There really aren't too many things better than Carnivals, and especially the ole time Side Show’s equipped with freaks doing freaky things that make you cringe and look away. But, you still can’t help but continue to sneak peeks through your finger covered face to continue to watch.
Carnivals have so much excitement and romance as well as sensory overload that it’s always been a bit of a fetish or maybe even an addiction for me. I can’t get enough.
Naturally, all of my love for this living breathing oddity went into to an entire perfume line called The KrAzY KaRnIvAl Side show Freak Collection
but, I would not have ever been so inspired if it were not for the fabulous performers themselves. (are you thinking what I'm thinking?! ;)
One of my all time favorite modern day freak shows has been created by the outstandingly talented Freak Show lord, Jim Rose himself!
My goodness is there anything this guy can’t do?! Not only is he a Ringmaster extraordinaire but, remains one of the most versatile talents with (what seems like) a never ending bag full of freaky tricks up his sleeve. Not to mention the fact the he’s seriously the coolest dude this side of the sun, and I genuinely mean that. His Blog is called "JimRose circus scams fraud and con artists BEWARE ...” Please go check it out here!!
I now proudly introduce Jim Rose!
If I was a complete virgin to the Jim Rose Circus and had never heard of you, what
would be your description of it to me?
JR: You'll see the unexpected. Thrills, chills and doctor bills. A ticket's good for a seat but
you'll only use the edge. It's over-the top high-flying bone-jarring excitement. Not since
Christians were fed to the lions has there been a show this hysterical.
But I bet if I told you that there was an episode of the SIMPSONS where Homer ran
away to the join my circus as the human cannonball, you would in fact realize that you are
familiar with me. Or if I told you that I was in one of the most popular episodes of the XFILES
or had my own weekly tv show on the TRAVEL CHANNEL, you may go "oh,
okay, I do know him." But if you don't have any of that reference to help you along, just
expect the unexpected.
YOUR EARLY YEARS
The best place to start would be your beginnings, what was the family life
like with your parents?
So there was a heavy dose of moral dogma?
JR: Yeah, and it was always fluid, the doctrine was never set in concrete. It changed as the
selfish needs of my parents needed them to. So what applied to the good book one day,
didn't necessarily the next; they were hypocrites but aren't we all?
Tell us about your early years. Where did you grow up, and how did you end
up honing your skills in Europe before coming to national prominence in
JR: I was born premature and cross eyed. My father was an amateur magician and
mentalist. After birth I was so small I had to stay at the hospital in an incubator for 2
weeks. Standard cribs were too big so when I was brought home my parents fitted me in a
shoe box to serve as my first bed. My mother used to joke that she didn't remember how
much I weighed but she did know I was a women's size 7. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona
as something of a freak myself, not getting corrective surgery for my crossed-eyes until the
age of eight.
I lived across the street from the fairgrounds and went to all the traditional circuses,
monster truck shows, motorcycle daredevils, freak shows and legitimate theater that came
to town. My first job was at the fairgrounds, doing odd jobs like going around selling soft
drinks. I fetched soft drinks and cigarettes for the Lobster Boy, the Penguin Boy, the Frog
Boy. I was doing that for awhile and then learned to do the human blockhead and learned
how to be a motorcycle daredevil. That was my first real job, but I had a little motorcycle
accident. I attempted to jump 27 cows and must have landed on some spent cud. I went a
bit wobbly, I cleared the cows but still managed to crash. I hurt my back so that's why
when I speak to you today I have the posture of a jumbo shrimp.
I kind of gave up on entertaining for a while: I attended the University of Arizona and
studied political science, moved to Washington DC and dabbled in spoken word
performances, played in punk bands and the like while working on fundraising events for
social causes (as well as a stint in car sales). I used to perform at a place called D.C. Space
that was back in the day of Henry Rollins and Fugazi, this was right about 1984-85. I was
there when that happened, I didn't break because I was not very good at that time, I only
got started. At one of my shows I ran into a little French girl named Bebe who comes
from a circus family in France. She has been my beloved wife for over 25 spectacular
years. She took me to France and I began working with her family circus. She introduced
me to the European tradition of circus spectacle, which inspired me to research it
thoroughly. Her brother is the director of the Royal De Luxe, the largest circus in Europe;
one sister and her German husband have the Randalini circus, and I used to travel with
them, going around the Lake of Constance. So I learned a great deal about circus stuff
and freak shows at that time, I didn't know too much about how to run a freak show. It
was hard to find anything about it in the US because it had disappeared for about fifteen
years. So I brought some of the American stunts over there and I picked up some Euro
stunts, brought them back to the US.
