HBCU Graduate Is the Circus’ Only African-American Clown

After finishing high school in Atlanta, Jamarr Woodruff applied to Ringling Brothers Clown College. As one of 1,300 candidates for just a few positions, Woodruff was not accepted. With his dream of becoming a circus clown dashed, he went to work as a dishwasher.

The next spring Woodruff matriculated at Alabama State University, but he hadn’t given up his dream of becoming a circus clown. He participated in campus theatrical productions and earned money as a clown for children’s birthday parties. While in college he also honed his juggling and tumbling skills.

After graduation from Alabama State in 2002, Woodruff enrolled in a graduate program at the Dell’arte International School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake, California.  He later enrolled at the Clown Conservatory at the Circus Center in San Francisco. There he was recruited by Ringling Brothers for its 136th annual tour. This season he is the only black among 30 clowns in the large-city Ringling Brothers tour. Known as the J-Man and the Clown of Crunk, Woodruff performs as many as 18 shows a week.