10 Nov 20 Questions with Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson

Having worked for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey as Ringmaster for almost two decades, Johnathan Lee Iverson has had an undeniably interesting life! We invite you to learn more about the circus vocalist and personality in a special 20 Questions feature!

1.)    What is the best part about being a Ringmaster for The Greatest Show On Earth?

The privilege of being the voice of an American icon and articulating the joy and wonder of the circus arts and its artists, both human and animal to Children Of All Ages.

2.)    As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a variety of things, from a lawyer to an Opera singer. I think I simply wanted to be and do something special.

3.)    What is the greatest challenge of being a Ringling Bros. ringmaster?

Reminding people why circus and circus arts, particularly an icon like Ringling Bros. is worthy of the kind of respect we afford Hollywood actors who get 99 takes to get it right. After nearly 150 yrs. our impact on society, specifically American pop culture should never be in question.

4.)    How long have you been a ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and how did you get started?

Nearly two decades. I was auditioning for the Fireside Dinner Theater when the director, who also directed Ringling Bros. offered me a chance to audition as Ringmaster.

5.)    Your family travels with and works with you on the show. What is the best part of having your family on the road with you?

Having my family on the road! I get to make a living, while having a life. Nothing in all the world is better than doing what you love with the people you love

6.)    What do you think is the biggest benefit to your kids traveling the country and going to school on the road while the show is on tour?

First and foremost, it strengthens our bonds as a family. They are privileged to enjoy the beauty of the United States via the Ringling Bros. Great American Circus Train. They are privileged to be immersed in numerous cultures. They have friends from a diversity of backgrounds. It enriches their understanding of the world and capacity for empathy. The impossible being made possible  is their normal. Their “aunts” and “uncles” can fly and talk to animals and do all sorts of daring things, while their mom oversees it all as Production Manager. For them seeing women in leadership is something they can take for granted. Their education is not just in the classroom it is constant.

7.)    What is your fondest Ringling Bros. memory?

Marrying my wife, when she was dance captain, after our morning show at the legendary United Center in 2001.

8.)    What is the one thing you can’t live without while you’re traveling and living on the Ringling Bros. train?

My iPhone!

9.)    What’s your favorite thing to do in each city you visit for the tour?

Meet up with my friends and family if they’re in a particular city. For the most part I enjoy dining at local eateries, as opposed to restaurant chains. You get the authentic flavor and feel of a city that way.

10.) Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I vocalize, like our athletic artists warm up their bodies. I may stretch or do yoga or simply walk around the venue.

11.) What is your favorite dish to eat in the Pie Car?

Breakfast Mac.

12.) If you weren’t a ringmaster, what do you think you would be?

Some say I’d be a politician or minister. Neither is far-fetched. However, I’d love to host and produce my own talk show, write for television and stage, and be a recording artist.

13.) What is something that people would be surprised to learn about circus life?

We are the ideal society. There is no star. The show is the star. Every component informs the other. Societies everywhere could benefit or learn from the circus model.

14.) Who inspires you?

My wife, Priscilla. She makes Wonder Woman look lazy. I’ve watched her work her way up from Dance Captain to overseeing this American treasure as Production Manager. I love the fact that she’s respected solely on her own merit. Despite the great demands of her career she’s an attentive and amazing wife and mother. My daughter loves to tell people, “my daddy’s the Ringmaster, but my mommy is the boss.”

15.) How do you define success?

If it’s done in love, it’s a success.

16.) If you could have dinner with any three people, who would they be?

  1. Quincy Jones 2. Cate Blanchett 3. Bernard Hopkins

17.) What is your favorite movie of all time?

Coming To America

18.) What are you most proud of?

The lives we touch. They are so many people with so many amazing stories about what our show means to their lives. I’ve met autistic children who spoke their first words or played with their very first toy at the circus.

19.) Finish the following sentence: The world needs more circus because…

it’s the greatest celebration of living things there is.

20.)What advice would you give to someone that wants to be a ringmaster?

Learn to properly use your voice. Take special care of your health, both body & mind. This is not a reality TV talent show. The demands on your body and voice are like no other in all of entertainment. Learn about the circus and its array of great artists, both human and animal. You cannot present and speak for what you don’t know and respect.


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