Mike Buzzelli

Column Mike Buzzelli

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and published author. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant, Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine, and an active board member of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, the Carnegie Arts Initiative and the Carnegie Screenwriters. His book, "Below Average Genius" is a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column here in the Observer-Reporter.

Send in the clowns

April 18, 2014

I know a lot of people with coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. Oddly enough, it comes from two ancient Greek words. Obviously, phobia is fear, but the coulro part comes from an ancient Greek word that means “stilt-walker.” I guess in ancient Greece, stilt-walkers were the closest things they had to clowns. Though there are references to buffoonish people in all of those great Greek plays. Aristophanes wrote about people behaving clownishly. But it turns out the word clown doesn’t come from the Greeks.

It comes from a Swedish word that means clumsy. Technically, that makes me a clown. I admit that my shoes are freakishly large, but I wear a lot less makeup. Last week, my friend Lonnie picked me up in her Smart Car. I must have looked like I was going off to Clown College while riding in it. P.S. When you ride in a Smart Car, people stare, point and laugh. I should be used to people staring, pointing and laughing. I have made a career standing in front of people making them laugh. There isn’t much pointing because everyone is already looking in my direction.

In England, in the Manchester Evening News, it was reported that the local police handled 19 cases of “clown-related” crimes in the area. The offenses ranged from peeking in windows to assault and battery.

The European director of the World Clown Association complained, “Too many stupid people are damaging the reputation of the clowning profession.”

A. There’s a World Clown Association. Who knew?!?

B. They think they have a reputation to uphold. Wow. They could not be more mistaken.

I contend that there is no such thing as coulrophobia because clowns are just plain scary. My fear of clowns goes back to Pennywise in Stephen King’s “It.” He had sharpened teeth and he hid in the sewers. I don’t remember anything else about the movie except that Tim Curry, who played the freaky clown, scared the heck out of me.

I liked Tim Curry a lot better in “Clue” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Independently, the elements are not scary. Red noses are not frightening. Oversized shoes are not perturbing. There’s nothing horrible about a multicolored frizzy wig. Put all of those things together and you have yourself a fear sandwich.

I don’t remember being afraid of Ronald McDonald. However, Grimace and the Hamburglar gave me the heebie jeebies. Looking back, I wish I was frightened of the Happy Meal. Hamburgers and french fries have probably killed more people than clowns ever have. That’s even if you include John Wayne Gacy.

With so much revulsion for clowns you have to wonder why people even dress up as clowns. I guess there will always be clowns, jesters and mimes, stilt-walkers and circus folk.

I never even liked the song “Send in the Clowns!” Mostly because the last line is “Don’t worry, they’re here.” How did the person who spends an entire song singing about clowns, hoping they’d show up, not realize they were already there? That’s just annoying.

I guess I’d better quit clowning around and get back to work.



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