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Barry Lubin


Barry Lubin

Barry Lubin

Circus clown: Grandma

When he was a young college student in Boston, Barry Lubin wanted to break into show business as television director. Instead, he tumbled straight into the limelight as a career clown when, as a young man, he auditioned and was accepted into the prestigious Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. He found his professional calling and his clown persona—Grandma—lurking there under the bright lights and surrounded by boisterous crowds. In 1982 Lubin joined the Big Apple Circus, where he's teased out Grandma's puckish personality ever since. But during the Play On! season, Lubin is faced with a serious health scare that threatens to sideline him and his beloved alter ego, Grandma.


"I'm small, compact, and through the years people have thought I must be an acrobat. They're wrong. I fake (the athleticism). When someone tries to truly train me, I resist it. I do a handstand on a whoopee cushion. Does that require skill? I guess so."

Three Questions:

How do you prepare for a performance?

"I throw a popcorn kernel onto my tongue, then toss it and kick it successfully. I do this until I get it right. I also pray before each performance to thank God for the opportunity to be of service, to be humble and grateful for the gifts I have been given, and to go in faith."

Did you ever have aspirations to be another kind of performer in the circus?

"I was 22, attending Clown College, and I did have some aspirations after joining—to juggle and do acrobatics and even go onto the flying trapeze, which I considered the most poetic of the circus arts. I tried them all and failed miserably, but have also used my lack of talent in those disciplines to make people laugh using my character."

Why do people work for the circus?

"There is something special and unique about the art form. Personally, whenever I have left, I have longed to return. There is a thin, invisible line between the audience and the circus ring, but when you are not in the show, that line is a thousand miles wide. It tugs at your heart and at your soul to return to and become a part of this mythical world, which—when you are inside of it and when you get the occasional perspective on it—you realize is like no other world.

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