Feld Entertainment


Clowning Around

Go ahead, 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 table.
      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.

—Debby Waldman

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