You’re trying to decide what to put at the foot of your Florida driveway to greet visitors pulling in. Do you go with a manatee sculpture, or perhaps a colorful stingray or school of fish or a shell mosaic?
Nah! You go instead with a creepy clown head attached to the concrete body of a religious figure. That way, you’ll create an unforgettably disturbing image that will forever burn itself into the immortal soul of every visitor.
It’s not what you would call welcoming. Of course, that may be the point.
A major motion picture adaptation of Stephen King’s horror thriller It is getting ready to hit theaters, and a venue in Austin, Texas has come up with an unusual idea that is sure to thrill, petrify, and torment a significant segment of the local population. The Alamo Drafthouse has decided to have a “clowns-only” screening of It.
Many people are scared to death of clowns and hate the sight of them. In the case of Pennywise, the murderous clown who terrorizes the children of a small town in It, a strong case of clown fear is justified, but many people have a deep dread of all clowns, whether or not the clowns have a habit of dragging little kids into ancient sewer systems. They think they are creepy, with all that white face paint and weird eye makeup and unnatural hair and silly hats and bulging costumes, and they probably don’t much care for the twisting motions and squealing sounds when clowns make balloon animals, either.
Clown fear — the word for it is coulrophobia — seems to be an innate part of some people’s psychological makeup and starts at an early age. You can spend a few hilarious minutes on the internet checking out videos of panicked, crying little kids fleeing from the clown who Dad hired to entertain the kids at a birthday party. They intuitively hate clowns, just like baby birds intuitively hate snakes.
Clowns don’t scare me or creep me out. I’ve got a different problem with them — I don’t think they’re funny. Ever since going to my first circus, I’ve been mystified by why some people think clown acts are hilarious. There’s not much subtlety to clown acts, either. And don’t even get me started about those serious, sad-faced, pantomiming clown acts that are supposed to leave you with a tear in your eye and a strong sense of pathos.
We’d all be well advised to give Austin a wide berth on September 9.
Last Friday, at a party in Cabo San Lucas, a gunman disguised as a clown shot and killed a reputed drug lord. In a hit that sounds like a set piece from a Quentin Tarantino film, the assassin wore a clown wig, red nose, and costume.
Mexican clowns reacted swiftly to the troubling incident. At a clown convention this week in Mexico City, they denied that the gunman was a true clown. A real member of the “clown profession,” they say, would have been easily identifiable by his costume, mask, and face paint. (Apparently, it is a fundamental part of the professional clown code to always wear your known stage costume whenever you participate in a public criminal act.) One of the attendees said he could swear on his mother’s grave that it wasn’t a clown.
I’m sure Mexico was reassured by the clown convention’s steadfast denial of any clown involvement in the shooting. No doubt towns and villages throughout Mexico were unsettled by the thought that murderous bands of rogue clowns might be roaming the countryside, emerging by the dozens from tiny cars, ready to stomp people with their too-big shoes, blind victims with spritzes from a seltzer bottle, and then open fire after tying off a balloon animal.
Many people, myself included, think clowns are creepy and unfunny as it is. It’s nice to know, at least, that they aren’t routinely out there gunning down people at children’s parties.