He’s never been on “America’s Got Talent,” but Andy “Split Man” Gross might just win the TV competition if he ever was.
That’s because Gross is a comedian, magician and ventriloquist all in one — and he also is one of the few entertainers who can throw his voice.
Gross, 50, is most famous for his “Split Man” illusion. In a video featuring his prank, Gross walks around his neighborhood park appearing as though he has been cut in half. His victims scream, run away and then laugh at the crazy stunt.
“It’s incredible the power the internet has,” Gross told The Daily Herald in a phone call from his home in Los Angeles. “I was blown away. It worked. My wife thought I was crazy, but it worked.”
Thanks to that viral video, Gross performs about 150 shows per year for comedy clubs, corporate events, cruise ships and theaters all over the U.S. as the star of “Andy Gross’ MindBoggling Variety Show.” Except for when there’s a pandemic, of course.
Gross will make a stop at the Historic Everett Theatre to perform his “MindBoggling” show on April 9.
“It’s starting to pick up like crazy now,” Gross said. “Everett’s will be the 10th show back. Most performers like me shut down for a year, which is crazy to me. You do 150 shows a year, and then all of a sudden you’re down to zero. It’s like, ‘Oh boy.’ My family was asking, ‘Will you ever leave the house again?’ But there was nothing I could really do.”
You may recognize him from his TV appearances, including most recently on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Gross also has appeared on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Las Vegas” and “After Judgment” as a ventriloquist.
Before COVID-19 hit, Gross was filming an NBC television special featuring his talents. The title and air date for the 30-minute show featuring magic tricks, stand-up comedy and ventriloquism have yet to be determined.
Gross is a racquetball player turned entertainer. You read that right. At 15, Gross became the youngest professional racquetball player in history, winning a record number of Southern California tournaments. But his athletic career only lasted as long as the sports’ popularity — about 11 years.
“I joke about it in the show,” he said. “I say the natural progression with racquetball is to become a ventriloquist, right? Isn’t that what everybody does?’”
He’d known he wanted to be a ventriloquist since he was 9 years old. It’s because he had watched the horror film “Magic” from 1978 starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margret.
“I’ll never forget seeing that dummy coming to life and all the craziness,” Gross said, adding that he taught himself how be a ventriloquist by mailing in for the Maher School of Ventriloquism. “I said, ‘I’ve got to learn how to do that!’ I got caught with the ventriloquism bug from seeing that movie.”
If he wasn’t playing racquetball, Gross was reading magic books at the library and visiting magic shops. This was before the internet, after all.
“I’d do this stuff the whole time I was playing on racquetball tours,” he said. “I’d do card tricks and throw my voice, just to mess around with people and have the greatest time.”
After racquetball essentially died, Gross picked up gigs at comedy clubs as a magician and ventriloquist. His most notable ventriloquist’s dummy in his act is Steve, The Customer Service Guy, a puppet who dispenses computer repair support by telephone.
“At the comedy clubs, you’ve got to be funny, so I started trying to be as funny as I could with the puppets and the magic,” he said. “I never looked back — it just kind of took off for me. I didn’t know what the heck I’d do, if not for that.”
What should you expect at his “MindBoggling” show? In addition to throwing his voice, Gross can read minds, split himself in two and make a signed $100 bill vanish and reappear inside of an orange. He even turns an audience member into a ventriloquist’s dummy.
The famous “Split Man” video has amassed nearly 8 million views on YouTube. Watch the viral video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=R32by29mSsE.
“Where people don’t necessarily know my name, they’ve seen that video so often on the internet,” Gross said. “When that thing came out Britney Spears shared it, Snoop Dogg shared it, Ashton Kutcher shared it. All these celebrities sharing it is magic in itself.”
Curt Shriner, manager of the Historic Everett Theatre, booked the comic-magician-ventriloquist because he liked Gross’ “Split Man” video.
“He’s a comic. We need some humor in this day and age,” Shriner said. “I’ve watched all of his videos, and he’s great and he’s funny. He’ll be great on our stage.”
Shriner said all the live shows he’s scheduled for the 118-year-old theater since reopening on Feb. 28 have sold out.
Now that Snohomish County is OK’d for Phase 3, Historic Everett is allowed to reopen at 50% capacity or a maximum 400 ticket holders, whichever is lower. The theater has 952 seats, which means Shriner is allowed to sell 400 tickets. But he caps ticket sales around 300 to maintain social distancing between all the rows of seats.
“The pent-up demand has been amazing,” he said. “All they can talk about is how glad they are to get out.”
If you go
A stand-up comic, magician and ventriloquist, Andy Gross will perform an all-ages show 7:30 p.m. April 9 at the Everett Historic Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett. You may recognize him from his numerous TV appearances, including most recently “The Ellen Show.” Tickets are $27-$30. Call 425-258-6766 or go to www.yourhet.org.