SPECIAL EVENT: Juggling comedy and innovation

By on October 14, 2014

Moschen and Berky reunite on Center stage

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Bob Berky (above) will rejoin his past performing partner Michael Moschen on Sunday. DAVID SWIFT

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – In the late 1970s, a producer in New York City introduced Bob Berky to Michael Moschen, starting a more than 10-year partnership in which the two traveled the world with their show “Alchemedians.”

“There’s a certain alchemic relationship between what he does with objects and the comedy which I do,” Berky said. “In both instances, it’s a matter of transformation, whether it’s the transformation of an object or the transformation of the audience.”

When Center for the Arts staff told Berky they were thinking of bringing in “this guy Michael Moschen,” Berky said he knew him. When they booked Moschen, it was suggested that Berky might want to take the stage with his friend. Planet Jackson Hole Weekly caught up with Berky for a preview of their Sunday show. Berky still didn’t know what he would be performing, but he had plenty to say about the unique work of Moschen.

Planet Jackson Hole: What can people expect from this show?

Bob Berky: This show is mainly Michael’s work, as it should be. He’s really one of the finest jugglers in the world and has developed a lot of techniques over the last 20 years that have been copied. He’s really an innovator in his art form. … I think you’ll see a lot of different kinds of things. Some of it will be breathtakingly beautiful, some if it you won’t believe and some of it will make you laugh because you didn’t think someone could do it. He’s quite an exceptional performer and artist.

PJH: How is what he does different than maybe what we think about when we think “juggling?”

BB: There are many fine jugglers in the world. … What makes Michael stand out from most others is he took the art of juggling back down to its essentials. He started with one object that hadn’t been done before, or he developed techniques that hadn’t been done before, or he manipulates an object in a way that hasn’t been done before. He’d often look at nature and see a shape he liked and reproduce the shape somehow and manipulate it and see what kind of emotional and aesthetic vocabulary would come out of that. So that makes him pretty unique.

PJH: What will you do in the show?

BB: I’ll do something very different in this show. I’m a juggler, but I’m a mediocre juggler. I mean that quite seriously. For me, juggling is a way to loosen up the audience, but for Michael it’s a way for taking them to some place they haven’t been before. My expertise, if there is any, is my relationship to the audience [and] my use of comic structure, so I’ll be doing a few comic pieces in the mix of the evening.

PJH: When did you first realize you were funny, or had a gift to transform the audience with humor?

BB: I first discovered it when I was a naval midshipman on a naval destroyer in the Pacific Ocean. At the end of this two months on this war vessel there was a little comedy night for the ship’s crew, and the captain for this particular ship, [who] I felt to be very incompetent, I did a little sketch in which I played him and I kinda poked fun at how he acted toward the men, and all the sailors just laughed a lot. I realized how powerful it could be and also in that case, I was making fun of that man, and I realized that making fun of people is actually easy, but making fun with them and going into some transformative state, which is what humor really is, is much harder. We laugh when we understand something and laughter is a product of our understanding — you can say it’s a tiny moment of enlightenment. I began to concentrate my work on that principle and toured successfully doing that. Then I met Michael, and Michael has a great sense of humor and we worked well together.

PJH: So do you consider yourself a comedian, a clown or a comedic actor? What about Michael?

BB: Definitions are at best inadequate. I am a student of the comic form and have been called a theatrical clown. … But I’m a student of theater and comic theater as well as non-comic theater. I guess what I enjoy most is the structure of what we call comedy. Definitions are inadequate; you can’t really define Michael as a juggler. He’s really an innovative artist. You can’t define him as a clown, either. If people want to see something unique and unequaled and funny at moments and at moments profound, this show is a good way to spend a late Sunday afternoon.

Michael Moschen with special guest Bob Berky, 6 p.m. on Sunday, Center for the Arts, $29 adults, $15 students.


About Kelsey Dayton

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