A Melbourne children’s performer fears the remake of horror film It will permanently damage the reputation of clowns.
Argentine director Andres Muschietti’s new adaptation of the Stephen King novel, featuring Bill Skarsgard as the evil clown Pennywise, opened in Australian cinemas on Thursday.
Alan Sloggett, who has been performing as a clown for 30 years with his characters Hot Stuff the Clown and Dotto the Clown, said such films were “bad publicity for clowns across the board”.
“It really kills business, it really does.”
Bill Skarsgard plays Pennywise in the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It. (Supplied: Warner Bros.)
Mr Sloggett, who also performs as a “straight” magician, said he’d only had one person call to book his clown act in “some weeks”.
“Twenty years ago, when the Yellow Pages was around, I used to place two adverts — one for a clown and one for a magician,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s Rafael Epstein.
“I used to get nine phone calls for the clown and one for the magician; now I get 19 for the magician and one for the clown.”
Film comes after creepy clown craze
Mr Sloggett is by no means the first clown to raise concerns about the reputation of face-painted funny people.
In 2016 Perth performer Conney Torney said her bookings were “significantly down”, blaming a combination of the city’s economic downturn and the negative portrayal of clowns in popular culture.
A global trend in which people dressed as creepy clowns in order to scare unsuspecting people resulted in professional clowns banding together on social media under the hashtag #clownlivesmatter.
The trend reached Australia, and in the past two years police in Western Australia charged a man who chased teenage girls through the streets of Perth while disguised as a clown.
Days later Victoria Police arrested a man who stood outside a fast food restaurant in the early hours of the morning while wearing a clown mask and holding an axe.
Many trace the creepy clown phenomenon back to US serial rapist and murderer John Wayne Gacy, who appeared at children’s charity events as Pogo the Clown in the 1970s.
Clowns’ future ‘not looking good’
But not all clowns are as concerned about the new It film as Mr Sloggett.
Adelaide performer Peter Thorpe, who performs as clown Fritz Sandwich, said he believed the film would be a “brief fad”.
“Clowns have been around for long enough to survive it,” he told the ABC’s Kate Hill.
Don’t fear us: Fritz Sandwich reckons children still love clowns. (ABC South East SA: Kate Hill)
Mr Sloggett was not so sure, however, saying clowns’ popularity had gone in cycles until now.
“I was hoping it would come back, but with this movie out now things are not looking good.”
He said all real clowns wanted to do was to make people happy.
“A clown, what he does is he paints his face, and he actually paints a smile on his face,” Mr Sloggett said.
“When people smile, everyone smiles and the whole game of the business is to make people laugh.”