I then went to Venice beach where I worked as Jimmy the Geek Rubber Man, I got my
presentation skills up doing seven shows a day, seven days a week as a street performer.
That is how I made my money - fucking with tourists...
Then I started the Jim Rose Circus and reintroduced American audiences to freak-show
attractions in Seattle and it seemed like likeminded monsters sat up in their crypts and
Things went so well in Seattle that we went down to Portland,OR and that sold out, and
soon we were asked to tour Canada. We became so well known in Canada that we started
getting calls to do TV shows and then things exploded. It all happened in about a 6
Considering the circus was put together before the age of Facebook and
Craigslist, how did you manage to pull together all the people involved?
JR: Yeah, like I said, like minded people sat up in their crypts and started to audition.
There was a little click of people that were interested in it and there was no place really to
perform this stuff. I would go around the clubs in Seattle and talk to the owners about it
and they would look at me like I killed the Lindberg kid. I found this little Middle Eastern
restaurant that was across the street from my house called Ali Baba's, which on Thursday
nights they had belly dancers. So I talked to the owners Ali and Baba, whatever I don't
remember their names, and I ended up doing a gig. I put up some posters and I thought
that I would get about twenty of my friends; instead I got there two hours early and the
place was packed with a line outside. Since everyone had gotten in early so they didn't
have to pay, I had to start the show going around getting money from everyone. There
was this group of people outside who refused to pay and pressed their faces against the
window of the restaurant. I was just winging it at the time, didn't even know what my
show was going to be since I thought no one was would show up; so I started the show off
talking to those people staring through the window. In that melee of people were
individuals like Kurt Cobain and a few other names that escape my mind, so I went
outside with a plastic bat and told the people they had to pay a dollar or I would hit them
over the head with the bat. The people on the inside who had already paid the 6 dollars to
be inside got to watch.
I turned the people outside INTO the show. Everyone inside was looking outside at me
going around collecting those dollars, if they didn't have a dollar I would bop them on the
head with the plastic bat. That is pretty much how the show got started, I got back in and
did my shit, it was pretty punk. I guess that is why I get some kind of weird credibility,
because before that show punk pretty much meant rock and roll, and I pretty much
expanded it to include performance type art that wasn't musical.
In '92 your show saw its breakthrough point with Lollapalooza, how did you
end up getting recruited for the festival?
JR: I'd done a sold out tour of Canada and I'd done some national television in the US.
Perry Farrell saw the Sally Jessie Raphael show and he asked me to join up. We did and
we've not looked back since. At the time I had no idea who his band was. Hell the first day
of Lollapalooza someone pointed out this band to me and said “look it is Jane's
Addiction!” I said “well I hope she gets treatment.”
The festival itself was so beyond anything given to the public at that time,
what did you think of the whole event? Any crazy stories that come to mind?
JR: That is true because most of them were stationary at the time. As for the crazy stories,
that time was really a spunk incrusted blur..Yeah it is pretty blurry.
A lot of alcohol fueled nights?
JR: No a lot of complete stress. I was on MTV everyday, so it was very hard to go out in
public and the first time I ever had to deal with anything like that. Of course as soon as it
stopped airing on TV everyone stopped recognizing me.
TOURING WITH NINE INCH NAILS
From what I understand the festival was when you first began to be friends
with Trent Reznor, what brought you guys together and how did that lead up
to you touring with him for the Downward Spiral Tour?
JR: Actually that is not true. I had gotten a phone call, I had heard that he had come to a
few of my shows and watched it.
I was a bit clueless...I was about ten years older than everyone on that tour. I get on Lollapalooza and go oh boy! So I picked up a copy of Spin
Magazine and watched about twenty minutes of MTV and I said oh I see they have this
new edit thing going on, where you see everything quick quick quick, these days you see it
on every network but it was a new edit style back then. These audience wanted it fast with
the F word. I was the first to do an MTV type of a live show, I made it feel like you
needed a swivel on your neck with how fast we were doing the performance, it felt like
Biblical times, there were miracles happening everywhere. That was the type of feeling I
was going for but with a little more of a growl as a character.
X-FILES AND THE SIMPSONS
You've appeared in a few culturally significant television shows, such as
acting in the X-Files and being immortalized in The Simpsons. How did the
X-Files gig come about?
