International Clown Week

August 1-7 is International Clown Week. In 1971, Richard Nixon made the following proclamation: “To call public attention to the charitable activities of clowns and the wholesome entertainment they provide for all our citizens, the Congress by a joint resolution approved October 8, 1970 (Public Law 91-433), has requested the President to designate the week of August 1 through August 7, 1971, as International Clown Week.” He also urged that people recognize, “the contributions made by clowns in their entertainment at children’s hospitals, charitable institutions, for the mentally retarded, and generally helping to lift the spirits and boost the morale of our people.”

Clowns are ancient characters. Likely there were people performing the same purpose long before recorded history. However, clowns as we know them got their start in Greek and Roman times, appearing in dramas as the rustic fool, or rustic buffoon character. Of course, the character of the fool appears in Shakespeare’s plays. His job there is to speak the truth that others can’t. Since the nineteenth century, clowns have become associated with circuses, and are now more of a tramp or hobo character than the rustic bumpkin, or are what might be called bozo characters, named after Bozo the Clown. The McDonald’s mascot is one such.

Though clowns are generally trying to be sweet and silly, many people find them creepy instead. I confess that as I grow older, I find clowns less and less appealing – at least those in the circus. The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia, though for most, clowns are just faintly disturbing. But if you don’t like clowns, you are not alone. There is a Web page called I Hate Clowns devoted to those who hate clowns, though it doesn’t seem to have been kept up at all.

So depending on your point of view, either celebrate or avoid clowns this week!

Quotes about clowns

People hunger for love, and clowning is a trick to get love close. As a clown I can do things that people are too frightened of Love to allow you to do.–Patch Adams

I remain just one thing, and one thing only – and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.–Charlie Chaplin

A clown’s makeup and character, that’s all he has to sell. He loves and believes in that character.–Emmett Kelly

Be a clown, be a clown,
All the world loves a clown.
Act the fool, play the calf,
And you’ll always have the last laugh.
Cole Porter

I don’t want to be called “the greatest” or “one of the greatest”. Let other guys claim to be the best. I just want to be known as a clown because to me, that’s the height of my profession. It means you can do everything — sing, dance and, above all, make people laugh.–Red Skelton

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.–Carl Sagan

I remember in the circus learning that the clown was the prince, the high prince. I always thought that the high prince was the lion or the magician, but the clown is the most important.–Roberto Benigni

I think we all have the urge to be a clown, whether we know it or not.–Ernest Borgnine

Making my class laugh and getting in trouble. I was the class clown.–R. L. Stine

I just love making a fool out of myself. I made my living as a clown at kids’ parties for about three years.–Hugh Jackman

By blood a king, in heart a clown.–Alfred Lord Tennyson

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