Mark Nizer has changed the way people view the world. The impossible is possible, the improbable is probable. He has spent a lifetime catching things; machetes, torches, lasers, and Ping-Pong balls. He also has spent that same lifetime throwing those same objects. Nizer is a pathological juggler and there is no support group for him. He came to an early understanding that since there was no help available, he might as well embrace his mania. “Expect the Impossible,” wrote The New York Times, and you can experience Mark Nizer’s 4D live show at the Kahilu Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at their box office, or online at their website.
Where does this interview find you today?
I’m in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m in my studio playing with my buugeng, which I don’t know if that sounds right (laughs), but it’s a weird 3D printed prop that I’m bringing with me to Hawaii, and it needs a little adjustment. I’ve got all kinds of software equipment running and trying to figure out what’s going on.
OK, What’s a buugeng?
It’s two curved S’s that you manipulate. I made them myself by 3D printing them and they have all kinds of electronics in them to pick up acceleration, and all kinds of interesting things. But for some reason one of them keeps cutting out on me and I’m going to take it all apart which is a massive project.
Will this be your first appearance on the Big Island?
I think it is. I did a USO show with Bob Hope on Oahu many years ago.
What was it like opening for Bob Hope?
He was a great mentor to me. He did a lot to help young performers like myself be put in front of big crowds and taught us how to market ourselves and how to be part of show business. I thought that was pretty amazing. He emphasized that show business is two words – show and business. It helped me learn to market early on and learn to combine those two things to make a full show and successful career. I was working with him when I was 19. So, gosh, it was 40 years ago.
For those who haven’t seen your show, what can fans expect?
To be surprised. It’s different from anything they’ve ever seen before because I’ve built most of the stuff that I’m going to be juggling and performing with. I do a lot of interesting things with laser light and interactive video. A lot of cool stuff with custom-made lighting and props that control the light. I’ll be taking over all the cell phones and the audience’s lighting instruments which is super cool. Everybody reading this, bring your phones and your iPad and such. I try to blow people’s minds, but more importantly, I try to entertain people. My show is a combination of kind of cool visual stuff and stand-up comedy. So, the two of them together make for an interesting show. Juggling by itself needs to be truly mind-blowing and more immersive. I try to combine immersion, comedy, and technology to make something kind of cool. I know you haven’t seen it before because I am the only guy that does it!
Can you describe the 4D experience that happens in your show?
Parts of the show involve these special glasses where we use light. Most of everything we see is 3D. When you go to a movie, and they say it’s in “3D,” it’s because it’s a two-dimensional surface and they’re adding a third dimension, which is the glasses showing depth. But in a live show, we already have depth. So, I used color as the fourth dimension. These glasses take color and they move the color around based on certain rules. So, for example, red always moves forward. Blue goes toward the back. Green and yellow float in the center. For example, if I’m juggling red glow balls while wearing a green robot suit, with a blue background there’s a crazy separation that happens. And it’s really interesting. I’m the only person to ever do this in a live performance. Some people use it in print.
Sounds like those old 3D films that came out in the ‘50s?
If you had a choice of one superpower what would you pick?
The ability to wish for any superpower.
Most people pick flying.
Well, I already fly so that is not a big deal to me! I’ve been flying hang gliders for 25 years.
Have you ever had any unusual things happen in your live shows throughout your career?
When I did a show in the Philippines with 10,000 people, and they completely freaked out when I started juggling fire. I guess they’d never seen it before, and fire is such a dangerous thing there. There was almost a riot. But once they saw I was in control of it, they were able to kind of calm down.
What’s your best advice for up-and-coming comedian-jugglers?
Well, that is a great question. I have not gotten that one before. You need to find your voice and become original… not just be another cookie-cutter of what you saw when you were young. A lot of people try to do things that I do because they saw me when they were children at the World Championship. It’s a little frustrating when I go and watch some younger performer, and I see me doing my thing. I encourage people to go out to the streets and perform, go to comedy clubs, and learn to write jokes…figure out what’s funny… your college education combined with strong comedy writing helps. Dare to be creative to come up with something new instead of just doing the stuff that everyone is already doing.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.