This document was written for the community newspaper at Cranbury Crossing in Monroe Township.
It inspired me to do this little drawing after laughing for almost 20 minutes after reading the contents, and laughing while creating the drawing. So, read, enjoy and laugh, at the same time getting some incite to CLOWNING AROUND!
By Bob Gilbert
Recently, my wife Linda cracked a few hilarious jokes over dinner. I told her that she was a great comedienne and jokingly asked her if this was a natural talent or whether she had developed it by attending clown school. We had some laughs about it and then I started to wonder whether there is such a thing as “clown school” and whether people still work as clowns today.
Before I share with you the answers to these probing questions, let’s get the obvious joke out of the way – that if you look up “clown” in the dictionary, my picture is there. Very funny, score one for you.
Now, let’s get down to business:
First, the mere definition of a professional clown makes me laugh - “a comic character known by distinctive makeup and costume, ludicrous antics, and buffoonery whose purpose is to induce hearty laughter”. Sounds like some people I have known over the years!
Professional clowns work in various settings including at children’s birthday parties, storytelling sessions, adult events, and what is described as the major league of clowning – the circus.
Apparently, becoming a professional clown involves a lot more than putting a lampshade on your head and cracking a few jokes. First, you need the right personality – you must love to make people laugh. Assuming you have that, you must develop the clown’s character, including makeup, costume, and the character’s personality, as well as associated skills such as magic, balloon animals, face painting, and comic routines. A name must be chosen, which may be related to the character’s profession, such as Dr. Fumbles, Nurse Jones, or Professor Dum Dum.
And if that’s not enough, a clown must become adept at the use of props such as a rubber chicken, a Harpo horn, a honking nose, and juggling balls.
And don’t forget the oversized shoes. You can either buy them from a specialty shop or make them yourself by purchasing size 18 Converse sneakers and then gluing your own shoes inside of them.
There are different ways to become a professional clown. You can spend time with a clown in your area and learn the ropes; attend clown workshops and conferences run by local clown clubs; or attend one of the many “clown schools” throughout the United States. The New York Goofs Clown School offers intensive two-week courses taught by experts.
So the answer is yes, there is such a thing as a clown school. But beyond that, there was also a clown college! It operated from 1968 – 1997 and was called the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Clown College. Its purpose was to supply clowns to work in the circus, and it produced over 1,000 trained clowns.
There have been many popular clowns in the United States. Emmett Kelly was famous for his character, “Weary Willie”. “Bozo the Clown” was created in 1948 and was played by many actors over the years. “Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger Happy Clown” was developed in the early 1960s for McDonalds’ TV commercials and was originally played by news personality Willard Scott.
I think that I really started something with this clown business - Linda wants to know when we are enrolling in clown school. I don’t know if I am ready for that, but I do see one big advantage for the two of us if we were to graduate from clown school – when people say that “Bob and Linda are two clowns”, rather than getting offended, I could accurately say, “that’s true, and thank you for recognizing our professional accomplishments!”