There's A Meeting for That

Send In the Clowns

A clowning convention, and how it has evolved along with the profession.

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Illustration by Carmen Segovia.

World Clown Association Annual Convention
March 7–11, 2016
International Palms Resort

Are clowns happy or sad when they’re not in the public eye? At the World Clown Association’s (WCA) Annual Convention, it’s a little bit of both. “I get inspired as I watch others,” WCA President Randy Christensen said about some of the performances at this year’s show. “They make me laugh, and sometimes they make me cry.”

Like many attendees, Christensen is a part-time clown — a Master Clown, actually, although his day job is in education — and during the five-day gathering, he and other participants revel in clown camaraderie and hands-on workshops.

CHANGING FACES“There’s been a big move to make clowning more personal and more relational,” Christensen said. “Twenty or 30 years ago, the circus would come to town with three rings, and so there was this overwhelming activity happening and you didn’t know where to look.”

These days, clowning tends to occur in more intimate environs, such as parties and hospitals, and that’s reflected in how clowns present themselves. “A lot of the older clowns, their makeup was very bold. Part of it was the distance from the audience, part of it was because of poor lighting,” Christensen said. “Now there’s so much clowning happening up close that the makeup design has become milder, much more realistic-looking, much more gentle.”

BIG RED HEARTSA CSR outing is a part of each convention. In Orlando, 40 clowns provided comic relief for children with life-threatening diseases at Give Kids the World Village. “Most people that are clowns love to laugh and they love people,” Christensen said, “and they do this because they see hurting people and want to help them smile.”

EASTBOUND CLOWNSNext year, the clowns will meet at the Mandarin Hotel in Bangkok. “We usually find that three-quarters of our attendees come from the region where we meet,” Christensen said. “It’s fun to see the differences in approach, though laughter is universal. I’ve found that as I’ve clowned in different cultures, even though I didn’t speak the language, the kids laugh at the same things that the kids in America laugh at.”


Exhibitors: 20


‘Beginning Face Painting’

‘Branding Your Character’

‘The Body Speaks’

‘Balloon Hats: Simple to Advanced’

‘Caring Clown Roundtable’

The U.S.-based World Clown Association has members in 25 countries, and rotates its convention out of North America every fourth year.

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is associate editor of Convene.