Comedian-ventriloquist found success on stage after racquetball career

Comedian and magician Andy Gross will perform at The Stage at Santa Ana Star Casino.

Andy Gross is on his second career.

And it’s been equally as successful as the first.

The comedian-ventriloquist grew up in St. Louis, where he became the youngest professional player on the racquetball circuit.

He won more professional tournaments in Southern California than any player in the history of the sport. Together with his brother, David, who was also a pro, he has won over 60 first-place prizes in doubles tournaments. He remained on the pro tour until he retired at age 26 to devote all his time to entertainment.

“Since I was 9 years old, I wanted to be a ventriloquist,” he says in a recent phone interview. “I started to get books on ventriloquism, and I drove my folks crazy with asking questions.”

He ordered a “Fool Your Friends” book from a magazine ad, and that’s when his love for entertaining began, he says.

“I was lucky; I got to have two things that I really loved,” he says. “Then I found myself retired in my mid-20s and had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to go full force with entertaining.”

Gross says that in his shows, which range from corporate events to cruise ships and comedy clubs, he tries to do something new.

“Writing for me is done on stage,” he says. “A lot of new stuff comes to me while I’m on stage. It all keeps evolving, and it helps keep it fresh for me. And the process is scary. I’m actually on stage when I’m trying new stuff. I don’t ever want to hear crickets.”

Gross says his comedy is pretty clean and that’s what has helped him get to a good position in his career.

He used to perform at Laffs Comedy Club years ago in Albuquerque.

While he’s one the road, Gross says, his fans are so in tune with him that they bring him gifts.

“I collect these old ventriloquist dummies,” he says. “I have like 200, and I’ve found some good dummies on the road. You don’t know how many people will show up at a show and have a dummy for me. I’ve got some antique ones from the late 1800s. It’s pretty amazing to see the craftsmanship behind it all.”

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