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New Times / Art

The following article was posted on November 22nd, 2012, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 17

Popovich's pets

BY CLEMENTINE GRAY

Exotic creatures such as performing elephants, bears, or monkeys spring to mind when one thinks of the circus. But trained housecats?

Those small domestic fluff-balls that tend to sleep all day and are notoriously independent are not found in the typical performing act, but that doesn’t stop Gregory Popovich of Comedy Pet Theater. Popovich’s talented strays—comprising 15 cats and 10 dogs—are a vital part of his skillful comedy performance. On Dec. 1 at Cal Poly’s PAC, you can see these cats weaving around his legs on the stage, jumping gracefully through proffered hoops, and even scaling down small poles like tiny firefighters.

YouTube viewer reactions to a video of Popovich and his feline assistants titled “Popovich and his circus cats” is mixed. One viewer dramatically proclaims, “this video is animal abuse.” But Popovich insists it would be nearly impossible to train the cats without patience, love, and rewards.

“The best way, when you work with animals, is to do what they like to do, and build the story around their personality,” he notes.

The performance is a reflection of the individual housecat’s personality and natural tendencies.

The story of Comedy Pet Theater is a touching tale of second chances. Popovich moved to the United States from Russia, where he worked for the Moscow circus as a juggler and a clown. He visited animal shelters in the United States and was deeply saddened by the reasons the animals often found themselves there. As a result, he began to adopt the animals, incorporating them into his performances.

It takes up to three to six months to train the cats enough to bring them onstage. After all, just like their human counterparts, cats can be natural-born performers or belong to the more retiring type. Whatever the animal’s personality, Popovich will use it to the best of his ability to do only what the cats are most suited for.

These trained housecats and talented dogs will be at the PAC on Dec. 1, with two performances of Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater. It was voted Best Family Show in Las Vegas and has something for all ages. The show sold out when it last came to town, so take heed and book early; you’d be a clown to miss it. Tickets are on sale at pacslo.org.