Monday, January 25, 2010

Stop your clowning

What is it about clowns?

Why have I always feared and disliked them? Their red noses, their exaggerated, arching eyebrows, their permanent, upturned splotchy grins, their huge clown shoes. Maybe it's because they're kissing cousins of mimes, who are also very scary because they don't speak.

Whatever the reason, my clown phobia can be traced back to the 1960s, when my family faithfully stood curbside for the annual Auburn, Washington, Memorial Day Parade. The clown cabal stealthily slithered down Main Street, invading on little bikes, in little cars and on foot. They angled toward us with an awkward gait only clowns can pull off. One of them approached me and thrust his massive face within millimeters of mine, his whiskey-soaked breath curling my eyebrows unnaturally. He pulled a sticky, slightly-melted hard candy from somewhere in his techno color clownness and pushed it into my palm, accompanied by a distorted, "Hyuhh hoo!"

I'm not sure, but I may have wet myself.

From that point on, I've loathed the clown. It doesn't help that he's often portrayed as an evil, twisted psychopath in the movies, like the Joker in The Dark Knight, or Stephen King's It, or a real-life psycho, committing actual deviant crimes, like John Wayne Gacy.

I had one other clown encounter, this time as an adult. My wife and I, on a flight from Phoenix to Seattle, struck up a conversion with a friendly, middle-aged man sitting next to us. He seemed hesitant to tell us his occupation, but suddenly decided he could trust us enough to let us know he was Bozo the Clown. He then produced a couple of color postcards of himself in full Bozo regalia and asked if we wanted an autographed copy for each of us.

"Uh, sure." What else can you say?

He held up his plastic cup of orange juice, and informed us that it was mixed with white wine, so that any kids on the plane wouldn't be able to tell he was consuming alcohol. I wanted to say, "Mr. Bozo, you look like any other paunchy guy sitting on a jet. How could anyone possibly know who you are?"
I guessed that he wasn't called "Bozo" for nothing.

I later learned that a large number of Bozos have existed throughout the past sixty years, and maybe
this guy held exclusive clown rights to the eastern half of Iowa, or something.

I know I'm not the lone inhabitant of Clown Angst Island. In fact, I think it hits a chord with so many of us that it found its way into advertising for a multi-national corporation. Just your back. Those floppy shoes may be gaining on you.

1 comment :

  1. Another reason to hate clowns...