At 19 years old, Robert Mermin ran away from home to join the circus. Armed with $50 in his pocket and a homemade clown nose, he found an apprenticeship that began a lifetime of involvement under the big top. After 18 years as a clown, mime, juggler and other sorts of entertainer, Rob founded his own circus and called it "Circus Smirkus". It failed catastrophically, and the clown lost his shirt.
A year later, he tried again. With the help of a friend and some literal back-of-the-napkin financing, he built the current version of Circus Smirkus. On one hand, a traveling group of professional circus performers. On the other hand, a camp for youngsters who want to learn how to perform in a circus.
The circus industry is one of the most fascinating that we've had a chance to talk about on the show. To some, it may conjure up images of campy tents and tacky props, but really the business is about logistics. Circuses travel with a village of people and equipment. In addition to the "big top", the stage, the animals, etc circuses need to include their own medical staff, chefs, sometimes even a post office.
It takes a special kind of person to manage that chaos in an industry that doesn't get the respect of some the other performing arts. Rob is definitely that person, and it comes across in this one of my favorite new episodes.