What it's like to be a clown in an age when people think it's fun to hate and fear clowns

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You don’t think of Shelley Winters first?

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I blame the killer klowns from outer space.


Obligatory Jonathan Coulton.

We’ve let this “hate/fear clowns” trope go too far. It’s sad that some people think it’s funny to claim to hate clowns, when it obviously it impacts both an industry and real individuals who have dedicated their lives to developing these skills. And when we start thinking it’s funny to hate some kinds of performing artists, it affects the arts as a whole, and society at large.

First they came for the clowns,
but I did not speak out because I was not a clown.
Then they came for the puppeteers,
but I did not speak out because I was not a puppeteer.
Then they came for the mimes,
but I did not speak out because I was a mime.


I blame Shakes.


I think some of it has to do with the hiding of one’s face.


This is really well put. It’s been obvious to all of us for a very long time that this “phobia” is almost always a shared joke, but nobody is uncool enough to say so. People who are cool on the internet treat lots of things like this, but really it’s a middle-school quality joke.


Is it just me, or does Boswick look like Dan Aykroyd?

Either way, relevant video clip from the absolutely fucking excellent Australian musician Courtney Barnett.

Also, fun fact about clowns - There’s an international organisation of clowns that keeps a registry of cownface designs. They take copying another clown’s makeup very seriously.


I had a long conversation with a clown about this when I worked in the circus. He was a very tall man, about 6’-6" and never, never, ever crouched down to the kids’ level. He was aware that his makeup was traditionally designed to be seen from ten rows back and him bringing that face down to them was going to be intimidating as hell.

That article is a real downer though. Clowns are awesome.


I think this is why the statue that normally sat atop the Texas Capitol looked exceedingly ugly when viewed from up close.

It’s kind of like how Chocolate was fashionable, everyone made jokes about how much they loved chocolate, and then it was bacon, and then it was bacon rolled in chocolate… and a growing number of people are tired of junk food fetish.

And clowns are designed to push us off-balance, make us susceptible to the kind of confusion that makes a joke funny. I really enjoyed reading Steve Martin’s memoir about his standup comedy career: it’s a really compassionate look at how much freakin’ work it is to try to entertain people. In a lot of ways, Steve Colbert’s character stands on the shoulders of Steve Martin’s.

The other thing that occurred to me, is when clowning evolved, no one had heard of the uncanny valley, the human face only had a few types of distortions people knew about. Animated films took up a lot of the turf that clowns had created… and clowning on the internet is so common, I think it’s easy to forget that live theater is harder to put on than some video recording. There’s no paradox in respecting/disrespecing a clown: you are supposed to disrespect the character, while respecting the actor who created them. Live theater is impossible without some kind of decent manners among the audience. If we stopped deserving live theater, it would be rough justice, but I’d be a sad clown.


I like all three of these.

Wish I had gone/could go to clown college.

::le sigh::


I don’t know. I never liked clowns, mimes, and costumed characters with full head masks even since I was a kid (and since I’m in my 40s, that was long before it was “cool”). I think it is because they have distorted/simplified faces which fall into the “uncanny valley”, at least for me.

Irony? Bill Irwin’s best paid role was to be a voice in Interstellar.

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The article doesn’t say fears of clowns are unfounded or don’t exist, but that most people who claim to be afraid of clowns are not.

Someone must speak for the mimes, at least.


He had a great little part in Popeye. There were so many great little parts in that movie, all of which helped it add up to a great movie.

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(sorry about yelling, I just had to get that off my chest).

My mother is an amateur clown. Very amateur.

A picture of her 68 year old beclowned face would be easy internet joke fodder. But she improves lives.

She sings broadway show tunes, badly, and “terminally” depressed people smile.

She dances, horribly, and “dysfunctional” children join her.

My mother is a “care clown.”

She goes where she’s needed. Special needs classrooms, adult pscyh ward at her local hospital, whoever will take her. While there, she clowns around. Really. Her specialty is getting people to sing broadway show tunes with her.

On one memorable visit, a lady just wasn’t responding. Mom asked, “surely there must be some song you like.” The woman weakly mentioned a song from South Pacific – to which my mother immediately burst out with her warbly and (thankfully) inimitable voice. The other patients joined, including, eventually, the quiet woman.

As Mom left the ward, the head psychiatrist pulled her aside and said, “that’s the first time (redacted) has smiled in three weeks. How soon can you come back?”

So F*ck all the haters on the internet, Mom. Keep bringing smiles where there most needed.

Keep clowning around.


I blame movies for giving clowns a bad rep. In movies they’re usually cast as drunks, thugs, thieves or murderers.

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