Bobby Barnaby on Clown, Interrupted with KiKi Maroon

January 22, 2020

#9 Bobby Barnaby – Circus / Burlesque

Welcome to Season 2 of Clown, Interrupted with KiKi Maroon! It’s been a while. Thank you so much for your emails, messages, worries, and concerns. I want to start off by catching you up on why it’s taken so long to get these episodes out to you. 

First off- No, I did not relapse. That was the number one question I was sent. I appreciate your concern. After my cancer scare and surgery in Episode 6, things got a little dark. But I am doing great now, both physically and mentally. Nothing has grown back, and the doctors said I don’t have to follow up until this fall.

I originally wanted this podcast to be weekly, but I had to change it to “seasons”. There’s a lot of travel involved in finding artists who are comfortable sharing their stories. That, plus the post production work, makes this a time consuming project. I love getting to connect with these people and I extra love getting to connect with the listeners who write to tell me that something resonated with them. So, I will 100% continue this show, I’m just not going to be able to make it weekly until I have more resources. 

But while 2019 was a hard year, it was also a great year! My comedy burlesque show- KiKi Maroon’s Burly Q Lounge was picked up by Live Nation and is now a monthly, multi-city production! I also gave my first TEDx Talk called “The Beauty of Rock Bottom”. The video’s not released yet, but I’ll put it on the website once it is. 

My first guest of the season is a professional clown. Bobby Barnaby is the head of Fou Fou Ha Austin. Fou Fou Ha is a nationwide brand of clown tricksters. They’re a glorious mix of clown meets drag, coated in showgirl; beautiful, whimsical, and so entertaining. Fou Fou Ha started in San Francisco 19 years ago and has since expanded to New York, Portland, and Austin. 

On top of being a professional drag clown, Bobby is also an award winning, international burlesque performer. We talk about the art of clowning, escapism, sober drag queens, and the time he was almost eaten by a python. Seriously.  If you’d like more info on some of the stuff we discuss, here are the links:

If you like the podcast, please consider signing up to my Patreon. Your donation helps with the operating cost and is the easiest way to say, “thanks for making this!” 

The Clown, Interrupted theme song is graciously provided by The Last Domino. You can listen to or purchase the full song HERE.


KiKi Maroon: Hello! Welcome to Season Two of Clown, Interrupted with KiKi Maroon. That’s me! It’s been a little while. Thank you so, so much for your emails, messages, worries, and concerns. I do want to start off by catching y’all up about why it’s taken so long to get these episodes to you. First off – no, I did not relapse, and my health is fine. That was the number one concern and I totally get it. After my cancer scare and surgery back in Episode Six, things got a little dark. But I promise I am A-okay now. Nothing has grown back, and the doctor said I don’t even have to check back in until this fall. Everything’s great! So why did it take so long? 

Well, originally, I wanted this podcast to be weekly, but I had to change it to seasons. There’s a lot of travel involved with finding artists who are comfortable sharing their stories. That, plus the post-production work, makes this a very time-consuming project. But I love it! I love getting to connect with these people. And I love getting to connect with the listeners who write to tell me that something that we talked about resonated with them. So, I will 100% continue the show. I’m just not going to be able to make it weekly until I have more resources – and by resources, I mean money! Mine was drastically drained after all the medical stuff that we talked about in Episode Six. So, I spent most of 2019 working four or five jobs. While it was a busy and hard year, it was also a great year!  

My comedy/burlesque show, “KiKi Maroon’s Burly Q Lounge,” was picked up by Live Nation, so now, it’s a monthly multi-city production! And I even gave my first TEDx talk! It’s called The Beauty of Rock Bottom – you can guess why! The video is not released yet, but I’ll put it on the website once it is. Also, I started a separate Instagram for this podcast [@ClownPod]. There’s a lot of sobriety stuff that I always want to share, but I kind of feel weird. I have to balance it and not post too many sobriety-based things so I don’t ostracize my normal, functioning adult audience – the people that follow me from the burlesque shows, my stand-up comedy, or modeling. But, I still want to share that stuff, so should you be interested in passages from books I’m currently reading, cheesy motivational stuff, inappropriate memes about hitting rock bottom, and maybe even Instagram Stories of me being the only sober person at random parties – which happens often – then join me on Instagram @ClownPod, that’s Clown P-O-D. One word, no dashes. 

Speaking of clowns, my first guest of the season is a professional clown! Bobby Barnaby is the head of Fou Fou Ha! Austin. Fou Fou Ha! is a nationwide brand of clown tricksters! They’re a glorious mix of  clown-meets-drag, coated in showgirl. Fou Fou Ha! started in San Francisco 19 years ago by Mama Fou. Years later, one of their senior clowns moved to New York and started a branch there called Fou-York. I love that! Another moved to Portland and started a group there. And last year, Bobby moved to Texas and started Fou Fou Ha! Austin. On top of being a professional clown, Bobby is also an award-winning international burlesque performer. We talk about the art of clowning, escapism, sober drag queens, and the time he was almost eaten by a python… seriously. I hope you like it. Here’s me and Bobby Barnaby. 

[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]

KiKi Maroon: I’m looking at a costume right now. It’s crystals and lace and everything. A very showgirl version of a clown.

Bobby Barnaby: Oh yes. We believe- the higher the hair, the closer to clown.

KiKi Maroon: Hahaha!Oh my god, please tell me you’re going to put that on a shirt?! 

Bobby Barnaby: Oh yeah, of course!

KiKi Maroon: Please do that. 

Bobby Barnaby: We’ve got a new slogan that we’re going to put on some shirts too called, “The bevel made me do it.”

KiKi Maroon: Ohhh my god! Oh my god, I love this. I wish I was in Austin so I could join y’all. I love this so, so much. How many are in the Austin group now? 

Bobby Barnaby: Oh, wow. We just actually had an audition and brought on a few more. Roundabout 14. 

KiKi Maroon: Wow, okay, and you just started it? The Austin part of it.

Bobby Barnaby: A year ago.

KiKi Maroon: That’s what I thought. 

Bobby Barnaby: Everyone in Austin is so busy. There are so many projects going on and the way Fou is, it’s not super demanding. You don’t have to be there all the time; this isn’t your one life goal. We know that you’re artists and that you’re going to have a lot of things going on. So,  I have to have 14 to be able to get 6 at a time. Haha.

KiKi Maroon: Got it. That makes sense. Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: Same with Fou Fou Ha! San Francisco. With almost 20 years of history, there are lots of people that come in or out of the troupe, so it’s a “whoever is there is who is getting the gigs” type of a thing. 

KiKi Maroon: Got it.

Bobby Barnaby: And we’re just a big family. It’s more about love and creating art together than rigorous rules and you know, that kind of stuff.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Well, okay. So, with that many of them though… I ask because you have some of the costumes here – are you doing all these costumes? Or do other people do the costumes with you?

Bobby Barnaby: No, I do not do them all. I do my own

KiKi Maroon: Okay, good! I was like, “Don’t do this to yourself!” Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. No, no, no, no. I don’t have that much time. Wrangling 12-13 clowns is enough work. It’s like herding cats into a can of worms, I’d say. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, I’m sure! 

Bobby Barnaby: But our rule is, “You can’t do a gig until you make your own wig.” So, they have to make their own wig and their own costume. I am definitely there to help. We have crafting days on Sundays.

KiKi Maroon: That sounds self-filtering, because I’m sure a lot of people… we have the showgirls in my show, people say, “Oh my god, I want to be a showgirl!” But I’m like, “Okay, so we do this and this and this…” “That sounds very hard.” And I’m like, “Well, if that sounds hard to you, then you’re not going to be able to do the actual work!

Bobby Barnaby: Exactly. I hired a lot of people knowing that some will not make it through the gauntlet of clown. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. 

Bobby Barnaby: It just happens. People will fall off and that’s fine, we still love them and they’re still in the Fou family. But the diehard ones, you don’t know until you find out who’s willing to put in the work. Those are the people that are doing the gigs, doing the festivals, and things like that.

KiKi Maroon: The ones who stick around.Yeah, that’s awesome! You’re doing an open mic in Austin too?

Bobby Barnaby: Actually, yes. In January, we started a show called “The F Show.” It’s Fire, Fun, and Follies on the First Friday of the month. 

KiKi Maroon: Shut up! Oh god! I love that.

Bobby Barnaby: That’s right! Moving to Austin about a year and a half ago, I noticed that most of the shows here – most of the burlesque shows – are troupe based shows. So for an independent artist, it’s a little harder to get those guest spots. It’s a very collaborative community, but at the same time, we’re kind of all fighting for those same spots. So I wanted to create a variety show. Fou is always there and we have partnered with Pyrotect Fire collective, so you’re always going to see fire and clowns. But with the rest of the guest spots, I try to bring as much variety as possible. So it’ll be burlesque, it’ll be comedy, sideshow. This month we have an aerialist, we have a local comedian, and we have some fire. 

