The Living Force
[bold, mine]EXCLUSIVE: National clown shortage may be approaching, trade organizations fear
As the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus returns to Brooklyn Thursday, membership at the country's largest clown organizations has plunged over the past decade amid declining interest, old age and higher standards for the jokesters.
By Natalie Musumeci / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Monday, February 17, 2014, 2:16 AM
Send in the clowns — please!
As the “Greatest Show on Earth” returns to Brooklyn Thursday, circus folk fear a national clown shortage is on the horizon.
Membership at the country’s largest trade organizations for the jokesters has plunged over the past decade as declining interest, old age and higher standards among employers align against Krusty, Bozo and their crimson-nosed colleagues.
“What’s happening is attrition,” said Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger, who added that membership at the Florida-based organization has plummeted since 2006. “The older clowns are passing away.”
He said he wouldn’t release specific numbers, citing the privacy of the members.
Membership at the World Clown Association, the country’s largest trade group for clowns, has dropped from about 3,500 to 2,500 since 2004.
“The challenge is getting younger people involved in clowning,” said Association President Deanna (Dee Dee) Hartmier, who said most of her members are over 40.
Kohlberger said that it’s difficult getting younger people who develop an early interest in the many facets of clowning to stick with it on the professional level.
“What happens is they go on to high school and college and clowning isn’t cool anymore,” he said. “Clowning is then put on the back burner until their late 40s and early 50s.”
Cyrus Zavieh, the president of New York Clown Alley, a group that boasts 45 members across the New York area, said clowns can pull in up to $300 for a birthday party — but that’s hardly a financial incentive for many young people.
“American kids these days are thinking about different careers altogether,” said Zavieh, 44, who has worked under the moniker Cido for nearly two decades.
“They’re thinking about everything other than clowning.”
The lack of wannabe Bozos has yet to hurt the big top at the “Greatest Show on Earth.” The 95-year-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has even implemented a more rigorous hiring process to find just the right jester.
As a result of the more challenging tryouts, just 11 clowns out of 14 who were selected from 531 applicants to attend a rigorous 14-day boot camp at the Ringling Bros. Clown College last year were offered jobs with the world-famous circus.
There’s no goofing around at the training where clowns get the chance to learn the fine points of floppy shoes and wildly colored wigs from veteran performers.
Just 12 clowns will be featured in the circus’ all-new performance at the Barclays Center called “Legends,” which will run from Thursday through March 2.
The circus keeps about 26 clowns on its roster for its three touring shows.
“Our audience expects to be wowed,” said David Kiser, Ringling Bros. director of talent. “No longer is it good enough to just drop your pants and focus on boxer shorts.”