Sorry about bringing up clowns again, so soon, and outside of Halloween Season, and it’s not like I even love clowns all that much! And I’m not even saying that I am obsessed with them, but even so — obsessions don’t understand your notions of there being appropriate times or places. In fact, an obsession wouldn’t comprehend the word “inappropriate” at all, or “creepy” for that matter. And neither do I!

 

 

Anyway, I saw this beautiful gif the other day, while I was living on the internet as I do, and I became mesmerized with a thought. Mr. Rogers was a good man, a saint, and is very definitely a saint in our Sneerholic pantheon. He represents all that can be good in the world and is without blame. You know how we feel about him. On the other hand, clowns are commonly known to be evil, I guess, in these modern times. They are frightening and often up to no good. ALLEGEDLY. There are plenty of kind clowns out there, clowning for the sick and in parades, but every single one of us suspects their motives. Each of us wonders what possibly-literal skeletons are in the closets of their murderhouses. Thanks, John Wayne Gacy!

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The human clown is a Halloween costume that take you a lot of miles down the road to Terror Town. Weak-minded people believe that clowns are, by their very nature, terrifying monsters and not actually just kindly people in grease paint or in rarer cases, serial killers. People who have clown phobia will be made uncomfortable no matter how sloppy your attempt is at applying the right make up, so it is a real winner at any costume party. It is a golden standard of nightmare fuel.

However, there has been a “craze” lately where people think that you have to make the clown scarier. Those fools standing on the sides of roads, frightening people by being clowns where clowns are not supposed to be, seem to always be wearing those latex masks of a “scary clown head.” In my very honest and correct opinion, the very attempt to make it scarier makes it LESS scary. Somehow, clowns are the one part of life where I am brave. I just know that if I ever see a person in a scary clown mask, I would want to slap that mask right off of their face and tell them to get a clue. And that’s about when I realized I also needed to write an article about it in order to keep printed copies to hand out in just such an occasion. Today is the day. This is the hour.

My theory goes that all you must do is simply be a clown. It will make people uncomfortable, but it’s a little boring. To bring things to a more expert level, you will want to combine the clown part with pretty much any other thing. But which kind of clown with what sort of thing? Well, there are three general types of clown, so you have plenty of choices!

me me me

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Modern film-goers are often found to be of the opinion that black and white movies are “boring” for reasons that I cannot fathom. Perhaps they require color and bright flashing lights and cgi effects to keep their attention. Maybe they accidentally caught a drama from the 1940s when they were young children, at an age when ANY drama will seem dull and agonizingly slow. The people who feel this way, and there are a dismayingly large amount of them, can’t begin to imagine how boring and terrible silent films must be. No color AND no sound?? Actually, these people probably dismiss the idea of ever watching a silent movie so quickly that they don’t even form an actual opinion on the matter. If you are one of these people, then please read on. I hope to open your rapidly moving eyes and special little minds to a few gems.

eek

Truthfully, the silent era created great masterpieces in comedy, action/adventure, drama, mystery, tragedy, and so on. Many of these movies are so entertaining based on the incredible stunt work alone that you forget that movie-making was in its infancy and there would not be a dependable computer involved in the process for almost a hundred years in some instances. Yes, the make up was thick. Yes, they did over-act in a strange manner, but these people were used to stage acting in front of live audiences and Vaudeville, and old acting habits were probably difficult to overcome. If you give them a chance, you can see past the old-timey fashions and unusual activities and casual instances of appalling racism to see that these people are still people, and just like movie stars should be — most of them are quite easy on the eye. They might be older than your great-grandparents on the timeline, but if you can suspend your beliefs on matters of actual age vs movie age, or if you can even imagine yourself to be alive in those 1920s and seeing these films as they were released in the cinema — you might find it a more welcoming experience than you would have otherwise.

But I am not here to explain to you the entire history of the silent screen. No. It is Halloween time, friends. And you all love scary movies. Lucky for you, the silent films did their part in creating some of the creepiest imagery of all time. There is a lack of bared bosoms and painfully realistic gore, but they did quite fine with what they DID show, and also with what they only implied. Also PS the film quality makes everything kind of spooky and horrifying on top of everything else. So stand by, Sneer Friends, while I watch a few select films one by one — most for the first time ever — and become increasingly scared because I am a wimp.

