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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Clowning around » » "Clown makeup," and why Scary Clowns arent the problem (5 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of IncantoMagic
Warning: This is a rant. Sorry about the tone in advance.

Some information that seems to have been lost throughout the years is the fact that the style of clown makeup that has become popular since the mid 1900s, and has become synonymous with "clowns" was designed for a very specific performance environment. The exaggerated features of this style of makeup were developed during the hay-day of Trainshows, that played in multi-ring tents, and later in arenas as Ringling brothers, Cole bros, etc carried on the traditions of this style of show. It was designed, such that someone sitting in the 30th row could see the features of the performer, and that the comedy would carry all the way through the venue.

This style of makeup was then taken by people who wanted to be clowns, outside of this circus setting, and without any historical context, they felt that imitating this style of makeup was the appropriate thing to do. that's "clown makeup" after all. That notion wasn't helped by large "clown" organizations in the US that have makeup competitions at their conventions and the lot. Many of the clowns who are a part of these organizations are not arena circus clowns. These people went into industries like children's entertainment, balloon twisting, etc, and anyone who has worn this style of makeup knows that when approaching people, be they children or adults, there is often a sense of unease. As you approach a group up close, often times these fears are set aside, by an adult in a group saying "oh, its a clown, honey, arent they funny", but the truth of the matter is that this style of clown makeup IS terrifying up close.

The caked on makeup. The persons wringles cracking through. They heavy eyeliner. The masked identity. The grotesque features. Its aweful.

And why do we think this is appropriate.

You look at professional clowns from circuses throughout north America and Europe. On most of the biggest shows in the world, the clowns don't have this style of makeup. Because clown isn't about the makeup, The makeup is a tool to accentuate expression and give identity.

You look at Bello Nock or Housch ma Housch, or Fumagali. Bill Irwin and David Shiner. David Larible hits a middle ground. Even if you go back decades, and look at George Carl. None of the Biggest names in Clowning in the world wear "clownface".

"Scary clowns" arent scaring children. "Scary clowns" arent pushing away the audience.

You are.

I'm not going to say do better makeup. Do SMARTER makeup. Do LESS makeup. You are playing a fool. Not someone who tripped and landed on a painter's pallet. Unless you trip and land on a painters pallet. That could be a good gag.

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Michigan, USA
261 Posts

Profile of TomB
I grew up with a Shriner as a friend of family. I was able to goto the Masonic Temple in Detroit as a kid and even visited the shriner hospital in Chicago (very humbling experience). I never thought that clown make up was scary. I always thought of circus clowns as FUN. I think the movie IT started the fear of clowns. Then kids hear their parents say, I'm afraid of clowns, then they pass on that fear. Little kids hear clowns are scary prior to ever even meeting one. Most kids that meet a clown without any prior preconceived notion will absolutely love clowns. I have a local clown that blows balloons for kids once a year at a nearby festival. My kids have no issue standing in line to get a balloon.

Not sure what cheap clown make up your clowns used but mehron clown make up is great!
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Inner circle
Arlington, Virginia
2458 Posts

Profile of rossmacrae
The customers fall for the "gotta look like Ringling" notion too - anything simpler and they won't pay.
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So.California / Centl.Florida / retired Florida
970 Posts

Profile of Russo
I was doing a show at a Shriners' Camp for MS Children, in mid performance a bus pulled up, several clowns poured out with 'yaaaaaaaaaah' -BAD reaction from the kids - several twitching (as MS kid will do when scared,surprised) - A slow, SHY clown, will do better than a Startling one. Before going anywhere, Amateur clowns should be taught/trained in being GENTLE.
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