Hailed as one of the greatest clowns of all time, Avner Eisenberg enjoyed a generic childhood in Atlanta, Georgia. As a kid his passions were snakes and juggling. He wanted to be a doctor, but after a year as an honors chemistry and biology major his parents forced him into performing.
Applying the art of juggling to education, Avner attended four universities moving counter-clockwise around the United States, and ultimately earned a BA in theatre from the University of Washington in 1971. He studied in Paris with Jacques Lecoq for two years, and once, while street performing in Paris was arrested for buffoonery in public.
On returning to the United States Avner taught at Carlo Mazzone Clementi’s Dell’Arte School of Physical Comedy in California. Avner is greatly indebted to these two men: “Lecoq, who taught me everything I know, and Carlo who taught me the rest.”
Avner is probably best known for his endearing portrayal of The Jewel, the scene-stealing holy man, in The Jewel of the Nile, co-starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. He was also featured in the film Brenda Starr and the television series Webster and Mathnet.
Avner’s one-man show, Avner the Eccentric, was a hit of the 1984–1985 Broadway season. He co-starred in Lincoln Center’s production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, and returned to Broadway in 1989 in a principal role in Ghetto. In regional theatre Avner has played both Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting For Godot, played the title role in R. Crumb Comix, and co-starred with his wife, Julie Goell, in the world premier of Zoo of Tranquility.
Avner’s new show, Exceptions to Gravity, defies the barriers of language and culture and has toured extensively all over the US and abroad. Avner has often played on subscription at regional theaters including Arena Stage, Trinity Rep, Actor’s Theater of Louisville, The Empty Space, Indiana Rep, The Goodman Theater, Portland Stage, Merrimack Rep, Virginia Stage Company, Dallas Theater Center, Seacoast Rep, San Jose Rep, Theatre Fontaine (Paris), and Teatro Alfil (Madrid).
Avner is often a featured performer at comedy, magic and theatre festivals, which in past years have included The Edinburgh Festival, where he won the New Faces of 1991 Award, and was a finalist for the Perrier Award, the Israel Festival, the Montreal International Comedy Festival. He has also appeared at the London International Mime Festival, the Festival of American Mime, the New York Clown Theatre Festival, the Fool’s Festival, the New York Magic Symposium, the Hudson Clearwater Revival, and the International Movement Theatre Festival. Avner has won special jury awards at The International Festival du Cirque in Monte Carlo, Arosa International Humor Festival, Barcelona International Clown Festival, Leipzig Lach Messe, St Gervais International Theater Festival where he won both the public and the jury awards. Avner was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 2002.
Avner is regularly featured on television specials throughout the world. He has been seen on the Paul Daniels Show and Packing Them In in Great Britain, on the NTV 35th Anniversary Special as well as numerous appearances on NHK in Japan, Sebastian C’est Fou, Le Plus Grande Cabaret du Monde, and Cabaret Sauvage in France, Un Dos Tres and the Juan Tamariz Special in Spain, Martes 13 in Chile, Ritmo de la Noche in Argentina, UNICEF Comedy Special in Italy, the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival on Showtime, and many more.
In addition to a busy performance schedule, Avner has taught master classes in clowning and Eccentric Performing in the United States, France, Germany, Finland, Belgium, Japan and Spain. He has developed silent theatre skills as a therapeutic tool and also teaches workshops for students and professionals in health care, education and counseling, as well as theatre. He lives on an island off the coast of Maine and would really rather be sailing. Avner has been a practitioner of Aikido for many years and holds the rank of shodan, first degree black belt.
Avner is a certified Ericksonian Hypnotist, and NLP Master Practitioner. He specializes in performer related issues of all kinds. He is also a Certified Trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
Avner is the artistic director of Phyzgig, an annual festival of physical comedy, past President of the Board of Directors of the Celebration Barn Theater, Is treasurer of the Chestnut Street Lofts Association, and is on the advisory board of The Circus Conservatory of America.