The Jim Rose Circus On L!ve TV

America’s most outrageous sideshow appearing on Britain’s most outrageous TV station.

As regular followers of the Reprobate Twitter feed will know, we’re finally beginning to digitise our unreasonably large collection of VHS nonsense – and it seems only fair that we share some of the rarer and odder findings with you as we go. At the moment, we’re still ironing out the technical aspects of all this but we’ve been doing a few tests and one of the first things that we stumbled upon was this fantastic footage of the Jim Rose Circus in 1995, appearing on L!ve TV just prior to their performance at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

L!ve TV is worthy of an article all by itself – and thanks to me finding nine hours of footage recorded from the cable TV channel in its brief but extraordinary life, that’ll be coming. This was the home of Topless Darts, the News Bunny and midgets on trampolines doing weather reports – the sort of glorious stupidity, bad taste and general madness that is pretty much unthinkable today. Of course they would have Jim Rose and his collection of sideshow characters on there.

Jim Rose is still going strong today but he was at the height of his fame in the 1990s, when he toured the UK a couple of times, courting controversy with local councils and outraged tabloids, parts of the show banned or hidden  – Mr Lifto’s arty piece of lifting weights with his penis was considered to be potentially illegal due to the piercings involved and the paranoia surrounding the Operation Spanner case of a few years earlier (and yes, we’ll get into that particular madness at some point too). This footage, spread across an evening of L!ve TV’s curious schedule that didn’t quite feature actual shows but rather existed as a stream of consciousness in the early days, gives a great flavour of the transgressive-yet-traditional nature of Rose’s circus sideshow.

Bearing in mind that this is an off-air recording from the mid-1990s that has sat gathering dust ever since, don’t expect HD quality. The sound drop-outs are an authentic part of the L!ve TV outside broadcast experience, by the way. In any case, this feels very much like a lost moment in time captured on tape – the Jim Rose Circus, L!ve TV and the sheer anarchic nature of it all are a world away from where we are now. As Mrs R commented watching this, “God, the Nineties were great weren’t they?”.

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  1. Oh, now this brought back some lovely memories of seeing Jim and his freaks at the local Uni back in the 90s. All the stuff seen here was performed plus so much more, and at one point Jim and a couple of his performers got the venue plunged into total darkness and then invaded the crowd with chainsaws with torches attached to them. Utter chaos ensued.
    Now that’s a show! I left shaking with fear and joy. Legendary is an overused word, but not for this troupe.

    1. Ahh, a show like that sounds incredible. I saw them in ‘proper’ theatres and somewhere or other in Camden. We need this sort of thing again to shake up the complacency.

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