quit clowning around

UnknownI don’t like clowns. No, “don’t like” isn’t strong enough. I despise, loathe and hate clowns. Clowns scare me to death. There’s a word for people like me — other than neurotic, that is — coulrophobic. (Hey, look at that, we’ve got our own phobia.)

It makes perfect sense to me (uh-oh, isn’t that what all phobics think about their fears?). First of all, the make-up. Really? We’re talking more garish than a costume party in hell. Then, the clothing. And again I say, who designed it — Satan? And finally, not to get too psychodramatic here, but what’s going on under all those creepy, painted-on smiles?

As a little girl, I saw an episode of some TV show where about 150 clowns all piled into a tiny circus car, but only 149 came out alive. Clearly, there was a clown killer in the bunch (either that, or the poor guy smothered on too much greasepaint). Just goes to show you why little kids should only watch kids’ shows. (Like Bozo the Clown. Not).

It isn’t that I haven’t tried to overcome the phobia (why, exactly, I’m not sure). As an adult, I attempted to watch Stephen King’s It, the mini-series based on his bestseller about a clown who terrorizes children and lives in the sewers. My attempt lasted about 30 seconds into the clown’s first appearance. My aversion to walking too close to sidewalk grates lasted for years. And my utter Bozo-phobia is everlasting.

Maybe that’s why the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode about the funeral of Chuckles the Clown (watch it here) is the only clown experience that makes me laugh. Number one — ding, dong, the clown is dead. Number two — Mary’s reaction is priceless. And number three — all Chuckles wanted out of life was “a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”

Do me a favor. Don’t send in the clowns.

© 2014 Claudia Grossman

6 comments on “quit clowning around

  1. You’re always so refreshingly sane. It makes perfect sense to be afraid of clowns; they appeal to the same people who think it’s funny to turn a hose on garden-party guests. I overcame my fear of clowns watching the movie about Emmett Kelly, which showed what a sweet guy he was, but I still just don’t like them. They invented slipping on a banana peel to get people to laugh.

  2. Thanks Sharon! (And good point about the banana peels!)

  3. Something I did not know about you.

  4. I didn’t realise til now: I’m a Coulrophobic, too!
    And I don’t even have normal phobias: snakes, I’m cool with. Or rather, the idea of them, I haven’t seen them up close apart from my brother’s ex girlfriend’s roommate once kept them. Spiders: I will fight anyone to the death who tries to harm a spider. (My dad always said there were good bugs, and bad bugs, and I knew which side of the divide spiders lay. Plus, Charlotte’s Web: my mom read it to me in a rocking chair, lovely memories).

    But CLOWNS…
    I don’t know if this is chronological, but at least three (seemingly) unrelated clown related childhood memories:

    • the JJS. We weren’t members – we were of mixed religious background – but there was an event there. A FAMOUS CLOWN, from TV, on tour. (is it possible? Was it Bozo himself?). I guess it was a charity event. He called out from the audience of kids, and I was a Chosen One. It was one of the singularly traumatic events of my life: in front of my peers, I was meant to rip a piece of paper. Neat child that I was, I was trying to do it the way my dad had taught me: fold it carefully in half, open, fold again the other way, which makes a clean rip. Bozo – or whoever this terrifying monster was – started shouting at me to just ‘rip the d – uh, just rip the darn thing’ but I couldn’t bring myself to do a bad job – not in front of all those people watching – so he grabbed it out of my hands and ripped it. If that weren’t bad enough…

    • Our cousins, the Edricks, lived on the South Shore, in the Five Towns. House on the water, lovely house, boat, pool, etc. And over the couch in the den, a painting that Cousin Carrie had painted. OF A CLOWN. That thing scared the hell out of me. They had a split level house – we had a ranch because my mother had this fear that I would fall down the stairs and break my neck (what’s that phobia called? And if my mom only feared specifically for me – and not the other sibs – does that count? That’s my other fear: going down stairs). Well sure enough, her prophecy came true, one sunny afternoon at their house. I didn’t break my neck, but when I landed, that creature was staring right at me. Laughing.

    • One summer, very early memory, both my parents worked as camp counsellors at Robin Hood Country Day School, the camp version. There was meant to be a fun event, a circus, and my dad was driving a Volkswagen Beetle. The gag was meant to be that all these kids dressed as clowns came out – they were secretly pouring in from the other side, hidden from the audience’s view. I don’t know what was more traumatic, the clowns, or the fact that my dad was with them. It was like he had been kidnapped by clowns. Little midget clowns.

    Husband’s calling, so I can’t tell you my friend’s story (did you know Sherri Simon? Robin Simon would be your age) at her dad’s funeral.

    Sorry once again this is longer than your post. I don’t do blogs anymore. Yours is the only one I read. But this one in particular brought back a lot of memories. And MTM’s video.. I laughed til I cried.

  5. I am glad there is a “name ” for this! Do you think it could be an Aries thing? J feels exactly as you do. Come to think of it .. I am not a fan either?

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