The Dangerous Clown Disease

The Dangerous Clown Disease

While in my college clown days, some friends and I earned money by putting on a number of different performances in places like birthday parties, pizza parlors, special events, and even some local television children’s programming. Since our budget for costuming was very limited, we did the best we could by creating our own unique presentations. We found out very early that the children we performed our shows for were suspicious that something was different about us.

We did not have the big shoes, fancy wigs, or exaggerated costumes that kids were familiar with from their visits to the circus, and our humor was also different from that of circus clowns. Our act was more like comedians in clown makeup. We chose the clown persona because it seemed to get us more work than trying to pass ourselves off as standup comics.

After some time on our performing circuit, we found that children were not used to having such close personal contact with clowns, and they would eventually get around to studying us closely with a battery of common questions like, “Is that your real nose?”

Some kids reacted with an assessment that we were not “real clowns,” especially the older children who were familiar with what circus clowns were supposed to look like. One evening, while performing in a pizza parlor, there was one older child who became the self appointed ringleader for debunking our credibility as real clowns. He started off by trying to snatch the bulbous red rubber noses off our faces, and trying to get the gang of other children to follow suit. After several rounds of attempts, I caught the boy’s hand in mid-grab, and gave his hand a squeeze.

“Stop that!” I told him in an uncharacteristic tone that was very stern for a clown.

The boy rubbed his hand and spoke, “I know that’s not your real nose. You guys aren’t real clowns…I’ve seen real clowns at the circus.”

I saw an opportunity, “Oh yeah? Well, for your information, those guys in the circus are the ones who are not REAL clowns. We are the real clowns, and I can prove it.”

“You can?” asked the boy, somewhat nervous now about what he was hearing.

“Oh yes. You see, I used to be quite normal until it happened to me.”

“What happened?”

“I was just like you, I thought there was no such thing as a real clown until I caught the dangerous clown disease.”

“What’s the dangerous clown disease?”

“Well, my lad, come closer and I’ll show you. It started with my nose. You see this big red nose of mine?”


“One day, I was minding my own business, and my nose suddenly got big and round like this. That’s part of the disease. Your nose gets big and round, and after a while, a smaller nose begins to grow underneath it. As the smaller nose continues to grow, the old nose falls off, and the process starts all over again. If you pull the old nose off too soon, the little one might not be able to grow back, so keep your mits off my nose. You see the color I have on my face?


“That’s part of the dangerous clown disease too. If you catch it, your skin will change colors, and you will become a real clown.”

“How do you catch the dangerous clown disease?” asked the boy, now fascinated by the tale.

“HOW? You ask me how do people catch the dangerous clown disease? Well, let me show you!”

With that, I took the boy’s hand and swiped it on my cheek, rubbing off some of the makeup onto his hand, “That’s how you get the dangerous clown disease!”

The boy was horrified as he looked at the makeup smeared on his hand. He let out a shout and ran back to where his parents were sitting at the table, “Mommy! Mommy! The clown gave me the dangerous clown disease!”

The boy’s mother looked at his hand, and calmly wiped off the makeup with a napkin. She scolded the boy, “Oh for heaven’s sake. Leave the clown alone and let some of the other children play with them for a while.”

For the rest of the evening, we did not have any further contact with that child, though I did get an occasional glance at him examining his hand and feeling his nose to see if it was growing. From that point on, the dangerous clown disease seemed like a pretty good explanation for how to spot real clowns, and keep the kids from grabbing the nose off my face.

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