39 Comments

  1. Those clowns are adorable. Clowns are not scary for any sane adult. Unless it’s Billo.

  2. All are amusing.

    I always enjoy Frog Applause — Teresa is something of a genius collagist — and as a daily matter most of them are mysterious or confusing, but I don’t submit as a CIDU since it’s not like there’s a joke there that we’re missing.

    But this one was really just a series of simple jokes, meta about comics, and for the most part successful.

  3. Those clowns may not be scary, but what they did to grandpa certainly is creepy. I think that Wayno panel should have gotten an “Ewww!” tag.

  4. Brian, I think there’s at least one more.

    And to add to the list:

    One Big Harpy
    Lip (Lio)
    Shot (Shoe)
    The Other Toast
    Close to Hole
    Loose Tarts
    Big Name
    Rose is Nose
    Tits

  5. I’m not sure Mary Worts is ruining the strip. Sounds to me like, instead of offering bland advice and salmon squrares, she brews and offers beer. That’s a big improvement in my book.

  6. @ Bill – I had to look up “Koko” to figure out that you meant the picture on the mantle (and not the larger one on the wall). The resemblance is fairly close, but there’s no way to tell whether it was intentional.

  7. When it ran on GoComics, that last one had some people outside of the US baffled. Apparently, that brand must not be global. It made me not want to think about the fact that I use Irish Spring on my butt.

  8. @ Andréa – As soon as I read it, I figured the statement you quoted would offend a number of readers here. I myself don’t find clowns inherently scary, but I never did like them as a kid. What bothered me about them back then (and still does now) was not that they were “evil”(*), but the way they would pick some innocent kid out of the front row to become the butt of various gags seemed patently offensive. That said, I haven’t seen a classic “clown” of that type in decades (at least not in person). The few circus shows that come through our town have always been small family operations, so the person doing “comic relief” usually has a couple of other roles to take, and thus cannot be made up as a classic “clown”. Even so, my daughter didn’t like the one in the first circus she saw, so much so that she had to be cajoled into attending the next circus a year or so later. In that second circus, the “clown” role was performed by the family’s pre-teen son. He was not only not threatening, but was (at least for my daughter) the best part of the show.
    P.S. (*) Just to demonstrate the commonality of the issue: In Pixar’s “Inside Out“, Joy and Sadness successfully use a scary clown as a threat in Riley’s dream to frighten her awake.

  9. To me, there is something inherently creepy about outsize feet and nose and hair, too small hat, and being able to hide one’s face behind makeup – I’d never go to Carnival because of the masks people can hide behind.

    Speaking of clowns – I’ve been, strangely enough, FAScinated by what Russian audiences think is funny . . . lots of these on YouTube, but this is my fave from TheatreLicidei . . .

  10. Dial brand deodorant soap twice had its key antibacterial ingredient banned by the FDA [hexaclorophene in the 1970s, triclocarban and triclosan in 2016), and got reformulated in the U.S. amid rumors that the brand might just be discontinued.

  11. @ Andréa – “something inherently creepy about … being able to hide one’s face … I’d never go to Carnival because of the masks
    I am extremely glad that I do not live in a part of Germany that suffers from the “Carnival” disease. Most of the crowds wear costumes that have become so stereotypical that they are no longer scary or even funny, but there are a number of towns where the traditional creepy masks are intentionally disturbing (that link is relatively safe, unless you click on “images” in the menu).

    P.S. @ Bob Peters – As Mitch4 implied, “Dial” is an American brand name, I’ve never seen it in Germany, nor anywhere else when travelling in Europe.

  12. European clowns are a little different from American clowns. The tradition forked sometime in the late 19th century. The white face clown or Auguste is a lot more standardized are there really isn’t a hobo clown.

    @Kilby: I’d think all the big circuses would come through your neck of the woods. The small circuses I’ve seen here have been rather lackluster, but we splurged for Roncalli once and it was definitely worth it.

