Q&A: A quick chat with a real-life circus clown

Professor Kno-Y will be in attendance this weekend when the
Cole Bros. Circus comes to Middle Island.

Roy Dietrich is a clown. An Auguste type of clown, to be exact, which means he’s a prankster.
But don’t expect to find a whoopee cushion waiting on your seat under the big top if you visit the Cole Bros. Circus in Greenport, where he’ll be performing Thursday and Friday.
“Clowns don’t play jokes on other people,” said Mr. Dietrich, known at the circus as Professor Kno-Y. “There’s a code of ethics and we only play jokes on other clowns.”
Mr. Dietrich offered some further glimpses into the intricacies of clown dynamics. The white face clown type (like Ronald McDonald), for example, tells the other clowns what to do, he said.
“He’s the boss,” Mr. Dietrich said. “You’ll never see a pie thrown in his face. [The white face clown] is very spirited and good in nature.”
The character clown, or hobo clown, is down on his luck and is always out of money.
“These clowns cheer you up when you help them out,” he said.
The 58-year-old Floridian worked as a custodian before telling his boss seven years ago he was “running away to join the circus.”
“I’ve been having a great time [ever since],” he said.
He stopped by the newsroom last week.
Q: Who inspired you to become a clown?
A: I’m a big sci-fi fan. For me, it all started with the British television show “Dr. Who” [which ran from 1963 until 1989]. I initially based my character on his. I first became Professor Why, a mad scientist. I also loved watching the Red Skeleton Show.
Q: What is it like on the road?
A: It’s a fun job. We leave from Florida in March and we go as far north as New Hampshire. We’re on the road until November. Nine months out of the year