Quick survey: Do you like clowns? Did you EVER?

We all have our prejudices. Me, I don’t like clowns. Never did. I was afraid of them when I was a kid. You know the axiom about how bigots tend to dehumanize members of the groups they don’t like? Well, that’s what I did. Sort of. Actually, it was the other way around. It’s not that I didn’t like them, therefore I thought of them as not being human. It’s that I really didn’t get that they were humans, and I didn’t like them.

In fact — and I was right on this point — they didn’t seem like anything natural. They weren’t dogs, or cats, or horses, or cows, or any other species that I found totally nonthreatening. They were like something from another world, and a pretty freaky, inexplicable one, too. (Later, I was to see “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” — or some of it, anyway — and it made a lot of sense to me.)

Funny thing is, I don’t remember being afraid of much as a kid. At least, not of real things. I never had the fear of nuclear war that so many who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis shared. I do recall having an unreasoning fear of that Snidely Whiplash guy who was on the kiddie show on WIS… when we lived in Shandon back around 1957, I was convinced that that guy lived in the bushes behind the duplex we lived in. Not the one on Heyward Street, the other one we lived in… But I wasn’t afraid of much else. Except clowns.

I have this early memory — this was probably the mid-50s, ’57 at the latest — of being in the Colonial store in Bennettsville (remember Colonial stores, you oldsters?) and there was some sort of promotion going on, and there was a clown giving out popcorn. I remember wanting to check out the popcorn, but not wanting it badly enough to go anywhere near that clown. I did my best to keep at least an aisle between him and me. Or rather, between it and me. This seemed to me a completely rational response. Still does, looked at from a little kid’s perspective.

I don’t know when it was, but I remember that eventually I did finally realize that they were people, only with makeup. I think it took awhile because the premise seemed unlikely. Why would people want to make themselves look so FREAKY?

Anyway, I got to thinking about that again when I read that Ronald McDonald is in trouble:

The 48-year-old, red-haired mascot has come under fire from health-care professionals and consumer groups who, in recent days, have asked the fast-food chain to retire Ronald McDonald. But McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner staunchly defended the clown at the company’s annual meeting on Thursday, saying, “Ronald McDonald is going nowhere.”

He kept his job, and I’ve got mixed feelings about that. I hate for anybody to lose their job in this economy, but… well, you know… he’s a clown

Anyway, somewhat more seriously… I’ve always sort of wondered about this concept that clowns are a great way to appeal to kids. Because they certainly weren’t in my case. So I put it to you: Do you like clowns? And more to the point, did you ever like clowns?

14 thoughts on “Quick survey: Do you like clowns? Did you EVER?

  1. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Clowns are creepy and/or annoying. I never “got” the attraction…

    I remember my gramma watching Red Skelton, who did this clown thing, and ewwww….

  2. SusanG

    My child is 10 years old, and he still doesn’t like not only clowns, but other costumed people like the Chik-Fil-A cow as well. (The cow comes to his school every month at least, and he always makes sure to avoid it).
    I never like them either, so maybe it’s inherited.

  3. Steven Davis

    Democrats scare me, they have ever since I graduated college and moved into the real world.

  4. Scout

    I have never particularly liked them. I think I would have been scared of them in person as a kid but don’t so much ever remember having the opportunity to be near one anyway. But I also just never found them or their routines amusing from afar. I never understood the big deal. Ronald McDonald seems different though. I don’t think I ever thought of him as a clown – none of those McDonalds people made any sense – What on earth is a Grimace or a fry guy? He was just another odd entity in McDonald’s land in my childhood.

  5. Bart

    Every time I vote now, I am reminded of the Judy Collins song, “Send in the Clowns”. Problem is, we are sending them to Columbia and Washington.

    Maybe every politician should have to apprentice as a clown with the circus before they can be sworn in. At least, they would be legitimate.

  6. Steve Gordy

    “Send in the Clowns” would be an apt choice for today’s political scene, particularly the line, “Me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air . . .”

  7. Greg

    Though I was an adult when Stephen King’s “It” hit the bookshelves, that turned me against clowns.

  8. Jesse S.

    My mother-in-law is a registered clown (yes, some states require you to be licensed and registered to work as a clown and yes again, you need to go to clown college to become a registered clown). You can draw from it whatever you want, but it was one of the first things brought up when my better half and I were going through the “things you should know about me” part of our courtship. I won’t lie, I never bring that subject up at the dinner table.

    Clowns seem to go against everything your parents taught you. Never take candy from strangers. Beware people (in odd disguises) who lure children. This doesn’t even bring in parental concerns that inevitably pass on to the child about carnival workers. Even if the clown is humanitarian aid worker 364 days out of the year you subconsciously smell Heavenly Hill or Old Crow on their breath and they at least know somebody who knows somebody to can rid of your body.

    This doesn’t even bring in the affect of the makeup. It seems to trigger some reptilian response to avoid leprosy and plague victims, an uncanny valley time bomb. I can’t say I’ve ever understood why they were a good idea. Was it some vaguely European idea like Krampus that just didn’t translate very well over here? I don’t know, that would involve reading about clowns.

  9. Brad

    Well, um… at least she’s registered. (Register clowns, not guns!)

    “My mother-in-law is a registered clown” sounds like the beginning of a stand-up routine.

    I’m sure that she’s a very lovely clown, though — one of the “good ones,” as we anti-clown bigots would say…

    I’m going to stop now, before I get Jesse and me both into trouble. I hope it’s not too late.


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