'Clownpocalypse': As a professional clown, I urge these evil pranksters to stop scaring people

Jonathan Martin was arrested will attempting to scare people dressed as a clown in Kentucky (Middlesboro Police Department)

Friday, September 30, 2016

After a number of people were caught lurking in secluded areas dressed as clowns in the US, it appears what has been dubbed the 'Clownpocalypse' has spread to the UK with reports of several similar incidents in Kent.

talkRADIO asked Randy Christensen, president of the World Clown Association, to speak on behalf of the performers whose livelihood is being threatened by the pranksters.

As you might have guessed, my fellow performers and I have strong opinions about the negative view of clowns that is being pushed forward by various "copycats" in what the media has dubbed the "clownpocalypse."  These people dressing up to scare people in both the US and UK are no more clowns than a person dressing as 'Barney' is actually a dinosaur.  Their intent is to terrify. Our intent is to bring smiles, comedy, laughter and hope. 

The coverage they receive in the media does a grave disservice to the thousands of wonderful clowns that visit patients in hospitals, military veterans’ homes, and fun-filled celebrations. Instead of talking about the wonderful tradition we strive to uphold, people focus on the misguided jerks who are finding sick pleasure in scaring people.

I am a professional clown, and I admit – the make-up, masks and costuming on these characters known as “horror clowns” in films, and the people who dress as clowns to amush people, even scares me. But, that’s not what good, wholesome, family-friendly clowns do - they offer R-rated entertainment. I’m G-rated: appropriate for all ages.

The goal of these people – the ones who play ‘evil clowns’ on screen and the people who imitate them in woods and parks – is to scare.  They jump out of a dark hallway to scare the unsuspecting. Sometimes they move slowly in unpredictable eerie ways reminiscent of an animal with rabies. They are sick and unpredictable.

This is totally different than the clowns in the first camp (wholesome clowns) who interact with their audience, not by forcing their way into an another’s personal space, but by inviting their audience to join the fun.  We bring smiles, giggles, playfulness and good feelings….the antithesis of the horror characters.

The clowns I know are proponents of positive, family-friendly entertainment. We believe the art of clown is something to be treasured and enjoyed by audiences worldwide. Our goal is to bring a happy, joyful, creative, caring, positive, and fun experience to audiences. We share laughs and "comic relief" everywhere for the positive, wholesome, enjoyment of our audiences. Sick children in hospitals and senior citizens in nursing care facilities love and appreciate the comedic care that clowns bring.

The general pubic often does not take time to evaluate the differences between these two camps. All they see is someone in a costume with make-up (or a mask) on the face, and some conclude the worst possible scenario…that they have just encountered a horror character (dressed as a clown). If that’s what has been fed into their imaginations, that’s probably the first conclusion they will reach.

Clowning has a long and rich tradition (Randy Christensen)

I've come to accept the fact that the "horror genre" is here to stay, and people will continue to get cheap kicks out of imitating the sort of ‘evil clown’ seen in Stephen King’s It. This sort of character certainly captures people's imaginations, and can provide the perfect visual device for someone looking to gain some satisfaction in their empty lives by causing a fright or two.

But, while accepting this phenomenon, I’d also like to make two very specific requests to the general public.

I’d like to warn parents that exposing young children to horror characters (whatever they may be) is unwise and detrimental to children's emotional health. Over and over, those who claim to have fear of clowns testify that they were exposed to violent, creepy horror characters when they were young. Those fearful memories linger on throughout life. I'm often amazed at the number of parents that have allowed their young children to watch the R-rated horror flicks. 

Secondly, I’d like to make a request to anyone who is thinking of donning an ‘evil clown’ costume to scare something. There is nothing commendable about what you’re doing, it’s sick and pathetic. You’re tarnishing a treasured form of family entertainment and potentially ruining the lives of the people you come into contact with.

If you’re struggling to find meaning in your life, please find another way to sort out your problems.

To find out more about the World Clown Association, go to www.worldclown.com.