Flickr/CC-BY-2.0/Mel B.

There’s a worldwide shortage of clowns.

I’m not clowning around. I’m serious. According to an “exclusive” story in the New York Daily News, the membership of the World Clown Association has declined by 1,000 in the past decade, from 3,500 to 2,500.

This has implications for the future of clowning: Instead of “Send in the clowns,” we’ll have to change the lyrics to “Send in a clown” or “Is there a clown around?”

At the point in the circus where all the clowns pile out of the VW Beetle, we’ll have to add a few acrobats and lion tamers to beef up the numbers. Maybe the plate spinner and the knife thrower.

Desperate times. It’s enough to wipe the smile off any clown’s face, but of course you can’t do that because it’s painted on.

Various reasons are offered for the decline but the main one is attrition. The old clowns are dying off, and there aren’t enough young ones ready to take over. Young people who think they’re funny go into stand-up comedy, where you don’t need a red nose, just a potty mouth.

But I think the real culprit is Stephen King, who wrote about a creepy clown called Pennywise in It, the scariest novel ever written, back in 1986. Pennywise offered kids balloons and then ate them (the kids, not the balloons).

Clowns have never been the same since. Instead of lovable old Bozo, we have Krusty of the Simpsons, the disreputable echo of Pennywise.

Of course, there was the notorious real-life creepy clown John Wayne Gacy — the Chicago serial killer who was responsible for at least 33 deaths throughout the ‘70s of young men and boys. When he wasn’t murdering people and burying them under his porch, he entertained children as Pogo the Clown.

After Pogo, Pennywise and Krusty, no one in their right mind would want to be a clown.

It’s too bad, really. A clown can happy up a birthday party, but these days Princess doesn’t want some dumb old clown; she wants Justin Bieber — and the way he’s going, he’ll be doing birthday parties by July.

Talk about creepy clowns.

If this keeps up they may have to lower the standards at clown boot camp. Yep, at last year’s Ringling Bros. Clown College (it’s hard to resist the urge to spell everything with a “K,” as in Klown Kollege) only 14 out of 531 applicants were selected to attend boot camp (Clown Feet 101? Introductory Pratfalls?) and only 11 of those were hired on to the circus.

At that rate they’ll have to retire the VW Beetle. Smart car, maybe?

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