Thanks in part to a changing economic climate that favors sanitized, corporate endorsed entertainment, as well as the fear of reprisals by humorless terrorists, the circus does not come to town as often as it once did. The idyllic scene of a private, family owned circus pulling into small town America and providing smiles and cotton candy to wide-eyed children is fast becoming a thing of the past. In today's America, and in many of her satellite states such as Poland and Great Britain, those who once found work in these travelling "big tops" are on the unemployment line.

While animal trainers turn to Las Vegas and pseudo-safaris for bored wealthy people, and trapeze artists go into internet pornography, it is the clowns who are left out in the cold. Struggling through job interviews where their white make-up and repertoire of humorous noises meet with a cold stare, more and more of these clowns are turning to alcohol as a way to ease the emptiness growing inside them. According to an unnamed source, at least 80% of unemployed clowns are hitting the bottle in a big way. As a result, many find themselves sleeping in alleys, train stations and public parks where they are ritually beaten by roving gangs and corrupt police officers.

Seeing the need for a solution to this growing problem, Margaret Manfried of the Northeast Children's Home began a program in 2003 called "Clowns for Kids." The program brought many of these out of work alcoholic clowns in contact with children who were sick, without family or severely mentally imbalanced. The results were mixed. Many of these clowns brought small bottles or canteens filled with liquor to the children's home and snuck nips in between meeting children. While some of the clowns performed to the delight of the children, others expectorated on the children or flat out vomited, after which most refused to apologize and then went on a tirade about how they were victims of the system.

"I tried to put a program in place that would benefit not only the children, but these destitute clowns. In many cases the situation got out of hand and I was fired by the Northeast Children's Home. Later I was arrested for prostitution and selling crack cocaine. I am appealing the conviction."

--Margaret Manfried, Clowns for Kids

Unconfirmed reports in the U.S. claim that Homeland Security has gotten involved in trying to help these clowns. According to unnamed sources, dozens of these clowns have been hired to infiltrate terrorist cells. While some question the ability of alcoholic clowns to blend into organizations where there is no place for humor, make-up or booze, one of our unnamed sources shrugged and said, "We've tried everything else."

A group of British clowns was hardest hit by the growing backlash against out of work alcoholic clowns. Six of these unfortunate souls were kicked to death in Manchester, with hobnail boots in broad daylight, and their bodies were set ablaze under a sign, "No patience for weirdos." Authorities are still investigating.

Other programs have been on the rise, especially in the northeastern United States, where Jeffrey Adamaski has founded the Laughter Lives program to rescue unemployed clowns and find work for them in the community.

"The American northeast is one of the few remaining bastions of progressive thought in the country, and I felt something needed to be done before the current administration carried through with its plans for concentration camps for unemployed clowns."

--Jeffrey Adamaski, Laughter Lives

To his credit, Adamaski has found jobs for over three hundred unemployed clowns. Detractors will point out that over half of these jobs are unpaid, volunteer jobs that only add to the clowns' frustration and desire for alcoholic beverages. One clown, Maggie MacGiggles, who works as entertainment in a biker bar in Maine, did not have much good to say about Adamaski's program.

"Adamaski, who I prefer to call 'I'm an asshole,' got me this 'job,' sure. You want to know what kind of gig this is? A shit gig. I get paid in booze and hamburgers. I get my ass grabbed by drunk bikers all night long. In order to pay my rent I have to go down on at least six of those motherfuckers every night after last call. When I told Adamaski what was going on he sent me some pamphlets on saving the rainforest."

--Maggie MacGiggles, Clown

Is there an answer for the growing problem of out of work alcoholic clowns? At this point it is hard to say. Perhaps we simply need to extend a hand of understanding and kindness to these hard luck cases. Maybe the next time you see one passed out in a bus station you could wake him up and offer him a couple hundred dollars to entertain at your child's next birthday party. Maybe you could buy him or her a nice Cobb salad and a Dr. Pepper at the food court of a nearby mall. Lend a hand. Help a clown. If you don't, who will?

In Dothan, Alabama, it is 9 AM, and the temperature is already well over 90 degrees, and the humidity is close to saturated. That is the first reason why you may not want to be in Dothan's bombed over downtown, but there are many more: the empty lots that define the downtown of this once proud city now seem to be nothing more than masses of broken concrete, weeds, cockroaches and suspicious looking drifters. Someone would have to be insane to be out here. And someone definetly is.

HEY hey heyyy!!! People have always told me I was a little bit loooney!!! I suppose that is why I got in the line of work that I did! says Fubbly Bubble Twice-as-Tubbily, a 40 year old clown with a pie in one hand, and a bag of litter in an another.

Life has been hard for Dothan's clowns in the past few years. The economy hasn't been too good, and a hip, younger generation looks askew at the humor of yesteryear, when a twirling bowtie, lapel mounted squirting flower, and banana peel could provide top quality entertainment. But the clowns aren't taking this lying down: they are trying to make a positive difference. That is why Dothan's clowns, led by F.B.T.-a.-T. (who is considered the senior clown because his wig and shoes are the largest), are out cleaning up litter first thing in the morning. Around noon, they will break for a short lunch (consisting of cream pies licked off their faces), work on some comedy material, and then go off to their afternoon task: hauling off the branches of trees downed in one the area's frequent hurricanes.

We have to keep a positive spin!!! One of the Clowns, identified as Babble Apple Orange, added, spinning his bowtie to punctuate his point. The clowns all nod in agreement.

Across town, at the local Waffle House, there is another group of professionals also awake, but they weren't early risers: they have been up since getting off of swing shift at the accounting plant. These young accountants have been up all night, drinking endless refills of coffee while drawing obscene caricatures of the waitress on the napkins. When they finally stumble into the sun, eyes blurry from caffeine intoxication, the waitress will find that the degrading pictures aren't her only reward: she will also find a tip, a long with a note explaining in accounting term the mistakes she made that brought her short from the standard 15% tip.

If questioned about their ill behavior, the accountants might point out that they are much better than the local paralegals, who are probably sleeping off a Boone's Farm induced stupor behind the local CVS. The Houston County Sheriff will tell you what just about any small county sheriff will tell you: clowns are one of the most decent, law abiding, constructive elements in any town or city.

It's not just anecdotal evidence, however: The US Census has recently released figures that show that clowns, as a group, have less of a rate of alcoholism, drug abuse, impulsive behavior, sexual deviancy, indebtedness, public nudity and illiteracy than almost any other profession. And in recent years, despite high rates of unemployment in the clowning industry, these figures continue to go down, showing that Clowns may slip, but don't fall down.

Yet public stereotypes of out of work, alcoholic clowns continue. Why is this? Is it fear, laziness, refusal to think, people wanting to maintain an air of superiority, and all the other things that drive some people to categorize others. I think that it is time for all Americans to educate ourselves about the true state of Clowning, and get rid of their outmoded, hurtful stereotypes.

Or, as Woogawombo the Tumbling Fool would say (sic): "Why can't we all be friends? Is it because I through this pie in your face?"

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