Straight from Las Vegas, a quirky, family-oriented holiday show will come to UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium this Saturday. Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theatre is exactly what it sounds like: a comedic spectacle that features house pets.
Popovich, born in Russia to parents who were also circus performers and dog trainers, moved to the U.S. to perform as a juggler in 1990. The Comedy Pet Theatre premiered at the V Theatre, in Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, in 2006.
Popovich’s company has previously toured through Toronto and Vancouver, but Saturday will mark their visit to Victoria. When the Martlet spoke to Popovich over the phone, he was travelling to shows in San Francisco and Seattle. On Dec. 14, he’ll be at the River Rock Casino in Richmond before returning to the U.S.
Popovich said that a tour allows a longer show than he’s given in Las Vegas; an hour and a half versus a 60-minute time slot. The show combines physical comedy, clowning, and the ensemble of talented pets: cats, dogs, doves, a parrot, and white mice. Popovich gets the audience to judge by applause which acts are most impressive. He said, “My pets get much more applause than humans, so pets always win.”
All the furry and feathered performers, except the parrot, are rescued from animal shelters, and live with Popovich on his ranch-style Nevada property in their own small house. He said he trains them using positive reinforcement. “Each pet has some kind of natural habit,” said Popovich. “When I find out what [each animal] likes to do . . . I let them do [it]. It’s the only way to deal with house cats.”
Popovich said getting his cats onstage is a challenge compared to training dogs. He added that he understands concerns about the animals’ well-being, and habituates the pets to lights, applause, and music by practicing first at home for three to six months, depending on the animal, before he introduces a pet to the stage.
This winter’s tour presents the story of a clown who gets kicked out of the circus and finds solace and hope in homeless pets. “Because it’s the Christmas season, we bring Santa Claus from Russia,” Popovich said, calling the show “very good for the holiday spirit.” Though taking place on the UVic campus, he expects mostly families at his show, which itself is a family affair: Popovich’s daughter Anastasia performs as a juggler and his wife Izolda is the tour manager and co-trainer.
The Comedy Pet Theatre has been voted Best New Family Show in Las Vegas, and been featured on late night talk shows like The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theatre plays at Farquhar Auditorium on Sat. Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18–$35 at the UVic Ticket Centre or at tickets.uvic.ca.