The circus might not be in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performer Jon Weiss' blood, but it is certainly in his soul.
Mr. Weiss, a native of New York's Long Island who joined the circus 22 years ago, has worn clown greasepaint, balanced chain saws on his chin and been shot from a cannon thousands of times, all in the name of Ringling tradition. These days, he dons a suit of spangles and leaves the ring behind. As the circus host, he clambers into the stands to entertain, educate and excite audience members.
"You have to evolve," he said with a laugh. "I mean, I was shot from a cannon more than 5,000 times. You just can't do that forever. It's gets hard on the body."
Mr. Weiss travels with his wife, who also is a circus performer, and their three children. Though acknowledging that months on the road means forgoing a more rooted existence, he said he can't imagine a better family life.
"I mean, I get to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with my family every day," he said. "We truly spend our lives together. As a father, there is nothing better than that."
In 2003, Mr. Weiss participated with fellow clown Al Rios in the CBS reality series The Amazing Race. Unlike many participants, who take a cutthroat approach to the globe-trotting contest, Mr. Weiss and his partner made a habit of urging and assisting other teams.
"There are people that might criticize us for that, but I still feel good about it," he said. "That's the circus way."
The circus, Mr. Weiss explained, isn't about the trapeze or tightrope, but the highly trained people who perform on them. The circus is as much about interpersonal connection as it is feats of derring-do.
"There are people who might consider applause or a sold-out audience a success," he said.
"But I don't. For me, it's about the connections, the small moments when your eyes meet and you can interact with someone in the audience. I guess I'm lucky, because for me, that happens every night."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEP RIGHT UP
WHAT: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today and Friday; 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 605 Seventh St.
COST: $10.50-$29. For more information, call (706) 724-2400 or see ticketmaster.com.
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