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December 22, 2014

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Energized Jeff Civillico tosses and turns in juggling showcase at the Quad

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Gabe Ginsberg

Jeff Civillico puts on a show with his fan-funded set at Quad Showroom.

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Mike Tierney of Human Nature joins Jeff Civillico onstage at The Quad during Civillico's first anniversary show.

Jeff Civillico is blowing up on the Strip.

This is not a piece of hyperbole. He is blowing up, for real, in terms of staging, in his 2 p.m. production at the Quad Showroom.

Civillico has one of the more distinctive pieces of scenery anywhere in Las Vegas, a 20-foot-tall, 40-foot-wide inflatable set called the People’s Arch. This piece of staging is pumped up at the beginning of every Civillico show, and so is the audience, wowed for several seconds as the stage takes on the look of a giant inflatable gym.

Civillico raised money through an online campaign last August using the force of his personality to ask his fans for contributions to pay for the set. In six days, Civillico had collected the nearly $11,000 to pay the cost of the colorful, rubber, kidlike piece of scenery. Set designer Andy Walmsley donated the cost of the actual design, about $25,000, further giving Civillico’s career some added propulsion.

That effort speaks to Civillico’s appeal and power of persuasion, which are considerable. He happens to be among the city’s best charitable entertainers, founder of WinWin Entertainment, a nonprofit organization that matches professional entertainers with charity foundations. This happens to be a considerable need in Las Vegas, brimming with great performers who are looking for a way to give back to the community or any worthy cause.

At the core, Civillico’s stage skills are twofold: juggling and riding a unicycle. But he has blossomed as a specialty act in Nathan Burton’s magic-comedy show at the Flamingo to his own hourlong show at the Quad. Civillico celebrated his first anniversary a few weeks ago.

Wearing a head-mounted mic and dressed in black slacks and a matching T-shirt, Civillico keeps a rapid conversation with the audience. Kids and adults are invited up to help the star catch marshmallows in his mouth while teetering several feet high on a unicycle. He actually asks if anyone in the crowd knows how to juggle, and by gosh if there isn’t usually at least one individual who can toss three beanbags in the air simultaneously.

Civillico balances an aluminum stepladder on his chin and juggles all variety of implements, including bowling balls, ping-pong balls, in-operation chainsaws and bowling pins. It might not be groundbreaking fodder, but Civillico keeps the performance quick apace with nonstop dialogue with the audience. As he negotiates balancing atop his ladder with the help of two audience members, Civillico spins sideways to straddle the face of one of the volunteers.

“Nice view, eh?” the entertainer calls out. “This is easier if you don't fight it.”

Civillico’s shtick is campy in a county fair sort of way; his signature move is to perform a high kick (in lieu of a drummer hitting a rim shot), turn his back to the audience and pull his underwear out of his butt. I think he calls it the anti-wedgie or something.

More impressively, Civillico drops the lights and juggles glow-in-the-dark clubs and balls to show that this is a production worthy of a Strip showroom. It’s dazzling, what Civillico does and the relentlessly high measure of energy he brings to his show. Midway through the performance, I began texting friends of mine who had kids and told them about what I was watching, encouraging them to see Civillico in action.

“Really?” was the typical response. Yes, really. This guy is some serious fun, a blown-up grownup for everyone in the family.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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