We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Russ Sharek a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Russ, thanks for joining us today. How did you learn to do what you do? Knowing what you know now, what could you have done to speed up your learning process? What skills do you think were most essential? What obstacles stood in the way of learning more?
I am a stubborn idiot who takes a perverse delight in doing things the hard way.
This makes steep learning curves feel like comfortable and familiar territory.
Intelligently managed, this could be a terrific asset.
However, fool’s errands are seldom intelligent.
More likely they are born out of the hubris of assuming you’re alone on the journey.
That mindset means no teachers, because you aren’t smart enough to look for them on the path.
Instead, presumption becomes your guide, and you charge like a curious rhinoceros in the direction of wherever you think answers might happen to be.
Inevitably, this is ALWAYS the hardest way to learn ANYTHING.
I wish I had learned sooner that people with wisdom actually want to help because they used to be idiotic rhinoceroses too. Their wisdom is the accumulation of the mistakes they survived.
Learning to slow down enough to hear their stories sooner would have saved me a lot of headaches who’s origin was nothing more than my thinking that I was alone in my stupidity.
Russ, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
Clowns are emotionally present entertainers who playfuly engage their audiences to help them remember to feel optimism, silliness, and full of wonder.
As *mascots of the misfits*, we celebrate all of the absurd and magical things that make us all feel alive and human.
As creators of physical theater, we back up that lofty purpose with a broad array of variety performance skills, original interactive characters, and classically trained big top circus talent.
We are, as one of our young (and extremely wise) fans said, “more people-y than people,” and that’s what makes the [*Circus Freaks*](/contact/) awesome.
We are an ensemble of passionate performing artists who take our creative direction from the clown-in-charge, *Russ Sharek*.
Russ has been described by reliable sources as a zen fool, benevolent supervillain, misanthropic community leader, clown father figure and Impish
A self-described “student for life” in the world of theatrical clown, eccentric performance and variety entertainment, he has chased living circus legends around the world in hopes of gaining a small measure of the “clown wisdom” they possess.
Each time, he’s returned from these journeys with a head full of freshly acquired nonsense, and we’ve slowly evolved into a far wiser group of fools for the trouble.
Beyond our leader’s ever-helpful descent into madness, we’ve also received classical training from improvisation experts, mimes, mask performers, object manipulators, stilt dancers, and at least one grumpy Russian acrobat.
All of these experts worked with us behind the scenes for a single purpose: to expand our range of play into a superpower.
Play is more than a pleasant distraction. It is a magical ability to manifest a contagiously happy state, to discover games in the moment, and enjoy getting
fully lost in them.
In a world that has gotten a little too grown-up, reclaiming that childlike state of wonder can not only re-humanize a gathering, it can inspire and remind people that they are capable of making their own magic too.
What can society do to ensure an environment that’s helpful to artists and creatives?
Pay them for the fact that their imaginations have not been completely crushed by capitalism.
Have any books or other resources had a big impact on you?
Here’s two things I recommend watching/reading:
Read before considering making a profession out of your creativity:
Derek Sivers “Your Music and People”
Watch before engaging with social media:
The Social Dilemma, 2020.
- Website: https://circusfreaks.org
- Other: In the last couple of years, we’ve been looking closely at where the ‘shout-y’ and ‘share-y’ portions of the internet seemed to be heading, and came to realize that way of communicating with people simply didn’t feel healthy for us. As an experiment, we’ve decided to move our company entirely off social media. So far, we’re happy to report that it’s been a magical experience. To be clear: We aren’t suggesting, or even recommending, that anyone else suddenly decide to declare themselves a ‘digital vegan’. What you do with your internet presence and online time is your own business. We’ve come to believe there many ways to accomplish the goal of genuine human connection. As clowns, we’re completely comfortable with being the weird ones out there exploring other possible ways of accomplishing the task.