Blog: Paul Nielsen

Do we need to run around in a rabbit suit to conjure up our region's lost wealth? Dr. Paul Nielsen, entrepreneurial owner of the Wunderground Magic Shop, amuses us this Halloween's Eve with spirited tales pulled from his hat. Learn to make coin from castoffs and marvel at Houdini's winter freestyle under Detroit River ice caps.

Post 4: The Clown Index

There are a number of indices that purport to track our economic health, such as the "underwear index," which is based on the belief that when times are tough people tend to make intimate items last longer. Personally though, I still have underwear from grad school that I have to keep rescuing from the garbage whenever my girlfriend does my laundry.  I'm guessing the indicator is based on the patterns of the holes, kind of like reading tea leaves.

Hello, I'm Paul Nielsen from Wunderground Magic, Inc. in Clawson, Michigan, the economic hub of the known universe.  (Please make checks out to "Clawson is America's Sales Hub" and slide them under the door at 16 S. Main Street.  It's okay to abbreviate the name.)

One of the saddest indices I read about recently is the "clown index."  NPR carried the story titled "Clowns Want to Get Paid Too" about poor Mandy Dalton who was not being paid for a gig because the company who hired her filed for bankruptcy.  There's nothing sadder than a clown, battered hat in hand, driving to the bankruptcy in her clown car with two or three dozen of her closest clown friends, banging her squeaker fist on the table for emphasis as the drooping flowers squirt water like a rain of tears.  You know, come to think of it, there are quite a few things sadder than that, but I digress.

 In my line of business I've worked with a number of clowns.  (The ones involved in government contracting tend not to wear as much makeup, but they also tend to be a whole lot sillier.)  Clowns are hurting.  I know one clown who just lost his clown house.  He had to pack up all his clown furniture, deflate his balloon dogs, and pack everything in his clown car for the long trip to a clown apartment.  Another clown is working three jobs, driving cross-state for low paying gigs, and wants to train to be a police officer.  ("Stop, or I’ll unfurl a banner that says 'Bang' from the nozzle of my gun.")

When times are good, clowns tend to upgrade their props.  They like bright flashy colors and tend to be hard on their equipment, with a lot of physical comedy.  (Have you ever tried getting meringue pie out of a twelve-foot silk streamer?)  The last clown prop I sold was a sponge brick, which I assume, the clown was going to try to throw through a plate glass window to abscond with the size 30 shoes that provide the only lasting relief a clown can have after a high speed chase from a band of bungling cops unfurling their 'Bang' guns.

 When times are tough, clowns are one of the first entertainers to be let go.  No one needs to have a clown when Uncle Harry can cover his face in magic marker and wear that old shirt his girlfriend keeps trying to throw away whenever she does his laundry.  Okay, so maybe that's not a good example, and if you met Uncle Harry you'd probably keep him away from your kids too.

Another thing I see is that even when clowns are hired, it is only for the bare minimum show.  There are no upgrades for candy or balloons or actual entertainment.  People hire the clown to show up, tell a joke, and go.  (And don't get me started on the market for joke writers.  Can you believe Metromode still hasn't paid me for this comedy gold?)