Confessions of a professional clown
Entertaining children is more important than winning awards for this professional clown
As a professional clown, costumes, make-up and props are essential for Mr Edmund Khong to entertain his clients.
These items also allowed him to perform just as well when it came to awards.
Mr Khong, who performs for children as clowns named Captain Dazzle and Bubbles the Magical Clown, recently scored big at the annual World Clown Association convention, the largest competition for clowns.
The 35-year-old Singaporean clinched three awards at the event in Bangkok earlier this month, including Best Overall Clown, beating over 200 clowns from more than 10 countries.
It was his first time taking part in the competition.
"It was like winning the best picture award in the clowning world," said Mr Khong, who had dressed up as a new character - a safari-themed clown complete with a jungle hat and animal puppets.
According to Mr Khong, it was this unique persona that wowed the judges.
He said: "I wanted to stand out from the rest, and I think my efforts paid off because the judges had not seen anything like it."
Winning awards is not why he joined the profession right after university - he says he is guided by a love for entertaining.
It started during his national service, when he worked part-time as a magician's assistant and discovered he enjoyed performing.
This carried on to his time in university, where Mr Khong spent his free time learning and practising tricks.
He performed at small events and also joined his school's juggling club.
Being a magician, however, was not enough - he wanted to interact more with his audience, which led to him donning the make-up and colourful clown costumes.
"It was a different career path for someone with a history degree, but I really wanted to do it," he said.
"I am quite lucky as my parents and wife supported the choice I made. I am grateful."
In particular, Mr Khong enjoys performing for children.
I am quite lucky as my parents and wife supported the choice I made. I am grateful.
He says their reactions are more "honest", meaning he knows what they like - and what they do not.
His performances, which usually lasts an hour, do not have a set routine.
Mr Khong plans only how he will start and end shows.
Everything in between is decided on the fly according to the response he gets.
"Children will laugh if they think something I do is funny," he said.
"They will boo and jeer if they do not like it.
"I have to adapt, but at least the feedback is immediate.
"I have to know my audience, practise my tricks and carefully plan how to respond to them."
But the best tricks and routines can work only if the clown looks the part.
Aside from the make-up he invests in, Mr Khong also spares no expenses on his costumes, which are tailor-made and shipped from the US.
His pair of clown shoes, for example, cost around $1,000.
He also has several sets of costumes and accessories for the different characters he portrays.
According to Mr Khong, it is important to give his customers options - he admitted that opinions about clowns can be divisive, and he needs to cater to that.
"Given movies like It, it is understandable why some people are afraid of clowns," he said.
"But that is not what clowns are. We are all about entertaining and making people laugh.
"We are not out to scare people."
Secrets of the trade
- Being a professional clown is no laughing matter. A lot of work is needed to continually improve your routine and learn new tricks to keep it fresh and exciting.
- The hours can be long - clowns need time to put on make-up, get into the oversized costumes and transport the props. Good time management is key.
- It is important to give customers options. People have different expecations, and a professional clown needs to be able to cater to them.