With the new IT movie hitting screens across the world, inevitably people are talking about the film hurting the clown industry and turning people away from our work.
Well I, as president of the World Clown Association, can tell you that these prophecies of doom are a major over-exaggeration. After all that we’ve dealt with the last 30 years, this is nothing new for us and we don’t see it as a problem.
People talk about IT wrecking people’s perceptions of clowns but countless other movies and TV shows have used ‘killer clowns’ as their horror trope of choice. It’s been in fashion for longer than I care to remember. To be honest, it’s a moot issue now.
Have these shows dented our revenue and reduced our bookings? Not that I know of. It’s affected me personally, but only on the odd occasion that someone says ‘oh I’m afraid of clowns, clowns are going to eat me’” They don’t really feel that way. Within two minutes I have them eating out of my hand.”
Last year’s ‘clownpocalypse’ trend was different. That was people dressed in masks pretending to attack people. I was touring India at the time and I got asked about it there, which shows what a big story it was.
But a piece of fiction like IT isn’t going to have that same effect. With that movie, you’ve got a character that slightly resembles a clown but completely fictional – it has nothing to do with me, my colleagues or our industry. That ‘clown’ lives in a sewer – I stay in 5-star hotels.
If you want to see a real clown at work, look at some of my colleagues clowning in the shelters, in the trenches set up for those affected by Irma. That’s our life, what we do. IT doesn’t do that.
If you were scared of clowns, believe me - you'd know
I haven’t actually seen the new movie, but I hear it’s pretty scare. I guess that, in the entire world of clowns, some clown may be affected. Someone might cancel a birthday party or come up to them and tell them they’re scared. But it’s a drop in the ocean when you consider how big the clowning profession is overall. And most people aren’t actually scared at all – they just think they are.
A fear of clowns, or coulrophobia, is very real. But in my 20-plus years of clowning I’ve met only one person who actually suffered from it. Believe me, if you have it, you’ll know. If a clown comes into the room, you can’t breather. That one case I saw was a stage hand at one of my shows, and I had to help resuscitate her. Thankfully, it’s an extremely rare condition.
Little children are too young to develop the phobia. They aren’t scared of clowns, simply the stranger. As a mother and grandmother of four, a person who works in malls and shops, I can see that people are scared of clowns of all kinds: next time you see a Santa Claus in a mall, ask yourself how many kids are crying around him. That’s because Santa is a stranger, and the same is true of clowns. There’s nothing unusual about us or what we do.
So if you think Stephen King has hurt us by creating Pennywise, you’re wrong. In fact if I met him I’d tell him ‘you’re a brilliant human being, I love your creativity, if I liked horror I’d love your work.’
Because, when you think about it, professional clowning is getting far, far more media attention than it would be otherwise. The media’s job is to drive attention and interest, and that can only help our industry in the long run.
Pam Moody is president of the World Clown Association. Visit worldclown.com for more information about the group and its work.