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The Suburbanite
  • A circus for rescued cats and dogs at Kent Tusc

  • Gregory Popovich’s performing animals have been featured on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” the Animal Planet network and an Arm & Hammer Carpet Cleaner commercial.

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  • With a prominent Russian accent, Gregory Popovich recounted the simple origins of his Comedy Pet Theater.
    “I start with one kitty, one puppy,” he said. “Every year keep visiting to shelter, pick up one or two kitty and puppy. Now more than 30 pets in our show.”
    Not only have Popovich’s canine and feline companions been rescued from uncertain fates in shelters, they’ve also found showbiz prominence.
    Headquartered most of the year at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater has toured across the U.S. and internationally. On March 20, the show will be presented at the Performing Arts Center at Kent State University Tuscarawas in New Philadelphia.
    Popovich’s performing animals have been featured on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” the Animal Planet network and an Arm & Hammer Carpet Cleaner commercial.
    Judging from a promo video, the show is action-packed and very funny, with cats, dogs, geese, a parrot and even white mice in all sorts of antics.
    “The cats and mice are working together — but only on stage,” Popovich noted in a telephone interview. “In real life, everybody has private place. We have big custom-made trailer.”
    A favorite of Popovich’s is the dog classroom sketch. “The dogs sit down behinds the desks and answer geographic questions,” he said. “It’s funny for audience because you see dogs acting like humans.” There’s an animal choo-choo train and firemen dogs rescuing cats.
    Trained dogs we’ve all seen. But housecats jumping through hoops and over fences, climbing poles and pushing dogs in baby strollers — really?
    “This is new way for pets to participate in show business,” said Popovich, who wrote about his methods in a book, “You Can Train Your Cat.”
    “Instead of pushing a cat or dog to do some difficult trick, you find out what they like to do and you just build situations and small sketches around their natural habits, things they do voluntarily in my living room. The most difficult is to move cat (behavior) from living room to the stage.”
    Noting that cats are highly independent creatures, Popovich said, “I share with you secret. For each trick, I have two, three kitties who can make this trick. If I see in show one cat ignores me or doesn’t pay attention or has bad day or bad hair day, I go to different cat. So every show a little bit different.”
    Prior to each show, during the sound check, there is a “small check” for the dogs and cats in the cast to familiarize themselves with the venue. “They have to walk the stage for a couple of minutes,” Popovich said.
    The 90-minute Comedy Pet Theater show is not all about pets. Popovich does juggling and physical comedy in addition to interaction with the animals.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s variety show, a combination of animal talent and human talent. Audience decide what they like most by applause.” He has eight people to assist him during the show, including his wife and daughter, who also create the animal costumes, and a groomer.
    “I grew up in Moscow Circus,” Popovich said. “My father and mother trained dogs. That’s how I got my skills.”