Johnny Peers and the Muttville Comix come to Beaver Creek, March 30-31
If you go …
What: Johnny Peers and the Muttville Comix.
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 30, and Friday, March 31.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.
Cost: $25 for children, $35 for adults; or a Family 4-Pack for $100 (available by phone only, limited availability).
More information: Tickets are available now at the VPAC box office, by calling 970-845-8497 or at http://www.vilarpac.org.
BEAVER CREEK — The Vilar Performing Arts Center welcomes slapstick comedy act Johnny Peers and the Muttville Comix on Thursday, March 30, and Friday, March 31, at 6:30 p.m. Peers leads more than a dozen dogs through challenging and hilarious tricks as well as a number of kooky acts and stunts.
The Vilar Center caught up with Peers to ask him a few questions about the show and the antics of his canine performers.
1. VPAC: So I understand that most of the dogs are rescues from shelters or pounds. Would you tell us a little more about that?
PEERS: A lot of my dogs over the years have been from shelters or need a good home; just dogs that nobody wanted, you know? And over the years, that’s what I’ve always done. Some I do get other ways, like somebody gave me this dog two years ago, her name is Julie, because they couldn’t take care of her, and she’s probably the star of the show, I would say. She’s a great little dog, you know. They all have little stories. It’s something I’ve always done since I was a kid.
2. VPAC: Why is it important to you to have these rescues and put that in your information on your show?
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PEERS: Well, even if they’re not from shelters, you can get dogs or animals all over the place. You can find them on Craigslist; you can find them in the newspaper. … It’s just that, I find that probably the most underestimated reason for giving a dog away, one of the main reasons is that the owners don’t spend enough time with them. Even if you take a dog out for a walk for five minutes, at least you’re spending a little time with them. You get that one-on-one, and you know the dog feels like he’s got a friend.
One of the other reasons, is, “they’re not housebroken.” Well, you have to be there to let the dog out when he wants to go. “They chew on the furniture.” It’s not really that I’m the greatest trainer, it’s just I find if you spend a little time with them, that’s all they need. That’s my theory: Spend a little time. I always give them treats, rewards and praise, and it goes a long way — just like kids.
3. VPAC: How did you get started in such a fun, interesting career?
PEERS: Well, my father was in the circus on concessions, and we sold cotton candy, toys and stuff like that. That’s what I was doing as a kid, and I use to hang around where the clowns were and the clowns were showing me how to do juggling, unicycle and handstand … all that kind of stuff.
So then I found out that there was a clown school going on in Venice, Florida. At the age of 17, I took a bus ride down to the Clown College and became a clown on Ringling for three years. One of my favorite acts was Lou Jacobs. He had a dog. I thought it was very cool that the dog was taking advantage of this big, huge, clown — he made him look like a fool. It was really funny.
So I don’t know, I didn’t actually copy the guy, but that’s where I got the idea that people like to see dogs making a fool out of their owners. And that’s a lot of what my act is about. All my little tricks, all my little routines, it looks like it’s setup to go good, and of course, I’ve got a little comedy twist to it. A lot of people say I’m like the, like Vaudeville from the past. Yeah, “Where were you in Vaudeville!?” “How come you’re not doing Vaudeville!?” and I say, “Well, that was way before my time.”
4. VPAC: Tell us a little bit about your first dog, Freckles.
PEERS: I was a clown on Circus Vargas, and I went to the local shelter and saw this dog. Gave ’em $5, signed a paper. She was a great little dog. I put her as part of a comedy routine I was doing at the time.
5. VPAC: What is your favorite trick performed by the Muttville Comix?
PEERS: It’s not my favorite trick; it’s actually the expression on the kids’ faces that means more than anything to me, when their eyes just light up. They see something they like, you know? And that’s the joy of entertaining, as opposed to doing any kind of awesome tricks, like the spontaneity of their reactions. That’s what I like. I like getting laughs, I like entertaining and I like showing off what the dogs can do. I mean, you probably see a lot better things on Facebook and on TV and all that, but it’s just the way I put it together is what I think is unique.
6. VPAC: How long does it typically take for all of you to practice a show together?
PEERS: Well, it’s not how long it takes. I have to be on the road to make a living, so what I do is get one dog, or two dogs, a year. Then about another year later, they’ll be ready for the show. And I’ll have to retire the old ones. The oldest right now, I believe, is 12.
7. VPAC: What is the hardest part about leading more than a dozen dogs through their performances?
PEERS: Well, if you have a set routine, you always have to expect a variation because they’re not machines. So, you’ve got to go with their timing, not always your timing. You have to have a lot of patience. One time, I was doing a show at a theater and I’m looking for Peewee and guess where Peewee was? He was in the greenroom eating the sandwiches. I didn’t know that, right, so somebody from stage said, “He went in the back there!” So I went, “Hey, Peewee get over here!” But you always got to expect the unexpected. But my act isn’t one of these real, everything’s got to be perfect, you know? It’s not one of those types of acts. It’s a comedy act.
Any dog can be good; don’t give up on them. I just did a fundraiser for a shelter over in West Virginia not too long ago, and you notice that most of the dogs in there are big pit bull mixes and the reason for that is because they get a bad rep. So I think there’s always got to be the one-on-one. Like, “this dog, he barks too much” or, it’s like, there are a million reasons, but it’s up to the owner. If you’re going to get a dog and you want him to be part of the family, then you have to treat him as part of the family and just let them get accustomed. That’s just my own opinion.
8. VPAC: The basset hound in your show is named Noodles. How did she get such a name?
PEERS: Miss Noodles, yeah! She’s on a sabbatical right now because Peewee was hogging the remote for the Animal Planet channel when we were watching TV at the hotel the other night. So now, she’s saying she won’t do her main, main trick, the only basset hound in the world to ride a skateboard. She said if she doesn’t get the remote, she’s not going to do the trick. I’ve had a lot of bassets over the years, and I forgot how she got that name. You have to say Miss Noodles. She commands a little respect, you know. She’s a higher-up in the group. Matter of fact, whenever I sign any contract she has to look it over for approval (laughs).
9. VPAC: How do you know when you have found a true canine performer?
PEERS: I find if you’re going to get a dog, if they like to play, that’s a main ingredient in trying to train them. If they’re not outgoing and don’t like to play because you don’t know what their background is, it’s hard to bring that out of them, but a lot of times, they do come around. I’ve had dogs that I had to find other homes for because they just don’t enjoy playing. So if they like to play, that’s a main ingredient and the main point.
10. VPAC: You had mentioned this a little bit earlier about Julie. Is she the dog in your act who usually steals the show?
PEERS: She does the bit where she keeps going up the ladder to cross the wire while I’m not looking. She does that, like she’s trying to sneak up that ladder and finally, at the end, I allow her to do the trick. Mr. Junior is the star of the show. Junior is a Jack Russell mix. He is the star of the show, but I don’t tell him that because he’ll want more money. You’ve got to keep a low profile — I don’t want him to get a big head. He told me he wants a Harley for his birthday. So I’m going to get him a Harley from Toys ’R’ Us.
11. VPAC: What would you most like to see come from the Johnny Peers and Muttville Comix performances at the Vilar?
PEERS: I really hope that the kids and adults, whoever comes to the show, that they really see we are having a lot of fun, and when they go home, they can try some of those things with their dogs. And they will see what it’s all about — which is to just have fun with your pet because they are man’s best friend. And they are very, very loyal. No matter what happens in your life, they are always there for you. I can tell you that as a fact.