Clowns of all stripes gather at the World Clown convention in Orlando this week
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
All righty - time to get your red noses out. Clowns from around the globe are gathered for an annual convention in Orlando this week. Reporter Danielle Prieur from member station WMFE went to the World Clown Convention to learn more about the artistry of clowning around.
DANIELLE PRIEUR, BYLINE: Fans of the 2017 horror film "It," based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, probably recognize this voice.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IT")
BILL SKARSGARD: (As Pennywise) Hi ya, Georgie.
PRIEUR: Pennywise the clown, played by actor Bill Skarsgard, has a distorted face and preys on unsuspecting children in not one but two movies. But at the 40th annual World Clown Association Convention in Orlando, the clowns sound a little more like this.
ROBIN BRYAN: I'm sparkly, I'm glittery, and I think I'm kind of cute and colorful. And Daisy is called an Auguste clown.
KYNISHA DUCRE: Yes, absolutely. So it's a light makeup. My texture of skin is a little bit darker, so I want to make my smile pop, my eyes pop.
PRIEUR: That's Robin Bryan, whose clown name is Pinkie Bee, and Kynisha Ducre, who goes by Daisy. Together, they run the WCA as president and director of education. Ducre hands me a bright pink and orange heart-shaped balloon headpiece, and we're off taking a tour around the vendor booths.
DUCRE: Little squeakers.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOY SQUEAKING)
PRIEUR: Here, clowns can stock up on anything from red noses and clown shoes to elaborate puppets and magic props. All week, clowns compete for titles like best costume and best skit. They have workshops where they practice face painting and balloon art and, of course, they network. For the clowns here, the conference is serious business.
CHARLES LAUDER: It's very much a community hub, making those connections.
PRIEUR: Charles Lauder is a professional hobo clown in the vein of Charlie Chaplin. He came from Manitoba, Canada. In fact, the World Clowning Association has members in 35 countries. And although some members work in circuses and at big county fairs, most are clowns at local hospitals, senior centers and schools. Ducre even takes her clowning around the world to help people.
DUCRE: I love humanitarian trips, so I've been to six continents and more than 37 countries doing clowning.
PRIEUR: Her counterpart, Robin Bryan, is a hospital clown.
BRYAN: My husband and I have over 1,500 volunteer hours for Wolfson Children's Hospital. So we go in every week and we do our best to give smiles and cheers and laughter. And that's what is important about...
BRYAN: ...Being a clown, right?
PRIEUR: It's this shared vision of fun and communion that attracts members, even online. Ducre says with social media, it's never been easier to stay connected outside the walls of the conference year-round. And it comes in handy for clowns to stay on top of pop culture.
DUCRE: We do have Facebook groups, so if we know a new Disney story or party is coming out like, uh-oh, how do we make this Moana sword?
PRIEUR: Nowadays, people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities can learn clowning online, which is why Bryan says despite the scary movies and negative cliches, clowning will continue.
BRYAN: I don't worry about fears or stereotypes. I'll just do my best to put my best foot forward and be a joyful clown.
PRIEUR: The conference concludes on Friday with the crowning of the best all-around clown.
For NPR News, I'm Danielle Prieur in Orlando.
(SOUNDBITE OF 50 CENT SONG, "AMUSEMENT PARK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.