KiKi Maroon: Okay, so it’s not like a “show-up, go-up” mic. They still have to talk to you and set it all up in advance.

Bobby Barnaby: So, we have two shows per night. There’s a main stage show where we hire local entertainers that are established. Also in addition to that, I wanted to create an incubation space. Coming from San Francisco, I’ve noticed that is lacking here. And I think that’s super important to budding artists – to have a space to try things out. So they’re not just doing it in their living room, but they’re doing it in front of live people. 

KiKi Maroon: Okay. Yeah, totally.

Bobby Barnaby: We have an “open stage” show. I wanted to get rid of the “mic” part of the name. You don’t have to have a mic to come to our show. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: If you want to do a dance piece, or a new burlesque piece, or I always joke and tell the audience, “If you want to come up on stage and eat grapes for five minutes, we will watch you do that.” Whatever you want to do, we will watch you do as long as there are no bodily fluids or snakes. Those are my rules. Haha.

KiKi Maroon: Haha. Oh my god. Do you just have a thing against snakes? I know a bunch of girls that dance with snakes. 

Bobby Barnaby: I’m deathly afraid of snakes. I love all animals. But I had a near-death experience as a child. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh no! Are you serious?! 

Bobby Barnaby: I did. 

KiKi Maroon: How did you have a near-death experience with a snake? 

Bobby Barnaby: When I was a child, there was a show across the street from my school in the amphitheater park called, “Ooo’s, Awes, and Giggles.” And it was a different show every month.

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god. I love everything that you say. I just have to tell you that. Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Haha! I have a colorful life; I will tell you. 

KiKi Maroon: Yes! 

Bobby Barnaby: So, we went to this show, my older sister and I. I was in first grade I think. I was a very, very small, little child. Very short, very tiny. So, that month the show was belly dancers with snakes. After the show, you could go around the back of the stage and have the snake put on you for a photo. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: So we went around the back and they put the tail end of the snake on me – this was a 30-foot python… And it just Mowgli-ed (boy from The Jungle Book) me right up! It literally encircled me from toe to tip. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god! 

Bobby Barnaby: It thought it was having a snack. 

KiKi Maroon: Shut up! 

Bobby Barnaby: And I couldn’t breathe. With every breath out, it collapsed my lungs more and there was this big frenzy. The men picked up my feet and they were yanking me away from the snake. And then finally, they were able to uncoil it onto somebody else’s arm. We didn’t have any parental supervision; it was the early 90’s! They just patted us on the head and said, “Have a good day, kids. Go home.” We just walked home and that was that.

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god! Hahaha! “You’re not dead. Be happy.”

Bobby Barnaby: Yes, exactly! So, I love all animals, but I just have this primal, built-in fear that I can’t control. Haha.

KiKi Maroon: Yes. Yeah, that makes sense. Oh my god.

Bobby Barnaby: So, I’m trying to work on it. I watch nature programs.

KiKi Maroon: Well, it’s okay to not work on that. You have a reason. It’s not an unjustified fear – for you,specifically.

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. It’s one of my only fears. When I see them, it grips me and I can feel it in my chest. Through sobriety, I have decided to walk towards my fears because I think of fears as a cord – a stretched cord between you and the fear. And if you walk towards the fear, there’s slack in the line and it releases all the tension. So, I’m trying. I challenged myself and I did touch a snake at Coney Island. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. 

KiKi Maroon: Good for you, that you’re even working on it! So yours is justified because you almost died, and that’s reasonable. I have – for my whole life – had a fear of cockroaches. By the way, do y’all have the big ones in San Francisco that we have here? 

Bobby Barnaby: Oh god, no. No, no, no.

KiKi Maroon: Okay, I didn’t think so. I know a lot of people will come down from up north and are like, “No, absolutely not. These monsters don’t exist anywhere but here.” (Southern USA)

Bobby Barnaby: That is true. 

KiKi Maroon: I lived in Florida and they were everywhere, but they called them something else. They gave them a cute name. And I was like, “Uh-uh, no. They’re fucking cockroaches.” Oh god, what were they? Something bugs [palmetto bugs]. Anyways, it doesn’t matter. I’ve had a fear of them since I was little, a fear that causes shrieking. One time, there was one outside my apartment door, so I just didn’t go home that night. I was throwing rocks at it. It didn’t run away, so I just had to go stay at my girlfriend’s house, because I just couldn’t.

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. When I first moved here a year and a half ago, it was in the summer and I was coming home from a gig. I was in full drag and one chased me around the parking lot! It just kept coming for me!

KiKi Maroon: Ohh no! While you were in drag? Oh my god.

Bobby Barnaby: I was in full drag, screaming in the middle of the night.

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god, that should be in a movie. Haha!

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. I’m sure somebody saw it and was like, “Put that on Instagram!”

KiKi Maroon: Haha. Oh my god. So even if they were dead, it would be a thing with me. I’d put a bowl or newspaper or something on them and wait until someone visited me. Like, “Hey, can you take care of that for me?” I would love to say that through sobriety, I worked through it. That did not happen. But separately, I had a surgery last year. Not pre-cancer, but the step right before that. It was a whole mindfuck, mortality and all this stuff, and I’ve never gone under anesthesia. And so, it was a lot. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my career, because, “Oh, are they taking my whole tit away?” It was a lot for me to handle. Now thankfully, everything’s fine. But the day after the surgery, I just felt super zen because it was like, “Well, this is yet another thing I got through.” 

Bobby Barnaby: Right. Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. And there was just a lot of peace in like the whole, “This too shall pass”. Terrible things keep happening.

Bobby Barnaby: Right.

KiKi Maroon: They’re not going to stop. Ever, I don’t think. The fear has just dissipated through that. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: And so, two days after, I saw a roach and I went dead-eyed. I stared at it, just went over, smacked it with a broom, and scooped it up. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah!

KiKi Maroon: Because there’s nothing else to be afraid of at this point.

Bobby Barnaby: No.

KiKi Maroon: And it was really weird to explain because I’m like, “Yeah, I’m super zen, but I’m killing things – but in a very zen way!” Haha.

Bobby Barnaby. Haha. You zen-fully killed that fucker!

KiKi Maroon: Yeah! Haha!

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. I like to think of things as, the worst thing that has ever happened to you is only the worst thing until the next worst thing. And if you got through the last worst thing, then you can always get through the next worst thing.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, that’s much more positive way of saying it. I’m more like, “Fucking bring it on!” Haha. So, how long ago did you stop drinking? 

Bobby Barnaby: Well, I stopped drinking… this July, it will be four years for me. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh, congratulations! 

Bobby Barnaby: I did do, for 18 months, what they call the Marijuana Maintenance Program. And then April 1st, I went clean and sober.

KiKi Maroon: April 1st this year? Oh no, April 1st then.

Bobby Barnaby: So, I have two years, just over two years, clean and sober. 

KiKi Maroon: Got it. Okay. 

Bobby Barnaby: I chose April 1st, because that is actually my personal New Year. Being a performer, we don’t really get to celebrate New Year’s because we’re usually working, and it’s all about booze usually, too.  

KiKi Maroon: Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: So, April 1st presented itself to me. Monumental things happened on April 1st for several years and then I kind of caught on. The first show that I ever produced solo was on April 1st. The next year, I submitted my application to Clown College on April 1st. 

KiKi Maroon: Aww!

Bobby Barnaby: The following year, I graduated from Clown School and I also moved out of my home of 10 years, and ended my marriage on April 1st. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh, wow. 

Bobby Barnaby: And this year, I get to celebrate two years clean and sober and the success of my new show! 

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god! 

Bobby Barnaby: So,April 1st is a very big day for me. And being a clown, I think it’s very fitting.

KiKi Maroon: Absolutely! And I have to tell you – because we know each other as performers, especially from Facebook – But this is our first sit-down. Everything you’ve said, I’m like, “Oh, my god, we are so connected!” And that is my birthday! 

Bobby Barnaby: It’s your birthday! Yay!

KiKi Maroon: Yeah! This is just meant to be.

Bobby Barnaby: Yes! It’s both of our New Years’. 

KiKi Maroon: I love that so much. Just the symbolism and the power in those things and what they mean to you, because I know that feeling.

Bobby Barnaby: Absolutely. Yeah, I think it’s really important to make your own way through life and not feel that you have to follow the status quo. Because I felt that for so long, and I felt so, what my sponsor calls, “not-good-enough-itis.” I felt that my whole life and then, I recently started driving Lyft and sometimes I’ll talk about things. And things in my life are kind of… I run an all-showgirl-drag-clown troupe – that’s quite a thing! I’m a stripper that has stripped coast to coast of the United States and Canada and all over Europe. And that’s not an acceptable thing in some places in Texas. But, depending on the fare, I will share part of my life with them. And this one guy said, “You’re so cool!”

