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Saturday 25 February 2017

Comment: I made a lot of questionable decisions during my adolescence - but being a clown was not one of them

Forget the creepy prankster craze - clowning around is no laughing matter

Jane O'Faherty

A whole art form and livelihood for many is being mocked and tainted by an inane and pointless prank, Jane O'Faherty (pictured left) writes
A whole art form and livelihood for many is being mocked and tainted by an inane and pointless prank, Jane O'Faherty (pictured left) writes

Everyone deals with their teenage years in different ways.

It could be joining a sports team or playing the guitar.

My escape from the challenges of adolescence was being a clown.

I know what you're thinking. Clowns are all about pale faces, uncontrollable hairdos and creepy demeanours.

Clown David Marquez, who is performing at Tom Duffy's Circus in Blanchardstown Photo: Gerry Mooney
Clown David Marquez, who is performing at Tom Duffy's Circus in Blanchardstown Photo: Gerry Mooney

With the excessive coverage of the creepy crown craze on social media, I wouldn't blame you either.

But while I watched the story of so-called 'killer clown' sightings unfold over the past few weeks, I felt a whole art form and livelihood for many was being mocked and tainted by an inane and pointless prank.

When I was 12 years old, I joined a local youth group in Wexford called Buí Bolg. The owners were well-respected street theatre and circus directors in their own right.

I was a rather unsporty and awkward teenager. I was never going to play GAA or hockey.

Jane O'Faherty is put through her paces at Buí Bolg
Jane O'Faherty is put through her paces at Buí Bolg

But learning skills like juggling, poi and clown performance helped me understand that I might actually have a talent for something.

Being a clown helped me discover that despite my painful shyness, I could sometimes be hilarious.

Each year, my group and I would dress up in colourful costumes and strut our stuff along O'Connell Street in Dublin.

One year, we did dress up as clowns. Needless to say, nobody was terrified.

Because real clowns aren't about fear. It's not about schlocky horror movies, or scaring some unsuspecting child or schoolgirl.

They are about humour, satire and, sometimes, even sadness.

Because clowning is an art form, despite what some would believe given the recent events in the US, the UK and even Dublin.

Cirque du Soleil, which just happens to be coming to Ireland next year, is a great example of what circus and clowns really can be.

The Canadian super-troupe is best known for its amazing, death-defying stunts. But its clowns and jokers are always my favourite part of the show.

They're hilarious, but a little bit heart-breaking at the same time.

Indeed, the Nobel Prize even recognised clowning when it bestowed Italian playwright Dario Fo with the accolade in 1997.

I made a lot of questionable decisions during my adolescence, but staying with Buí Bolg well into my college days was not one of them.

Many friends from the group have gone on to do great things in the area of circus. I often feel very sharp pangs of jealousy when I hear about their exploits.

But this week, I almost felt guilty as they faced dealing with ongoing 'killer clown' sightings.

David Marquez works as a clown in Duffy's Circus, and shares my point of view.

Originally from Mexico, David (30) first performed in a circus when he was a toddler. He is the fifth generation of his family to pursue the art as a profession. He now performs with his brother, Raffy.

He feels the "creepy clown" fad is now becoming an annoyance.

"It does make people more afraid of clowns," he said. "We are not very scary at all."

"I don't think the internet fad will go on for long - I hope it doesn't, hopefully all of this will go away soon."

Irish Independent

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