In our culture, we rely on people to serve and entertain us all the time — whether it’s for weddings, birthdays, parties or just another Friday night. We often take for granted the amount of work that such a job requires, but have you ever considered what it’s like to be one of the people who provide fun? I didn’t, until my boyfriend became a clown. Rick Marlowe works for a company called Professional Kids Entertainment where he, BoBo, partners with a female, Bubbles, to create fun for children’s birthday parties throughout New York City. Every weekend, his job is to act ridiculously silly and make sure that these kids have a memorable and fantastic birthday party — but is it fun for him? He not only finds the job fun and rewarding, but has also realized that it gives him a different perspective of the city.
After about nine months’ worth of weekends that Rick has been employed by Professional Kids Entertainment, I’ve heard an obscene amount of stories about the parties he does. Every Saturday and Sunday, I watch him throw on his sweats and T-shirt (his clown suit stays at work) — complete with a pair of red and yellow clown shoes that he personally tailored to his feet — before he heads off to Long Island, where the company is based. He never complains about the job and tells me, “At the very core, I love having a job that makes people happy.” I know it makes him happy as well. Since I’ve known him, Rick has been a goofball and he agrees. “I’ve always been goofy, over-the-top and taking things too far.” As a girlfriend, I can say these traits have irritated me beyond belief at times (before I learned to love them), but there’s no doubt that he’s perfect for this job.
Rick ran across this job opportunity on Craigslist. Although he knew it was kid’s entertainment, he had no idea that he was going to be a clown. In fact, walking into his first day of training, he didn’t have a clue of what to expect. “The first thing I did for training was ‘The Hokey Pokey’ and sing, ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ from Barney. I’m a 23-year-old singing Barney in the middle of a living room with a group of other adults [laughs].” One of BoBo’s responsibilities during his shows, and a part of the training, is balloon twisting. In this respect, Rick had a slight advantage since he’d twisted balloons for a past job when living in Florida. He loves to receive a challenging request from a child and think of creative ways to fulfill it for them.
The question remains, though, whether he’s still having fun at these parties months later. The answer is absolutely: “I pretty much go to parties and party.” Rick believes that as people we don’t “grow up” but just become bigger kids. He realized this one day after being amazed by how entertained children were during the bubble shows at his parties. When he left work that night to go to Webster Hall for an enormous foam party, it hit him that it was just a bunch of adults fascinated by bubbles. To him, everyone is still a kid. “We just look bigger and add alcohol.”
While interviewing Rick, I find myself laughing frequently, and I wonder about the adults attending his parties. “One thing I like to do personally is gear my show toward the entire audience.” He notices the same joke can make the entire audience laugh, but on different levels of understanding. Additionally, he realized that adults don’t expect him to treat them the same as the children. “They realize you’re a working man or woman who has come to play with their kids and they don’t expect you to turn it on them.” He doesn’t drop character around adults, and about 90 percent of the time he can make the adults laugh with the same silly attitude he uses with the kids.
Working parties from White Plains to Long Island and everywhere in between, has given RicK a slightly different view of the city. From skyscraper penthouses to roach-infested apartments in the bad parts of town, he’s seen a lot. Essentially, if you can think of the craziest scenario of something happening at a birthday party, one clown in the company has experienced it. “You can’t rule out anything,” he says. No matter what part of town he’s in, though, people always get a smile on their faces when they see him walking down the street in a clown suit. “There’s something about being a clown that instantly breaks the ice, that wall that New Yorkers have surrounded themselves with.”
When it comes to being a clown, Rick loves his job. He goes to work and parties with kids, which he finds incredibly fulfilling. “It’s beautiful. Their innocence is absolutely rewarding.” Our interview alone was entertaining — from watching him twist balloons into a monkey on a tree to listening to him talk about children restoring his faith in humanity, it’s clear that this job is perfect for him. Rick has aspirations to become a filmmaker and this entertainment job is fantastic while he works his way up, especially for the exposure it gives him to so many different types of people throughout the hundreds of parties he’s done so far. Despite experiencing the ups and downs of the city, he leaves me with this: “There’s one thing that’s universal and that’s celebrating your kids. It’s that when you are born, it is a significant celebration and you will celebrate that annually. And no matter how bad or how good you got it, you’re going to celebrate your kid’s birthday.”