Clown College: How to Look and Dress Like a Clown

Get paid for having fun by getting in touch with your inner clown. Including information on clown makeup, clothes and more.

| May/June 1982

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    There's more to the clown shtick than making people laugh — it can be an effective way to share a message.
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    Apply powder to your face to help the greasepaint stick.
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    Accentuate a few facial features.

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My interest in clowning dates back to the late 1960s, a grim period of protest and social unrest. At that time, I came to believe that humor could be valuable medicine in a world that seemed bent on following its own destructive course. The clown character held personal appeal for me, too, because I was then struggling through the trauma of turning 40... so when "Nibs" popped out of my psyche, his lighthearted influence was more than welcome.
As many of you likely know, clowning is an ancient and honorable art. Furthermore, the pastime requires more than simply donning a silly costume and greasepaint. It involves discovering the clown that resides inside you. I think all of us have one, but most folks spend their lives keeping that "spirit" contained.

Getting in Touch With Your Inner Clown

You can easily begin to free your own clown character, though, if you simply list a number of adjectives or phrases that you believe are descriptive of your personality. Let's suppose, for example, that you write down "shy," "loves animals," "enjoys singing," and "jogger." That catalog denotes the "normal" you and refers to the activities you're most likely to engage in, and the feelings you're likely to demonstrate, on a day-to-day basis. The clown inside you includes those, of course, but will also embrace their opposites.

So, take your list and write down opposing qualities. . . "outgoing," "afraid of animals," "unmusical," "sedentary" and so on. After all, there are times in your life when an atypical "you" seems to pop out, right? Good clowning, then, allows you to experience — and make good use of — the whole range of thoughts and feelings that create your personality. That's why clowns not only laugh but also weep copious tears. It's why they can often nimbly juggle and at the same time stumble over their own big feet. One minute a clown might strut around like Mr. Universe and the next minute be trembling like a scared rabbit.

Therefore, if you want to develop a true clown, you'll need to spend a lot of time thinking about your fantasies, dreams, goof-ups and embarrassing moments. Then, when you understand that character's personality, pick out a moniker that expresses your clownish side. Flower, spice, or insect names are popular choices. Are you a "Doodlebug" perhaps? How about "Cinnamon" or "Petunia"?

Dressing the Part of a Clown

Now that you've thought through your ideas and "conceived" your clown, how do you give birth to him or her? Well, it's best to start by designing the makeup for your face. Check the Yellow Pages for theatrical supply stores, and pay a visit to one of them. A salesperson should be able to outfit you with everything you'll need — but here's a basic shopping list for you to keep in mind: greasepaint (either little pots of it or pencils) in clown white and black, and also in one or more vivid colors such as red, blue, or purple, a black grease pencil (for outlining) and white powder. Load up on plenty of cold cream, tissues and baby oil at the drugstore, too . . . and also purchase a sponge and a soft brush (something similar to a shaving brush will do the trick).

Putting on a Funny Face

I've found that a makeup routine can be reduced to seven easy steps: First, smear a small amount of cold cream, using upward strokes, over your face (and neck and ears, if you're a full white-face clown) to fill in the pores and make removing the greasepaint, when your day's clowning is done, easier. Second, apply the clown white. Start with a thin coating and add to it gradually. (Most beginning clowns wear too much.) Then smooth the white out with your fingers in firm downward strokes.

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