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She went into the family business ... as the ‘Human Rocket’ in the circus

"This is all that I ever wanted to do."
Skyler Miser
When two "human cannonballs" have a baby ... you get Skyler Miser, who takes to the air as the "Human Rocket" in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus.Geo Rittenmyer / Courtesy Skyler Miser

Skyler Miser was born on a circus train.

Now, she soars through the air nightly as the “Human Rocket” in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s circus. For Miser, following in her parents' footsteps meant pursuing her passion.

Her father, "Human Fuse" Brian Miser, and her mother Tina Miser, performed in earlier versions of the Ringling Circus, touring the country together in the early and mid 2000’s, first in a train and then in their family RV.

Watching my parents fly out of the cannon – that is one of my earliest memories.”

skyler miser

Brian Miser, a legendary performer, is self-taught in the art of shooting yourself from a cannon. His trick involves one person inside the cannon, and one person outside, operating the machine. That was Skyler's mom.

“My mom was his trigger person while she was pregnant with me,” explains Skyler to, in an interview at the Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, New York, the latest stop for the iconic circus.

After giving birth to Skyler, her mom decided that it was her turn to fly.

“So then they did a double cannon,” Skyler says. “They both launched out at the same time. And then they did a variation of different cannons throughout the years.”

Skyler recalls watching the circus from a stroller.

“My grandma was watching me and (I was) watching my parents fly out of the cannon. That is one of my earliest memories that I have.”

Skyler Miser
Skyler Miser, aka "The Human Rocket," went into the family business.Courtesy Skyler Miser

Growing up with the circus

After years on the road, Skyler and her mom settled down in Indiana, while her dad stayed on the road to perform.   

“We tried to do the normal life, the normal thing. Didn’t really work, because I’m here,” Skyler says, indicating her place in the circus.

He asked if I wanted to be the test dummy. And of course, I was like, ‘Absolutely.’”

Skyler Miser

Skyler first shot out of a cannon at just 11 years old.

“My dad had made a eight-foot long cannon that he was going to send to England for a clown act. So before he sent it over, he asked if I wanted to be the test dummy. And of course, I was like, 'Absolutely.'”

At the time, Skyler flew 18 feet in the air — around a sixth of the distance she travels today.

Skyler Miser
Skyler Miser always knew she wanted to perform in the circus, just like her mom and dad.Courtesy Skyler Miser

Once she turned 18 years old, she started to really commit to learning the trick.

“You start really small and then you add more feet on as you go. So the beginning it was super short,” she says. “Then we started going a little farther and it was like 'OK, it’s getting serious now, it’s getting more fun.’”

The art of the human rocket launch

For Skyler, "more fun" means a takeoff at 7 g. For comparison, the fastest rollercoaster in the world, Abu Dhabi’s Formula Rossa, reaches a maximum of 4.8 g.

"For the average person watching it, it's super fast. And it's super fast for me, too. But I think that I've done it so many times that it is almost like slow motion for me; I'm feeling every millisecond the entire time. And I am thinking a million thoughts at once. You know, most people it's like, 'Boom, she landed. It's all great.' But for me, I'm thinking the entire time."

Skyler Miser
"I'm thinking the entire time": Skyler Miser launches through the air at the circus.Jeff Kavanaugh / Courtesy Skyler Miser

The trick itself takes skill, practice and concentration. Skyler explains how she prepares herself to fly.

"I squeeze everything inside of me," when the countdown hits one, she says. "It's a lot of force, we go from zero to 65 in less than half a second."

"I come out (of the cannon) and the first thing that I'm looking for is the airbag. And I'm spotting the airbag the entire flight until I take a pike at the end."

How the Human Rocket prepares

Before a show, Skyler and her fellow performers do warm ups.

"We have a gym that travels with us. So we'll go and do lots of stretches, Pilates, Zumba-ish to get everybody ready."

Much like any other athlete, Skyler has a pump-up playlist.

“I really am a Black Eyed ‘stan,’ so any type of Black Eyed Peas song. ‘I really like old 2000’s hip hop,” she says.

One song specifically is a must-listen. “'Boom Boom Pow.' I listen to it before every show.”

This is all that I ever wanted to do.”

Skyler miser

Skyler also does a lot of what she describes as "meditating." Not only does her body have to be in good shape, her mind has to as well.

"Before I go, I really like to envision the flight as I'm going. I like to watch old videos just to make sure that I am in the right headspace."

She says she checks and re-checks her rocket to make sure it's in top shape for safety purposes.

"It gets kind of cold because it's made completely out of metal," she says, explaining that the temperature can affect her flight.

"If it's too cold, I will go a little shorter. If it's too hot, I'll go a little further," she says. "It's like a newborn baby. I'm constantly checking it the whole day just to make sure that it's ready for showtime."

Much like her dad put trust in her mom to work the cannon from the ground, she also has to trust her co-star. The woman who operates the cannon for Skyler is also part of the trapeze act.

Skyler Miser
Skyler Miser signed her Ringling Brothers circus contract in an old train car, a nod to her early childhood.Courtesy Skyler Miser

A three-ringed destiny

In 2006, journalist Peter Carlson interviewed Skyler's parents for The Washington Post.

"What about Skyler? Will she grow up to be a cannonball?" asked Carlson. Her mom Tina said "I hope not," and her dad said, "If she wants to."

Decades later, Skyler reflects on her choice to enter the circus world.

"There was no question in my mind at all. I knew that this is all that I ever wanted to do. And so when Ringling shut down in 2017, we were at the very last show that they had. And it was a very emotional thing. I remember watching the last show and just crying and telling my mom 'I'm so upset, I'll never be able to work on Ringling'. And then six years later, here we are."

The Ringling Brothers circus shut down in 2017, but made a comeback in 2023.

Skyler signed her contract in an old Ringling train car that her parents had bought when they closed.

"It was so surreal, I had to keep pinching myself. Even sometimes I’m like, this isn’t real life. Like I still feel like I’m dreaming."