Be Playful

Why Clowns Make the Best World-Changer

Posted on: 11 June 2008

‘There is an unnecessary gap in today’s world between the world-changers and the life-celebrators.’
~ Harvey Cox

Photo by Bahman.

If you asked people what they would like to achieve in life, what they see as their ultimate purpose, I think most people would say making the world a better place.

The best advice I can give to making the world a better place is to become a clown. Clowns make the best world-changers, and here are the reasons.

Clowns embody the change they wish to see.

Photo by esacarola.

One of Gandhi‘s most famous lines is:

‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’

Clowns are fun-loving, they give life a full embrace, they are artistic and musical, unafraid to stretch their limitations, even at the risk of looking silly. This is the kind of person I like to meet, the kind of person I would like the world to be full of.

I don’t know if you’ve ever met an activist. I’ve met a few, and I have a lot of respect for everything they do. Some activists are brilliant, they recognise the need for clowning and fun. However a lot of activists are deadly-serious, seeing the work they do to make the world a better place as the be all and end all. This is dangerous.

It is dangerous because if these activists achieve their goals, then the world they create is likely to be a deadly serious place, a place of efficiency and productivity where wonder and playfulness are frowned upon.

It is also dangerous because these activists tend to be serious because they believe they have the final answer that everyone should agree with. If anyone disagrees with them, then many would see it as acceptable to use violence. A classic and tragic example is ‘communist’ Russia; another equally tragic example is ‘democratic’ Iraq. Is it really possible to bring about a better world using violence and bloodshed?

Clowns are a direct challenge to power

Photo by Brave New Films.

Powerful people would like to have us believe that the world is a dangerous place, that we should be afraid, that we need looking after. It is important for powerful people to create this feeling, because it means that we become dependent on their power to protect us, further justifying their power. For an example, think war-on-terror, and the extra power that governments have given themselves because of the fear of terrorism.

In having fun, and refusing to live a life of fear, clowns are a direct challenge to power. This is why the FBI identified the nonviolent Carnival Against Capital as a terrorist group. It is also why the protesters against Nuclear Missiles in Greenham Common dressed as teddy bears and held a picnic on a nuclear silo. The message of clowns is clear: we are not afraid, and we will have fun.

Photo by Chance Gardener.

The humour of clowns is also a direct challenge to power. Many jokes make a mockery of authority figures, subverting the position of power that they assume. Adolf Hitler was so afraid of humour that he banned any jokes about the Nazi Party.

Another great place where political power is challenged in this way is in street carnivals. In the past, carnivals would be the one time when all people would be seen as equal, when the village fool would be made a king. The loss of this event, the unwillingness of people in power to engage in frivolity is no doubt a loss to society.

Clowns aren’t afraid to look silly

Photo by blmurch.

World-changers often have to say things that are uncomfortable to hear, that go against the status quo. Because of this, they are likely to be mocked and ridiculed in an effort to get them to shut up.

Clowns seek to be mocked and ridiculed, so mockery and ridicule is unlikely to silence them! Clowns have the courage to see the world as it is, and as it should be, and to proclaim aloud the difference between these two.

Clowns bring smiles, joy and laughter to the world

Photo by clspeace.

If I think back on the people who have most positively influenced my life it is not the grumpy teachers whose class I had to sit on every week for years on end, nor the bossy supervisors that I have been blessed with in certain workplaces. Rather, it is the joyful strangers who offered me a smile when they could see the despair on my face, the friends who have come alongside me and helped me to envision all that I can be.

I am firm believer in the idea that change begins at home, in the immediate world and community around us. If you can bring joy, laughter, smiles and hope to this community, then I have no doubt that you will have made the world a better place.

Let us go out into the world, and be the change we wish to see.


18 Responses to "Why Clowns Make the Best World-Changer"

I am one of those kids who used to get scared of the clows at the circus. You bring up some very nice points about clowns. And your pictures aren’t scary either!

I smiled instead of hiding… nice!

I used to be scared of clowns too – maybe that’s why I find them so fascinating now that I’ve still yet to grow up!

Some clowns are definitely more friendly than others. I’ve been thinking about sad clowns too though – and I think there is a depth of pain about all comedy.

Hi David,

Clowns are great. I love that they make me smile, just as the pictures of the clowns you’ve shared do. Although there are many serious issues in life, learning to laugh or share a smile with others is a great way to ease the worries.

Having fun as a revolutionary act–I love it! You know, I never really put Gandhi’s quote in that light. Being irritable and dramatic certainly won’t help anything. Wonderfully refreshing viewpoint, and it just gives me more motivation to be kind and helpful to the people I’m in contact with each day. (Does that mean me and my husband are changing the world by cracking up together?)

Isn’t it amazing what a difference a smile can make? I find that smiling can alter my whole feeling and body posture, as can someone giving me a smile.

Thanks for stopping by the comment! I love your blog, and am really glad you stopped by to visit.

I’d be interested to know the way you understood Gandhi’s quote.

Cracking up with others (especially with husbands!) no doubt makes the world a better place. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone had a partner or friend that they laughed with every day? Wow!

I can call this a colorful post!

What is good about clowns is my feeling that their main concern is to make me laugh and feel happy.

The pictures in the post are very well chosen, I liked the feeling of motion in them, it made me feel like reading an interesting story.

Actually, this post made me feel good!

As the song goes, send in the clowns 🙂 There are lot of things listed here that clowns do that many of us don’t recognize!

I love posts that inspire and make me fell a little different and do things a little different. I’ve always enjoyed being around people who were able to laugh at themselves and brought joy to ordinary situations. Clown do this. Thank you for making my day!

excellent! those aren’t scary clowns at all!!!!


Clowns teach us how to let go our ego by being light hearted at our own self.
If we let go our ego, we can change world collectively by making it a fun place to live with peace and harmony.


When I was in Mexico one came up to us who was kind of rude. Since then I haven’t really liked clowns much. I like the idea though they represent. Another thought-provoking article. Definitely one I was try to remember throughout the workday.

I’m really glad that you enjoyed the pictures. I loved searching for them on flickr, it was a bit like searching for buried treasure.

Thanks for visiting again. I just found that song and I love it. Brilliant!

Dr. Cason,
A pleasure to have made your day! Do stop by again.

I hope to write about scary clowns one day. I’ll give you good warning so you can close your eyes if need be…

I completely agree. Thank you 🙂

Sorry to hear about the rude clown. Hopefully I’ve helped portray clowns in a better light, and glad to have made you smile.

[…] n. the most creative place in all the world social justice, n. the aim of playfulness sacred space, n. anywhere playful acts are committed sparkles, n. those […]

Thanks for being clown enough to mention the scare tactics of authorities and how it takes away peoples ability to be free and happy.
If laughter is lost, everything is lost.
So thanks for a smile, a grin and a giggle – now I’m off to buy myself a big ole red nose and a silly hat, just because I can.
From one clown to another: Keep smilin’ keep laughing.


I hope you have fun with your red nose and silly hat! Have a wonderful day.

ooooh! i’ve just read this for the 2nd time and with fresh eyes and it makes me feel soooooooooooo happy!! 😀 yay, clown on!! h x

“Powerful people would like to have us believe that the world is a dangerous place, that we should be afraid, that we need looking after. It is important for powerful people to create this feeling, because it means that we become dependent on their power to protect us, further justifying their power.”

– for a closer to home example, think gender in sri lanka, where im not allowed to walk 10 paces down the road in the fear that evil men will molest me!

[…] n. the most creative place in all the world social justice, n. the aim of playfulness sacred space, n. anywhere playful acts are committed sparkles, n. those […]

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