The Unbearable Banishment: Defying death as your job description

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Defying death as your job description

Have you ever been to the circus? There were three adults and four children, ages 8, 8, 5 and 3. Guess who had the most fun? ME. Maybe I’m a cheap audience (which is what I’ve always suspected) but I was in awe. I don’t think the kids get it. Kids are too young for the circus. They don’t realize how difficult these feats are and, more importantly, that the performers could die at any moment. They just assume everything will work out and it does.

The staging is a show-within-a-show. While one set of performers are in the spotlight trying not to die, a crack team of stagehands are setting up the next act where someone might die. There's no pause in the action. It's rapid-fire, one performance right after the other.

I felt somewhat vindicated when The New York Times ran a glowing review of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus a few days after we attended. That the circus started in the late 1800’s and is still up and running today is pretty surprising, if you think about it.

The circus doesn’t do “funny” very well—I don’t recall laughing at any of the clown’s antics—but the acts whereby performers put their lives at risk are truly amazing. I was shocked that none of the acrobats hit the ground the wrong way and split their heads open or that two trapeze artists didn’t collide in mid air and break a few limbs.

The tiger tamer didn’t have his face slashed to ribbons by an unpredictable tiger. Remember Siegfried & Roy? It happens!

Three Chinese gymnasts inside a small (small) plexiglas cube. What. The. Fuck. Just imagine the four-way possibilities.

The Bionic Brothers. Astonishing feats of strength and balance. Zero body fat.

The biggest lunatics have to be the family of motocross stunt riders. At one point, all seven ride inside a giant steel sphere, crossing each other’s path. It’s madness. How do you rehearse something like this?

A parade of elephants. Peta distributed some literature on the train pointing out that the circus is guilty of animal cruelty. Trying to spoil our fun. I’ve never seen an organization do more to alienate people from their cause than the dolts at Peta.


Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

I haven't been to the circus since I was about 11, and not having children, have never bothered to go when it has been in town. Perhaps when it comes through next, I will go... I think I would be in awe as well! At least someone enjoyed the show... And there's nothing wrong with being a cheap audience. At least there is always something you find amusing!!

March 31, 2010 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger savannah said...


anyone who doesn't, is a dolt. hell, i even like the damn clowns!


March 31, 2010 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You’re right, I remember going to the circus when I was a kid, and finding it boring. Exactly because clowns aren’t funny and because I didn’t realize that I myself (nor my parents!) would never be able to twist my body in such awkward positions, pet wild tigers or juggle twelve burning torches. I only started to indulge in romantic fantasies of joining a circus by the time that I was ‘too old for the circus’.

March 31, 2010 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ponita: Being a cheap audience is awesome. You are pleased much more than you are disappointed. I would highly recommend you take this in. I've spent more money and have gotten less in return.

Savannah: the Times said that this is their best show in years and I have to agree. 2:10 of thrills (and endless cheap souvenir hawking).

Borah: Welcome! Kids are too jaded by TV. I don't think they find any of this stuff thrilling or "real," but I could hardly contain myself.

March 31, 2010 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

Watching the circus as an adult is kind of like watching sports as an adult. I never appreciated those incredible feats until I was much older.

As for PETA, Hippie is such a vegetarian, she won't even wear leather shoes, but even she is turned off by PETA.

March 31, 2010 at 1:57 PM  
Anonymous escapenova said...

Apparently you're very lucky... Ringling Bros had set up shop here in DC for a couple of weeks but when my coworker went on Saturday, there were no tigers!

Something must have happened because another friend went a few days earlier and the tigers performed.

March 31, 2010 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Cat: I never thought it was a big deal until I grew up. Ironically. Hippie sounds very sensible.

EN: We didn't get the guy who spit fire. I don't mind. There was plenty of other stuff to make up for it.

March 31, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ringling bros puts on a professional show... and there are a few smaller circuses ("circuii") - Kelly Miller for example ( that still know how to do 'circus day'!

hate clowns, though. always have.

March 31, 2010 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Barlinnie said...

"It’s madness. How do you rehearse something like this?"

Easy... you take a week out to drive through rush hour traffic in Italy every day.

April 1, 2010 at 1:06 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: Everybody hates clowns. That's why Stephen King turned one into a serial murderer.

Jimmy: I admire the Italians. In fact, I'M Italian! (Well, half Italian. The other half is Polish. The two most inept armies in WWII. Thanks, mom and dad.) But I don't understand why they drive in such a violent manner? What's to be gained?

April 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger mapstew said...

pffffft! That's nothing!

I live in limerick, I defy death every day!

(Or so some of the national media here would have you believe!)

We are the 'Murder capital Of Europe'! You must visit soon! :¬)

April 1, 2010 at 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those Bionic Brothers look amazing. I love watching circus gymnastics!

I dunno about that elephant circle though.....

April 1, 2010 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger A Free Man said...

I really want to take the kids to a proper circus, but groups like PETA have ruined most of the good ones. The only ones I've been to in the last few years don't have animals at all. Lame. Lame. Lame.

April 7, 2010 at 8:46 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home