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Everyone in the world knows who the Marx Brothers are, and always will. It is one of the most comforting certainties that there are. However, it is likely that not everyone knows all of the character differences and subtle nuances of humor that each brings to the comedy table. Some people don’t even realize that they were really real life brothers! This is because Chico Marx was that good at performing a flawless Italian stereotype, and Harpo was good at being a terrorpuppet come to life. Groucho appeared to be so acerbic in his wit that it doesn’t seem possible that he could have any close family. And Zeppo must be lost, how did he get into those movies? Also their costumes were such that they all looked very different from one another. In real life, though, they pretty much looked identical with slight variations in age and height.

Caustic one-liners can never go out of style and pretending to be Italian apparently never will, either, for some reason. But Harpo’s rhyme and reason is already unclear in our modern age. In the early part of the 1900s, a psychotic clown was hilarious. Now, it can only be terrifying. Long ago, mute people were things to laugh at, and deranged men endlessly, relentlessly chasing women around was apparently only scary to that specific woman running for her life. Why is this? How has the world become so dour that these things now frighten us? Well, I have no answers for you at this time, but what I do have is a small selection of drawings explaining the decision to make his character one that does not ever speak a line. I hope you like cussin’!

Harpo

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Clown Music

Have you been enjoying National Clown Week? We sure hope so! Merry-making and comic mischief is hard work, but we have made a playlist to make things easier for you. Luckily for the world, I have been amassing a Circus Playlist on Spotify for the past four years and I have skimmed some of the circusiest tracks (plus one rendition of that classic song, my favorite song of all songs, “Brazil”) off the top to present to you. Yes, my personal playlist has almost 700 tracks, and yes, I do listen to it on any ordinary day.

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We mentioned Dumbo recently in our post about how Tim Burton is going to ruin it. The 1941 animated film Dumbo was based on a toy. The toy idea was pretty much just a storytelling device anyway, and Disney bought the toy in order to make the movie.

During the making of the movie, there was a strike. What led to the strike – including economic turmoil, the war, more unions, and Disney’s reduction in bonuses to employees – is a whole other story. Although the strike lasted five weeks, Dumbo was finished and released. It was made using approximately $950,000.

After a glorious introduction of circus music during the credits, the movie starts by showing us a bunch of adorable baby animals tumbling out of their blankets after being dropped off by storks, the UPS of the Animal Kingdom. All baby animals appear to only have a mother, except for the lucky tiger litter, who seem to have a whopping two parents. Mrs. Jumbo waits sadly for a delivery of her own.

Then, as if circuses aren’t awful places, and probably especially awful in 1941, a crew of smiling animals calmly walk to their homes, each into the appropriate car on the train. For some reason, the train is also a living thing, named Casey Junior. At least he has a great theme song!

And don’t worry about Mrs. Jumbo. You see she has the same UPS guy as me, and he was just exceptionally late. Also: clumsy and unable to read a map. He chases down the train and hops from car to car in a way that only a cartoon bird would.

He finds her with her nosy elephant cohorts and recites some poetry at her, then asks for a signature. Then he sings happy birthday into the bundle, at little Jumbo Jr., while hiccuping oddly, like some sort of drunk, before falling out the window.

Mrs. Jumbo’s bitchy elephant diva cohorts are bitchy elephant divas. We’ll get back to them.

Baby Dumbo is literally the cutest thing that has ever happened on the earth.

Then, he sneezes, and bitchy diva elephants laugh, point, touch, and gossip when his adorable giant ears flap out. Mrs. Jumbo strikes out for the first time, angrily swatting them away from her baby. The mean ladies nickname him Dumbo, to be mean, but it’s pretty cute.

Mean Old Elephant by Amanda Wood

Whatever, bitches. Mrs. Jumbo is in love with her baby boy and his ears, as any mother would be.

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