Wearing a patchwork of vibrant colors, Ken Ken the Clown fashions a flower out of yellow and pink balloons, and smiles broadly.
One of many first skilled clowns in Hong Kong, the 35-year-old says that for the previous 15 years he has been pursuing what he calls a “optimistic” profession that “makes folks blissful”.
Usually totally booked, Ken Ken can earn as a lot as HK$550,000 ($71,000; ÂŁ57,000) per yr. And such is the persevering with recognition of hiring a clown in Hong Kong for youths’ events that he’s removed from alone.
Whereas he reduce a lone determine again in 2001, Ken Ken says that in the present day there are as many as 50 different skilled clowns within the particular administrative area, and that the quantity is rising quick.
The truth is, such is the present demand for clowns in Hong Kong that employment businesses are organising courses to coach up folks.
One such company is Grace Coaching and Improvement Centre. Enya Hui, one in all its employment officers, says that clowning is now a “viable profession path”.
The present recognition of clowns in Hong Kong is in marked distinction to the woes confronted by the entertainers within the US and Europe, who this yr have needed to endure the so-called “creepy clown craze”.
This unlikely phenomenon on either side of the Atlantic noticed folks dressing up as scary clowns to terrify youngsters and adults alike. It led to some faculties going so far as even banning youngsters from speaking in regards to the craze.
In opposition to such a backdrop it’s not stunning that clowns within the US and Europe have not too long ago discovered bookings tougher to come back by – mums and dads are usually not more likely to rent a clown for his or her kid’s party if their toddler is now frightened of them.
What’s much less well-known is that the clowning business has been in long-term decline in its established markets, with the World Clown Affiliation saying that membership numbers have fallen by nearly a 3rd over the previous 10 years, from about three,500 to 2,500.
So why are clowns struggling within the US and Europe, however booming in Hong Kong and different Asian international locations, comparable to India?
When not performing as a clown Ken Ken’s actual title is Kenneth Ng. Describing his clown persona as “a contented and hyperactive five-year-old”, Mr Ng says that it took him 10 years to develop the character.
Whereas he at all times performs the identical function, he says that “each efficiency is completely different”.
With as much as 100 performances a yr, plus revenue from coaching different clowns at a weekly class, Mr Ng earns sufficient cash from being a clown for it to be his solely occupation.
That is in marked distinction to most clowns within the US and Europe, who often want one other job to complement their revenue.
Julie Varholdt, 52, a fourth-generation clown from Phoenix, Arizona, says typical clown within the US earns simply $14,000 (ÂŁ11,400) a yr. That is 5 occasions lower than Mr Ng, so one cause for the rising recognition of clowning in Hong Kong however decline within the US is inevitably monetary.
Ms Varholdt says she is ready to make sufficient cash from being a clown – referred to as Beautiful Buttons – to not require a second supply of revenue, however that it is not a straightforward experience.
“It takes lots of work to be a full-time entertainer, it’s important to market your self consistently, and work to safe your gigs,” she says.
Within the Indian metropolis of Mumbai, Martin “Flubber” D’Souza is one other full-time clown. He says he feels “empowered” when he turns into his character.
Regardless of his household’s objections the 47-year-old grew to become an expert clown after finishing two college levels, one in physics and one other in administration.
He now earns a great residing each performing himself, and working a clown rent enterprise that has 80 different performers, all college college students, on its books.
Mr D’Souza says extra younger Indians need to turn into clowns as a result of “the youth of in the present day are on the lookout for an alternate type of schooling and employment”.
He provides: “They’re tired of standard nine-to-five jobs, and clowning has turn into respectable.”
- The primary clowns are believed to have been entertainers in Historic Egypt
- The primary fashionable clown was a person referred to as Joseph Grimaldi (depicted above), who within the UK within the early 19th Century was the primary to color his face white and add a pink smile
- Yearly in London, on the primary Sunday in February, clowns collect for a church service to honour and keep in mind Joseph Grimaldi
- Worldwide Clown Week takes place yearly in October. The US additionally has a Nationwide Clown Week each August
- Some folks have at all times been frightened of clowns. The phenomenon known as coulrophobia
- The actual title of Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons is Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofsky
Mr D’Souza additionally thanks the recognition of Indian movies.
“In India many children are taking on dancing and performing due to Bollywood. I actually imagine there is a starvation for the stage and recognition as a result of everybody needs to face out.
“Immediately dad and mom aren’t shy to say that their son or daughter is a clown.”
One other distinction between clowning in Asia and that within the US and Europe is a big age hole.
“You do not discover lots of younger clowns within the West,” says Mr D’Souza. The typical age of clowns in Asia is between 25 and 30, whereas within the West, the common age is over 50.
“Within the West they do not consider clowning as a profitable profession… however in Asia individuals are actually taking a look at it as an alternative choice to an workplace or manufacturing unit job.”
As mentioned, the issue for many clowns within the West is that it would not pay an amazing deal. Not less than outdoors of working for the likes of circus teams Ringling Bros and Cirque de Soleil, and Disney.
To draw extra clowns within the US and Europe there’ll have to be a rise in recognition, which might increase demand and subsequently earnings. This can be someday away.
Nevertheless Kenny Ahern, co-owner of Wisconsin-based Clown Camp, the world’s largest clown faculty, says he isn’t nervous.
“Clowning has not lasted all through time with out cause, and I do not anticipate it to be going anyplace,” he says.