call David Solove a clown. He doesn’t mind. That’s because he
is a clown—the boss clown of one of the traveling units of the
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Solove joined the circus nine years ago,
after a one-year stint at the Ringling Bros. Clown College. Back
then he’d looked at clown college as good training for work in
children’s theater. Now he considers clowning his calling. “I
don’t think it surprises anybody that this is what I’m doing,”
he says. “I love being able to touch people’s lives, make it a
personal experience so they’re not just one of thousands of people
sitting in the audience. They feel as if they have a clown of
their own. In fact, I have people who come back year after year
looking for me.”
Solove is one of 18 clowns in the Blue Unit,
one of the circus’s two traveling troupes. Solove’s routines include
refereeing a juggling match, diving onto a table and sliding across
it, and cramming into a Volkswagen Beetle with 12 of his colleagues.
He also keeps a road diary that’s published at Ringling.com.
Among his duties as boss clown are making
sure the other clowns have everything they need for shows—from
shaving cream to bicycle inner tubes—and helping new clowns learn
routines and adjust to life on the road.
The average professional life span of a traveling
clown is three to four years. So how has Solove lasted so long?
“I like the travel,” admits Solove, who is on the road 50 weeks
a year. “Every week I’m in a different city with new audiences
and things to see and do. It’s always fresh. But on the downside,
every week I’m in a different city.”
It least he doesn’t have to stay in hotels.
Solove lives on the 56-car Ringling Bros. train, in a room that
houses a stove, refrigerator, microwave, washer, and dryer. The
drawback: no eating in bed. That’s because it doubles as the kitchen
It’s not exactly a life that’s conducive
to long-term relationships, which is one reason Solove says: “I’m
probably closer to the end than I am to the beginning.”
But don’t count on a retirement party anytime
soon. “I will continue to do it as long as my heart is still in
it,” he says.