Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

There's A Clown Shortage: Who Will Fill Those Big Shoes?

Timothy A. Clary
AFP/Getty Images

This may be welcome news for those who suffer from coulrophobia, but it's no joke to those who agree with Cole Porter that "all the world loves a clown":

"Circus folk fear a national clown shortage is on the horizon," New York's Daily News reports. "Membership at the country's largest trade organizations for the jokesters has plunged over the past decade as declining interest, old age and higher standards among employers align against Krusty, Bozo and their crimson-nosed colleagues."

The tabloid adds that:

" 'What's happening is attrition,' said Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger, who added that membership at the Florida-based organization has plummeted since 2006. 'The older clowns are passing away.' He said he wouldn't release specific numbers, citing the privacy of the members.

"Membership at the World Clown Association, the country's largest trade group for clowns, has dropped from about 3,500 to 2,500 since 2004. 'The challenge is getting younger people involved in clowning,' said Association President Deanna (Dee Dee) Hartmier, who said most of her members are over 40."

As Morning Edition's Renee Montagne said Tuesday, this is all "a pie in the face" for the clowns of the world.

But, anyone who has a fear of clowns (the condition known as coulrophobia that we mentioned earlier) should be aware that there still are some people interested in careers as red-nosed jokesters. According to Alabama's

"Ringling Bros. isn't feeling the pinch. It said 531 people applied to attend its Ringling Bros. Clown College last year but only 14 were selected to take part in the two-week boot camp. Eleven of those were offered jobs with the circus."

So it would seem there are still funny folks ready to pile into a tiny car when there's a call to send in the clowns.

Before we go, we have a non-scientific question for everyone.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information