Michael Davis (juggler)

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Michael Davis (born August 23, 1953) is a comedic American juggler. He came to nationwide attention in the United States in the early 1980s, appearing on NBC's Saturday Night Live six times, the only professional juggler to juggle on the show.

Early life[edit]

Born Michael Bruce Davis on August 23, 1953, to James Allen Davis, an English teacher, and Donna Ruth Brewer, a homemaker, Davis spent his early childhood growing up in San Francisco. His parents determined that the mean streets of San Francisco might be more than Davis could handle, so they moved out to the country in Susanville, California. After a few years in Susanville, they decided country life might be a little too quiet, so they moved to the quaint town of Danville, just outside San Francisco. Davis attended Monte Vista High School, graduating in 1971.

Clown College[edit]

On October 1, 1973, Davis started a six-week course at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Over 3,500 applicants were whittled down to a group of 38 men and 7 women ranging in age from 17 to 35. Upon completion, successful candidates were offered a contract with the circus. Davis was chosen to be a Ringling clown based on his distinctive deadpan style. He travelled with the red unit for a year. The following year, Davis signed on with the Gatti Charles Circus.

TV to Ford's Theatre[edit]

In 1979, Davis performed on HBO's "The Young Comedian's Show," his first major television appearance.[1] On March 15, 1981, Davis performed in the opening (and also closing) night of the Broadway musical, Broadway Follies.[2] Although that musical was a flop, Davis was hired and immediately performed in the Broadway musical, Sugar Babies, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and won a Theatre World Award for Best Featured Actor in a musical.[3][4][5] He returned to San Francisco, established himself as a street performer, and performed at charity events, corporate events, schools and night clubs.

On October 3, 1981, Davis made his debut performance on Saturday Night Live, introduced by Eddie Murphy.[6] On May 7, 1983, Davis performed as Carlo Zambini in his sixth and final performance on Saturday Night Live.[7] Davis was one of the "newscasters" on the NBC summer series The News Is the News in which the members satirized actual news. The show premiered on June 15, 1983; only four episodes aired due to poor ratings.[8]

On September 25, 1982 and as part of a TV special called "A Festival at Ford's", Davis headlined at Ford's Theatre along with E. G. Marshall, Grace Bumbry, David Copperfield, the Gatlin Brothers, Natalia Makarova, Liza Minnelli, Wayne Newton, Lou Rawls, and Ben Vereen. A pair of YouTube videos, which remain highly watched and referenced, show Davis entertaining President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan sitting between House Speaker Tip O'Neill and Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker.[9][10][11][12][13]

Career, 1983–present[edit]

President Reagan apparently enjoyed Davis' performance at Ford's Theatre. On January 20, 1985, Davis performed at the inaugural ball following the Second inauguration of Ronald Reagan.[14][15] In the mid to late 1980s, Davis appeared on the BBC's Bob Monkhouse Show five times, at least three times on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (30 Mar 1988, 27 Apr 1988, 11 Feb 1989), four times on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (23 February 1984, 24 May 1984, 3 Jan 1985, 22 July 1988[16]), two times on Late Night with David Letterman (2 Nov 1983, 13 Mar 1986) and on Sesame Street. On the Tonight Show, Davis famously quipped: "I started out with nothing. I still have most of it."

On March 29, 1986, he performed on the first American telecast of Comic Relief. The telethon, hosted by Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, raised funds for homeless people. On May 21, 1986, appeared on NBC's Today Show, juggling for passengers aboard the SS Norway cruise ship.[17] On November 24, 1986, Davis entertained Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother at the Royal Variety Performance, London Theatre Royal.[18] On January 20, 1989, Davis returned to the White House to perform at the inaugural gala following President Bush's inauguration.[19]

On July 10, 1990, Davis entertained President George Bush and other world leaders at the 16th G7 summit.[20] On October 30, 1993, Davis performed again at the Ford's Theatre for a TV special, "A Gala for the President at Ford's Theatre", but this time for President Clinton. Co-performers included Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Michael Bolton, Boyz II Men, Brett Butler, Natalie Cole, and Kenny Loggins.[21][22] In December 1994, Davis performed in the Broadway performance, Comedy Tonight, a vaudeville type show with Mort Sahl, Dorothy Loudon, and Joy Behar, which lasted only eight shows.[23] On November 5, 1997, Davis again entertained former President Bush and friends, this time at the opening of the presidential library.[24]

In 2008, Davis was featured in the documentary Buskers; For Love or Money.[25] During the early 2000s, Davis was head writer and performed nightly for seven years at Teatro ZinZanni in San Francisco.[26][27][28]


