By Mike Weatherford, Las Vegas Review-Journal
You could call this – a juggler doing a one-man show on a bare stage – everything that’s wrong with Las Vegas entertainment in these lean days.
But you could also say it’s what has always been right about Las Vegas entertainment.
Jeff Civillico is a new name on the Strip, but his afternoon show “Comedy in Action” is as familiar as, well, a unicycle. You know what one is, but don’t see one all the time.
This type of long-form variety act isn’t easily labeled, but there has always been room in town for a person with an exceptional physical skill. A little more room if said person is good looking. And more room still if that person is funny.
Las Vegas stages have long been the place to see something you can’t see at home. In this case, it’s Civillico balancing a 10-foot ladder on his chin, or trying to bite a marshmallow off a machete blade that’s being juggled along with two clubs.
“My mom would be embarrassed if she saw me right now,” he says during this stunt. “She’s so much better at this trick.”
With a running banter to rival the laughs in a stand-up act, this 29-year-old hybrid of comedian and juggler is really just the newest and youngest – that’s a plus here – in a tradition of Las Vegas entertainers such as Michael Goudeau, Michael Holly and Wally Eastwood.
Civillico started out where they did, working as a 10-minute variety act in someone else’s show. But his host, Nathan Burton, saw the wisdom of making a partner out of a future competitor.
The magician now produces Civillico’s cross-promoted show at the The Linq, which he performs at 2 p.m. before dashing over to join Burton at the Flamingo at 4 p.m.
Civillico moves at a pace that makes a Zumba class seem like a bunch of channel surfers, so you don’t really have time to remember juggling is something that was supposed to die with Ed Sullivan.
He’s smart to go early with one of the most memorable bits, getting two audience members involved – and the rest of us by proxy – in an attempt to climb onto a giant unicycle. The dudes (and it would only work with guys) become uncomfortably familiar with both the front and back of Civillico’s crotch, before they all help each other mouth-catch marshmallows.
So much for passive entertainment.
Civillico works in most of the things you expect from jugglers, such as keeping five balls or clubs in the air at a time (“Only nine other jugglers in the world can do this trick … as far as you guys know”), or catching rings around his head, one on the bounce after a pretend flub.
I was impressed by his agility as well as the speed of ad-lib. When one marshmallow errantly bounced off the stage, an audience member caught it with his left hand and tossed it back to Civillico, who caught it in his mouth. “You just got his DVD,” the juggler said, redirecting the gift that was supposed to go to the recruit already helping him.
(Don’t know what it was about this one performance, but the people in the audience could do stuff they were probably supposed to mess up. The unicycle helpers mouth-grabbed marshmallows like veteran Blue Men.)
The only drawback to this hour is that it’s so manic, you could use a little breather by the time Civillico escapes from a straitjacket on a unicycle. Maybe the answer is – wait for it – a 10-minute variety act.
Perhaps Burton, doing quid pro quo magic? Or they find someone else, and he turns out to be popular enough to get his own show, and then …
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.