Steve Smith (clown)

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Steve Smith (born August 8, 1951), professional clown and circus director, is best known to audiences as the clown character, "TJ Tatters."


Smith grew up in Zanesville, Ohio and is a graduate of Zanesville High School.

Steve Smith began his career in clowning as a graduate of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, Class of 1971. He then toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for six seasons before leaving the show and moving to Chicago, Illinois, where he attended the Goodman School of Drama and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from the institution, now usually known as The Theater School at DePaul University. At that time, he also hosted a children's television series called Kidding Around for the local NBC affiliate, WMAQ. The program won several Emmy Awards and was a favorite among viewers for seven seasons.

Steve's connection with Ringling resumed when he became Director of Clown College in 1985, a post he held for ten years. He was also the director for the 123rd edition of Ringling Bros.

Smith became involved with the staging of a number of performances and productions from the off-Broadway hit The It Girl to programs for Walt Disney World to shipboard entertainment with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Later, Smith worked with animator/cartoonist Chuck Jones as Talent Development Coordinator for his production company. He continued to work with Jones until Jones's death in 2002.

In 2005, Smith started working with the Big Apple Circus as their Guest Director, a collaboration that extended through three seasons, ending in 2009.[1]

Smith was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1993.[citation needed] He is also the recipient of several other honors including: the Medal of Merit for Notable Achievement in Performing Arts from Ohio University[citation needed], the Excellence in the Arts award from De Paul University[citation needed], and the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art Circus Celebrity, Power Behind the Scenes.[citation needed]

On April 1, 2015, Smith joined Circus Center, San Francisco’s circus training and performing arts center, as its Creative Director.[2]


  1. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (November 2, 2010). "The Artists and Oddballs Under a Tent". New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  2. ^ Circus Center Names a Real Clown, Steve Smith, as Its New Creative Director