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Oof. Okay.

Okay, this is a strange one. This is a classic Italian clown archtype.

White hat, white face with a black line running down it, bright red ears, sparkly rhinestone coat. I gather he’s like the Chief Nazgul of clowns.

Associated with the circus, the whiteface clown is the most intelligent of the clowns, and is typically at the top of the pecking order. The whiteface clown will typically be the ringleader, who will order around the other clowns, and who has his ‘clownishness’ revealed either by his own ineptness or by that of his underling.

This guy was a famous 20th Century example, but I guess the type goes way, way back.

What does that mean? The circus is in town. And what does that mean? Summer is officially over.

We’ve gone to this little one-tent circus every year we’ve lived in Sussex. And every year, it’s clear they struggle to keep it going.

Every performer does at least two different acts (one pair was introduced as from Paris for their first act and from South America for the second), and they all pitch in to usher the seats, sell the programs and hawk trinkets and popcorn.

This year was grimmer than most. We chatted with the ringmaster and his wife at the ticket booth and they seemed pretty worried. Let’s hope they’re back next Summer.


Comment from Scubafreak
Time: August 28, 2012, 10:23 pm

Just take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure……

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 28, 2012, 10:41 pm

I grew up more or less cordially hating the circus. Maybe not even that cordially. It’s not really a very British thing, more something that has ’em rolling in the sawdust sur le continong.

But either I’m growing senile and finally ‘getting it’, or seeing these people fighting for survival year by year, understanding why they’d rather spin from a rope 30 feet from certain death, than work for HP or Sony, makes me want them and their big top to survive.

What they bring to the kids (OK, and to a pair of mustelids) is a rare glimpse of performance. This isn’t the talentless Simon Cowell taking his ego for a walk, or some briefly flickering chanteuse. fully fashioned from finest surgery, Autotune and ProTools – it’s real, sweaty people (one of the guys was actually steaming after his act this evening). It’s visceral, scary and there is no 15 second pause button to hit if the guy with the crossbow puts a bolt through the gorgeous pouting over made-up 45 year old with a balloon held in her teeth.

It’s true, the clowns aren’t funny. But neither is the prospect of a world without circuses. A world where it is all real and it actually happens.

Comment from Elphaba
Time: August 28, 2012, 10:48 pm

Uncle Badger, you are very poetic…

I haven’t been to a real circus in years, but back we we could afford to go, we really enjoyed Cirque du Soleil. Have you ever seen them? The music is amazing.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 28, 2012, 11:12 pm

Thank you, Elphaba.

No, I haven’t seen the Cirque de Soleil but I hear it’s very good.

Comment from Some Vegetable from the 60\’s
Time: August 29, 2012, 12:04 am

You knew this was coming:

For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques’ fair, what a scene

Over men and horses hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire
In this way Mr. K will challenge the world

The celebrated Mr. K
Performs his feats on Saturday at Bishopsgate
The Hendersons will dance and sing
As Mr. Kite flies through the ring, don’t be late

But maybe,here is something you didn’t predict:


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: August 29, 2012, 1:01 am

It’s not that clowns aren’t funny, it’s that they are *totally* creepy! Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger creep me out less than clowns.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 29, 2012, 1:37 am

A circus, the circus—any circus at all—always made me terribly sad, but I never quite understood why. (Why would they want to come to my little town in grim and dusty west Texas?) Oddly, my son was determined to teach himself how to juggle, and to ride a unicycle. I tell you—nothing ever did more for his self-esteem and good nature than learning to juggle and ride a unicycle.

Comment from InsectoTheWise
Time: August 29, 2012, 1:57 am

Looks kinda like an early DEVO act with that hat, just saying.

And, this is why RI is a fine place to live. Forget the horse farms of East Greenwich, the mansions of Newport, the truckstopyness of Moonstone beach.