  1. ^ "On Location: Young Comedian's Show" (jpg). Roswell Daily Record. Roswell, NM. 17 Dec 1979. p. 22. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Victor Borge hosts up-and-coming comics in a show taped at The Comedy Store in Hollywood. Performing are: Mike Binder, Mike Davis, Darrel Igus, Robert Wuhl, Rick and Ruby. open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ Gussow, Mel (16 Mar 1981). "Stage: 'Broadway Follies' Opens at the Nederlander". New York Times. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015. Whether he is juggling nine balls (there is a trick to that one) or juggling water (anyone can do it), Mr. Davis is an inspired deadpan comedian. I was as close as I have ever been to rolling in an aisle with laughter.
  3. ^ Clayton, Dawn Maria (25 May 1981), This Is Just a Warm-Up for Michael Davis: in the Show, He Juggles Mickey Rooney, 15 (20), People Magazine, retrieved 11 Nov 2015
  4. ^ Back on Broadway, 14 (17), New York Magazine, 27 Apr 1981, p. 32, retrieved 11 Nov 2015, Michael Davis (below), juggler extraordinaire, was the hit of Broadway Follies, which lasted one night. Upon its demise, he was snatched up by the producers of Sugar Babies, and he is now a regular adornment of that funny and rowdy burlesque musical.
  5. ^ "Comedian, juggler Michael Davis headlines April 22 Comedy at the Ave". Auburn Reporter. Kent WA. 7 Apr 2011. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015.
  6. ^ "Michael Davis: Dangerous Juggling". Saturday Night Live. Season 7. Episode 1. 3 Oct 1981. NBC. Retrieved 10 Nov 2015.
  7. ^ TV.com: Michael Davis
  8. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (12 June 1983). "Television Week". New York Times. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015.
  9. ^ Ford's Theatre Production History, 1978-1987
  10. ^ Davis, Donald A. (25 Sep 1982), President Reagan honored a glittering list of show business..., United Press International, retrieved 11 Nov 2015
  11. ^ Danforth, John (13 Oct 2015). The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics. Random House. p. 142. ISBN 9780812997903.
  12. ^ YouTube: Michael Davis at Ford's Theatre, part 1
  13. ^ YouTube: Michael Davis at Ford's Theatre, part 2
  14. ^ Baxter, Terry (2014). November's Gladiators: Inside Stories of White House Advancemen, the Road Warriors of Presidential Campaigns. Hillcrest Publishing Group. p. 170. ISBN 9781626526303. But my favorite act was the least-known, Michael Davis, an inventive and uproarious juggler.
  15. ^ McLellan, Joseph; Radcliffe, Donnie (20 Jan 1985). "Reagan Honored At Inaugural Gala". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015. Michael Davis juggled such odd combinations as a bowling ball, an egg and an apple (which he also ate), but won over the audience mostly with his verbal comedy. Comparing his job to the president's, he said, 'I have to worry about controlling my arms. He has to worry about arms control.'
  16. ^ YouTube: Michael Davis on Tonight Show
  18. ^ "1986, London Theatre Royal". Royal Variety Performance. Royal Variety Charity. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015.
  19. ^ Baxter, Terry (2014). November's Gladiators: Inside Stories of White House Advancemen, the Road Warriors of Presidential Campaigns. Hillcrest Publishing Group. p. 237. ISBN 9781626526303. Also returning was our favorite juggler, Michael Davis
  20. ^ Bush, Barbara (1995). Barbara Bush: A Memoir. Macmillan. p. 370. ISBN 9780312956646. A favorite of George's, Michael Davis, a juggler―now don't stick up your nose―was hilariously funny and François sitting next to me really roared. George was dying to get him to do his juggling act with chain saws, but nobody (except GB) liked the idea of buzzing chain saws flying all over a room with seven world leaders in it.
  21. ^ Ford's Theatre Production History, 1988-1997
  22. ^ Anders, Gigi (1 Nov 1993). "WHOOPI-ING IT UP AT THE FORD'S GALA". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015. Michael Davis is a real man. He can juggle three black bowling balls just like that. And during Saturday night's gala for President Clinton and some 700 other guests in black tie and lacy evening gowns at Ford's Theatre, the laconic Davis flawlessly flexed his special talents -- including oral juggling of little rubber balls as well as what he referred to as "anti-juggling" of helium-filled balloons -- and completely won over the seen-it-all crowd. *** Back onstage, the juggling fool Davis admitted that "I have a hard time finding the words to express how articulate I really am." The audience went crazy. "You should get out more," he advised them. He also popped little balls into both cheeks and did an uncanny Nixon imitation.
  23. ^ Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (Broadway)
  24. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004). Reflections: Life After the White House. Simon and Schuster. p. 194. ISBN 9780743255820.
  25. ^ IMDb: Buskers; For Love or Money
  26. ^ Harrell, Ashley (15 May 2009). "Last Night: 'Sultry Summer Magic' at SF's Teatro Zinzanni". SF Weekly. San Francisco, CA. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015. And the apparent chef, played by local actor and comedian Michael Davis, often finds his way out of the kitchen to occasionally crack jokes and torment audience members. He's fantastic at this.
  27. ^ Hurwitt, Robert (22 Oct 2011). "'On the Air' review: Teatro ZinZanni serves magic". SFGATE. San Francisco, CA. Retrieved 11 Nov 2015.
  28. ^ 35th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition

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