Clowning demands talent, heart, shtick-to-itiveness

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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus' Built to Amaze -- featuring this clown alley led by boss Taylor Albin (center) -- will play seven shows Thursday through Sunday, May 8-11, at the Schottenstein Center. Tickets start at $18. Visit

Taylor Albin, clown boss for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Built to Amaze tour that comes through town May 8-11, is a wealth of clowning information -- but refused to divulge that most precious piece of all of clown history.

How do they all get in that little car?

"All I can tell you is it's very compact," is all The Beat could get out of the 27-year-old Albin, a Texas native who's been a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey for five years after running away to join the circus during his senior year in college.

"I always wanted to be a Ringling Bros. clown," he said.

"For me, seeing the people in the audience enjoying themselves, making people laugh -- to do that every day, who could ask for a better job?"

Albin auditioned for the circus' clown college and was accepted into the short, but intense, program. From there, only a select few are chosen to become part of a touring team of clowns, called an alley.

Each alley has a boss, whose job it is to serve as a liaison between management and the alley, as well as to manage, organize and supervise "12 other people who each think they're the funniest person on earth," he joked.

He said each member of the alley brings unique talents to the mix, adding the skills needed are taught on the job.

"Everyone has to have the right heart and the desire. The rest, they'll teach you," Albin explained.

"For example, I don't do a lot of tumbling, but we have a couple clowns who specialize in tumbling.

"Our senior clown (Albin said his alley's 13 members range in age from 18-35) is an incredible juggler.

"We all learn what we can from each other and continue our training, but it's natural that we each fall into our own little niches."

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey blends traditional circus elements with the contemporary, Albin said.

Giving each show a theme -- Built to Amaze has a construction theme, the concept being that they're "building" the show right in front of the audience -- helps ensure acts are assigned that can fit the theme and that each time the circus comes to town, audiences will see a different show.

The second act of Built to Amaze, for example, features a spoof of a talent show in which the circus is looking for the funniest clowns on earth.

"Everything they try, they kind of botch, as you might imagine," Albin said.

The boss has his job cut out for him.