Comedy, Juggling and Physics—the Zaniac Delights Young Scientists


Professional Zaniac and two-time Guinness World Record holder Alex Zerbe used his world-class juggling skills, retro dance moves and goofy humor to teach essential concepts of physics at the Key Center Library as part of the Pierce County Library Summer Reading Program on July 10.

“I love the way that he dispenses this amazing knowledge about physics and science in a way that’s approachable for kids,” said KP Librarian Carol Dike, who donned an oversized Albert Einstein mask as part of Zerbe’s performance. “Alex has this wonderful way of making difficult concepts come alive.”

Zerbe has appeared on the television shows “Last Comic Standing” and “America’s Got Talent.” The Brones Room overflowed with 59 attendees. From babies to big kids, local children of all ages fidgeted on the floor eagerly awaiting the Zaniac’s return performance.

The Zaniac ran and danced, zipping back and forth across the room beatboxing, juggling, making silly faces and jumping impressively high, breaking a sweat showing off the skills that rank Zerbe Seattle’s Third Best Air Guitarist.

“I liked how zany and wacky fun he was!” said Chloe Granger, age 8.

Chloe’s mom, Kimberly Granger, said she thought the Zaniac was hilarious. “I was surprised I enjoyed the show just as much as the kids.”

The Zaniac dropped wadded-up paper and hardback books while chanting about gravity. He tossed confetti and shouted about air pressure and the lack of gravity in space. A preschooler raised his hand and excitedly repeated the facts about gravity he’d just learned, adding that he thought “the book would fall faster” than the paper ball. Children and parents around the room nodded.

“Have you ever wondered about anything at all?” Zerbe rapped as an introduction to the scientific method. “Is there something in your mind that’s a nagging concern? Well, then ask yourself a question about what you’d like to learn.”

A self-described “human cartoon,” Zerbe pointed at kids and cracked jokes, made wildly exaggerated facial expressions and never stopped moving as he sang, “The scientific method—what’s it all about? It’s an organized way of figuring things out!”

As a giant yo-yo shot up and down on a string, appearing to move as if by magic, Zerbe said, “It’s friction!” and continued on to explain the importance of consistent practice and effort over time when learning new skills, like how to use a yo-yo or juggle.

Zerbe called for a volunteer and transformed Samara Wilson, 9, into “a miniature version of the solar system.” The Earth and Mars spun on the tips of sticks held in Samara’s hands while Mercury and Venus orbited around her spiked metal hat. Before setting “the sun” on top of Samara’s head, the Zaniac cheered, “This audience is Gonna. Go. Crazy!”

As Zerbe shot smoke rings from a vortex he’d built out of a garbage can covered with plastic wrap and blew toilet paper around the room using a leaf blower, turning the place into a giggling dance party, the children of the peninsula caught a glimpse of why Zerbe was voted Seattle’s Funniest Prop Comedian.

“Your local library is an excellent location for gathering information,” shouted the Zaniac to the room full of squealing, energetic young scientists.

“Science is fun!” Zerbe insisted, then stuck a tiny rubber hand on the tip of his tongue and waved his hands around in a maniac finale. Even the shyest, quietest kids erupted into a chorus of giggles, and the most bored looking mom in the room set down her phone to laugh.

“The Key Peninsula is amazing,” said the Zaniac. “You have such a fantastic community with a great sense of humor. I can’t wait until the next time I can return.”