Entertainment

Renaissance man: Jack Lepiarz on balancing WBUR, TikTok, and ‘America’s Got Talent’

"I try to be as authentic as I can."

Jack Lepiarz performs for audiences across the country as "Jack the Whipper." Courtesy of Jack Lepiarz

Jack Lepiarz does it all: when he’s not anchoring WBUR broadcasts, he’s performing elaborate whip-cracking stunts for audiences as “Jack the Whipper,” a side hustle that has brought him from renaissance fairs, to internet fame, to national television.

When Lepiarz has time off from the NPR affiliate he spends it traveling across the country for renaissance fairs and producing content on TikTok for nearly 2 million followers — not exactly vacation days.

“I’m working basically three jobs, and I try to be as efficient as possible,” he told Boston.com on Zoom, his four Guinness World Records behind him. “I’m selling it to myself as an investment in myself.”

While balancing a full-time job with part-time circus performance isn’t easy, Lepiarz says he makes it work by infusing different parts of himself into everything. 

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“The news is obviously much more serious with moments of levity, and the circus is silly and sassy with moments of seriousness,” he said. “You could say I play a character for the circus, but I’m obviously not playing a character when I’m on air —  I’m keeping everything even-keeled.”

Lepiarz split his school days with the world of performance, spending time at school and traveling with the circus where his father performed as a clown. Lepiarz graduated from Emerson College in 2010 with a degree in broadcast journalism and began his work at WBUR the same year.

Lepiarz said WBUR has been supportive of his circus act, saying that his colleagues “seem wholly unsurprised and unfazed at the same time.”

“America’s Got Talent” and switching gears

Just last month, Lepiarz auditioned for “America’s Got Talent,” making headlines for a stunt involving judge Simon Cowell. But the trick, in which Lepiarz whips a thin wooden target from between a seemingly terrified Cowell’s knees, required the quick thinking essential to live performances on both broadcasts and stages.

“I had planned to do the trick with Howie [Mandel], but I found out that Howie was sick and wasn’t going to be there.”

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The show’s producers told Lepiarz to either scrap the trick or find a way to perform it on himself. However, as soon as Lepiarz got in front of the AGT audience, host Terry Crews had other ideas. 

“Terry yelled out, ‘Use Simon!’ That was basically unscripted improv. [I had to] switch gears back to doing this trick again, after I spent all morning practicing the other tricks,” Lepiarz said. “It was nerve wracking, but I feel good about it.”

While Lepiarz is no longer on the show due to his busy schedule, he’s excited to have his “30 seconds of fame,” he said.

“I had fun, I’m glad I did it. I certainly don’t have any regrets because as far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t have gone better.”

TikTok and mass audiences

Lepiarz found success on TikTok after a fan shared a clip of his performance at King Richard’s Renaissance Faire in Carver last year. The video, which depicts Lepiarz brandishing a flaming whip, has nearly two million views. Lepiarz made his own account shortly after the video went viral.

“I had almost zero social media presence before last October when I got on TikTok,” he said. “It’s been a challenge of, ‘How do I just churn out content?’”

@jacqueszewhipper Got some filming in today with @WBUR for a bonus #whip song #circus #jacqueszewhipper #whipcracking #agt #npr #newsv ♬ original sound – Jack The Whipper

But performing for virtual audiences utilizes different skills than Lepiarz exhibits on stage. Lepiarz had to pare down his act to a much shorter format to adjust to internet algorithms. 

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“Anything over a minute, generally, doesn’t do well on the app,” he said. “It’s not exactly not my style, because I like to move slowly. I like to talk to the audience. I always consider myself sort of a stand-up comedian with a whip, as opposed to a whip cracker.”

Lepiarz’s secret to social media success is no different than that of his profession or performances. 

“On social media, I try to be as authentic as I can,” he said. “I don’t put stuff out there that I don’t feel like reflects me in at least some way, shape, or form.”

As for Lepiarz’s next move, he has plenty of Renaissance Faire performances coming up — he’ll be at Maryland Renaissance Festival Aug. 25 and King Richard’s Faire in Carver starting Sept. 6. But he wouldn’t say no to taking on more. 

“I’m always happy to do more TV. I’m always happy to do more performances,” he said. “It’s just a question of, you know, work-life balance.”

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