OFF THE CUFF

So now it’s clowns.

As if it wasn’t enough that we have to live these days with threats of terrorism, random street violence and countless other undesirable issues, now we have to add creepy clowns to the list. In case you were covered by a bunch of clowns inside a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle and missed it, reports of people dressed as clowns causing problems – like attempting to entice children into inappropriate situations – have been popping up for quite a while now all over the U.S.

The term “clowning” has been attached to the behavior, and the subject has been bandied about in numerous print and online articles and even been highlighted in segments on national and regional TV and radio newscasts.

I saw such a national TV news segment last week. In addition to describing some of the creepy clown encounters that have been reported, the woman doing the piece stressed that “legitimate clowns” are concerned that their trade is being negatively affected and their very lives might even be in danger.

Legitimate clowns – man, I love that phrase. Obviously it’s a contradiction in terms, because the very nature of a clown is to portray a person who’s far from legitimate.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a legitimate clown (man, I love that phrase). I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s a certain dignity in painting your face white, putting on a carrot-red wig and fake nose, donning a multicolored shirt and pants with big puffy arm decorations and glittery tassels dangling from the thigh and ankle areas and bumbling around in floppy size-32 shoes.

And heck, we live in a place that was home to one of the most famous legitimate clowns ever, Emmett Kelly, who was about as legitimate as a clown can get (I guess). That has to count for something here, right?

Anyway, nobody seems to know how this recent rash of creepy clowning started, but I’d say that doesn’t matter anyway. The issue now is what to do about it.

I have a suggestion (now isn’t that surprising).

In addition to some jail time, probation and whatever other punishment law enforcement authorities deem appropriate, I think crackpots convicted of clowning should receive sentences that include having legitimate clowns (man, I love that phrase) give them “the treatment” in a primetime televised format. The show would be recorded live and be called, “Send in the Clowns.”

I want the host to be Italian-American actor Stanley Tucci – you know, the guy who played the over-the-top host, Caeser Flickerman, in the Hunger Games movies. Tucci would (of course) do the show in character as Flickerman.

Wouldn’t that be great?

Flickerman opens the show by saying, “Welcome everyone to another night of tantalizing torment and turmoil as our panel of mischievous masters of makeup subject this week’s group of criminal counterfeit comrades to a brand of disorderly discombobulation seen nowhere but on this show. And it’s all live!”

Then the legitimate clowns (man, I love that phrase) proceed to publicly humiliate their illegitimate counterparts one by one by bopping them over the head with a big inflatable mallet, poking them in the eyes with big padded gloves, smashing pies in their faces, giving them wedgies and basically outdoing by light years every slapstick routine the Three Stooges ever came up with.

Imagine how many ways technology could enter in; clown slapstick delivered 2016-style – it would be breathtaking. The show would be a top-10 entry in no time.

And you want to talk deterrent?  I’m convinced it would help curb the practice of “clowning” in short order.

So there you have it – clowning meets justice meets Hollywood. That’s what I’m talking about.

In closing, here’s a message all you creepy clowns out there who might think of jumping out of the woods and offering a kid a Snickers bar: Listen here, bozos – stop clowning around or prepare to face the squirting daisy.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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