This all works perfectly well with little kids who haven't been conditioned to fear clowns. Unfortunately, the approach does jack s**t for adults and teens who grew up with Pennywise and John Wayne Gacy. And there's not much you can do in a single afternoon to change minds.
"Clown exposure therapy" doesn't help much. Mostly because no one wants the word "expose" anywhere near the word "clown."
One time, a mother asked Ken to introduce himself in advance to her older niece, age 17, because she was terrified of clowns. He went up to her before the party and said, in a normal voice, "There's nothing to be scared of. I'm a regular guy, just as you're a regular girl. I'm just dressed goofy." Her friends gathered close and urged her to shake his hand ("TOUCH THE CLOWN," we imagine them hissing), and he stayed there a couple minutes, trying to talk. But she was petrified and couldn't respond, because that's what a phobia looks like. So he unpacked his stuff and got the party started, and the elementary-school-aged birthday kid and their friends ran in, all laughing and completely oblivious to the fear we as a society have decided they should've been feeling.
Yet, in a bizarre twist proving that the universe has a galvanized sense of irony, the same little kids who feel absolutely no fear for clowns are f*****g terrified of the character costumes. "Kids will regularly take one look at me and start crying, don't want me to hold them for pictures, don't want me to touch them." Elmo is cute on TV because he's little. Man-sized Elmo is a giant crimson predator.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images
If you see him on the street, flee to the nearest pimp and/or dealer for safety.
You run into a different problem with older kids. They aren't scared of the character costumes so much as possessed by a singular desire to beat the s**t out of them, "especially Lightning McQueen, Thomas The Tank Engine, or -- God forbid -- the Minion costume from Despicable Me." Oh, to be that age again: so innocent that you freak out over a mere six-foot-tall walking yellow pill who's high on speed and smells like sweaty clown sex.
Ryan Menezes is an editor and interviewer here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter for stuff cut from articles and other things no one should see.
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