Jon Wee makes finals on 'America's got Talent'

Hometown boy Jon Wee has been featured in USA Today. He was on the "Today" show last Wednesday.

That’s pretty exciting, but it gets even better. All the attention is leading up to the big night, Wednesday, August 16, and the finals of NBC’s summer competition, “America’s Got Talent.” Wee (left) and his partner Owen Morse, performing as The Passing Zone, will pit their unique blend of juggling and comedy against competitiors from across the country.

Parents Karen and David Wee saw the semi-finals two weeks ago, then have been enjoying time at their cabin near Walker – where they deliberately chose not to have a television or Internet access. They had friends tape the Today show appearance, but there’s no way they’ll miss the show Wednesday.

Jonathan, as he’s still known at home, isn’t allowed to give interviews until the show is over (producers control access to avoid skewing the public voting process), but his parents let us in on the excitement. “It’s been kind of a crazy swirl of activity since they’ve gotten this far in this competition,” said David.

And while Jon moved to California nearly 20 years ago, people here have picked up on his television adventure. “We have gotten a few calls,” Karen said modestly.

The parents are proud, but admit they never expected juggling to carry their son to the national spotlight. “I wouldn’t have guessed when I was watching that out of the 10 acts he would be chosen,” Karen said of the semi-finals.

It isn’t that they don’t think Jon and Owen are good. “They are just by nature and instinct comedians,” Karen said. “I wondered if they would be able to do what they do in such a short time.”

Of course, the Wees knew their son had talent when he first learned to juggle at 13. “He just took to it,” David said. “He taught it to two friends and they went to the Rennaissance Fair and performed. They practiced harder than any football team.”

But unlike football players, jugglers don’t get letter jackets or college scholarships…or much respect. And even these loving parents had some adjustments to make. After all, dad was an English professor at St. Olaf and mom was an administrative assistant there. One grandfather was a minister, and the other…well, he was a politician. But a professional juggler, well, that was still a stretch.

And Jon was majoring in French and economics at Luther College in Iowa, hardly a hotbed of radical comedy...or juggling. “When he was a senior in college, we asked him about job interviews,” David said. “He hemmed and hawed and finally told us. We thought, ‘Oh, no.’”

It wasn’t because they disapproved, just that they knew it wasn’t an esay choice. “It’s so hard to make it in the entertainment world,” David said, noting that Jon and Owen have worked steadily and built a strong reputation long before trying out for the show. “He worked very hard with Owen, his partner. They’ve made it to the top of their profession.”

The pair have four Guiness world records and several championships in professional competitions, as well as a steady client base for corporate entertaining.

And Jon isn’t the only success in the family. Daughter Rebecca Wee is an English professor at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., and Allison Wee teaches English at Luther College. And while they teach, they also have their own passions. “I have a poet, a cook and a juggler,” said Karen said of her offspring.

That’s a line-up that should make family get-togethers at the Wee home quite entertaining indeed.


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