If you think being a professional clown is as easy as throwing a pie in someone’s face, I’m here to tell you from my personal experience: Clowning around is no laughing matter.
It all began many years ago when I was the desperate mother of a toddler, working full-time outside the home. I was searching for children’s birthday party entertainment. Not finding anything suitable or affordable I, coincidentally, happened upon clown classes being held at an area school. After discussing the possibility with my husband, we figured “Go for it!”
My teacher, Violet “Brrdie” Schadek, was a professional clown who was also inducted into the Midwest Clown Hall of Fame. Who’d o’ thunk? There’s also an International Clown Hall of Fame in Wisconsin, by the way. The other students in my class were half a dozen women of varying ages from 30 to 70. Various predicaments in life brought us together with only one thing in common, we were all young at heart. The six-week class was a brief, but comprehensive introduction into the world and history of clowning.
Upon completion of the class (replete with a Graduation!), I entered the world of professional clowning, entertaining at private and corporate events. (As an aside, I want to mention that I in no way want to minimize the long hours and hard work that many clowns go through for their lifetimes, in an effort to keep improving.) I still held my full-time day job, and was also a professional hula dancer, as well. Although for most folks, the idea of clowning brings to mind laughter with gags, muck-ups and practical jokes, I found several key components not very fun at all.
First, there was my makeup. I was not a Tramp or Whiteface-type of clown, I was an Auguste. An Auguste is the least intelligent, wackier type of clown with different colors on the face highlighting various features. Typically, red nose, cheeks and mouth, marks around the eyes, all on a white and flesh-tone base.
My make-up took nearly one hour to apply. It took nearly 20 minutes to remove. Keep in mind, morphing into hula girl on a busy weekend was no easy feat. In fact, just changing back to myself took some doing, which made meet-ups at family events or with friends after a day of clowning kind of tough. I didn’t like that.
Second, was my rubber nose. When most people thought of clowns, they would think of a red rubber nose, and I was determined to wear one myself. It simply added to the character of a clown and I loved it. I learned how to glue it on properly and once in place, that nose wouldn’t budge until I removed it, inevitably taking a fine layer of skin with it. It didn’t hurt or anything. Sort of like a peel, I thought.
The nose was great until I’d be out entertaining for an afternoon in the heat of summer. And I would perspire. That little nose somehow became a reservoir for all my sweat and slowly, ever so slowly, it would drii-iip out the small nose holes. I entertained a lot through the summer and let’s just say the sweat dripping thing wasn‘t ideal. I didn’t like it.
Thirdly, there were my clown shoes. In addition to a red rubber nose, many people would associate clowns with having big feet. Naturally, I was going to have them, too. I already had regular size clown shoes, but I wanted mine custom made. And, boy, were they snazzy. Long, red and white lovelies. I adored them. Despite their size, they were comfortable and very easy to walk in, that is, until I had to go to the bathroom.
You see, my clown club would be involved in many parades throughout the summer. At the staging area of most parades would be the line of single size port-o-potties and, inevitably, I would need to use one. So, on this particular morning, the morning I was breaking in my big beauties, I had to go. I stood in the long line with everyone else. My turn. I jumped in and gave the door a yank. And a yank. And the door…did NOT close.
My shoes were too long. Frustration mounting, I tried turning my feet every which way, including parallel with the potty itself and trying all this without touching anything, mind you. Afterall, it’s a port-o-potty for heaven’s sake! I still couldn’t shut the door. I heard the people that were in line behind me start to laugh and laugh. I think they thought it was all schtik, like I made it up to be funny. I couldn’t shut the port-o-potty door. I didn’t like that.
Finally, there were the clown skills I completely lacked. Juggling? I couldn’t juggle chiffon scarves, let alone balls, pins or rings. Magic tricks? Hah! Even with the most basic, self-working tricks, y’know, the kind a monkey could do, I couldn’t do them. Any specialties? Unicycling? Gymnastics? How about an instrument? Nope, nope, nope.
Eventually, I developed a love of storytelling (& listening!) and I developed a love of balloons. I uncovered skills I didn’t know I had. In turn, I was nudged into directions and onto paths I never dreamed I’d travel. That was when I decided to hang up my red nose.
In spite of my clowning difficulties, I did meet some super people and have a lot of fun along the way. Furthermore, I learned a very important lesson. Clowning is from the heart. And if I approached all of my endeavors from that standpoint, all would be well.
What do you do from the heart? What paths have your traveled simply because you followed your heart?