We live in a world where Saturday morning cartoons are a thing of the past. Cycling through the channels turns up nothing but news shows and infomercials. The sole moment of glory is found with syndicated episodes of Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer. For a half hour at a time, viewers are treated to hopeless dog owners trying to tame their canine companions. On Wednesday night, Millan brought his expertise to the Riverside Theater.
Going into the show, several questions loomed. How would Millan represent the TV show in an abbreviated format? Do dogs get stage fright? If they do, would they be wearing a Thundershirt? Could Millan tame dogs on command like Crocodile Dundee? Would there be a line of people waiting to adopt dogs? Regardless of the outcome of the last question, Millan’s presentation of adoptable dogs and promotion of adoption was the biggest positive of a heartfelt night.
As the audience made their way to their seats, the number of selfies was absurd. It seemed as though every person in the place needed a picture with Milan’s digital stage banner in the background, and then a picture with their fellow attendee and the background. Then the lights dimmed, and Millan emerged and took a lap with a tiny puff ball dog in tow. He quickly launched into a comedy routine that was mostly dad jokes, a few knowingly bad jokes, and a couple edgy jokes about border jumping. Wrapped into the routine was his origin story of growing up in Mexico, how he came to the U.S. to train dogs, and how he quickly re-tooled his approach to train humans.
The first half of the show was a lot of talking and not a lot of dogs on stage. Millan’s comedy and instruction did a great job keeping the audience captivated. When the dogs did take the stage, they seemed a bit confused, but not scared—rapidly wagging tails, but no accidents. With a large open stage, it looked like the perfect place to let dogs run and play, but maybe that would be enabling a dog’s undisciplined behavior.
After a 50-minute session and a brief intermission, the second half of the show began with a clip of Millan on an episode of South Park, leading into Millan bursting onto the stage wearing a cheesehead. The guy sure knows how to play to a Wisconsin crowd.
The second half was more dog heavy than the first. Each dog had a distinctly different personality and issue that needed attention, which showcased the wide variety of Millan’s skillset. With each new dog that emerged with wagging tail, the calm and steady approach of Cesar Millan quickly quelled their rambunctiousness. With each demonstration he looked to the crowd for confirmation that they understood his method. The automatic responses gave the feeling of the audience being trained with the dogs.
Through it all, Millan delighted the audience with a lighthearted night of comedy while providing an atmosphere for learning. If there’s a lesson to be learned about the quickest way to a dog’s heart, it’s to stay calm and always have treats handy.