Viral videos of weapon-wielding, scary clowns are hurting the bottom line for local clowns. Event bookings have plummeted, and even adult parties are cancelling because a guest has a fear of clowns.
John Pansze, from Yukon, told the Journal Record’s Brian Brus that he is dreading the remake of Stephen King’s It later this year, in which a clown preys on children.
“Clowns are on the out right now,” said the Yukon resident, who also goes by the name Sponji the Clown. “Anyone can put on a frightening face and a clown outfit and destroy the art of clowning that we’ve developed over the centuries. It takes no talent, and it’s driven people away.
“My showings are almost next to nothing,” he said. “This upcoming movie isn’t going to help anything.”
Pansze says he now promotes his animal balloon skills to get business.
Journal Record editor Ted Streuli, in his weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma, told KGOU that pop culture has primarily hurt clowns over the past few years.
“There haven’t been many books or movies that have shown clowns in a very positive way. You think about movies like It or the Joker character in Batman, or scary clowns at haunted houses. There just aren’t a lot of positive images,” Streuli said. “And so those who are marking a living at it have really been damaged by those portrayals.”
Streuli says clowns feel their reputation has been damaged, much more so than other professions that are portrayed in scary ways.
“You see a doctor at almost haunted house, for example, but those jobs don’t get painted with a broadly negative brush the way clowns have,” Streuli said.
Jacob McCleland: Ted, Trump’s proposal keeps level spending for Pell Grants. Why are some people worried?
Ted Streuli: The plan would take about $3.9 billion annually from unobligated carryover funds. During the 2015-16 school year, for example, the U.S. government disbursed about $28 billion in grants, and taking $4 billion from that eventually could cut down on the number of grants available. That’s particularly worrisome after an economic downturn when demand for those grants tends to jump.
McCleland: Would this hurt students who are starting at a college or university next year?
Streuli: No, not at all. There wouldn’t be any immediate effect. The concern is more about depleting reserves that could be needed later on.
McCleland: State appropriations for higher education took a big cut last year, and another hit is possible this year. Could the president’s budget proposal also hurt the bottom line for colleges and universities?
Streuli: Well, it could eventually. The state’s largest institutions, including the UCO, OSU and certainly OU, received more than $20 million each. During the 2016 school year, Oklahoma City University,with a much smaller student body got about $1.5 million, and even at that amount, if it were to disappear from those schools budgets, would be very hard to replace.
McCleland: About how many students receive Pell Grants in Oklahoma each year?
Streuli: Oh, it’s a huge number. During the 2014-2015 school year, there were more than 85,000 Oklahoma students who received grants, that combined total more than $300 million.
McCleland: Has the assistance available through Pell Grants been able to kept up with the rising cost of higher education? In other words, as higher education gets more expensive, have the grant amounts increased?
Streuli: Well they haven’t really kept up at all. The maximum amount somebody can get is about $6,000 per year. That’s enough to cover typically about one-third of students’ tuition. Those Pell Grants used to cover more than 70 percent of the tuition bill.
McCleland: Ted, I also want to ask you about the clowning business. Journal Record reporter Brian Brus spoke with several local clowns for a story, and he writes business for them is down. What’s going on here?
Streuli: The clown business has been bad especially since last summer’s reports of these weapon-wielding, creepy clowns in the communities across the U.S. who were seemingly trying to lure people into real danger. Clown event bookings took a nosedive and even adult party appearances canceled at the last minute because someone invited to the party was afraid of clowns.
McCleland: So scary clowns really put a damper on last year. Are clowns optimistic things will get better later this year?
Streuli: Well they’re not. They’re afraid that because of the remake of the movie It that is being released, that’s based on a Stephen King horror novel about an evil clown that preys upon children, and they’re afraid that’s just going to add to the downturn.
McCleland: In the past, how has pop culture hurt, or helped, the clowning business in the past?
Streuli: You know, in recent it’s mostly hurt. There just haven’t been many books or movies that have shown clowns in a very positive way. You think about movies like It or the Joker character in Batman, or scary clowns at haunted houses. There just aren’t a lot of positive images, and so those who are making a living at it have really been damaged by those portrayals.
McCleland: Do these clowns feel their reputations have been hurt by threatening clowns and movies such It or, as you mentioned earlier, the Joke from Batman?
Streuli: Absolutely. They mentioned that you see other professions portrayed in scary ways. You see a doctor at almost haunted house, for example, but those jobs don’t get painted with a broadly negative brush the way clowns have.
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