KiKi Maroon: Haha, I mean, it’s true!

Bobby Barnaby: I just waited so long to hear that when I was a kid. I never thought I was going to hear that. Not that it’s important what other people think about you, but just that I’ve made my own way and not followed what I thought I had to follow. And I’m actually very happy about that. 

KiKi Maroon: Good! That makes me happy. I feel like with artists, a really common thread is that people feeling like the outsider and the approval-seeking it causes. And the whole back and forth that we do because we tend to be sensitive.  And so, you kind of do the, “Fuck it, make your own path!” But then we find people, you meet the other strippers or the other clowns or the other artists, and then you kind of get sucked into negative habits because you then want to be accepted by those things. 

Bobby Barnaby: Right. So, you have to fit into this new outcast crew. 

KiKi Maroon: Exactly. You’re trying to fit in with the outcasts. 

Bobby Barnaby: “Am I outcast enough?”

KiKi Maroon: Hahaha, exactly! You have to be a rebel and the constant struggle is finding the actual “your own path,” versus thinking you’re on your own path.

Bobby Barnaby: Right, exactly. “Where do I fit in?” “I don’t fit in.” “Then how do I fit in with not fitting in?”

KiKi Maroon: Okay. Stripping coast to coast – was this pre- or post-sobriety? 

Bobby Barnaby: Pre-sobriety. Actually, 4/20 was my 11-year anniversary in burlesque!

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god! Hahaha. You love dates! You’re really good with dates.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah, I do love dates! I’m very Virgo. I love dates and order and spreadsheets for sure. 

KiKi Maroon: I love spreadsheets! 

Bobby Barnaby: I love spreadsheets!

KiKi Maroon: There is a comedian, Dusti Rhodes. She posted on Facebook, “A lady in the streets and Excel in the sheets!” 

Bobby Barnaby: Haha!

KiKi Maroon: And I was like, “Please, dear god, make that a t-shirt or a sticker.” I need that on everything that I own!

Bobby Barnaby: We need to start a T-shirt business, I think. 

KiKi Maroon: Yes, we do! We have lots of catchphrases. Okay, so 11 years. 

Bobby Barnaby: 11 years in burlesque. I’ve done a lot of musical theater in my life. I started dancing competitively when I was 10-years-old. So that’s now been 25 years of dance. I did a lot of musical theater. I was in a production of Cabaret and one of the performers was having a party. There was this little competition at the party, and I was like, “Whoa, I’m going to win that!” 

KiKi Maroon: Of course! Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: So, I tap danced and I sang and I won the competition! Haha! It was a silly little fun thing. But it was very fun. There were some boys there and they said, “Oh, we’re part of this troupe. You should come to a rehearsal and check it out.” Well, I’ve never been invited to be a part of anything in my life. So I think I’m going to take them up on that! I showed up and we just started working on this number. I had no idea what it was for or what we were doing, but I just kept showing up. And then before I knew it, I was making my burlesque debut at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco for Tease-O-Rama, the original burlesque festival in 2008. 

KiKi Maroon: Shut! Up!

Bobby Barnaby: I was in this dressing room with Dirty Martini, and Catherine D’lish, and Cirque du Soleil.

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god!

Bobby Barnaby: And I had no idea who any of them were.

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god! 

Bobby Barnaby: We were watching from backstage, getting ready for our number and I’m just peering through the curtains being like, “Is this a dream? The little child inside of me has finally arrived where they belong! I don’t even know what’s happening right now!” Our number was- we were hobos with kit bags and we had a live chicken in our act. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god! Hahaha!

Bobby Barnaby: And that’s how I made my burlesque debut on one of the world’s largest stages, at that time, for burlesque! And I just kept dancing! That troupe was called SF Boylesque. We were known as the “Bohemian Brethren”. We were the first all-male neo-burlesque troupe in the country. They started in 2006; I joined them in 2008. I danced with them for five years, then the show kind of ended. Then I just kept going. I wanted to do solo stuff, so I started applying to festivals solo. I’ve now performed in more than 35 burlesque festivals. 

KiKi Maroon: Wow!

Bobby Barnaby: I’ve stripped in 15 US cities. I’ve stripped coast to coast in Canada, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and 13 other countries in Europe and what-not. 

KiKi Maroon: That’s amazing

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah! And I’m actually the current reigning King of Texas Burlesque Festival and the Amsterdam Burlesque Festival. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh! Haha! I love that dichotomy.

Bobby Barnaby: Haha! Yeah, right?

KiKi Maroon: King of Texas and Amsterdam. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah, why not?! 

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god. That is amazing! 

Bobby Barnaby: It’s been really a wild ride and I didn’t choose it; this life chose me. I got plucked out of it and the Universe, my Higher Power, the Divine decided, “This is where you belong, little boy who’s lost. Come here.” And that’s where I ended up! Burlesque has been my life, my godsend, my family. I found my family here. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. 

Bobby Barnaby: I believe very much in chosen family and I am very honored to be in the House of Famous. I was adopted by World Famous *BOB*, who is my drag mother. 

KiKi Maroon: I love her!

Bobby Barnaby: And my siblings – Kitty von Quim and Siomai Moore and Louisiana Purchase and Precious Ephemera and Matt Knife. We’re a family. We’re really, really a family. I was talking to Precious on the phone last night until two in the morning in my car, driving *BOB* home. And it’s really amazing to find your family when you feel like you don’t necessarily have one.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Did you move to Austin on *BOB*’s suggestion, because she moved here first, right? Or was that just random?

Bobby Barnaby: Kitty von Quim, my best friend and my sister, we met each other in San Francisco. We lived there, performed all over the place together, then she and her wife decided to move to Austin. I came out to visit. I had a one month break off from Clown School, and I came for the whole month. I was like, “Okay, this is pretty cool. I like it.” And then, I ended up coming back in April for the Texas Burlesque Festival of that year. So that was in April, just a week after I had ended my marriage and moved out of my home. And we were laying by the pool, eating snacks, dancing, and I wasn’t really happy with my living situation. And I just thought to myself, “I don’t know where you belong in the world right now, but I think you belong here with your family.” And so I decided to just come and move here, and try things out. 

KiKi Maroon: Good! I’m so glad that you had that. That’s a hard time.

Bobby Barnaby: It is.

KiKi Maroon: I’ve not been divorced, but I was engaged and we broke up. You have these ideas of what your life is going to be, or what your world is. And when that’s taken away, it’s jarring. 

Bobby Barnaby: It is.

KiKi Maroon: And it’s easy to spiral. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. I had just gotten sober recently before that. I say that getting sober, for me, was like waking up at your first sleepover ever. And I woke up in that bed with my husband and I was like, “Where the fuck am I? And who the fuck are you?” I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know why I was where I was. I didn’t know any of those things. All of this life that I had set up didn’t feel right. It was kind of that realization that you’ve known it for a really long time and you just weren’t able to accept it. So you just kept getting drunk.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, you lied to yourself for a real long time. 

Bobby Barnaby: I did. And so I thought, “Well, I’m a brand-new person. I’m a brand-new clown out of school. And I need to go out and find my brand-new life.” 

KiKi Maroon: This is why I like doing the podcast. I like to talk to people who can understand that. Because it’s so hard to explain if you’ve not experienced it. The best way I can say it is – it felt like reality was rushing at me. And in a year, I “grew up,”. I made up for 15 years of not developing as a person.

Bobby Barnaby: Absolutely.

KiKi Maroon: And I had no idea how emotionally and mentally stunted I was. You know, I was learning things that – I don’t want to say the word “normal” – but a “non-alcoholic,” these life lessons that they would have learned at like 16 and 18 and 20, and now I am in my 30s and was just like, “Oh, this is what being sad is. Okay.” It’s just learning how to process what feeling is, and it’s so intense! You’re just like, “This is why I was running away! This shit is hard. How are you walking through the world like this?!”

Bobby Barnaby: Haha oh my god.Absolutely. “This shit is hard.” It’s funny – in meetings, they say that our stories are unique, but the human experience is not unique. Something that I really realized through sobriety is that we’re all the same. We all have the same general fears. We all go through things the same. And I don’t know about you, but I was a chronic user from the age of 13 until my 30s. And a lot of psychologists say that when you use any substance chronically that your brain stops developing at the age that you started that use. And then when you stop using, your brain continues to develop. So a lot of us come out of these 15-year stupors, and we’re teenagers. We don’t know how to deal with feelings and we don’t know how to sit with feelings. I never sat with a feeling and felt it in its original form – ever. I was always either making it bigger or making it smaller; you know, making my happiness bigger or making my sadness smaller. And a lot of people say, “You don’t have to feel happy to be happy.” I didn’t understand that. I always had to feel happy or I was going to feel sad.

