Israel's 'good clowns' worried about future amid wave of pranks

''They're ruining our livelihood,'' one clown said.

Raphael Hayoun, a professional clown (photo credit: RAPHEL HAYOUN)
Raphael Hayoun, a professional clown
(photo credit: RAPHEL HAYOUN)
Their livelihood is under attack.
As a wave of clown-crime engulfs the Center of Israel, those who make their living as birthday party entertainers and street performers are feeling the heat – and they’re not happy.
“It definitely has an impact. It turns the idea of a clown from something fun and happy into something scary,” said Raphael Hayoun, a Jerusalem-based clown and party entertainer. “So people want less to have clowns at their events.”
For the past several weeks, police across Israel have reported instances of teenagers dressed as clowns scaring passersby, and some even threatening or attacking people. The scary clowns are copying similar disruptions occurring in the US that are probably inspired by the evil clown who terrorizes a group of teens in the recently released film adaption of Stephen King’s It.
Hayoun told The Jerusalem Post he works mostly with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, which doesn’t feel the impact of the news as much. But he has heard from others outside of Jerusalem that people are less interested lately in clowns in general, “or that they’re asked to come as a clown but without makeup – [to] be less clown-like.”
Chavi Pollack, who entertains at birthday parties and also volunteers as a medical clown at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, said she’s worried about what this trend could do to her job.
“I really don’t want to be out of business. I think it’s a really big problem,” she told the Post on Sunday. “I’m going to the hospital today but I’m not going to come dressed up until the whole thing cools down.” Pollack said she normally wears her costume on the bus, but on Sunday she chose to put it in her backpack and only change once she got to the hospital.
“One of the nurses told me she isn’t sure what will happen to the medical clowns with everything going on,” she lamented.
Pollack said that her clowning look already doesn’t include any face makeup or a red nose – just a funny dress and a bow on her head.
“Personally I feel that I don’t need to hide behind a mask in order to do hesed [kindness],” she said. “I go more for the personal connection than hiding – I go to children and adults in the hospital.”
But she said that even on days she shows up without her costume, like Shabbat, both the children and adults wonder why she isn’t dressed up. “It’s really just too bad. I hope it doesn’t damage the whole field.”
Some clowns are so worked up about the attack on their good name that they’re organizing a protest. The “March of the Good Clowns” is set to take place this Saturday night in Tel Aviv, initiated by clown, mime, juggler and street entertainer Ofer Blum.
The protest, centered around Habima Square, comes “in light of the epidemic of clown masks and the damage done to the name and profession of clowning,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
Blum – who goes by Abba Sababa professionally – calls on medical clowns, mimes, street performers and birthday entertainers to show the general public what they have to offer.
“Clowning is a very positive, cheerful pastime,” Blum told the Post. “It doesn’t have a drop of bad in it.”
The teenagers roaming around and terrorizing people, he said, “are not clowns, they’re just people in masks.”
Blum said that the hard work of hundreds of people who make their livelihood as clowns and entertainers is at risk. “A whole generation may not want to see clowns anymore,” he lamented. It has an adverse effect, not just on the public image of the profession, but also on the economic sustainability of the field, he added.
“I feel it already with my own children,” he said. “My children grew up with clowns, and now they look out the window and if they see a clown... coming they shout and scream – even though they know me with the makeup and the costume.
“My heart just breaks from the inside.”