It was another bright and beautiful day one fine weekend. I was getting ready for a birthday party that day with Party Animals and I thought to myself- I wonder if my readers would be interested in learning more about the life of a clown? Well, you're here reading this now, so you must be interested! So, I'm here to tell you the inside scoop on what it takes to be a birthday party entertainer and clown!
Now, when most people hear the word "clown" we all know what immediately comes to mind. Something creepy or scary. White makeup, big red goofy grin and red nose, crazy colorful hair. Usually the image is something like Pennywise from "It". I've heard many people express their distaste or even fear of clowns.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm a horror fan and LOVE a good creepy clown. Obviously not for regular birthday parties I entertain at though. The type of clowns we do are not the scary clowns. We always reassure our clients of that before we send entertainers out- the clowns we have are fun & cute. Maybe a cute pink wig, fun dress, and maybe little hearts on their cheeks.
When I first started, I had thought the same thing. They outfit I was given was even a standard clown outfit- Red and yellow stripes and polka dots, but they reassured us- no scary makeup. Even still, over the years I've been clowning, I've developed my own style & persona for my clowning that people have come to know and love.
One of the important things about clowning is coming up with your persona and name. This took me forever, because I was always trying out new outfits and wigs and shticks. Would I be Princess Candy? Sparkles? Cupcakes? Nothing seemed to fit, all the names were generic and nothing really brought out my "inner clown"
I've came up with a few characters for my clown, one was Princess Cotton Candy with hair made of Cotton Candy who lived in Cotton Candy Kingdom. The wig for that one is way too hot for most days. But my favorite clown persona that I've made and has shone the brightest is MISS SUNSHINE FUNSHINE!
I came up with that name from a Kenan & Kel Episode! Remember the episode when Kel made a painting and it turned out to be a beautiful masterpiece? When asked the name of his masterpiece, he loudly exclaimed- "I call it Sunset....FUNSET!!!"
The reason I went with Miss Sunshine- I bought a bright yellow dress and happened to find a big yellow Cat-in-the-Hat type hat at the Thrift Store. From there, Miss Sunshine Funshine began to take life and I started coming up with fun unique backstories for her to tell the kids, such as "I was made from a spark in the sun 456 years ago! If you look up in the sky sometimes you might see me flying around!
So Miss Sunshine Funshine was born! But obviously there's more to clowning than just your name and personality, right? While you definitely gotta have the right personality for clowning, there's so much more that goes into clowning than people may realize! It's more than just showing up and making silly balloon animals. Let's take a look into what I would do for a birthday party!
Tuesday afternoon, I get a text. "Birthday Party this Saturday from 3-5!" "Can do!"
I get the party details and I call the customer to introduce myself and go over all the exciting details! I go over directions, the activities and all that fun stuff. This makes every customer happy and excited to hear from their entertainer and know who's showing up. Sometimes I even send a pic in my Sunshine outfit so they know what to expect!
Next, comes preparation. You don't show up to any event unprepared! I have a special party suitcase that I bring all my supplies in. Before every event, I clean it out and put everything in order. I have a balloon bag with tons of balloons and 2 balloon pumps. (Always carry an extra if one breaks!) Easy enough! Next, Facepainting Supplies. I use a Kaboodle Makeup Kit to carry my brushes, sponges, glitter and other small items. Everything is washed and cleaned before each party. I have a bigger bag that I use to carry the actual Facepaints, which comes in a big kit. Snazaroo & Mehron are the best for quality Facepaints. Next, Magic. Some clowns may have a couple of tricks. I myself have been studying more magic as I want to be a magician as well, so now I've grown my magic bag for practically a full magic show! Every clown should get at least the Magic coloring book and trick rope. You can find these at any magic store! They really WOW the guests!
Balloons, Face Paint and Magic are the necessities. Next I pack any extras. I have a parachute that I also pack for parachute games and I also tell the kids that this was my parachute I used to fly down into their party. I also pack a few toys- noise makers, mini instruments, even regular coloring books for the kids to color while they wait for Face Painting. Now I pack "Smolder the Dragon" My puppet friend I've been incorporating into my act! Don't forget the music! I bring a portable speaker and use Spotify to pre-make playlists for any birthday party for kids of any ages! If there's a party theme I usually create a playlist based on that theme.
Now that you've prepped your supplies, it's time to prep yourself! Do you have jokes at the ready? Brush up on your kid-friendly jokes! My favorite one right now is - Why should you never give Elsa a balloon? Because she'll let it go! (kids and adults love that one!). Practice your improv. Kids will be firing questions at you left and right and you gotta be on your toes! In fact that's how I got the idea that I was born on the sun was from Improv at a party. "Why do they call you Miss Sunshine?" "Because I'm all yellow!" "oh just like the sun??" "yep, in fact I was BORN on the sun!" "WOW!!!" Fun and easy! Watch clowning videos to get ideas, or write yourself a comedy routine! Remember- you're the star of the party, you gotta make it shine! To an entertainer, it may be just another party but to a child- that's their BIRTHDAY! A magical time they'll be talking about with their friends for a long time! Give them something amazing and astounding! Not only will you be bringing joy and laughter to kids & adults, but you'll be building yourself a reputation and get possible new clients or repeat work! Moms will love you for it!
