Clowning Around With Dick

By: Dick Wolfsie

This ad was on line the other day. I am not making this up.

“As a clown, you help people celebrate special occasions, making sure everyone has a laugh. Your work is a business, and like any business, there are things that can go wrong. To protect yourself from professional risks, please let us help you with a clown liability policy.”

Word was that this warning saddened many clowns.  But it was hard to tell because many clowns already have sad painted on their faces. When I was voted class clown in my senior year of high school, nothing went wrong. I certainly never hurt anyone, and I can assure you that no one died of laughter.

Clowns International, an organization dedicated to the clown profession, is recommending to all their clown members that they sign up for what has now been coined Pie Insurance. While no one has ever sued a clown for getting hit by a pie, it’s just a matter of time before some nut case who is allergic to pecans slaps a clown with a tort. Or is that a tart.

I have mentioned in this column before that the great Soupy Sales and I were friends. He hit me in the face with a pie about six times. By Soupy’s estimation he hurled about 7,000 pies in his lifetime. No arrests, no lawsuits, just 350 unpaid parking tickets in front of bakeries.

If a clown did get sued, what’s the most a judge would throw at him? Another pie? How about community service? I’m sorry, community service for a clown is not punishment. That’s what they do. They make people in the community laugh.

“Bozo, you have been found guilty of throwing a high cholesterol projectile. I sentence you to three months of not making people laugh. And wipe that smile off your face.”

“Okay, Your Honor, but I need some tissues and cold cream.”

Several years ago, a good friend got me interested in clowning. I took a few classes and acquired a complete wardrobe and instructions on how to prepare for my first few appearances. My wife and I had a total role reversal. One night before my personal appearance at a charity event she came in the bathroom and said…

“Dick, you are going to be late.”

“Don’t rush me, Mary Ellen. You know how long it takes me to put on makeup. Do you think I just wake up every morning looking funny…Don’t answer that.

“You were late for your last event, as well.”

“I forgot to allow extra time for walking in clown feet.”

Now, suppose I was sued for doing some harm as a clown.  I can hear the judge now…

“Mr. Wolfsie, this is a serious offense. And as an officer of the court, I forbid you from squirting any more water in my face. The jury doesn’t like it either. And you missed juror number six.”

For you aspiring lawyers, there is a great deal of potential work out there. You might not think so, but watch a little cable news and you’ll see just how many clowns you could represent. 

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@