Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Funny Like a Clown
A British study found that decorating children's hospital walls with pictures of clowns terrifies the young patients. Their fear ranked equal with fear of areas devoted to needles. Penny Curtis, a researcher, said "Clowns are universally disliked by children."
I still remember a hospital stay in 1976, at the age of four, which coincided with the Christmas holidays. A troupe of Santas and clowns came rolling in to bring cheer to the children in the ward. Holy mother of all that is ghoulish, I can still remember essentially screaming my head off the entire time until the man had to take his wig and nose off and convince me he was a person and not a monster. Ever since then I've wondered why people think clowns are funny. As Joe Pesci agitatedly inquired in GoodFellas, "I'm funny?...Funny like a clown?!!" Ain't no such thang, darlins. Clowns by definition are creepy with a capital CREEP. The exaggerated features, the physical humor, the entire act is just not appropriate for kids who already have exaggerated imaginations. I had nightmares about the horde of clowns for weeks; I'm not kidding. It just all felt so sinister to my 4 year-old mind.
I recognize that clowning has a rich history, from ancient Mesopotamia or wherever to the Commedia dell'arte to mainline churches and hospitals in present-day America. I get it. I understand that the exaggerated features and gestures are part of the act and art of clowning. I'm just saying that a study of 250 kids in which *100%* of those kids said clowns were scary, is a pretty solid result as far as I'm concerned vis a vis unleashing a car full of clowns on a bunch of sick kids. Which is to say: In the name of all that is merciful and compassionate, don't do it.