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COMEDY

Juggling Laughs, Stunts

March 03, 1994|GLENN DOGGRELL | Glenn Doggrell writes about comedy for The Times Orange County Edition.

Though Orange County jugglers Owen Morse and John Wee are among an elite clique (Wee, in fact, knows of no other members) that can pass 10 clubs back and forth, they realize that's not going to keep any crowd entertained for an hour.

So they make sure to toss some laughs into the mix.

"Comedy has been part of it all along," Wee, 27, said from his Garden Grove home Tuesday afternoon, before opening a six-night run at the Irvine Improv. "It didn't take long to realize that people's interest in juggling is limited.

"It's interesting. A lot of people don't know what to expect. They lump us into the goofy mime/magician type of stuff. Most are quite surprised after they see us. It's definitely a comedy show with juggling."

And after Tuesday's opening show, it's obvious that local comedy fans have struck gold here. Besides Wee and Morse, also on the bill are O'Brien & Valdez, arguably the best stand-up team working today. This is as potent a 1-2 punch as the club can put together.

The Passing Zone has been together almost six years. Wee and Morse, also 27, met at a 1986 juggling convention in San Jose. Morse, of Lake Forest, was working solo in Orange County while earning a psychology degree at UC Irvine, and Wee was winding down a partnership in the Midwest, where he earned an economics degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

"We realized we have a similar style, a similar sense of humor," Wee said. "We were interested in similar kinds of juggling. There aren't many jugglers who can pass nine clubs."

So when the Northfield, Minn., native graduated, he headed west.

It didn't take long to earn recognition. In 1990, they did the first of two "Tonight Show" appearances and even had a chance to hit Johnny Carson with a fake bowling ball.

Since then, they've performed at trade shows, conventions and special events as well as colleges, comedy clubs and pro basketball halftime shows.

"We're probably gone at least half the time," Wee said, adding that they also hold four records in the Guinness Book of World Records. "That's what's nice about doing Irvine. It's a chance to be on home turf."

What: The Passing Zone.

When: At 8:30 tonight, March 3; at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, March 4; at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, and at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 6.

Where: The Irvine Improv, 4255 Campus Drive.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Jamboree Road exit and head south. Turn left onto Campus Drive. The Improv is in the Irvine Marketplace shopping center, across from the UC Irvine campus.

Wherewithal: $7 to $10.

Where to call: (714) 854-5455.

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