For the past hundred years, everyone has been scared of clowns. No one finds them funny. Even if you're not P.Diddy-phobic, modern life generally has an unofficial "no clowns" clause that for some reason is recklessly ignored:
I mean, yes, there are innocuous clowns. Some people seem to enjoy "Grandma." Or Bello Nock. But usually they're just a byword for sinister terror - so consistently sinister, in fact, that it's impossible to remember a time when they weren't. Indeed, the fear of clowns is so pervasive (one of the top ten phobias) that there's a name for it: coulrophobia. (The Wikipedia entry is accompanied by an absolutely horrifying image of a leering, bald-wigged head, with the sadistic caption, "A depiction of an evil clown, a character depicted in the media, which might cause anxiety to someone with coulrophobia." Or anyone, really.) In addition to P.Diddy's famous fears, Johnny Depp and Daniel Radcliffe are both said to have clown issues. But even those of us with less exaggerated apprehensions find our hearts sinking when the Cirque de Soleil curtain rises to reveal a carful of French Canadian harlequins in motley bent on breaking the fourth wall.
One British circus is starting a workshop to help customers address their fears. Here's the Guardian's description:
By the end of the session, third generation circus performer Laci Endresz Jnr will be in full costume, in a process of graded exposure recommended by Peter Kinderman, a professor of clinical psychology at Liverpool University. "The clown phobia seems to come from terrifying clowns like the one in Stephen King's It," Showzam director Clare] Turner says. "At the workshop people will gradually see Laci's transformation to Mooky, as well as getting an explanation about clowns, what they do and where they come from."
I like the idea of these family-business entertainers with their handed-down skills, and I certainly don;t want to see any clowns put out of work. But when you think about it, wasn't the circus always kind of unsettling? It was always as much about the strange, the exotic, the unexpected, and the grotesque as the purely entertaining. Plus, their world was raffish and sinister: itinerant performers outside the ken of normal life. (There's a reason Something Wicked This Way Come is still so seriously scary.) Still, it's weird that this fear is going so strong in a time when we're inundated with the grotesque all day long. I mean, P.Diddy may have a no-clowns clause, but I'm guessing he's fine mingling with Lady Gaga at the Grammys. Or maybe we just need to coin a new phobia?