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Revenge of the Good Clowns

All this “bad clown” business isn’t funny.


Calvin Kai Ku.

(1 of 10)

Laura Ricci.

(2 of 10)

Faeble Kievman.

(3 of 10)

Jamie Coventry.

(4 of 10)

Tristan Cunningham.

(5 of 10)

Matthew Martin.

(6 of 10)

Kelly Holly.

(7 of 10)

Sara Moore.

(8 of 10)

Natasha Kaluza.

(9 of 10)

Steve Smith.

(10 of 10)


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Sara Moore takes the recent spate of “bad clown” pranks—amateurs dressing up to scare kids and stoke social media hysteria—personally. “I wish the public would stop maligning all of us because of a bunch of jerk-offs in Halloween masks,” she sighs. A professional clown for 30 years, Moore has never heard as much anti-clown rhetoric as she has over the past three months. “I had to do, like, 12 TV interviews last month,” she says, “reminding people that we’re an innocent, fun-loving lot.”

As director of the Circus Center’s Clown Conservatory, Moore is working hard to reclaim the clown narrative. San Francisco has been a hotbed for American clowning since the ’70s, she says, shaping rubber-faced legends like Joan Mankin, Bill Irwin, and Robin Williams. Today the Bay Area clown community is tight-knit; dozens of them gather for monthly parties at the Circus Center’s clown lounge. Frustrated as they are by the latest clown backlash, the performers say getting laughs is a way of sticking up for their art. “Being a clown means being a human cartoon,” Moore says. “It’s all based in joy.”

Originally published in the December issue of
San Francisco

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