Andy Gross is easily one of the top-rated performers that Funny Business Agency works with. He combines comedy, magic and ventriloquism to create a truly outstanding performance for any type of event. Read our interview to learn how Andy got started, what his show is like, his advice to event planners and more.
How did you get into performing?
I was 9 years old when I saw the movie Magic with Anthony Hopkins and Ann Margaret. Once I saw the dummy on the screen I was hooked on ventriloquism! It was about a ventriloquist that goes crazy and uses his dummy to kill everyone. I thought, wow I have to learn that, it could be good for my future! I now have one of the largest ventriloquist collections in the world. I have over 250 dummies and countless artifacts on ventriloquism – some dating back more than 150 years.
What’s your show like?
My show is a mix of standup comedy, magic and ventriloquism. I really like when people talk to me after the show and say “Wow, we didn’t realize your show was going to be so much comedy!” I feel first and foremost people should laugh and then be fooled or amazed by what they just saw. I really like to keep my act mixed up with comedy, magic and ventriloquism so people don’t get bored and wonder what I’m going to do next. The audiences seem to really enjoy this!
What drew you to magic?
After getting into ventriloquism the magic just sort of fell into place. I had a friend a few years older than me that was into magic and he showed me a few tricks and got me really interested. I was immediately hooked and began going to the library, checking out magic books and spending my allowance on magic tricks at the magic shops. I practiced every day for hours.
Have you ever had any close calls performing?
Yes, almost every show! But that’s one of the things I like most performing magic live, no two shows are the same. Things can go wrong, and do, with magic tricks and you really have to concentrate and focus extra hard to make sure everything goes smoothly. Props can break, and things can drop so you really have to focus not only on the entertainment part but also to make sure you present the effects perfectly each show. Then you need to reset and get all ready for the next show. When I work in comedy clubs, I do sort of envy the straight stand-up comic that can just show up one minute to stage time and grab the mic and start. Then after that they can walk right out while I am there cleaning up and resetting for next show. But it’s what I do and love and wouldn’t change a thing!
What’s your most embarrassing moment in your career as a magician?
There have been a few but one that stands out was: I was booked in a Vegas room to perform my act along with a couple larger stage illusions they wanted. When I got there I found out the room set up would not work for the illusion and if we performed it about 40 people sitting to the side would totally see the girl sliding in and out of the box. The hotel wanted us to perform it anyway so we went for it… I can still hear the audience on the side gasp and point as the girl slid out the back of the box. I had her just look over wink and make the universal shush sign! They got it and felt like they were in on the act and went along with it! The other 760 people enjoyed the illusion and we got rebooked!
You’re most accomplished?
I think getting over 200 million Internet views and counting on my videos has to be my biggest accomplishment. I put up a video of me doing one of my favorite effects where I appear to be cut in half, I call is SplitMan, and it just took off. It was featured on CNN, The Ellen Show, FOX, Yahoo News and media worldwide. It is one of the most recognizable magic / prank videos ever. I am proud and very lucky to have had that!
What advice do you have for those planning events?
I feel that the entertainment is probably one, if the not the most important part of most events. People usually tell me that the entertainment was the most memorable part of the event for them. I would say make sure to hire a great, fun interactive act thru Funny Business – I mean that! Working with the BEST you get the best entertainment. It assures that your event will be the best and takes all the pressure off the planner knowing they do not have to worry about the entertainment as it will be top-notch – making them and their company look great!
What common mistakes do event planners/producers make?
For me being a magician / comedian, I would say the biggest mistake planners make is hiring a great act and not always having the ideal set up for them to perform at. I have got to some events to find out that even though I have a simple tech rider and can adapt to most situations, sometimes the producers don’t always do or have what you need to present the best show possible. Examples of this are real common ones. Coming to setup early and find out there is no one there to help with setup as far as lights and/or sound and/or setting up at the same time with a band they hired that has taken most of the stage area and really doesn’t care much about your set up! Or having a dance floor between the stage and audience or trying to have you perform while they are still eating. One of the worst ones for me was showing up and they had my stage set up in front of a mirrored wall. Now for a magic show in front of a mirrored wall that was pretty difficult to say the least, but we made it work. When you perform over 150 shows a year you learn to work and be ready for just about anything. But certainly when the planners follow the simple tech riders, and I do try and keep it very basic, it really helps to present the best show possible for the company.
What do they do really well?
Well, just the opposite from above, I will say most of the event planners and producers do have everything set up great and understand the performer’s needs so that we can do the best show possible. Most are very professional, making my job a piece of cake and the event successful for all parties!
What’s one thing an event coordinator did that made a really positive impression on your experience?
Again, I would say having a professional set up and all tech requirements in place with an un-interrupted tech run thru. That is very important to make sure you a have your own sound and light rehearsal and everyone is prepared and everything is in place for a great show!