If anything, Joey Thurmond cannot be faulted for a boring professional life. As a teenager, he set out to be a professional wrestler, but a significant back injury forced him out of the ring. He flirted briefly with rodeo riding before taking on a more sedate position as a police officer. But a chance visit to a circus museum convinced him that he was meant to be a clown – and an entrepreneurial impulse drove him to create his own mini-circus, with his wife, teenage son and a Colombian acrobat as his collaborators.
Daniel Espeut’s invigorating documentary focuses on Thurmond’s NoJoe’s Clown Circus as it travels from one small town gig to the next. For all the merriment created in the ring, life is anything but funny for Thurmond: a problem in the immigration status of his Colombian acrobat created a legal nightmare, while his son (a pleasant but reserved young man with no overt signs of desiring a show biz career) begins to rebel against his status as a baggy pants-clad second banana. The financial problems of running this operation are fairly obvious, especially when one can count the number of audience members on both hands and still have fingers left over.
Still, Thurmond is a charmer and his ability to spin his tumult-heavy existence into a happy-go-lucky misadventure is a testament to his skills as an entertainer. Perhaps Espeut’s charming and entertaining film can launch Thurmond into future film-related endeavors – or, at the very least, his own reality TV show.