Quick Talk with Grandma the Clown's Alter Ego, Barry Lubin - StageLync

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Quick Talk with Grandma the Clown’s Alter Ego, Barry Lubin

In 2015, when Barry Lubin’s memoirs Tall Tales of a Short Clown were about to be released, I had the pleasure of interviewing him for Circus Talk about the many turns his life has taken. True to form, things haven’t changed much for Barry. His life is still one big leap of from one awesome travel/job to another–such is the life of a talented circus artist.

I check in with him every few months since, and follow his adventures on Facebook, like many, rejoicing at his triumphs (He was the first clown in Antarctica?!) and empathizing with his occasional travel woes (Lost luggage? Wig dramas?). Still, knowing of Barry’s abiding love for the Big Apple Circus, it should have come as no surprise that he has joined the revamped version of the show and will be providing New Yorkers with an opportunity to enjoy Grandma the clown all over again starting on November 1st when the show officially opens to the public in New York City. Although the jury is still out as to whether the new Big Apple Circus will have the same heart as the original, it seems like a moot point when you consider that Grandma was always a big part of that heart, and her presence will probably cinch the deal for fans. Although Barry is currently sequestered away with the rest of the crew at their rehearsal grounds, he took a few minutes to answer some quick questions I tossed at him about his travels, idols and pet peeves.

Photo courtesy of Juliana Crawford

Favorite recent moment in clowning?
In rehearsals in NJ for this year’s Big Apple Circus, practice flying with a really great three- year-old volunteer named Jemma. She embraces the ring as her own at a very young age. Her dad is in the show as a wire walker.

Favorite clown?
Funniest man I know on the planet, Peter Pitofsky. Google him, Youtube him.

Best vacation ever?
Solo, Antarctic adventure this past January. With my kids, just did Iceland for 6 days. Both were amazing!

Secret skill?
Spinning various objects on one finger, mostly pillows.

Favorite country to perform in?
German audiences are the best audiences in the world for clowns.

Do you still love travel?
I love it more than ever, even with the occasional hell to pay from bad connections and awful food. I will travel a bit less now that I will tour with Big Apple Circus, and I will miss that aspect of recent years.

Weirdest place you’ve traveled? A tie between Almaty,Kazakhstan and Izhevsk, Russia and Taichung, Taiwan

Favorite continent?
Europe. I have certainly become a snob about that.

Photo courtesy of Barry Lubin

Circus skill you wish you had?
Throwing a standing backflip.

Ocean or mountains?
Oceans.

Grandma’s motto vs. Barry’s motto?
Grandma: Hey, shut up! Barry: Hey, shut me up.

Country with the best sense of humor?
USA

Embarrassing moment in clowning?
Too many to list.

Photo courtesy of Barry Lubin

What do you do when you meet a fan?
I enjoy it nearly every time, and try to be kind and generous. I was really hurt when a NY Yankee star who I admired snubbed me, and I learned my lesson. Those moments really matter. When someone stammers like I am a movie star, which rarely happens, I immediately try to calm them down and be conversational. I learned that from actual movie stars.

What do clowns do for us?
They reflect society in ways that matter, often so simply that we didn’t recognize it before watching it.

Describe the future of clowning?
Comedy will be forever. Clowning is comedy.

Clowning or physical theater?
Clowning is comedy presented for the enjoyment of the audience. Physical Theater, forgive me for this everyone, is often a term used for someone too chicken shit to go for laughs.

What makes you sad?
Bad Physical Theater. Oh and asshole Presidents.

What gets you excited?
Bold choices by clowns which do not fall into the category of self-indulgent or pretentious crap.

Grandma’s pet peeve?
People saying, “Hey, quit clowning around.”

What do you look for in an audience volunteer?
Someone engaged in the show, but it sure is fun to try someone who is completely disinterested.

Who is your idol?
Ernie Kovacs, Carol Burnett, Charlie Chaplin, Lou Jacobs, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Jonathan Winters

Alternative career plans if clowning doesn’t work out?
Write more. Direct more. Mentor more.

Advice to new clowns?
Don’t bother unless it is deep in your heart to make this incredibly impractical life choice.

What did you miss about the Big Apple Circus when you were a free range clown?
The audiences who I got to know over the 25 years, and participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

One thing you love about the new show?
Working with Joel Jeske as my partner.

Barry's autobiography, Tall Tales of a Short Clown is available on Amazon

Related CircusTalk content:

Silent Clown Unplugged: A Sneak Peek at Barry Lubin’s Memoirs

Big Apple Circus Welcomes New Ringmaster, Return of Grandma

Feature photo courtesy of Juliana Crawford
Kim Campbell
Writer -USA
Kim Campbell has written about circus for CircusTalk.News, Spectacle magazine, Circus Now, Circus Promoters and was a resident for Circus Stories, Le Cirque Vu Par with En Piste in 2015 at the Montreal Completement Cirque Festival. They are the former editor of CircusTalk.News, American Circus Educators magazine, as well as a staff writer for the web publication Third Coast Review, where they write about circus, theatre, arts and culture. Kim is a member of the American Theater Critics Association.

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Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell has written about circus for CircusTalk.News, Spectacle magazine, Circus Now, Circus Promoters and was a resident for Circus Stories, Le Cirque Vu Par with En Piste in 2015 at the Montreal Completement Cirque Festival. They are the former editor of CircusTalk.News, American Circus Educators magazine, as well as a staff writer for the web publication Third Coast Review, where they write about circus, theatre, arts and culture. Kim is a member of the American Theater Critics Association.