Reports of creepy clown sightings have rippled across the country over the last few weeks – and almost all of them have been debunked as hoaxes. For some professional clowns, it’s been a challenging time.
KERA’s Justin Martin spoke with Tiffany Riley and Dick Monday who make their living as clowns – they’re a husband-and-wife team who clown around in hospitals – entertaining sick kids. They also teach clowning at the University of North Texas.
Interview Highlights: Tiffany Riley and Dick Monday
...on the creepy clown sightings:
Riley: "It is unsettling, just because you don't know really what is going to happen out there. But, to be completely honest, the power of what we are able to do, particularly at Children's Health is kind of overcomes anything that could happen there."
Monday: "When I teach clowning — and we teach at the University of North Texas — of the 40 hours of study, I spend about two to four hours on makeup, [and] the rest is about building what's inside the clown. And I think this whole scary thing is a gift to the clown world because now maybe people will say what is a clown because we haven't any real clowns doing any of this terrorism."
...on how you deal with someone who is afraid of clowns:
Monday: "A couple of things happen. Number one: A mother holding a small child, the small child is smiling and waving at you and the mother is saying, 'Oh no! He's afraid of clowns,' and you're saying, 'Really? Are you sure you don't have some apprehension?' And many times that is the case. We have helped educate our nurses on the floors. When we were new to hospital 10 years ago over at Children's, we would come to the door and the nurse would say: 'You want a visit by a clown?' Kind of setting up this like why wouldn't you? And now they say: 'Would you like a visit from some of my friends?' You know, it's so much easier. We certainly get if people are afraid, we can see that, and we will not affect them. What we don't want to do is let the kid miss out on a great visit if the father happens to be afraid, and honestly this has happened."
Riley: "I would say also that, that beyond just the fear thing, sometimes kids will say no because they can't say no to anything at the hospital. So then it's our job to figure out when does 'no' mean 'No, they don't want to see us,' and when does it really mean 'Yes, please come in here and take me to a different place.'"
...on an instance or a kid that really stands out in their time at the hospital:
Monday: "I like to try and think of the ones that I don't know what happened to, cause I'm assuming that they're out there running on playgrounds, but the one ... the one .."
Riley: "It's emotional work ... The ones that touch us the most I think are the ones who maybe don't make [it] and who we can feel that we had something to do with their pathway that made [life] more bearable, lighter, that we were there for a moment to be clowns which are good things."