As a professional entertainer working in the historical tradition of the clown arts, I know full well the great investment of time and money that goes into constructing a meticulous image. Clowns need to be joyous. Clowns need to be intelligent. Because we’re around young children, we also need to be appropriate and mature in our juvenile antics. It’s a delicate balance that even years of training cannot instill. Instead, the true genius of the clown is knowing that sweetest of sweet spots where vulnerability and invulnerability, mystery and excitement meet in each magical performance. Clowns are a sanctuary for children, a brief yet safe escape into the surreal.
Sadly, we are often derided and mocked. Some assume that slathering on a red nose and a pound of pancake makeup entitles you to the moniker of a clown. Others imagine clowning as a weekend pastime for the elderly. Across the board, the true suffering and passion of this art form is rarely understood. Yet we rightly deserve the title of artists and our work will stand up against that of our esteemed peers– painters, dancers, videographers, musicians, sculptors and novelists. The public does not always appreciate our dedication, but they will line up night after night to see us perform.
I mention these things as a prelude to the issue at hand. In the past several years a new cultural fad has taken hold in the youth scene. It steals the methodology of clowning while completely lacking the heart and the wisdom. Farce and anger are the ingredients, along with a heavy dose of drug abuse mixed in. A venal cherry of criminality is added to the top of this sickly saccharine dessert. And voilà, we have “the Juggalos.”
The Juggalos are spontaneous groups of youths who worship the rock band Insane Clown Posse as well as the blood and guts crime writer Chuck Palahniuk. They cover their faces in a foundation of cheap, department store makeup, and use dark strikes to accentuate the eyes. Their facial paint is a mask, a way to hide their identities. Thus, the acts of sex, drugs and rock and roll so common to the Juggalos can happen with complete anonymity. Maybe that’s for the better, for these people are heinous and if their shenanigans became public they could be fired from their jobs and even arrested. Even the FBI considers them a violent gang which poses a grave threat to children.
Rural lots and obscure corners of public parks are chosen for their gatherings. Like medieval gypsies, the Juggalos construct tents and stands to market their crude wares. Food and drink are also sold, though one takes a great risk of Salmonella poisoning, E. Coli and other diseases sharing anything with these people. The sticky grunge of marijuana smoke hangs heavy in the air. Topless women stumble about, howling like coyotes on the hunt. Heavy-set men, reeking of unemployment and vomit, hover in the distance. Barbaric chords of heavy metal music pump out over the scene. Some juggle beer bottles and old shoes for spare change, while others simply scavenge from the pockets of passed-out partiers.
These clown-painted visages are a shared mark of bestial intent. With hours of narcotics pumping through their veins, faces are screwed up into horrific black and white tsunamis destined for the shores of decency. Beyond the view of onlookers, inexplicable acts of disgust delight these swarthy Juggalos. One is left to bitterly wonder at the screams, cries and ineffectual thuds, hoping that some semblance of humanity will survive the storm.
The dark princes pulling the strings of the oblivious Juggalos are the musicians behind the Insane Clown Posse. Detroit natives Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler founded group in 1989. Despite Utsler’s limited singing abilities and mental health issues, the two have been inseparable ever since. Their songs gather up all the hatred of black ghetto ethnic rap music. They spill it out over their audiences with spitting disdain. In the songMiracles, they insult the glorious power of Jesus Christ. In Woojie Wu, they celebrate a satanic wee gee board while Hocus Pocus instructs listeners in urban witchcraft and the pagan occult. Fonz Pond encourages teens to rebel with violence and homosexual sex acts. And the truth behind Chicken Hunting is literally too disgusting to even mention here. Is it any wonder that groups as diverse as the Disney Corporation and the Southern Baptist Convention have condemned the Insane Clown Posse as a dangerous element in our society?
For those in the clowning business, the Juggalos and the Insane Clown Posse were first considered a temporary blight. No one imagined these people would last. Yet time has, tragically, proven us wrong. Today, many children do not associate face make-up and costumes with the artistry of professional entertainers. No, the first thought that comes to their mind is the Juggalos. It is a foul and offensive connection. Numerous clowns have recounted stories where uninformed children expect something dark and sexual from their performances. Some scream out the names of Insane Clown Posse songs and ask us to mimic the ghetto black stylings of the band. Our reputations have been slandered in the most unfortunate of ways. No, we cannot score “pot” for you, we cannot sneak you a beer and we most certainly will not “rap” a song out.
Despite the obvious problems, Bruce and Ulster show no signs of dropping their affectations. They seem to care nothing for the livelihoods of countless Americans. In one fell swoop, Insane Posse and the Juggalos are endangering centuries of craft and creativity. Professional clown entertainers are disgusted, but in the truest, most sublime expression of their artistry, they chose not to show it. Instead, we will continue to put on our wildly fun faces because, in the grand scheme of things, we are just here to entertain the children.