National Clown Shortage Has Trade Groups Frowning

The Fiscal Times


Here’s one way to end the unemployment woes in this country – send in the clowns.

It’s no jest: Older clowns are dying and there are fewer and fewer people who want to climb into big floppy shoes and crazy red wigs to do silly stunts that entertain the masses at circuses and big tops across the country. 

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The clown shortage is no laughing matter, says the World Clown Association, the country’s largest trade group for clowns. Membership has dropped from about 3,500 to 2,500 since 2004.

“The challenge is getting younger people involved in clowning,” association president Deanna (Dee Dee) Hartmier told The (N.Y.) Daily News.

She said most members are over 40 and that it’s tough to get millennials into the fold.

“They go on to high school and college and clowning isn’t cool anymore,” Glen Kohlberger, president of Clowns of America International, said, adding that membership in his group has plunged since 2006. “Clowning is then put on the back burner until their late 40s and early 50s.”

With unemployment cited as the biggest problem in the country in a recent Gallup poll – a concern shared equally by members of both political parties – clowning around may offer an answer.

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The January jobs report released a little over a week ago also raised doubts about what had seemed to be a steadily strengthening labor market recovery. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the economy added just 113,000 jobs in January, with the gains in December revised upward by just 1,000 to a still-paltry 75,000.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is apparently not yet affected by the lack of clowns – it keeps a staple of tried-and-true performers on hand. But it’s been tightening up its audition process lately, making it tougher to actually join the clown ranks these days.

Even so, for those in need of work, maybe being a clown is the answer to a prayer.

Clown and filmmaker Jeff Seal told the Gothamist, “There are still a lot of younger people becoming clowns – they’re just not joining the Clowns of America International. It’s more of a generational thing.”

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