For weeks, a wave of "creepy clowns" has been terrorizing the United States. While it's hard to pinpoint where it all began, sightings have stretched across the country. Local police have become overwhelmed with calls of a potential clown sighting, and some schools have even gone on lockdown over potential clown threats. This week, creepy clowns have been reported in Sweden, too. The trend has been terrifying for those who've been victimized by the creepy clowns, and highly entertaining for the rest of us on the internet. But for those in the professional clown business, it's been no joke.
We talked with some professional clowns about how the recent creepy clown hysteria has affected business, and whether or not it's making them fear for their safety. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Megan Anton-Kicinski, a.k.a. "Gabby the Clown"
VICE: How has the recent clown scare affected you?
Megan Anton-Kicinski: I just got done with chemotherapy treatments [for cancer], so I've been down for a while. Now that my health is coming back, my worry is there's just enough people out there who would love to take it to the next level. If they see a clown just walking around, I don't want somebody to come up and assault me. I don't have the energy to fight back. I just want to do some kids shows and have fun and face paint and make balloons, you know? I don't want to risk going out and possibly getting assaulted by some imbecile who feels the need to be a vigilante.
I've been doing this for 24 years, and I absolutely love it, but it just comes back to this mayhem and chaos with these clowns. Whether the stories are true or not, there are enough people out there that get a little stir-crazy and stuff happens. I don't want it to happen to me. I feel wary.
When's the last time you did a clown show?
I've been out since about a year and a half ago, since last spring.
Were there ever problems with business back then?
Six to ten years ago, there were a lot of shows. There were a lot of people who would call from all over the country to hire a clown. I remember getting phone calls from New York. The calls were there. The opportunities were definitely there at the time, but now it's way declined. I don't know if it's the economy or all this crazy clown crap going on.
What would you say to someone who was scared of you next time you did a gig?
Don't be afraid of clowns. We're really just nice people who want to make people smile. Really, that's what it comes down to.
Wendy Minson-Bush, a.k.a. "Daisy the Clown"
VICE: Has there been a drop off in business since the "creepy clown" epidemic?
Wendy Minson-Bush: I've had a decline in shows because of all these clown problems. I had a birthday party that canceled on me last weekend. They said that their daughter was crying and petrified of clowns. It's affecting business for me.
Had you run into problems with customers prior to this trend?
There are a lot of clown fetishists out there, so I have to screen my calls. But now I'm kind of weary of all of my leads that come in. I used to be able to just message back-and-forth and I'd get the details and I'd go, but now I need to verbally speak to the people because I don't know with all this clown hysteria. I don't want to waste my time putting on all my makeup just for somebody's shits and giggles.
How do you handle people who are scared of you?
Clown College taught me how to approach people who are scared of clowns. If I find a little child and they're scared of me, I need to make sure they shake my hand or give me a hug, or they'll grow up to be the adult who's scared of clowns. I go into Dollar General in town here, and if I'm in my clown outfit, [there is] a cashier who runs out of the room. I did a lot of learning on how to interact with people who are scared. I've been doing it for 18 years. It's a pretty good gig.
George Schneider, a.k.a. "Snacks the Clown"
VICE: How is the "creepy clown" trend affecting business?
George Schneider: [I just do] gigs here and there, but for people who do this for a living, I'm sure it's made it harder for them. As a clown, I can only imagine going to a birthday party or something, driving in your car, it makes me worried: Would I get arrested going to a gig?
What are you anticipating when you do your next gig?
There will always be someone who maybe is afraid of clowns, but I'm sure that these recent sightings—if I had done a gig [in the past few weeks]—I'm sure that would have increased the number of people who look at you like you're a bad person.
Some people are already scared of clowns, but now with all this extra-exposure, do you think that's being amplified?
I think people have the right to be afraid if people are dressing up as clowns and [scaring people]. Obviously, if someone sees a scary looking clown they might wonder, Is this person going to try to mess with me? Some people legitimately have a fear of clowns and that's fine, [but] real clowns aren't meant to be scary. They're meant to bring joy. But if someone's had a bad experience from watching a scary movie or something, all we can do is try to change that image when we're doing a show. It's just kind of sad that this could potentially hurt people like me.
What does the "creepy clown" fear mean for the future of clowns?
It's just sad that people are terrorizing people in any form, but the fact that they're choosing clowns is bad. Clowns throughout history have always been a main source of entertainment for people of all ages. You look years ago, and everyone loved Bozo—that was the big thing. Every kid loved Bozo. I don't know if something like that would pass today. It seems like people don't really look up to clowns like they did back in the day. I don't want to say it's a dying art, but I definitely think that the clown world in general needs some sort of resurgence or something. They're likable, and they're not scary. They're good people, and they just want to bring entertainment.
Jim Caffrey, a.k.a. "Jay J. the Clown"
VICE: Have you noticed any change in business recently due to the "creepy clown" epidemic going on?
Jim Caffrey: No, not really. That's because there's a very large difference between the way they look and the way I look. I don't look creepy. It's one of those nice, clean looks, and there's nothing scary or creepy about it. Everything they're doing now is basically buying a rubber mask and it's Halloween time.
How do you feel about people scaring others in the name of clowns?
The whole creepy clown thing doesn't even bother or phase me, personally. It's just a bunch of kids having fun. They're not going out killing one another or anything. It's just a bunch of kids being unnecessary and fun and scaring one another. If I was conducting myself in the mannerisms of hiding in the woods and jumping out from corners and yelling and screaming, yeah, I would be expected to be treated differently. But if you carry yourself properly and carry yourself to the code of ethics that we follow, then why would you have an issue?
Do clowns follow a code of ethics?
Yes, absolutely. More than anything, you want to treat people right. You want to be good to people. You're there to uplift spirits; you're not there to frighten anybody. I have run across teenagers who say they're scared even before this creepy clown thing came up. They're like, "Oh, I don't like clowns." Well, most of them are just looking for extra attention; they're not really scared. Little-bitty kids can be scared of you, but you just give them their distance and let them watch you interact with the other children, and before you know it, they're right there with the rest of the kids. If somebody's afraid of you, you just stay away.
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Photo via Flickr user Karen Eliot