JR: Chris Carter, the producer, read my book (FREAK LIKE ME), he was a fan and so
was David Duchovny. They originally got in touch with me to see if I could do something
on the show. I'd never heard of the X-Files I was touring Europe at the time and I said no,
and they came back again and again, they were very adamant and I said no. Then my
agent called me up one day and said, you know this is a pretty big show, and said they will
let me help write the script if I decide to be in it. Which I replied “now I definitely don't
want to be in it because that sounds like too much work”. They called back with a good
offer, so I said okay, I won't help write it; Darin Morgan wrote it and he did a really good
The episode was Humbug from the second season of the X-Files and I was featured as Dr
Blockhead. Trivia fans may be curious to know that Gillian Anderson ate a live cricket
after a dare from me during the filming. It was the first real curve ball episode, I was the
lead murder suspect in it, they do fan favorite voting and that episode comes in at number
one or number two all the time.
And then The Simpsons, well they got a hold of me, they wanted to do a Homer-palooza.
They knew that my show was pretty much the vibe of that festival for many years. My
wife Bebe is the Human Cannonball in the Jim Rose Circus, so Homer basically took her
place in that episode.
That's quite some swap.
JR:Yeah, I swapped my wife for a cartoon.
After The X-Files and The Simpsons, things changed for us. People perceived us
differently. We got the rock-and-roll tour buses and nice hotels. It was like some kind of
pop-culture thing going on.
Did the X-Files give you a taste for acting? Can we expect to see you in the
JR: There's this movie out with Ben Affleck who I just beat in poker for a bit of money.
His production company, Project Greenlight, did this thing in the US, called Outing Riley,
and I'm a priest in it, and I actually play it straight.
On the topic of film productions, there was a series on HBO called
Carnivale which centered on a traveling freak show circus. Have you seen it
and do you think it would have been better done with you and your crew?
JR: Actually I was asked to be in it, but I was too busy. I had a really big career in Europe
and Australia so I was not in the US as often as I would like to be.
THE BOOK SNAKE OIL
Are you a debunker, like Penn and Teller or James Randi? Or do you just
leave them to get on with their own thing?
JR: Well, in my book Snake Oil, there's a lot of debunking!
Do you think other performer and magicians are going to get upset because
you're revealing the trade secrets?
JR: No, you know, I don't care! Some of that stuff, like how to train a bear to ride a
bicycle, or how to hypnotize different animals, is going to get lost forever, and one of the
reasons to put out Snake Oil was to make sure that the information was preserved.
Although there's a caveat at the beginning, warning that many of the tricks
are dangerous, do you think that there's a danger people will use this book
as a manual and try some of the more dangerous tricks like being run over
by a car?
JR: Yeah, that's a concern of mine, and I hope they don't, and I hope they have somebody
that's right there on the spot that can help with it. A lot of the stuff in the book could land
you in jail; it's not exactly illegal, it's a sort of psychological manipulation, calculations,
misdirections that take place in every day life. So I hope people don't use it to, uh, become
a pimp and turn girls into prostitutes, and I'm hoping people will use this book in a
positive way. Its goal really is to show what's out there so that you don't get taken.
Snake Oil had some hysterical bar tricks, including the old pick up the $10
bill trick where did you gather these pranks from?
JR: You know what? I had so much stuff in my head that I just didn't want it to get lost.
This is stuff you would only know if you had hung around hustlers in the 70s and 80s, and
that is what I did. I just didn't want it to be lost, since I was one of the few old guys left
who could get it published. My motivation was what does a street education mean? You
hear about it all the time, now to get that degree you have to go through a ton of hard
knocks. So I figured I would give people their street education without the hard knocks.
The second tier of the reason why I decided to write the book was, for example: brain
washing! You can read a 200 page book on brainwashing and at the end of the book you
know about as much about it as when you started. Then it dawns on you, wow I could
have distilled that into about two paragraphs and I would have understood it! So why did
the author need to write 200 pages? Because that is what a fucking book is. And that really
frustrated me. I just came from the position that everything in the book could be summed
up in a few paragraphs, this is what it is so here it is.
The third motivation behind the book was to allow people after reading it to be dumped
off into a country that they didn't know the language and still be able to make a living and
survive. I wanted to chock that book full of different kinds of information: how to scam
people, how to change your identity, how to disguise yourself, how to win a fight if
cornered, how to do easy jail time if you have to go to jail, how to win free pints at a pub,
different magic tricks, circus stunts, how to get even with people... it's an eclectic
encyclopedia on all things“shysterish”. I thought that'd be fun to put that out.But the most
important point for the book came one day when I had an epiphany."What if all the street
psychology I've learned was used in a legal way as part of a DIY marketing strategy?" I
tried it with a show I was barely able to perform, it was all a bunch of made up on the
spot BS. I called it the Jim Rose Circus. Due to my marketing angles that very first show
sold out and I never looked back.I ended up on the covers of THE WALL STREET
JOURNAL,FAST COMPANY MAGAZINE and was the featured example of
advertising acumen in the best selling business book THE DEVIANTS ADVANTAGE.
