Thursday, April 4, 2013 | 1:11 p.m.
It’s a reality TV show for seeking out undiscovered talent, but before you say “not again,” let’s point out that “Vegas Strip Search” is different. Think of “America’s Got Talent” hitting the road and colliding with “Dirty Jobs.”
That’s how The Quad comedy juggler Jeff Civillico describes his new Travel Channel show debuting Saturday. Its surprise is that unique acts he uncovers wind up performing in his show “Comedy in Action” on the Strip.
The TV opportunity for the world champion juggler also came about in a unique way. He hauled a member of the audience onstage with him without realizing it was a TV producer who was so impressed with Jeff’s act that he wanted to turn it into a TV series.
“As a performer, you never know who is going to be in your audience, right? I actually picked out one volunteer who is now the show’s executive producer,” Jeff told me. “I did one of my signature bits with him and had no idea who he was. He emailed me after he got home and said, ‘I am senior vice president of a production company in New York, and you would be great for TV. We have a concept in mind.’
“I had an idea in mind -- not exactly the same concept, as it morphs and changes. I started out as a street performer, and now I am a Las Vegas headliner. Knowing what it takes to go from the streets to the big stage, I wanted to comb the country and give street performers their big break, to Las Vegas.
“After we made the pitch tape, Travel Channel said go on the road but find anybody with a hidden talent who doesn’t have a venue.”
So just like “Dirty Jobs,” Jeff had to do what they do. “They teach me whatever skill they have,” he explained. “On the first show pilot, I learn how to eat fire, I learn how to crack a whip, a bunch of other skills with the idea of being that they can see exactly how hard it is, at home. It is not just comedy. I see an extreme pogo sticker, and I see a speed chainsaw carver. There is really no comedy directly -- just the fun that comes from me trying to jump on a spring-boarded CO2-loaded pogo stick.
“I fell off that many times. That was pretty embarrassing because I thought I was going to be the best at that, and I think that was my worst. It shot me 5 to 8 feet up in the air. I had a helmet and crash pads, but as Seinfeld says, at that point, the helmet is wearing you.”
Jeff also shows his own amazing juggling skills working as a mentor to the acts. “Remember, they’ve never played a venue like Vegas,” he continued. “They have never been somewhere where they have to hold the attention of a paying audience. I get to teach them a little bit and brush up on performance skills. Then we can check back with them in a couple months and see their progress.”
Jeff filmed in Calgary, Alberta, New Jersey, the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and Houston for the Texas Renaissance Festival. “I was really surprised at the amount of talent we came across,” he said.
“It was mind boggling how many people are out there. We are not allowed to use people who have been on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ so take away however many seasons that has been going, and still we had absolutely no problem. The production company found 80 people and lined them up with video clips that we combed through and picked the Top Three or Four for each show.
“We tried to find a bunch of different people that would be really interesting to a lot of demographics. Everybody can identify with a pogo stick, but we have a kid who took it and made it an extreme sport. His company called X Pogo has a whole crew of guys who do extreme pogo-sticking off cliffs and over cars, just crazy stuff.”
Jeff celebrate his first anniversary at The Quad’s 650-seat theater May 26, and Vegas DeLuxe can tip that he’s being given a two-year extension of his contract that also will involve appearances at the new Linq. He juggles everything from two and three bowling balls to knives and is working on adding fire.
I asked Jeff what he learned from shooting the talent across America. “I am more grateful than ever to have the show at The Quad because I was just like all these guys and gals before. I did the street performing, I did cruise ships for years, I did colleges, I did fairs, I did corporate events, Renaissance Fairs, I did all that,“ he said.
“It gave me a renewed sense of excitement to be where I am. I learned how many people are looking for a venue. You hear how hard it is to fight to get a room in Vegas. There really is no blueprint for a career in entertainment, and particularly as a juggler.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.