As a student at Skyline High School a decade ago, Scott Smith's teachers were always telling him to "stop clowning around."

But Smith doesn't see that being a problem anymore - now that he's headed off to college. Not only will such behavior will be tolerated, it'll be encouraged.

That's because Smith is one of 60 students who will study acrobatics, juggling, stilt-walking, unicycling, costume design and makeup at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Clown College.

The 29-year-old Bountiful resident was one of thousands nationwide who applied to the college, which bills itself as the "only institution in the world dedicated to preserving the ancient art of clowning."

Classes started earlier this month at the Venice, Fla., campus, which has graduated almost 1,000 clowns since it was founded in 1968. In October, the students will unveil their new skills in a special production and the best will be selected to join the circus.

Smith, a graduate of Skyline High School, said he began clowning when he realized that his normal life was too ordinary and that he needed more excitement.

"I had begun to clown at parties and other events; and the enjoyment I got out of those experiences made me realize my life's true dream of becoming a clown."