Thursday, February 27, 2014

clowning around

Send in the Sondheim analogies.

This morning's newspaper reports two related tragedies.  The first is that the clown population is declining.  Not simply in The States, where the memorial service for humor and wit was held long ago, but in the entire world.  Or so I thought.

The World Clown Association (and here I was thinking that was the United Nations) announced that its membership has fallen from 3,500 to 2,400 in the past decade. 

And then the other size 30 shoe drops.  It turns out that the World Clown Association is the largest trade association for American clowns.  So, it is a world association in the same sense that the world series is.  In other words, not.

But that is appropriate because clowns are not rooted in reality.  Their job is to make us laugh and look at our lives with new eyes.  Sartre in bad makeup or Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight -- even though that sounds vaguely redundant.

The rival Clowns of America International (with its national socialist moniker) is in the same straits -- complaining that older clowns are passing away and that American kids are looking for "real jobs."

"Real jobs?"  Have you ever tried to make a birthday party of 8-year old boys laugh when all you have is a handful of balloons?

But the decline may be reflected in the second bit of bad news.  Rasmussen Reports reports that 43% of Americans surveyed (I feel a bit like Richard Dawson) answered "no" to the question: "Do you like clowns?"  43%!

Certainly the ranks of the coulrophobic cannot be that extensive.  That means that Krusty the Clown and Eric Stonestreet's Fizbo are objects of fear or indifference, rather than of fun and introspection.

What is happening up here?  I have a theory.  And it is found in another of the Rasmussen questions.  When asked "Have you ever thought about running away with the circus, only 6% answered "yes."

Other than rafting down the Mississippi with an escaped slave, what could be more quintessentially American than running away to join the circus?  Or, at least, to think about running away to join the circus. 

Of course, all of that is projection on my part.  I have lived my life on the premise of running away to join the circus (another opening; another show).  It is almost like looking at a country I no longer recognize.

Or maybe Americans have become so distressed by their current political and economic circumstances that they can no longer even imagine the magic of life.

If Scott Rasmussen had asked me about clowns, I would have told him: I love them.  And if he then asked me if I had ever though of running away to join the circus, the answer would be easy.

Scott, I not only thought about it, I did it.  In Mexico.

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