No laughing matter

NBC NEWS/SNN
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POSTED: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 1:02pm

UPDATED: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 1:09pm

There is a nationwide shortage of clowns. Gran Boxleitner goes to the clown capital of the U.S.

(SNN) There's a reported national shortage of clowns.

But in one Florida city known as the circus capital, this is no laughing matter.

"It's not easy to find those who want to slip on banana peels for a living," said professional clown Chuck Sidlow.

The New York Daily News report is not getting many laughs in Sarasota the city where John Ringling once lived and home of the Ringling Circus Museum.

Steve Smith is creative director of the Circus Arts Conservatory and former dean of Ringling Brothers Clown College.
He says the art form is cyclical but not in danger of fading away.
Former Ringling Brothers Circus clown Chuck Sidlow performs as Chucko.

He works under the big top of circus Sarasota and says being a clown goes way beyond costumes and makeup.

"It's more than dress-up, it's about the heart, mind, soul, the training, the education," said Sidlow.
Smith says it's been tougher to send in the clowns when traveling circuses have diminished, but he's optimistic the nation still has a smile left for these icons of comedy.
"In Europe, clowning and the circus itself is regarded as a high art form. In the u-s, we're getting there and our mission is to elevate the importance of the art," Smith said.

And clowning around aside, Chucko has been drawing applause for 37 years and counting.
The World Clown Association says it's becoming more difficult to recruit young clowns to replace aging ones.
Membership numbers have been slowly declining.

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