It's hard to imagine enrolling in UC Santa Cruz in the early '70s would turn out to be such a genius career move for Paul Magid.
Of course, in those days of long hair and bell bottom trousers, nobody was thinking of careers, let alone career moves. Magid was at UCSC working vaguely toward a career as a scientist. But then he got involved with drama and, not much later, juggling. And that, hard as it may be to believe, was Magid's genius career move.
"That was when the juggling craze went through the country," said Magid, a co-founder and still-member of The Flying Karamazov Brothers, the legendary comedy juggling act that plays for one night April 17 at Livermore's Bankhead Theater, less than a week before the crazy quartet celebrates its 41st birthday. "I just became obsessed with the idea of combining theater with juggling, so we started opening for some plays on campus."
Then, as so many performers of the era did, they took the Karamazovs to the street to join the legions of al fresco vaudevillians -- jugglers, banjoists, comics, mimes, dancers and the array of performers, many of whom continue to bubble just beneath the surface under the umbrella of New Vaudeville. For the brothers, it quickly became a paying job.
"We were making more than we did with jobs in the dining halls," Magid said. "So, when we graduated, instead of grad school, we decided to be jugglers, where we'd do our shows in a way that was always theatrical, slightly silly and virtuosic."
From there, it was paying gigs and indoor venues, a hitchhiking trip to a gig at the Spokane, Wash., world's fair, when they were picked up by a VW van containing three girls, one of whom was the niece of Ed Sullivan.
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, yeah," said Magid. "This was a good sign."
It turned out to be, and it was also the time when The Flying Karamazov Brothers got their name. Original member Howard Patterson was reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" and began drawing parallels between the book's characters and the members of the group.
"The name stuck," said Magid. But the company's publicity points out the Brothers don't fly, are not named Karamazov and aren't brothers at all. Such honesty is followed by Magid, who is proudly a juggler. "Juggling is the most honest of all arts. Juggling is dropping."
He allows a moment to let the thought register, something he can do as the senior member of the troupe. And, although he is the older brother, he continues to have fun performing and admits he has "good genes."
It is silly to call the Brothers simply a juggling act. They are a force of comedy, amazing observation, frenzied movement and a wild sort of Marx Brothers craziness that has taken them to Broadway, Europe (for a time, Magid lived part-time in Italy) and far more places than Magid ever imagined he'd go.
The group, now with 10 brothers, performs about half the year and does longer gigs the rest of the time. The Livermore show is 7:30 p.m. at the Bankhead, 2400 First St. Tickets, at $45 to $65 (with a $15 student ticket) may be reserved at 925-373-6800 or http://livermoreperformingarts.org.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.