Hundreds of clowns have converged on Bloomington for this week’s World Clown Association convention, which unites red-nosed, floppy-footed performers from across the globe for an intensely competitive tournament of clowning arts.
Top clowns will battle in comedy skits, makeup, and variety acts for the glory of being named “Best All-around Clown,” which is like being the World Heavyweight Champ of the clowing world. On Tuesday they showed off their best parade routines on stage at the Mall of America, in front of a packed rotunda of children and elderly.
The convention is a chance to polish old skills – juggling, puppetry, building a good gag, and giving compassionate performances while volunteering with hospitals and nursing homes. It’s also a place to chit-chat with people from countries with very different attitudes toward the profession.
Click here to see many, many more photos of the World Clown Association on parade at Mall of America
Nestor Mora, New York
What got you into clowning?
Mora: They say you’re born being a clown. It’s people that are funny and it just comes, it’s natural. You have to go to conventions, learn juggling, skits, but you’re born being a clown.
Felix Santizo, Guatemala
Are clowns popular in Guatemala?
People like clowns in Guatemala. They contract us to work in festivals, birthday parties, do events for banks, companies. The people like it when you make them laugh. We bring laughter for the kids, and the adults also they want some fun. The companies and the people, they like us.
What’s your best clown gig?
I really enjoy to do a place near my hometown in Guatemala, a shelter for people who are using drugs and alcohol. The families put them there so they can receive therapies and everything. One time a year, I bring them my show, and they laugh. They have been in trouble, so some of them, they don’t have the time to laugh, so I bring them joy and they can have fun with me, and they really like it. That’s why I go to them.
Russell Harris, St. Paul
What made you start clowning?
One day I had this thought like there are the people who dedicate themselves to protecting us, they’re your law enforcement. There are people who dedicate themselves to keeping us healthy, our doctors and nurses. There are so many facets of taking care of humanity, and there are people who dedicate themselves to trying to be effective force of joy in others’ lives. The people who remind adults that, hey, right now guess what? You’re at a show. You can breathe. Smile. Lighten your load just a little bit.
Andrew Davis, England
Are clowns more popular in England than they are in America?
They’ve got the same thing in England. Yeah, it’s global. I’d say clowns are more accepted in America. We had the Northampton clown five years ago, standing on a street corner in a mask. … That was the first one that went global. These people who put on these horror clown masks, they’re after their 15 minutes of fame.
How are clowns holding up against the creepy clown hype?
With clowns evolving, if you look at the younger generation of clowns at the moment, they’re not so much wearing the makeup, the costumes, but they are clowning. The nose is still popular.
Donny Ngu, Malaysia
What’s it like to be a clown in Malaysia?
There are a lot of clowns in Malaysia. They’re more common now. It used to be that clowns were considered to be kind of low-class, but now clowns are often hired for birthday parties. More and more people now recognize what clowns are, that it’s an art form. (Translated from Mandarin.)