When Gary Isaacs first told his parents he wanted to be a clown, they said don't be a fool - stay at MIT.
After more than making his folks happy with accomplishments in rocket science and on Wall Street, Isaacs returned to his dream, trading his slide rule, business suits and six-figure salary for a bright red nose and floppy shoes.The 32-year-old - who holds a bachelor's degree in math and a master's in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology along with a graduate degree in business from the University of California at Los Angeles - decided it was time to go back to school for some serious silliness.
Now the alumnus of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Venice, Fla., is looking for a job.
Why would anyone dump material success for the uncertainty of a life chasing the spotlight in a three-ring circus?
"It was really just something inside me that said, `Do this. Go have some fun.' I hadn't had fun in ages," Isaacs said this week. He returned to his undergraduate alma mater to tell students not to let go of their dreams.
Isaacs' love of the circus dates to childhood. Growing up in New York and New Jersey, he taught himself to juggle, ride a unicycle and throw food high in the air and catch it in his mouth.
He applied to the Ringling Brothers clown college in his early days at MIT and was accepted, but the time wasn't right.
"To make a long story short, my parents said, `You're not going to clown college,' " Isaacs said.
After MIT, Isaacs crunched numbers in California for TRW's defense and space systems group. Four years later, he was restless. Another degree, this from UCLA, and he was off to Wall Street.
Isaacs dealt in "hundreds of millions of dollars, living a fast-paced life on the trading floor," he said. "You spent your weekends recuperating."
"I just woke up one day and said, `You know, one day you're going to be near death and you're going to look back and say you never went to clown college,"' Isaacs said. "So I decided to do it."
He graduated from the clown school in October and found clowning around isn't all laughs. Acrobatics, stilt-walking and juggling fire demand agility and precision.
"It's so hard, I can't even begin to tell you," said Isaacs, who's still looking for a full-time clown job.