In January 2008 a British study revealed that kids don’t like clowns. It was just the excuse Kansas City Star theater critic Robert Trussell [disclosure: my husband] needed for a piece he’d been contemplating for years. The resulting feature bore this headline:
Many people say clowns are perverse, scary and downright creepy
In Trussell’s 31 years writing for the Star, no article received more comment or syndication around the country than this one, which began:
The story exploded out of England in January: A survey conducted by the University of Sheffield polled 250 kids, ages 4 to 16, and concluded that hospitals should never use clown images to decorate children’s wards. One researcher said clowns were universally disliked by children.
Orlando Sentinel still has the 49 reader comments up. The last one says it all:
My wife had one of those handmade go-on-the-wall type of clown faces. Man, you guys don’t know creepy until you have to face one of those suckers walking up the stairs in the dark. Big freakin’ eyes staring at you as you walk. I am a grown man and it sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it.
The Kansas City Star illustrated Robert’s story with a movie still of Tim Curry in Stephen King’s It. Other editors around the country were in lockstep, as though they’d been hoarding repellent clown photos for just this occasion.
After the story ran in the Star, Robert’s editor said she was sorry she didn’t use the opportunity to run the cartoon he gave her, which was pinned on her office wall. I can see how the Clown Manifesto cartoon of Koko’s workplace demands — not to mention the implied threat of an attack by the Clowns Comitatus Militia — might appeal to someone who deals with personnel matters.
Robert learned how to draw from his brother, Austin artist Philip Trussell. In staff meetings Robert would often while away the time by drawing. Koko was a recurring character, and no doubt something of an outlet for a journalist who’d been covering Kansas City’s theater scene for 20 years. (More cartoons at everyonehatesclowns.com.)
But who needs a study to tell you that kids — and many adults — hate clowns? Just go to google images and type in clown. Not “evil clown.” Not “scary clown.” Not “clown phobia.” Just “clown” and watch the images tumble toward you.
Or just take a look at these videos, featuring Laffing Sal and a highly-amused boyfriend.
And here’s The Daily Show‘s take on the subject: Don’t Send in the Clowns.