Comedy that speaks for itself

Pete Geist brings his primarily silent act to Columbia



Pete Geist does not speak for most of his show. Instead of using dialogue and punch lines, the comedian relies on music, oversized props and audience participation to entertain.

"What I am doing is a combination of circus skills, juggling, magic, pantomime and physical comedy," he said. "I make people laugh by using body and facial expressions."

He brings his most-popular show - "GEIST: Visual Comedian" - to Columbia for a 7:30 p.m. show tomorrow at Slayton House in Wilde Lake.

His show is family-friendly and features exaggerated movements to a variety of musical genres with colorful props and costuming. "It's one of those acts where it's hard to explain what it is," Geist said. "Most of the stuff I do is surprise-oriented."

"I combine all of my skills for this one show into zany fun for the whole family," he said. "It's definitely a show that mom and dad and grandma and grandpa will like as much as the little guys."

Another of Geist's acts is "the Wacky Waiter." Performed at mainly corporate events, the audience is made to believe that its entertainer for the evening had to leave because his wife was going into labor.

The crowd is told that there is a server who might be able to take the entertainer's place; however, it will be his first night on stage. In comes the Wacky Waiter, stumbling from table to table with an oversized tray and single glass of water. The audience soon discovers that he is no ordinary replacement.

"My forte is audience participation," Geist said. "I involve the audience in the show either as a whole group or individually." Although he did not want to reveal the specifics, Geist said that there are always certain types of people he looks for to use in his acts.

"The element of surprise is really important for what I am doing," he said. "It's what makes people laugh."

Geist also adjusts the Wacky Waiter to a strolling character for use at other events. He mingles with the crowd and becomes more noticeable as the event goes on. "All kinds of strange, zany things happen," he said.

Geist is always developing new material, drawing inspiration from music, silent movies, vaudeville and performers from the turn of the last century, including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

"What it comes down to is making people laugh. It's a high of getting out there," he said. "Any performer knows about getting that rush. With comedy, it's do or die. It can be the worst feeling in the world or the greatest feeling in the world."

Geist founded P.G. Productions in 1985, which he uses to represent himself and other novelty acts. "What we do is create our own work," he said. "I consider myself a salesman as much as an entertainer; if you get out there and work, you can create a business."

Born and raised in Lancaster, Pa., Geist has performed across the country and in England and France. He does about 100 shows a year and tries to keep his work within driving distance so he can stay close to his family. Geist lives in Lancaster with his wife and two children.

"I think I'll always want to perform," he said. "To be able to do what I want for a living is pretty cool, especially since I've dreamed of it since I was a little guy. I've been lucky."

Pete Geist will perform at Slayton House on Wilde Lake Village Green. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children ages 17 and younger. Group rates are available. Tickets are limited and must be purchased by visiting Slayton House or at the door. Information: 410-730-3987.

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