Just Clownin’ Around

Karen L. Ding

Hey, if you can’t get that i-banking job, you can always run away to join the circus.

Molly M. Rooney ’11 faced a life-altering decision: would she be known as Squiggle, Squirt, Jelly Bean, Wiggles, or Bouncy? She was at the first meeting of Class Clowns this past Wednesday, a new club at Harvard that seeks to combine clowning and community service, and it was time for her to pick her clown name. Rooney, whose father was a clown, said that when she searched online for clown names starting with “M,” she found her own name, Molly. In the end, however, Rooney decided to throw out Molly for “Junebug,” chosen because she was born in June.

Nancy Chen ’13, treasurer of Class Clowns, had a harder time choosing. She considered “Kiki,” but thought better of it. “Will people think that’s my real name? Because it sounds Asian,” she said.

After the stressful process of choosing a clown name was finished, the newly minted clowns embarked on Balloon Animals 101—learning how to make dogs, then kangaroos and elephants (which are, practically speaking, dogs with different proportions), then flowers. Initially, many of the balloon animals died cruel and sudden deaths at the hands of the trainees, but skills began to improve.

In the midst of all the carnage, however, the focus remained on service. The club’s first service event was at Relay for Life this past Friday, and next year they plan to perform for children’s groups and at nursing homes. Pilar M. Mayora ’12, who attended circus school in Argentina between high school and college and now arranges performances for the club, has seen this side of clowning before. “My thing was always to make people happy, and being a clown is a good way to make people happy,” she said. Class Clowns adviser Michael A. Simon, known as the Associate Director of Harvard Hillel in some circles and “Flopsy” in others, agreed with this simple premise. “Students are involved in very serious activities here,” he said. “Here’s one where the central organizing purpose is fun.”