When news broke on Monday (Sept 20) that clowns were spotted approaching children outside several primary schools, the first thing that came to mind: “Aren’t they a tad late celebrating Batman Day?” (FYI: Batman Day is on Sept 18.)
Nope. Not even close. Turns out this was part of a publicity campaign by education centre Speech Academy Asia. Needless to say, it didn’t go down well with the public. Police reports were lodged by concerned parents. Even Speaker of Parliament and MP Tan Chuan-Jin weighed in on the matter. “It’s not amusing and just plain dangerous,” he opined in a Facebook post.
Speech Academy has since apologised for the misguided stunt. Seriously, what were they thinking? It’s already a bad idea to have strangers around kids (without adult supervision) but to have them dressed up like clowns? That’s a double red-flag.
The promoter behind the clown outfit told The Straits Times that his aim was to entertain kids and that he was actually “shocked and disappointed to that people were scared”. You think? Clearly, he’s unaware of the bad rep clowns have in pop culture (more of that later). Or that time in 2016 when a wave of hysteria about ‘scary clown’ craze swept the US and Europe (one person in Sweden was stabbed by a clown).
Speaking to Time (per The Guardian) about the incident then, Scott Bonn, a criminologist and professor of sociology at Drew University in New Jersey, said “the fascination with clowns is really the fact that they’re not real. We don’t know what’s beneath that makeup. It could be anyone or anything. They’re actually very frightening.”. You hear that? Frightening.
Considering how vilified clowns are, maybe said promoter should’ve dressed up as something friendlier like, say, a panda? That said, clowns are supposed to bring cheer and laughter but here’s a list of clowns from TV shows and movies who give us the heebie-jeebies, ranked from the best scary clown to the least. (Note: If you have coulrophobia — the fear of clowns — best you skip this.)
If there were such a thing as the Creepy Clown Hall of Fame, Pennywise would be the first inductee. The sewer-dwelling, kids-devouring demon clown of Stephen King’s It, first spooked audiences in the 1990 TV mini-series (with Tim Curry in the role) and 20 years later in the two-movie adaptation (with Bill Skarsgard chewing scenery and children).
No ‘creepy clown’ list is complete without Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Clown Prince of Crime. Jack Nicholson (Batman), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), and Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) portray him as maniacal and menacing; Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), however, gives his unhinged-ness a more sympathetic note.
In Rob Zombie’s notorious 2003 directorial debut House of 1,000 Corpses, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) is part of a family of serial killers who lure two young couples to their gruesome demise in the backwoods of Texas. Haig, who died in 2019, would reprise the character in The Devil’s Rejects and 3 From Hell.
A murderer and kidnapper, this clown (John Carroll Lynch), who appeared in American Horror Story: Freak Show and American Horror Story: Cult (on DIsney+), wore a scary makeshift grinning mask over his disfigured mug. Here’s the thing, you can’t really tell which part of the get-up is the mask or his face.
Before Annabelle and Chucky, there was this possessed plaything in the 1982 Tobe Hooper fright-fest Poltergeist. This is the reason why you should never ever put a creepy clown doll in your child’s room. Horror maestro James Wan was so scared by this movie that he went on to create Billy the Puppet in Saw.
Okay, he’s not famous or anything. But we thought we’ll include him in this list and give it some diversification. In the Episode 3 of the Korean procedural Voice 2 (on Netflix), the cops (led by Lee Ha-Na and Lee Jin-Wook) race against time to track down the one-time sex offender (played by Yeon Je-Wook) who has dressed up as a clown and abducted a little girl.
Okay, let’s lighten things a bit. Played by Peter Crombie, this recurring character on Seinfeld (on Netflix Oct 1), a mentally unstable writer, loves stalking Jerry and has a thing for Elaine. In Season 4’s ‘The Opera’ ep, Joe dresses up as the murderous clown Canio from the opera Pagliacci and stalks Jerry & Co, especially Kramer, who happens to be a coulrophobic.
When we speak of evil clowns, we rarely associate them with this Simpsons regular. But he got to show off his evil side in a Child’s Play parody in Season 4’s ‘Treehouse of Horror’ special (on Disney+) as a cursed doll Homer bought from a Chinatown shop that sells “forbidden objects from places men fear to tread” (and… frozen yogurt). D’oh!
He isn’t evil — he’s just grumpy! A recurring character in the ‘90s sketch show In Living Colour, Homey D. Clown (Damon Wayans) is a convict serving a community service sentence as a party clown. But he doesn’t always do what his clients want him to do. He would simply say, “I don’t think so… Homey don’t play that!” Then he would thump them on the head with a sock with a tennis ball inside. He hates his job. We know the feelng.
Here’s proof that not all onscreen clowns are scary — they can be sad too. In the Emmy-winning comedy series Baskets (on Disney+), Zach Galifianakis plays Chip who’s forced to work as a rodeo clown after flunking out of a prestigious clowning college (come again?) in Paris. Bittersweet and endearing.
This content was originally published here.