KiKi Maroon: Wow, I did not know that; what you just said about the thing that psychologists say – that that’s when you basically stop progressing? 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. 

KiKi Maroon: I’ve always tried to explain in my non-scientific terms how I’ve tried to process this. I did not know that. That makes complete sense to me. 

Bobby Barnaby: It really does, and exactly what you were saying. Right when I got between six to nine months sober, I started feeling. And it’s hard to explain that, but I didn’t feel things.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, but you thought you did. I was like, “Of course, I’m always happy. I’m the life of the party. Everything is so much fun!”

Bobby Barnaby: “Experiencing life, ya’ll!” – No. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, no, no no. I had no idea. 

Bobby Barnaby: You start feeling for the first time and it’s a fucking doozy! And I tried to be very rational. Rationalize my feelings. And it was very, very confusing and hard for me when I made peace with something in my mind, why my body and soul and heart wouldn’t stop feeling

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. 

Bobby Barnaby: I’m like, “We’re good now.” 

KiKi Maroon: Hahaha! “Stop it.” 

Bobby Barnaby: “Let’s move on. Get some ice cream and let’s go.” Haha.

KiKi Maroon: I started listening to Oprah’s podcast, SuperSoul Conversations. And she was talking to Eckhart Tolle

Bobby Barnaby: Yes! 

KiKi Maroon: It’s something that’s been repeating in my head now. That if you don’t fully process a fear, or just a negative emotion – fear, sadness, whatever – you carry that with you forever. Until something triggers you later – a day later, a week later, a year later, whatever. And you have that feeling again, just remembering that thing. And you can try to process it then, or smash it back down, but it’s going to come back again later. And that you have to fully process those feelings, or you’re carrying it with you forever. And I was like, “Fuuuck!”

Bobby Barnaby: Yes. I feel that majorly right now. I’ve just actually gone through my fourth step for the first time. Because in true rebel, outsider fashion, I did not have a sponsor for the first two or three years of my sobriety, which I do not recommend. I was like, “I’m doing this my way.” 

KiKi Maroon: Oh no…Haha. 

Bobby Barnaby: I recommend having a sponsor and working the steps – it’s all there for a reason. But at the same time, it is your program and you get to decide what you do. But going through that fourth step, and if you’re unfamiliar, the fourth is when you’re going through every single reason why you drank, basically. And all of those feelings that you didn’t feel completely before, you fucking feel them in one week’s time. You know? All of them. And you break those down to where those fears came from, all of your resentments. So, I said, “reasons why you drink,” but it’s mainly about resentments and anger, which for me, is why I drank. Breaking down those resentments to fears and where those fears come from and what’s behind those fears – and what’s behind those fears and what’s behind those fears – and feeling them. And really, doing it all at once is super painful and hard, and requires a lot of bubble baths. But it’s so freeing to get a little bit of peace. And maybe you might have to circle around and do it again, you know, but it’s really an amazing process.

KiKi Maroon: Okay, so here’s the thing…  I like going to meetings. I love hearing people’s stories and that’s where I feel the least lonely, basically. Just the connection. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yes, absolutely.

KiKi Maroon: I honestly never talk to anybody after them or anything. I see people go and have coffee together and talk. I’m like, “I got my connection. I gotta go.”  

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. 

KiKi Maroon: But I will go three, or six, or eight months with out going. And it’s only when I feel myself spiralingout, just not taking care of myself that I go. I don’t usuallyget an itch to start drinking again; it’s not even that anymore. I just get really depressed, dark, overwhelmed, and lonely; all these negative things pile up.
So I go to a meeting and I’m like, “Everything’s fixed.” And then I don’t go back.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah, that sounds about right. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. So, actually just three weeks ago, I was like, “I’m going every week now. I’m going because this is better. I know this is good for me.” So, I’m like three years, going, “Okay, now I’m actually going to work the program versus visiting and then running away.” 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah, yeah. 

KiKi Maroon: So, I am just starting that. I’m going to ask you a question; and maybe this is why you’re supposed to have a sponsor. Haha. So, I have the Big Book… 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: I’m reading it. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: But I always hear people talk about, “Well, you got to work the steps.” I’m like, “Okay, I’m reading it.” But… when you first go to meetings, there’s never like a welcome packet saying, “Here’s how you do this thing!” So people go, and they talk, and then you walk away. And I’m like… “I thought there was going to be like a worksheet or something?” I’m reading, I’m doing it in my head… What are you supposed to do? Is what I’m asking. Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Yes, your sponsor is your guide. Your sponsor is your person. 

KiKi Maroon: But who tells that person?

Bobby Barnaby: Their sponsor! It’s a trickle-down effect. So, my sponsor has a sponsor, and her sponsor has a sponsor, and it’s a trickle-down… 

KiKi Maroon: It’s a pyramid scheme! Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: It’s a pyramid scheme! It’s a Ponzi scheme! No, it’s not. That’s terrible. So, the 12th step is, you know, to…  

KiKi Maroon: Service, right?

Bobby Barnaby: Service and trying to help the next alcoholic. It is a trickle-down effect. And so my sponsor is helping me in the way that her sponsor helped her. Every sponsorship is different and you’re going to work the steps differently. I do have a workbook that we use. 

KiKi Maroon: Okay, okay.

Bobby Barnaby: It has worksheets in it and it’s very Virgo. “This week, you’re reading this page to this page. And then we’re going to talk about that page to that page. And here’s your activity that we’re going to do to help you work through – this part of the book or part of the steps.” 

KiKi Maroon: Okay.

Bobby Barnaby: Everybody does it differently, though. So it’s about finding the right person. And I didn’t think that I was going to be able to find the right person. I thought, “I’m a performer, I like to travel, they’re not going to be okay with me missing a week.” 

KiKi Maroon: “They’re not going to get me, man.” 

Bobby Barnaby: “They’re not going to get me, man! They’re not going to realize that I’ve got other priorities.” And things like that. But my sponsor found me. My Divine Intervention sent me a person. They were a friend of a friend that needed a place to stay. And so I hosted them, and she latched on, and I flew away with her. Actually, it’s unconventional – she lives in LA and we meet over Skype once a week for two hours. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh, wow!

Bobby Barnaby: So it doesn’t have to be conventional at all. But yeah, just reading the Big Book is not working the steps, unfortunately. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah… 

Bobby Barnaby: You get points for reading the Big Book, but you’re not working the steps quite yet. It really does take somebody else to explain what’s going on, explain what you’re supposed to do, and help you take it one step at a time. Because just reading through it, you’re missing all the little pieces of gold that are sprinkled in there. And also, to have someone help you. You know that book was written in the 1930s. 

KiKi  Maroon: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. 

Bobby Barnaby: It’s very outdated, and there are reasons why it hasn’t been updated. And after a while, you get over that. You get over the archaic language and you’re like, “Okay, I’m just going to take it for what it is. And I’m going to take my piece and kind of dismiss the parts that don’t resonate with me, or that I feel are a little misogynistic” or what have you.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, yeah I got like three pages into the, “Being the Wife of the Alcoholic…” And I had to skip.

Bobby Barnaby: Ohh, yeah.

KiKi Maroon: I was like, “I can’t.” There’s like 20 more pages about “dealing with him.” 

Bobby Barnaby: I remember reading that chapter in a meeting, and I was newer in my sobriety, and I was just like, “Fuck this.” Haha. I would also be that person in meetings that would change all of the “he” and the “God” to “she” or “They” – you know, change the language a little bit. And then I realized, “That’s not the point. You’re missing the point. You’re getting hung up on the wrong thing and you’re just finding something to be angry about.”

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, to not absorb it all.

Bobby Barnaby: And I would do the same thing when I first went to meetings. This was my situation: I have crippling anxiety, especially social anxiety. I was so scared to be in those rooms and so nervous, that I would have to get high to go to an AA meeting. I would have to get loaded just to be able to sit there for an hour and not run out of the room.

KiKi Maroon: Hahaha oh my god, that’s the best! Hahaha! I understand it though, because it took me forever. People were like, “Yeah, there are meetings everywhere. Just go.” And I would drive, sit in the parking lot, and then leave. Because I didn’t understand, “I’m just going to walk into a room with people I don’t know? That’s crazy!”

Bobby Barnaby: I would use every excuse, too. “Oh, I’m late. That’s rude. I shouldn’t go.”

KiKi Maroon: Last week, I was so proud of myself because I was having that same feeling. I told myself I was going to go. But then I thought, “By the time I get there, it’s already going to be five minutes in. I’m going to be rude.” And I’m like, “No, just go!” 

Bobby Barnaby: You still get 55 minutes of sanity.

KiKi Maroon: I forced myself to go and, like always, I felt better afterwards. 

Bobby Barnaby: I don’t think anybody walks out of a meeting and is like, “I feel worse!” 