The problem with getting a real street education is that you have to go through a lot of
hard knocks and pain for the degree. In 2005 I remedied that dilemma for the masses. I
wrote the most complete book ever offered on all things scam fraud and con artist. What
did I name the book? "SNAKE OIL".
That was pretty much what I wanted to accomplish with the book, and a few other topics
that fit into those categories that I could pull off. It is about a 200 page book but you get
about 700-800 scams from it.
The response has been huge by the way; on Amazon.com they've really been selling a ton
Out of curiosity, have you seen the 1932 cult classic movie Freaks? What are
your thoughts on it?
JR: Of course, but I hadn't seen it until I already had a career...well I wouldn't say had a
career, but I was already doing it. I was still punkin it in Seattle...without a Mohawk,
I had really long hair. I had hair in places that monkeys don't.
Any video games?
JR: EA sports SSX Tricky. I am Psymon. And they liked that game so much I am also
Psymon on the new one - Sled Storm II.
You've relocated for a while from Portland, OR to Las Vegas. So what was
once the "Jim Rose Circus Sideshow" is now an act in Vegas?
JR: Yeah, we knocked off the "Sideshow" part in 1994 after we sold out three straight
nights in Madison Square Garden. We're the Jim Rose Circus now, not really much of a
sideshow after that point.
Is there a typical audience member you guys tend to attract?
JR: There is no such thing anymore. I have been around too long. You will see a biker
next to a cowboy, next to a punk rocker, next to a University artist, next to a lesbian. And
they are all pointing at the stage, laughing, and slapping each other on the back.
I pretty much bring communities together. God's work.
BEING A PRECURSOR
You were a precursor for much of the grunge performance art and circus
sideshows, and things like Jackass, and Dirty Sanchez in the UK. Do you feel
like you're the grandaddy of this stuff?
JR: Well, a lot of the Jackass guys have said publicly that I am. I knew 'em back when they
were little mules. They are good guys.
Dirty Sanchez, not very familiar, but I've been around since they were clean!
I know in the United States and I don't necessarily agree with this but publications like
Time, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal give me credit for starting a fashion trend
for piercing and tattooing: the circus brought it to national consciousness, prior to other
There are other reasons why that took off, but they do call me “the God of Bod Mod”!
which is as close to hip as Newsweek can get!
You have seen so many people jump on the band wagon how have you stayed
ahead of your own curve to keep up?
JR: Yeah, twenty years ago I started with a guy with a few tattoos and one piercing. Now,
that guy's your next door neighbor.
But with Jim Rose Circus, I have a brand. I was on the covers of the Wall Street Journal,
Fast Company... I'm not this trained business guy but I have an idea about what it takes to
convince people that their life is incomplete if they don't buy a ticket, plan an evening, get
in their car and see something that their better nature tells them not to.
YOUR SHOW ELEMENTS
Tell the bile beer story.
JR:We do an act that has a performer thread 7 feet of tubing into his stomach via the
nose and we use a huge cylinder and pump all kinds of stuff into the stomach (mostly beer
and Pepto Bismol) then we do a reversal and pump the stomach contents back into the
cylinder and pour the concoction into a cup and the performer drinks it.The joke with
that stunt went "It's the after after taste he worries about". One night Chris Cornell of
SOUNDGARDEN walked on stage and drank it. Eddie Vedder of PEARL JAM saw this
and came up the next night, then Al Jourgansen, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers,
Gibby from the Butthole Surfers, all came up the next night to partake. It made MTV.
After that we needed extra security because at shows the audience would rush the stage to
drink the vomit.
Do you still do that stunt?
JR: We still do the act, but it's done in a more scientific and explanatory way. And
audience participation is not encouraged.
We're not really doing a gross and disgusting show anymore; it's more of a thrill show. It's
like P.T. Barnum meets John Waters.
It's a much, much bigger show now.
In your circus, there seems to be an element of returning to an almost
Victorian sense of the macabre. Are you a fan of those old-style touring
freak shows and carnivals?
JR: You know I used to be, but I gotta tell ya, there were so many people that were I guess
we could say inspired, other people would say imitating, my 1992 and 1993 act, word for
word. It was my original inspiration but then I got into power tools and lawnmowers and
chainsaws, the different things you can do with stuff like that, twenty-first century phobias
like Super-Glue, etcetera. And then I morphed into kind of a big wrestling show for a few
years like women Sumo wrestling, Mexican Transvestite Wrestling, etc..
