CLOWN SHORTAGE? Membership in trade groups dips dramatically

CLOWN SHORTAGE? Membership in trade groups dips dramatically

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Love them, hate them, or fear them -- it seems everyone has an opinion on clowns, but is that the reason fewer young people are showing an interest in making it a profession?

After spending more than 20 years working as a machinist, Bob Jensen did some serious soul searching before setting out on a new career as "Friendly the Clown."

"It's really the nose," Jensen admitted. "The nose helps you speak different and also, nobody knows who you are."

Yet, according to some, the country could be on the brink of a major clown shortage as older performers trade their enormous shoes for retirement only to find there are no newcomers to fill them.

"To go from not having anything to making a living at it was pretty drastic," Jensen recalled.

Jensen's bread and butter these days involves performing comedy, dabbling in a bit of magic and making balloons at birthday parties. He says as professions go, his is a rewarding one.

"Can you imagine going to birthday parties all the time?" he asked. "You've got cake and ice cream and a big banquet of food -- and lots of kids. It's the happiest place there ever was."

Happy though Jensen may be, the World Clown Association said membership has dropped 30 percent over the past decade to about 2,500; however, the largest clown organization in the country said there's no reason to be alarmed. Rather, they contend that up-and-coming clowns don't see the need to join up.

In fact, as a self-taught professional children's entertainer, Jensen holds seminars for aspiring clowns.

"We teach them the whole thing," he said. "First, we teach them how to put the face on -- what kind of character, of course."

Jensen said it takes nearly an hour and a half to get into the full getup, but he said it's worth every minute when he sees the reaction he gets.

"When I go down the road, people will honk and wave at me," he said. "People get out of their car and take a picture at me -- but when Bob drives down the road, you know what? They do not notice a thing."

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