PeformanceTraveling Sideshow Theatre circus troupe
Campus Activities Magazine’s
Interview with The Flying Cat Circus
Every so often we happen upon an act in the campus market that is unlike any other. The Flying Cat Circus is one of those shows. It can best be described as comedy with some magic and juggling sprinkled on top. The driving force behind the act is Kevin Lepine and Thom Britton.
Kevin Lepine skillfully swallows a string of double-edged razors. Kevin, a native of Detroit, Michigan is an accomplished magician and illusionist who has been performing for about ten years. He started performing in a number of theatrical productions where he had the opportunity to meet various magicians. “Ever since then, I just fell in love with the art. I developed a great love for the art of magic and performing comedy.”
Thom, who claims he was sold into slavery at the age of eight and had to be funny to survive, grew up on Johnny Carson, George Carlin, Sam Kinnison and the like. “It’s the standard ‘comedy is a gateway drug that leads to performing,’ so I started doing anything I could that was entertaining. I got into the circus sideshow style genre; things like sword swallowing, fire eating and glass walking. The stuff from the 1930’s really caught my attention. Now I focus on a Vaudeville style of performing, but back then I was really interested in the freak show side of things. Then, as I got older I started to get into more of the Vaudeville acts like the Chinese Circus and the Russian Circus. Now, in just the last five or six years, I have started putting the stand-up comedy routines into what I do.” A chainsaw-wielding Thom Britton autographs an apple for a fan.
Kevin met his partner Thom (originally from The Big Easy), while serving out a contract on a six-month theatre run in New Orleans. Thom had just come off of a tour with a group called The Modern Gypsies when the two met. “We just started talking and jokingly discussed a show that we could put together that would be totally different from the stereotypical shows and all the common stuff you see nowadays. As my theatre contract started to come up, Thom started to get the urge to go back out on the road again, and the idea became less and less of a joke. So we wrote out our ideas and got a concrete feeling for what we wanted to do, went out on a quick two week tour, realized it got the response we wanted and we had a lot of fun doing it. So The Flying Cat Circus was born.”
When asked why the two chose the college market, attention goes straight to the bottom line. Thom explains, “It’s show business. You sit down and say, ‘okay, I want to design a show,’ so you get together and make a business model. You go to a lawyer and form a partnership. You find an accountant. You do all of the things you have to do for the business of show business. It’s not exciting or glamorous, it’s not Spinal Tap, but it is necessary. You have to think, ‘before we write this, who are we selling it to?’ Otherwise, we would have a show, and no audience. For a theatre, you need 90 minutes, for a college, 70 minutes and for a comedy club 45 to 50 minutes. You have to know the venue before you can decide on the show. We decided on colleges because creative shows should be in colleges and they are not. The college market should be filled with really weird, Monty Python-esque, bizarre, surreal shows. So where do you put something like that? Theatres have it, comedy clubs have it, and colleges don’t. So we said ‘okay, colleges. Now, what do they like?’ This show is written specifically for no other market than the college market.”
The Flying Cat Circus headshot for the 2005/2006 season. When questioned about what a school can expect when The Flying Cat Circus comes to perform for them, the duo explains that every show has a huge comedy element. It is framed so that you don’t have your standard magic or juggling show with sparsely spaced jokes throughout the routine; comedy is king. The novelty of illusion or glass walking is secondary to the delivery of a quality comedy show. “We are not juggling while telling jokes,” Thom explains, “We are telling jokes and just happen to be juggling.”
The two further explain that because they specialize in entertaining members of associations of higher learning, they put 110% into the creative process for the show. As Kevin explains it, “With the college crowd, we have to be able to compete with late night television and the internet. In order to do that, we have to be incredibly creative.”
The guys elaborate on some of their mutual inspirations, both citing Penn & Teller, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn.
So, where does The Flying Cat Circus go from here? “We are going to get more elaborate as far as the theatrical angle goes, but we are really happy with the show format and the way it has been received. We are looking at adding some new people, which brings in new blood and new acts, and then doing some more detailed background design, basically all theatre aesthetics. We will also work colleges more and more and hopefully, it will end up spawning things like us,” Thom says. Kevin goes on further to say “At this point for The Flying Cat Circus, we have already been approached by some different theatre companies who want to bring us in on contract, but currently we really want to stay in the college market. Our goal is to become the best there, to dominate the market, to have a lot of fun and to see where we go after that point. We have no problem following the Penn & Teller route, off-Broadway, or on-Broadway, but at this point the college market has just been wonderful to us and we would like to stay here for a while.”
They say their ultimate long-term goal would be to do an off-Broadway production in a fairly small venue where they would be comfortable for a long running show.