We are talking with Jeff and Cheryl McIntyre from Sand Springs, OK who have The Funny Farm exhibit setup at the 2006 Tulsa State Fair…I thought it might be interesting to hear from a couple newcomers to the business.

 

SSW: For the folks that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing your exhibit, would you tell us a little about your show? 

 

Cheryl: We have a critter show. We have snakes, tortoises, turtles, lizards, alligator, giant toads, a couple freak animals like the 2-headed turtle and the albino raccoon. It’s an educational menagerie.

 

SSW: I saw Jeff feed the giant toads some live mice yesterday. It’s really something to see! Those toads are very aggressive predators.

 

Cheryl: Watch your fingers!

 

SSW: Do you feel your exhibit appeals to a specific age group?

 

Cheryl: It’s basically geared to ages 4 to 15 years roughly.

 

SSW: How long has The Funny Farm been in operation?

 

Jeff: It’s been in operation about seven years. We started with the acquisition of an alligator and a small tortoise and were invited to May Fest in Tulsa. As I was feeding the tortoise, a crowd of 100 people or so gathered around…A little light bulb clicked on…”Hey, I wondered if they would pay for this?” We put out a tip can and that was the start. We booked our first spot where we charged a dollar and it took off from there. We took the proceeds and dumped them back into the show so it would get bigger and better.

 

SSW: Do you have any improvements planned for next year?

 

Jeff: Some improvements; mainly streamline the operation a bit. Make it a little less labor intensive. Upgrade the animals with a few more unusual animals.

 

SSW: You have some very interesting signage. Who did the artwork?

 

Jeff: Well, I did the artwork with a little help. I went to an art studio and they did some sketches, when we got them home Cheryl blew them up to the size we needed and I spent many hours painting them. 

 

SSW: What are your earliest memories regarding sideshows?

 

Jeff: Being from upstate New York, we would go to an amusement park called Crystal Beach in Toronto, Canada. I remember seeing my first sideshow there. The acts included the blockhead, fat lady, and rubber-skinned man. I was only six or seven at the time but the memory has stuck with me my whole life.

 

SSW: Was that the start of your interest in sideshows and grind shows?

 

Jeff: Yes it was. I also traveled with Dillard Amusement for six months in 1977.

 

SSW: What was it about sideshows that drew you to them?

 

Jeff: The strange and unusual has always attracted me.

 

SSW:  Were any of your family evolved in outdoor entertainment? 

 

Jeff: No, but my grandmother was a gypsy. She did fortune telling and palm readings. I found that out after I got interested in sideshows.

 

SSW: Guess I better keep an eye on my wallet now that I know you have gypsy blood, ha. ha!

 

SSW: I always see you two working sides by side. How important is the teamwork between yourself and Cheryl?

 

Jeff: Cheryl could not do it by herself and I certainly would not want to do it without her. It’s very important to have that one person you can trust and watch your back.

You definitely get more done working as a team.

 

SSW: During the last year you have branched out into some different venues including Sports Shows. Could you tell us how that is working out?

 

Cheryl: It’s going rather well. We booked several Hunting & Fishing shows this year. We stillgear our show to the children. It gives the kids something to do while dad is looking at the boats and fishing equipment.

 

SSW: Is your setup different than at a fair?

 

Jeff: It’s similar, but being inside we don’t set up the tent.

 

SSW: Each of us have had people who influenced us along the way, people who gave us a helping hand. Who are some of the people who have influenced you and why?

 

Jeff: Some people are lucky enough to have a mentor…I have the privilege of being interviewed by my mentor. Some people go to the fair to ride the rides, some to eat corn dogs and cotton candy; I came to see the sideshows and grind shows. I went to see your shows every year, this was long before I ever met you. Another big influence that has kept me inspired, is the Sideshow World web site. If I’m feeling down or a little low, I read through some of the stuff on Sideshow World and it gets me fired up again.

 

Meeting Jim Zajicek and seeing his big sideshow also had a positive influence on me.

 

SSW: Could you tell us a little about your artifact and fossil collecting?  

 

Jeff: Here in Tulsa we are lucky to have the Arkansas River running right through the middle of town. I have a friend who has a curiosity shop. He had a mammoth leg bone that came out of the Arkansas River. When I found that out, Cheryl and I started walking the river looking for artifacts. We have gathered a large collection the last few years, including mammoth and sabre tooth bones.

 

SSW: Could you tell us a little about the gaffs you have had built and what your plans are for them?

