As many of us are aware after the parade yesterday, the circus is in town! I had a chance to catch up with one of the clowns in the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Crickett. Crickett hails from the DC area, and I was able to talk to him all about what it’s like to be a clown, what he misses about DC, and even about that mysterious bearded lady…
Katie: Tell us how you and DC intersect, how long you lived here, what your early memories are?
Crickett: I moved to the DC metro area when I was in 10th grade from New York and simply fell in love with it since I got here. Over more than a decade, I have lived here off and on while working and studying. Many of my early memories consist of taking the metro into the city and riding the trains with friends and just hanging out and seeing all the free sites.
Any favorite places you miss?
Of course! After I have lived/ played/ entertained (I hesitate, for obvious reasons, to call what I do work) in large arenas, such as Verizon, I enjoy being entertained as opposed to doing it myself. The Palace of Wonders is my favorite place to go in DC. It’s a tiny little club that hosts regular nightly entertainment, both amateur and professional in vaudeville, burlesque, comedy, variety and such. One of my favorite groups, the Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show performs there regularly. It’s a great place to meet up and coming performers, relax, or see weird sideshow ephemera such as Fiji mermaids, swords, and other oddities. Other than that, I love the Smithsonian and the masses of other free museums DC has to offer, especially the Air and Space Museum or the Zoo
Name the best part of DC, in your opinion?
The cherry blossom trees when they’re out. On a sunny spring day, there is no better place to be or better company to have than the cherry blossoms.
How did you wind up a clown?
While I was attending University in Newport News, VA, I happened upon a now-defunct traveling sideshow. It was then I realized I could act outrageous, tour, color my hair, wear makeup, and have fun touring without being a rock star (or a drag queen for that matter). This appealed to me because I can’t keep a beat to save my life!
More on Crickett’s career as a clown, and where you’ll be able to find him while he’s in town after the jump.
Clown Alley Group, Courtesy of Feld Entertainment 2009
Did you go to clown school? Why or why not?
Over the few years after seeing the sideshow I took a few week-long intensive classes in clown schools in Minnesota, Dallas, and NYC. I think education is very important in every aspect of life. It’s for this reason I decided I needed to educate myself in clown philosophy, history, and physicality before I attempted the things I saw my contemporaries/ heroes doing.
Did you ever threaten to run away and join the circus when you were younger?
It wasn’t a threat, but more of a promise.
What’s the best/worst part of being in the circus?
There are so many perks to living and working with the circus. America is such a large and varied country, its incredible to see and meet people from all sorts of walks of life and backgrounds. Not to mention the people from all over the world who I work and play with. Getting paid to play and have fun isn’t too bad either. On the other hand, it is very easy to get rather lonely and miss your family and friends back home.
How many people are in the entire cast and crew, and who are your favorites?
In the entire show, there are roughly more than 300 people in the cast and crew. With a show of our scale, which is the biggest and largest of its type, it is important to keep a large crew. For every performer you see out on the floor, there are at least two keeping the props fixed and clean, cooking, maintaining the mile-long train we use to get from place to place, and doing a plethora of duties needed to maintain our lifestyle. The Greatest Show on Earth isn’t always what you see on stage, it’s what happens backstage to keep everything you see on the road and running smoothly.
My favorite people are varied. I, naturally, enjoy my girlfriend who teaches the children while their parents are working. In addition, the Ukrainian inner tube bouncers are great friends. They may be world-class acrobats and bouncers, but they can’t touch my guitar hero score! My fellow clowns who see and interact with me daily, not to mention slowly drive me crazy, are among this group. Tom Dougherty has been a constant inspiration and help, especially when stealing the show from Ringmaster Chuck Wagner. Lastly, Nicole Garza, my production manager who has been fantastic (especially now that its time to negotiate a possible raise. :)
WLDC Author Don seems to know a lot of people who are freaked out by clowns. What are your experiences with people with clown-phobias?
I meet a lot of people all over America who are couldraphobic (clown phobic) who wind up actually really liking me. I think it is important for people to realize deep down I’m just a normal person, just like them, I just have a really strange and exciting job. In fact, we usually wind up friends, because I’ve developed a fear of my co-workers since I’ve joined.
While the show is in town, where will you be? What are your first stops in DC?
Whilst in DC, I will most likely be spending most of my time at the Verizon Center preparing for our parade, publicity events, a show, or practicing my juggling sticks. If I’m not there, you’ll find me at Food for Thought getting some vegetarian grub, the Palace of Wonders, walking around the zoo, or sitting on my parent’s couch (Hi Mom!) showing my brother who the best Wii player is in the family.
And finally, I promised WLDC author Acacia that I’d ask this: Is the bearded lady really bearded?
Duh! Yeah! Would you have paid 10 cents to see a beardless lady?
See Crickett in action, take a trip to the circus while it’s in town from March 19-21st at the Verizon Center. Click here for tickets.