KiKi Maroon: Hahaha! Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: I don’t think that that happens. I feel. You can feel for sure. It can bring up a lot of feelings. But you know, I used to sit there and wait for the Serenity Prayer and then I would bolt. I’d be like, “Don’t talk to me please. I can’t handle that. Don’t give me your phone number. I won’t use it!” And I used to have this thing too. People would say, “I’m Billy and I’m a grateful alcoholic.” And in my head, I would go, “Well, fuck you, Billy.

KiKi Maroon: I have not heard that, and I’m glad I didn’t.

Bobby Barnaby: A lot of people like to say, “I’m a grateful alcoholic.” And it used to drive me crazy. I was like, “Well, I’m here just to try to stay alive for one more hour, Billy. So I’m glad that you’re fucking grateful.” 

KiKi Maroon: Hahahahaha!

Bobby Barnaby: And now, I too, am a grateful alcoholic. You do turn the corner on that. I also say to my sponsor sometimes – because I like to isolate and because I have so much anxiety – “I wish I could just watch a meeting on television. If they had meetings on Netflix, I would be so healed right now.” And that’s not the truth. There’s a visceral experience that you get when you resonate with someone else’s story. And if you have the gall to share some of your own story as well, you always feel better, you always feel a little bit lighter than when you walked in the room for some reason. And it’s hard to get there. Sometimes I go a while without one. But luckily, I have my own personal meeting with my sponsor every week. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, so you know that you’re covered.

Bobby Barnaby: And that doesn’t replace meetings, but it is a good way. Also, I think I heard you mention in another podcast that you go to meetings in other cities, which I also do. That’s so great. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah!

Bobby Barnaby: I’ve been to meetings on cruise ships. I’ve been to meetings in Europe in languages that I didn’t speak. I’ve created meetings at burlesque festivals just like Kay Sera (at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas – check out Episode 3!) does. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh yeah!

Bobby Barnaby: And those are some of the best meetings ever

KiKi Maroon: I think I finally found a home group. It’s only been a couple of weeks; we’ll see. But I associated meetings with vacation/work.

Bobby Barnaby: Right. 

KiKi Maroon: And so, it was part of the self-care, “I’m going to do this thing, I’m going to go to the beach, and I’m going to go to the meeting.” So then when I was home, I thought, “I don’t have time for that right now.” I would always put myself on the back burner because I have so much to do. And I tell myself, “I’m too busy for that.” So I could not get myself to go to one in Houston. Then this last year, I traveled very little because I was dealing with all the hospital stuff and it was just so much. So I was like, “Well, I guess I don’t get to go to meetings!” Haha. There’s always an excuse.

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. Right. There always will be an excuse. 

KiKi Maroon: I have a lot of overachiever in me. The co-dependent overachiever in me was like, “I just need to get a book and I’ll work through it myself. I don’t need anybody.” And then when I found out the 12th step was “service to others,” I was like, “Well, that’s what the fucking podcast is! I’m done! I did all this stuff! I’m helping people with the podcast!”

Bobby Barnaby: Tick those boxes, baby. “Why am I not healed?” 

KiKi Maroon: “I’m fixed, right? I’m fixed! This other sad that I have now.” Haha. 

Bobby Barnaby: I think that there’s a mentality sometimes that meetings are rescue devices, and absolutely they can be. When I first got sober, I went to every kind of meeting. In San Francisco, there are more than 200 meetings a day

KiKi Maroon: Oh, I believe it.

Bobby Barnaby: I went; I didn’t care what kind of meeting it was. There’s this amazing website called The Next 20 Meetings in San Francisco and it just serves you the next 20 meetings at any given moment throughout the city. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh, wow!

Bobby Barnaby: And I would just go. I’ve been to every type of 12-step program that there is, I think. I’ve been to OA, Overeaters Anonymous. I’ve been to the NA meetings (Narcotics Anonymous). I’ve been to, you know, all of them. The CMA meetings, the crystal meth meetings, all of those things. And it’s all the same program pretty much. But I didn’t care what it was. I was just like, “I need a rescue right now. I need to be sitting in a meeting so that I’m not sitting in a bar.” 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. 

Bobby Barnaby: So I didn’t really have a home meeting either. And then when I found a home meeting, I realized, “Oh, this is not only a rescue device, but this is like…”  

KiKi Maroon: It’s maintenance

Bobby Barnaby:It’s maintenance.” It’s constant maintenance that you’re doing. And not only maintenance, but progression

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. 

Bobby Barnaby: You’re doing forward thinking work, not just fixing what’s going on right now. And then you’ll hear the story of that 70-year-old white man that has not lived your life at all. And he’ll say something from your story.

KiKi Maroon: You still relate.

Bobby Barnaby: I’ve been to meetings in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, where people are using drugs – outside, shooting up – and then walking into the meeting to get their slips signed. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh, wow.

Bobby Barnaby: And those people will sit down and they will say something that you’re like, “Yeah! That’s my story too.” Like I was saying, the human experience is not unique. We all have something that is relatable. 

KiKi Maroon: Well, I think now. I just like meetings in general now. But you know, you’re talking about the whole, “Fuck you, grateful alcoholic!” Like, bitter me?

Bobby Barnaby: Right. 

KiKi Maroon: I couldn’t absorb anything, because I could just look at them and dismiss it, “You don’t understand.”

Bobby Barnaby: I also have an aversion to what they call “young people’s meetings.” 

KiKi Maroon: Oh yeah? 

Bobby Barnaby: Yes. Because I actually resonate with older people. I feel more safe. I feel like, “Oh, they’re young people. They’re going to fucking judge me. It’ll be just like high school. That’ll be terrible. They’re all covered in tattoos… just like me.” 

KiKi Maroon: “They think they’re sooo cool.” 

Bobby Barnaby: “They think they’re sooo cool!” And I’m not going to be cool enough for them. I’m not going to be hard enough. My addiction isn’t going to be bad enough, that it’s not going to be valid for them. 

KiKi Maroon: Haha, yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: So I do have an aversion to those. I like queer meetings. I’m a queer person, and it makes me feel safe to be in a room with other queers and allies. That’s what makes me feel the most safe. Especially here in Texas. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: I’m afraid of being judged. I have a fear of that. And that’s just where I feel the safest. And the beauty of a home meeting is that those people get to know you, whether you like it or not. When you speak, they remember things about you because they feel the same way as you.

KiKi Maroon: And that was the thing at this meeting. A couple of times, she called on people by their name when they were kind of nodding to share. And I was like, “They know each other here.” And that was so… because again, I usually go in different cities. So, it was like, “Okay, this is… I can meet people here.” I had that safe feeling. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: “I need to come back here.” It felt… yeah. Just hearing her call their names. I’m like, “This is different.”

Bobby Barnaby: It is different. And also, get that phone list, girl! Get that phone list! 

KiKi Maroon: I don’t even know what that means. Haha!

Bobby Barnaby: Every meeting has a phone list. 

KiKi Maroon: Okay!

Bobby Barnaby: Every meeting has a phone list to call on people for support. And you will get that phone list and you’ll put it somewhere. I put the phone list in my travel bag actually. It lives in my suitcase so that when I am on vacation or traveling, I know that I can call Tina or Lucy or whoever. 

KiKi Maroon: Okay.

Bobby Barnaby: There becomes a time where you will be healthfully addicted to meetings. And the honesty that happens there, you know? And you go outside and you’re like, “This is all fake. You don’t care how I am. You just asked me how I am and you don’t care how I am.” 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: But inside of a meeting, someone asks you how you are and you know that they really are asking because they want to know that you’re okay, because they know that at times they’re not okay. And it can be really just an amazing safe place.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Last time I was in Austin, I was talking to John Rabon and he was talking about how, post-rehab, that was something that he and other people have had issues with. You get used to extreme honesty.

Bobby Barnaby: Yes!

KiKi Maroon: Especially when you’re doing live-in rehab, all day, every day. And then they release you out into the world. You’re just used to speaking with no filter, so the looks you get back when they’re not prepared for an honest answer to, “How are you doing?” Hahaha.

Bobby Barnaby: Right. And, you know, it’s kind of interesting that I got sober right after I started clowning. Clowning really helped me through my tough time of getting sober. And the thing about clowning is that it is rigorous honesty as well. There’s so much fear in the world. There are so many rules, like you can’t dress a certain way. You can’t be rude, especially here in the South. You have to be polite all the time. You have to be okay; you have to be fine when someone asks how you are. You can’t honk your horn, for god’s sake. All these things that you are conditioned to, that this is how you act as a human being. 

KiKi Maroon: Haha yeah. We’ve agreed upon this.

