Local clown dispels evil clown myths

Local guy John Coppin has an occupation that is often more feared than the dentist and more hated than car salesmen.

Coppin as Mr. Hocus/submitted photo

Coppin as Mr. Hocus/submitted photo

He’s a clown.

Before you run for cover, just hear him out. He’s here to dispel the myth that clowns are evil and to prove clowns are people, too.

“All clowns are not Ronald or Bozo,” he said. “We are your next door neighbor. Always be wary if you do not know who the clown is, but the John Wayne Gacys are the minority of the clown world. We are to be laughed at and with all in fun.”

Coppin, 53, got into performing more than 30 years ago, and not by attending some fancy Florida clown college but the old fashioned way.

“I went to the school of hard knocks,” he said, “and also had great mentors who showed me ideas.”

Picking his career – which he loves because he gets to make people feel good – wasn’t a tough decision.

“I think I always was a bit of a clown,” he said. “I just had to put on the nose and Mr. Hocus was born.”

Mr. Hocus is the stage name for Coppin’s clown, one that has never scared a youngster – or adult – and one that regularly encounters magical situations in his acts.

“Mr. Hocus is a magic clown,” he said. “The magic happens to him, quite like Emmett Kelly did with the spotlight. He is having the magic occur to him not from him.”

One of world-famous clown Emmett Kelly’s signature act was sweeping up the spotlight on the stage until it actually disappeared.

Coppin the magician/submitted photo

Coppin the magician/submitted photo

Coppin’s magic career dates back to age 15, when he appeared as the Magic Magician of Christmas at a Wisconsin H.C. Prange department store.

He then took to performing at his high school, local shows in his Wisconsin hometown, and eventually bigger and more populated events. He ended up in moving to Marana last year, where he lives with his wife Carol and dog Frito.

Carol is so supportive of clowns – and Coppin’s act – that she even helps out at events with his forte of balloon sculpting.

Unlike other professions, Coppin said, the clown world is not known for being petty, competitive or stabbing each other in the back – unless it’s with a balloon or something.

“Clowns have no big rivals, really,” he said. “They work well with everyone.”

Yes, even mimes. In fact, the original clowns were more like mimes than the colorful performers we see today.

“They never spoke and the makeup was the whiteface,” he said. “The circus clown became a new idea in the early days of the traveling show, being brighter for the smiles.”

Sure, he’ll admit, some kids have been known to be scared of the whiteface or other clown makeup they find strange. The fears are often fueled by things like the movie “It.”

The 1990 Stephen King flick features the demonic Pennywise, a creature dressed as a clown that terrorizes a small town in the 1960s.

“I always think that the movie ‘It’ caused a lot of problems for clowns,” Coppin said. No, it’s not accurate. No, not all clowns are evil. And no, clowns never come barreling out of toilets.

“Only small cars,” he said.

If you’re still wary, Coppin offers additional advice on how to overcome a fear of clowns.

“Get to know one,” he said, “or better yet find your inner clown and let it out. Laughter is always a great way to find your inner clown and enjoy it.”

Learn more about John Coppin and his magic at MrHocus.com.


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster whose grandmother once baptized a clown doll. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

logoWhat do you think?

Are your fears quelled now?

Does Coppin help you think of clowns as people, too?

What’s the best clown/magician act you’ve seen lately?

Did you enjoy the movie or book “It,” even though a clown blasts through the toilet?

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About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
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29 Responses to Local clown dispels evil clown myths

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! Nice story. I don’t believe it for a minute, but nice story. 🙂  Kidding! Mr. Coppin brings up a very good point I had overlooked while wondering to people why I despise clowns so much. The silence aspect of their persona. We never had the dough to hire a clown while growing up, so the only place we saw them was at fairs or circuses. They never spoke. Probably the reason they have taken on the ‘spooky’ stigma.

    • radmax says:

      Forgot to say why I voted other. I wouldn’t join the circus if it was the last refuge on earth! Hate the damn things, all aspects of ’em. Now gypsies on the other hand… 😉

    • Rynski says:

      mornin radmax – thanks! and haha.
      it was a pleasure interviewing coppin. and i am glad he spoke out to help dispel the evil clown myth, although i know some folks that fear clowns so much it would take more intense things, like therapy, to help them (haha).
      yes, the non-speaking and the “masked” face can really make people wary.
      i’m none too fond of circuses myself – but if i were to join one, i’d go for ringmaster. or maybe the lady who stands atop the elephant. i’ve only been to circus once, as a kid. the only thing i remember is getting this little toy monkey on a stick that jumped up and down when you pulled a string and then broke in like five minutes.

  2. Jennatoolz says:

    Oh dear…clowns are creepy to me only because I used to have a babysitter that was OBSESSED with them! She collected anything and everything ‘clown’.  Pictures of clowns, those creepy little clown dolls, even poems about clowns were everywhere you looked!!! All staring down at you with their happy grins!!

