Why Politicians Give Clowns a Bad Rep

Emma Stroud

Emma Stroud

True clowns embody authenticity and vulnerability, they should not be compared to politicians.

With the state of the world weighing heavily on the minds of many, it can be difficult to find moments of relief. Turn to the media and you’re never more than six column inches away from a headline comparing politicians to clowns.

To give a recent example, earlier this month The Guardian published “Scary Tory clown squad play government in alternate dimensions.” It already sounds like entertainment, but not for the right reasons.

Worse still, labelling someone as a ‘clown’ in the political context assumes they are incompetent, drifting through a political abyss with nothing but a red balloon to keep them afloat.

In a post-satirical comedic world, the term’s meaning gets lost to the news opinion pages with little thought remaining as to its context in both its teachings and contribution to the arts.

We should stop using ‘clown’ as a throwaway comment about personality-based political leaders, because clowning itself plays a very serious role in social commentary and is something we can all embrace more of in our daily lives to find joy.

Having just finished a radio interview for World Mental Health Day, I used my book 5 Lessons from a Clown as a framework to inform people of how clowns can teach us to create space in our lives for more hope and joy.

The key teachings of clowning: authenticity, kindness, vulnerability, being seen, and allowing others to be seen, are the same attributes that mean, as clowns, we are society’s observers and can help others make sense of what’s going on.

Over the last 20 years as a performer, speaker, and leadership coach I’ve helped hundreds of people embrace play and lightness to connect with deeper meanings taught from the perspective of the clown.

It’s remarkable to see people step outside of themselves to embrace creativity as a tool for personal growth to support themselves, their family, friends, and colleagues.

Looking after yourself against a global backdrop of despair isn’t easy, particularly when it comes to juggling work and life; burnout, overwhelm, imposter syndrome, and everything in between.

Far from an emblem of political dystopia, clowns can help unlock our route back to finding joy in an uncertain world. I’m one of the co-founders of the New Global Movement called Laugh, Think and Play, which is aimed at all of us to feel better by doing these three things more consciously in our lives.  

My five lessons from a clown are:

Be Seen

In order to be seen by others and ourselves we must first be vulnerable and find joy in that process. It can be daunting however it really is the starting point. I help people I work with to unmask truths and get to the core of your own purpose and truth – that is then recognised by others.

Be Kind

Kindness is a limitless currency sometimes lacking in the commercial world but clowns teach us how to connect with kindness as a human being – to self and others. Its impact is far reaching, and even small daily acts can be a bridge to happiness and make you feel good about yourself too.

Be Present

Easier said than done in a world full of distractions but the physicality of the clown can support mind and body to truly live in the moment, appreciate the situation and create space to enjoy even the little things.

Be Accepting

Acceptance is an awareness that requires daily practice and clowning techniques can help us all to observe emotions and make this part of our daily happiness toolkits.

Be Playful

We’ve heard the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ like we somehow need to ‘earn’ enjoyment, but I’m here to tell you that it is possible to live each day with a sense of joy that you can own simply by showing up for yourself and building confidence and creativity using clowning techniques.

When the chips are down, clowns can be relied upon to help discern how to engage with each other as empathetic human beings, it’s a lesson that many politicians could learn from.

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