He loves to make 'em laugh

As a magician, Hubba Bubba is less than slick, what with his poor eyesight and slightly-off sleight-of-hand.

This clown can't even handle the snakes-in-a-can trick. Each time he tries to stuff the snakes back in, they fly off into the crowd.

“That's silly,” says a young boy who retrieves one of the snakes.

“Yes, it is,” says Kevie Penny, the 54-year-old man in the makeup.

Penny is a professional silly man who bills himself as “world famous in Raleigh.” Penny works two shows a day in the fair's Kiddieland Fun Park and strolls the grounds as a cowboy clown between stage performances.

“It's my passion,” says Penny, whose first career was in his family's home-building business. Describing himself as shy and introverted, Penny says that changed the first time he put on the clown makeup: “The feeling I got from that was overwhelming.”

Penny, who lives in Raleigh, learned the ins and outs of clowning in the early 1990s at Wake Tech Community College. He became a full-time clown in 1995 and travels as far as Georgia and Virginia to juggle and spin plates and generally poke fun at himself for the benefit of others.

Hubba Bubba's schtick centers on surprise. He depends on kids in the audience to help him find the errors in his magic tricks and is always surprised when they do.

“Kids will always correct you,” says Penny, smiling.

Penny and his wife, Lisa, had been married only a year or so when he took that clowning class. It was an adjustment, she admits, when her building-contractor husband wanted to quit to be a clown. But it all worked out.

“I would never have imagined this,” she says, looking around the big stage where Hubba Bubba will perform for thousands during the fair.

So your husband says he's shy. Does that mean he's a sad guy at home?

“No, no, no, no, no,” she says, laughing. “He is a clown 24-7.”

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