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John Tudor
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Fears of a clown
The circuses are in town, but not all is fun and laughter

By PHIL KLOER
This appeared today in the Atlanta Constitution

In the Land of Clown Issues, there are the truly phobic, the mildly creeped out and the many who dwell in between. Clown Issues, like clowns themselves, come in many varieties.

Hannah Ellis, a student at Gordon College in Barnesville, says she "freaks out" if she sees a clown on TV. She has gone to the circus to try to overcome her fear and felt herself on the verge of crying, shaking, her heart beating faster...

(Full story is at http://www.ajc.com/living/content/living......ns.html)
"Ars longa, vita brevis." (Life is short, the art so long to learn) -Hippocrates
Josh the Superfluous
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Adults who dress up in costumes and concealing make-up and like to hang out with children. Seems like a lot of creepy potential.

BTW I played the Pop-Goes-The-Weasel keyboard line on ICP's Riddle Box
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gsidhe
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There are reasons for the fear beyond ICP (That is really cool Josh...I'll have to dust it off and relisten to it tonight) and Tim Curry's Pennywise from IT.
Clowns originally were designed to be seen from a distance. A great distance. If you look at the makeup of an Auguste' clown, it is designed to broaden and exaggerate the mouth, and the white arcs above the eyes are actually designed to make the eyes look huge.
It was made to clearly convey the emotion of a larger than life character from a distance. It made it easier to identify characters and what they were about.

Bring it up close to a five year old and it is an unblinking creature with a six inch wide mouth that could eat their head off.

Then have a mother who insists on a picture of the child with the clown pushing them up to it despite their protestations.

And there you have the birth of a phobia.

I read the article, and it mentioned that a clown should never make eye contact with a simian of any sort. I used to be a clown and I also worked with animals, and I remember that. Drives them pretty much into a rage.
Monkeys hate clowns too.
They haven't seen IT or heard of John Wayne Gacey.
It's instinctual. Clown makeup turns a normal human to something that is ALMOST human. It is unnatural, and that creeps a lot of people out.
This is not a bash on clowns. Like I said, I was one. I just prefer full clown makeup to be used the way it was intended...At a distance. Up close "Party Clowns" should stick to light auguste' makeup, or even better, just engage in clown like behavior with just a touch of makeup.
Every time I see a whiteface clown scaring the crud out of little kids up close it just makes me want to scream. Like any performer, you should dress (And use makeup) appropriate to where you are working. Stage clown makeup is not for closeup work.

Gwyd, Who had to overcome his own childhood fear of clowns in order to do his job
John Tudor
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Sorry, you have to actually register I think. Here's the full story:
(I left out the link to the "Do you have clown issues?" blog)

Fears of a clown
The circuses are in town, but not all is fun and laughter

By PHIL KLOER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/15/07
In the Land of Clown Issues, there are the truly phobic, the mildly creeped out and the many who dwell in between. Clown Issues, like clowns themselves, come in many varieties.

Hannah Ellis, a student at Gordon College in Barnesville, says she "freaks out" if she sees a clown on TV. She has gone to the circus to try to overcome her fear and felt herself on the verge of crying, shaking, her heart beating faster.


Warner Bros. Television
(ENLARGE)
Pennywise (Tim Curry), the malevolent monster of Stephen King's TV miniseries "It," gave many viewers the creeps.


Fox
(ENLARGE)
"The Simpsons" Krusty is more obnoxious than scary, but hardly lovable like earlier TV clowns.


JOSEPH CULTICE/Associated Press
(ENLARGE)
The rap duo Insane Clown Posse plays upon the disturbing images of clowns.


(ENLARGE)
Serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who performed as an amateur clown, played a big role in making a frozen red smile terrifying. Media attention included the book "Killer Clown."

IF YOU GO

Big Apple Circus. At Stone Mountain Park through Feb. 24. Tickets $11-$38. Available through Ticketmaster. http://www.ticketmaster.com. 404-294-4600. Also at the Big Apple box office.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. At Philips Arena through Monday. Tickets $12-$35. Ticketmaster, http://www.ticketmaster.com. 404-294-4600.

UniverSoul Circus. At Turner Field's Green Lot. Opens Feb. 21. Through March 11. Tickets on sale at http://www.universoulcircus.com.



Heather Thompson, a second-grade teacher at St. Thomas More School in Decatur, says her feeling is "more like the heebie-jeebies." She can go to the circus, "but there's definitely an aversion."

Neither originally was scared by circus clowns or friendly neighborhood birthday clowns. It was one particular TV show that started their clown issues: the 1990 miniseries of Stephen King's "It," which featured an evil, child-killing clown.

