Hey, kids! It’s National Clown Week!

Several years ago, I was hanging out with some friends at the International House of Pancakes in Williamsburg, Virginia, and they asked what I had done at work recently.DCFC0077.JPG

I answered, “An Episcopalian church had a ‘Blessing of the Clowns’ service for National Clown Week, so I covered that.”

They couldn’t tell if I was being serious or sarcastic.

“Yes, National Clown Week is a real thing. Richard Nixon signed it into law in the ‘70s.”

That didn’t help.

It wasn’t sarcasm. There is indeed such a holiday as National Clown Week, and it’s observed the first week of each August.

The 1971 presidential proclamation reads, in part, “All men are indebted to those who bring such moments of quiet splendor—who redeem sickness and pain with joy. All across America, good men in putty noses and baggy trousers, following a tradition as old as man’s need to touch gently the lives of his fellowman, go into orphanages and children’s hospitals, homes for the elderly and for the retarded, and give a part of themselves. Today, as always, clowns and the spirit they represent are as vital to the maintenance of our humanity as the builders and the growers and the governors.”

Personally, even as a kid, I never understood the clownish style of humor. It just doesn’t work for me. So, at 23 years old, I had a tough time figuring out how it worked for anyone.

But then National Clown Week rolled around. Back in 2006, I was working for the then-new and now-gone Toano-Norge Times newspaper that covered James City County. The publisher/editor heard about the upcoming blessing and sent me to interview some local clowns.

I met a nice husband-and-wife couple in their home. No makeup or eccentric color schemes were present. They were just pleasant, normal folks who wanted to brighten the days of other people. In fact, their group of clowns was all volunteers. To them, being a clown was both a hobby and a community service.

Just because I couldn’t see the value of clowns didn’t mean their value was nonexistent. That nice couple and their friends saw it.

A clown doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny to cheer a person up. The mere presence of someone who’s clearly not taking himself seriously might be enough to bring a sullen individual out of his funk.

In talking with this couple, I began to understand why a church would make a special effort to recognize such a colorful group, and I learned to stop judging these bright-nosed individuals with an affinity for balloon animals and slapstick.

Who knew National Clown Week could teach you something?

Tricky Dick, apparently.