Bobby Barnaby: And if you act a different way, you’re breaking the social contract that we’ve made- that you have to sign, whether you like it or not! Haha. And clowning is the opposite of that. There are no rules in clowning. You get to break all the rules. You get to hold a mirror up to society and say, “Look at all those stupid rules that you made that I don’t have to follow. Aren’t you jealous of me?” And that’s what I love about clowning and AA, and how they’re similar is that there is rigorous honesty that the rest of the world is not ready for. It is a beautiful thing that we can live as examples to how that can be influential in your life.

KiKi Maroon: My story is very opposite when I was clowning. When I was just getting into it, especially being the “burlesque clown,” I got a free pass, basically.

Bobby Barnaby: Oh yeah.

KiKi Maroon: You can just steal people’s drinks and just poke them in the stomach afterwards; it was fine! I could just get away with anything…

Bobby Barnaby: Anything.

KiKi Maroon: …because I was dressed like a clown, so I’m not being “rude”. I’m being “funny”! I could talk shit to your face, dance on bars, take off clothes, everything was acceptable. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: So I took that to the most extreme level.

Bobby Barnaby: Ohh, yes. Haha.

KiKi Maroon: “Well, then I’m going to get fucked up and do every drug. I can do all this stuff and nobody’s judging me because I’m just being a clown!”

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. I mean, it’s easy to abuse power, isn’t it?

KiKi Maroon: Oh no!

Bobby Barnaby: “With great power comes great responsibility.” With great clowning comes great responsibility, right?

KiKi Maroon: Haha, yes! I am a good clown now! Haha. What made you stop drinking? Did you have a rock bottom, or what was going on?

Bobby Barnaby: You know, I did have a rock bottom. I somehow survived it and stayed alive. I got to a point where I would wake up in the morning and I would pour myself a tumbler of vodka. I would either drink the whole thing and pour a second one or just nurse that one while I got ready, just depending on the day. And then I would fill my flask and go to work, and I would drink from my flask in the broom closet at work. I was working on PIER 39 (in San Francisco), the number three tourist attraction in the United States, which is hell to work at.

KiKi Maroon: I’m sure. Yeah. You’re surrounded by children and families and tourists.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. And I was working at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., where you have to be “Gump-y” every day! Haha!

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god. Haha!

Bobby Barnaby: So, you know, I would get off work and I would drink my allotted two beers at work; you can only drink two beers at work. And then I would go down to the other end of the pier. And I was actually also doing a musical on PIER 39. So, I was spending about six days a week, 14 hours a day on PIER 39.

KiKi Maroon: I have to tell you really quick – post-probation, that was my thing. When I could finally leave Houston… I love California, specifically the coastal highway. So once I could leave, I was like, “Fuck you, I’m getting out!” I went out there, visited friends in LA, drove the coast, listened to Led Zeppelin and cried on the fucking cliffs. You know, just trying to figure out my life. And then I went up to San Francisco to visit a friend and ended up on PIER 39. And so I was eating, I don’t even know what restaurant. I’m going to say Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for the sake of the story. Haha. I was eating at some restaurant, just staring out, because you can see Alcatraz from there. And I was like, “This is symbolism. Look at me staring at that jail! Free! Having my martini!” Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah! “Bring on the clam chowder!”

KiKi Maroon: “You can’t stop me now!” Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. Ooh, yeah, yeah.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I drank my martinis and got back in the car and kept driving around.

Bobby Barnaby: Of course you did.

KiKi Maroon: It’s what I did.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. I would get high with my friends. I would do my show. We would go across to the cheaper bars and I would drink all my giant male friends under the table because I had been drinking all day and I was just sustaining and they were getting drunk fast and falling off. And I was like, “Come on, keep up boys.” And then I would drive home. I was driving to and from work every day – drunk. That was a terrible time. I had one of those times where after that time period that was really bad, I cut back a little bit, you know. Fast forward to years later, I found myself kind of in the same situation – losing a partner. I saw my history and I saw myself in the same situation and I saw that full circle coming. I saw what I was capable of and surprised that I avoided that lightning strike the first time; I didn’t kill myself or anybody else. And I said to myself, “That probably won’t happen twice. You’re probably not going to make it through a second time.” And I was talking to a friend at work and I was telling her about this, and I was like, “But I’m okay right now. Yes, my drinking is out of control right now, but I know that it’s out of control. So at least I’m aware of that.”If it gets really bad, I know a sober performing bartender who’s kind of in the same position as me that I could reach out to. If it gets bad.” And she looked at me and – this was the life changing moment – she looked at me and said, “Why are you going to wait for it to get bad, honey?” And it was like, “Whoa.” 

KiKi Maroon: Whoa.

Bobby Barnaby: “You’re right. I can be proactive about this.” So I got off work and I called that person that I had made mention of. And they told me about the Next 20 Meetings website. I went to a meeting that day and I have not had a drink since that day.

KiKi Maroon: You played the tape before you knew what “play the tape” was.

Bobby Barnaby: Yes!

KiKi Maroon: That’s amazing!

Bobby Barnaby: I did. And I feel really lucky to have that person in my life –  Miss B. We love Miss B! It’s just like something clicked, you know? I was listening to some of your other podcasts and there’s a moment for people sometimes where something clicks, you know? I wasn’t at rock bottom, but I was at a point where I was afraid of myself and what I was capable of. And I had never been in a place where I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of everything else in my life, but not of myself and the destructive behavior that I knewI was capable of. And that was it for me.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Wow. I think it’s so interesting that you were even in that space,capable of seeing that and hearing that. I feel like you could have just as easily, when she said that, just rolled your eyes, you know, because we’re in that state.

Bobby Barnaby: Absolutely.

KiKi Maroon: Rolled your eyes and been like, “Oh, she just doesn’t understand.” So that it hit you like you needed… I guess it’s exactly the thing you needed to hear at that time.

Bobby Barnaby: I really believe in divine timing. We can play these games once we get sober, like, “Oh my god, I wasted so much time being drunk” or “I wasted so much of my life. I wasted so much of my youth. I wasted time being in dead end relationships. I wasn’t following my dreams.” And it’s really easy to say all that, but I think everything happens for a reason at the right time when you’re ready to receive that information. And you know what? Maybe somebody said that to me 50 times. And it was that time, at that moment where I heard it. I was ableto hear it for somereason. And it clicked, you know? Being in the program and having friends or acquaintances or other meeting buddies that are going through it or relapse, or you see your friend that is an obvious suffering alcoholic. They say, “Oh, I’m an alcoholic,” in jest. You know, like I used to do, “Oh yeah, I’m professional!”

KiKi Maroon: Ohh yeah. Oh my god. I just got a Facebook memory that was like me joking. It was like, “Is ‘functioning alcoholic’ a compliment? Hahaha!”

Bobby Barnaby: Exactly.

KiKi Maroon: Like, oh god!

Bobby Barnaby: You know, making light of those things, but you can’t help those people. You can’t make those people get sober. You can offer support. You can be there. You can offer advice. You can say, “Hey, I’m going to a meeting. Would you like to come with me?” But you can’t make that person get sober.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, absolutely not.

Bobby Barnaby: And no one could have made me get sober until I was ready to hear that bit of knowledge.

KiKi Maroon: Are there a lot of sober performers in San Francisco? Did you find it difficult performing afterwards? Because that’s a huge change.

Bobby Barnaby: There are actually a lot of sober performers in San Francisco, especially in the drag scene.

KiKi Maroon: Oh, okay!

Bobby Barnaby: Because the drag scene is very old. There are some old Queens there! There are some Queens – some amazing Queens – that I’m lucky enough to call friends who have been sober for 20-plus years. You know, what’s funny is that I had a home meeting in San Francisco and there was somebody that came up to me and said, “Oh, you’re a performer? I’m not. But I go to a meeting on Saturday at noon and there’s a lot of performers there. This person, this person, this person.” And I said, “Oh great, thanks for letting me know! I’m never going to go to that.”

KiKi Maroon: Wait, they named the people?

Bobby Barnaby: They did name the people.

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god!

Bobby Barnaby: I don’t think it was a breach of, you know, I knew these people were sober. They knew these people were sober. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. But that still feels like…

Bobby Barnaby: We were in a safe space. They may have outed them a little bit, but I think it was with good intentions.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, of course.

Bobby Barnaby: And not to somebody outside the program. But I avoided those meetings like the plague because I didn’t want to talk to people I knew. I wanted this perfect, safe space where I could not answer the phone if that person called me. But if I saw someone out at a show, I can’t avoid them.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: Also, if I slipped up and started drinking at a show, I didn’t want those other performers’ eyes on me. I was afraid. And now the BHOF Bill meeting, which is the AA meeting at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender, is my favorite meeting in the world. It’s funny how we turn these corners, because I know that those people know exactly what I’m going through today

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. They understand. Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: They are also at this event, which is a drinking marathon for four days.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, it’s in a casino, it’s Vegas, it’s 24 hours. 

