We are not truly scary, says full-time NI clown

Undated film still handout from the 2017 adaptation of It. Pictured: Bill Skarsgard Pennywise in It. See PA Feature FILM King. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Rat-Pac Dune Entertainment LLC/Brooke Palmer. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM King.
Undated film still handout from the 2017 adaptation of It. Pictured: Bill Skarsgard Pennywise in It. See PA Feature FILM King. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Rat-Pac Dune Entertainment LLC/Brooke Palmer. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM King.

With the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s terrifying novel ‘It’ breaking box office records around the world, one professional clown from Northern Ireland is reminding people that real clowns like her aren’t scary.

The film, which has set a new box office record for the horror genre after grossing more than $200 million in one weekend, features a child-eating demon which preys upon our greatest fears, and is depicted in the film as a clown.

While ‘It’ and its grotesque clown monster has been frightening UK audiences since its release last Friday, Downpatrick clown ‘Silly Tilly’ says it is unfair to think of clowns as something scary.

Silly Tilly, whose real name is Noleen Fries Neumann, heads up the Clowns International organisation as its chairperson, the oldest clown club in the world.

Married to another professional clown from Denmark, she has been performing as a clown as her full-time job since 2004, when she left the teaching profession to pursue her passion.

She painted a very different picture than the horror associated with ‘It’.

Silly Tilly believes ‘It’ is so effective at frightening audiences precisely because it represents a subversion of something which “brings so much joy to children”.

She explained: “I’ve been a full-time clown since 2004 and in all that time I think I have come across maybe one person who was genuinely scared of clowns.

“I’ve had people cross the street to tell me they were afraid of clowns while I’ve been in full costume.”

She joked: “Yeah, you’re really scared if you came all the way over to tell me that.

“Clowns aren’t scary. I wouldn’t be doing this if I was scaring children. I do this because I love to see the smiles on their faces, I love to make people laugh.

“We’re lucky enough to get the most immediate feedback you can ask for when we do our job as clowns, and that’s the looks on people’s faces.

“I think I’ve come across just one person in all my time doing this, and I’ve been doing this since I was 17 and I’ve been full-time since 2004, who was really genuinely scared of clowns.

“There is a condition, a phobia, known as coulrophobia, but that’s not even necessarily a fear of clowns – it’s a fear of people in masks.”

She continued: “It makes sense, in a way, that if you are trying to unsettle people and make them scared and uncomfortable to take something innocent and joyful that children really love, like a clown, and turn it into something nasty.

“I think that is what is so effective about the film, but it only works because clowns really aren’t scary.”

The new film is the latest screen adaptations of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel ‘It’.

The novel was adapted for the small screen in 1990 for a mini-series directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, starring Tim Curry as the demonic dancing clown Pennywise.

The 2017 feature film, which premiered in Los Angeles on September 5, is directed by Andy Muschietti and stars Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the clown.

It is intended to be the first installment in a planned duology.