    And, if I were to join the circus, I’d be an acrobat! 😀

    • Rynski says:

      what a wacky babysitter! that surely would mar any child (haha).
      did your parents know about the babysitters obsession? did the babysitter ever show up dressed as a clown?
      acrobat is a great choice. maybe even more fun than ringmaster. heck, i may change my vote…

      • Jennatoolz says:

        LOL No, thankfully she didn’t dress up as a clown, and I know my parents knew about the obsession, as it was quite obvious as soon as you stepped foot in her house! She’s one of a few wacky babysitter’s I had as a kid, lol.

  3. azmouse says:

    People have phobias about the weirdest stuff….
    One of the best, cheesy horror flicks of all time is “Killer Clowns From Outer Space”.

    I’d work with the animals to make sure they had proper treatment…I’ve heard stories.

    • Jennatoolz says:

      Yes, my mom stopped taking my siblings and I to circus’s (circi?) ever since she saw the elephants being mistreated while we were attending one. I was too young to really care and understand at the time, but it’s true. The animals aren’t always treated the best behind the scenes. 😦

      • azmouse says:

        That’s why I was never a fan of the circus. Back in the day, they used to pull out all the lions and tigers teeth and claws so they couldn’t get the trainer, and I know they used to use these horrible, really sharp rake thingys to get the elephants to behave by scratching the heck out of them. I hope most of that has changed, at least in the bigger circuses.

      • radmax says:

        That’s unbelievably cruel az! I’d heard about claw removal, my ex even had this done to an especially feisty cat named Pepper, but their teeth?!!! What the heck would they eat?

      • azmouse says:

        Mushy mixes with canned pet food, which of course isn’t good for them.
        At the circus, the big cats don’t ever look overly healthy, more lathargic. I have heard they use drugs on them also.

    • Rynski says:

      i figured you’d work with the animals, AZMouse! good for you. that is horrible about claw and teeth removal of the big beasts.
      i am also glad to see several folks answered the poll saying they would want to be elephant poop sweepers.

    • koreyk says:

      I’d almost forgotten about Killer Klownz.  What a hoot!

      • azmouse says:

        Is that the BEST movie trailer, or what!??!!!

        I watch that movie whenever I can.

      • koreyk says:

        Note John Vernon (Dean Wormer) as the sheriff.  There was one actor whose roles ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

      • azmouse says:

        So true. He was great in that flick. The cast was perfectly ridiculous in the best way, and those clowns were both funny and scary. Some of the best clown costumes ever!
        Cotton Candy Cocoons…..awesome.

  4. leftfield says:

    I don’t find clowns scary at all, but with age, I am no longer transfixed by balloon animals.  I do think the little cars are funny, though, and I would hate to see such a historic art form disappear.

    As to circuses, I think the European-style circus (e.g. Cirque de Soleil) is more entertaining for older folks like myself.  I’m surprised more elephants don’t go off their nut and rampage given the demands on them. 

    • azmouse says:

      Cirque de Soleil is really neat. It’s crazy what those folks can do with their bodies.

      I agree about the elephants too. It goes to show that for the most part, they must be gentle giants, although when they snap, look out!

      • Rynski says:

        thanks for comments, leftfield and AZMouse –
        i don’t think i’ll ever outgrow my love of balloon animals – esp. if they look like sawyer (haha).
        never been to cirque de soleil – but it sounds like a wonderment.
        elephants do get shafted a lot. ridiculed because they are scared by mice, made fun of for holding resentments…

      • mrhocus says:

        Hey Everyone, love the comments, Ryn you have to catch a cirque show it is actually amazing. Balloon sculpting is a wonderful art, young and old really enjoy the different shapes. Thanks to everyone.

      • Rynski says:

        Thanks for chiming in, Mr. Hocus!
        Your article has brought up some fun discussion. I WILL catch a cirque show when I can. And if I ever get to catch one of your performances, I would be thrilled to get a balloon animal shaped like my dog sawyer (of course that means my dog phoebe will want one, too).
        thanks again for the entertaining interview and great info.

      • koreyk says:

        If I remember correctly, there are evil balloon animals in “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”.  Maybe azmouse could clarify that.

      • azmouse says:

        I do recall the balloon characters came to life, sort of, in Killer Clowns From Outer Space. The dog balloons would walk around, sniffing stuff and trying to attack people.

  5. koreyk says:

    Late breaking news:

    Elephant poop takes commanding lead!

  6. sockyee says:

    Somehow, I think it’s rather unfair for hollywood movies to portray clowns as bad guys. After all, like what it says here, every clown is just a normal neighborhood guy around.

  7. Carolyn Classen says:

    Odd poll results, that 34% of the voters said they would be an “elephant poop sweeper.” We’ve been to lots of circuses (large and small) over the years, and have enjoyed the acts and the clowns.

  8. Dale says:

    I think the knock on clown is becuase they are mostly old people.  If you look at the circus the are much younger.  It’s hard to make fun of somebody who make more money an hour dressed as a clown then a guy in a suit.

    • Rynski says:

      hahahha! good point, dale.
      i would love to make a week’s worth of suit-wearing wages for an hour in a clown suit – as long as i didn’t have to wear those big shoes.
      p.s. i’d guess from your photo you’re in the balloon twisting business – good for you!

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