Mock me not clown…
I drove past a sign the other day that stated, “West End Kiwanis’s Circus Sale.” I immediately thought what exactly are the Kiwanis selling? Elephants past their prime were major manure machines and not useful unless one was an organic farmer. Or could they be selling used tents? I might be in the market for a tent if I wanted to take the entire neighborhood camping. Or were they selling clowns? Why would anyone sell clowns? Stranger still, why would anyone want to buy a clown?
The percentage of people who thought of clowns as scary outweighed people who thought of clowns as humorous. Clown reputations flip flopped from creepy to mirthful throughout their history.
Ancient Romans recorded an instance of a man performing impressions of deceased people at their own funerals. Clowning and mocking dead relatives probably wasn’t funny to the mourners and may have set the tone as clowns having evil dispositions. In this, I can’t be certain. Ancient Romans viewed lions eating people in coliseums as entertainment.
Clowns redeemed themselves in the form of jesters during Medieval times. A jester’s main goal was to bring joy to monarchs even if it meant monarchs having a laugh at oneself. The court funny men were given reign to speak freely and mocked monarchs and nobles. They had the ability to call a despot a despot and made fun of a royals weight or mistresses like today’s free press without fear of losing their heads.
Jesters provided another valued service in the ancient form of Tums. Medieval royalty acquired tastes for expensive spices and exotic foods. Mirth at mealtimes was thought to aid digestion. Jesters were called upon to perform at the evening meal.
I’m not so sure about digestion, but laughter at mealtime has caused the inhalation of elbow macaroni. The macaroni then became wedged in my nasal passage. Blowing the noodle out of my nose two days later was kind of funny. If this feat was repeatable, I might consider the purchase of a jester to save me the pain of noodle nose.
References to clowns in opera involved, taverns, drinking, cheating spouses, and murder. Faces were said to be white with shame and lips smeared with blood, oh, the tragedy of opera. The exaggerated mouths many clowns bore did make me think of a person with cannibalistic tendencies more so than a cheerful smiley face.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey brought back laughter in clown form with absurd antics under the big top. Think clown cars, slapstick acrobatics, and juggling bowling balls. Gags containing naked rubber chickens were cause for laughter. Clowns were welcomed back into hospitals to cheer sick kiddies and adults alike.
That is until a sociopath serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, dressed as Pogo the Clown at children’s parties and did what serial killers do. Nevermore, it seemed, would huge painted lips and bulbous noses hold innocence.
Clowns tumbled downward from there. When the king of horror took hold of a clown, it was complete terror. A demonic monster, in the bodily form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, awoke every twenty-seven years. Apparently humans, children in particular, were fearful beings which made us tastier.
I’m not a fan of scaring myself silly. The Kiwanis could keep the clowns. Wait, I’ll bet the Kiwanis were selling tickets to the circus.
The sign made more sense on the return trip when I read it correctly. The sign stated, “West End Kiwanis’s Citrus Sale.” Oranges, the Kiwanis were selling oranges and grapefruits, not clowns.
Well, that was boring. Though I wouldn’t want to purchase a clown, hawking people who could make you laugh or eat you was much more fascinating to my mind than citrus fruit. My error in processing information must be in my circus like mentality. There are three rings performing all at once, but without a ringmaster in sight.
Published in Funny Times-August 2019