The World’s Greatest Flea Circus Impresario talks fleas, training and dry cleaning bills

Step right up, Toronto! The world’s greatest flea circus impresario is back in town and ready to astound and amaze you with his menagerie of mite sized mini-marvels.

We caught up with Buster Canfield before his performance in the Studio Theatre this weekend to tell us more about the greatest trained fleas to ever hop the Earth and what audiences can expect to see at HarbourKIDS: Circus!

Harbourfront Centre: How did you get your start as a flea circus impresario?

Buster Canfield: Well, ever since I was little, I wanted to run a circus, but I could never afford an apartment big enough to live with all the monkeys and lions and elephants. Let alone the big wagons and tents. And then, once, I lived in this place that had a lousy superintendent who was too cheap to spring for a good fumigator. Pretty soon, I realized if I mixed those two problems together, I could make my dreams come true.

Harbourfront Centre: What do you look for in a circus flea?

Buster Canfield: A circus flea must be intelligent, agile of mind and body, and possessed of an inbred desire to learn. Most importantly of all, they must have that certain, as the French say, “I-Don’t-Know-What”. A kind of charisma and charm. A certain “It”. Without that “It”, even the most dedicated flea will never quite cut it on the circus stage. Strong back legs don’t hurt either. Historically, most performing fleas are actually female, because, in the words of the Great Flea Impresario, Louis Bertollotto, “The male of the species is most often dull and mulish.”

Harbourfront Centre: What kind of training do your fleas go through?

Buster Canfield: All the potential flea performers are gathered up and placed in a mason jar filled with cotton. I shine a bright light at the top of the jar, so the area near the lid gets very, very hot. Now, the fleas don’t like the heat. The dull and lazy fleas stay at the top and complain. They want things to be different, but they don’t want to make the change. However, the clever fleas make their way through the folds of cotton and till they find their way to the nice, cool bottom.

That’s how you know which fleas are ready to learn.

Harbourfront Centre: What’s your favourite part of your circus act?

Buster Canfield: The fact that I have to dry clean over two hundred costumes, and yet the laundry bill never tops $1.70.

Harbourfront Centre: What can our audiences expect from your act at HarbourKIDS: Circus?

Buster Canfield: They will be stunned, amazed, astounded and scratch their skins with delight at our microscopic entomic entertainment. Furthermore, it is the solemn promise of the management that those in the very back of the theatre will be able to see our fleas just as well, as those at the front.

Don’t miss your chance to catch Buster Canfield and his Circus of Industrious Fleas this weekend at HarbourKIDS: Circus! Want more HarbourKIDS? Check out our full festival lineup.