A long time ago in a mysterious land called Ann Arbor Michigan, there was a young wizard who loved to make people smile and laugh with his magical gift. One day after a performance a couple approached the young magi and asked a question that would forever change the course of history; “why aren’t you a clown they inquired?” Quite puzzled the wizard replied, “well I guess I never thought about it.”
Okay so maybe this is a bit of a stretch but there is a shred of truth to the story. Some 20 years ago….give or take, a couple by the name of Ron and Sue Kardynski approached me after one of my magic shows and invited me to stop in to visit one of the clown classes they taught. Intrigued, I stopped by to see what a clown class was all about and I was hooked. Growing up my heroes were some of the greatest clowns ever; Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, Emmett Kelly Sr. the Marx brothers and so on, even dressing like some of my favorites for Halloween. Little did I realize that watching these legends of comedy had planted a seed for spreading laughter and Ron and Sue helped cultivate it into a full blown ambassador of good will. Following the guidance my clown mentors gave me, I read every book, watched every video and at least tried all the tips they suggested. Many years and tons of grease paint later, I am still clowning and am grateful to have been encouraged to pursue such a path.
So why share this story with you? Well if you remember our article “When the Laughter Dies” we were looking at what seems to be the decline in people becoming clowns and questioning if the art was fading away. I stated that we clowns can change that course, and mentoring is a perfect way to pass on your gifts and knowledge to aspiring young clowns. If you are a member of a clown alley this puts you in the perfect position to help guide and encourage others, even if they have been clowning for awhile themselves. I continually learn new things from my fellow clowns; whether it be a new balloon twist or just a fun fact about old circus days, it’s good to have some new insight on clowning.
How can you mentor? Even if you’ve put away the wig and hung up the wardrobe, please share your stories both good and bad, it can be that simple. Perhaps you don’t care to perform any longer but maybe a career as a clown instructor lies ahead of you. Could you give a workshop at the next big clown convention in your area? Maybe you have some old props, gags or wardrobe items you could sell or donate to a worthy budding clown. Kind suggestions on performance or behind the scene makeup tips can be a treasure trove for the willing recipient. There are so many nuances to the world of clowning that one person could not possibly cover them all. This is why it’s good to share with others what you loved about clowning or perhaps even share some of the down sides to help others avoid the same unpleasant situation. We had a lady in our area who started clowning in her retirement years, she was so wonderful and inspired many of us to clown just because it made other people happy. There were times our clown group would perform at a retirement home and she would say something like; “I’m glad to be on the giving end instead of the receiving end.” Dilly performed well into her 80’s and just celebrated her 100th birthday. Sometimes you are an inspiration to others just by doing things because it gives people joy.
Now if you were looking at the picture of the two clowns at the top of the article and thought, “hmmmm, they seem familiar…..” you would be correct. Soomi and Snudek’s likeness is the logo for Clown Antics. Here’s a little secret, Sue started the company many years ago in California, after marrying Ron, they grew the company into a full online clown store. Ron and Sue retired a few years ago but fortunately inspired many people to become great clowns along the way. As a matter of fact, they passed the torch to me as a local clown instructor and the business was sold to a great guy named Blake, who has grown the company and expanded it into the interactive clowning site you see today. For me this is especially a gift as I can reach people all across the world with mentoring tips and tidbits.
So please, let’s disprove those nasty rumors about the clown profession being lame and dying out by sharing knowledge, growing in your craft and love through the art of clowning.