  13. So how many of the deceased clown relatives are in the Jack in the Box with Grandpa?

  14. @ DemetriosX – When I said “our town”, I meant the tiny little suburban paradise in which we live, and not “downtown Berlin”. The difference in size (not to mention “price”) is not quite an order of magnitude, but it’s close. (The difference in quality is probably more than that.)
    P.S. I’ll keep an eye out for Roncalli. We once considered a “Cirque du Soleil” show, but when we saw the prices, we decided to wait until the kids were older (if ever).

  15. (OT) @Kilby, I was looking for you in the outdoor crowd at the Brandenburg Gate when I watched yesterday’s free live transmission of the Berliner Philharmoniker concert with their new Music Director, no excuse me Chief Conductor, Kirill Petrenko. Was that you in the 3rd row from bottom, 4th from right, in striped pants with purple waistcoat and green jacket?

  16. @ Mitch4 – Close, but no cigar. I was wearing a striped polo shirt with blue jeans and sandals. As it happens, I was just a kilometer south of that location, but I didn’t go downtown for the concert: I took the kids to see “Toy Story 4” (in English) at the Sony Center. We were back home long before the concert started.

  17. “What bothered me about them back then (and still does now) was not that they were “evil”(*), but the way they would pick some innocent kid out of the front row to become the butt of various gags seemed patently offensive. That said, I haven’t seen a classic “clown” of that type in decades”

    I went to a variety show in Pigeon Forge, TN just this weekend, and while there was nobody with clown makeup on, several of the acts required people from the audience to come up on stage to become the butt of gags. Two of them summoned adults, and one summoned kids (the kids were identified/recruited in advance, the adults were selected by asking audience members to select victims amongst themselves. None were aware of what they were being recruited for, although the second batch of adults pulled onstage should have at least had an idea of the tone.

    I would also suggest that shows featuring “the Amazing Jonathan” would fit this identification, although again he isn’t in clown makeup, he’s a comedian who does magic tricks (or possibly, a magician who tells jokes.) Being the butt of the gags isn’t mean-spirited.

  18. I happen to be a children’s entertainer and it never fails to amaze me when a magician, etc., do anything that would humiliate the kid.

    With that said, the pros (e.g.,, trained professionals, not “some guy” who puts on makeup and buys self working magic tricks) know to avoid this. Sometimes I think this who do think they’re doing a “gentle ribbing” but forget that that’s a distinction without a difference to little kids.

  19. It’s frustrating that someone can put on makeup, distribute business cards, and call themselves a professional clown. They give clowns a bad name.

    I have a good pal who is a bona fide artist. In love with clowns since childhood, legit student of the craft, trained by Ringling and other organizations, not to mention having traveled quite a bit with Barnum & Bailey.

    In his later years he’s lived in a house (mortgage paid off with his full time gig as a clown) but travels a lot to do promotions for Ringling (before they folded). His primary bread and butter are libraries and birthdays, though. And he’s never worked a day-job in his life.

    He’s a class act. Silly but not dumb. Wacky but not vulgar. Genuinely terrific toward the kiddos. It took him forever to perfect his character and he’s always practicing his, and learning new, skills.

    But the blankety-blank “clowns are scary” craze happened a few years ago and his business nearly tanked. He’s still treading water, but I really feel for the guy. You can’t possibly imagine how much he loves the art and how crushing it is to see your craft and work maligned because of a fad.

  20. Re: the clown “urn,” when I was little I used to crank my little sister’s jack-in-the-box right up to the last note, so it would go off if you looked at it. So what I’m wondering about this situation is, what happens on the “POP!” Will the baby clown look like the vacuum cleaner exploded in his face?

  21. “It’s frustrating that someone can put on makeup, distribute business cards, and call themselves a professional clown. They give clowns a bad name.”

    I wonder if or how much John Wayne Gacy is responsible for this ‘fad’? I lived in the area during his reign of terror; mayhaps that influenced my dislike of clowns and their anonymity. (Also, I don’t much care for children, either, so maybe that has something to do with it, too.)

