Christopher Hudert did not plan to be a clown. He started stage acting at age 11, performing in the 1960s and ’70s at Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, which was across the street from his Richmond home. But at 17, when his mother volunteered him to fill in for a friend who had taken ill and could not perform her roving clown routine at the state fairgrounds, “Clowns weren’t really on my radar,” he says. “Other than what most people don’t really think of as clowns, like Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton.”
A performer nonetheless, the dutiful son donned a latex nose and painted beard and came up with a slow-moving tramp character named “Adam.” It was a hit, and it led to several more gigs.
Adam was Hudert’s first clown character, but not his last. In 1982, while majoring in theater education at Virginia Commonwealth University, he left school to attend Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s highly selective, 10-week clown college, which landed him a circus contract. He spent nine years traveling with “The Greatest Show on Earth,” serving as “boss clown” of each of Ringling’s three clown units. Along the way, Hudert performed for several U.S. presidents, and met another clown named Peggy, whom he would marry. When at last he “ran away from the circus to join a home” in 1991, the clown life came with him.
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