As a teen I took several circus classes. They were held on the weekends and I would learn the art of clowning. Juggling, skipping, tumbling, miming, hobbling and magic tricks were all apart of the course load. I had been interested in clowns ever since I was a young boy but going to circus school on the weekends was not my decision. I had been causing a lot of trouble around the house by pretending to be a clown so my father decided that if I was going to act like a clown I should learn to behave like one.
I never would have imagined that the few months of clown training almost twenty years ago would rescue me as an adult. I did not even take the training seriously. I got stoned with my friends behind the circus tent and spent more time staring at the girls than I did listening to the ring master. But somehow I have retained the fundamentals of clowning. I can transform myself into a circus clown in a matter of moments and do all kinds of absurd and slightly unskilled clowning tricks.
My wife had the idea that I make my clowning skills available to others on the weekends. Since the failing economy has become a huge elephant in my room, and my job as a high school Teacher does not pay enough for me to live a modest and honorable lifestyle- I needed to find other ways to make a buck. So marketing myself as a clown for hire on the weekends did not sound like such a bad idea. The only problem was that I did not have enough money to buy a new clown suit so I had to use the one that I wore many years before as a younger man. Somehow the fact that it did not fit and was really tight around the belly and hips, played into the absurdity of being a clown. But I could not help the fact that I felt like a fool.
I put an add up on Craigslist for a “Clown Available For Weekends.” In my advertisement I said that I could do miming, juggling and general entertainment tricks. I listed the name of the circus school that I attended and said that my fee was $40.00 an hour. For a few weeks I received no replies to my add. I waited patiently and continued to over work myself as a Teacher with piles of papers to grade and student parent meetings to attend. Just as bills were beginning to go unpaid for over a month I received two phone calls from people interested in hiring me as a clown.
The first call was from a Google representative who wanted to hire me for an event that was being held in Mill Valley. It was an evening staff party for all San Fransisco bay area Google representatives and they wanted for it to be a circus theme. The woman whom I talked to on the phone said that they would pay me two hundred bucks to dress up like a clown and stand like a mime for four hours at the front entrance of the event. I accepted without hesitation and at the event I was able to hand my “Clowning” card to a few Google representatives who stuck crispy dollar bills in my tip pouch. The Google organization has more money than the middle east has oil or the Napa valley has wine and the only reason that I took that demeaning job was because I thought that it was a good opportunity to network.
The second phone call that I received was for a job offer to work as a clown at a birthday party. It was an upper class family that lived in Palo Alto and they wanted to hire me to entertain at their child’s second birthday bash. I was nervous about taking the job because I had a premonition that I would scare most children. I knew that my clown suit was a little awkward looking on my body (especially if I got an erection) and the cheap make-up that I had to use caused my face to look a little haunting. I said yes (because I was offered one hundred and fifty bucks for three hours of work) despite the fact that I knew that I might appear to look like a frightening version of Ronald McDonald to all of the kids. However, I desperately needed the cash and as it turned out- things did not go as badly as I thought. A few infants seemed horrified by my appearance but the over all mood at the party was one of amusement, fascination and laughter.
Even though there is a part of me that is still humiliated that I am a Teacher with a graduate degree in English Literature who has to work as a clown on the weekends, I still am able to enjoy the absurdity of what I am doing. In the past two summer months I have had clowning jobs almost every weekend and the extra money that I am earning has allowed my to slowly creep out of debt, buy a new clown suit and enjoy a few more nice dinners with my wife a week. I do not tell anyone in my professional or personal life what I do for extra money on the weekends, and I have asked my wife to keep my clowning antics between her and I- but I know that it is only a mater of time before word gets out that I am working as a clown on the weekends. I can see it now in the headlines of my local city newspaper “EDUCATION FALLS TO ALL TIME LOW, TEACHER HAS TO WORK WEEKENDS AS CLOWN.”