Burnaby Q. Orbax and Sweet Pepper Klopek had been travelling the world with their sideshow for nearly two decades when, in 2017, they decided to create some kids’ shows.
Both “science enthusiasts” based in Ontario, when Orbax isn’t busy laying on a bed of nails while motorcycles jump over him, he teaches physics at the University of Guelph.
Mixing their passions for physical human feats, comedy, and science, the pair are travelling to Whistler to perform both as Monsters of Schlock for adults and offer two of their kid-focused science shows on May 27 and 28.
Pique caught up with the pair via Zoom ahead of their first trip to the resort to talk about making people cringe, laugh, and learn. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Pique: So much of what you’re doing are these physical feats. Was it weird having a break [during the pandemic] and then putting your body through all this stuff? Not to mention touring on top of it.
Orbax: With the two years off, I gained about 30 pounds and Pepper got diabetes, so it seems like we have to be constantly doing stunts in order to be in healthy bodies.
Klopek: Our first gig back was TV in Italy. And talk about shot out of a cannon. We had done literally nothing and then we were doing very physical stunts onstage in front of a million viewers on TV. So it was quite a nerve-racking thing that felt good to be back out there. Once we hit the stage, we’re fine, but everything hurts so much more than I remember.
How much pain are you in doing these stunts?
Orbax: Well, I think the sideshow toes the line [between uncomfortable and] painful. They call it mind over matter. But to an extent it’s preparedness, right? Like these are stunts that we know what to do and we know how we’re doing them in the same way that, you know, getting hit while you’re playing football or getting checked while you’re playing hockey is painful. But it’s something your body has come to adapt to as a result of having to play that sport. Well, as a result of us doing a stunt show where there’s stunts—they definitely take endurance to perform.
Does it ever get old watching your audience react? It must be crazy looking out and watching a crowd physically react to what you’re doing.
Klopek: There’s nothing more satisfying than looking out and half the audience is covering their eyes and just peeking.
Orbax: What probably a lot of video of our acts doesn’t capture is primarily what we’re trying to do is comedy. We just try to make people laugh. It’s a lot more vaudeville than it is spooky, scary.
How many Guinness World Records do you guys hold now?
Orbax: I think we’ve broken 27 at this point, and that includes ones that we’ve beaten of our own. Pepper has broken the mousetrap record [for most mousetraps released on a tongue in one minute] three times now. So we’re Canada’s most prolific record-breaking duo. How’s spinning that for press?
Is there a stunt you’re most proud of?
Klopek: They’re all really hard, physical, pretty big, epic things. So they’re all really good. But for me, I think it’s the mousetrap thing because that was my first one. We’ve gotten to go all over the world with that one, which is really neat. And it’s kind of become like my signature thing. But I think Orbax’s motorcycles is probably—that’s the big show. Watch a guy get run over by 70 motorcycles while laying on a bed of nails. That’s beyond incredible.
Maybe it’s a good time to ask about your kids’ shows. What you do is so diverse. I see you have two different kids’ shows in Whistler as part of the Whistler Children’s Festival.
Orbax: So I’m a physics instructor at the University of Guelph. And Pepper has been a lifelong science enthusiast as well. We’ve been wanting to do a science show for kids for years, but we just had never been able to bridge the gap between the freak show guys, which is hilarious because most of our freak show stuff, 80 per cent of it, is done for all-ages audiences. You just clean up the language.
We love smart kids. And so we’ve been wanting to do a science show for years. In 2017, we got the opportunity to work with Guinness World Records for a book they did called Guinness World Records: Science & Stuff … The idea was we were doing a section where families could do experiments with their kids at home and in the process some of these would be aimed towards getting a world record—so longest slime tail that you can make or the most marshmallows catapulted with a homemade catapult in a minute. So what we did was we shot all this stuff with them and then when they released the book, we ended up with like a 40-page spread of us showing kids how to make and develop experiments.
Klopek: That book opened doors immediately for elementary schools and libraries and theatres. It’s like, here we go, we’re off and running. We couldn’t be more thankful to Guinness World Records for that opportunity.
Catch the pair’s Monsters of Schlock After Dark 19-plus show on May 27 at 8 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre.
They’re also hosting a family show called Orbax and Pepper Do Science on May 27 at 11 a.m. mixing comedy and interactive experiments as part of the Whistler Children’s Festival, as well as a workshop on May 28 at 1 p.m. called Orbax and Pepper Present: Rocket Science! where participants will learn how to build a baking soda rocket.
For tickets or more information, visit artswhistler.com/calendar-upcoming.