Send in the Clowns… to Anaheim

Ringling Bros. auditioned 20 clowning hopefuls Tuesday for a coveted spot in their national tour.

Actors abound in Southern California, but a different breed of performers were in the O.C. Tuesday auditioning for their big break: clowns.

Twenty men and women, some from as far as Missouri and Indiana, turned the Anaheim Honda Center into a veritable circus, and one judge said he saw promise among the group.

“Some people were very comfortable, it was easy for them to become bigger than life,” said David Kiser, talent director for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey.

Kiser said he’s only looking for a handful of clowns, but eight hopefuls at the OC audition were called back. If chosen, they have a long road ahead of them.

Chosen clowns are enrolled in the circus' clown college and upon graduation perform on the road before their final evaluation, the prize for which is a one-year touring contract.

“Being a clown is about heart, a clown is not an actor,” said Kiser, who traveled as a clown with Ringling Bros. for 14 years. “You can tell an actor who is playing a clown.”

Clowning is more than just red noses, loud pants and gag falls, Kiser said. It requires the performer to reveal their souls, hearts in a comedic way.


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About 100 people audition annually for a coveted spot among Ringling's 30 clowns and physical comedians, Kiser said. They could perform individually or in group acts, such as the firehouse or barbershop.

Tuesday’s auditions began at 10 a.m. with a clowning workshop focused on miming, facial expressions and movement, followed by a series of three- to five- minute auditions judged by the talent director, clown college professor and current head clown.

Kiser said this is a great time to try something so out of the mainstream.

“In a world where jobs are scarce, people are being more choosey,” he said. “(Clowning) is a perfect opportunity to do what you love and make money.”

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