“GREASEPAINT”— The Art of the Clown



The Art of the Clown

Amos Lassen

Joey Thurmond is a clown along with the rest of his family. In this documentary we are with Joey as he travels America performing as a clown. We immediately sense his love for the art of clowning and he is always ready to show others the human side of his profession. Unfortunately the art of the clown is a dying institution.

Even though Joey is the focus of this film, we meet other circus performers who speak about the positive and negative ways people feel about clowns. Joey shares with us how he is able to maintain a family life at the same time he works as a clown and we become very aware of his passion for what he does—so much so that has put his life savings and police pension into his ultimate passion.  He has even gone as far as updating his show to make it relevant to day but the problem that he faces is that he and his family never know, in advance, if they will be able to make it another year. Jamie, his wife, is the money manager and she works hard to see that the family is financially solvent. Tyler, Joey’s son, is in the midst of deciding whether to continue on his father’s footsteps or to begin a new career. So we spend a little time with clowns here and we see how taxing traveling all year can be.

Hernan Colonia has joined the family and is adjusting to a new country and dealing with immigration at the same time. We get to see and hear the stories of others in the circus milieu and spend time listening to how Joey moved from professional wrestling to law enforcement to becoming a clown. This is a story about humanity and familial love.

Director Daniel Espeut takes us through the life of a first generation family of clowns and in the process we get a taste of the history of clowns. I was surprised to learn about the sociological and psychological aspects of being a clown. Joey founded the Nojoe Clown Circus and we become privy to some of the special treats found there. He has also founded the Nojoe Foundation that raises money to support seriously injured children and other charitable organizations.

Espeut and Joey met when the circus hired him to make a promotional film and the two men became fast friends—this is a product of that friendship. I certainly was taken back to my childhood with the film and as I watched I remembered the times my father and I, the two males in the family, would go to the circus together every year. This was he one time that was ours and we both looked forward to it. I never would have thoughts that clowns were so human had I not seen this film and I must say that “Clowning is no easy business”.

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