By Dominique Jando
A friend of Barry's had applied for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, a new, offbeat learning institution. Barry decided to go along and audition with him. To his surprise, he was among the 48 applicants that were accepted that year (along with Bill Irwin, and Barry's occasional partner, Dick Monday). After eight weeks of training, Barry graduated and was hired by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey: the college, in effect a training program for the show's Clown Alley, principally taught its students how to become a "Ringling clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. '''Specific:''' In Europe, the elegant, whiteface character who plays the role of the straight man to the Auguste in a clown team.," able to work efficiently in the specific context of The Greatest Show On Earth.
The character of Grandma—Barry's celebrated clown persona—was created at the Ringling Bros. winter quarters in Venice, Florida. Not strong on physical skills, Barry had to create for the show a character that could stand out by itself. The "little old ladies" who strolled the boardwalk in Atlantic City—including Barry's own grandmother—provided the inspiration. Grandma made her debut on January 1, 1975 in The Greatest Show On Earth, where Barry performed until 1979 in both its Blue and Red units. In 1977, he was invited to participate in the Fourth International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, an experience that was not a success, but which nevertheless gave him a first taste of the traditional one-ring format, a very different setting for a clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. '''Specific:''' In Europe, the elegant, whiteface character who plays the role of the straight man to the Auguste in a clown team..
From 1980-82, Barry teamed up with Dick Monday. Together they created and performed variety comedy shows: A Couple Guys Who Gotta Do A Show (Los Angeles) and Pass The Popcorn (Off-Broadway, New York City). Then in 1982, Barry joined the burgeoning Big Apple Circus, where, over the years, Grandma would become the iconic image of the celebrated New York-based one-ring circus. Since 2001, Barry has also been the show's Director of Clowning and Production Consultant.
Barry was featured in the movies Big Top Pee-Wee and My Life and has appeared in several TV shows, including four appearances on the Late Show With David Letterman. His directorial credits include comedy segments for music videos on MTV, the Snappy Dance Company in Boston, and CBS's Circus of the Stars. He was also a creative consultant for NBC's long-running sitcom, Cheers. His proudest accomplishment, however, remains his successful headstand on a whoopee-cushion on the illustrious stage of Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Barry has been featured at Circus Krone in Munich, Germany (2007). He participated in the 2006 International Circus Festival of Budapest (Moscow's Bolshoi Circus Award) and in the 2008 International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo (Bellini Award). He was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 2002 and was presented the first Lou Jacobs Lifetime Achievement Award by ClownAlley.net in 2007.
- Oral History: Interview of Barry Lubin with Dominique Jando, September 2008
- Video: Grandma, Oaf & Mr. Fish in "The Knife Thrower", in the Big Apple Circus production of Grandma Goes West (1989)
- Video: Grandma, Gordoon, Oaf, Mr. Fish in "Horse Wash", in the Big Apple Circus production of Greetings From Coney Island (1991)
- Video: Grandma and Gordoon, "At the Beach" entrée(French) Clown piece with a dramatic structure, generally in the form of a short story or scene. in Big Apple Circus production of Greetings from Coney Island (1991)
- Video: Grandma, Lucky (Greg DeSanto) and Todd Robbins, Soap Entrée in the Big Apple Circus production of The Medicine Show (1996)
- Video: Grandma's Musical Croc, in the Big Apple Circus production of Twenty Years! (1997)
- Video: Grandma & Co, in "The Treadmill" and "Men In Black" in the Big Apple Circus production of Twenty Years! (1997)
- Video: Grandma, "Jar Juggling Parody" in the Big Apple Circus production of Picturesque (2004)
- Video: Grandma & Kathy Halenda, Song Medley, in the Big Apple Circus production of Grandma Goes To Hollywood (2005)
- Video: Musical Reprise with Mark Gindick, in the Big Apple Circus production of Play On! (2008)
- Video: Singing In The Rain with Mark Gindick, in the Big Apple Circus production of Play On! (2008)
- Video: Grandma on Fox News, April 1, 2009
- Video: Barry Lubin & Bello Nock, The Duel, in the Big Apple Circus production of Bello Is Back! (2009)