25 October, 2016
Creepy Clowns are Real Bozo’s
Is the creepy clown phenomenon ruining childhood?
The creepy clown craze is currently blowing up the internet and causing clown costumes and supplies to fly off of the shelves of many retailers while other stores have decided to stop selling them out of sensitivity to the situation. Target has announced that they have pulled clown masks out of their stores and online due to the recent violence and arrests in several states. There are even rumors that McDonald’s has pulled ads featuring Ronald until the storm blows over.
Creepy Clowns are Real Bozo’s
What I know about clowning could fit in the tip of a clown nose, but I have worked with my share of both good and bad clowns; the bad clowns not in an (I’m going-to-stab-you) bad way but in a (my-makeup-looks-bad-and-I’m-not-funny) bad way. I decided to reach out to a professional clown friend of mine to get his take on it. The following is an interview with Ron “Toto” Johnson. “Toto” began clowning in 1977 at the tender age of 10 back in his hometown of Naugatuck, Connecticut. By the age of 14 he was performing at birthday parties, festivals and other events around Connecticut. In 1985, at the age of 18, “Toto” graduated from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Clown College and spent the next 4 years touring with “The Greatest Show on Earth”. “Toto” and I have known each other since 1994 when we worked together at Circus Circus Casino in Tunica, Mississippi from 1994 to 1996.
What first interested you in clowning?
From the 3rd through the 8th grade I spent one day a week in a class for gifted students and I had the opportunity to study performing arts of all sorts including mime, puppetry, script writing and more. In the spring of 1977, I learned that a clown class was going to be taught at the Youth Services division of the Parks and Recreation Department in my hometown. Since I was already doing some mime and puppetry I thought taking a clown class would be a perfect fit for me and it was! I fell in love with it immediately.
Was there something in particular that drew you to the art?
It was a combination of things. Clowning makes me feel like I am “playing”. I also love to laugh and see other people laughing.
I know from working with you that you are meticulous about your appearance. I’ve worked with some clowns on the local level who did not put the effort into their appearance and their makeup looked sloppy. Do you feel that kind of attitude is harmful to the art of clowning especially considering the current scary clown stories?
My parents instilled in me that if you are going to do something, do it right. They always supported my clowning from day one but also told me to give it 100% if I was going to do it. They encouraged me to join a local clown club and read all the books I could on clowning. It bothers me to see folks cutting corners and not taking the proper amount of time to do a professional-looking makeup job or practicing the art. Sadly anyone with $20.00 in their pocket can go buy a cheap costume, smear some lipstick on their face and call themselves a clown.
What are your thoughts on the scary clown sightings?
I was performing on a four-week tour of China when the news of the “creepy clown” sightings really started getting heavy coverage in the news and on social media. We saw NONE of that going on in China. We were treated like rock stars! There are three “creepy clown” movies coming out in the next few months that I’m aware of and I’ve been told that some of these sightings are actually publicity stunts to draw attention to the movies. Then there are some folks with nothing better to do that attempt to scare people either by dressing up or making false reports to the police. Mainstream and social media have taken these stories, true or not and exaggerated all of them. The art of clowning is being dragged through the mud. The people doing the “creepy clown” are no more a clown than I would be a doctor if I put on scrubs and wore a stethoscope.
Do you feel this will have long-term repercussions on the clowning business or is it just another cycle and will pass with time?
I’m hoping once Halloween is over and these three creepy clown movies have bombed at the box office that all this hype and nonsense will fade away. Then all the REAL clowns can get back to what is truly important, bringing a bit of happiness to our world, and we sure can use it!
A few highlights from “Toto’s” career include performing at the National Cultural Festival of Japan, the first international clown festival ever held in China, the 2nd and 3rd international clown festivals held in India and the first international clown festival held in Northern Ireland. He was also the first and only American to clown at the “Festiclown de Monte-Carlo” as an honored guest of Princess Stephanie of Monaco. You can learn more about “Toto” by visiting his website at www.totojohnson.com