Bobby Barnaby: And also, you know, the amazing group on Facebook that we have of sober burlesque performers. It is a little “outing” – you out yourself in a very public way.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I have deleted posts before. I emotionally posted and then like an hour later, deleted it. 

Bobby Barnaby: Haha! Delete that!

KiKi Maroon: Because I’m like, “No, they’re going to screen cap it, they’re going to share it!” 

Bobby Barnaby: They’re not, they’re not!

KiKi Maroon: I know that’s silly. That’s not what this is for. But it’s just, you know, that fear. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah, of course.

KiKi Maroon: But I’m like, “That’s not what this is for. They understand.”

Bobby Barnaby: But what it has done for meis- it has outed those people as allies for me. Because, even if I never talk to that person in a meeting, or if I don’t go to a meeting with that person, I can look across the room and say, “That person is my ally and if I need to, right now, I could just go stand next to them and they’re going to know why I’m standing there.” And they’re going to be like, “You got this girl. You’re going to be fine. Would you like a soda water?” So to have those instant allies was just amazing. But yeah, there are a lot of sober performers in San Francisco. And after a while, it became a support network and it turned out that the owner of the bar that I was working for was actually a sober Queen as well.

KiKi Maroon: Oh, really?

Bobby Barnaby: So it was nice to be able to have that support.

KiKi Maroon: Good. I’m glad you had that.  I’m always interested in different places. I mean, people’s experiences in general, but different places. Because Texas is a very beer-heavy drinking place. I mean, Austin’s a party city.

Bobby Barnaby: Oh yeah, for sure.

KiKi Maroon: Houston’s a party city. So, yeah, I wonder about different cities and how common it is. I do feel like in Austin, through meeting more and more people here. There are a lot more sober people than I thought were here.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. It’s fun to find people by happenstance too. You’re like, “Oh wait, you don’t drink? Is it just today? Just this week? Are you going on a cleanse, girl?” 

KiKi Maroon: Hahahaha!

Bobby Barnaby: Like trying to not out yourself, but trying to out yourself at the same time and find an ally. I think that’s really, really fun. And I feel that sometimes people get to a point where they are really open about their sobriety.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I hit that point. But I hid it for a long time at first. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah, of course. 

KiKi Maroon: One, I don’t want to be accountable if I stopped. But two, I didn’t know how to be open. And at the time, I argued that it was me, just being myself.  “I don’t want to be sober KiKi. I just want to be KiKi! It’s better this way.” And now I’m like- Okay, no. I was just terrified of people knowing me and me being caught if I drank again.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: And so now I don’t give a shit. I want to tell people so I can connect.

Bobby Barnaby: I always had those – my go-to’s – like,  always have a drink in your hand so that nobody buys you a drink.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Yeah. 

Bobby Barnaby: So you can just say, “Oh, I have one. I’m good.”

KiKi Maroon: Exactly. Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: “I’ve got my own tab!”

KiKi Maroon: I would do the club soda with a splash of cranberry. So it looks like a vodka cranberry, maybe. Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah and be like, “Oh, could I get a lime with that soda?”

KiKi Maroon: Exactly.

Bobby Barnaby: “Could I have that in a fancy glass? Can you just put my soda water in a martini glass please?” Hahaha!

KiKi Maroon: Like they’re washing it out! Haha!

Bobby Barnaby: But you get to a point where you just don’t give a fuck.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Actually, I visited a friend of mine and she invited me to go to a work function with her with a whole bunch of people. And she was like, “I mean, if you want, I can just buy a beer for you to hold. That way, it’s not weird for you.” 

Bobby Barnaby: Haha!

KiKi Maroon: And I go, “It’s not weird for me. I don’t care.” She said, “Well… I just don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.” And I was like, “I don’t care. I’m going to have a Coke.” She said, “Well, they just can be very pushy and I don’t want it to be weird for you.” And I was like, “I think this is weird for you. You’re bringing someone who doesn’t drink. I can not come. That’s okay.” 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: But it’s just projection. And it made me feel bad for imaginary people, if that makes sense. Haha. I’m like, “I’m fine now. But a year ago, I would have answered, ‘Yes. Okay. I’ll hold the beer,’ and then holding the beer leads to, ‘Well, I’m just going to take a little sip, so it looks like I’m drinking it.’”

Bobby Barnaby: “Yeah, I’m just going to put it to my lips.” And then… 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. And so like, I was upset for imaginary, weaker people. Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Right! Oh yes, picking up the sword for those people. Yeah. And I think that, you know, everybody has the right to their own decisions and maybe just reminding people that you feel that way is…

KiKi Maroon: I’m just going to wear a shirt that says, “I don’t give a fuck.”

Bobby Barnaby: “I don’t give a fuck.”

KiKi Maroon: Hahaha! That was the best thing that I’ve learned doing this- nobody cares what I’m doing.

Bobby Barnaby: Nobody.

KiKi Maroon: Like, nothing has to do with me. Anything going on has to do with you and your space, and him and his space, and him and his space, and everybody else. And nobody cares what the fuck I’m doing. It’s been very freeing.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. You’re reminding me of another great book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz. Are you familiar with that?

KiKi Maroon: I am not.

Bobby Barnaby: Oh my gosh! The Four Agreements will change your life. It’s a lot of spiritual talk and it reads kind of like a lecture, but the takeaway is really amazing. And it’s basically – if you make these four agreements to yourself, you’ll live a happier life. On whatever level you can. One: to not take anything personally, knowing that everything that everybody does is about them; it’s not about you. Two: to always try your best. And to remember that your best is different from day to day. 

KiKi Maroon: Oh, I don’t know that one. Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Well, you know, we’re in different situations. Maybe you’re sick and your best isn’t your best.

KiKi Maroon: Then I failed that day.

Bobby Barnaby: No, you tried your best based on what you have. 

KiKi Maroon: I’ll work on that…

Bobby Barnaby: You can work on it. Three: to be impeccable with your word, to follow through. Not tell lies and things like that. And … there’s a fourth one out there somewhere. Haha.

KiKi Maroon: Haha! Well, I’ve got two out of four so far. I feel good about the two. 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah!

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I definitely have issues with being the best. Although – so, I have this thing… 

Bobby Barnaby: I remembered! Four: don’t make any assumptions.

KiKi Maroon: Oh, yes. Yes.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. Like assuming that that person hates you because you’re sober.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Well, er, okay.

Bobby Barnaby: They don’t hate you. They just…

KiKi Maroon: They’re dealing with their things.

Bobby Barnaby: They’re dealing with their own addiction.

KiKi Maroon: So, I’m doing this thing right now where if I can’t fix this – my brokennesses – I’m trying to use it to my advantage.

Bobby Barnaby: Oh, yeah?

KiKi Maroon: And so, I tend to put my self-care… it’s not even my last priority. It’s not a priority. And it’ll spiral. I think it’s kind of like what you said earlier about how clowning has saved your life.

Bobby Barnaby: Absolutely.

KiKi Maroon: I realized… so I have a bad back and it goes out. From too much stress and performing and all this stuff. And when it happens, I’m out for a couple of days. The last time it happened, I was just lying in bed, depressed and angry at the world because I can’t move. And I’m like, “I know what I’m supposed to do. I am supposed to go to physical therapy. I’m supposed to exercise. I’m not supposed to eat these foods.” I have this list of things I’m supposed to do, but I get busy with shows and I’ve got to produce all this stuff that I’m planning. And so, it just becomes the thing I don’t even think about. And I realized that… my career saved me.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: I have lost so many relationships, family members, cars, houses, things… I’ve hit multiple rock bottoms but my shows were my constant.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: And when everything was falling apart, I could put on my makeup and say, “I’ll cry later. KiKi’s got shit to do.” 

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah.

KiKi Maroon: And just push everything down, get through the show, and be okay. “I’ll deal with it later.”  And so, it’s pulled me out of many, we’ll say, “passive suicidal states.”

Bobby Barnaby: Sure.

KiKi Maroon: So I feelthat I have a debt to “the career”, to my shows. And so my personalshit is not a priority. The thing that saved me is the most important thing in the world. Once I realized that’s what was going on in my head, I was like, “Okay, that’s broken!” So, I’m trying to turn my self-care in my head to part of the show. Like, “Well, the show stopped when I don’t take care of myself because I’m hurt. So, this is not good for the show.” I’m having to somehow manipulate the story in order to take care of myself. Haha.

Bobby Barnaby: Well, you know, I’m really glad that the shows were a reason for you to stick around on the planet for a little bit longer. But I also …maybe… flip that script a little bit?

KiKi Maroon: Haha! And I’m working on that.

Bobby Barnaby: And I absolutely resonate with, “It’s show time!” But maybe a little bit, we’re using that as an escape from our life and our problems?

KiKi Maroon: You think I’m using the circus as an escape from my life?! What are you talking about?! Hahaha!

