The Joke's On You -- Who Should be the Butt of Your Jokes?Written by Tom Raymond
This article was prompted by something I heard (second hand) about performance of a local magician at a child's birthday party. Now, granted, this wasn't done by a clown, but I've seen clowns doing similar things. As one of his tricks, he has a child (a young girl approximately 9 years old) holding two handkerchiefs knotted together. He pulls her hands apart, and instead of a third handkerchief appearing (or a flag, or whatever else) he has a pair of ladies' panties appear. The magician received reaction he wanted: audience laughed loud and long at discomfiture of young girl. She, however, was on verge of tears, having been publicly humiliated, for having done nothing more than helping on stage when asked.
As I say, this prompted some thought on my part. The first thought I honestly had was about insensitivity of this particular magician. My next thought was empathy and sympathy for little girl. And my third thought was about how differently a clown would (or should) have handled that entire routine.
People think that a clown is someone who dresses foolishly, and does foolish things. This is correct, as far as it goes. It's also been said that a clown is a living cartoon, a Looney Tunes come to life, who sees and thinks differently than 'normal' people. This, too, is true as far as it goes. But there's something deeper about being a clown.
As Floyd Schaffer puts it in his wonderful book, "If I Were a Clown", a clown is someone who lowers himself, in order to lift someone else up. This is not limited to any sort of theological context. David Ginn, one of my favorite authors, and a wonderful kid's magician, uses same premise over and over in his book "Clown Magic" with his 'clown-in-trouble' routine. In short, when a trick doesn't work, it's never fault of child -- it's clown who looks foolish. The child is one who makes rabbit appear, makes ropes repair themselves, etc. We performers are foolish ones, who should have pie in our faces, who are ones humiliated, who are 'brought low.' It is our audience, children or adult, who should be empowered, triumphant, lifted up.
A Real Clown or Not? how to tell if you're a real clown, as told by a real clownWritten by Tom Raymond
No true clown wants to scare a child. However, some children can and do grow up with a Fear Of Clowns-- clinical name for this is coulraphobia. The question is, how can professional clowns prevent children from being scared?
Before even discussing make-up, let's look at some basics. Remember when dealing with children, all adults are "giant-sized" from their perspective. When interacting with children, clowns (or other children's entertainers) need to come to their level physically. Get down on one knee, or sit on floor. Remember what it felt like to be that age.
In a related note, never force a frightened child to come by clown. Parents will very often try to push an obviously frightened child to go by clown, often for a photograph. Something I try to do in this situation is to act frightened myself, greatly exaggerating my "fear" while explaining