A new trick has Nizer making his own music by moving in front of a midi, a human rhythm composer, while he bounces a ball on his head and jumps rope.
In another favorite trick, he balances a ball on his forehead while spinning a ball on a finger on his right hand. Then he rolls the ball that's on his forehead down to the back of his neck and down his back, where he kicks it over his head and on top of the ball spinning on his finger.

All of Nizer's tricks showcase his dance and movement skills. "I take the trick and extend it into full body movement. The full body becomes the trick."
Nizer knows he's a world class juggler, but he doesn't believe it's his juggling that captivates audiences.

It’s personality really,” he said. "It's the ability to like somebody quickly and feel comfortable. For the first two or three minutes your arms are crossed, you are cautious, but then you relax and let go. That's not something I think you can learn or practice. It's charisma."

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