This just in: Clown Shortage Sweeps Nation.
Really. I saw it on the World Wide Interweb Thingie, so it must be true.
(I know what you’re thinking. As long as we have legislatures there can be no shortage of clowns. Well, read on.)
Here’s the deal, as reported by our understated colleagues at The New York Daily News:
Circus folk fear a national clown shortage is on the horizon.
Membership at the country’s largest trade organizations for the jokesters has plunged over the past decade.
“What’s happening is attrition,” said Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger, who added that membership at the Florida-based organization has plummeted since 2006. “The older clowns are passing away.”
Membership at the World Clown Association, the country’s largest trade group for clowns, has dropped from about 3,500 to 2,500 since 2004. “The challenge is getting younger people involved in clowning,” said Association President Deanna (Dee Dee) Hartmier, who said most of her members are over 40.
“What happens is they go on to high school and college and clowning isn’t cool anymore,” Kohlberger said.
OK, let’s stop right there for a reality check with our new friend Glen.
Glen … buddy … It’s not that clowning isn’t cool ANYMORE. I’m not sure that clowning was EVER cool. That doesn’t mean it was bad, necessarily (although I, personally, have seen many clown carloads of bad clowns over the years). It just means none of the cool kids ever stayed cool by announcing to their buddies in the cafeteria that they wanted to put on makeup and go by the name of Koko or Bobo or Barfo.
(This is a good time to point out that, despite what the Daily News says about circus folk, when we speak of a clown shortage we’re talking amateurs, semi-pros, birthday party entertainers and other such clowns. Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Combined Shows have no shortage. It can choose from the cream of the clown crop, so to speak, which it will find for itself. In case you were thinking of a career change., RBBB only carries about 26 clowns for its three shows, which means the average clown’s chance of making it to the big-time is about the same as my chance of making it to the NBA.)
I can take clowns or leave them. Being a native of Peru (Indiana, the circus town, not South America) I was sort of brought up with clown awareness, you might say. My dad knew a few old-timers who just seemed like regulation old guys to me. Of course, that was out of makeup, although a couple of them were already pretty well equipped in the big red nose department.
Now, there is one group of people for whom a clown shortage of good news: Coulrophobes. That’s the word for those who fear clowns, and I’ve known a few. Most of them just shuddered and looked the other way, but I remember one from kidhood for whom the merest hint of a clown caused a major panic. All you had to do was whisper “Emmett Kelly” and she’d run screaming from the room. I won’t name any names, but someone once chased her all over the house waving a picture of Bozo.
Boy, you gotta love a sister like that.