Local guy John Coppin has an occupation that is often more feared than the dentist and more hated than car salesmen.
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’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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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?