No laughing matter: It’s tough being a clown

From the Associated Press

Big shoes, white face paint and a round red nose just don’t cut it anymore.

Clowns at a festival in Denmark are turning to elaborate tricks, like losing their shorts while being sucked into a giant orange balloon or using a baby carriage as a trapeze.

But their mission hasn’t changed: making people laugh.

“It’s about spreading a little bit of poetry, making people happy,” Benny Schumann said after twirling plates at the International Clown Festival he founded 11 years ago.


The grandson of circus clown Charlie Rivel, Schumann, 61, relies on traditional slapstick to amuse crowds at the Bakken amusement park north of the Danish capital.

“Some clowns still use acts from 100 years ago, but some clowns today have simplified the concept, hardly dressing up. The main point is creating a character who is funny,” the soft-spoken Dane said.

Many clowns at the 10-day festival said being funny was especially important at a time when the news is dominated by terrorism alerts, war and natural disasters.

“Being a clown is my way of giving a present to the world,” said Marta Sanchez Sevilla, 40, of Spain.


She has traveled the world with comic relief group Clowns Without Borders, including to Sri Lanka after the December 2004 tsunami.

“Sometimes I perform in hospitals, sometimes old people’s homes, sometimes refugee camps,” said Sanchez Sevilla, who plays a trouble-prone opera singer who finds all sorts of peculiar objects in her bra.

Today’s clowns face stiff competition from video games and other gadgets, and are struggling with negative images in books and movies.

“It’s a fine balance between fun and fright,” said audience member Olivier Rubin, 33.