courtesy matt brown Told live at a Moth show at the Secret Society in Portland, OR
Growing up, I got embarrassed really easily. If a teacher called on me in class, if I was talking to a pretty girl, if I was in public with my mom, my face would just go crazy bright red. I mean, forget about it. My ears would get all hot crimson, and I would sweat.
When I got to college, it got worse. I was way out of my comfort zone, and I started having panic-attacky kinds of feelings. But I also wanted to meet people; I wanted to have a normal life; I wanted to meet girls. I wanted to live out loud.
So I flipped through the paper and looked through the want ads. It was full of the same old stuff: office jobs and restaurants and hotels and construction. Nothing sounded scary enough. But toward the end of the first week of looking, I found it in all of its awful glory: Clowns needed. No experience necessary.
I picked up the phone before I changed my mind. “Uh, hi. I’m calling about the job.”
This nice lady says, “Someone’s calling about the job.”
A man comes on the line and says, “We accept. If you can come in today, we could show you and get you a few jobs for this weekend.”
It’s Thursday, so I head down and spend the rest of the day at Party Animals’ headquarters. I learn about clowning and makeup and balloon animals and magic and juggling.
Saturday rolled around. My first gig. I got up bright and early. I was putting on my makeup in the bathroom, and I was thinking, This is much harder than I thought it was going to be.
I don’t have a steady hand or much attention to detail, and my first try I did Death Metal Clown. I give it a second try, and I get Murder Clown. My third try softens up enough for my standards. I grab my gear and go out to my car. That’s when the fear sets in.
I crank up the radio to drown out my thoughts, and I rock out. I figure I’ll drive for a little while, head toward this party, and decide how I feel. As I’m driving I’m like, Man, you don’t have to do anything you don’t wanna do. You can quit this right now.
And I get to the location, about a mile from my house, and this heavy blanket of dark fear stomps down on my whole body. I’m frozen, and I think, I can’t do this.
I turn the music down. I’m sitting there looking all melancholy Gene Simmons, and I hear this racket and noise and screaming. On both sides of me are these giant family cars, and they’re full of kids. The kids are hanging out the windows, waving their arms and yelling, “Clown! Clown! Hello, CLOWN!”
I roll down my window and reach out as far as I can in the direction of the kids, and I’m like, I can do this.
Matt Brown, 47, is a musician, a writer, and the founder of the Taxidermy Salon in Portland, Oregon.