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Not your average circus clown

Six years ago Chris Smith’s dad gave him $20 to spend in a gift store at Yellowstone National Park – it was a good investment.

“I was 10 years old and I spotted a book on the ground in the corner called, ‘Juggling for the Complete Klutz,’ ” Smith said. “I showed my dad and he was like, ‘You’re never going to use that,’ so I made a vow then and there. I said, ‘Chris, you’re going to learn to juggle three balls by the end of this trip.’ “

And he did.



Now 16 years old, Smith can do roughly 100 tricks with three balls, 20 tricks with four balls and one trick with five balls. He juggles devil sticks, cigar boxes, rings, pins, bean bags, bouncing balls, flaming torches – even occasional apples or eggs.

“With juggling there’s so much freedom,” said the South Tahoe High School sophomore. “It was just something different to do. There are all kinds of talents people have but I haven’t seen too many people that do this. It’s unique and I like that.”



Outgoing and packed with personality, Smith said he loves performing for people.

“I want to make people laugh,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing to do, clown around. But I don’t think of juggling as a circus act. I don’t want people to picture me like a clown. I try to add a different twist to it. I do it to music. I think it’s a lot more exciting with music.”

When he’s not juggling, Smith plays soccer and practices improvisation and acting with his friend and assistant Mike Callian.

“I love acting,” said Smith, who was born in Denmark and moved to Tahoe when he was a year old. “Acting is one of my favorite things to do. ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ is my favorite show. I want to get into acting so maybe juggling is a way for me to get the attention I need to work toward that.”

Smith has already had a small taste of fame and fortune. He has performed in talent shows and assemblies and once made $5 from a passerby who stopped to watch him juggling in his front yard.

“When I was younger I incorporated it with lemonade stands,” Smith said. “I’d attract people with the juggling and then sell them some lemonade or cookies or whatever. I’d put up signs that said like, ‘$2 for a juggling show’ and I’d do a bunch of tricks. But it’s still so new for people. I don’t have any trouble getting a crowd. I get a pretty good response from people.”

Juggling is more than just an attention-getter for Smith, who said he is the biggest Duke basketball fan in the world.

“It sounds corny, but it’s sort of a form of meditation,” he said. “It blocks everything out of my mind. You know, girls, work.”

A serious student, Smith said he studies hard and wants to go into science or medicine if Hollywood doesn’t work out.

“I’m going to have to get a 1,400 on my SAT if I want to go to Duke,” he said.

On a juggling scholarship, perhaps?


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