Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cannonball Man Brian Miser Has Been Flying through the Air for the Past 18 Years

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cannonball Man Brian Miser Has Been Flying through the Air for the Past 18 Years

Article excerpt

Brian Miser was 14 years into his career as a trapeze artist before he decided to give his body a break.

That's when he started hurtling out of a cannon instead.

Mr. Miser and his human cannonball act will be in town when the Shrine Circus comes to Consol Energy Center today through Sunday.

He grew up in Peru, Ind., where he spent his summers taking part in the town's amateur circus. A natural acrobat, his specialty was the trampoline. After graduating from high school, he joined the circus professionally, where he took to the trapeze. Then he moved on to his cannonball act, which he's been doing for 18 years now.

It took Mr. Miser, 51, about a year to build his cannon, a process made more difficult due to the secrecy that surrounds the inner workings of the cannons used in circuses.

"No one will share anything with you, and no one really knows how they work," he said.

Eventually he got the cannon working. Over the years he has tweaked his act, sometimes launching out with his wife, sometimes lighting himself on fire -- on purpose.

"I try to be creative about it," he said.

The cannon is 24 feet long and is elevated to a 43-degree angle. In his act, Mr. Miser climbs into the cannon and tenses every muscle in his body. His body accelerates to 55 miles per hour in a half- second, and he flies 110 feet before landing on an airbag. He said the landing takes more of a toll on his body than the launch, but the process is exciting every time.

"It's thrilling, scary and unpredictable," he said.

In addition to the human cannonball element, the circus features acrobats, clowns and a motorcycle cage act. It also has a variety of animal acts, including bears, camels, white tigers and elephants.

Despite Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' decision to stop using elephants in its circus by 2018 after protests from animal rights activists, the Shrine Circus has not encountered resistance to its continued use of elephants, said Paul Leavy, the chairman and promoter of Shrine Circus. …

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