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He can clown around

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Growing up in Kansas City, Kan., Eric Stonestreet pictured his future behind bars, not as a convict but as a prison administrator.

But he also had a streak of clown in him. That’s clown as in circus -- as in red nose and big shoes.

What would it be, warden or entertainer?

Stonestreet chose laughs, and today he’s one of the breakout stars of the TV season as lovable, larger-than-life Cameron on ABC’s “Modern Family.”

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“I got fascinated by clowning as a kid,” he says. “And I actually worked as a clown, doing birthday parties. I was written up in the Kansas City paper when I was in grade school.”

But at Kansas State University, he majored in sociology, until a friend dared him to audition for a play (“Prelude to a Kiss”) and he landed the role.

“People told me I was good, and I believed them,” Stonestreet says.

So he ran away to join the circus -- on paper. “I applied to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College,” he said. “They didn’t take me.”

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Maybe that was for the best, Stonestreet, 38, says now. Being part of a hit comedy series has given him opportunities he never imagined.

After working and studying in Chicago with the improv groups IO Chicago and Second City, Stonestreet moved to Los Angeles a decade ago, continuing to work in comedy and commercials.

TV roles followed, including a multi-episode run on “CSI” in Seasons 1-5 as technician Ronnie Litre. He broke into movies playing a desk clerk in “Almost Famous.”

But pilot season after pilot season, either the right role didn’t come along, or he didn’t get cast. Then he landed “Modern Family.”

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In a recent episode, viewers learned that Cameron is a classically trained clown named Fizbo and takes clowning very, very seriously.

Stonestreet happily describes taking his childhood love of clowning into his “dream job” on “Modern Family” as coming full circle.

“Another dream come true,” he says.


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