Giovanni Zoppé didn't have to run away from his family to join the circus-his family was the circus. Born into an Italian circus family that spans seven generations, Zoppé, who now lives in Aurora, has traveled the world performing his act as Nino the clown. Now his wife and son have joined him and are also performers in the family-style show, and his daughter performs when he comes to Chicago, where she lives.
Zoppé took a few minutes to talk to Chicago Parent about his circus life last year before his shows. He brings the show back to Bolingbrook and Addison this month. Check our calendar for details.
You live in the Chicago area now. Did you grow up here? No, I grew up all over the world. We traveled all the time. But I was born in the parking lot at WGN studios when my father was filming the Bozo show.
What did it mean to grow up in a circus family? Did you have to be a part of the circus? No, I didn't have to. I never had to. I chose to do it; I love it. When I was 2 years old until today, I basically performed in every show. When I was 2, I heard my family's music start and I broke away from the babysitter and ran into the ring and took a bow. But I was completely naked. They don't let me do that anymore.
Do you ever have any second thoughts about taking your son on the road? No, never. It's the greatest life for a child…you get to experience the world. No school, no teachers, nobody can teach you what the world teaches you. For me it was an amazing life, growing up in the circus.
Is your wife also in the circus? She is now.
Was that part of the marriage deal? No, no, no. Well, yeah, it was. She went to the University of Illinois and they have a circus program there. She fell in love with the circus. … We met about 15 years ago while she was performing at a circus in Florida. We met again 12 years after our first meeting and fell in love and now we have a little boy.
Is circus life hard for a family? It's one of most difficult lives in the world, but also the most rewarding. There are always flat tires and engagement problems. There are so many challenges with taking a company of 35 people from coast to coast with seven trucks and trailers. But when I get in the ring and look at that audience, it just kind of all goes way.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.