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Clowns Fight 'Creepy' Image, 'Clownism' (VIDEO)

First Posted: 08/18/11 05:45 PM ET Updated: 10/22/11 06:12 AM ET

Clowns Fight Creepy Tag
America's clowns are mad as hell at being called creepy and aren't going to take it any more.

Clowns devote their lives to making people laugh, but there are some things that are no joke to them -- like being called "creepy." That term makes many clowns as red as their rubber noses.

While the creepy label is now commonly thrown around like confetti at a 3-year-old's birthday party, it wasn't always that way.

Believe it or not, clowns were beloved characters for thousands of years, and their crazy antics, acrobatics and slapstick were considered important forms of social communication and, in some cases, social protest.

The "clowns are creepy" meme is a new, and according to one clown, if anyone is to blame for making life sad for people who try to make us laugh, it's Stephen King.

Paul Kleinberger -- who performs as Fuddi Duddy the Clown around Albany, N.Y. -- says King's 1986 novel, "It," with its evil clown character Pennywise, is blamed by most contemporary clowns for hurting their image.

"Some people say that if it wasn't for Stephen King, clowns would have an easier time," Kleinberger told HuffPost Weird News. "I don't know if that's the case. I mean, when someone tells me they're afraid of clowns, I say, 'Well, I'm afraid of bankers.'

"People have to understand: A clown deals with feeling. When you meet a clown, you don't remember what they look like, but you remember how they made you feel," he said.

John Wayne Gacy didn't help clowns' image, either; he committed serial murders while performing as "Pogo the Clown."

But New York-based clown Chris Lueck believes that any animosity that exists towards clowns is actually a reflection of the critic's own unhappiness.

"There is a freedom in clown and if you see someone being free and you're not, it can be threatening," he said.

Lueck, who also teaches slapstick ("It's a great aerobic workout"), says dealing with people who hate or fear clowns is part of the job. Still, he thinks "clownism" is an exaggeration.

"Some people may be clownphobic," he said. "However, others are just commenting on it. It's funny that they're telling me they're afraid of clowns because it's usually when I'm dressed as a clown."

Lueck says many clown haters will blame their fears on an incident in their early lives, but he thinks that they were merely conditioned by others to think negatively.

"Here's a perfect example: I was performing at a birthday party for a one-year-old and it was late in the day when the family wanted to take photos," Lueck related. "The mom shoves the kid in my face and he starts crying. Mom says, 'I guess he's afraid of clowns.

"The grandmother then came up and took the baby and, again, he started crying. She said, 'I think he needs a nap,' and I joked, 'I guess he's afraid of grandmas.'"

Yes, many clowns such as Boss Clown Dustin of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus will bet their best pair of floppy shoes that the media is to blame for the promotion of clown creepiness.

"Krusty from 'The Simpsons' and the Insane Clown Posse have really given clowns a bad name," he said. "Of course, that is Hollywood, but that doesn't represent professional clowns."

Still, he won't deny that clowns can be scary.

"Here are some scary things about clowns," he said. "Our hair can look horrible in the morning. We're just like you, but we wear 15 pounds of makeup every single day -- which is kind of crazy."

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