Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Criteria of Clowndom

November 12th, 2009 · 4 Comments

In response to our tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Shriners in this post, a treasured reader noted that his uncle was a “Shriner clown.” At first we took this to be some sort of jest, but The Tubes quickly proved us wrong: the fez-wearing brotherhood is darn serious about its clowning. In fact, the organization hosts frequent contests in which clowns vie for a range of coveted titles. The point of these events is to exude clown perfection, as outlined by the International Shrine Clown Association. Our favorite snippet from the rules is this definition of the paragon of the “Happy Hobo” clown type:

The HOBO wants to be a HOBO; he may be down but he certainly is not out. He often appears to be HAPPY. A HOBO usually will not ask for a ‘handout’, preferring to work for it. He will take a job-but usually not for long because he wants to move along to someplace else. His face is much like the tramp’s make-up except in the expression. He is apt to smile, and his eyes generally appear larger, more wide awake, open, and HAPPY looking than the tramp’s eyes. His costume is quite similar to the tramp’s, but may contain brighter colors in various parts. His vest is likely to be a bright color, as are many of his patches. His shoes should be the same as the tramp’s. The TRAMP/HOBO category is the only category in which the use of any kind of color gloves, gloves with holes, gloves with fingers cut off,or the complete absence of gloves is permitted. However, if gloves are used, they should be CLEAN but APPEAR DIRTY, STAINED, and WORN. The overall effect of make-up, costuming, and performance must compliment the character portrayed.

For the record, the reigning Happy Hobo champion of Texas appears to be one Jerry “Peeps” Pherson. Congrats to him, though we do wonder if he’s familiar with the hardships faced by Depression Era hobos. Not too many happy campers in that lot.


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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Gramsci

    You build children’s hospitals, you need clowns. Wait…or did they build hospitals as a front, a mere public justification for what they knew in their hearts was a terrifying, homewrecking obsession for mad clown skillz? I say the latter.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Their obsession with miniature cars and fezzes certainly lends credence to your theory.

  • growler

    My uncle was a hobo clown.

    The Shriners used to hold their own circuses too! I went to one or two a year. Saw my first freak show, which included a “rubber” lady lying in a box run through with swords. An extra quarter got you up onstage to look down at her inside. Still gives me shivers.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @growler: Did your uncle ever mention any rivalry between the tramp and hobo clowns? It seems to me the distinction is fine, and thus there might be some conflict over which category is aesthetically superior.