I’ve interviewed many funny actors and writers and directors over the years.
Until this week, I’m pretty sure I’d never interviewed an actual clown, much less two clowns at once.
“Amazing Race” contestants and married clowns Dave and Cherie Gregg have raised the bar for all clown interviews to come, by greeting me on the phone with an overture of horns and also closing our conversation with a honking crescendo.
On “The Amazing Race,” unfortunately, Dave & Cherie failed to raise the bar. They were eliminated in the season’s second episode after a bus accident delayed their pack of contestants and then after Dave struggled with a long division challenge in the cattle yards of Buenos Aires.
In our exit interview, Dave & Cherie discussed the mathematical struggles and high emotions of “The Amazing Race,” as well as what it means to be an Ambassador of Laughter.
Click through for the full interview…
HitFix: Hi, Dave and Cherie…
Dave Gregg & Cherie Gregg [In unison]: Hi Dan!!! [Three seconds of horns.]
HitFix: Well where was that on The Race?
Dave: Oh my goodness! It was there!
Cherie: We were saving it for future episodes!
Dave: For you!
HitFix: Were there clown stereotypes that you guys were perhaps attempting to avoid on The Race?
Dave: To a certain extent, we just really wanted to show that clowns are people, too, with an ancient art-form profession that we’ve all been working at for many years.
Cherie: Yup. Clowns are people too. And we’re happy, sad and have every emotion there is.
Dave: And have pitfalls.
Cherie: And strengths and weaknesses.
HitFix: When you guys were preparing for the show, on the list of things you suspected might do you in, where did “long division” rank?
Cherie: We did do “brain age” on the Nintendo DS.
Dave: We worked on memory challenges.
Cherie: The brain age had quick math calculations, but it was simple division. It wasn’t finding averages and long division. We’ve seen on past Races where they’ve used calculators to try to find the ounces of the gold and what the value was, so we’ve seen them use calculators and we had a calculator, but Dave wasn’t allowed to use it.
HitFix: Dave, I think I’d have been in nearly the same boat if I’d been asked to do long division under those circumstances. What was your immediate reaction when you figured out what the task asked you for?
Dave: Oh, I knew immediately that it was going to be an uphill battle for me. I hadn’t used long division of 20 years. With the invention of a calculator, a computer and a wife who does all of the math in the family, I literally hadn’t done it in that long. So it was going back to the memory banks, trying to figure out how to do it, what the process was. I knew exactly how to get the average weight. I knew it was the number of cattle into the amount of kilos that that auctioneer was telling us, but I just didn’t realize that my dyslexia was going to kick in and make me reverse the process. I was doing the small number into the big number, but I was doing it from the right to the left, as opposed to the left to the right. Having not dealt with my dyslexia since I was in school, really, I hadn’t run into it and so I didn’t think my method was wrong. I thought it was my calculations. It turned out to be the method that was wrong.
HitFix: So Cherie, you’re the math whiz?
Cherie: I’m not a math whiz, but I do all the taxes and bills and numbers in our family. The clue was “Where’s the beef?” So Dave thought…
Dave: I thought it was going to be eating challenge, so I was ready to eat a cow.
Cherie: Yeah, we had no idea it would have anything to do with math. Otherwise, I would have automatically done it. I knew from dating David that the way he handled his money and his banking, that if we ever got married, that I would definitely be handling the finances and numbers in our family.
HitFix: How early into that task did Danny and Andrew start helping each other, Dave?
Dave: Honestly, I have no idea. I honestly didn’t realize that they were even helping each other. When I was there, trying to work out the math problems, I knew it was an exact number. I knew it wasn’t a guess. I couldn’t just run up to him and go, “Oh, it’s 354…” or “It’s 588.” I knew it was an exact number, so I knew I had to get the math right on. I saw them running up and down, so I thought, “OK. This is the blind leading the blind. I’m not gonna ask them for any help.”
Cherie: Yeah, they were there for quite a long time. From my point of view, it was watching the Three Stooges. Vanessa got it pretty quick, but then the three boys were up and down and up and down. It was a comedy of errors. Who knew that even asking them for help would have worked? They were all getting it wrong. We didn’t know until we watched it that they actually teamed up together to get the answer.
HitFix: What did you make of that teamwork when you saw it on TV?
Dave: Well, that’s how they decided they decided to roll and I was, once again, left holding the proverbial bag. I had to plug away at it and keep going. Looking at it in retrospect, watching them work together, I wish there had been somebody I could have asked for help, but by the time I realized that, they were gone and so I was there alone.
Cherie: We also figured we were the last teams there now, because we figured the third bus had passed by, so we thought it was every man for themselves and they wouldn’t want to help each other, because nobody wanted to be the last team. It was surprising that they did help each other.
HitFix: Do you guys have any sense of how long you were there after Danny and Andrew left?
Dave: While I was there, I was just so concentrated on the task, but Cherie thinks that we were there for…
Cherie: It was hours. It was a long time. When you have dyslexia and you look at something and it’s backwards, you don’t realize it’s backwards. He just thought he was doing the math wrong, calculating wrong, so he kept making the same mistake over and over and over again, until finally he took a break and took a deep breath…
Dave: And decided to go a different direction.
HitFix: That’s such an unfortunate thing to have so much of the process hinge on, I guess.