It is an amazing thing though, I took out women Sumo wrestling and Mexican
transvestite wrestling back in '97. That was my biggest selling show, I did 17,000 $35
tickets in just about every city doing theatre runs.
Tell me about Mexican transvestites wrestling.
JR: Yeah! The transvestite wrestling, with the face masks! I was just smoking pot one day
and I thought to myself “Mexican transvestite wrestling? Now that would be cool.”
First of all they wear dildos, and the rules of the contest are simple: the first sissy who can
force into the other one's mouth for a one-two-three count wins. Slapping is allowed, but
fisting, kicking and biting is illegal. No holes barred. There will be no chickens at this
cock-fight, all the action takes place below the belt, and it's a fudge-packin' grudge match.
It is the Mexican Transvestite Wrestling Panty Weight Division Championship Bout. The
belt is on the line, and the bras are gonna fly when these mix it up. We have Low Blow
Ventura, Trailer Trash Guerrero, Pickles Valdez and Billy Martinez "The Barrio Bottom."
He is every man's woman and every woman's man, you will always find him at the bottom
of the pile. I am not sure that he even wants to win. He will be going up against, probably
the sexiest man alive, Tickles Valdez - now these two are former Fag Team partners, and
they hate each other with a pansy passion because Tickles stole Martinez's lover. Billy
Martinez is probably the favorite, because he/she studied Filipino slap-fighting. Tickles
Valdez, on the other hand, can take a good bitch-slap, and is known for breaking the rules.
They've got a bone to pick, and they settle it all across the country! That is some of the
I know I didn't want it to be like regular wrestling.
The wrestlers were all contortionists and the audience didn't know it, so when they started
ripping each other's arms and legs back, it looked very violent.
And what about women Sumo wrestling?
JR: I've got one young lady whose measurements are 36-24-36 and that's just one leg.
You'll feel the earth shake when over 800 pounds of female flesh collide.
We've got Tundra, Large Marge, Judy "The Bull Moose" Jenkins and Katie "The Pile
Driver" Wilson tipping the scale at a dainty six hundred pounds.. We're also looking for
full-figured ladies to challenge our world champions. I pay them by the pound. Their diet
is pretty impressive, with lots and lots of hamburgers and rice. Mmmm... That's some
patter as well.
Do you look for something particular in your performers, as in their history
or presentation? How do you find the people you feature in your circus?
JR: Actually, I come up with weird ideas and then I find people. It can be tough, like with
women's Sumo wrestlers.
How do you recruit women Sumo wrestlers?
JR: That was tough. You don't just go up to a large woman and ask what she weights or if
she wants to be a sumo wrestler because she will knock you into next week.
The ad I wrote up in the Seattle Times saying "seeking full-bodied women willing to travel
around the world" led to mixed results. Aside from the people calling back saying "'full
bodied' is a wine, you mean full figured” or girls calling up at 120 pounds thinking of
themselves as big, or when a qualified applicant would call up, the phrase "women's sumo
wrestling" would get them to immediately hang up. If I approached a large woman on the
streets, I'd get slapped.
What did it was putting an ad out that said "seeking women, 250 pounds plus to tour the
world with performance show." Then they started calling in, all the right ones, and I
would just start small-talking them about the Jim Rose Circus, and every year it is a
different theme. This year the theme is wrestling and we will have all kinds of different
wrestling; sumo, midget, Mexican, etc. and I'd ask “By the way how tall are you? How
much do you weight? How long have you lived in Seattle? Do you like it?etc” Then I
would close the conversation with "hey, I have a meeting, let me think about it and call
you back tomorrow." Then I would call back the next day and say "we had a great talk
last night, I think we'd work well together, but there's only one position open and it's
women sumo wrestling... I don't think you'd really qualify but I'd be willing to give you a
shot. Could you gain a few pounds?" As soon as I said gain a few pounds, they were all
fine with it! "Sure! I'll eat ten hamburgers a day!" That approach seemed to work.
Chainsaw football? You refer to that as if it's something that has made its
way into common vernacular.
JR: Oh yeah, that's a whole new meaning for "halfback." It's just like football, but instead
of a ball we use a chainsaw. The blades are on, we touch stuff with them to demonstrate
before we play the game.
You've always been a performer as well as a ringleader, are you having as
much of a hands-on experience with the show as you once did?
JR: Yes, I come up with the concepts, write the stuff. I try to stay funny.
Lately I've had a girl who comes out nude. I tell her to put her clothes on and she pulls her
top out of her butt, her bottoms out of her vagina and then puts them on.
And a girl that blows blue paint out of her butt. She's a real, uhh... artist. Her rearenderings
are a mixed media. Seeing someone squirting blue paint out of their ass isn't
exactly something you see every week at the Saturday market...
