In First Presbyterian Church of Englewood’s basement Sunday afternoon, 5 Coloradans wearing wacky regalia and large, honkin’ sneakers marched earlier than their family members — and previous a portray of the Last Supper — belting “Pomp and Circumstance” on kazoos.
An viewers of household, buddies and plainclothes clowns squinting to acknowledge one another with out white-painted faces cheered on because the 5 males, girls and teenagers every leveled up from layperson to skilled goofball.
It was commencement day for the 2023 cohort of Colorado Clown Alley’s 10-week clown college. The newly-inducted jesters are actually not solely card-carrying members of a special number of postsecondary establishment, however rising masters of stomach laughs, balloon animals and spreading pleasure in unsure occasions.
The clown class of 2023 tickled Clown Alley president Isabel Nuanez as there have been a number of younger members, she stated, inspiring hope for a rebound within the clown business.
Whether individuals had been compensating for the bleakness of the pandemic years or trying to find a little bit of childhood nostalgia, Nuanez stated clowning is again — and the following era of jokers has some huge sneakers to fill.
Turn that frown upside-down
Emily Cooper, 30, had a tough begin to the day.
On commencement morning, she found her Denver storage had been damaged into and her e-bike stolen. She felt discouraged — a sense she is aware of has resonated with many in recent times.
“Things have been kind of bleak, so I just really wanted a way to uplift my loved ones in the community,” Cooper stated of her determination to embrace clowning.
Tensions eased Sunday morning as soon as Cooper began making use of her white face make-up and her alter ego, Lollygag the Clown, appeared. Once Cooper glued on her rainbow eyelashes and crimson nostril, she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. (To be honest, it was painted on.)
Cooper’s mom, Becky, and brother, Chris, had flown in from Minnesota for the massive day and watched with satisfaction as Lollygag emerged earlier than them at her eating room desk.
Makeup utilized. Red suspenders on. Blue shirt with clouds and rainbows buttoned. Blue hat donned.
Lollygag had arrived.
“This is really par for the course for Emily,” stated Chris Cooper as he eyed the plastic bats, ghost-shaped string lights and moon phases adorning his sister’s house on a March morning nearer to Easter than Halloween. “It makes me happy that she’s doing this because she’s such an empathetic person, and I think making people smile is healthy for her emotional state.”
When Emily Cooper determined to enroll in clown college this yr, she was in want of a smile.
The insurance coverage agent was laid off unexpectedly in January. Instead of foundering, Cooper needed to have just a little enjoyable and refocus on her former ardour for theater and leisure, which she participated in throughout highschool however hadn’t nurtured since then.
“I went from having conversations with people every single day where they would be crying on the phone about how they need this insurance but can’t afford it to getting to learn about how to make people laugh and smile and feel entertained or distracted from whatever stress or sadness they might be experiencing in their lives,” Cooper stated. “That’s been huge for me.”
Cooper scoured the web for clown faculties and found Colorado Clown Alley, which has been instructing the basics of clowning since 1970.
Most of all, Emily Cooper stated clown college taught her the best way to develop her character, Lollygag, which she named by Googling the silliest phrases within the English language.
“This was really a blessing in disguise,” she stated. “My friends think I’m making a joke when I say I have to get up for clown class tomorrow and I’m like, ‘No, really, I have clown class tomorrow.’ It’s been funny, and I’ve had so much support.”
Aside from her blue hair and a comically tiny hat, Nuanez — clown alias: DaffaDilly — blended into the commencement viewers Sunday.
Nuanez filmed the skits the graduating class carried out — charmingly corny sketches with bodily comedy, props and wordplay — and laughed among the many hardest within the crowd, hyping up her proteges on stage.
Nuanez, 67 years younger, is the president of Clown Alley’s board of administrators, making her the pinnacle jokester in cost. DaffaDilly has been clowning round for 15 years since Nuanez’s retirement from her state pc job and matriculation in Colorado Clown Alley.
At clown college, budding bozos discover ways to apply make-up with out trying scary, the best way to paint faces, the best way to carry out skits and the best way to spot and keep away from coulrophobes — individuals who worry clowns — amongst different abilities, Nuanez stated.
