Skip to main content

A real clown wouldn't mock Obama

By Judy Quest, Special to CNN
August 27, 2013 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT