Doug (Happy Face the Clown) and Sharla (Kisses the Clown) Bengtson sat down with us to talk about clowning, the clown community and how they got their start in clowning. The duo started clowning in 1997, and their first performance was at the Belview Nursing Home for Christmas. “We had three parades that year, next year we had about three parades. After that I sent about 60 letters out... I got about half of them back, and we had about 30 parades that summer,” recalled Doug. He went on to explain he is always very appreciative of the cities and events that call him, he said he really loves doing what he does and seeing all the kids smile. Doug recalled one of his more comedic moments interacting with a kid “some of the things you don’t forget... I have this bucket full of candy, and I used to put some plastic poop in it ... And this little kid came up and reached in and picked out a piece of candy, then he looked a little more then he saw it, threw the candy back in and walked away.”
They formed the Lighter Side Clown Club with fellow clowns Vileen and Kenny, because they wanted to be a fun and light group. Doug went on to talk about some of their tricks, like pulling a glove attached to a long piece of cloth that seems to have no end, and a coloring book that gains color as you flip through it. Sharla talked about some of her favorite jokes and tricks as well, including a pair of large underwear, large sunglasses with prescription pill bottles taped on them (prescription glasses), and a flower that grows when kids blow on it. Then we talked about clown camp, and the type of training they received. At the clown camp they were taught about all kinds of tricks, how to handle kids and people who are unconformable with clowns, and they also learned about how to properly paint their faces according to what kind of face they have. Doug mentioned “master clowns” and what it takes to be a master clown. Master clowns have to have a certain amount of hours teaching classes, and most importantly they have to create their own tricks and perfect them. Doug reminisced about the time they went to Las Vegas and performed in a huge area and he said he hopes he can go back one day.
Doug also talked about making balloon animals, and making sure every kid gets at least one. He went on to say some kids just ask for balloons and they make the animals themselves, he also said if he has time and someone wants to know how to make an animal he shows them how, but the main thing to him is making sure everyone is happy. “Sometimes you’ll be out in the parking lot and this kid and his parents will come up to you and ask for a balloon... I don’t mind so I’ll take the stuff back out and make him a balloon.” Sharla reflected on their kids’ and their grandkids’ involvement in clowning and that they got them involved at a young age. She talked about their costumes they wore as younger kids, and most importantly how much fun they had. Doug and Sharla’s hope is that one day their kids and grandkids can take over and carry on the legacy, but they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon... Doug ended by saying “I see myself doing it for a long time... as long as I can still do it, I’ll do it... I’m not 90 yet!”