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Interview:
Fresh the Clownsss at UniverSoul Circus, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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What started as a "hobby" at backyard parties has become a full-blown business for Detroit's Ira Smith -- aka Fresh the Clown.



Smith's Fresh the Clownsss troupe, with cast members aged 10-30 from around the country, has been part of the UniverSoul Circus for the past five years, spreading its cheerful positivity around the country. The Clownsss have also released 55 videos and 13 music tracks, keeping its YouTube channel well-populated, and has made appearances on the BET Awards and "Showtime at the Apollo."



The sane Clownsss posse is still available for parties, and it seeks to bring the party to every situation it encounters...



• Smith began clowning around when his business partner asked him to help her out for her daughter's birthday party. "She asked me to dress up and be the clown, and when I did it something different happened," says Smith, who was working at American Freight in Livonia at the time. "I did all the type of swag dances we do, and the kids loved it so I took it up as a hobby. Then I created the "JuJu on That Beat" dance and it went viral and this just took off from there."



• Smith says the Clownsss business is something he never imagined taking off as well as it has. "I was doing it as a hobby to make a couple of dollars and help my family out. I didn’t know it was going to blow up like this, with the TV and the music and everything we're doing. You couldn't have told me any of this."



• He's also happy that the Clownsss have made a positive impact on its audience. "We talk to kids through our social media, and we're like superman to them. We've had suicide kids, abused kids talk to us, and we talk them out of doing things. They call for help, for everything. I don't know what they see in us, but I know it's something special."



• As he's expanded the ranks, Smith has also created strict rules for his Clownsss. "Everything is very positive. Every clown I hire, if they're going to school they have to have good grades. If you fall off on your grades I will have to sit you out, and if you can't get your grades up you're out. It's like a mini Boys & Girls Club. Everything is positive, and you're making money at the same time."



• Smith says it's also important that each clown has his or her own identity. "They can't look like the other clowns I have on my team. They have to have a unique look. Every clown I hire, I sit back and figure out what this clown is going to look like -- the facial structure, what kind of name we want. I'm Fresh; Everybody knows Fresh the Clown is the founder. Fresh P is the one with the dreads and all the jewelry, wearing six or seven chains. They all have their own look, and whenever someone calls in and wants to book us they know which clown they want."



Fresh the Clownsss is part of the UniverSoul Circus running through Thursday, Sept. 5-Sept. 29 at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, 2600 E. Atwater St. at Chene. $20-$48. 800-745-3000 or TheAretha.com.

Web Site: www.TheAretha.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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