    “. . . between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois (a part of metropolitan Chicago)”

  22. I’m sure that’s true, or at least part of it. In this case I was actually referring to a surge a few years ago. Stuff about clowns scaring teens coming out of a forest and such. “It” probably influenced this, too. This really hurt my pal’s business. Another thing that hurts his business are said amateurs, who undercut his otherwise reasonable fees.

    Ironically, the clown in “It” is there because it is something the kids aren’t supposed to be afraid of. The monster is enticing the kid (successfully) to join him. Which, and correct me if I’m wrong, even Gacy didn’t do, did he? I think the clown images are incidental, but not his killing M.O.

  23. “Ironically, the clown in “It” is there because it is something the kids aren’t supposed to be afraid of.”

    King knows his business, and his business is writing down things that scare people. He didn’t pick a clown by accident. Or a family dog, which also isn’t SUPPOSED to be scary, unless you bury it in a certain special place…

  24. @CloonBounty: I really feel sorry for your friend. It’s a shame that a professional entertainer can have their business gutted like that just because of a foolish fad. Clowns aren’t scary unless one is phobic and a phobia is, but definition, an unreasonable fear. I think it was just that a bunch of hacks decided to jump on the “clowns are scary/creepy” bandwagon. Then it became a cheap way to seem edgy and different online, to say that clowns are scary/creepy. And once that gets into the mainstream psyche, there’s no getting it out. I’m surprised that Santa Claus has been able to remain viable all these years, considering all the evil/murderous/creepy Santa stuff that has been produced by hacks over the years. I think it might be because there are many people who are actively pro-Santa.

    @Raymond A Levesque: I was going to say the box is too small from human cremains, but you make a good point about clowns and their space-warping ability.

    @Kilby: I saw a Cirque du Soleil show once. It was quite good. It’s very elaborate with acrobatics and more European-type clowning. No animal acts, as I expect you’ll know. I’d say it would be appropriate for children of 10 and up, assuming they’re the type that can sit still.

  25. “. . . between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois (a part of metropolitan Chicago)”

    The Joker’s been haunting Gotham City for a couple of decades longer.

    In the first couple of seasons of the Simpsons, there’s an episode where Bart has nightmares about Krusty.

  26. We went to Cirque du Soleil, and thought it was quite good; then we saw the TV series about what goes on behind the scenes, how the performers are chosen, trained, etc., and after that, vowed never again — I think if they had animal acts, and mistreated the animals, it would still be better than how they treat the poor young hopefuls who actually do the show… Guy Laliberté is a heartless arsehole…

  27. It’s sad to think the artistry of “big-league” clowns of circuses such as Ringling and Cole Bros. might get lost in the fog of modern stereotyping, without a sense of history.

    Emmett Kelly was a classic clown:

    There are some great old films on YouTube showing the unloading of wagons from circus trains, and the setting up of the tents. This is another aspect of circuses that will fade from public memory.

    As far as kids fearing clowns, I think part of growing up is confronting things that make us uncomfortable. Perhaps parents can be more reassuring. Also I think the past couple of decades has taught people to fear just about everything.

  28. Kilby – In my school the children in the second grade went to the Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey circus – which was a large circus for the class trip. I had never been to one – smart on my parents part as a trip to the zoo would result in much screaming and crying (still mostly afraid of animals, just control it a bit better now). So, my parents decided that I should go to a circus before the school trip, basically to see if I should go on the trip. The clowns scared me worse than the animals! On the day that every other second grader in my school went to the circus, I went back to my first grade teacher’s class for the day. (I don’t think that the school ever had a kid refuse to go on the class trip other than me.)

    Years past and I was in my third/last year of college and had started dating Robert. I won 2 tickets to the circus at a club meeting and asked him out for our second date (he sprung for dinner at Burger King). I was just terrified of the clowns. Even worse, my parents had been smart enough not to take me to see the animals before the circus started. That we are still together says a lot for his understanding.

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