... She's a Pablo Picasshole. They sell her paintings on eBay. You'd be surprised how many
people want that painting when she finishes it. She basically takes an enema before she
steps onstage, so it comes out all Grateful Dead tie-die-shirt-ish.
You've had some extremely interesting performers get their starts and learn
their stunts from you, including pierced weight lifters (a man who is capable
of lifting more than the average bodybuilder... with his dick), Enigma and
the Lizard Man (tattooed head to toe) and The Human Pincushion.
What has changed or evolved since 1994?
JR: The show looks nothing like that anymore. It was a very imitated type of show, one
that you could probably see on any corner anywhere today, but back then it was pretty
Tell me about the pierced weight lifter.
JR: He's actually changed his act now. He's lifting a 17-pound car battery while receiving
an electrical shock with his tongue. He also lifts the concrete block with the nipples and
the irons with the ears, and he lifts 'em all at the same time, all three. Of course, he still
does his famous lift with the part of him that's most a mister.
That thing has gotten huge! It's got an elbow! It gets its own lunch money! He's looking
for a significant other who can house his manhood. He may have to go to a Realtor.
I heard rumors about his penis falling off.
JR: Oh yes..we were in a shopping cart - the whole circus for a photo shoot, and he had
the cart attached to his man hammer through a chain to pull us. He leans back, takes the
cart to the precipice. The shopping cart didn't move like it was supposed to, and I look
down at the end of the chain, and his best friend is hanging on the floor.
Thank god cooler heads prevailed, and we managed to get that head in the cooler. In his
surgery, they did not add any length girth. They took skin off of his butt and grafted it to
his shaft. He says that now when he scratches his ass he gets an erection. It is what it is - it
looks like a dogs chew toy.
Now that he has fully recovered from the John Wayne Bobbit-style operation it is now
bigger, harder and meaner than the Alaskan Pipeline, and it carries more spew. It will
freeze your seed before it hits the restroom tile. It has a heart, a lung, and a mind all its
own. It is like a baby's arm holding an apple.
Any new favorites?
JR: This year I've been really proud of The World's Fattest Contortionist, we've been
taking him out, along with this new kid who's been featured on my TV show.
Any more accidents to report?
JR: Oh sure. I mean if you could see me right now, you would say "Jim - next to you, the
Elephant Man just looks a little puffy." We do this thing in each show where we come up
with challenges for the others to do. And we know each other pretty well, so we know
what each other hates. So I pulled out "Spray yourself in the face with bear repellent."
I have been sprayed with pepper spray. Lots of times. Pepper spray is a no-brainer, double
entendre intended. Now pepper spray is the premature little sister of bear repellent. I
mean - I know it sounds cool to spray yourself in the fact with bear repellent, but I want
the readers to know that it is not a good idea.
We also had a performer lose a little toe in a chainsaw football game.
That's a very underrated toe. You'd be surprised how much a little toe helps with balance.
You don't realize it until you lose it.
For all your fame for presenting human oddities is there anything that you
wouldn't do in your show, or let one of your performers do?
JR: Well, anytime there are stunts done successfully and it still creates blood, or if it has to
do with mutilation, I won't do it. If I put my face in broken glass and let people stomp on
the back of my head and I come out looking like a hamburger, that's not success.
I mean, there is no blood or any of that in the show. I can't seem to get away from the
myths of '91 and '92. And at this point the legend around those shows is so skewed, it's
nowhere near reality. There has never been live mutilation or blood in The Jim Rose
Circus. But I'll be damned if you ask some kids out there who think they knew what
happened back in the old days, they are going to tell you all kinds of stuff...
I had a guy one time who said 'Look Jim, here's what I can do: Audience members can
hold my eyes open while other audience members dump buckets of dirt in them." And I
knew he was wearing the thick contacts, and I knew he was microwaving the dirt to keep a
lot of the potential for infection away. Still, I was noticing that the weight of dumping that
dirt all at the same time was letting dirt get through the contacts and scratch the retina.
And I just thought that it wasn't foolproof enough to be in a professional circus.
The Jim Rose Circus has always relied heavily on a bizarre kind of comedy and that's
what the audience expects, and the stunts are not secondary but they are vehicles to spin
Has anyone fainted in your shows?
JR: The Human Dartboard is the first human marvel act that made my jaw drop. The
Dartboard's response is something I haven't forgotten. Hundreds of people have fainted
during that act over the years.
You only get a lot of people to faint if you tell them they might ahead of time. It's all the
power of suggestion. It's an instruction I have used well in my own exploits as freak-show
We used to have a fainters' corner during the Human Dartboard act where significant
others with a rag would be patting down the foreheads and wiping the bubbles from their
Do you think such gruesome fair still isn't acceptable to the masses?
