Trav SD Speaks: When Did the Circus Become Un-American?

My friend Trav SD, who writes the wonderful blog Travalanche, recently published the speech he gave at the Coney Island Congress of Curious Peoples.  He was the keynote speaker, The topic is When Did the Circus Become Un-American. (or more accurately, when did the American Circus Become Un-American) Dick Zigun (founder of Coney Island Circus Sideshow) had suggested the topic to him.

Trav goes on a wild and historic ride through circuses past and present, and presents the startling thesis that the American Circus became Un-American a long long time ago. (but in this galaxy, not some other galaxy.  It’s not Star Wars over here!)




I encourage you to read the post, available here on Trav’s blog Travalanche:

When Did The Circus Become UnAmerican? By Trav SD

Here is a small excerpt to whet your appetite.

(I’m selecting an excerpt about clowns, because Clownlink.)

Trav SD

Photo of Trav SD giving the keynote speech “When Did The Circus Become Un-American.” Photo by Norman Blake

For the past few years there’s been this apparent mass psychosis/ fad involving terror of clowns. When you say this, the clown-phobes are always like, “No, I’ve always been afraid of clowns.” Well, that may be so, but there is a distinct difference between a FIVE year old being irrationally terrified of a children’s birthday clown, and a THIRTY FIVE YEAR OLD needing to be held.

That said, I find the indignation of clowns equally amusing. They always take this tone of, “What do you mean being afraid of clowns, who only bring joy and wonder to the world?” That, too, is a disingenuous self-denial. Anyone who has studied the history of clown, knows that it goes back to the earliest origins of mankind, and it’s always been intrinsically a little scary. That too is part of its function. You don’t put on that grotesque make-up because you want to make people super-comfortable at their familiar surroundings. You’re throwing things off base a little, knocking the globe off its axis. Otherwise there would be no outlandish get-up. You would just be an actor or a stand up comedian! The clown has always been a mix of funny and scary: always. Al Lewis in the Ric Burns Coney Island documentary talks about loving the scary leering face of the Steeplechase Clown over the gates as you walked in.  It’s fun, but it’s also unexpected, otherworldy, abnormal. DESIRABLY so. Otherwise stay home, under the covers.


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