There’s a bit of a playful kid still in Mark Nizer. That curious “what if” perspective that we tend to lose as we mature thrives in Nizer’s creations that he makes at home on his 3D printer. The popular comedian/juggler then adds electronics to them, so they appear to float and twirl on their own in a performance setting. Nizer is currently touring his latest 4D comedy show, and his Wednesday Kahilu performance took the audience on a journey into his fourth dimension.
When I arrived backstage at the Kahilu, Nizer was sitting in front of a laptop working out last-minute tweaks to his 85-minute show. He acts as his own sound/tech person so he can control the timing of the fog machine, or laser beams (at 1000 RPMs) that shoot out over the crowd. The only assistance I saw was when the backstage manager tossed him a bloody arm prop during a “juggling mishap” that involved a large knife that “accidentally” got thrown behind the curtains. “I think the first arm is still covered under Obamacare,” joked Nizer.
His spellbinding one-man show, Mark Nizer 4D, peaks when a computer-generated Siri-like voice informs the audience, “It’s time to put on your 4D glasses!” They were handed out as the audience entered the theatre. With glasses on, and house lights down, various objects appear to dance above the crowd’s heads – loud rumbling cinematic music adds even more drama to the moment. You could hear the audience say “Wow!” and “Whoa!” when the visuals appeared to be real.
The musical part of the show involved Nizer playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” on a neon orange illuminated keyboard. There are only seven keys on this custom-made “mini piano,” but Nizer managed to plunk out a slow rendition of the classic while juggling five balls. When a ball hits the keyboard, a note rang out. When he hit a wrong note, he explained, “Oh, that’s just a jazz note I tossed in to mix it up.”
Nizer, 58, is not a newcomer to the entertainment scene. He’s opened for performers ranging from Jerry Seinfeld to Bob Hope to the Temptations. His humor is intentionally dry, and he tends to milk a joke till the laughter stops. During one physically challenging skit, Nizer’s heart rate is projected on a large screen behind him so his doctor can monitor it. “If I collapse,” quipped Nizer, “well, at least you’ll have some bullet points you can share with the kids.”
The kids in the audience loved his juggling and a few were invited onstage to help out. Early in the day, Nizer kicked-off the theatre’s Performances for Young Audiences series. Students from around the island were bused in to witness Nizer’s ScienceSplosion show. It’s more on the educational side than the evening performance, and Nizer covers topics like gravity, laws of motion, and the speed of light.
Nizer’s unique family-friendly performance concluded with setting up two large fans on either side of him. With flashing futuristic goggles on, and fingerless gloves that shot out red laser beams, Nizer takes a superhero stance before placing a roll of toilet paper on each of the fans. As the theme song to 2001: A Space Odyssey built, the TP began to unravel and twirl upwards of 30-feet before cascading back down to the stage. Nizer knelt before the streaming bathroom tissue as if it’s the mysterious monolith in the movie. As the music segues to “I Can’t Turn You Loose” (ala The Blues Brothers), the comedian wound himself in the toilet paper and took a bow. Artistic Director Chuck Gessert came out to place a lei on Nizer, and Nizer returned the gesture by bestowing Gessert with a lei of toilet paper.
We’re grateful to the Kahilu for not only including Mark Nizer in this season’s line-up, but also others in this genre, like Tomáš Kubínek, who appeared at the theatre earlier this year.
To keep up with Mark Nizer and his latest inventions, be sure to visit his website.
Read my interview with Mark Nizer here.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times bestselling 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.
Photos/video: Steve Roby