By Jacqueline Monahan
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The V in this instance could have stood for “varmint” as in furry or feathered animal performer.  They are and always have been the stars of the long-running Popovich Pet Comedy Show in residence at the V Theater in Planet Hollywood.

A dog announces the start of the show before leaving the stage to a parade of cats, sleeking prancing along slanted…catwalks, of course!  Each has a sparkly collar to augment their shiny fur.  Dogs might have on running shorts, hats, ballet tutus or masks.

The circus portion of the show even features a dog dressed as an elephant with a full head covering that sports a trunk.  He wears this until Popovich looks away, then he reminds you that he is indeed a dog.

Popovich’s Pet Comedy Show has been running successfully for the past seven years, back when Planet Hollywood was still The Aladdin.  The son of Russian circus performers seeks out, adopts and trains shelter animals to become stars.  Carriages and shopping carts are pushed by paws.  Cat and dog play leapfrog with each other; another cat gets a piggyback ride from a canine companion. 

Comedy Pet Theater cat with dog

Kitty Caregiver

A dog school features a pooch who can count, one who is able to erase a board and one who can locate the Pacific Ocean.  Most of the gang, including a small parade of white rats, boards a train after handing in tickets.

The animals cooperate – mostly – and it’s even humorous when they don’t.  One dog refused to hold his part of the net that would save a cat from a “burning” building, evoking thoughts of an ancient rivalry.

Three geese parade around the stage and twirl in circles until one grasps a morsel from Popovich’s hand.  A parrot, named Tequila, introduced as the show’s oldest performer (they can live up to be 50) slam dunks a ball into a basket, does somersaults, and walks a tightrope holding a baton in her beak.           

Popovich is not the only human to perform onstage.  Three accomplices round out the show with a narrative that finds a homeless Popovich in shabby clothes under a hole-filled umbrella and sleeping on a park bench.  A dog and cat are his only friends as a circus ringmaster, harlequin, and jester (the latter two are accomplished acrobats) weave in and out of his life, which fills with animals – even a herd of white rats boarding a train.

Comedy Pet Theater cat act

A Cat-stravaganza!

There are some parts of the show where juggling, balancing, and gymnastics take center stage.  Popovich juggles bowling pins and metal rings, stands on a board balanced on no less than five stacked metal cylinders, and catches an enormous amount of rapid-fire pie plates thrown at him from his co-horts.  He walks a tall ladder by its legs and catches one small box between two others.  He does the same with two canes and a bar in expert manipulation.

The talented juggler has been awarded gold medals from the Juggling World Championship in Belgium and the International Circus Competition, Cirque de Demain Festival in Paris, France.  He holds the award of Excellence as the Greatest Technical Master of All Times from the International Juggling Association. 

With articles in People Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Vegas Dog, Las Vegas Life, and What’s On, Popovich has been a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Other television appearances include The Penn and Teller Special: Live From Vegas, Extreme Las Vegas, Thirty Seconds To Fame, and Animal Planet.

But back to the animals.  A trio of Dachshunds have their own mini-bridges to cross, hoops to jump (held very low indeed) and a slide to slink down; a large hamster wheel contains one of the dogs who walks within it across the stage.

Comedy Pet Theater dogs

Weiner Roll

There’s doggie school complete with desks and a doctor’s office with thermometers, bandages and vitamins; there are miracle cures.  A catstravaganza fills the stage with felines climbing poles, sitting on stools, and walking on top of a ball; one travels across a double bar using only her front legs, the equivalent of chin-ups to a human.

A jump rope segment features dogs and humans expertly passing through twirling ropes in a variety of poses, never missing a beat.

By show’s end, Popovich’s evolution is apparent, from homeless hobo to prominent entertainer.  As it turns out, the animals he’s rescued have really rescued him and he makes sure that he (and the audience) never forgets that.