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Animals play starring roles in traveling comedy theater

Thu., Dec. 13, 2012, midnight

Not very long ago, the stars of Popovich Comedy Pet Theater were shelter animals, waiting for someone to give them a home and family.

When Gregory Popovich adopted them, they found not only a family, but a career in show business.

“Right now, we have 14 kitty cats and 12 dogs,” Popovich said. The show’s animal stars, an orange cat and a fox terrier, perform an act with Popovich who plays a recently fired circus performer who finds two homeless pets.

But it’s not just cats and dogs in the spotlight. The show also has a parrot, some geese and even mice.

“Mice are very smart pets,” Popovich said. In the show, the mice play VIP passengers on a train and arrive by taxi.

A group of cats, dogs and mice might sound like a recipe for disaster. But Popovich said he keeps the mice separate from the cats, and that the dogs get along great with their fellow performers.

“Nature is nature and we don’t want trouble,” he said. “In nature, dogs chase cats, but in my case, cats are like part of the family (to the dogs). But if they see some cats on the street, they of course would love to chase them.”

Family extends farther than the animals of the show. Popovich is a fourth-generation Russian circus performer and grew up on the road with his parents. His parents worked with dogs.

“All of my childhood I spent with pets from my mom,” he said. “It was my babysitter, my best friend, because when you travel with the circus, there’s not many opportunities to meet kids in school because we changed (cities) every month or two.”

His wife is part of the show, as was his daughter until she went off to college.

“It’s not only a pet show,” he said. “We also have a variety act. I do a lot of physical comedy.”

Pets and humans compete to see who gets the most applause. The pets win every time.

Popovich said he has added new tricks and acts to the show since last year’s performance in Spokane and is excited to return.

“I had a very great audience that really appreciated what we did. We’re happy to be back again.”

When the show came through Spokane last year, the parrot made headlines, but not for his performance. He couldn’t find a place to land and flew out an open door. He landed on the side of the Davenport Hotel and show employees rushed to rescue him. He came back unharmed and was able to get on with the show, but probably learned a few new tricks during his adventure.

“Maybe he learned a couple of bad words when he escaped.”

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