Atlanta is home to more clowning around than usual right now, as three major circuses all are set up here in a three-ring convergence that occurs every February. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is at Philips Arena, UniverSoul Circus is in Turner Field's Green Lot and the Big Apple Circus is at Stone Mountain Park.

Real clowns don't inspire most clown issues, but they are the ones who deal with the fallout.

"The only thing I can do about it is to go out and do my job, be accessible and gentle," says Barry Lubin, whose Grandma character is a long-standing favorite at Big Apple.

"Grandma's not really that scary," says Lubin. "She represents someone who's a very warm and benign character." Still, he's had adults tell him they're afraid of him. "You have to be sensitive to that."

'Clowns will eat me'

It's the 'in' phobia right now," says Scott O'Donnell, a 20-year clown with Ringling Brothers. Increasingly in just the past few years, he says, when circus fans come down to the floor for the traditional pre-show meet-and-greet with Ringling clowns and performers, "We're running into groups of teenage girls who see us and run and scream. Then the little kids look at them and say, 'Oh my gosh, should I be scared too?"

O'Donnell says media attention to clown phobia has popularized and spread the idea. But what really got clown issues off and running was King's "It," a 1986 novel that was made into the four-hour miniseries and continues to terrify people on DVD. The monster in "It" takes several forms, but by far the most memorable is Pennywise the clown, who lives in a sewer and preys on children. When a BBC magazine polled readers on the scariest show in the history of television, "It" won.

Annelise Blenke, a junior at North Gwinnett High School, even can divide her friends into two groups: those who have seen "It" and have clown issues and those who have never seen it and think clown issues are silly.

Tony Jones of Fayetteville, whose alter ego is Junior the Clown, cites not just King, but also media coverage in the '80s of the horrific crimes of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who worked sometimes as an amateur clown at children's parties. One book about Gacy was titled "Killer Clown," and its paperback cover was even more lurid than the Stephen King.

Starting in the early '90s, on the heels of Gacy and King, clowns became more widespread in pop culture, and almost always in negative ways. There was the re-emergence of Batman's nemesis the Joker as a much scarier figure in graphic novels, the disturbing hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse, cheesy horror movies like "Killer Klowns from Outer Space." On an episode of "Frasier," the shrink gave his father a heart attack by dressing up as a scary clown.

"The Simpsons" not only gave us Krusty the Clown (more obnoxious than scary), but a famous one-liner — "Can't sleep. Clowns will eat me" — which became a popular T-shirt slogan and an Alice Cooper song. Most of these were in the areas of pop culture most consumed by young people.

Although there are positive clowns in the culture — Patch Adams, Ronald McDonald; Bozo still must be around somewhere — they're no match for the onslaught of nightmarish clowns.

Ringling's O'Donnell says when he started clowning in 1987, he saw almost no people with clown issues, except for some small children. He started seeing it more in the mid- to late '90s, with a real surge in just the last couple of years.

Also pointing to the importance of pop culture as the cause of clown issues, rather than circuses: clowning around in other countries. Tony "Junior" Jones has done Christian mission work in more than a dozen countries, from Mexico to Ukraine, with the organization he founded, Clowning for Christ.

"It's an American thing," he says regarding clown issues. "In foreign countries, I'm a celebrity. I'm looked at as an American clown, and they put me on a pedestal."

But not all foreign countries. A psychedelic British rock festival called Bestival, scheduled for September, had been encouraging attendees to dress as clowns, just for fun. But too many people protested they would be freaked out, and the festival canceled the plan, according to the Bestival Web site.

'Primitive reaction'

At some point in the '90s, the word "coulrophobia" began to circulate as a technical word for "fear of clowns." It has no real established etymology, though. The Oxford English Dictionary does not recognize it, nor do other unabridged dictionaries. It gets plenty of hits on Google, however, thanks to Internet sites like http://www.ihateclowns.com.

Coulrophobia is not a clinical term, says Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, professor of psychiatry at Emory University and director of its Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program. She's also never had a patient express a fear of clowns, she says, although the fear is certainly real for some.

"It's fairly common in kids, but generally people outgrow their fear of clowns," she says.

But there are people who believe that clowns are a stronger force than we realize.

"It's not something that was once all sweet and now has turned cynical," says Monica Drake, whose first novel, "Clown Girl," is a literary treatment of life as a clown.

"Clowns have always been outsiders — outside the rules, unpredictable," she adds. "And there's something suspect about that outsider status."

Drake likes the idea of clowns as archetypes. "I'd guess that a fear of clowns is related to a fear of people who are unpredictable," she says. "It's scary to think someone isn't playing along, is playing his or her own game."

Historically, clowning in many variations has existed in ancient Egypt and China, and some Native American societies. The medieval jester is a form of clown, as is the fool in Shakespeare — someone who can speak the truth to the king, (or in ancient cultures, mock the gods) — but as Drake points out, someone outside the rules.

