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
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT