Sorry, Bozo: Clown Membership on the Decline, Associations Say
Two major groups representing clowns in the U.S. say that their membership has dropped significantly in recent years. The problem? It's hard to sell younger people on a trade that's decidedly old hat.
Two professional groups representing clowns in the U.S. say that their membership has dropped significantly in recent years. The problem? It’s hard to sell younger performers on a trade that’s decidedly old hat.
Perhaps the clown trade got a little too scary.
Whatever the case, The New York Daily News reported this week that two of the largest clown associations in the U.S. are smarting from an ongoing decline in membership—in part due to challenges in making the craft appealing to younger generations of performers. More details:
Behind the decline: “What’s happening is attrition,” Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger told the Daily News. “The older clowns are passing away.” While Kohlberger didn’t reveal exact membership numbers, the larger World Clown Association said it had lost 1,000 members (about 28 percent) over the last decade. WCA currently counts 2,500 people as members—most of whom are over 40.
“Clowning isn’t cool”: Modern circus clowns have a long history, dating back to the 19th century. Much of the problem for them of late, the trade groups say, is one of perception. How do you convince kids that clowning around is a worthy career path? “What happens is they go on to high school and college and clowning isn’t cool anymore,” Kohlberger told the Daily News. “Clowning is then put on the back burner until their late 40s and early 50s.” Despite this, companies well known for hiring large numbers of clowns, such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, have yet to face a major shortage.
The issues facing the clown associations are similar to those encountered by other membership-based groups that saw interest in them peak with previous generations. Membership in the American Legion, for example, has declined significantly as many of its longtime members, World War II veterans, have passed away.