Modern circus clowns are in it for entertainment, of course, and as more people have expressed clown issues, the clowns have changed a bit. Many wear less makeup than they used to, because the heavy makeup and wig seem to bother some people. Some are gentler when interacting with the audience.

That, of course, takes them away from their roots, as bold, masked truth-tellers.

"When I was new to the circus," says Lubin/Grandma, "I was instructed never to make eye contact with the chimpanzees while in clown makeup, 'cause they take it as challenging them. Maybe there's something in some people that's kind of like that primitive reaction."

Or maybe it's all Stephen King's fault.
"Ars longa, vita brevis." (Life is short, the art so long to learn) -Hippocrates
daffydoug
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I cant imagine why anyone would have a fear of clowns....but maybe THIS will explain alot. :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pobbi083q9k
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http://www.gerardenterprises.com/PHOBIAPICTURES.html I am the evil clowh with the upside down star on my face... My friend is the other one.
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Michael Baker
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Each Halloween season, I perform at a very large haunted attraction in Birmingham. The clown maze is far and away the most popular part of the tour.
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Josh Riel
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Did you know that Judas Iscariot was a clown? The bible doesn't go into detail, but the voice of god that I hear (which I can prove true as he says Joan of Arc also heard him, and Joan doesn't lie) in my head says it is true.


Would I lie to you?
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Andy the cardician
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Steven King - IT
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Skip Way
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I stopped clowning years ago, but did so across the US & Europe for over 25 years. I have a friend, a sheriff's deupty, who is so afraid of clowns that he couldn't get into his patrol cruiser one night because some joker had taped the photo of a clown on the horn cover of his steering wheel. Even after the photo wa removed, he broke into a cold sweat and shook miserably and couldn't drive. It's a very real fear with a number of causes.

The last couple of years that I performed in clown, I reduced my makeup to a very minimal Euro style, no wig and a much smaller button Proknows nose. I focused more on the comedy of the character than the makeup and wardrobe. I did away with the broad and rapid movements and loud noises of the "ring" clown and became quieter, more inquisitive, gentler and less threatening. The difference was amazing. I had adults and children approach me who claimed to be afraid of or even hate clowns and tell me how much they enjoyed my show. Parents were amazed when their Santa-phobic toddler would cling to my every move.

I've noticed a trend towards the less-frightening Euro or Chaplinesque clown image over the past decade and I think it's a good thing. The classic Grimaldi clown needs to change for the 21st century. I've concluded that it has a lot to do with the image and the personality of the person behind the motley.
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Michael Baker
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Good call, Skip.

For inspiration, future or "reconstructed" clowns should look to the non, or minimal makeup clowns from tv and movies of the 20th century... The 3 Stooges, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Lucille Ball, The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, etc. Even Pee Wee Herman had the pulse on this thing. Bello Nock is a physical comedy genius with a great look.

These are characters so close to reality, but still widely different than their players' real personnas.

Although I have no fear of clowns, I can understand the unnerving qualities of some clowns. A clown that looks cool and fun from a distance, suddenly transforms to creepy when you get closer and begin to notice razor stubble, make-up settled into deep wrinkles and pock marks, yellow eyes from too much drinking, and the smell of cheap cigars. Hmmm.... maybe I have a fear of Shriners that chose to venture into the light. Smile
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Cinnamon
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With all honesty, I feel uncomfortable when I'm near a clown. I should be used to being around clowns and such, but, it makes me very uncomfortable,as if there's a vice around my neck. Tendency is, I hide when there's a clown. But if it's a friend, or if I know the clown, I just don't talk to him/ her while he/ she's wearing the makeup and costume. There's just something.. um.. different. Hehe.
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My girlfriend hates clowns too, scared to death of them.

There are clowns where I work at Barefoot Landing, and I've noticed that at least once a week there is a kid scared of clowns ... they hide from them, they run from them, some of them are even carried back to the car crying because of them.

I never realized just how many people didn't like clowns.



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Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazingJoeJoe]
Michael Baker
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Lots of little kids react the same way to big-head mascot characters, too. When my son was in daycare, a visit from the Easter Bunny made one kid climb me like a tree, and he didn't even know me.
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Bill Nuvo
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One of our members who performs for children has a link to ihateclowns.com on his website. I wonder if this is a wise idea.

I also wonder if people who fear clowns are mainly just afraid of the "traditional" clown as opposed to all clowns including Laurel and Hardy. I visited ihateclowns and some people seem to hate foolish behaviour like physical humour. Are character actors (Jim Carrey) in the same boat?

