What a racket: On-serve to on-stage | News

Who hasn’t dreamed of going from a successful racquetball career into the world of comedy and illusion?

Probably no one. Not even Andy Gross, who turned 49 last Wednesday and did just that.

He can serve a racquetball at 170 miles an hour, but his jokes and illusions are served up much slower. Thirty-three years ago, he was on the cover of National Racquetball magazine, posed with his brother David.

Talk about a life change: Today, he’s one of the hottest stand-up comic, magician and ventriloquist working, evidenced by his sold-out shows and devoted following. His videos have over 100 million views and counting on the Internet, and he performs more than 150 shows a year at comedy clubs, Las Vegas, cruise ships, fortune 500 corporate events, colleges and performing arts theaters everywhere.

One of those shows is coming your way: Gross hits “The Stage” at Santa Ana Star Casino Friday night at 7. (Google or Bing “Andy Gross splitman” and decide for yourself if you want to go.) Tickets range in price from $15-$20 and can be purchased at thestageatthestar.com.

How did Gross get from the racquetball court to the stage?

“I started in St. Louis, Missouri — that’s where I grew up — and racquetball was the fastest-growing sport in the country; for some reason, St Louis was the hotbed,” Gross said. “The No. 1 and 2 and 3 racquetball players were right in front of us — they were building courts so fast and it was booming. These guys had the fancy cars.

“At the same time I saw the movie ‘Magic’ (1978) with Anthony Hopkins and Ann Margaret,” he segued, and, “I got hooked on the ventriloquism. I went to library, (saw how to) be the hit of the party, throw your voice.”

But racquetball still seemed his best route to success, until he “woke up one day and the sport died. They couldn’t tear the courts down…

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