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Clown Shortage: True or False

9:49 PM, Feb 20, 2014   |    comments
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Steve Smith worked as a clown for 43 years and now he's guiding young students at Sarasota's Circus Arts Conservatory down the same path.
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Sarasota, Florida -- Steve Smith worked as a clown for 43 years and now he's guiding young students at Sarasota's Circus Arts Conservatory down the same path.

"We teach them to respect the craft and to respect the art that dates back to 2100 BC," says Smith who's the creative director for Sarasota's Circus Arts Conservatory.

With the profession's longevity, Smith says there will never be a shortage for laughter.

"Humor is a tonic for the soul. We all need laughter, it's a relief valve."

Right now, word is spreading of a nationwide shortage of clowns. One that started when the World Clown Association reported its membership numbers drop from 3,500 to 2,700.

"The membership has declined, but that doesn't mean most performers are not clowning. They just don't join," says Bob Neil, vice-president for the World Clown Association.

Neil says, typically, younger clowns don't join the WCS but still work. The WCS educates clowns on technique, wardrobe and makeup. Their members work part-time at birthday parties, churches and nursing home events.

"It's a tough business to make a permanent or full-time job out of it," says Neil.

While the shortage isn't true, Neil says it has raised awareness to the art of being a clown. Neil says their website has received more than 1,800 hits in 24 hours compared to the average 225 hits each month.

A clown shortage? Not so, says 26-year-old Taylor Albin the boss clown for Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus' Red Unit.

"Definitely no clown shortage, especially here at Ringling Brothers," says Albin.

No shortage, indeed, based on last year's audition turnout to be one of 28 clowns with the Greatest Show on Earth. 

"Counting all resumes, video applications and auditions, a total of 4,000 people auditioned last year."

Out of that group Albin says 14 clowns joined the circus.

Circus clowns will only say they are "well paid." Neil estimates part time clowns make about $100-300 an hour depending on what region of the country they live in and their talent. A recent college graduate with a business degree makes $55,635.

Albin graduated with a business degree and had a high-paying job offer when he says he decided to "follow his heart and passion" and auditioned for Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2009. 

For more information on the next clown audition March 12th click here.

A year later, he received the call to join the circus. Albin says everyday he lives the "magic" he experienced as a kid when he visited the circus with his family.

Whether it's a circus clown under the big top or a clown at a kid's birthday party they all clown around for the same reasons.

Albin says besides making people laugh he loves what the circus offers families.

"Seeing a family come to our show, sit there, forget their worries, check reality at the door and enjoy themselves as a family."

"Clowning is not about money clowning is from the heart," says Neil.

Smith says besides learning the skills, the timing the ultimate goal is the same. "Our task is to spread joy," he says.

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