Long term readers of this blog who have good memories will know I did a theatre degree in the deep dark past. One of the things we did during our course was to perform as clowns at various community events. Here’s something you may not know about performing as a clown for kids: it’s fucking hard. A significant proportion of kids are rotten little shits. And as it’s generally frowned upon to give them the beating they so richly deserve, a clown has to have coping strategies.
The lecturer who ran the “physical” theatre classes that included clowning wanted us to be traditional clowns. In his book, traditional meant we could have pretty much any sort of makeup and wear whatever whacky clothes we wanted but the mandatory item was red nose. Red noses are a fucking target for kids. They see you wearing a red nose and their single-minded focus becomes to get your red nose and run away with it.
They will swarm all over you and do pretty much anything to get your nose. There’s always more than one of them who thinks of punching you in the nuts so you’ll double over and then they can reach your nose. The big thing is, they want you to chase them to get the nose back. No amount of asking or bribing will get it back and threatening them can have legal consequences. This gets exhausting real quick. And kids have inexhaustible energy supplies, you get tired of running waaaaay before they do.
Interestingly enough, the strategy that ended up working nearly all of the time was to sit down and cry when one of the little bastards got my nose. It seems that they can’t deal with the idea of a clown crying and they’d give the nose back to me out of embarrassment (or possible the out of disgust at the sight of a grown man, stupidly dressed, sitting on the ground and apparently crying.) This worked on most kids but there’s always one sociopath who simply doesn’t give a shit.
I remember at one school fete there was a particular kid who pushed me too far. We were performing at a “special needs” school – the students at the school had disabilities (or were retarded or whatever PC or non-PC label you want to apply). There was a big crowd of locals and the kids were not all from the school. The students from the school were great, they loooved clowns! In fact, one of the older kids grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. She kept telling me how much she loved me. It got creepy. She loved clowns a little too much.
But some of the other kids were the typical little shits. I can usually deal with this but one kid was way worse than usual. He was aggressive, abusive and violent. I saw him hitting and shoving other kids and he was sure as hell hitting me way too hard for comfort. The one thing I didn’t see was his fucking parents anywhere taking responsibility for him. Anyway, he’s about 10 years old, so I have to be careful how I deal with him. I kept doing the happy clown dance and pretending not to notice him even though he kept slamming into me and jumping on me, trying to get my hat.
I was reaching the limits of my tolerance for this little bastard when the perfect opportunity to deal with him presented itself. I noticed all the other kids had been scared away by him and none of the adults were paying attention, certainly nobody was within earshot. So, without warning, I stopped the happy clown dance, grabbed the front of his shirt, pulled him towards me and leaned into his face so my red nose was pressed against his nose. Then I said in a guttural voice:
“Kid, if you don’t fuck off right now I’m going to rip your fucking head off and shit down your neck.”
Then I dropped him and went straight back into the happy clown dance. All of this took about two seconds. This worked astonishingly well – the kid stood there dumbstruck like he wasn’t even sure it happened. I think the rapid happy clown/psycho clown/happy clown transition just fucked with his head too much. I like to think I permanently traumatised the little bastard and to this day he flinches whenever he sees a clown.
The message of this story is clear: clowns are your friends but fuck with them too much and they’ll find a way to get into your psyche and destroy your mind.