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How did funny clowns become scary?


(Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay)

Do you love to go to a birthday party or a circus and watch the clowns? 

There are all sorts of clown: jesters, sad tramp clowns, puppet clowns and even cartoon clowns.
Some of them are funny but some can be a little scary.

Are you kind of scared by them? 

There's a name for that

Lots of people actually find clowns more frightening than funny. 

In fact, some people are so afraid of clowns, they’re said to have coulrophobia (say "coal-rah-fo-bee-ah").

But why is something that is supposed to be fun so scary for some people?

Clowns started out funny

clown dressed up as a court jester

(Image by Couleur from Pixabay)

Clowning was a big part of the medieval court. 

Minstrels and jugglers would "clown around" and act like fools to get a laugh.

By the Middle Ages, clowns became professional funny actors that entertained at travelling festivals.

Then clowns became sad and angry

Emmett Kelly in his hobo clown makeup

Emmett Kelly (middle) was a famous sad tramp clown. (Photo credit: Wikimedia/public domain)

It became popular to watch puppet shows like Punch and Judy, which you can still see today.

These puppets were not very nice to each other and would smash each other with bats to make children laugh.

Sad tramp clowns, popular in the Great Depression, had sad makeup and torn clothes.

They made people laugh by trying, and failing, at stunts and tasks. People felt sympathy for them.

Then clowns were fun again

In the 1950s and '60s, clowns were again considered fun. The invention of television helped with that.

The clowns on TV shows were loved by children and their parents.

McDonald’s even chose a clown for their mascot because clowns were friendly and funny — not scary or sad.

Scientists found that clowns visiting children in hospitals to cheer them up helped them get better!

Then clowns became scary

The Joker

One very famous spooky clown you may know is the Joker from Batman. (Joker, Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem/DC Database/All DC Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1938-2019 DC Comics, Inc.)

In the 1970s and '80s, a trend started in media such as books, comics, movies and TV shows.

Scary clowns became popular. Suddenly, a lot of what you saw or read featured scary, evil clowns. People wanted a change from the nice, funny clowns they had been seeing for so long.

Today, you can find both funny and scary clowns, depending on where you look for them.

So why become a clown?

Even though clowns in movies and television shows might be scary sometimes, real-life clowns aren't like that.

There are lots of reasons people become clowns. Some like to entertain people and see them smile and laugh.

You might be a little scared by the makeup that hides their faces, their bright costumes or even the pranks they pull. But that's all part of clowning around.

You never know, you might even want to become a clown some day!