Clowning

Fear of Clowns

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Coulrophobia. This word may sound strange; however, it has a straightforward meeting. It is an irrational fear of clowns.

Fear of clowns is a big issue in my world. As a professional clown, I come across this issue more often than I would like. What drives this fear is irrational. More importantly, as a professional clown, I’ve learned that our reaction to this fear can be handled positively or it can handled poorly making the clown fear worse.

First a little bit about the actual fear. There is a belief in our culture that clowns are scary. You can go to the Stephen King character Pennywise as an example. Someone who’s lurking in the dark eager to do something evil. Part of the power of this bad clown example is that it takes the idea of what should be happy, joyful delightful and it turns it into something evil and scary. It’s a natural dichotomy upon which one can play. What could be more frightening than something that should be happy but is really evil? In summer 2016, this clown fear got out of control. There were news stories of people who complain about clowns. It became a meme. The situation peaked as it usually does at Halloween. Eventually in late 2016 clown phobia subsided to its pre-existing constant level.

Most of my dealings with clowns phobias are in my work as a hospital clown. I’ve been working at the hospital clown since 2000. I began working with the Big Apple Circus in 2000 and have continued to do this work with an organization called Humorology Atlanta. During my time as a hospital clown, I have seen patients, family and staff members who have this fear. I’ve seen some good ways to address this issue. I’ve also witnessed a few easy mistakes and pitfall in dealing with this. I will discuss some of these mistakes in future posts here in my blog. Then I will move on to what I believe are the best practices and approaches for dealing with coulrophobia.

Diversity call for clowns

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Today I had a conference call with several other clowns from around the country. We were talking about our ideas to make our teams and our team leadership more aware of racial and LGBTQ diversity.

This is a difficult subject for me to discuss. I did find some comfort in a few people at the American Circus Educators conference here in Decatur this past October. It was refreshing to hear the issue of diversity brought up by so many white people. There was an effort to understand the issue in a way that I haven’t seen in other places. I hope that our conversation today will be the first step in bringing this up in a productive way.