For Ivan Vargas, clowning around is a dream come true

On the outside, it’s called ‘the greatest show on earth.’

But on the inside, one young Mexican American performer simply calls it… home.

“My dream was to be in the circus. My parents were in the circus, I always wanted to do it,” says Ivan Vargas.

And Vargas did it by first following the footsteps of his mom and dad as a trapeze artist.

“I would always stay on the side and, you know, dream I was up there with them,” says Vargas.

Then he found his true three-ring calling as a clown.

“You have to show your skills and what we call a gag, which is anything from plate spinning to you know pie throwing to anything. So I showed some stuff and thankfully they liked it, they thought I was funny, so I became a clown.”

It’s a tough gig to land. Vargas is just one of 25 clowns in the entire Ringling Brothers universe.

“Statistically it’s more difficult to become a Ringling Brothers clown than it is to be a professional football player. And to be Latino is an amazing feat,” Vargas explains.

A feat that encompasses more than just funny pants and the right headgear. Ivan’s clown buddy Taylor the tailor showed this wanna-be what it takes – starting with putting on that happy face.
But it’s not just about thrill of performing for Vargas –

“That’s the beautiful thing about the circus is there are so many cultures so much to learn. You can say good morning to the shaolin’s from China or the beautiful Brazilian dancers. You know it takes a long time to say good morning.”

It’s about family too. Starting with the Ringmaster himself and the wife he found right in this travelling road show.

“We live and travel on the world’s largest privately-owned train, the legendary Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey’s train. So we are always together, we barbecue together, we can’t get away from each other, so we are a family,” says ringmaster Jonatha Lee.

There’s that word again, family. And while it is work, he loves it.

“It’s the best job in the world.”

In Los Angeles, Norma Rubio, NBCLatino


  1. Reblogged this on GreatClownPortraits and commented:
    To live the life of a clown…. some of us just have to live thru others. Please read this blog it is interesting.

    Patty Sue O’Hair Vicknair Artist

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