May 11, 2007

First Person


By Al Carlos Hernandez

The other day I was watching a commercial for the Circus coming to town, then remembered a hamburger commercial about a Latino looking Dad who was trying to make his little daughter laugh, to no avail. Suddenly, the little girl starts smiling and laughing, Pop is happy he cheered his baby up, but the baby wasn’t laughing at him, she was laughing at that pasty faced synthetically happy guy with red hair Ronald Reagan. I mean McDonald standing behind him. Whoa, never really gotten over the 80s.

Back in the medieval days in theatre, a wild haired character with huge feet, extreme features and aggregated facial makeup was considered a devil, or a nemesis. I don’t know how a scary looking character that bizzare and grotesque can be considered funny to kids. Adults on the other hand vote for them, represent them in civil cases, divorce them or have them on their payroll.

Kids, who are usually better judges of character than adults, some where along the road have to become acclimated to accept and consider clowns as non threateningly humorous and or comical, because their looks are actually quite frightening if you really think about it.

If you ever dated a Chola give me a high five.

Just imagine walking through a dark mall parking lot at night and a clown comes up to you honking a horn and trying to squirt you with seltzer water, if you had any urban training at all you would drop him like a set of keys, or if you were in the ACLU would scream like a girl and file suit.

My first experience with clowns was when my Dad bought us a Jack in the Box, with clowns pictured in full color on all fours sides. We were actually too scared to touch it because the men pictured looked like drunken hobos and the rhythm section of my Dad’s Jibaro garage band.

It gets worse.

There was a little crank on it, and as my older brother turned it, the song Pop goes the Weasel (Another political reference), played. The song lured us into a false sense of security. After the third bridge of the song on the last verse on POP, a clown puppet jumps out of the box and scarred us for life. This same brother immediately rigged the box, unbeknownst to us, in such as way as to get the geek to jump out during the first crank. He went on to become a successful attorney.

The puppet had a dark brown top hat big sagging lips, a scraggly beard, and a sad look in his eye, in other words he looks like yo mama. Just checking to see if you are still reading along.

What we didn’t know was that the Jack in the Box present was a prelude to taking us to the circus; I guess Pop wanted to acclimate us to American humor as he saw it. My Mom took immediate offense, “Why do all of the clowns have to come in one car?” She came from a family of nine kids.

We were way up in the cheap seats when the clowns did their act; they were quite funny, hitting each other, juggling rubber chickens, falling down, making rude noises, making grandiose political speeches about how we were going to change the world and take the University back to the community brick by brick if we have too…wait, no that’s wrong I confused that memory with a MECHA college graduation party, my bad.

I am not coulrophobic, which is the clinical name for the fear of clowns; they don’t scare me as much as I don’t get what is funny about them. I see them as down and outers, poor feeble sad folks who need compassion, career counseling, wardrobe supervision and corrective feet surgery.

What is most objectionable to me, is the theme of the hamburger commercial that paints the Dad as inept in making his daughter smile, unable to stop her tears, but as soon as she sees the most aggregated face of American capitalism at its worse, she smiles and starts to laugh, trivializing Dad’s earnest effort to make his baby happy. The Spanish version of this ad felt like a pie in the face, a bop on the head with a piñata stick, after slipping on a banana peel.

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