With the announcement of The Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, closing its doors in May 2017, we thought it would be a good time to celebrate the immense amount of enjoyment it has brought the world! In the next couple of weeks, we will be interviewing performers who have worked for the Ringling Bros Circus. They will reflect on the good it has brought them and what the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has contributed to the future of Circus Arts!
Long live the circus!
As The Greatest Show on Earth enters into it's last 3 months of shows, we enter into our last interview. It has been a pleasure to hear past stories and lessons of former Ringling Bros. performers. It is obvious now that with the knowledge these former performers are passing on, The Greatest Show on Earth will linger in our minds way past the last curtain call in May.
Without further ado, our final act is Todd Zimmerman, owner of Odd-o-Ts' Entertainment (parent company of Fight or Flight Productions)!
Q: What is your name?
A: Todd Zimmerman
Q: When were you with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus?
A: 1995-2003 (Traveling ON the road) Plus Advance Promotions until Jan 2017
Q: What did you do with Ringling?
A: Clown and Understudy Ringmaster
Q: If you are not with Ringling anymore, what are you doing now?
A: My wife and I run 2 different production companies in Central Florida.
Q: What was your most memorable moment with Ringling?
A: There are soooo many memories and the smallest thing will spark one. I think often people get tired of hearing about my time with the circus. Here are a few snippets:
1. Getting my head shaved by 2 female clowns in leather who handcuffed me to a train car and forced me to eat hot dogs.
2. Singing and announcing the show in Madison Square Garden.
3. Spinning a parade float in circles until a clown passed out from the force.
4. Hearing an entire arena laugh at a routine that I wrote.
5. Being with my circus family when tragedy struck (a high wire performer fell and a trainer was bitten by a tiger – not at the same time).
6. Doing the top ten list on the Late Show with David Letterman.
7. Creating a routine with an elephant.
8. Putting clown makeup on a celebrity.
9. Meeting my wife.
...And, of course, I have to butt in. We have the clip from David Letterman!! Our lucky clown is number 6!
Q: Is there anything special that you carry on with you from Ringling?
A: Circus people are tough! It took quite a feat to get them to complain about anything. Mostly they would just “suck it up” and get on with the show. They are slow to open up to newcomers, but once you’ve proven your mettle, you are forever part of the family. They live in the moment. Even though the “next city” is always on the horizon, they make each moment in the current stop count.
Q: When you watch the show, what is your favorite part?
A: I love the “it’s too hard” moment. No matter which act, I love when the performer “feigns a fall” or “misses a trick” or has let “fear overcome them” or the audience perceives they need just a bit more encouragement. Then they pull their maneuver off flawlessly and the crowd goes bazooties! I like being on the inside knowing that they are building up the crowd to allow the audience to share in the artist’s success.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say about Ringling?
A: The name Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey holds a very special place in my heart. I have been going to THAT show since I was a kid. I fulfilled my dreams of joining the show and spent time with my childhood heroes! I recited a reading at the Unit’s memorial service for Gunther Gebel Williams. I Performed in the center ring with David Larible. Michu, the smallest man in the world, was at my wedding reception. They were who were on the posters on the walls of 12 year old Todd’s bedroom and are now in the photo frames WITH me in my office. I was a part of the Greatest Show On Earth. I met kids who had a poster with me on it in their rooms! I watched some of them fulfill their childhood dreams and run away with the big show.
By the end, Ringling may not have been the best or have the newest acts, but it still was the loudest. It still was a name that embodied the word “circus.” While I am aware that others will carry on the mantle and traditions, in May there will be something missing from this world that brought joy to millions in its 146 year run.
Q: How have you continued circus arts beyond your time with Ringling?
A: Timea (my wife) and I strive to keep the spirit of circus alive in the performances that we produce. We may not put on clown makeup, but the physical comedy routines continue. We may not have rhinestones and sequins on all of our costumes, but the sparkle of the circus still comes through in our routines. We try to instill the commitment of a circus performer into all of our employees and engage the audience in ways that only circus can. We are both proud of our history and heritage with the circus and of the family that we have in that world. I hope we can continue to employ performers and find clients who will let us bring this spirit into their venues to keep circus arts thriving for generations to come.
A big THANK YOU from me to Todd Zimmerman! Thank you for guiding us and instilling these Ringling lessons in us. We are forever indebted!
And for one final time, LONG LIVE THE CIRCUS!!
Is there something you want former performers from Ringling Bros. to answer?! Leave a comment below!
Get your tickets for the remaining Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey shows here!