Thursday, March 15, 2007

Injurious Humor

Make no mistake about it: clowning is dangerous work. I admit, I didn't enter the profession with that in mind. Sure, one can imagine how juggling knives could be imperil the digits, and circus clowns probably worry about their toes when performing around elephants. But it wasn't immediately apparent that your basic work as a children's entertainer could imperil life and limb.

I got my first taste of the hazards on my first day. Without telling the whole story (which would take much longer than I have at the moment and is a story in and of itself), it's fair to say it was a rude awakening.

I tried an interactive juggling routine. Billy the Clown had lost his magical ability to keep balls in the air and needed the power of the birthday party to get it back. This entailed passing twenty-odd rubber balls to the kids. The birthday girl would toss the first ball, then someone else a second, and then a third, at which point I'd be juggling again. Then, I'd get ahead of myself and ask everyone to throw their balls at me, and I'd be able to juggle like a madman.

It didn't occur to me until too late that this invitation would transform mild-mannered children into a firing squad. A budding Catfish Hunter gave me a sidearm heater that bent my glasses, while I'm positive some of the boys took aim at my nether regions.

I escaped that party alive (barely...the moonbounce was hell on earth), but thought of it as a fluke. As the months have gone by, I've realized that first party was no anomaly. It got so bad that one Saturday evening, recounting the day's mayhem to my father, he interrupted me to ask if I had disability as part of the job. Hmm, not exactly. It's more like one needs to have a disability to be willing to take on this job. A mental disability.