Bobby Barnaby: Haha! I don’t know. It’s just an idea. Just is a theory I’m working on over here.

KiKi Maroon: I’m just constantly running away into fantasies, “but it’s my job, so it’s okay!”

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah, okay, sure. You’re getting paid for it. It’s ok! Hahah. I think that that has many faces. Reading, Netflix, you know, escaping life, drinking and getting drunk. All of those things are escaping your life and they’re escaping what you really need to be focusing on, which is yourself. 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah.

Bobby Barnaby: Because if you yourself are not healthy, happy, joyous, and free, then you can’t give yourself completely to your art. I think as artists, there are so many layers, but I think that a lot of us are dedicated to making a change. Making art as a political statement, as a progressive movement, or as an important escape for other people’s lives. But if we’re not fully present, we can’t make our biggest impact as an artist. So, you know, you can try to put on that face, but if your back doesn’t work, you can just go and be a pretty face! I encourage you to take care of yourself so that you can be the best artist that you can be and really influence those lives. The thing I love about art is that you can never meet someone in person, but you can create a visceral, emotional response in somebody else, just through the human connection. That doesn’t have to happen verbally or one-on-one. And there’s a huge presence that is required. And, lots of artists, who made really big impacts were on LSD or whatever. But I feel like really being present in your art is something that is a gift.

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, I agree. I was actually just talking to my assistant, July, about there being a kind of magicin invoking a chosenemotion in a stranger.

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really, really powerful. And that is the reason why I get on stage. I actually, I was a mute as a child.

KiKi Maroon: Oh??

Bobby Barnaby: I was a selective mute for…

KiKi Maroon: You just have a way of being more and more interesting!

Bobby Barnaby: Dropping those bombs! Pshhh! I did not speak until I got on stage.

KiKi Maroon: Oh my god!

Bobby Barnaby: I was a selective mute, so I would talk to a few family members, but as little as possible. It was so bad that I couldn’t even ask for basic needs to be met in school. I would wet my pants instead of asking to go to the bathroom. I would not eat if I didn’t have lunch, those type of things. And I didn’t start speaking until I got on stage. I started competing in dance when I was 10. I didn’t know how to express myself. I didn’t know how to express my emotions, my feelings, my fears. I’m a child of an abusive home and getting the chance to create emotion and emote through my body without having to speak because everyone is always trying to get me to speak, speak, speak. That is something that I’ve always held onto and it’s the number one way that I communicate my soul and my expression and my emotions. More than anything else, it makes more sense to me to put those words into my body. And the fact that I can go on stage and do that and then people understand what I’m trying to say? You know, people come up to you afterwards and they’ll say, “Oh, I loved your story about…” you know, and they’ll have something that you’re like, “Oh, I wasn’t saying that at all, but that’s what you heard?”

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, and they needed to hear that.

Bobby Barnaby: And they needed to hear that. Yeah. And then, even better than that for me is when someone knows what I am saying. And it’s like, “You got it! You understood.”

KiKi Maroon: Ahh! Gives me chills.

Bobby Barnaby: “You understood what I’m trying to say and I can’t verbally say.” And that is the reason why I will never leave the stage. I will be – god-granted – a 95-year-old person on stage dancing in a wheelchair, hoping to reach somebody else’s spirit and have that connection, because that is the truest connection that I’ve been able to find in this world.

KiKi Maroon: So, we’re at the final question, which makes me sad because I am having so much fun. I’m just enjoying this so much. I love speaking with you. Hearing you talk is just…

Bobby Barnaby: Thank you.

KiKi Maroon: I’m glad we’ve done this.

Bobby Barnaby: Me too.

KiKi Maroon: So, if you could snap your fingers and everyone around the world instantly believed two things- what would they be? The only thing is that one has to be totally selfish and self-serving and the other one has to be good for humanity.

Bobby Barnaby: Hmm, I want the world to know so many things!

KiKi Maroon: Nope! Two only!

Bobby Barnaby: Haha. I think for the most impact, something for the world would be… I would choose instant acceptance of everybody. Being okay with other lifestyles, other cultures – I feel like that would wipe out xenophobia, homophobia, racism, misogyny… 

KiKi Maroon: Yeah, that’s right. You’re finding a core thing to fix.

Bobby Barnaby: I’m finding the core thing. Yeah. Automatic acceptance of everybody on the planet, that would make me feel a lot safer as a queer human in the world. And I think something for me – if everyone immediately, at the snap of a finger, knew it was okay to play

KiKi Maroon: Ahhh!

Bobby Barnaby: I have this really goofy spirit that I always suppressed because I thought it was not okay. And I went to Clown School to learn how to fail because I was afraid to fail. Growing up a dancer, I was really afraid to fail. I learned the beauty of being goofy and the origin of play. I feel like “clown” is not something that we do; I feel like “clown” is something that we are. I feel like in every human being is the spirit of “clown,” which is the mischievous want to play. Through play, we connect with other human beings. And if it was okay to play, we wouldn’t have those rigid social constructs. It would be okay to trip on the street and laugh about it instead of saying, “What’s that crack in the sidewalk?” 

KiKi Maroon: Hahaha!

Bobby Barnaby: I’ve really been able to embrace my goofiness and my inner child and I think that that’s a gift that everybody deserves – the freedom of that.

KiKi Maroon: I love that answer so much! I am so happy that I got to speak to another clown!

Bobby Barnaby: Yeah!!

KiKi Maroon: This has been wonderful. I hope we can do this again soon.

Bobby Barnaby: I hope so. Thank you so much for having me.

KiKi Maroon: Thank you. 

[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]

KiKi Maroon: That was Bobby Barnaby. Whoa, there’s a lot to unpack here. Haha. He blew my mind when he said that some psychologists say that your brain stops developing at the age you start using and then picks back up when you quit. I’ve tried so hard to explain that feeling to people, but I didn’t have the words! So, I just kept saying things like, “I don’t know. I’m in my second puberty. Reality’s rushing in. I’m getting 15 years of life lessons in one year! Do I have super powers, or am I going crazy?” Haha! What he said made a lot more sense! Even with this podcast, I went back and I listened to last year’s episodes to make sure that all of these new shows coming out had a fluid timeline, and it’s weird. It feels like I’m listening to a different person. I have grown so much this year. I’m happy, I’m confident, I have self-worth. It’s crazy! Haha. Speaking to these people has shown me that I’m not an anomaly. This seems to be the path that most people take. 

So, Bobby telling me that I needed to do this the right way and get a sponsor – it hit me really hard. I know that; I’ve been told that like, I don’t know, a thousand times. But I guess I was just finally ready to hear it. I just… I have these trust issues! Haha. And the idea of connecting so deeply with a stranger, just giving them all my hopes and fears… ugh, no, no, no! I’d rather be normal and just say them on a microphone for every stranger in the world to hear! Haha. Yeah, I know… So, when Bobby said that his sponsor lives in LA and they Skype once a week, that was a light bulb moment for me. Back in Episode Seven, I told you about a comedian named Kurtis Matthews. I had seen him do stand-up about quitting drinking and being sober for 35 years. He said things onstage that I thought only I felt. He was a complete stranger, but hearing him be honest about all the struggles that he went through and how he overcame everything, it just made me feel so connected to him. So after my talk with Bobby Barnaby, I reached out to Kurtis on Facebook and said, “Hey, I know this sounds crazy and you don’t know me, but I found out that people can be sponsors over Skype and I wanted to ask if you’d be my sponsor.” Haha. In true comic fashion, he responded with, “Aww, that’s sweet! Fuck no!” It was funny, not mean! I promise. He believes that you should have a sponsor who identifies as the same sex as you, so that way, you can have someone who can relate and guide you on stuff like dating or connecting with partners or PMS and all of those things. It makes a lot of sense, but I was still kind of bitter like, “Well, fuck me then! I lower my walls. Be vulnerable. Reach out to someone and get rejected!” Sounds really familiar. Haha. But no, he is right. And it still worked out because while he’s not my sponsor, he is now my “sober buddy”. We talk about a lot of stuff and he’s even on an episode coming up, which is super exciting to me (Episode 14)! So honestly, no, I still don’t have a sponsor – but I am actively in the process of being able to have one at some point. Haha!

So that was my first episode back! If you enjoyed it, please leave a review of the podcast. Having lots of ratings helps get the show into search engines and helps other people find it. And if you really like the show, please join my Patreon at – $1 a month, $5 a month, $10 a month. You choose the amount and that money helps with web hosting, storage, equipment, and all the other costs involved with keeping Clown, Interrupted alive, along with my live productions and virtual stuff. You can find that link in the show notes or on my website. And as always, the theme song “Last Call” was graciously provided by The Last Domino. I linked the song in the show notes and on the website as well, so check it out. 

And hey, have a great day! It is so good to be back. I will see you next week. 

[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]

%d bloggers like this: