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Ready to clown around the world

They ran a 5-kilometer "mud race" and climbed a mountain at more than 8,000 feet above sea level to prepare.

But New Port Richey residents David and Cherie Gregg may have found the most effective training for CBS' unscripted hit The Amazing Race came on their job:

Touring the country in a 19-foot van, performing as clowns for the Ringling Bros. Circus.

"We work and live together 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Cherie, 44, who met husband Dave in clown college more than 20 years ago. "A lot of the new couples don't really know their partners that well, because they don't live and work together. Which is hard, because when you're racing around the world, you're literally together 24/7."

Both Greggs actually serve as "Ambassadors of Laughter," appearing at schools, pediatric care units and other places in advance of the Ringling Circus, touting reading programs and lessons tied to their circus skills.

They joined The Amazing Race for its 20th season, filmed late last year and including former Big Brother contestants Rachel Reilly and Brendon Villegas.

Sunday's episode, "Tears of a Clown," shows how tough the race's start was for the Greggs, who competed against 10 other teams in a competition that began with grabbing clues from hot air balloons in California and led to skydiving in Argentina.

"It's not so much about pushing couples to the breaking point as it is … seeing how they work through different problems and come up with solutions," said Dave, showing off his clown-like tendency to see the positive side.

"There are some who melt down. But I think its more fascinating to see how people find new and creative ways to make things work."

The couple, both fans of the show, originally applied nearly 10 years ago and heard nothing, only to find Ringling Bros. colleagues Jon Weiss and Al Rios were selected for the series' fourth season in 2003.

The Greggs shelved their dreams, figuring the show would never want another set of clowns, only to find CBS calling them to apply last year. "That's why we tell people, never give up on your dreams," Cherie Gregg said. "Ours just came true." Answering a reporter's phone call with a slide whistle and bicycle horn, the Greggs seem the perfect clown couple, finishing each other's sentences regularly in the course of a 15-minute conversation.

But will they have the ruthlessness it takes to excel? "I don't call it ruthless, I call it strategic," Dave said. "You have to know when to push and shove to get ahead and when …"

"When to force a U-turn," ­Cherie finished, referring to a feature of the game where you can delay other teams. "We also kept in mind karma; if you're mean to be mean, karma's going to bite your butt in the end."

The Amazing Race

The new season debuts at 8 p.m. Sunday on WTSP-Ch. 10.

Ready to clown around the world 02/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 16, 2012 5:16pm]
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