Perhaps you have seen the headline in yesterday’s New York Daily News: “National clown shortage may be approaching, trade organizations fear”
Here at the Mooseburger Office today, we’ve already have numerous emails and phone calls from fellow clowns, organization chairs, and even news channels — they all want to know if it’s true.
Would you believe that I tackled this question TWO YEARS AGO? Don’t believe me? Go to our old Moose Newz archive, back to January 2012 and see for yourself.
For those of you who don’t want the hassle of finding the article, I have posted it below, with a few updates to address some of the issues from the NY Daily News story.
Is the Art of Clowning on the decline?
In the clown industry, I have seen many changes. Change is inevitable. I hear there are less people joining the big organizations, less members in clown clubs, less people going to conventions, less young people clowning, and lots of people who should be in the know predicting gloom and doom for the future of clowns.
Hmmm. What do I think? Baloney!
Each year I am blessed with meeting some of the most wonderful clowns on the planet! I meet folks who have been clowning for decades, and folks who are just getting started. It is true that the face of clowning is changing, but that is okay. Change can be GOOD if we choose to embrace it.
Are there really not as many people going into clowning? Maybe.
But how can anyone quantify that? By the attendance at a convention? By the number of clown-for-hire websites? Membership numbers in trade organizations and clown alleys?
They’re going online
Well, it’s true that registration numbers for the big conventions are down a bit, but that could be due to smaller more frequent workshops taking place in more locations across the country. Also, the internet is replacing much of the “coffee talk” sort of gatherings where clowns would practice tricks or balloons.
There are some great groups on Facebook as well as clown-forum.com (which also has a chat room). These sites offer the perfect place to discuss business practices, skit videos, balloon creation photos, and everything else clowns need to chat about. While the internet can’t replace real-life training, it’s a good place to ask for critique and help others when you can’t get to a convention or camp.
Organizations like Clowns Canada, Clowns of America International, World Clown Association, and Clowns International were ideal for clowns to have a central gathering place, like a convention, and a print publication which would give them ways to connect with one another. However, the internet meets the needs of a younger set of clowns, and the club membership doesn’t mean as much to them as it did for the previous generation of clowns. This is not to say those organizations are no longer needed. They still serve a very important role in the education and unifying of clowns all over the world.
But MAYBE the types of clowning that are growing are the types that are hard to keep tallies of, simply because they aren’t the sort to put up their own websites or attend conventions.
Perhaps the people who are going into clowning now are going into it for the right reasons. It is not so easy to make a quick buck doing kids parties anymore. To make it in clowning you need to be clever and diversify.
Huh. Could that mean we get people who are more determined, more dedicated, more willing to go the extra mile? I think so. Maybe quality is better than quantity.
There are more and more people going into clowning to give back to the community. More clowns are choosing to visit nursing homes and hospitals, going into an area called “Caring Clowning” or “Humor Therapy”. That is not an easy road, but it is worthwhile! God Bless them!
There are more opportunities to share your love of clowning by performing at cancer walks, Special Olympics, charity events, Make a Wish, soup kitchens, etc, etc. Pick you favorite cause and you will be very busy!
I have watched it go both ways. I have seen people get into clowning for charity work, only to find that they can do some jobs for pay on the side to support their not-for-profit clowning habit. I have seen clowns-for-hire do so well, that they are able to give back by doing some volunteer clowning as well. Which ever way works, it works!
They’re growing up
I don’t worry about the age of our clowns. I still see young people entering clowning. I get contacted on a regular basis with requests for children and teens to be allowed to come to Mooseburger Clown Camp.
I know of clowns who are running successful Junior Joey programs in their communities. Circus Juventas, American Youth Circus Organization, and other similar groups never have a problem filling their program.
What COAI President Glenn Kohlberger said in the NY Daily News story is very true. To paraphrase, he said that it’s difficult getting younger people to develop an early interest in clowning, and even if they do it in their teenage years they lose interest and don’t pick it up again until they are in their 40s or 50s.
Of course, that is true in just about any hobby. Between the ages of 20 and 40, most people are focusing on their careers and families. But once their children grow up and move out of the house, “empty nest” syndrome starts to settle in and adults are drawn back to clowning.
You want to know why? It’s because CLOWNING ISN’T JUST A HOBBY; it’s a vocation.
I’ll say that again for the people in the back:
Clowning is a vocation.
The main distinction here is that people are called to be clowns. Although it sounds sentimental, when people talk about needing to make people smile and experience joy, they often refer to having the “Heart of a Clown”. It’s true.
No matter how long you’ve been away from the Art of Clowning, you can always come back and pick it up, just like a hobby, but there’s something more to it than that. You feel pulled to clowning; there’s a strong inclination that you can’t deny. It’s the same way an artist gets “itchy fingers” and needs to pick up a paint brush or pencil to create art.
This isn’t the end of the story
Clowning may be changing, but change can be good. I am glad to be a part of it all. We have a lot to be happy about! Joy is all about attitude. It is just that simple.
Don’t sit back and complain. Contribute and be a force of change. Focus on the positive changes in the clown world. If you reinforce that optimistic outlook with your own clowning, you will draw people to yourself. Be ready with some websites and contact info when plains-clothes people come up to you and ask about being a clown.
Who knows? YOU might be our best billboard!
What do you think about the future of clowning? Post a comment below or on our Facebook Page. We would love to hear your ideas!
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Be inspired! Read these other blog posts to help boost your confidence and get you thinking:
- “You Never Know” You never know who is watching that might need a smile. You never know what dreams you may inspire.
- “Don’t Over-Think It” How to create a clown character without too much stress.
- “You Are A Gift” Feeling down? Remember, each time you put on that red nose, you’re going to make someone’s day!
- “Clown Goals” We need to set goals in order to grow. How do we do that?
- “Clown: Plain Clothes Division” What do you do when your client asks for no clown makeup?
- “Are You Funny Enough?” Sometimes it’s not about the costume or the props.