I really expected a roomful of clowns to be louder than this, I thought to myself as I shifted uncomfortably in my plastic seat. For some reason I hadn’t thought people trying out for clown jobs actually wore their outfits to the auditions, and showed up in t-shirt and jeans. I was, in fact, completely wrong.
There must have been fifty clowns crammed in the room which, believe me, wasn’t that big. The guy on my left kept turning and staring at the side of my face. I could see him out of the corner of my eye. He was making me very uncomfortable. A couple of times I looked over just past him, pretending to look at something else, and he would look away but as soon as I looked back down at my feet he’d be staring at me again.
He had a tiny, tiny top hat perched at a cocky angle on his bald, white head. Two large blue tears drops dribbled out out of his right eye. The man looked ridiculous. Even by clown standards.
I mumbled this to him, to break the tension: -How many of the people in this room, do you think could fit into a Volkswagen Beetle?
He didn’t answer me at first, not until I looked over at him, even then it wasn’t truly an answer. -Did you go to Clown College? he asked me.
I kind of laughed. -No.
-Yeah, he spat, and turned away. -I somehow didn’t think so.
He turned back to me. -You really think they’re gonna hire YOU?
-Maybe, I said.
-Maybe? You don’t even dress like a clown.
-That’s my schtick, I lied, just to see if it would piss him off. It did.
He turned slowly. -That’s your schtick, eh? Huh? That’s your schtick? Man, you don’t even know what schtick means. Who ever heard of a clown that dresses like you? That’d be a pretty depressing clown. A pretty sad party, I should say . . . yeah, that’d make a lot of children pretty sad. You make me sick.
-I’m funny, ok? I countered.
He leaned over, I could smell onions on his breath. I could just imagine him eating onion sandwiches all by himself in his trailer. -It takes more than just . . . ‘funny’ to be a REAL clown.
-Yeah? I asked.
-Yeah. It takes stamina, man, OK? It takes character . . . timing. DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYING? It takes heart. OK? HEART!
-Yeah, I said.
-I mean, I mean, it takes a daily commitment. A daily commitment to look in the mirror every morning and say, “Ok, no, I’m not going to be a doctor like mom wanted. I’m not going to even be a garbage man, like she begged. I am a clown. But. I am going to be the best damned clown I can be! I’m going to make Billy’s party today the best party anyone ever saw . . . does that make any sense to you?
I hadn’t been listening fully ever since he made the comment about the garbage man. -Who’s Billy? I asked.
-THERE IS NO BILLY! he screamed. -I made him up to illustrate a point, son, don’t you see that? How can you ever be a clown if you can’t even see THAT? I work my heart out, day in day out to scrape together a living as a clown and I took the time and money to get my credentials, my PhD in Clownology, and you . . . you waltz in here, no diploma, and think you can just take over. That’s what your generation is like, all of you. YOU MAKE ME WANNA PUKE!
At that moment an executive opened a door at the other end of the room. I thought he was coming in to see what the ruckus was, but instead he called out: -Baron Von Hoopla?
I stood up. -That’s me.
-BARON? bellowed the clown to my left. -Baron Von Clownsky? Yeah, that’s cute, Mac . . . that’s real GOD DAMNED CUTE!
I didn’t even try to say anything as I made my way through a roomful of clown eyes all glued to me, there was nothing to say. I just walked up the to executive, who appeared confused. Just as I passed through the door I heard the clown shout out: -You SUCK, man!
Then the door snapped shut behind me. I looked at the executive, and shrugged. That clown had a chip on his shoulder the size of a cream pie.