BERRIEN SPRINGS, MICH. - The World Clown Association is fighting back.
“Whoever is doing this is not a clown,” WCA President Randy Christensen said about the growing hysteria over the creepy clowns. “A person wearing a mask and jeans — that’s not a clown. If somebody dresses like a doctor and is in a haunted house and is coming at you with a chainsaw, he is not really a doctor.”
Indeed, these are troubling times for legitimate clowns. The WCA, headquartered in Berrien Springs, represents more than 2,000 clowns from 30 countries. They’ve been around for more than 30 years, and the last thing they want to see is their reputation tarnished by a few bad apples.
“A number of our members aren’t sure what to do,” Christensen said in a phone interview from his home in Minnesota. “There’s a grandma who was about to do a clown show for a first-grader’s birthday party … but now she’s afraid to do the party because she’s getting prank calls from people who are saying they want to hunt her down because she’s a clown.”
Christensen said most of the WCA members decided to become clowns because they love making people laugh and smile.
“These are professional performers who visit children in hospital wards … they go to senior homes and they perform for veterans,” he said. “We have people who do rodeos, circuses and charity work. Most of them take it up as a hobby.”
His son, Ben Christensen, lives in Canton and is the Midwest director for the WCA. His two other children, Brooke and Shane, also do clown performances. It’s a family tradition that dates back decades.
“I began performing in 1980,” said Christensen, whose main character is Simon De Clown. “A friend taught me how to juggle, and one day I went with him to a children’s ward at a hospital and saw the joy and hope he was bringing to these kids. I knew right away it was something I wanted to do.”
Incidents around the country involving the creepy clowns have everyone on high alert. Christensen read a story online where a clown was spotted lurking in the woods. It turned out to be a high school student taking photographs.
“The whole thing is driven by social media and mob hysteria,” he said. “Sadly, in our culture right now, we’re in a place where people are reacting violently to all kinds of things. It kind of breaks our hearts … and I don’t want to be a clown with a broken heart.”
Most of all, he wishes people would quit describing the pranksters as clowns.
“We’re the good, clean fun wholesome characters,” he said. “Almost all the clowns I know got started in this business because they wanted to give back to their community and bring a smile. Just because someone is wearing a Halloween mask does not make them a clown.”