Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

April 26, 2013

One-man show features comedy, music with unique instruments

TRAVERSE CITY — David Kaplan always wanted to be a musician. But playing the balloon and the turkey baster wasn’t originally what he had in mind.

The Cincinnati native began playing guitar when he was 11 and studied fine art at Ohio State University. That’s where he learned to juggle, a hobby that would eventually change his career and lead to a new kind of music-making.

“An elementary teacher friend asked me to come to the school and juggle and play guitar,” recalled Kaplan, who by then was playing music gigs and designing and selling wind chimes at craft shows to help pay the bills. “That was kind of an ‘aha’ moment. I played a song on the guitar and recorded it as I played it.

“Then I played the recording back and juggled an egg, a rubber chicken and a piece of cheese. And at the end I had double applause.”

That was the beginning of a street act that would morph into a one-man comedy-variety show including illusion, juggling, deadpan comedy and, of course, music — the funnier the better. Enter the “concert balloon,” the ukulele (his great-grandfather’s) and the common household turkey baster.

“You blow across the top like a bottle and then by squeezing the ‘turkey juice’ — colored water — it moves up and down and changes the size of the cavity and changes the pitch,” said Kaplan, 56, aka the “Great Kaplan.” “If you squeeze it just so, you can actually play a song.”

The Columbus, Ohio-based performer will bring his novelty act to Benzonia’s Mills Community House today and to the Williamsburg Theater on Saturday. Both shows are at 7:30 p.m.

Kaplan said the family show is a throwback to acts by the likes of Buster Keaton, Victor Borge, Peter Sellers, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Red Skelton, Jonathan Winters, the Smothers Brothers, Steve Martin and even Maxwell Smart. In it, he plays an earnest vaudeville performer whose act goes wrong in sometimes spectacular ways.

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