“It’s the most requested clown gag ever,” asserts Greg DeSanto. “Everyone wants to see a lot of clowns come out of a really small car.” Considering DeSanto’s position as the executive director of the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center in the consistently hilarious burg of Baraboo, Wisconsin, this is an assertion that needs to be taken almost somewhat seriously.
“There’s no trick to the clown-car gag,” says DeSanto, who matriculated in the hallowed halls of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College and performed with the self-proclaimed “Greatest Show On Earth.” “There are no trap doors in stadium floors, and the cars are real cars.”
In fact, a clown car is fully functional. “We remove all of the interior,” explains DeSanto, “including the door panels and the headliner, and paint the windows except for a small slot for the driver to see through. The driver sits on a milk crate. We remove any interior barrier to the trunk, and we beef up the springs so that the car doesn’t seem to be riding on its bump stops. Then it’s a matter of shoving in the clowns.”
An American Standard Clown (ASC) stands five feet eight inches tall and weighs 158 pounds, according to the DOT’s Office of Circuses, Zoos, and Carnivals—and possibly Wikipedia. Wait a second . . . okay, now it’s on Wikipedia. Each clown occupies about three cubic feet, assuming a 15-inch width and five-inch thickness.
The SAE passenger volume of a 2011 Ford Focus sedan is 93.4 cubic feet, and the trunk accommodates 13.8 cubic feet. Of course, that rises with the removal of the seats and the interior panels, so let’s call it 120 cubic feet of Total Clown Space (TCS). Theoretically, about 40 clowns should fit into a Focus.
However, how many clowns go in is a mix of Clown Politics (CP), Clown Size (CS), Clown Flexibility (CF), General Survivability (GS), and the critical Maximum Clown Hilarity (MCH) quotient.
Unfortunately, and contrary to accepted folklore, clowns need to breathe. Discomfort is to be anticipated, but General Survivability demands some consideration of physiological needs. Moreover, the overriding concern of anyone packing clowns into a car must be that the result is Maximum Clown Hilarity. Not only must the clown car dispense clowns, it must also disgorge props such as expandable luggage, beach balls, and two-person giraffe outfits with spring-loaded necks. These props cut into the space available for clowns.
How many clowns (X) that can be stuffed into any Clown Car (CC) therefore can be expressed in this simple equation:
However, it’s the mixture of various clown types being shoved into the subject car that results in Maximum Clown Hilarity. Using the Relative Hilarity Threshold of a six-year-old boy (RHT6) as a denominator, this can all be expressed in this straightforward equation:
Of course, the equation above doesn’t account for the use of Wacky Props (WP), Improvised Pratfalls (IP), Goofball Mugging (GM), or Generalized Anarchy (GA). Throw those in, and the equation grows in its usefulness, elegance, and mathematical subtlety.
In layperson’s terms, according to DeSanto, all of that boils down to somewhere between 14 and 21 clowns, with their props, in the typical compact clown car.
“That’s why we don’t use fiberglass shells or kit cars,” DeSanto adds. “They just aren’t rugged enough. A clown car may not get much mileage on it, but after two years, it’s used up.”