|For comedian, juggler, and non-profit activist Chris Bliss, life has been a study in contrasts. The youngest son of a Washington D.C. attorney, he majored in comparative literature at Northwestern University and the University of Oregon, where he was on the Dean’s List before dropping out at the end of his junior year. The reason? He told his father it was “to become the world’s most famous juggler”. Looking back, Chris admits: “the truth is, I never consciously wanted to be a juggler, or a performer of any kind. I just wanted to not be a lawyer, and being a rock ‘n roll juggler looked like a really fun way to burn that bridge.”
Ironically, Chris did become the world’s most famous juggler. Not once, but twice. With an improvisational style augmented by custom lighting effects and set to rock music, he accidentally created the perfect concert opening act. After theater dates with Eric Clapton, followed by an arena tour with rock supergroup Asia, he was asked in the spring of 1984 to be the exclusive opener for Michael Jackson’s record-breaking Victory Tour, the most talked about tour of the decade. Fifty-five sold out stadium shows later, with ticket sales topping the 3 million mark, Chris reached the peak he’d set out for.
Then in 2006, eighteen years into his well-regarded stand-up comedy career, juggling fame struck again. Chris had long since become a headline attraction at America’s best comedy venues, with dozens of national television appearances, including the Tonight Show, where Jay Leno called him “one of the brightest comedians around”, adding “I really enjoy this man’s work.” So it was even more ironic when his “Big Finale” video, a four-minute juggling routine set to music from the Beatles’ Abbey Road, suddenly caught fire on the internet. Downloaded more than 50,000,000 times, the performance’s popularity helped usher in the age of viral video sites like YouTube, garnering Chris media attention from ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX, along with feature articles by the AP, USA Today, and the Washington Post. Ringo Starr even posted the video on his website – the ultimate endorsement.
The timing couldn’t have been better, as it brought attention to the launch of Chris’s newest venture: MyBillofRights.org, the Bill of Rights Monument Project, dedicated to rebuilding Americans’ sense of common ground through the placement of monuments of the Bill of Rights across the USA. Incredibly, there was not a single monument of the Bill of Rights when Chris started the organization. That changed on July 5, 2008, when America’s first Bill of Rights display was dedicated in Montezuma, Iowa, in front of the state’s second oldest courthouse. Resolutions have also been passed in Texas and Arizona for monuments on their state capitol grounds. The Arizona project is currently on hold pending major renovations to the capitol site. The Texas Capitol project is moving full speed ahead, with an exciting design proposal about to be released that will create a national destination Bill of Rights Monument at one of the nation’s most historic and beautiful capitols. With potential sponsors being solicited in a number of other states, and a fundraising challenge in the $2,000,000 range for the Texas project alone, Chris is doing a whole new level of juggling, striking the balance between a wealth of career and non-profit opportunities. These have included an invitation to Scotland, where Chris spoke about the power of positive change at a conference featuring Sir Bob Geldof, and his exceptional debut on The Late Show with David Letterman, where Chris performed live with Fatboy Slim and the Paul Shaffer band.
Capping it all off, Chris has re-introduced his juggling masterpiece as the closer for his stand-up act. "It's like icing on the cake", he explains. "I start by telling them I once toured with Michael Jackson - and they're just not buying it. They're waiting for the punch line. And then - wham!" Bliss laughs. “I love how totally shocked they are that I’m actually good at it. It's the same thing I love about comedy - that joy of the unexpected."
Other career highlights include the release of his comedy CD, "My Act With Your Eyes Closed", which has received airplay on hundreds of radio stations, and his recently released concert dvd “Chris Bliss Live . . . For Now.” His first one-man show, an autobiographical monologue play titled "Walking On The Moon", debuted in late 1999 and has since been produced in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Told with compelling honesty and surprising humor, "Walking on the Moon" explores peak experiences and transformational moments, suggesting that ultimately it's our questions, not our answers, that define us.