Today’s interview spotlights a special guest of mine, Jim Dixon or Soapy, as he is known in the clowning world. To take a quote from his own webpage:
“Soapy has been providing entertainment for the Wichita and surrounding area for 18 years. His number of performances is now in the range of 1800, and the education of other clowns is the next step.”
Clowning is not simply painting on a big smiley face, donning some goofy clothes, and running around, tripping and falling for comic relief.
Clowning truly is an art form, and it should be appreciated as such. It incorporates so many different disciplines: face painting, makeup, storytelling, skits, gags, balloons, balancing, juggling, slapstick comedy, costumes, and more.
Now, let’s talk to Jim and learn a little more about the industry from an insider perspective.
Tell me Jim, how did you get started in your career as a clown?
“The answer to that probably isn’t what most people would like to hear; but the truth is I got into it as a ‘for profit’ job, because I saw the potential after having taken a class at a local rec center. I took the class for stress relief, because I was going through a really terrible period in my life; and the instructor said that I was good and he would pay me $65 a birthday party to do it for him; and after a while I decided to break off and do my own. For probably a decade, I was a ‘for profit’ clown. I did not love clowning as a craft, I loved the income that it could provide. It wasn’t until Master Clown, Jim Howell paid me one of the most amazing compliments ever that I realized that, “Hey, I actually do love this”.
Another factor that made me realize how much I love clowning was that I started working at night and realized that I physically couldn’t do working at night, working during the day, and clowning on weekends. So I decided to retire and it took about two weeks before I realized I couldn’t give it up, I actually liked doing it.”
Jim, what factor has helped you the most in your current success as a performing clown?
“I would say it’s my mild autism. I didn’t know I had it until I was diagnosed with it at 40 years old, and suddenly everything started making sense. As far as how it helps me with bein a clown, I become obsessed with things that I like doing. I become obsessed, and because of that I’ve taken my clowning past what most people would have stopped at. Also, I see patterns. Because I see patterns, I think it helps me in both skits, balloons, and comedy magic. I see patterns of behavior in people, so I can anticipate better and when I anticipate better I can prepare better.”
Makes good sense, the better prepared you are, the better you will think on your feet (so to speak).
Okay, if you could attain any goal with your clowning, what would you hope to attain?
“The answer is: I want to see the industry completely improved. I want to see the industry, as a whole, develop a sense of pride and quality that would make it less scary to people.
I would want to see the industry, as a whole, become something that everybody wants to do, instead of everybody wanting to make fun of it and make fun of it in a bad way, not the way it should be made fun of.
It’s the industry that I want to see improve. So if I could attain a goal for myself, it would be to be a good teacher, where I would make a difference in the success of clowning, because the problem with clowning right now is that anybody can pretty much do it. There is no restrictions on anything. Its an industry where you can throw on a little makeup and some pajamas, call yourself a clown, and start doing birthdays, and what that does is it kills the industry. My goal that I would love to see is to have education or at least help with the education of new clowns.”
Learn more about Jim “Soapy” Dixon through his website: http://sillysoapy.com/
You can also learn more about the art of clowning at: