A shop owner who knows funny

COSTA MESA — Poop is her biggest seller.

To be exact, fake poop is the most popular item year-round. It's sold by the piles, said Sherry Newberg, owner of House of Humor.

The magic, gag gift and costume shop on Baker Street has been a backbone of Costa Mesa festivities for decades. While Newberg has owned the store for 27 years, its history goes back about 50 years with a prior owner, she said.

"[The prior owner] made a lot of money before there were pop-up stores and Party City," Newberg said. "Now with all the pop-up costume stores, stores like this are closing down, and that's not a good thing."

However, Newberg said that she has learned to diversify and be versatile to the changing "seasons" — Halloween, Christmas and then the really fun ones like Mardi Gras, April Fool's Day and whenever a Renaissance fair comes to Orange County.

Newberg got into the laughs business because she's a real clown. And, not just a class-clown type of clown, but the real red-nosed, balloon-twisting kind.

"My shoes cost me $400 — they're real leather," she said. "I have to have them made."

Her first visit inside House of Humor had been as a customer in her early years of clowning when she needed new costume makeup.

"I was a very ugly clown," she joked.

She was offered a job as a clerk and eventually bought the store when the prior owner was ready to sell, she said.

She's didn't stop clowning when she took over the shop full time. In fact, she still dresses as a clown for her two grandchildren and for private parties and conventions.

"I'm a clown for all seasons," she said, adding that her clown costumes vary as the calendar year progresses, such as a red and green costume adorned with bells for the Christmas season.

Clowning is an art form that can be enjoyed all year long by children and adults of any age, she explained.

When asked who her clown idol is, she named Glen "Frosty" Little, a circus clown who served with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for more than 20 years.

"He taught me how to spit and how to do a fake fall," she said.

And, for those children who are afraid of clowns, Newberg said that she's never scared anyone.

"It's all the fault of that clown with the sharp teeth," she said, referring to Stephen King's "It." "When parents let them see that stupid movie, it's unacceptable."

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