Friday, 8 May 2009

Clowns, Slap and the Egg Registry

The other day I heard one of the most amazing and wonderful facts. One of those facts that on first hearing, seems unbelievable, farcical and absurd. You desperately want it to be true, but inevitably, it seems forever destined to be exposed as a sham.

I was reading an interview with the former ringmaster of the circus at Blackpool Tower, Norman Barrett, apparently one of the most famous ringmasters to crack a whip and don the top hat. He explained, in a most matter-of-fact way, about his life in the circus and the strains of traveling for a living. All routine stuff for a ringmaster you'd assume.

But then I came across this question, again answered in the straight-faced tone of utter truthfulness:

Q. Is it true that clowns have to register their faces with the clown museum?
A. Yes. They’re painted on eggs and kept so no one copies anyone else’s make-up. They are all slightly different.
This intrigued, amused and confused me in equal measure. Firstly, clowns have to register their face paint. That's incredible in itself. Secondly, the records are kept at a central depository. This level or organisation in the clowning profession is astounding. And thirdly, they keep the records painted on eggs! That, ladies and gentlemen, is genius.

I so wanted this to be true, and as such, I decided never to find out and remain in an ignorant state of happiness, safe in the knowledge that such a practice exists and is upheld. But after telling a few people, including an unbelieving Chris Unitt, a skeptical Emma Jones, and an amused Chris Randall, I was forced to back up my incredible claims.

With trepidation I entered my search terms. "Clown egg face". And there it was. The Egg Registry as a photo set on flickr.

With a rush of eggs-citement (groan) I dug further, finding the museum that holds the fabled chamber of eggs. Here is what they say on the matter:

One of the things to see inside the museum is the egg register. This shows the make-up (known as "slap") used by clowns both past and present. It is an unwritten rule that a clown never copies the make-up of another clown - each one is unique and is designed to suit the individual's face.
This was equally amusing:
** Membership includes a one off Administretion Fee which is used towards the cost of registering your 'slap' (clown face) on a china egg. which will be added to our famous Egg Collection.
If you'd like to see the eggs in all their glory, the Clowns Museum / Exhibition is now housed as part of the Wookey Hole Experience in Somerset. It is the place to visit if you enjoy the antics of the clowning profession and would like to see what and who lies behind the greasepaint.

What a fine and noble profession clowning is.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, wow. Thank you. I've already impressed two people at work with my new-found knowledge of clowns this morning and now I can show them the proof.

    I did a bit more research, though, and it looks like the eggs are on display at Wookey Hole, not in London:

    Somehow, Wookey Hole seems more fitting, don't you think?