Why do fellow clowns call Dean Kelley The Swiss Army Knife?
Because he's just about as versatile as that clever tool, possessing such skills as juggling, walking on stilts, making sound effects, riding a unicycle and spinning all sorts of objects in all kinds of directions.
He can even balance a two-wheeler on his chin.
It's hard, but it's very rewarding, Kelley, 32, said of his job, which will bring the Kansas City native to Wilkes-Barre for four days of Barnum Bash, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The production comes to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza from Thursday through Nov. 4, and, Kelley said, it will give audiences a chance to watch performers who put a great deal of effort into their work.
A lot of people think you just put on a funny costume and big shoes, he said. Putting on the make-up is the smallest part of it. We're always trying to stay in shape, to keep up with the rigors of the road.
Barnum Bash, which Kelley described as like a great big block party, includes such popular acts as Mighty Dmytrio, Motorcycle Mania, Epix Asian Elephants and a Wheel of Steel on which acrobats climb around, inside and outside, and even skip rope as the contraption rotates.
Kelley's personal favorites have long been those silly-looking folks who try to make people laugh. He decided he wanted to join them when he was a 4-year-old attending his first circus in Kansas City with his grandparents.
There were these grownups that go to wear these colorful costumes and perform for millions of people, he said.
He wanted to be like them, though he remembers being a shy kid.
When he adopts his clown persona – kind of a goofy character, kind of a nerdy guy trying to fit in – any hint of shyness vanishes.
And, nowadays, there are people in the audience – a new generation of clowns, perhaps? – who see him and feel inspired.
It's very humbling to have people tell me that I'm the reason they want to be a Ringling Bros. clown, Kelley said. It's very humbling, very cool and a lot of pressure at the same time.
What: ‘Barnum Bash,' the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, 255 Highland Park Blvd, Wilkes-Barre Township
When: 7 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m. Nov. 2; 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Nov. 3; 1 p.m. Nov. 4
Tickets: starting at $25.50
More info: 800-745-3000