Jest In Time Circus delivers laughs at fair

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldAugust 24, 2012 

— For some, it might be the high-pitched voice of Li Li Zucchini that draws them into the tent of the Jest In Time Circus at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo in Kennewick.

Or maybe they followed Topper Todd on his antique big-wheeled penny-farthing bike or heard the pair's jokes on the stage as they walked by.

Whatever the reason, people drawn to the show soon find themselves unable to walk away.

"I'm actually surprised; it was pretty funny," said Kevin Crowley of Richland, who came to one of the free shows Thursday with his daughter Hayden, 8, and son Alex, 6. "We never come to the shows too much."

From their original jokes and antics to a toilet paper blaster and acrobatic dog, the Jest In Time Circus appeals to young and old alike. And it's a labor of love for the performers.

"You've got this sea of kids cracking up in front of you," said Lizette Guy, who portrays Li Li Zucchini on stage. "It's wonderful."

While there are a number of performers at the fair this year, including musicians, dancers and magicians, Jest In Time Circus is a hybrid of different styles and performances, said Todd Victor, whose stage name is Topper Todd.

He and Guy, who are married and have performed together for 30 years, dress as European-style clowns. Victor resembles a hobo with painted-on stubble while Guy looks more like an elf with reddened cheeks and nose.

Their act is a combination of physical comedy, pantomime, verbal jokes and audience participation, with some props thrown in. There's also Ticker, a Jack Russell terrier who has a penchant for jumping through hoops and "biting" Victor on the rump.

"A lot of what we do is the set-up and characters," Victor said. "A juggler can be terribly boring or be terribly amusing."

The couple are based out of Santa Rosa, Calif., and drive all over the West during the summer months to perform, hauling their collapsible stage, bleachers, tent and other materials behind in their camp trailer. In the winter, they perform a science show around the country.

Victor said they write their own material and it can take years for it to develop into something for the show. Even then, it may not work out, like when they spent a year rehearsing, choreographing and writing a clog dance routine.

"We did it for three shows and we dropped it. It just didn't work," Victor said.

Performing three times a day throughout much of the summer and continuing to perform throughout the winter can be grueling, the couple said, but they enjoy it.

"It is very expensive in toilet paper," Guy said, referring to their modified leaf blowers used to blow rolls of toilet paper onto themselves and then the audience in one of their finales.

Charlene Fansler, fair association board member and director for small stages, said the act has been a hit with kids and adults alike.

Crowley said his kids couldn't sit still afterward because of the show's energy.

Kacey Gartner of Pasco saw one potential consequence of her son, Jaxon, 3, seeing the show.

"I'm pretty sure he'll go home and try the toilet paper thing on his sister," she said, laughing.

If you go

Today's performance times are 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday's performance times are 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Jest In Time Circus will perform on the stage near the main gate for the fairgrounds on the Atomictown Stage.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com

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