- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) - Some days you just want to run away and join the circus.

Jesse Pike did it.

The Point Pleasant native is a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, traveling the country and performing for thousands every week.

The circus will be in town from March 9 to 13, playing the Prudential Center in Newark.

After graduating from Point Boro, Pike attended Pennsylvania College of Technology and earned a degree in plastics and polymer engineering in 2012 before a summer job at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson catapulted him into the performance world.

“I got into clowning and performing because I worked at Six Flags Great Adventure,” Pike told The Asbury Park Press (http://on.app.com/21f9g03 ). “I was doing stilt-walking there, that looked like a more fun job than working at a hot dog cart. That was the first job I had at Six Flags. I was like ‘Oh, stilts looks fun,’ and it turns out I was pretty good at it and had a lot of fun at it. Basically it’s the same thing as clowning because you’re just being fun and funny and entertaining, making sure everyone’s happy. I like doing that. It’s my favorite thing.”

When Pike returned to Six Flags the following year, he found out his supervisor now was working for Ringling Bros.

“That’s how I heard of the idea. I saw how much fun he was having and decided I wanted to audition,” he said.

Pike said his parents were completely on board with the idea.

“They’re totally 100 percent supportive of pretty much anything I’ve ever done. They love watching me perform. They’re my number one fans. It didn’t surprise them. Most people think that would be a surprise, but no, I’ve never surprised my parents with anything.”

Pike sent in a DVD and was invited to fly to St. Louis to audition, where he was offered a spot at “clown college” outside of Chicago.

“It was a 10-day intensive workshop,” Pike said. “We learned a lot about falls and I learned how to do my makeup and they put us in costume and taught us a lot about clowning.”

After completing clown college, Pike was extended a contract.

“Everything is a total surprise. I had no expectations about what the circus is like, other than the phrase, ‘Oh, it’s a circus, it’s crazy.’ ” Pike said. “A lot goes on and everything is very scheduled, very systematic. It’s just a lot of fun. How welcoming the circus is - it’s a lot like a family. Very loving and caring for each other and everyone’s so quick to borrow stuff from each other. And living on a train, that’s a lot of fun. You get to see the country through people’s backyards and through the transcontinental railroad. It’s a really, really cool way to travel. That was really surprising.”

During the show, Pike says he and the clowns do a little of everything - jump roping, unicycle riding, comedy routines, slip-and-slides and even juggling fire clubs. They also may be called out at the drop of a hat to distract the crowd if there ever is a problem or safety issue with another act.

He also enjoys winning over those who may have reservations about clowns.

“(People are scared because) they think we’re hiding something,” he said. “But it’s actually the exact opposite. We’re trying to bring out as much as we can with our makeup and our faces. We’re trying to accentuate our facial features, not really hide anything. People are worried, today. People in America are worried - afraid of everything, including clowns. But people come up and say they’re afraid of clowns and then they start to look at you and they’re like, ‘Oh, he looks really nice. He’s friendly.’ It totally changes their whole perspective on clowns, so that’s always a big memory.”

Everyone in the circus pitches in to get and keep the show up and running.

“We arrive at a city and then usually a few hours after that, there’s different call times for what your job is. Everyone has different load in and load out jobs. First the animals come off the train, the elephants and the horses. That’s priority one. Then we move onto all the wagons, all the stuff comes off the train. Then they start pulling that stuff to the arena and people have a job to unload the wagons. Then everyone has their own jobs. It’s kinda crazy, kinda chaos. Everyone has different jobs, different times. Everyone tries to work together. It really is like magic. It’s a lot of work, but it is pretty magical that all the stuff just comes out of a mile-long train.”

Pike wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“It’s a lot of work, but I get to make so many people happy. I make a lot of smiles, a lot of memories, a lot of laughter. I love it all.”

Pike uses his college degree in various ways with the circus.

“I learned how to communicate with everyone, being professional. And gluing things together,” he said. “It got me thinking more inventively. Now I want to invent the next juggling prop.”

And most importantly, he wants to continue bringing joy and happiness wherever he goes.

“I don’t ever want to work a day in my life. I really believe in that statement. If you like what you’re doing you never work a day in your life. And I love what I’m doing, so I’m just loving life.”

___

Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide