By Alice Chen
For Celine Bart, being a clown is no laughing matter. As a professional clown, children’s entertainer and solo entrepreneur, Bart spends her weekends face painting, performing magic and creating balloon animals at birthdays, community events and corporate parties.
“I have to say it is like the funnest [sic] business you could ever have,” she says. “I love meeting the kids, doing silly stuff and making them laugh.”
With the runaway success of Stephen King novel-based horror movie “It,” clowns have once again been thrust into the media spotlight. Echoing 2016’s “killer clown” craze, the film has re-ignited the public’s fear of clowns, with The World Clown Association decrying this trend for taking jobs away from industry professionals.
Bart, who goes by Twinkles the Clown while performing, admits that these negative perceptions have had an impact on her.
“These kinds of things make it difficult for us professional clowns. We’re trying to make a living,” Bart says. “I’ve even had little kids, five-year-old kids, asking ‘Are you a killer clown?’”
Bart doesn’t match the movie image of a clown. In fact, she regularly volunteers in long-term care facilities, chatting and clowning for elderly patients.
But she’s learned to take things in stride.
“I’ve just started saying ‘No, I’m not a killer clown and I don’t really believe in killer clowns and killer clowns are fake clowns anyways,’ so that’s my rebuttal to the whole thing.”
Companies like Clowns at Party California also want to stress that they just want to bring joy to the kids.
Bart first got into the field after seeing a story in the Toronto Star about clowns at the Sick Kids Hospital. It inspired her enough to leave her job in social work and learn how to be a clown at a local clown alley – essentially a place that provides resources to those in the industry. She’s stayed in the field over the 20 years that have passed since then.
And for some entertainers like Cory Clarke/The Magical Duda, who brands himself as more of a magician, the turn away from clowns has been beneficial.
“If anything, I get more bookings as clients choose magicians over clowns,” he writes in an email.
Still, despite some disadvantageous public sentiments, Bart remains confident that the average person doesn’t have a problem with clowns.
“Phone’s still ringing! In some ways, it’s hard to know but I don’t feel like there’s been a drop in people hiring me…I think [perceptions are] pretty good because otherwise we wouldn’t be in business,” she says. “There are lots of entertainers who are making a good living at it.”
And ultimately, for many in the field like Bart, the job is a dream come true.
“I have this little saying in my bedroom, it says ‘do what you love, love what you do’ and I do feel like I’m very lucky to be doing this because I really do love it.”