Circus clowns: source of mortal terror, or just deeply, deeply unsettling?


Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Miscellaneous clown and circus-related ephemera

Discovered at: Crap shops across this great nation

Representative Quote:

“The clowns are funny men. They do funny tricks. The people laugh. People like clowns.”

Your Crap Archivist counts four lies in the above statements. And that’s not just some kneejerk conclusion based on the old standby that clowns are beings of pure grease and whiskers and nightmares, a comic observation that should suffer ignoble death in the first week of your community improv workshop, right along with “This Chinese buffet smells like Petco” and “Monkeys make projectiles of their waste.”

No, after a careful review of a great stack of clown-related Crap, I demand we adjust our clownophobia alert system, downgrading from “Defcon-Red Horror” to something more like “Elevated Uneasiness.” Let’s check the evidence.

First, from 1951’s kids’ book The Circus, there’s this guy …

… whose gaze is no more frightening than that of any other painted loon whose nose has been dotted over with spider eyes.

And this guy may look scary, but he’s kind to animals and doubles as a flotation device.

A love of animals demonstrates some basic decency, even in a clown like this next one, who apparently crafted his collar from bunny ears.

A gift for everyone who has made it this far: Chimpanzaniness!

Next up, here’s a peek into a late ’70s coloring book honoring Whizzo, one of those local-affiliate TV clowns who ruled children’s programming back when television stations had anything at all to do with their communities.

Whizzo wasn’t scary … but, damn, he said the wrong thing once in a while.

Note that he has only one leg, and he’s standing on Sergio Aragones’s mustache.

Anyway, Whizzo’s just like you. He’s even taking pole-dancing!

Just as in Shakespeare, clowns’ madness often hides great wisdom. Here, Whizzo reminds us why so many playgrounds forbid adults without kids.

We’ve earned another clown break! Let’s page through the 1952 craftbook Big Top Crochet for a a taste of good-old-fashioned circus life, and …

Rosie O’Donnell, how could you?

So, clowns aren’t quite the soul-devouring Pennywises that horror films have been selling us in recent years. At least, in America, they aren’t.

I wish I could pledge the same for the rest of the world.

Consider this program for a ’60s circus in Denmark. Just a couple pages in, and we’re hit with this:

On the right, it’s some evil-eyed monster of Elsinore! Here’s a close-up!

Even Danish chimps are terrifying!

Anyway, next time you happen upon an all-American clown passing his tin can of brandy to an all-American (read: two-armed) chimp, instead of calling the police, why not step up and shake his hand? Why not say, “Thank you for being so very much less creepy than you could have been”?

Also, thank him for clowns’ pioneering work in car-pooling. With clown leadership, we’ll lick foreign oil yet!

[Your Crap Archivist realizes that there are female clowns, but they’re not the ones anyone worries about.]