 

Jeff: I enjoy our present show so much I had to find something else I could build a show around. The gaffs will be used for recreating human remains…mummies, etc. Most of the new display will be authentic. The gentleman that is creating the gaffs for me makes gaffs for movie productions. He is very good.

 

SSW: I really enjoyed seeing your 2-headed snake and 2-headed turtle. Could you tell us a little about each of them?

 

Jeff: I got the turtle from a friend of mine…He told me he had heard about a 2-headed turtle that was for sale. I asked if he could get some photos of it. That night he called and I asked if he had the pictures. He said not exactly, he had bought the turtle. So, I went over to see if I could talk him out of it. Before I could say a thing about buying it, he said, “It’s yours!”

The snake was very exciting because it was alive…alive 2-headed red-tail boa. Unfortunately, it was somewhat emaciated when I got it. I brought it out of that and had it eating quite well the first month. It ate out of the right head. But one time it ate out of the left head. After eating out of the left head, it died about four days later. Losing the boa was a very upsetting experience.

 

SSW: What are your thoughts on the “animal rights wackos”? Do you believe they might affect your operation?

 

Jeff:  I have had only one encounter. I feel very strongly that they shouldn’t be forcing their ideas on other people. I do not believe they will affect my operation.

 

SSW: If you could own your “Dream Sideshow” what would it be?

 

Jeff: You’ll just have to wait and see…I’m bringing it out next year!

 

SSW: Could you tell us a little about it?

 

Jeff: I can tell you this, it’ll be called…“Prof. Isula’s Traveling Curiosities…

 

SSW: Prof. Isula, where did you come up with the name?

 

Jeff: I’m adopted. Isula is my birth name. Had my father lived to see me born this would have been my name. The reason I chose this name is because my father’s mother was a Polish Gypsy fortune-teller from Romania. She read cards and palms.  Anyway, it just seemed right.

 

SSW: In what ways will the new show be different from The Funny Farm?

 

Jeff: It will play to an older age group. I believe it’ll be a stronger show. It will have only a few live animals that are related to the show. And I plan to make it easier to setup and operate.

 

SSW: Could you explain how it’ll be stronger?

 

Jeff: We've been pleased with the response to our present show. The Funny Farm Strange and Unusual Critters, plays very well to children and families throughout the day, but as the sun goes down it's not quite strong enough to catch the young adults and teens.  The show had built itself and was operating before we knew we had a show. Now that we've had a few years experience, it's time to build our dream show. This new show will have what it takes to catch the young, the old and the in-betweens. It will be irresistible. That's all we can say for now, you'll have to wait and see. It's in our blood, no stopping us now! 

 

SSW: Although you still have a day job, do you see a time when you might become a full time showman?

 

Jeff: I plan on hanging on to my day job as long as I can. I won’t turn down any bookings to be at work though. Once we get a full schedule lined up, I’ll have to let my day job go. I will hate losing the benefits.

 

SSW: Although their hey day is long gone, do you believe there is still a future for sideshows?

 

Jeff: Unlike many older showmen, I think sideshows will make a big come back. I don’t think it’ll be quite the same though, I believe it may be more of a nostalgia thing.

 

SSW: I have asked other showmen this question and would be interested in hearing your answer. What would you like inscribed on your tombstone? 

 

Jeff: That’s a hard one…I want them to MISS me when I’m gone!

What I really mean is that I want them to miss my show.

 

SSW: Is there anyone you would like to thank before we close?

 

Jeff: I would very much like to thank Dr. West for keeping me inspired and pointed in the right direction. And I would like to thank my wife for all her support and love.

 

SSW: Is there anything else you would like to add?

 

Jeff: The only problem with sideshows is…there aren’t enough of them!

  

 

                                                                                                

Thank you both for taking the time to do this interview for SIDESHOW WORLD. Best of luck with your future endeavors!                                                             

 

 Interviewed for Sideshow World by Rick West

 

 

All Photographs Courtesy of Rick West Copyright ©2006 all rights reserved

 

1- Jeff and Cheryl at the Funny Farm

2- Cold Blooded one of the side panels from the show

3- Crocodillians another side panel

4- Jeff and Cheryl with a couple of their Critters

5- Jeff with mummified remains

6- Jeff and his 2 headed calf

7 Jeff , Croc and a young admirer

8- The Funny Farm   

 

 

Because of the logistics of doing interviews well will post new ones as we get the opportunity. With everyone on the road, face to face interview are harder to conduct, so a good percentage of the interviews will be via e-mail or telephone.  If you are interested in being interviewed or have a suggestion of someone you would like to see interviewed for the site drop us a line.


 

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