In addition to the annual clown college, Clown Alley hosts month-to-month conferences at which native clowns congregate to swap concepts and educate abilities.
Each yr, clown college alums pack the commencement sans costumes to indicate their assist for the brand new class with out stealing their thunder.
Barbara Kaare-Lopez, 71, launched herself to the commencement viewers as Nurse Patch-It, figuring she wouldn’t be acknowledged exterior of her clown persona.
Kaare-Lopez graduated from Clown Alley in 2000. It was anger that led her to the college, she stated.
“I was a cancer survivor, and I was very angry that I couldn’t have kids,” Kaare-Lopez stated. “I thought, ‘What can I do with all this anger?’”
Kaare-Lopez selected laughter.
For greater than a decade, Nurse Patch-It has cheered up sufferers at Swedish Medical Center. Her husband, Bernie Lopez, can also be a clown by the title of Dimples.
Before the commencement ceremony started, Nurse Patch-It embraced Woopsie the Clown, who was going incognito as 69-year-old Nancy Haberkorn.
Haberkorn had a childhood dream of turning into a clown however didn’t pursue it till 2003, when her mom had most cancers and was in respite care.
“I needed some joy,” Haberkorn stated. “Plus, laughter is the best medicine for everything. My mom would put on my nose and wig, and we’d laugh and laugh.”
In 2009, Haberkorn had a stroke and was a affected person at Swedish, the place she now provides again clowning for sufferers.
“If I’m going to have another stroke, what’s a better place to be?” Haberkorn stated with fun.
“It’s just magic”
The church basement buzzed Sunday as attendees caught up and households prepped their cameras — till a hush settled throughout the room.
Enter the clowns.
A collection of foolish sketches adopted, together with one which concerned pulling a rubber hen out of a hat. Soon, the 5 graduates had been marching to the beat of their very own kazoos to obtain their official certificates. Two different graduates had been out of city and couldn’t make the ceremony, and one other one that began this yr’s program grew to become a clown college dropout after an ill-fated make-up allergy.
Braeden Schilling-Smith, 17, debuted his alter ego, Mr. Fancy Pants, on Sunday.
“I’m addicted to this,” Schilling-Smith stated. “Getting ready and putting on my makeup and transforming from this awkward, gay teenager to someone who makes everybody happy — it’s just magic.”
Emily Cooper, aka Lollygag, held out her clown diploma in elation as her mother, brother and boyfriend cheered from the viewers. As a commencement current, Lollygag acquired a brand new pair of multi-colored patchwork clown sneakers.
“It was a huge adrenaline rush to perform,” Cooper stated after the ceremony. “Hopefully, this is the start of more clowning in the future.”
Realistically, Cooper stated she’s engaged on discovering a full-time job, however would like to hold clowning on the facet till she builds up sufficient momentum to drop her day job and change into a bonafide, full-time clown.
Nuanez is thrilled by the power she’s seen from this graduating class, who she excitedly identified had a variety of younger aspiring clowns.
When Nuanez graduated clown college in 2008, she stated there have been 150 Colorado Clown Alley members. Now, she stated membership has dwindled to about 30 to 40 clowns.
The pandemic hit clowning onerous, Nuanez stated, with canceled birthday events and advantages. But Nuanez stated Colorado Clown Alley is able to get again on the market and unfold some cheer at charity occasions and different festivities.
“I love to interact with children, but I do love to interact with adults that have that inner child, as well,” Nuanez stated.
Nuanez has at all times liked clowns. The Harvey Park resident stated she remembers laughing on the clowns on the unique Elitch Gardens as a woman and has at all times admired their capability to place a smile on individuals’s faces.
“They just uplift the spirit, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Nuanez stated. “I wanted to make people feel the way I feel when I see a clown.”
Nuanez feels most lovely, most herself when she’s placing on her clown make-up.
“There are times when I put on my makeup and I honestly think I look prettier,” Nuanez stated. “We’re all bubbly. We have fun. It’s just joy. You forget your troubles, and we believe that laughter is the best medicine.”
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