Carlyon, David 1950(?)-

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CARLYON, David 1950(?)-

PERSONAL: Born c. 1950; married Barbara Whitman (an actress and producer); children: two sons. Education: University of California, Berkeley, LL.B., 1976; attended Ringling Bros. Clown College; Northwestern University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Public Affairs, 250 W. 57th St., Ste. 1321, New York, NY 10107.

CAREER: Called to the Bar, 1978; Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, clown, 1978–79; actor in televison commercials and in films, including Rich and Famous and The World according to Garp; worked for an advertising agency in New York, NY, early 1980s; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, professor. Military service: Served with U.S. Army.


Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: After earning his law credential, David Carlyon did what few lawyers have done: He became a clown. Life on the road was exhausting, however, and after suffering from a bout of pneumonia, Carlyon left the circus and pursued other avenues. During a diverse career that has included stints as an actor, director, and educator, he also chose to write Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of, a biography of one of the most famous clowns in history. As Carlyon commented on the Public Affairs Web site, "Dan Rice and I were both clowns. When I began writing about him I assumed we shared nothing but the label. I was a clattering Ringling/Barnum clown in baggy pants and a big red nose, paid little to join cavorting bumblers in the three-ring spectacle. Rice was a glittering star—the Johnny Carson of the nineteenth century—standing alone in his show's one ring. The spitting image of Uncle Sam in stripes, a top hat and the most recognized goatee of the age, he was a talking clown, quipping spontaneously, booming out Shakespeare, singing about bloomers, feuding with Horace Greeley—and running for President too. He was Robin Williams, Rush Limbaugh, and John McCain rolled into one."

Born in 1823, Rice ran away from home at age thirteen, joined traveling shows, then developed a routine with a pig that could ostensibly identify the characteristics of certain audience members as well as tell time. Rice started his own circus in 1848, and incorporated the use of blackface, but during the 1850s, he developed a more refined image of himself and his show as society began to view the circus as lowbrow entertainment. Rice suffered many bankruptcies and died in 1900 after being cared for by the first of his several wives. Don Wilmeth noted in Theatre Survey that of the several biographies of Rice, Carlyon's benefits from his experience not only as a clown, but as a researcher and theater historian. Wilmeth added that the book "provides us for the first time with as credible, thoroughly researched, and documented a biography of Rice as the paucity of precise documents permits," as well as "an excellent example of a cultural history of the mid-nineteenth century." David Pitt wrote in Booklist that Dan Rice "is a compassionate and moving biography and an incisive look at a neglected aspect of American popular culture."



Book, March-April, 2002, Eric Wargo, review of Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of, p. 78.

Booklist, December 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of Dan Rice, p. 698.

Chicago Tribune, January 6, 2002, Elliott J. Gorn, review of Dan Rice, p. 1.

Journal of American History, September, 2004, Steven C. Bullock, review of Dan Rice, p. 616.

Library Journal, January, 2002, David Potash, review of Dan Rice, p. 116.

New Yorker, February 4, 2002, Leo Carey, review of Dan Rice, p. 16.

New York Times, April 27, 2002, Dinitia Smith, review of Dan Rice, p. B9.

New York Times Book Review, April 28, 2002, Tyler Anbinder, review of Dan Rice, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2001, review of Dan Rice, p. 58.

Theatre History Studies, June, 2002, Mark Cosdon, review of Dan Rice, p. 218.

Theatre Survey, November, 2002, Don Wilmeth, review of Dan Rice, p. 280.


Public Affairs Web site, (August 13, 2005), "David Carlyon."