We Need to Talk About Good Clowns

As the rest of the world focuses on evil clowns, we decided to give the good ones their due.

Adams Patch Robin Williams

As the rest of the world focuses on evil clowns, we decided to give the good ones their due.

I recently wrote a piece about evil clowns and how they’ve informed negative stereotypes. It’s a subject I find fascinating, but it’s hardly a fair representation of clowns as a whole. The real legacy of clowns is a positive one, but we rarely hear stories about their noble contributions to humanity. That needs to change.

Even in entertainment of the non-horrific variety, clowns are rarely portrayed in a flattering light. Krusty from The Simpsons is arguably the most famous pop culture clown and he’s a cynical, chain smoking alcoholic. Elsewhere, addiction stereotypes have been applied to clowns in comedies like Shakes the Clown and Little Big Top. If we go back to the silent era, the sad clown stereotype is present in Laugh, Clown, Laugh, a tale of tragedy and forbidden love starring Lon Chaney.

Some happy clowns have graced the screen, though. Bozo the Clown is one of the most popular clowns in history and he brought smiles to children’s faces for nearly 60 years across a variety of mediums. Elsewhere, The J.P. Patches Show aired the zany antics of its titular character, played by Chris Wedes, for 23 years.

And who could forget Clarabell the Clown from Howdy Doody, the lovable sidekick best remembered for communicating through miming and water squirting? These clowns are better representations of the good natured fun the craft is associated with. Unfortunately, their evil or drunken counterparts have inspired more art.

It fever is in the air at the moment, for better or worse. On one hand, the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s popular novel is a welcome return for Pennywise as we get set to enter Halloween season. On the other, this movie won’t benefit real life clowns at all. In fact, it’s already damaging their reputations and business prospects.

According to World Clown Association president Pam Moody, the film follows last year’s prankster craze as the latest negative hit to the clown industry. Earlier this week, the organization issued a statement reminding people that the movie should be considered a work of fiction and nothing more, and one which is in no way an accurate portrayal of clowns.

“We understand that some people enjoy the “horror genre” of entertainment, but we find that many people are confronted by images of horror characters (impersonating clowns) and are startled by them…which is obviously the goal of these horror characters. In my opinion, these horror characters are not clowns. Even the character in the movie ‘IT’ should be understood to be a fantasy character – not a true clown.”

But who are the true clowns and what do they do?

The World Clown Association is a prime example of the positive services clowns provide. Their sole aim is “to bring laughs and smiles into people’s daily lives.” In addition to embodying the well-intentioned, fun-loving, and entertaining spirit of honest clowning, the organization also has programs dedicated to military veterans and the sick and elderly.

If you’ve seen Patch Adams then you’ll be familiar with clown doctors. Loosely based on the real life character of the same name, the film tells the story of a man brought back from the brink of suicide because he finds purpose in life helping people. The real Patch Adams hated the movie, but at least it shed some light on medical clowns.

Clowns have worked in health care since the days of Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. Throughout the centuries, doctors have found that mood influences healing and clowns have been used to boost morale among the sick. They say that laughter is the best medicine, after all, and if there’s one thing clowns do well, it’s make people laugh.

Results of a study published in Europe’s Journal of Psychology last year found that clown intervention reduced the psychological symptoms of the adult patients studied, which ultimately improved their overall emotional well-being. Most studies investigating clown caring in the past have focused on kids, but this just goes to show that you’re never too old to find comfort in their wacky ways.

Maybe clowns aren’t your thing, but if you’re reading this I hope you at least find some joy in the following stories. Not only do they showcase clowns in a more positive manner than we’ve been accustomed to lately, they also speak volumes about the human kindness that exists in this world.

The Big Apple Circus Clowns

The Big Apple Circus has been an essential part of bringing smiles to sick kids’ faces since 1986, when co-founder Michael Christensen introduced clown doctors trained in improvisation and hospital procedure to New York City. These days, their clown doctors make more than 225,000 visits to sick children nationwide every year. 

Additionally, the organization has provided outreach programs for disadvantaged kids and people with disabilities, as well as special shows for low income families. And guess who’s played a big part in all of that? Clowns, that’s who. 

The Ronald McDonald House

As a company, McDonald’s is associated with gluttony, unhealthy eating, and financially neglecting its employees. That’s not the perfect association for their clown mascot, Ronald. However, it’s also worth noting that he’s also the face of the Ronald McDonald House, a charity dedicated to helping families of children receiving specialist hospital care.

Since 1974, the service has provided families with a free place to stay while their kids are receiving treatment. Even if they just want to take a rest, grab a shower, or wash clothes, they’re welcome to do so. It is estimated that the charity provides beds for over 7,000 families around the world each night. On top of that, their neighborhood Care Mobile vans provide free health care to over 100,000 kids every year. 

Juggalos

Despite their FBI classification as a criminal gang, Juggalos aren’t bad people. All fandom has the minority of fools who give the rest a bad name, and Juggalos have produced a few just like every other. The fact that they just so happen to wear clown makeup and listen to Insane Clown Posse, a duo famed for violent horror-themed rap music and hardcore wrestling, probably doesn’t help their cause either. 

This week, however, it was Juggalos who served as a heartwarming reminder of just how decent humanity can be in the wake of tragedy. Following Hurricane Harvey, they’ve been raising money and awareness to help the victims buy supplies and rebuild their community. 

In 2008, they also founded Juggalos Making a Difference, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless. Maybe their taste in entertainment leans towards the dark side of clowning, but in real life they represent the good guys willing to help those in need.

Doo Doo

Do you remember the clown from Billy Madison? Well that’s Doo Doo, the alter ego of Canadian performer Shane Farberman. In 2015, he was driving through Toronto in his Hummer with some of his clown compatriots, all wearing their attire, when he noticed two women being assaulted by an aggressive male. As soon as he spotted the incident, he drove to their defense before any serious damage was done.

The heroic gesture was captured on camera and the video went viral. To cap it all off, he was made an Ambassador of Goodwill for the city. His name might be a slang term for excrement, but I’m sure we can all agree that Doo Doo is a wonderful human being. But most clowns are.

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