JR: Just turn on your TV set and take a gander at Guinness World Records or most of the
Today you see acts on prime time television that I was being thrown in jail for in '91 and
Is it better going out with just the circus instead of opening for a band and
not being the center of attention?
JR: Well, I had some of the most fun I've ever had touring with Trent [Reznor, Nine Inch
Nails]. We've been good friends for a long time. But I've got more freedom and time when
Is the ability to do what you do easier or harder when touring the United
States compared to other areas?
JR: We do a lot of touring outside of the U.S. We do Europe, South Africa, all over. One
of the biggest draws is in Australia. Our following is really strange, and I can't explain
why. I just did Houston, a comedy club for a week, and sold it out. Two-thousand people
that came that week, they were all mainstream and my older crowd. Then, in the same
city at a rock club, I did eleven hundred younger people who would never have gone to
the comedy club, and vice versa. It's an odd demographic. I do best in the theaters, but
because I'm "rock and roll" or "comedy" according to the United States, mostly because I
did one tour with Nine Inch Nails and a younger Marilyn Manson in addition to a few
other shows. I have a hard time booking a theatre in the United States, but it's where we
do best. When you're in a theatre, it's art. They let you do everything, it's accepted. It's
what the artist intended, it's what's ascertained and then accepted based on its merits.
Which country loves your circus the most?
JR: It's pretty similar, but I have to give a nod to Australia.
What do you do when you're not touring?
JR: I play poker professionally.
CHARACTERS YOU MET ON THE ROAD
Have you met some shady characters on your travels around the globe?
JR: Luckily yeah. Luckily because that really fascinates me.
Can you give me any examples? Do you come across people who go “Jim
Rose? I'll try and outsmart him!”
JR: I had a guy one time in the live show who absolutely would not participate in any way
shape or form during my hypnotist act. He wouldn't look me in the eyes, he wouldn't
follow any of my instructions when I tried to put him under hypnosis, and I was under a
lot of pressure because there were a couple of thousand people in the audience. Off the
microphone so the crowd couldn't hear, I whispered into his ear, “just play along and I'll
give you a hundred dollars”. As soon as I said it, he rolled around the floor like a pig in
mud and completely humiliated himself. At the end I said, "stand up, before I count to
three to bring you out of hypnosis I want to leave you with a powerful thought: for the rest
of your life you will believe and you'll tell your friends that Jim Rose owes you money, one,
two, three, you are out of hypnosis, ladies and gentlemen give him a big hand!" He
walked back into the crowd saying, "he said he'd give me a hundred dollars!" and nobody
believed him! Hahaha!
Gimme your greatest freak show groupie story.
JR: We were in Holland once, and we had this girl come up to us before the show and she
says "I am the Candle Lady. I stick a candle in my vagina, flip my legs back over my head,
light the candle, take a sip of gasoline, and blow a huge fire ball between my legs." And
we thought "Ok - cool." We didn't have anything else to do at the time. So she takes off
her clothes, lays on her back, sticks the cuntle in her cant, flips her legs back, takes the sip
of gas, and blows a huge fire ball - creating much more heat than a candle is used to. So it
melts the candle, and the wax ran down and created a pool in her anus.
Now, she pulls the candle out, and we all applauded. When she stood up she bowed, and I
heard this ping on the floor it was the clump of wax that had been in her butt - it was an
exact replica of her sphincter. I could have made a key.
You've met William S. Burroughs right?
JR: I have met a lot of famous people in my time, but the coolest moment was when
William Burroughs came to my show.
Al Jourgensen was the one who brought him to my show in Lawrence, KS.
He had a cane but he didn't need it, he basically used it to bat people away as he walked
by. I knew that he loved Ferdinand Celine (French writer), I believe his favorite of his
books was Journey to the Edge of Night but I could be wrong. Anyways I meet Burroughs
for the first time, and I had no idea what to say to him. So I said “hey Mr. Burroughs what
do you think about Ferdinand Celine?” And he replied “he's dead”. So now when people
ask me about Burroughs I say “he's dead”. Figured I would carry it on.
In the realm of books, you have written three yourself ( Freak Like Me,
Snake Oil & Your Lucky Book) how different was it to make this leap from
performer to writer?
JR: About as easy as it was to make a leap into an actor. If you want a green suit I have a
green suit, if you want a blue suit I have a blue suit.
My book Freak Like Me was sold as a movie. They've got the script now, and they're going
to start trying to cast it. That ought to be an interesting project. But I'm not going to act in
it. There's also a documentary being done on us. Both of them will go to theaters.
