When They Say Clowns, They Don’t Mean Politicians (VIDEO)


When you told your mom that you had been accepted at a college, would you have been able to tell her it was Clown College that saw your potential?

The amount of money you can make as a Ringling Brothers clown won’t buy you a Malibu beach house or necessarily give you fame, after all not everyone is a an Emit Kelly. Estimates for clown pay outside of Ringling Brothers runs from $25,000 to $50,000 a year clear, unless you’re in congress of course. Your income can be enhanced by special talents, balloon tying for instance or extraordinary marketing skills.

2012 Clown College Auditions

But money isn’t everything when it comes to being a clown, evidenced by Jessie Pike, once destined to be a plastics engineer and now a Ringling clown, who said, “I realized money isn’t so important, I’d rather have a lot of fun and make enough to get by.”

It’s not like there is a clown under every rock, unless you visit congress of course, but last year around 4,000 would be clowns tried out for the auditions. And that was just to get into the Ringling Brothers Clown College. Those who made it to the college were among only 14 people who survived the judges’ scrutiny.

“In circus, you’re living art, you’re not just making it,” said the first African-American and the youngest ringmaster for Ringling Bros, Johnathan Lee Iverson.

It just might be this kind of thinking that drives so many to ply the trade of the grease painted funny person of the big top.

In defining what they are looking for when considering potential students for their Clown College, the company, steeped in U.S. circus history, made it clear that neophyte clowns must be extremely funny and have the capacity to improvise at all times. You have to be able to be in touch with the audience and have an impeccable sense of timing for your gags punch line. More details of what is expected for potential Clown College entrants can be found here.

If the idea of running away to the circus and becoming a clown has been calling to you since you were a child, perhaps it is time you gave it a shot. Auditions for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown College have already been held this year but there is always next year. Go to the Ringling Brothers Clown College page for more information.

But all does not appear to be happiness in Clownville? A couple of issues facing clowns and the circus of such renown are:

First how bad could it be to be a rejected clown? You either failed to make that cut at the auditions to go to Clown College or you washed out of the famous school of funny.

But don’t be too distraught if you just can’t make the cut to get into Clown College or the ranks of Ringling Brothers employed clowns, there are many other things you can do. You can be a Party Clown and make decent money while be rewarded with the giggles and laughs of little children. Or you might choose to be a Clown Balloon Artist, if you have the skills of course, and awe your audience with your twisting and tying skills. And if you yearn for the smell of the stockyards and the heart pounding excitement of an angry bull chasing you around the bull riding arena, then Rodeo Clown it is.

But It Seems Even Clowning Has Controversy These Days


The second issue is much less entertaining and downright political. The treatment of animals in the circus has come under scrutiny from organizations like PETA. An ex-clown tries to call attention to the treatment of animals at the “Greatest Show On Earth,”?especially the elephants.

Andre du Broc graduated from the Ringling Brothers Clown College in 1992. He only stayed with the circus for about thirty days before he quit, sighting as his reason, “Because of the animal cruelty and the homophobia, I left. I couldn’t take it.”

For Andre, the discrepancy between how he was told animals were treated while attending the college and the reality of their treatment was too much for him. Seeing the elephants being abused with beatings and prodding to their genitals, he reported the abuse to his boss. The result was harassment pointed at him for being gay. His fear of injury working around the large animals and huge equipment of the circus made him feel he had no option but to leave.

The one time clown now works with PETA blogging on their behalf and protesting at various circus venues.

Edited and published by: WG

Tiffany Willis Clark is a fifth-generation Texan and the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America and AmReading.com. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she had a long and successful career actively working with at-risk youth, people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. In 2011, she made the decision to pursue her dreams and become a full-time writer. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.