Comedian-magician Chipper Lowell, whose "The Chipper Lowell Experience" just opened at the Horizon, has always been fond of a Jerry Seinfeld joke.
"I can't stand magic and I'll tell you why. Boil it down and it's, 'Here's a coin. Now it's gone. You're a jerk.'
"I want to be absolutely approachable at the end of my show. I want to be a friend to the audience so that they feel they can come up to me and ask me over for dinner. My inspiration was Doug Henning. At that time, magicians were these aloof guys in tuxedos, and out came Doug with his long hair and his jeans with no diva attitude whatsoever. He was always so happy on stage to be able to do what he did for a living, and I feel the same way."
Lowell is what the business calls a triple threat, but not in the traditional actor-singer-comedian sense. He's a juggler-magician-comedian, seen around Nevada for years in various revues and now given his own show, one he's certainly paid his dues to have.
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Lowell got his start on the road when he was 2 weeks old, born to a circus couple, "Dad a clown, Mom an aerialist who also did the iron jaw, that act where women hang by their mouths. I was literally one of those babies bedded down in a lower drawer of a chest in a hotel.
"In the show I have a slide segment with scenes from the circus life, and people want to know where I got them," he said. "They don't believe it's really me. Of course, I thought my upbringing was entirely normal."
He learned juggling from Michael Davis, who performed in the musical "Sugar Babies" and also was a clown in the circus. Davis also taught Lowell the trapeze and magic.
Luckily, the family didn't follow the usual circus tradition of wintering in Florida, instead choosing Southern California. Lowell got involved with the Long Beach Mystics, a magic club of young people.
"The amazing thing is that the group knew they would be performing when they grew up," he said. "Most magic clubs are for hobbyists, but we knew what we wanted. We didn't want to put together an act to play birthday parties. We wanted to put together an act to play Las Vegas."
It so happens that the members of Lowell's group did indeed all become professionals, including Magic magazine editor Stan Allen; illusion-builder Bill Smith, and Reno magician Mark Kalin; who runs Magic Underground.
"I was Mark Kalin's assistant when he first started doing illusions. It was the first time I performed in the casinos. I was so young they wouldn't let me out in the audience and I had to come into the showroom through the kitchen area."
Since then, Lowell has become well acquainted with casinos, having been featured in "at least six" productions in northern Nevada, as well as in comedy clubs. His first area show was "Risqué Business" at Harveys in 1991.
"I was very lucky. I could play the revues, then when the comedy clubs became so abundant in the 1980s I could play them. That market got tight and I could go back to the casino stages.
"In this show I feature my particular blend of comedy and magic, and I have three dancers who are choreographed by my wife, Lisa Casullo, a former Rockette. I have always wanted a show where the dancers don't look like filler material but are just as important to the overall show as the star. I think I have that here."
Also appearing is Robert Whirlwind, an American Indian hoop dancer, "who performs with, like, 30 hoops and forms geometric shapes and creates symbols of various animals. Our first show is family-friendly, but the second one is definitely adults only."
The Chipper Lowell ExperienceWHERE:
The Horizon, South Lake Tahoe
7:30 and 9:30 nightly (dark Tuesdays), indefinitely
$19.95; $24.95 Fridays and Saturdays; children admitted free on Fridays (certain restrictions apply)
(800) 322-7723 or tickets.com