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Don’t Bother. They’re Here.

This is my last blog entry for Powells, and I would never forgive myself if I managed to skate by without writing something about clowns. Clowns are okay. I don't have a problem with them, though plenty of people do. Clowns and I don't intersect all that much until I go on tour.Clowns and I don't intersect all that much until I go on tour.

One of my guitar players is terrified of clowns. He's a grown man, my guitar player. Though I cannot believe it, he says his fear of clowns sprung from a singular experience. He was a small child at a birthday party, running around — perhaps a bit too hyperactively — and the hired clown grabbed him hard by the arm, gave him a shake, and said, "Don't be an idiot, kid." After that, he was (and still is) terrified of clowns, my guitarist. Oh, let's stop calling him "my guitarist" or "my guitar player." Let's just call him, jeez, I don't know, Peyton Pinkerton, for lack of a better name. Peyton is one of my dearest friends. I've played music with him forever, all over the world. He's like a brother to me. He's extremely generous and wouldn't hurt anything. He's a real sweetheart, gem of a man. So if he's so kind, why would my band mates and I try everything in our power to bring him in close proximity to clowns and clown paintings and stuffed clown dolls and clown-shaped cookies, etc.? It's fun to see a grown man squeal when he sees a clown.It's fun to see a grown man squeal when he sees a clown. That's why.

We've done plenty of things like wave stuffed clown dolls in his face or stick a big clown sticker to the visor above the windshield so that he's frightened when he pulls it down. Stuff that's not really all that creative, but since Peyton's reflexive fear of clowns is so acute, we don't have to be all that creative to have a good time with him.

A few years ago, when my latest drummer Pat joined the band, the gags grew more sophisticated. The best one took place at the Orpheum Theater in Boston on during a New Years Eve Performance. Pat had been walking along Tremont Street prior to the show, and he saw a dude in a clown outfit. The guy was on his way to a paying gig. He looked a little bit like he'd dropped too much acid prior to a Cub Scout party in 1981 and never came back. So what did Pat do? He gave the clown his all-access pass laminate and 25 bucks. The clown agreed to come back later and stand in the front row, directly in front of Peyton and do nothing but stare.

I personally did not think the guy would show. I figured he'd taken Pat for 25 bucks. But it turns out he was an honorable clown, a clown of his word. There were probably two thousand people in the audience that night, but when they raised the curtain, the only two that mattered were Peyton and that clown. It was a very nice way to ring in the New Year. The clown made a little extra bread, had a front row seat for the show, Peyton got the crap scared out of him in public, and two thousand people had a laugh.

(Hey, Peyton, this blog's for you.)

÷ ÷ ÷

Joe Pernice is a musician and writer, whose first novel, It Feels So Good When I Stop, is to be released August 6, 2009. Pernice also recorded a soundtrack for the novel, called, cleverly, It Feels So Good When I Stop (Novel Soundtrack), on his own Ashmont Records label. (It's his 11th or 12th full-length record, depending on who's counting.) He has recorded as Pernice Brothers, Joe Pernice, Scud Mountain Boys, and Chappaquiddick Skyline. His novella for Continuum's 33 1/3 series, Meat Is Murder, was published in 2003. He grew up in the Boston area, and currently lives in Toronto. Click here for tour information.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. It Feels So Good When I Stop Used Hardcover $4.95
  2. The Smiths: Meat Is Murder (33 1/3...
    Used Trade Paper $10.50

Joe Pernice is the author of It Feels So Good When I Stop

6 Responses to "Don’t Bother. They’re Here."

    Martha August 7th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I take a small amount of solace in the fact that it's considerably more difficult to hire a centipede.

    sarah j August 7th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I've crossed the street to avoid street clowns, had a 'friend' say he was going to show up at my house dressed up as a clown- when I moved guess who got left off the "we've moved" mailing? It's just not funny. I won't even bring my kids to the circus. I blame 'poltergeist', stephen king and ringling brothers. Clowns, dude, are just wrong. Magicians, a close second.

    Deirdre Haber Malfatto August 7th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Wow, Joe Pernice -- I think I worked with you at the People's Market at UMass! Congratulations on your book release. I will definitely look for it.

    Iron Fish August 13th, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Yes, I know a few people with the clown phobia (It's apparently known as Coulrophobia. Who decides these phobia names? Top ten stupidest job.). But my youngest brother suffers from something even worse--a fear of bubbles. This was also a "singular incident," but the only information I can get from him is that it involved an acid trip gone bad. I thought of his fear recently when I attended a wedding and everyone got little jars of bubble stuff instead of rice, which I guess explodes in birds or something. He will not even kid about it. He's not overly fond of clowns, either. I would say a clown blowing bubbles would be about the end.

    Jan August 17th, 2009 at 7:58 am

    I'm not fond of clowns (As Sarah J said...thanks to King, Poltergeist and Jerry Seinfeld) I like spiders even less and often wonder why Noah didn't just leave them to drown...However, I do enjoy a good practical joke and love all your "schemes" to drive your colleague over the edge. Thanks for the's Monday and as every body knows, laughs are extra enjoyable on Mondays.

    joce August 23rd, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    After having read the article by Joe and the remarks posted I am glad to say that I know none of you. Six people that enjoy tormenting a fellow being. May someone someday find something that you too may be publicly tormented/tortured with or maybe just an item that would cause you public humiliation.

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