Rednecks by the bay:


All Hail The Hoff


Comment from surly
Time: August 29, 2012, 2:04 am

Two posts in a row about clowns.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 29, 2012, 4:05 am

I don’t think clowns are evil, they’re just revolting. & they should be sterilized by law.

Comment from Laughing Buddha
Time: August 29, 2012, 12:32 pm

I don’t know how much to trust Wikipedia, but they have a good article on clowns. Apparently the Clowns International in England is the oldest Clown society. I’m imagining a secret clown society now…

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 29, 2012, 2:06 pm

Someone called Free Burgers writes:


[…]Who would like to get burger absolutely free?[…]…

Absolutely free? Well, who wouldn’t?

Comment from mojo
Time: August 29, 2012, 3:05 pm

“One of us! One of us! We accept you! One of us!”

Comment from JuliaM
Time: August 29, 2012, 5:44 pm

If it doesn’t have lions, tigers, elephants and horses, it’s not a circus!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 29, 2012, 6:23 pm

Aw, JuliaM, that’s so off-pissing. They used to have animal acts — nothing fancy, dog and horse shows — before the crack down.

They cracked down so hard, the ringmaster’s daughter isn’t allowed to have her own personal pony because she lives with a circus.

Comment from unkawill
Time: August 29, 2012, 8:55 pm

You forgot Flea Circi

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 29, 2012, 9:35 pm

In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, the chief of the Clowns’ Guild in Ankh Morpork is called Dr. Whiteface. Very creepy. But not as creepy as Pierrots, who can only be killed by fire.

I think the best line on clowns was a Jack Handy Deep Thought from SNL: “To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kind of scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.”

Comment from Mrs. Compton
Time: August 29, 2012, 9:38 pm

OMG, Uncle Badger, thank you for bringing back a sweet memory! Well for a kid, as an adult I probably would have been appalled.

My dad must have done something super horrible as he got stationed at some remote ammunition depot. We didn’t even have a stop light in this town. Anyhoo, I was a young sprout, 9ish I think. For three very long years we lived in this dump and the one saving grace was the teeny tiny little circus that came to town every year. Ours came right at the end of the school year so we counted the days until they showed up. The barkers always terrified me, I had been warned they were bad, bad people. The cotton candy was divine and snow cones, omg the snow cones with cherry syrup. I was a right sticky mess at the end of the day! Ah, sweet memories.

You couldn’t drag me to a circus now, I loath them. Never took my kids to one either.

Comment from Frit
Time: August 29, 2012, 9:55 pm

There is one clown I liked. Red Skelton. Admittedly, I don’t recall ever seeing him in traditional clown get-up, but I loved his performances.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 29, 2012, 11:03 pm

One thing Cirque has done is raise the bar considerably for all other players here. My wife wanted to go see Ringling Brothers last year. All the players were quite attractive and atheletic.

I remeber the clowns of my childhood were sloppy, fat boozers.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: August 30, 2012, 12:00 am

The Ringling Brothers were from Baraboo, WI, and Baraboo was long the winter quarters of thier circus. There are still buildings in Baraboo that are still labeled with Cat Barn, Giraffe Barn, etc. The State of Wisconsin maintains a working circus there, at Circus World Museum. I was once going over to Baraboo, to the Kentucky Fried Chicken, and was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio. They had a program on about tigers in India, and how they sometimes still snarf down a villager. I was about a block from Circus World, and forgetting where I was, I thought to myself, ” I am glad that the neaest tiger is thousands of…inches from me” By the way, there is a big cat sanctuary in Southern Wisconsin, that was once the home of Nook, the biggest big cat that ever lived, a 1275 pound Liger.

Clowns make me uneasy, it must be the cop in me, but someone who won’t show me his real face is off-putting.

Comment from Oh Hell
Time: August 31, 2012, 2:57 am

One morning, when I was small, we woke up and there was an elephant in our backyard. A small, one ring, circus has moved in to the neighbors cow pasture during the night. The only time I ever got to go to a circus…

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