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I can't stand up (for falling clowns)

21 August 2000
Surprisingly enough, not just an excuse for a rather weak Elvis Costello-related play on words, but Jamie's explanations for his hatred of Joseph Grimaldi1.

I hate clowns. Hate and fear them. Like eating greens or kissing your wrinkled relatives, you're told by your parents that clowns are a good thing - harmless even. Harmless? Are they mad? Stephen King's It scared me so shitless I couldn't even eat those lovely pink wafer biscuits for a month, just because they were called Pennywise like that psycho clown thing and I didn't like to look at the packet. Almost as scary as moths.

And a clown doesn't have to do anything as bad as explicitly killing children to be terrifying; Ronald McDonald is a case in point. He appears out of nowhere - always to unaccompanied children - with his face painted to disguise his criminal physiognomy, throwing the youngsters off guard with catchy tunes and offers of beef patties and chipped potatoes. If that doesn't qualify him for inclusion in a tabloid 'name and shame' campaign, consider the Hamburglar: could there be any more poignant symbol for the robber of childhood innocence? And for supposed enemies, the two seem to get on remarkably well once their sick schemes have come to fruition. But because he's got a painted white face and a curly red wig, we let the bastard get away with it.

Personally, I blame the songwriters, Smokey Robinson in particular, for encouraging sympathy for these reprobates. The tears of a clown / when there's no one around? It's become a stock image that's lost its impact, a clown staring miserably at the camera with a tear ruining his make-up. No one worries about the tears of an estate agent, a lawyer, a doctor, but they've got to put on a brave face all day whatever problems they may be having at home (and they don't get to paint a big fake smile on; they have to use their facial muscles. Pay them double whatever it is the clowns get, I say). Mr Robinson, I'm sorry you're so blue, but leave the circus entertainers out of it.

I wouldn't mind nearly so much if clowns were funny. There is something tragically dignified about a truly great comic figure wracked by inner demons, bringing joy to millions while in the grip of a deep depression, but clowns? Don't make me laugh. And they don't. Look at him, his footwear is oversized and he has a big red nose. About as funny as a tramp who's found a pair of size 12s in the bin. And that water that clowns throw at each other (with hilarious consequences) isn't even water! It's glitter or foil or something. They're not even prepared to suffer a little dampness for their art. Shows how much they care.

[Actually, I've just thought of something really good that's clown-related. That bit in the circus in Octopussy when Roger Moore has to defuse the bomb while dressed as a clown, and to start with everyone thinks it's part of the show. That's really good. Dramatic. But you get a bit of the usual clown shit beforehand, which some Americans laugh at. Spoils it, really.]

The weird thing is, clowns have permeated our culture - but when was the last time you went to the circus? Ever since someone decided it was cruel to make elephants leap from a blazing tower without a magic feather, circuses (circi? circus?) seem to have disappeared from the English countryside altogether. That should have meant the end of clowndom, thousands of them lined up in dole queues with something to cry about for once. But no. Those idiots that run theme parks decided that the one thing you really need when you've been queuing for three hours in the baking sun isn't someone to offer you a drink, or even a Solero. No, a clown could quench your thirst and cure your sunstroke with an hilarious routine involving an oversized pair of scissors.

Last thing. All this stuff with huge shoes, big ladders, giant scissors, extended noses, excessively roomy trousers - are they all trying to compensate for something, suggest they're in possession of something they're not? Typical deviant behaviour. Hang 'em all.

[And that film with Bill Murray dressed as a clown to rob a bank. That was shit too.]

1 [back]
English circus entertainer. He created the role of the clown in the circus; it was in his honour that later clowns were nicknamed Joey [that's according to the OED; I'd never heard of him. But I hate him now]


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
13 October 2003. Jamie writes: The Persistence of Memory
22 September 2003. Jamie writes: The Email Eunuch
1 September 2003. Jamie writes: Credo
11 August 2003. Jamie writes: Brad and Jennifer and Me
21 July 2003. Jamie writes: Interruption
30 June 2003. Jamie writes: Do you remember the first time?
12 June 2003. Jamie writes: Forthcoming Attractions
19 May 2003. Jamie writes: Stupid Mistake
28 April 2003. Jamie writes: Hoping and Praying
7 April 2003. Jamie writes: Strangers on a Plane
17 March 2003. Jamie writes: Q&A
24 February 2003. Jamie writes: Altered States
3 February 2003. Jamie writes: How to say goodbye
13 January 2003. Jamie writes: In A League Of Their Own
23 December 2002. Jamie writes: What's in a name?
2 December 2002. Jamie writes: Lies, Damned Lies and Spastics
11 November 2002. Jamie writes: Memoirs of a Gaysian: A Preface
21 October 2002. Jamie writes: Love is blindness
30 September 2002. Jamie writes: Time for bed
9 September 2002. Jamie writes: Angry Exchanges Can Be Puzzling [10]
19 August 2002. Jamie writes: High Speed
29 July 2002. Jamie writes: Firkin Hell
8 July 2002. Jamie writes: Do you, er... haiku?
13 June 2002. Jamie writes: Unnatural Porn Thrillers
20 May 2002. Jamie writes: The Triumphant Return of the Septic Fiveskins
25 April 2002. Jamie writes: Meeting People is Easy
4 April 2002. Jamie writes: I Want I Want I Want
7 March 2002. Jamie writes: The Player of Games
11 February 2002. Jamie writes: Fat Man Walking
17 January 2002. Jamie writes: Passive/Aggressive
3 January 2002. Jamie writes: Love (classified)
29 November 2001. Jamie writes: A Lil' Nite Muzak
5 November 2001. Jamie writes: Natural born liar
11 October 2001. Jamie writes: All I need
17 September 2001. Jamie writes: Postcards From The Edge (of the pool)
23 August 2001. Jamie writes: Class act
30 July 2001. Jamie writes: Ritchie Neville is dead
5 July 2001. Jamie writes: A Letter from God
11 June 2001. Jamie writes: "If it's in French, it must be deep"
17 May 2001. Jamie writes: Reportage
23 April 2001. Jamie writes: Show me the Logos
29 March 2001. Jamie writes: Sobering Thoughts
8 March 2001. Jamie writes: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
8 February 2001. Jamie writes: Spent
15 January 2001. Jamie writes: Full to the brim
21 December 2000. Jamie writes: fuck xmas
27 November 2000. Jamie writes: Eye Candy
2 November 2000. Jamie writes: World-wide-web?
9 October 2000. Jamie writes: Kids' stuff
14 September 2000. Jamie writes: Scatological Warfare
21 August 2000. Jamie writes: I can't stand up (for falling clowns)
10 July 2000. Jamie writes: The Etymology of Greatness

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