Photo courtesy Cirque du SoleilIN CIRCUS SHOWS, it’s usually the clowns making the funny and the acrobats bringing the oohs and aahs. But Cirque du Soleil is no typical circus, and with its new touring show, “Kooza,” the roles have changed a little. Merging the two circus traditions, acrobatic performance and clowning, the show explores identity and power.

While David Shiner spent part of his youth in D.C. (no comment on whether he was class clown at Suitland Junior High School), he took his passion for humor global. With a resume that includes being a street mime in Paris, a clown with international renown, a movie and Broadway performer, Shiner tells us what inspired him to develop this show.

» EXPRESS: How is “Kooza” different from other Cirque du Soleil shows?
» SHINER: This is an art form of a one-ring circus that has elements, with great acrobatics and great comedy. It’s simple in its form, but complex in its structure. We chose some of the best artistic acts in the world, and the skill level is just mind-boggling. It focuses on the connection with the audience.

» EXPRESS: Your career has spanned quite a spectrum. What do you consider your personal highlights?
» SHINER: I loved working with Cirque du Soleil in 1990. Also, when I worked with Bill Irwin on Broadway on the production “Fool Moon.” Now I’m excited about “Kooza.” I’m the first American director of Cirque du Soleil. This is all my own.

» EXPRESS: As a clown with Cirque du Soleil, you were known to incorporate the audience — including stepping on or over them.
» SHINER: I’ve been a clown for 25 years, and I’ve infused a lot of that into the show. Everyone is fair game.

» EXPRESS: How does this circus use humor?
» SHINER: Every artist wants to have some great message, but the more you think about the message and its creativity, the more confusing it becomes. We need to have humor in our lives every day.

» EXPRESS: What do you want the audience to walk away with?
» SHINER: The main theme of the show is how I can connect to the audience more intimately and have them walk out of the show feeling like a kid again.

» EXPRESS: Do you think D.C. could benefit from a little more humor? Or is politics funny enough?
» SHINER: No great comic writer could imagine anything that’s going on today. It’s great comedy itself.

» The Plateau at National Harbor; through Dec. 14, $49.50-$125.

Written by Express contributor Robyn Mincher
Photo courtesy Cirque du Soleil