I ain’t afraid of no clowns!

People can be very quick to say that someone is afraid of clowns. I am constantly wondering what I can do to minimize those knee jerk reactions. The clowns that I work and I have had the mantra for years that the only way to get beyond the stereotypes that ‘clowns are scary’ or ‘I’m afraid of clowns’ is by consistently doing solid work and finding a way into the hearts and minds of all kinds of people in such a way that they leave the interaction feeling differently about clowns. These kind of turnarounds happen all the time for us. For the person or persons who are directly impacted by this kind of encounter, they leave saying that they never knew clowns could be so funny or that we aren’t the “scary” kind of clowns. Possibly, they connect this to the minimal amount of makeup we wear. Because we don’t cover our faces with a big makeup and wear big wigs and super colorful clothes, that tends to let us slip through many of the barriers that people who have clown fears have put up. Or it could be simply that we are able to make a connection with them that goes beyond what we look like.

Today, I wished that I could have filmed an encounter that my partner and I had during our hospital rounds. We entered the TV Studio at our hospital, and there were two little girls in the studio who were sisters. The older one, probably about nine years old, smiled at us and was immediately engaged by our presence and our comedy. The younger girl, about seven years old, retreated behind one of the studio interns and peaked out only slightly to see what we were doing, and possibly to make sure we didn’t come any closer to her. We continued our work in the room, and while we didn’t ignore her, we also didn’t make much of an effort to engage her directly. Instead, we interacted with the sister and the other people in the room. A few minutes later, the little girl began to open up to me and even started to laugh a bit. However, she still pointed at my partner for that day and said, “he’s the one who I’m afraid of”. We didn’t draw much attention to this statement and continued with our material in the room. In about five minutes, without any further provocation, the little girl came up to both of us and explained how we were doing this dance (the Ne ne) all wrong. She proceeded to show us both how to do the steps, and pretty soon she was standing between us and holding both of our hands. This went on for several minutes, and she was totally engaged and had forgotten to be scared. When it was time for us to go, she blocked the exit with her entire body and begged us not to leave. In a span of ten minutes, she went from being afraid of us to being our best friend. I feel the clown fear phenomena is fed by people who only see the first two minutes of that kind of encounter. They don’t see how experienced clowns use their acute skills of observation along with comedy experience to turn that child around and allow her to be affected by the humor we can share with her. Just my two cents for today.

Maggie KennedyOutreach