Ever get the feeling you’re living in a society modelled on a Chris Morris spoof from the early noughties? Two of yesterday’s headlines involved a) exploding phones and b) the pedestrians of Britain being terrorised by clowns. What the f**k? In the aftermath of the latter, Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner of Northumbria – a woman whose stony countenance is guaranteed to freeze the ice at parties – issued the unforgettable advice ‘Don’t go outside dressed as a clown.’ The mother of a child whose school went into ‘lockdown’ after reports that clowns were in the neighbourhood said ‘You don’t know if it’s a 15-year-old that’s looking for a giggle or a 30-year-old man who’s looking to do something far, far different.’ Invasion of the Paedo Clowns? I give up.
I must admit I’ve never quite got the clown thing. I don’t find them funny and I don’t find them scary. I recall Charlie Cairoli, a man in a bowler hat and a red nose who used to have his own TV show on children’s BBC when I was six or seven; but I found his sidekick funnier – a little old man in a vest and kilt who took many a custard pie to the face. On the other side of the clown controversy, quite a few kids of my generation were apparently traumatised by Bubbles, the test card clown embroiled in the unfinished game of noughts & crosses with his schoolgirl companion, though I always found his smiling face quite appealing. Not appealing enough to dress up as a clown for a wacky laugh when a fully-grown adult, however.
What we seem to have at the moment doesn’t really reflect the merits of clowns as either funny or scary, but is more a coming together of two separate strands of contemporary moronic trends that define our dumb and dumber era: Firstly, the extended juvenile sensibilities of those who should be old enough to know better; and secondly, media hysteria generated by the social branch of the business. Both parties are as complicit as each other in the spread of a craze that requires the constant pinching of one’s arm to remember this is actually happening in the real world.
It began – as so many of Britain’s fads and fashions do today – across the pond, probably as some zany frat-school prank that the presence of social media enabled to be seen by an audience of billions in a way it wouldn’t have thirty or forty years ago, when such japes were restricted to first-hand witnesses wherever they took place. Of course, today it doesn’t take much in the way of effort for something of this nature to be beamed around the world in a matter of hours; and Brits being especially enamoured of anything that shines out of Uncle Sam’s arse meant it was bound to cross the Atlantic and be replicated by our own plentiful supply of dickheads.
Today denied the tribal youth cults that could once be relied upon to generate moral panic, Fleet Street is all too happy to get its teeth into the clown craze and a few isolated incidents have been blown up to the point whereby clowns are poised to be filed alongside ISIS on the Public Enemy Number One hit-list. Yes, you heard that right – clowns. Police are giving talks in schools, advising children not to dress up as them; and professional clowns are criticising amateurs for taking the clown out of the circus ring and onto the street. How long before questions are asked in the House and anti-clown legislation is proposed by some publicity-hungry career backbencher? I’m pretty sure I remember an episode of ‘The Goodies’ where a clown craze swept the nation in a similar fashion, though I doubt Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie anticipated a comedy show would one day pass for a documentary.
Anyone unfortunate enough to reside in an area with a large student population will be familiar with the tedious parade of weekend fancy dress victims en route to the local hostelries; how we have laughed at this weekly Red Nose Day! The clown craze would appear to be an extension of the same gormless (not to say desperate) hilarity, whereby the ongoing infantilisation of adulthood finds newer and wackier ways of expressing itself in public. I have yet to be confronted by any clowns myself, though accustomed as I am to seeing adults engaging in an activity that was once the province of actual children, the sight of one in Sainsbury’s wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. I certainly won’t be dialling 999 should that happen, nor running home and going into ‘lockdown’.
Okay, so the world is bloody grim at the moment and light relief is required in order to prevent the interior of the oven from appearing as an appetising eternal pillow; but the alternatives to doom ‘n’ gloom are so relentlessly stupid in theory and execution that it often seems as if they emanated from the same nightmare factory as the serious shit – both designed and manufactured to keep mankind in a state of simultaneous pre-pubescence and fear; in other words, under control.
© The Editor