Thursday, January 22, 2009


Someone asked in the comments of a posting the other day something to the effect of "What gave me the authority to say what is and what isn't a clown?" I don't hve that authority. The audience does. They'll tell you loudly and clearly if you are making effective choices.

Unfortunately many entertainers either don't or won't listen to their audience.

I can't give anyone a magic pill (myself included) that will make them a better clown but I can give you this list of things that I notice that immediately tell me that the person standing in front of me in the clown suit is most likely not going to turn out to be the next Grock...

1) A name badge

2) A foam nose

3) A rainbow wig

4) Any costume items purchased from Party City

5) Poorly designed and/or applied makeup

6) Makeup applied over a beard or stubble

7) Cheap clown shoes

8) A whistle

9) A horn

10) Using store-bought toys for props (not always, but most times)

11) The spangled and/or sequined vest and bowtie combo

12) Any costume pieces from the Goodwill which have not been altered significantly in any way

13) Any costume pieces derived from a McCalls, Buttericks or Simplicity pattern

14) Rainbow striped anything

15) Balloons, hearts or other designs in their makeup

16) Stickers or balloons

17) A ProKnows nose applied with anything other than fishing line, Skin-Bond or ProKnows adhesive.

18) Generic "clown names" (Giggles, Huggles, Snuggles)

19) Magicians, Balloon Twisters or Face Painters passing themselves off as clowns

20) Afro wigs

21) Emmett Kelly Jr collectibles or any discussion thereof

22) Any patches on their costume telling me what organization they are with, what office they hold in the organization, what events they have attended or where they went on vacation

That's just 21 off the top of my head
Anyone else have any "pet peeves" that they'd like to add to the list?


Anonymous said...

Guilty of 3

1) A name badge
5) Poorly designed and/or applied makeup
14) Rainbow striped anything

But I like Rainbows

Billy the Clown
Pittsburgh PA

Pat Cashin said...

Please don't think that any one, or all, of these makes anyone a bad clown. They don't.

They are just common threads among the ones that were that I've noticed over the years.

Anonymous said...

what kind of paint did this clown use or his teeth,thats the kind of clown we dont want in the circus

Anonymous said...

Another common thread that I have seen in bad clowns is the inability to recognize that they have areas that they need to improve on.

And I think Balloons/Stickers are destroying the American clown. And yes I do balloons as a small part of a birthday party, because the party with they pay check expects them.

Billy The Clown
(Balloon Hater)

Anonymous said...

I have seen some great" looking" clowns that are as funny as a bad case of hemroids.

And i have seen some clowns that have very little to no make-up whats so ever be REALLY funny.

Just cause you have the $ to buy the best clown shoes and have nice make up does not make one funny!

Mike Naughton said...

In case this didn't get through the first time.

Pat, let's take this in another direction.

It is not the items purchased that makes you a clown, it is something way down deep between your heart and your soul that makes you a clown.

Pat, you are putting yourself under too much stress, get out of the house and into some fresh air. A nice long and quiet walk would do you wonders.

Peppo the Clown said...

Pat, what about 23)yama-yama suits; 24)use of blue material; 25)rudeness towards members of the audience; 26)dirty big canvas tennis shoes, with holes and grease spots and 27)... a huuuge collection of clown figurines (remember?. Ha!). We all have to start somewhere, and it's o.k. to look not so good when we just start, but we MUST improve make up, costuming and material as time goes by. You are right, and I understand and share your discomfort/pain/dissapointment when I see clowns like that.

Drew said...

Ungroomed/uncut synthetic wigs.

Mark Lavender said...

ROFLMAO! You covered 'em!

Um... confession...
one of my costumes I made in CC was derived from a simplicity pattern... but it was altered from the original whole lots and bunches and stufflikethatthere!
(insert big cheesy smile here)

Anonymous said...

How about; does not know how to powder, talks likes (he or she)is out of makeup, is not funny.

Anonymous said...

let mee see rainbow striped anything but your costume is and wig is synthetic but it looks like alot of good magic apparatus you have and live animals,but its not the best props or costumes that count it's from within your heart and soul to be a great clown

Anonymous said...

oh btw off the rack costumes are nice but they all look uniform all clowns have to have their own individual style based on the chracter they choose,putting a rainbow wig dorsn't call you a clown,if you dont have the money to start with I totally agree with pat I didnt have nice clown shoes at first until I saved and saved and it was like christmas to me when I got my first pair,now I own five but im sure pat has more than me like imelda marcos

Matthew said...

Here is what I have noticed: some people dress up as clowns, and some people ARE clowns. If a person looks like they are dressing up, then they are in trouble. If the person can look completely at ease in their wardrobe and makeup, they have it. A true clown never has to tell anyone that they are a clown, verbally or otherwise.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Bloggo, For me, a mere fan, you're basically so on the money and I'm gratified to see a genuine Clown point out some of the things that have been driving me nuts for years. Hey! Remember what I told you I said to myself when Diane and I walked into the Irem Shrine Circus a few years back and saw you doing come in..."My God!! They've got a R E A L CLOWN this year!", and call me prejudiced, you didn't disappoint us one bit.

REAL Clowns, ya gotta love 'em!

Paul G.

PS We won't tell Clarabelle about

Anonymous said...

Oh god, that photo... if you're sitting on a pile of "don't" pics, you have to post them. Start a new blog called Clown Wrecks.

Anonymous said...

Clowns with shovels and bags of cement who paint?

BAMBOUK said...

I'll admit to clothes from Goodwill and toy store-bought props. Both have yielded good results, on occasion. But I don't play circuses.

Actually, the only CIRCUS experience I have was in a Cirque-style show that toured Performing Arts Centers. (If that counts...I hope it does. I did pretty well.)

My costume was: a Hat gifted from a theater, and a black vest, red long johns and grey pants (altered slightly with pinking shears) all from goodwill-type shops.

Gloves from Mooseburger and Shoes from Clown-so-port.

No nose, and minimal makeup.

I felt like I looked the part for that show. Kind of a trampier David Shiner type of look.

Anyone here remember Alan Clay's performance at Motionfest? Reading the WCA Clown Commandments?

Anonymous said...

Noses that squeak
A heart that flashes
A Derby mad of plastic
Kazoos played poorly
Squirting flowers
Stealing Pie Pans from Otto
Doing any gag poorly
Blaming the gag for its death
Showing up for a parade without being asked
A picture of your Pride and Joy
Bow Ties bigger than your face
Jam face
Yama Yama suits
Zip up the back costumes
Most ruffs
Rhinestone glued to your face
Annoying Clown Voices
Being annoying
Bad <><><><><> timing
The invisible dog on a leash UNLESS it wets, or becomes a giraffe

Just to name a few

Litle John

Anonymous said...

Say, wasn't 'Chiclets Teeth' on the Blue Show?

Anonymous said...

Hey Pat, where'd you find the GREAT photo of Steve Copeland POST Ringling to us for the header?!?! I like it!

Anonymous said...

The picture of the clown is Pogo from Canton Ohio...He retired his clown getup and now makes appearances as Oliver Hardy with his partner (ex-clown) Sparkie who portrays Stan Laurel...out of make-up they are award winning impersonators...check them out on my website in the "showtime" slide show.


Anonymous said...

WOW !!

Anonymous said...

Only one bit that is done over and over to no laughter. It went like this: Walk around the arena floor, stand up on a bull tub, hold your hand high into the air and yell, "Hello!" while dropping your disgusting dirty pants and displaying equaly revolting filthy clown underwear. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. As seen on a Shrine Date within the Kansas State. This "clown?" also had the scarest poorly applied makeup placed on his entire bald head. Non Clown!

"Mr. Bill"

PS. Bald is funny but not this guy.

24-HOUR-MAN said...

You have the authority to express your opinion.
The Cheyenne "Medecine Wheel Way" says if you place something in the center of a circle of people, each one of those people will see it in a different way, and they have the right to their opinion of what they see.
Personally I wouldn't want the person in this picture scaring the "hell" out of my kids.

Anonymous said...

Dear Pat,

Okay already. You made your point.

Please, oh please ... in the name of Lou Jacobs, remove this photo from your blog.

You are doing your blog a great ... puke, puke ... disservice by having this image ... hurl, hurl ... be the first thing your readers see ... dry heave, dry heave ... especially, to your new readers.

Kenny Ahern

Anonymous said...

Little John: I agree with your list and enjoyed it but I must point one thing out...
I was acquainted with Henny, 'Take my wife please." Youngman thanks to numerous visits on the Big Apple lot. I know he was not a clown, but I mention that his business card featured a photo of,
his Pride & Joy." He was a dear and warm man and still sharp and funny 'til the day he died. Whenever we saw each other at the BAC he would greet me warmly, ask how I was, and a split second later ask, "Have you seen Grandma, is Grandma here yet?" He loved Grandma and Circus Clowns and knew many of the old masters. I am not an organized person, wonderful for someone with thousands of photos in the house, but I will try to dig up a photo or two of Henny and Grandma.
"Doc, it hurts when I go like this..."
Paul G.

24-HOUR-MAN said...

Henny Youngman not only knew many "old masters", he was "THE OLD MASTER".
Are there any of the old Jewish comics left???? they were entertainers!!!!

Anonymous said...

I took pictures of many of the Shrine clowns who were associated with the various temples who sponsored the John Tarzan Zerbini International Three Ring Circus when I worked there in '84. I would say that fully half of them have rainbow wigs, half wore "Goodwill" wardrobe and the rest wore yama-yama suits. I was very surprised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan by the Shrine alley there. The twelve or so members of their alley had nearly professional-looking make-ups, about half had Priscilla Mooseburger-type wardrobe, none of them was drunk, and the same clowns showed up every performance and their gag was structured, well-rehearsed and mildly funny. They also, like most of the Shrine clowns I met, were actually nice guys. I also liked the bunch in Omaha.

The neighbor across the street from my family in New Jersey ran a nightclub for the Mafia. One night he had Henny Youngman on stage. Of course, he opened with his signature line, "Take my wife--please!" He scored a hit on his second line, grabbed the ball and ran with it. I have neber again seen a comedian so in control of the audience. I learned quite a lot from the front row, as I could almost see the wheels turning in his head tto grab the right joke to keep the laughs rolling. Once I saw Phyllis Diller in Atlantic City. She had fresh, very funny material and razor sharp delivery. She bombed big time. Must have been the proverbial undertakers convention in the room. My table cracked up the whole time, so Phyllis played the whole set to us. I regret not being able to talk with her afterward. Jay Leno rocked the house (I gotta tell this one in person). But the one who was truly brilliant, who made me laugh so hard I hurt for three days afterward was Red Skelton. He even managed to get a laugh before ever appearing on the stage. But then, he wasn't wearing a rainbow wig, either.