Comedy, juggling and stunts come to Smith Wilkes Hall


Nels Ross. Submitted photo.

Suzi Starheim | Staff Writer

A blend of clean comedy, juggling, flying props and extraordinary stunts comes to Chautauqua as Nels Ross, CEO of In Jest Inc. brings “In Jest: Comedy Variety Show” at 5 and 7 p.m. tonight to Smith Wilkes Hall. These performances come as part of the 2011 Season’s Family Entertainment Series.

Ross, a performer, comedian and speaker, began working on his act when he was 8 years old and said his main influence was his mother, who was a mime, fire-eater, singer, dancer and storyteller. After seeing Ross’s interest in juggling and performing, his mother gave him the book Juggling for the Complete Klutz, and his love grew from there.

“She was my first inspiration in learning how to juggle,” he said.

Since then, Ross has immersed himself in juggling and performing, even working with instructors from the Ringling Bros. Circus and Cirque du Soleil throughout his training. Ross also immersed himself by studying theater at the University at Buffalo.

At the age of 20, Ross took time to tour with a circus and then began his career as a full-time performer when he was 24 years old.

Ross has performed for audiences in Chautauqua as part of the Family Entertainment Series five times in the past, and he said he always makes sure to have something new for returning audiences.

“Whenever I return somewhere, I come back with a different show,” Ross said. “There will be some brand-new elements.”

Included in tonight’s performances will be a new balancing act Ross said is a combination stunt of several different skills. These include balancing, spinning and juggling props simultaneously. He said he also plans to have more unique elements in the shows, which will include “exploding and squirting things.”

In addition to providing family entertainment and comedy, Ross also does ministry work and said he believes his ministry work takes an active role in all his performances.

“I believe all of my shows are ministry in the sense that laughter can be a cup of cold water to somebody that is hurting,” Ross said. “The message really here is to enjoy life, and I hope my show does that.”

Ross said his ultimate goal in performing is always to bring mirth, joy and laughter to his audiences, and this is what he plans to do at Chautauqua this evening.

“Ringling Brothers sometimes calls their show ‘The Greatest Show on Earth,’” Ross said. “I call this show ‘The Greatest Show on Mirth.’”

He also said a great benefit of laughter is stress relief, and this is something refreshing to audience members of any age.

“This is truly a show for all ages,” Ross said. “Bring the kids. Bring the parents. Bring the grandparents.”