So now, you've got your party supplies packed and ready, it's almost time for the party! I like to make sure I arrive 15-20 minutes before. You NEVER want to be late for a party, EVER! They booked you for that time, you must be there ready to work at your designated time. I give myself plenty of extra time in case of traffic, or if I have trouble finding the place. It's much better to arrive too early and wait a little bit to start, than to be rushing out and being late!
It's showtime! Grab your supplies, and walk in the door! Once you go in, you'll have kids gathering all around you- looking at your funny outfit, wondering what's in the bag! Go in with your introduction and give extra attention to the birthday child, after all it is their special day! I like to tell them I heard it was (Their name)'s very special birthday party and I came down from from the Cloud Circus just to see them!
I like to start off with balloons- they're easy, fun and a BIG hit! Birthday child is obviously first and then the rest! Come up with your own wacky fun things for balloons. I make a flying mouse that I tell the kids has special birthday magic that makes it fly. Think back to when you were a kid and use your imagination! This is when I like to tell some of my jokes, or do silly wacky slapstick to make them laugh.
Keep an eye on your stuff too- Little hands love to grab, and you've got a big supply bag of colorful goodies! "Now now, these are Miss Sunshine's! We say Please!" (Parents LOVE when you add in little parenting things like "eating veggies" and things like that- there's just something about hearing it from a clown that makes these "boring things" seem more fun!) Also, balloons WILL pop- especially during the hot summer! Make sure to tell the kids to take extra care of their balloons and to not let them touch the ground! When they do pop (sometimes while you're making them) make it fun because it startles most people- I just like to yell in a goofy voice "OH NOOOOOO! Looks like I used a little too much birthday magic!"
Next is my favorite part- Face Painting! I tell everyone it's time for Face Painting, to make a line, birthday child first while I set up. Adults usually step in and help at this stage because kids are all over the place and everyone wants to be first, which of course is just impossible! Face painting is my favorite because I'm an artist and it's a new medium I can work in- a moving canvas! Yes, those heads will be moving up and down and every which way while you work. It takes a steady hand and lots of practice! I've been using a little toy that I'll say "okay, now look over this way" while I'm painting. I also hold my painting arm to keep it steady. I have a Face paint book I take with me to show them designs and I'm working on my own design book to bring. Be careful what you show them- some kids want some big intense detailed face paint and can be disappointed if you can't do them. Watch your timing during the party. Usually we stick to simple cheek face paint or even a mask, but try not to do the Full face coverup (especially during the hot sweaty summer season!) I like to give them choices, if you simply ask them "What would you like?" They will be sitting there thinking it over for a while! Instead I'll say "Would you like a beautiful butterfly mask, or maybe pretty princess swirls? I can also do a cool snake or a spider!" Giving them pre-made choices helps them with their decision faster and helps you because then you can do the ones you're best at! (Never be afraid to try new things though! Keep practicing!)
Once Face paint is over, it's time to pack up those paints! Some of those balloons might have popped so you may have to redo a couple. Depending on how much time is left, I like to either play a game or finish off with a magic show! For games, make them up! Search up kids' games to play at parties. Freeze Dance, Duck Duck Goose, Simon Says and such are all good ones! I like to end things with a BANG which is why I love doing magic at the very end. By then, the kids are usually tired from running around with the balloons and playing the games so they'll sit still for a magic show.
Then that's it! Say your goodbyes and that it's time to head back to the circus. I love to announce to everyone there "Thank you so much for inviting me to the party! I had a magical time! I left some of our party cards out so I hope you'll think of me for your next party!" Yes, leave lots of cards out with your name on them! Other parents will be there and if they loved you, they will be calling requesting you at their next party! If you did an extra special magical job, sometimes you'll even get an extra tip from the parent! (Standard tips $10-$40. I got one once that was $90! WOW!) So you can make quite a bit of money from entertaining at parties!
Sounds like fun right? That's because it IS! I've been doing this for 10 years now and I never thought I'd love it as much as I do. What started as a part-time job in college has turned into a lifelong passion. I love the joy it brings to kids & adults, I love being in the spotlight, I love coming up with routines and jokes and practicing magic. Since I've done these I've been working on my entertainment skills- voice acting, puppetry, magic, and so forth. Practicing these things has only made me into a better entertainer- which in turn leads to bigger tips and more parties!
The job isn't for everyone and that's okay! I've had people come to shadow a party that were just too overwhelmed by all of it- all the kids and how many activities you have to do. It's intense! You also have to be very confident- you're going in wearing a goofy outfit, people will sometimes laugh and point (You're a clown, so that's good!). Ever since the clown epidemic last year in 2016 I've even gotten remarks about that! You also have to work with kids and adults of all types! Most are very very nice, others may be judgmental or just not pleased. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt and do everything with a smile. They're probably stressed or tired from all the event planning. Just do your best and everything will be okay! :)
So, that's what it's like being a clown! It's a very rewarding year-round job. I've been all over Atlanta entertaining at Parties & Festivals. You get to meet all sorts of people and see lots of cool things! The biggest joy out of all of it, is seeing the smile and joy on everyone's faces! Those "Wow" moments, the big smiles, the way they whisper to their friends about the funny clown, telling their mommies and daddies what the clown made for them, getting their pictures done. Just bringing joy and laughter to kids and adults makes this one of the most magical jobs ever!
Thanks for taking the time to read "My Life as a Thirty-Something Clown" Have any questions or comments? Tweet at me @Kitsulie I'd love to hear from you!
Blue Skies! Enjoy the Chaos & Stay TOONed!