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
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
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
Is your wife also in the circus? She is
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
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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