Grandma lives! Beloved clown returns in Brighton Beach

Grandma lives! Beloved clown returns in Brighton Beach
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Who needs the bright lights of Manhattan when you can clown around in Brighton Beach?

New York’s favorite geriatric clown, Grandma, has left the Lincoln Center’s Big Apple Circus and is headed for a big top in Brooklyn, where she will join a host of other performers at the Master Theater’s Holiday Circus from Dec. 20–29.

“This is my first time working with these guys,” said Mark Gindick, the middle-aged man behind the red-nosed old lady. “I’m excited to come down to Brooklyn.”

Gindick has had a long and illustrious clowning career, beginning with his education at the prestigious Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

During these years, the budding entertainer’s instructors often likened him to another graduate of those hallowed halls — Barry Lubin, class of ’74 and creator of the Grandma character.

It was a comparison that Gindick initially regarded with some skepticism.

“When I first went to clown college in ’97, all the teachers who had seen Barry out of makeup, said, ‘Oh my god, you look just like Barry,’” he recounted. “Then I met him, and I didn’t see it.”

But after graduating, Gindick went on to join Lubin at the Big Apple Circus, and the younger clown became the understudy of the older one. As time passed, Gindick began to appreciate his likeness to the veteran silly man.

“Getting to know him more and being around him, I quickly learned we are extremely similar,” said Gindick. “Even from the way we grew up, to our style of clowning and what makes us laugh.”

As the pair continued working together and Lubin’s respect for Gindick grew, he offered his protege the clown role of a lifetime — an old lady.

Grandma is a sort-of every-woman, Gindick explained — a big-dreamer who never lets her lack of talent keep her from fulfilling the crazy fantasies she cooks up her in her gray wig-topped head.

“She gets to live out every fantasy of being a rockstar, or being a pop idol,” Gindick said. “She gets to dance and sing, but she’s still a cute, little old lady.”

Gindick left the Big Apple Circus a year and a half ago, after 10 years there, and has not had much time for the character since. But he will don Grandma’s signature red dress and pearls once again on Dec. 20, where he will join fellow clown Joe Barney, acrobat Ruslan Dmytruk, and illusionist Brad Ross in a Christmas-themed circus extravaganza.

“It’s a fun show, and a fun job,” said Gindick. “And there’s still a demand for Grandma.”

See Grandma and the Holiday Circus at the Master Theater [1029 Brighton Beach Ave. between Brighton 11th and Brighton 12th streets in Brighton Beach, (718) 732–3838, www.mastertheater.com] Dec. 20–29. Show times vary by day. $35–$65, kids under 3 free.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4514.