What would people be surprised to learn about you that they won't glean
from the books and documentaries?
JR: In Freak Like Me, I guess I pretty much give it up. I don't think there are many
surprises, really, because I was pretty open. But I guess people who haven't read it would
be surprised how much I love my wife, and how I spend my down time with her, taking
long walks with her and playing pinball.
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS
Recently you just went on tour with Jake The Snake Roberts how did this
crazy idea come about? Are you actually stepping in the ring with him?
JR: Yes . You know the movie The Wrestler was based on the documentary called Beyond
the Mat which featured Jake The Snake Roberts who has had some ups and downs as we
all have and I was always a big fan. I would like one of my last stories to be touring with
Jake The Snake Roberts.
I wrote the show. It is basically pretty girls, amazing circus stunts, pro wrestling, and a fist
fight. Who could ask for more?
The story line is that I bring Jake out and talk about how great he is, and ask him some
questions like what was it like to slam Andre the Giant. He will answer it, which you never
know what Jake will say on any given night. So at some point in the evening he has to get
the people to turn, which he is really good at, so to upset the audience and create the need
for a fight he tells me that he appreciates my comments but he takes real offense by circus
people. So we try to impress him, and Jake makes fun of every thing that we do and
finally the circus attacks him and he beats the hell out of everybody; except me. So him
and I finish off the show with a fight.
When I booked the Jake The Snake show all these wrestlers started calling up from across
the country getting in touch saying “I'll bring a table, I'll bring a trash can, I'll bring
anything as long as Jake The Snake throws me through it!”
TV SHOW JIM ROSE TWISTED TOUR
Do you have final say on how the episodes of TV show The Jim Rose Twisted
Tour turn out?
JR: Oh, God no, that wouldn't have been fair. There are a lot of really creative people
involved. I've got as much input as an idiot deserves. There's really good, savvy, smart TV
people. I'm just a circus goof.
But in the stage show, you have final say on what goes up there. Was it tough
to give up control for the TV show?
JR: Not really. During my live shows, there is a microphone on the left-hand side of the
stage where any one of the performers can go say whatever they want whenever they
want. Control freaks don't let that happen.
You guys are all performers. Do things change when the reality show
cameras are on you?
JR: Well, I think everybody is aware there are cameras the first couple of days. But then
you just get used to them. We're all crammed into a bus, which is a giant test tube on
wheels. I know none of the footage where we were aware made it to the final shows, so
you're getting a pretty true depiction of elements of what it's like.
What legal limits most frustrate you? Would we get a better performance if
there were no rules?
JR: Well, in all other parts of the world, complete nudity is not offensive. I mean, I go all
through Europe, Australia, Japan and Brazil, and nobody really cares. My women Sumo
wrestlers wrestle all over the world topless. In some cities, they have to wear little pasties.
And they're not topless for sexploitation purposes; it's because they're athletes, and they
don't want to be hindered by extra clothing.
Do you ever find yourself assimilating into popular society, or do you just
say "fuck you, I'm Jim Rose, I do what I do."
JR: I have a lot of assimilation issues. Lots of anxiety problems. I know I'm this guy that
looks larger than life onstage, but I'm just this geeky individual. I'm not certain how to
handle stuff in social situations real well, I'm not too good at it. I don't go out much.
Could you imagine a parallel universe where you ended up working in an
JR: I gave it a really good try in my youth, but it just wasn't working out for me. So I can't
imagine a parallel universe at this stage of my career and life. I don't need to work really,
I'd rather go fishing, it'd be impossible to get me into an office at this point. When I was
younger I tried politics, but the attrition rate, the way they use people, was just something
I couldn't stomach.
Aside from all of this madness and debauchery, what dreams are left to
JR: You know what, it's like an AA meeting, I take it one day at a time. I honestly just
don't know and to tell you the truth never have known. I never put any stress into it.
I did Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and Jerry Falwell, I smoked pot right in front of
John Kennedy Jr., back before he got his pilot license. Trent Reznor used to be my
roommate, I know David Bowie, I did Ozzy Osbourne's retirement party, and Sharon
made the kids leave the room, William S. Burroughs used to come to my shows before he
died, I was on the X-files, Homer ran away and joined The Jim Rose Circus on The
Simpsons as a human cannonball.
My only dream was a pop-out couch and a toaster, so I have to pinch myself daily to
believe that all this is possible.
Is there anything too freaky for the Jim Rose Circus?
JR: Yeah - lunch with a lawyer.
Do you have any advice for any young, aspiring freaks out there?
JR: Try to stay away from bear repellent.