Elmo Gibb and his Teeny Weeny Circus -- no pigs yet, but there's a mind-reading pony.
Full disclosure: Nothing at a circus delights me so much as a very unusual animal entering the ring, even if it only does, well, almost anything All it need do is something unexpected, and I’m a happy fan. Yes, a bag of popcorn please!
Perhaps the sheer elation, the humor and joy of it all reconnects me to how the circus can delight children. How it, I suppose, delighted me in my boyhood.
It’s a reason why I love the more bohemian animal acts of Jenny Vidbel, who’s been a regular of late on the Big Apple Circus. A while back, she had, did she not, a rodent and a performing skunk? Critters off the beaten big top path. And she had them snapping to and fro on cue. Now, that’s entertainment!
When my friend Boyi Yuan, who went to Ringling’s Out of This World with his girlfriend, told me about the experience, I asked him what he thought of the show. He twisted his face in frustrated ambivalence. “I wish there wasn’t so much stuff going on,” he said, stating his preference for watching the acts in a less overdone format. He thinks the show might please the children more than the adults
And then his face brightened fully. “I loved the animals!”
I told him how much I agreed, how they had, for me, made the show, too.
“The pig!” he said.
Around a pig Boyi and I could rally a shared joy. We talked about how it reached the top of the slide and stood there for a moment, looking down in hesitation, and then on all fours, and ever so cautiously, made the slide all the way down.
Boyi, raised on a farm in China around barnyard critters, wondered, in a kind of awe, how it could have been taught to perform as a it did.
So did I.
Up there at the top is a photo found and linked my way by Don Covington, of the Teeny Winny Circus, whose mover and shaker, clown Elmo Gibb, presents it at fairs. It reminded me of the old John Strong circus when it played county fairs under a tiny little top, when John greeted the audience as an ambassador of great and looming gratitude. “Oh, look who I see in the crowd! Well, how are you! Hey, there’s Art!”
When he coached a gaggle of home grown mutts through their boisterous basics.
When he touted big moments in his humble ring. “Got a good hand, Muster the Clown!”
When he even once had a little elephant, Nina, in his mighty little lineup.
Boyi and I fell into accord over how the animals at Ringling made the show.
In my opinion, they rescued a shaky space voyage. When all else fails, bring in the dogs. Even better, give us a pig fit for the greatest show on earth!
originally posed September 14, 2016