Davis, the son of an English teacher dad and a secretary mom, started clowning in suburban San Francisco. At 19, after auditing a course at S.F. State titled "How to Be a Clown" (where he picked up juggling), he entered the Clown College in Venice, Fla. Michael toured with Ringling's Red Unit (led by Gunther Gebel-Williams) but as he observes, "There are no talking clowns in the circus. I guess I had more to say." Returning to San Francisco, Davis spent days trying out juggling and one-liners on the pavement and nights waitering at a North Beach comedy club. Two years later he was onstage himself, and in 1979 placed second in a nightclub laff-off just as Robin Williams had in 1977. That led to cable TV and Broadway.
"Definitely a bachelor," Davis today lives alone in a SoHo loft and dreams of "releasing a juggling album," starring in a silent film a la idols Chaplin and Keaton, and forming a troupe of young vaudevillians. Perhaps with the last in mind, Michael plans a new topper: juggling a TV set which is playing a cassette of Michael Davis juggling. "Get the picture?" he winks.
Even as Michael Davis' deft hands keep a trio of flashing weapons—cleaver, ax, machete—whirling in a kind of airborne ballet, the juggler nervously informs his breathless audience that it's an easy act to get started. "Stopping," he cracks, "is the problem." Not that he has to worry. Recently Davis, 27, made his debut on the Great White Way in Shields and Yarnell's Broadway Follies—which closed the night it opened. But with glowing notices for his unique "comic juggling" act, Michael was not left up in the air for long. Next morning he was invited to sign up with Sugar Babies, one of Broadway's biggest hits. His tour de force—simultaneously juggling an apple, bowling ball and egg ("the natural enemy of the bowling ball"), all while taking bites out of the apple—comes close to achieving the impossible: upstaging headliner Mickey Rooney.