I must admit I wonder a bit everytime I see a birthday clown with full circus type make-up. See "My Views on Clowning" http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......9&27
for the reasons why.
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I was booked for a Birthday Party one time and the mother shared that her child was afraid of clowns. After wondering what to do, I showed up in my clowning garb but without the makeup. After a few games, a bit of magic and some balloons, I took out a mirror and let the kids gather around to watch me tranform my face into Riff.

I had a very successful booking that day. I got lots of referrals from that parent and it was shared with me later that the child was no longer scared of clowns. They now knew it was a real person underneath the makeup and they should go by the character of the the clown and not the makeup.
Rob "Riff, the Magical Clown" Eubank aka RiffClown
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SeasideShowman
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I must chime in on this ... I'm a graduate of Ringling Bros. Clown College and toured with the Big Show. I also wore the Big Red Shoes for many years after that representing a very large corporation (damn non-disclosure clause!!). I believe that what we all need to understand is the difference in "professonal" clowning and "amateur" clowning.

The pro takes his silliness very seriously - from his/her look and makeup to his/her demeanor in character and not speaking in some weird, fake voice. The approach of the pro is 'non-attack' style of clowning where they are able to sense when someone is uncomfortable with their presense and gives them their 'space'. Their character comes from the heart.

The other 'clown' stereotypically is someone who believes they can maybe make some quick, easy money buy learning to twist a few balloons,paint faces and do some schtick at a kids b-day party. They begin by not studying what the great clowns of the past have done and how they've done it but believe that a cheap costume store outfit, a rainbow wig, and some poorly applied makeup is all they need to turn a buck. It doesn't come from the heart but from from the lure of the dollar.

I admit there are 'hobbyist' clown-to-be's with great intentions. They are the ones who are willing to take the time to learn the tips from the pro's, pay to take some classes from experts and recognize the do's and don't's of being in makeup in public.

Rob's comment about applying makeup in front of a young audience is fine, there's no 'rule' against that (although some 'purists' may argue) and Skip's post about tuning down the facial makeup towards a more European look is a great suggestion, too. It shows me that these two are 'in tune' to their audience and have adapted in order to make their clown appearances 'comfortable' experiences for the public.

Someone once told me, "You can't make everybody happy all of the time - the best you can do is make MOST everybody happy all the time. There maybe that 'one' who you can't get through to no matter how much you try."

That's just the nature of "show biz".

Aloha-ha,
Cap'n Mike
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SeasideShowman
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Quote:
On 2007-02-17 09:45, mrbilldentertainer wrote:
... I must admit I wonder a bit everytime I see a birthday clown with full circus type make-up. See "My Views on Clowning" http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......9&27
for the reasons why.


Hey Mr. Bill,

Just read your link ... well done and to the point. You said what I was trying to say. Everyone, please skip over my previous post and go directly to Mr Bill's older post. He got it right !!

Thanks,
Cap'n Mike
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just_larry
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This is so funny I just have gone through 2 days of this (and have 2 more to go!).
I am currently performing in a Real circus in Birmingham Al. and it is in a mall! (Loaded with hip teens andd hipster adultsthat think being afraid of clowns is cool!)
I am the only clown in the show, BUT also here in the mall is the local clown club (there is like 30 of them) and they are painting faces, and strolling.
Every day the girls at Starbucks Scream in terror when some of the local guys walk by, but every day they give me free coffee, and talk to me forever..while I am in make-up! Why is that?
After ever show I get a line of people who tell me that their kids, or even them, were afraid of clowns, but not afraid of me. Why do you think that is!

They reason I get this is not because I am a great clown (I am an ok clown, but there are TONS better) but it's because I am not portraying a character, I am... well ... portraying ..me!

"Less make-up is better!" NO! that is false! Makeup that HIDES your face's natural features is bad!
Make-up should accent your face not hide it. I know some GREAT clowns that have a traditional big American Auguste, or Whiteface and people love them. So it's not the make-up that's scary it's how you wear it.
"Those brite colored costumes scary little kids!" NO again! a Unitarian brightly colored costume scares people. Make the costume you, or about you and it wont scare them. If you are a girl that wears pants because you hate skirts, and you, as a clown, wear a big poofy dress/skirt thing, though you may look "cute", you will personally be uncomfortable, and the audience with see that and they will be uncomfortable with you.
As Cap'n Mike said, real clowning isn't bought at a store and thrown on on the weekends, It is from a history ,of an art, and it comes from a real place, from the your heart.

I realize as I type this it might not make much since (I am probably leaving out entire sentences, but I wanted to say my piece. Now that I have done that I am going to bed, I am tired after a long 3 show day!
Take care everybody,
Larry
Ps. EVERYONE in this local clown club is great! They are some of the nicest people.
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