No laughing matter !

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Some folks have an intense fear of clowns.   Here’s an excerpt from an article in Dumbo Feather magazine, Coulrophobia written by Kimberley Newman.  Pictured, standing up to the resident Black Dog Joker on giant canvas used on Youth Focus camp. 

Clowns were once the habitual and entertaining stars of children’s birthday parties, the pin up funny men of gags and amusement parks, and familiar comic characters of circus and pantomime.   In my formative years, I blissfully celebrated three birthdays with that famous red and yellow clown, Ronald McDonald.   Yet, dressed in oversized shoes, baggy clothes, distorted red painted lips, thickly-powdered face and devil-like tuffs of wild hair, it hardly takes a stretch of one’s imagination to see that there’s a dark side to the clown. 

 If imagination alone weren’t enough, lately clowns have proven to be regular inspiration for horror movie villains (and sleepless nights).  The evil clown genre includes adaptations of Batman’s Joker, Stephen King’s terrifying novel It, (where a child killing, demonic clown terrorises a town), and Mr Jingles (a clown out for murderous revenge).   The internet hosts thousands of sites devoted to scary clowns and clown phobias.  In fact, the fear of clowns is real enough to have a name; coulrophobia.   

I can’t help but wonder, just when was this old jokester ever a cause for delight?   Historically, clowns have appeared as court jesters, in ancient Greek and Roman pantomimes, as bouffons, in the French mime tradition and in the Italian commedia dell’art which introduced the harlequin.   The 17th century French clown Pierrot, from whom the modern day clown’s white painted face  and constant melancholy face originated, was foolish, lovesick and bald with a flour-powdered face.  Today’s popular clown costume of hat, oversized shoes and giant neck ruff is attributed to the German clown character Pickelherring.  I sought the unflappable wisdom of my grandmother, and asked her what her childhood memories of clowns were.  She explained, before Walt Disney’s “lot”, the ever-present clown was how children learnt to personify fun and games.  And had I really forgotten my fondness for the friendly Ronald McDonald?

Stay tuned for more about The Joker …