By Michael Williams
In a career that has spanned more than three decades, comedian Danny Devaney has performed in 47 states touring with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus before settling down in Pigeon Forge.
Devaney was born in Rahway, N.J., where his mother was the owner of a dance school. He was a constant fixture at the school learning acrobatics and gymnastics. Through trial and error he eventually taught himself how to juggle and perform magic.
Devaney’s juggling, comedy antics and magic soon landed him his first gig at the age of 12. The mother of a student asked him to perform at her son’s birthday party. He was paid $25 for his performance and caught the attention of other mothers who hired him. For his second gig he was paid $50 and asked to don clown make-up.
“This was in 1985,” said Devaney. “That was awesome money. From there it steamrolled. I took a clowning course at the Magic Shop in N.J. By the time I was in high school I was doing two to three birthday parties each weekend charging from $100-$150. If I did two parties a weekend I was making more money than my friends working every day after school.”
In 1989, immediately after high school, Devaney went to Florida where he attended Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey’s Clown College. The ten and a half week program helped Devaney develop into a more seasoned entertainer. After graduating Clown College, Devaney joined the Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus.
“Over the next two years I traveled to 47 states. I lived on a circus train. At Madison Square garden we played to 18,000 spectators. I played many characters. In one gag I was football player. In another I was Elvis and in another I played a nerd. I got to do everything including the trapeze, the trampoline and tight rope.”
Life in the circus did have its challenges. Shortly after joining the circus Devaney discovered he was allergic to elephants and horses. “The first few months it was tough,” said Devaney. “I thought about leaving because I couldn’t breathe. I finally built up some immunity and I stayed away from the animals. I stayed in Clown Alley, the clown’s dressing room.”
In 1994, Devaney auditioned in Tunica, Mississippi, for the casino Circus Circus and was hired. Two years later the casino changed its name and its theme. Circus Circus became Gold Strike and eliminated its need for a clown.
Devaney began working with Tony Brent who became his partner for twelve years. The two went to work at Liberty Land near Graceland in Memphis.
In 1998, he auditioned at Disney World in Orlando. It was his first clowning job without make-up. Devaney performed the pre-show for the popular water show Fantasmic.
In the afternoons he performed on the street near the Tower of Terror. Devaney created an act as an incompetent bell hop. His character was a loud clumsy buffoon that dropped suitcases which frequently broke open. Inside the suitcases he always found props for a comedy routine such as juggling clubs and strait jackets. The clumsy bellhop beat up the luggage like a TSA agent.
He later partnered again with Brent in the “Out of Control Show” at the Wonder Works in Orlando. It was here that Devaney met his wife, Heather, in the most unlikely of circumstances.
In one skit Devaney and Brent dressed as rednecks. The pair would get an unsuspecting woman from the audience who would join them on the stage.
“We would be pretending to be on an imaginary fishing trip and I would be hitting on the woman with cheesy pick-up lines such as ‘do you have a quarter ‘cause my Momma told me to call her when I fell in love’ or ‘If I could redo the alphabet I would put u and I together.”
That was how Devaney met his wife. One evening Brent called a woman up on stage for the redneck skit and Devaney began hitting on her. After the show he met with her and the two hit it off. One year later, in 2005, they married.
When the owner of Wonder Works decided to open a second location in Pigeon Forge, he asked Devaney to star in a dinner show called “The Hoot and Holler.”
The family made the move and he played the role of Scraps in the dinner show for five years until the show closed. He was quickly recruited by the Lumberjack Feud.
The scripted, regimented show was not the style of comedy Devaney excelled at and a year later he found a new home at The Comedy Barn where he performs six nights a week.
“For a comedian it’s instant gratification when you get a laugh. You don’t have to wait for a review. When you are a comedian you hang it all out there. You got it all on the line.”
Devaney is the father of five children including 8 month old Kinley, 7 year old Benjamin, 15 year old Sidney and two step-sons Kyle and Casey.