Chase and I sit down in two of the metal folding chairs in the area of the backstage tent reserved for the clowns, “Clown Alley,” as it is called. He’s wearing a baseball cap with the brim cut off and carrying a shopping bag from the dollar store down the street. He crosses a purple sneakered-foot across one knee and takes a sip from his water bottle. I fumble with a handful of AAA batteries and try and figure out how my voice recorder works. Eventually a red light blinks so I put it down on a third chair and start.
Evan Johnson: So, Mr. Culp, how old are you?
Chase Culp: I am 17 years old.
EJ: And what are the responsibilities of Chase Culp at Circus Smirkus?
CC: My responsibilities are to entertain the public as best I can and take care of everything else that is required of me.
EJ: And what else is required?
CC: Daily chores, packing and unpacking of the truck, [pick up] bleacher trash, all that good stuff.
EJ: And this is your second year at Smirkus, correct?
CC: It is.
EJ: What made you decide to come back for a second tour?”
CC: This is the greatest experience of my life. It allowed me to be with a community that loves the craft that I love and also the lifestyle.
EJ: And how did you first hear about Circus Smirkus?
CC: I saw a YouTube video and I looked further into it and learned more about what it was.
EJ: And you are a clown in Smirkus this year. What made you want to start clowning?
CC: I went with my father to see the Ringling Brothers. My brother went too but he didn’t get bit by the bug quite as hard as I did. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
EJ: Right. And now that you’re back for a second year, how is your second year going?
CC: Your first year, you don’t really know what to expect. You just assume that everything has to get taken care of. But this year, I’ve had to worry a lot more. Everything’s not going to come together right away. We’ve all had to work much harder.
EJ: And how many more years to do you have left with Smirkus?
CC: I can still do it for one more year. Note from Interviewer: Smirkus troupers “age out” when they graduate from high school.
EJ: And do you think you’ll do it again?
CC: If they keep having the same lack of judgment, then yes. I’ll be back.