Dave: We don’t think it just hinged on that. I think the bus breaking down was just as detrimental. The night before, we got no sleep whatsoever and we really had a hard time with the breakdowns and it really…
Cherie: Our seats were right in front of where the glass broke, so you could hear all of the wind coming in. They would duct tape the window up and we’d go highway speeds and the wind would catch the duct tape and the plastic and it would start rattling again and then they’d pull over and stop and all you’d hear would be [sound of duct tape being torn off] and people talking in Spanish outside really loud, right where you’re trying to sleep. And we’d start all over again and then 45 minutes or so later, we would be stopped again. So it was really a lack of sleep and adrenaline and that doesn’t help when you have math anxiety.
HitFix: Did you ever get an answer of what caused the window to blow out in the first place?
Dave: For me, I speculated it was a matter of… This was a double-decker bus and we were in the lower section and that section, in the late afternoon, started to get really, really hot, so I went and found an attendant and I told him that it was getting really warm down there and he had the whole system turned off and then he turned it back on and it started to cool off relatively quickly and then it was an hour-and-a-half later when the window exploded.
Cherie: Dave thought it was because of the change from the heat to the cold that made the glass crack. He thinks science-wise. I thought something banged and hit it. We were just chit-chatting with the New York boys and it went BANG and luckily it didn’t shatter in right away. It gave a minute for the people sitting there to get up and then it shattered in. Luckily, nobody got hurt, but it was crazy. We don’t really know what happened. Dave speculates the heat-to-cold could have changed it. I don’t know the science of it. I’m better at the math than the science. Dave is good at the science. When we were at the solar challenge, he thought to just put half a bottle of water in and our pot boiled faster. We were the last to arrive at our area, but the second to leave, because Dave thought in those terms, where if we had figured that “Where’s the beef?” was gonna be a numbers challenge, I could have finished it a lot faster.
HitFix: Somebody actually brought that up in my recap of the episode. Was there no instruction regarding how much water you had to boil in the kettle?
Dave: No. They just gave us a bottle of water.
Cherie: And said “Make it boil.” We just had to make the pot whistle. We weren’t making tea for 10, so David said, “Don’t put the whole bottle in” and it whistled faster.
HitFix: Cherie, you got really emotional and cried in both episodes. Were you surprised by how emotional you got and how quickly?
Cherie: Yes. I don’t usually cry a lot.
Dave: Can I say one thing, though? It wasn’t a “how quickly.” In the first episode, it was actually at the end of three days of travel that she got extremely emotional.
Cherie: Yeah, the first one, it looks real bad because it happened so quick on TV, but we had been traveling for three days and then then we slept on an airport floor the night before, so I didn’t really sleep a lot. Then we were the last car out of the airport and on a three hour drive down to Salta and for three hours, I hadn’t seen another team. We got caught behind a couple of lights and the other teams had taken off, so it felt like we were hours behind and I was really afraid we weren’t going to catch up if it was a big, physical challenge. So that’s why I was like, “I don’t want to be out this quick! This is so far.” I thought we had prepared. We got to the airport really quick and thought we were sitting at the front of the plane and other teams ended up sitting in front of us, so I’m like, “Wait a minute. How did this happen?” And we ended up in our car last. I just thought we were going to be out right away and I was like, “I don’t want this to end!” I couldn’t do anything else to prepare and I didn’t know what was ahead, thinking it might be a physical change and we lost our lead — not that we ever had a lead, but we lost our chance at catching up — so I was really, really upset. I don’t usually cry easily. Even my family was surprised to see me crying on TV, but I didn’t want to be out!
Dave: Yeah, I’m usually blubberer in the family.
Cherie: Yeah, he’ll be the one who cries at the movies. And then in the second episode, knowing that I couldn’t help my husband, knowing that he didn’t like math and watching him struggle? I was just so glad that he didn’t get upset and start crying, because that would have made me cry even more and be more emotional over it. Watching your loved ones suffer, and you can’t help them, is the worst thing in the world.
HitFix: Plus, how often do you get to use the “Tears of a Clown” line in the real world?
Cherie: I don’t! Exactly.
Dave: It worked out perfectly.
HitFix: As a last question: What does it mean to be “Ambassadors of Laughter” and how has your visibility on the show changed that position for y’all?
Dave: Well, as Ambassadors of Laughter for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, this is a title that we hold very dear to our hearts, because it’s an honor to be able to go ahead of the show and go to schools and libraries and hospitals…
Cherie: As ambassadors, we represent the circus, because we’re on our own in towns without the circus with us, so we’re ambassadors representing the circus show and the laughter and bringing free educational events to the community. We get out to see a lot of kids who might not get to see the circus. We get to go to childrens’ hospitals and make a difference in their day and let them forget reality and be silly and have fun. It’s really great. As far as how the show has impacted it, what’s funny is that we’ve been recognized in clown, from “The Amazing Race,” but not out of clown yet. Nobody has noticed us as ourselves and come up and said, “Oh, you were on ‘The Amazing Race,'” but when we were at some of our events last week, it was like, “Oh, you’re the clowns from ‘The Amazing Race.'”
Dave: It was very exciting.
HitFix: Thanks for chatting this morning.
Dave: Thanks for having us! [Cue another three seconds of horns.]
This season’s “Amazing Race” exit interviews: