My daughter had three clown figurines in my grandson’s room when he was a toddler. He didn’t like them and she was going to throw them away until I rescued them. I had to promise to take them to work where my grandson’s eyes would not see them. They stood there looking down over my desk from a bookshelf.
Funny, we think of clowns as being jolly, happy characters that make people laugh. But it seems there are many people that don’t like them. Some are afraid of them and others just don’t think they are funny. Some folks find them grotesque with their exaggerated features, wild makeup and wigs, and ridiculous clothes.
Sometimes clowns have orange hair and other times it is purple. Each clown seems to be different. They intend it to be that way. Their clown makeup is their signature and their trademark. No clown is supposed to copy exactly the look of another. Clowns can even register their look with a clown register, which is like a copyright.
There are many different types of clowns, but they fall more or less into categories. The oldest type is what I think of as a clown. He has white clown makeup covering his face and neck, a big loose outfit, maybe with polka dots on it, a ruffled collar, big shoes and a little pointed hat. Now that’s what I call a “real” clown.
Other clowns paint only a white mask on their face, exaggerate mouths into big red smiles, and wear red noses. They wear wild clothing, usually far too large, and may do tricks, prate falls, throw pies, squirt water, or whatever it takes to hopefully be hilarious in a vaudeville sort of way.
Yet another kind of clown is the tramp or bum clown who dresses in old beat-up clothes, abandons the white make up for an unshaven look and has a sad face instead of a happy one. He seems so sad that he captures our heart and we want him to be happy, like other clowns.
These are only some of the types; there are other combinations. Clowns are traditionally associated with the circus. Some are working clowns with a tumbling act, or a magic show. Others may have jobs as serious as the rodeo clowns who draw bulls away when a cowboy is thrown off.
Clowns are popular figures in parades where members of social organizations may dress as clowns, drive silly cars or bicycles, or sponsor circuses of their own to raise funds for charity.
Behind the face of a clown, a person can hide who they really are and become someone else, someone who does not have to conform to normal expectations, who can act silly and misbehave without consequence.
So, with all the fun associated with these happy-go-lucky figures, why would anyone dislike or be afraid of them? Some think that it might go back to childhood. We tend to fear the unknown, and kids do not understand the face paint and costumes and might feel afraid of grown-ups who are doing childish things. Kids are often afraid of costumed characters anyhow.
I think my grandson was traumatized by Ronald McDonald and projected that fear to the clown figurines. I don’t know. My figurines are the white faced, big pants, and silly hat kind of clowns. I like them because they make me smile. People want to be happy and nothing symbolizes happiness more than a clown.
Still, I don’t know that I would want to interact with a clown up close. What do you say to a buffoon with a big red nose, green hair, and funny clothes? Not that a clown wants conversation. Most maintain a tradition of not talking and let their actions speak for them. The history of clowns goes back to court jesters and mimes, who are also clowns of a type.
Genuine clowns take great pride in their profession. They are entertainers and the profession of making people laugh is a noble one.
And who would, or could, argue with that?