Now I realize that 99.999% of the people on the face of the world would rather see someone coming their way with a cheerful smiley face on, rather than deal with a perpetually frowning downer.
Still, I always roll my eyes when I think of the lyrics:
Be a clown, be a clown. All the world loves a clown.
Cause, let’s face it, this just ain’t true.
Sure, there may be plenty of folks who love a clown.I just don’t happen to know any of them.
At best, my family and friends are clown indifferent. More than likely, they’re clown fearers. Or clown loathers. Or clown fearers and loathers.
I come down on the side of clown loather, and this has been true since I outgrew my peanut-gallery appreciation of the side-splitting antics of Howdy Doody’s Clarabelle, spritzing the unsuspecting with his seltzer bottle.
By the time Bozo the Clown began airing on Boston TV when I was nine or ten, I had joined the other camp, singing along my friends in what we thought was an uproariously funny parody of Bozo’s theme song:
Bozo, Bozo, never laughs, always frowns. Bozo, Bozo, very unfunny clown.
And when I saw clown-clowns like Emmett Kelly on TV, I never laughed. They just depressed me. I felt sorry for them.
Send in the clowns? Not me! Send those suckers out.
Who’d want to be a clown?
Well, Robert Markowitz, for one.
As he wrote in The NY Times last week, he got sick and tired of being Robert Markowitz, Attorney-at-Law, and decided to become Bobo the clown.
Going from lawyer to clown wasn’t that clean a transition, and Markowitz wnet through a bit of trial and error, which included a couple of years as a beach bum in Mexico, followed by a few more lawyering years (this time as a civil attorney, rather than handling criminal cases).
It was while volunteering on weekends, working with kids at a Sunday school, that Markowitz had a partial epiphany, and admitted that he was done with the law.
Still not sure what he was going to do, he found himself – age 37 – living back home with a mother you told him:
“You know…you’re ruining your life.”
That was one way of looking at it, but not his.
Studying want ads one evening, the one that got my blood moving promised to train me as a party clown, and send me out at $25 per show.
The good news here is that Robert Markowitz did not stay a costumed clown.
After his first clown gig, when the birthday boy at a Yonkers Ground Round where he was entertaining said, “Bobo, I love you,” Markowitz had a fuller epiphany:
In the car later, I rested my head on the steering wheel. An unexpected feeling surfaced: happiness. It turned out that I thrived in a sphere of creativity and spontaneity. The clown gig was shortlived: I donated the costume to Goodwill, picked up my old Martin guitar, and played the fool with music, writing songs like “Bossanova Booboo.”
Two decades into it, Markowitz is happily making a living as a musician for kids shows.
No longer do I flash power-of-attorney to withdraw my $10,000 retainer from a jailed client’s bank account. I wear jeans, and don’t frequent Nordstrom. But most of the time, I like waking up in the morning.
Friends, I will admit that I was completely relieved to find that Robert Markowitz had not stayed a clown, that it was just one floppy-shoed step away from a job that he loathed and feared was killing him.
But, of course, whether it’s to become a clown or a whatever, it’s none of my business what someone chooses to do. It’s not sticking with a job you can’t stand is what’s key here.
Good for you, Bobo!