Jack Lepiarz has made a career delivering the news to listeners of WBUR, his smooth cadence crackling over the airwaves.
But on the weekends, he has transformed into an entirely different persona.
Slipping into his alter ego, Jack the Whipper, he has drawn on a curled mustache, suited up in flashy circus attire, and sharply snapped his whip with impressive skill, captivating a second loyal audience from center stage. For most of his life, it was a weekend side job — a passion nurtured since he was a boy.
But after more than a decade at the radio station, Lepiarz, 34, is stepping away from the news desk and his role as an anchor — at least for now — to take his act to the next level: performing at the circus full time.
“After 13 years, today is my last day on the air at @WBUR. I’m running away to join the circus (really),” he shared on Monday. Many of his fans, both those who tune in daily and those entertained by his choreography as Jack the Whipper, had no idea about his double identity and expressed surprise and excitement at his path ahead.
Lepiarz said he has been considering taking the plunge for a while now.
His TikTok account has blown up since he first created it a couple of years ago, with 2.5 million followers watching him perform stunts, rate his props, and rehearse for shows. His national profile was boosted after appearing on “America’s Got Talent” last summer and wowing all three judges.
Buoyed by that success, Lepiarz said he has been making more money as a performer than a news anchor in recent months.
“This has been really kind of the sign that it’s time to try,” he said.
Lepiarz grew up in the circus, surrounded by boisterous crowds and daring entertainers. His dad was a performer with Big Apple Circus when he was born and at 6 years old, Lepiarz was already on the Renaissance Faire circuit.
“I was also in normal school, by the way,” he quipped.
At 7, he learned how to crack a whip with speed and force. Then he picked up throwing knives at a target. But when he became a teenager, his interest waned.
Being the circus kid is “really, really awesome,” he said. But in the awkward years of adolescence? “Really not awesome.”
Lepiarz took a few years off, but then his father coaxed him back. (He got paid less at the local ice cream shop, he discovered, than at shows.) And he kept up with it through his time at Emerson College. Lepiarz spent hours performing on the streets and practicing on Boston Common until the police showed up. (They weren’t as amused.)
“When I was younger, I tried as much as I could to be normal. I think as you get older, realizing that what makes you weird is what makes you unique and different. It’s what makes you — you,” Lepiarz said.
He arrived at WBUR as a bright-eyed intern at 21, working his way up to reporter and anchor. All the while, he was also heading down to King Richard’s Faire in Carver to perform as Jack the Whipper. He adopted a French accent and playful attitude that delighted children and parents alike.
It was a balancing act to juggle the time constraints of his two careers, but Lepiarz found that one profession informed the other.
“There are a lot of skills that translate between the two of them. Being able to think on the fly, perform in front of an audience,” he said. “Being on stage my whole life has helped me not be afraid of having to talk without a script on radio. I’m comfortable with improv.”
While leaving the station is big step, Lepiarz said he is fully confident he’s making the right choice.
“I really have enjoyed my time here at WBUR immensely. If I didn’t have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I wouldn’t be trying to leave,” he said. “We’ll see how long this lasts. Internet fame is tenuous at best.”
When he departs the station on Tuesday, Lepiarz is taking three weeks off before launching into the circus life. His run of shows kick off in Florida, and will take him from New Jersey to Colorado to Boston and more.
“I feel great. I’m a little worried it’s going be too much time on the road. I just got married last May. I’m hoping to not get divorced this May,” he said with a laugh.