yes, funny people hate clowns

Trigger warning: Clowns

I’m kidding. I don’t believe in  trigger warnings. Life itself is a trigger warning, Chuckles.

Honk-Honk

I hate clowns. Their bizarre colored skin, stupid facial expressions, ridiculous orange hair, loud voice, and the whole ironically running for president dog and pony show…wait, I got confused. That’s Donald Trump. I’m talking about my hatred for all clowns, not just the billionaire orangutan. And I’m aware this isn’t a unique statement- hating clowns. In fact, most people I’ve spoken to find clowns horrible. But I wanted to know why- why others find them revolting. I decided to ask several writers, comedians, and other genuinely creative people their thoughts on what exactly makes clowns so grotesque. Is there a central reason, or does it vary from person to person.

I asked them just one question: Why do you think people find clowns so creepy?

I’ll go first.

Short answer:

I believe they’re evil and will kill me. And they’re never funny. Ever.

Long answer:

I’m terrified I may be thought of as one- just a ridiculous, feckless clown.

And no, I don’t have a big red pair of clown shoes under my bed…well I do, but not for clowning, I just that have big feet. I’m tall, it’s not my fault. And they’re Converse, not exaggerated red patent leather men’s shoes.

Let me explain. It disturbs me as a funny person that I’m often not taken seriously. I suspect that people who aren’t drawn to creating comedy, don’t understand that comedians are in fact some of the most intelligent, sensitive, and introspective people. As a child I often obsessed over things and the only thing I could do to cope was to make jokes about what was troubling me. I was called the class clown, but in my mind I thought of myself as someone who contemplated things in a painfully serious way.

I first asked my long time comedy hero: Writer/Actor/Comedian and member of my favorite comedy troupe ever, “The Kids in the Hall” Bruce McCulloch- and he was kind enough to answer. Here’s some thoughts Bruce shared with me about clowns:

“At night when I should be sleeping, or worse – thinking about my next ‘great’ idea, I am struck by the thought of a clown, muddy boots and hands going into a shitty bar after a ‘show.’ The show was a murder. That clown was Pogo the clown persona of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. But the scariest clown I ever came face to face with was when I was 14 – I had snuck into a cabaret to see a band who didn’t even have a record out yet. I watched as a member – the bass player went off stage and popped in his mouth what looked like a big vitamin. During the next song, I realized what it was – a blood pellet that he bit into and spewed ‘blood’ as he played. I heckled and booed but stopped dead when the ‘clown’ bent down and said over the music, “I’m going to get you kid.” And to this day, I am still worried that Gene Simmons is coming to get me…” new-clown

 And that is why I love Bruce McCulloch- his incredible mind has kept me smiling for the past 20 years. His album, “shame-based man” stands on its own as a kick-ass record, even without being insanely funny. Check out his show “Young Drunk Punk,” and pick up his book, “Let’s Start a Riot”- it’s a rare blend of funny, smart and and deeply touching. Keep up with all things Bruce here: brucio.com

Maybe my hatred for clowns should be boiled down to what the TV writer and hilarious stand up comedian Jason Berlin said:

Sure, no one likes child molesting, but the main reason people hate clowns is their shitty comedy.”

Brevity is the soul of wit; and by “brevity” I mean Jason Berlin. Nailed it, sir. I next asked someone who makes me laugh everyday on Twitter, Don Nichols, who simply describes himself as “man who falls over 3-4 times a week while putting on underwear”-but I describe him as “one of Twitter’s best”

“People are generally afraid of things we feel some sense of power or longevity over. The guilt of perceived superiority causes fear of being overthrown or having a standing taken away. Well off people are afraid of poor or oppressed people. Healthy adults are frightened by sickly, pale children & the decrepit elderly. Clean people with shoes are scared of dirty people with bare feet. The living are afraid of the dead. We have more strength and resources than these things, yet we’re afraid. Once a “normal” has been established in a person’s mind, any mutation on that normalcy becomes a scary realization. The idea of a monster is just something that’s angry because it’s not like you are. Some people try to help the different become like them, while others try to battle against them, or flat out hide. Clowns are always the butt of the joke. They only exist to be lesser than you. Being called “a clown” is a fast way to be dismissed.

