Circus Ringmaster

Life's a circus for Johnathan Lee Iverson -- literally -- and he loves every minute of it.

"Circus is the prize fighting of entertaining. You don't play circus, like you don't play boxing. It's something that you live," said the 34-year-old ringmaster in a recent Newport News Daily Press article.

Iverson is a ringmaster for the world-famous and legendary Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey traveling circus. He's the first African-American and youngest ringmaster in their storied history.

A ringmaster serves as the host of ceremonies and a guide for the performances. They are there to excite the crowd and build drama. But outside of being flamboyant and bombastic, what does a circus ringmaster do?

He should be familiar and comfortable with hectic environments, such as acrobats, tightrope walkers, fire jugglers and large exotic animals. It's crucial to improvise and entertain while spending long hours on your feet.

Depending on the circus, the ringmaster may also have to handle questions from the audience during a show and do promos and outreach outside the ring.

Someone who wants to become a ringmaster can do one of the following: Attend circus school (yes, they do exist), train as an actor or improv performer, or work through the circus ranks.

For Iverson, the profession is so much more than top hats and sequins.

"When you get to travel this often, when you get to be around this many people, when you get to witness excellence all the time, when you live among people who fly, who do daring feats ... I think it does something to your capacity for tolerance and understanding the world in a much broader sense," the seasoned ringmaster told the Daily Press.

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