Who’s He Kidding?
The Great Holtzie leaves Main Line youngsters in stitches—and parents, too.
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What gets laughs from his audience? How about the bit where he reaches for some McDonald’s fries and jams rubber worms into his mouth instead? Or when he excuses himself for a minute and returns with a blond wig as Hannah Montana, speaking in a gruff guy’s voice. Squeals of laughter are the only reassurance Holtz needs to know he’s on target.
The Great Holtzie limits his shows to about 45 minutes, keeping kids engaged with a constant flow of slapstick moves, self-effacing humor (a gorilla head mocks him for his lack of hair), and See n’ Say toys with his own recorded punchlines.
He practices his act on his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Ava Mengine, and his wife, Sandra. “I performed at my stepdaughter’s school,” says Holtz, who also has a 5-month-old daughter. “And now, when I pick her up, the kids yell, ‘Hey, it’s baldie!’ She likes it when they make fun of me.”
Holtz also makes it a point to entertain the ones who pay his bills—throwing in pop-culture references and lines from movies only adults can relate to. “I can’t tell you how many parents have come up to me and said, ‘You’re like those Pixar movies,’ because the show happens on two levels,” says Holtz. “I almost hate that comparison, because I don’t think I’m worthy of it. Some of the better kids’ TV shows—SpongeBob SquarePants and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack—are appealing because there are jokes in there for parents, and they don’t condescend to kids.”
In fact, some parents are disappointed when Holtz tells them he only does shows for children. “I don’t want to get into comedy for adults,” he says. “There’s way too much competition.”
Growing up in Margate, N.J., Holtz wanted to be the next Steve Martin. At 7, he convinced his mother to buy him an aluminum arrow, which he cut in half with a hacksaw, attaching the two pieces to a hanger to make the through-the-head prop used in one of Martin’s early stand-up acts. He’d do shows for his friends, putting a fresh twist on his hero’s bits. “I never had the guts to follow that dream and go after comedy,” admits Holtz.
Instead, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Temple University and work as a corporate headhunter in the IT industry for 15 years. But satisfaction was hard to come by. “I didn’t want to believe that this corporate life was what I was going to do forever,” he says.
A visit to a friend’s house in 2007 brought his second career into focus. “I was just playing with his kids—doing the same stupid stuff with them that always made them laugh—and my friend’s wife said, ‘You’re really good with kids; you should have a TV show or something,’” recalls Holtz.
That got the wheels spinning, and at 38, Holtz dove headfirst into his newfound passion. Within two weeks, he was booking kids’ birthday parties.