They hide behind a false face of exaggerated features, usually of fake happiness or outright sadness. In big shoes, getting water thrown on them, or their pants pulled down, they are expected to perform foolish antics for our amusement, but with no real thought given to who lives underneath the facade. Fearing clowns is fearing that we might have to answer for being cruel and insensitive to the pain of others.”

I asked Annemarie Brown, a Storyboard Artist on “Family Guy.” She ain’t afraid of no clowns-  and she’s far braver than me…

“I don’t really find clowns that scary, BUT I do believe anytime something that is supposed to be innocent turns dark, it’s that much scarier. I think without It (and the like) this fear would not be so widespread. Like, clowns are supposed to be funny and happy and bring cheer to kids. They are supposed to be silly and harmless. So when one goes bad, you distrust them all.”

While we all have our own unique reasons for hating clowns, this year has made us confront them in new and terrifying ways: not only random clowns showing up on dark streets, but the big orange one running for President. With the sightings of clowns in 2016, I can only offer this: clowns are terrifying because we don’t know who they are, if the smile is just a mask hiding terror, or if they mean us true harm. One thing I know for sure, clown sightings are not anywhere near as terrifying as the possibility of a Trump Presidency.

So, thank you, 2016: you brought all my worst clown fears to fruition.

trump hair

11 comments

  1. This is brilliant and what makes it even better is there’s an amazing insight hidden in plain sight within it. There’s a whole universe of funny people–some of whom offer their insights here–who make us laugh by being themselves, or at least playing relatable, recognizable characters. They mirror our foibles and failings.
    Clowns present a completely distorted image. They are disconnected from reality.
    I say this as someone who once played a clown. It was in a friend’s no-budget indie film, and, granted, I was a drunk, angry clown sitting in a bar talking about how he falls asleep every night with the barrel of a loaded revolver in his mouth, which is something I think we can all relate to.
    And I’m sorry to say that being that clown felt like a cheap and easy gag, especially compared to the original plan: I was supposed to play an alien abductee who could only talk about his experience in the persona of Peter Falk’s Lt. Columbo and simultaneously play the therapist moderating the group “Columbo” was part of.
    It was scrapped because of the difficulty of finding a body double for wide shots, but it would have been brilliant–recognizable and relatable, because we’ve either all been a cigar-smoking trenchcoat-wearing alien abductee or known one and wanted to help them.
    My clown character, though, explains that his clown face is his real face. There is no man behind the mask, and that makes him more disturbing than someone who just puts on a costume, but also sad. The clown face is who he really is and it’s the only face he can show the world. He’s deeply vulnerable and exposed, and there are few things more disturbing than a guy who walks around exposing himself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful response- and I’m deeply touched you found meaning in my writing. That was the larger point. I adore comedians, yet I am often disturbed that others can’t see the true brilliance in their work. That film you were in sounds amazing, by the way- exposing one’s real face? Yes, that is truly terrifying!

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  2. I once visited a German circus. God, the clowns were so dull. But then the jokes were in German, so I guess I didn’t get them. Have you ever seen a door fall off a German car? Not funny. When I was a kid I met a clown named Tomato. I liked his name: it had imagination. His horse could count too. Unfortunately I didn’t go to the circus for a lesson in math; so I slipped out beneath the canvas, and never went back.

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  3. Hi, Elizabeth. I originally hopped over to say thank you for following my blog, but, of course, I had to read some. This is a very interesting article, and it’s good to see someone tackle this question. I hate clowns too and always have. And although you haven’t asked me personally why, I am going to go ahead and add my two cents’ worth. I hate clowns because they are to a great extent the epitome of blasphemy concerning God’s creation. As an intelligent, informed Christian, I believe God created the whole universe and then created man as its crowning glory. He has always intended for the human being to reflect His beauty, His intelligence, and His excellence. Clowns are a deliberate attempt at defacing and destroying that aspect of the human being, and they are a slap in the face of God. I don’t mean for that statement to sound mean; I’m being as straightforward as I know how to be with as few words a possible. And I’m not referring to any individual who plays the part of a clown as being bad. I’m simply referring to the whole concept of clowns and clowning — even in what is considered “Christian clowning” activity. So much for my 2 cents.

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