Following up on my last post about good and bad jobs, here is a totally non-serious look at one job that you need to quit, today, before you even read this post, for the good of all mankind.

coulrophobia. Noun. An abnormal fear of clowns.

Rarely have so many worked so hard, and failed so spectacularly, as the legions of (mostly) men who painstakingly apply bright make up and don floppy shoes to become clowns. Rarely have so many children been so thoroughly traumatized and left in tears.

I don’t know when the tide turned on clowns, but the data is crystal clear, as in, “if there was this much data on global climate change, Donald Trump would drive a Prius” clear: clowns are creepy, and they seem to be getting creepier. Frank McAndrew is a Professor of psychology who studies, among other things, creepiness. McAndrew surveyed more than 1300 people (no indication of how many might have been clowns trying to skew the data), and his work identified several things that make people seem creepy (creepers, as the young folks label them). 

Feeling creeped-out is a unique sensation: it’s that uneasy sense that actions or intentions are unclear or inappropriate or potentially threatening. A thief can point a gun at you (fear) or a doctor can ask you to come in for “some news” (dread), but a stranger who behaves oddly or stares is more likely to be seen as creepy than overtly scary.

McAndrews says that collecting things can be seen as creepy, especially when those things include “…insects, or body parts such as teeth. Bones or fingernails were considered especially creepy.” No kidding, doc? Collecting fingernails is creepy? Other creepy behaviors include variations on ‘watching,’ like taking pictures of strangers, or staring at children (other people’s–staring at your own is just part of the job).

Are there creepy jobs? Funny you should ask, since McAndrews asked his subjects, and here are their top four, in reverse order from just generically creepy to totally, freaking people out of their minds, insanely, disturbingly creepy: (4) funeral directors, (3) sex-shop owners, (2) taxidermists, and at the very top, hmm, what could it be…. (send in the clowns) CLOWNS. So by my count, the ultimate super mega-creeper of all time would be a professional taxidermist who collects fingernails, takes pictures of children in the park, and moonlights as a clown. Or it might be Michael Jackson.

Some adults seem to be totally out of touch with how kids see clowns. A 2008 study found that clowns painted on hospital walls to cheer children up were disliked by most, and creepy to many, which is sad, since going to the hospital as a kid is already plenty creepy (probably because of all the clown art). Also because of those weird backless dress things they make you wear.

The red nosed path from fun to freakish includes several pivotal moments, as clowns evolved from entertaining children to terrorizing people of all ages.

  • 1972-1978: Serial murderer John Wayne Gacy plays numerous kids’ parties as Pogo the Clown. This was probably the beginning of the end for clowns.
  • pogo-the-clown
  • 1986: Steven King’s hideous movie clown Pennywise demonstrates that not all Bozo the clown look-alikes are nice people.
  • 1798444
  • 1989: The Simpsons’ Krusty premieres, seeming more likely to molest kids or share a cigarette with them than entertain them.
  • krusty-simpsons
  • 1992: The hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse is formed. They perform ‘Horrorcore’ music for fans known as Juggalos, who also wear make up and spray bottles of Faygo soda on each other during shows. Seriously.
  • b99420739z-1_20160724161700_000_gjg11s2ss-1-0
  • Late 2016: The end of the end, as pictures of super creepy clowns holding axes and stuff begin appearing, and reports of clowns trying to lure children into the woods (probably not for a balloon animal demonstration) sweep the country. Time magazine reports, without irony, “In Alabama, at least seven people face felony charges of making a terrorist threat connected to ‘clown-related activity’.”
  • screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-9-52-24-am
  • Later 2016: In response to that last one, McDonald’s ‘temporarily’ removes Ronald McDonald from public view, reassigning him to assemble burgers in a small store in Topeka, in order to be sensitive to the situation. They promise to bring him back just as soon as people start feeling good about clowns again, which will be six months and two days after the sun explodes and the earth melts.
  • Also, based on this statue, people in Hungary seem to feel particularly unhappy about old Ron. Szeretne krumpli, hogy? (Would you like fries with that?)
  • headlessmcdonalds
  • Really late 2016: Steven King (see item #2 above) tweets “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.” Yes, this is the gentle soul who is largely responsible for clown-phobia and scaring all the ‘kiddies’ in the first place.
  • tumblr_lt716nlotq1qkzq2g
  • 2017: The remake of Steven King’s scary clown movie It premieres (seriously), featuring an even scarier Pennywise. “Hey Steven, thanks for helping cool the clown hysteria.” Creeper.
  • 5776a7bc1b62a3fe
  • Later 2017: President Trump signs executive order number 414 banning clowns.
  • 578b91d64aa21847a5000003

All clowning aside, I have great memories of clowns as a kid. My favorite was the guy in the parade who had a trick dog leash that looked real, but contained no dog. I was astounded by that, and really wanted an invisible dog, but would have settled for a trick leash. I feel bad for the folks who love doing this job, but it’s probably time to let this one fade into history.

By the way, you don’t even have to apply actual make up to see if you would be a creepy clown, as several websites will do it for you. My gift to you is this clear demonstration of what true creepiness looks like. No, not the Donald Trump picture, but mine. If you ever look up and see me coming around the corner looking like this, you have my complete permission to shoot first in self-defense.

You’re welcome.

(Slightly) more serious posts return on Friday.


Follow to get notice of new posts, or send a friend request to Mark Phillips on Facebook to read it there.