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Nels Ross – Oddball with a Mission

Nels headshotNels Ross is a performer, speaker, and “Chief Executive Oddball” of In Jest Inc. ( Working solo and with others, he has uplifted audiences throughout the United States, as well as from Australia to Bermuda and Canada to Mexico.

His diverse background includes: studying mathematics, education, and theater at the University at Buffalo; touring with a nonprofit circus; training with instructors from Broadway and Cirque du Soleil; teaching workshops on juggling and life skills; and performing and speaking for companies, conferences, schools, ministries, and others.

In addition to work, Nels “juggles” life with his wife and five kids in western New York.*

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That’s the short version. If you care to know more, keep reading.


Who’s to Blame?

Starting at eight years old, Nels pursued interests in physical comedy, juggling, acting, and other arts, applying his talents everywhere from street festivals to theatrical productions. His mother actually encouraged him. That’s not surprising when you consider she was a mime and fire eater among other things.

Besides mom, Nels points to his lifelong friend and original partner Andrew Barden as a major influence: “He was truly an instigation… I mean… inspiration behind much of my silliness, from childhood through college and then some.”

In 1992 Nels and Andrew toured with The Circus Kingdom, a nonprofit which was devoted to spreading joy and good will. They co-founded In Jest soon after. Upon completing degrees in mathematics and education, Nels became a “fool-time” performer and speaker. When Andrew moved to the west coast and on to other pursuits, Nels continued working with him as often as possible and with other partners including his son Noah most recently.

Nels with Andrew Barden (1992), solo (2007), and with his son Noah (2014).


New Names, Same Mission

In Jest Inc. was officially incorporated in 2000. Later he began using Nels Ross for his stage name, instead of his full name Nels Ross Cremean. “It’s easier to pronounce and remember,” he explains, “Plus it helps me avoid annoying creditors and relatives.”

Despite his confessed lack of business acumen, he maintains a busy schedule and considers himself blessed: “Somehow I manage to pay my bills and feed my kids at least once a week.” He credits faith and hard work, along with supportive family and friends, and strives to pay it forward.

Having made a vow to practice joy on the path of service, Nels envisions a world where people everywhere enjoy life and do good. “Too many suffer from terminal seriousness,” he quips. Armed with his contagious sense of humor and playfulness, he continues to defy gravity by helping others “live, laugh, love, and learn… wholeheartedly.”


* Meet Nels’ family.