Skip to main content

A real clown wouldn't mock Obama

By Judy Quest, Special to CNN
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Tue August 27, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Judy Quest: Offensive act by "clown" at Missouri fair mocked Obama; this is not real clowning
  • Quest, a clown for 32 years, says clown ethics discourage hurtful, racist, sexual humor
  • She says rodeo clown sent bad message to children in crowd about respect for president
  • Quest: Clowns are meant to bring happiness, not hurt

Editor's note: Judy Quest is a board member and past president of Clowns of America International, an organization of clowns that promotes the craft. She has been a clown for 32 years and has trained hundreds of clowns. She writes regularly for clown journals.

(CNN) -- It was a sad day in the clown world when a "clown" at the Missouri State Fair put on a mask in the likeness of President Barack Obama and wore a broomstick attached to his behind to perform in a rodeo in America's Heartland.

Some would ask: How this is different from late-night pundits making mocking comments about every political person alive? It is different in that it goes against everything a clown stands for and makes fun of our president in a way that is truly offensive on so many levels.

As someone who has performed as a "real" clown for 32 years and has taught the craft to hundreds of clowns, I would like the world to know that we have a code of ethics that we adhere to so that our life of making the world smile goes on without hurting people. Among the ethics is a ban on "blue humor."

Judy Quest
Judy Quest

This mean no sexual or racial humor. The joke always needs to be on us and never on an audience member. If someone is offended or made the "victim" of a joke, it is totally against what the clown community would consider funny.

So what is this clown community and where do I get these ethics?

One of the main international clown organizations based in the United States is Clowns of America, International. We are 3,000 members strong and are organized into clown "alleys," groups that perform together.

As part of our training, and really the training of most clowns, we have a strict code of ethics covering such things as drinking while clowning, cleanliness and remaining in character. We take offense at the actions of the rodeo "clown" because we are strictly trained not to offend anyone while "in clown."

The individual who took on the role of a clown in Missouri might have made some people laugh, but it was at the expense of so many others.

What of the children who were in the audience and being taught to respect our president and government? What of every person in the audience who hates racism? What of the officials of the state of Missouri who are now the focus of national attention in this negative light?

Rodeo clown: Obama mask a joke
Rodeo clown the latest anti-Obama jab

Forgive me for taking this forum to air another form of "clown" I find very offensive: the horror clown.

In my travels as "Dear Heart" the clown, I encounter many people of all ages who are afraid of clowns. Perhaps some are afraid of anyone who is behind makeup, but most have had the experience of a house of horror where a person dressed as a clown has frightened them and, in doing so, has robbed them of fun and playful experiences for life.

Being a "real clown" takes training, money and a lot of time. We each develop a character that is an extension of ourselves. Real clowns have clown hearts long before we put on makeup.

Our goal is to make the world a happier place. One part of our national organization, Red Nose Response, allows clowns go to places where there have been disasters and pitch in -- helping to distribute needed supplies but also helping to keep the spirits of people up.

I am most proud when I come home having given a balloon flower to an elderly person who responds with a big smile or having taught a child who is in a hospital long-term the basics of juggling.

And so what is there that I have described about "real clowns" that applies to the Missouri rodeo performer? Absolutely nothing.

As for the people in Texas who have said he would be welcome to perform there: Please think about that and what you are really doing.

I believe that people today desperately need a reason to smile and a chance to forget their troubles for a moment and laugh. These laughs are most cherished if they are only for fun and do not offend or hurt another human being.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Judy Quest.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 4:49 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 10:59 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT