America's ''good'' clowns are pursuing their passion amid a popular culture obsessed with creepy clowns and a nation filled with self-proclaimed clown phobics. Vanessa Johnston met one performer who's on a mission to put the good guys back on top.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) LISA LONG, ALSO KNOWN AS "C.C. THE CLOWN", SAYING: (Over video) "I believe the clowning profession has a future as long as the world has children." C.C. the Clown - also known as Lisa Long - is an optimist...although she says the clowning business isn't what it used to be... The lovable clown of days gone by has been largely transformed in the public imagination to something much darker….like this specimen from the remake of Stephen King's 1980's horror story, "IT"... (SOUNDBITE) (English) LISA LONG, ALSO KNOWN AS "C.C. THE CLOWN", SAYING something short about the creepy clown phenomenon) "The creepy clowns are not clown are, in fact, not clowns" Long attended clown college more than two decades ago, inspired by a hospital clown who made her laugh during a stressful time as she tended to her ailing, young son. But she says times have changed and not for the better…with the public increasingly taking a negative view. VOX POPS David Carlyon is a historian and former clown with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID CARLYON, HISTORIAN AND FORMER RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS CLOWN, SAYING: "My theory, based on the evidence, is that the image of the clown as the little kid's friend and as the ideal of sweetness and light became so overblown, so inflated, that it had to be popped." Far from the days of beloved clowns, Bozo and Marcel Marceau, today's clowns are often presented in pop culture as something to fear. At The Clown School in Los Angeles, instructor Zach Steel, says he's not bothered by the scary clown phenomenon. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ZACH STEEL, INSTRUCTOR AT THE CLOWN SCHOOL, SAYING: "If I spent all my time trying to combat that and telling those people to be quiet, I would have no time to do anything else - to pursue what clown actually is, which is a positive, creative, imaginative presence in our lives." But fear of clowns isn't the only challenge clowns face. The famed Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed last year, and many clown trade organizations say membership is down as interest wanes among young people. Although that doesn't mean clowns are phasing out of culture, says Carylon. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID CARLYON, HISTORIAN AND FORMER RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS CLOWN, SAYING: "Lots of people out there are creating their own venues, creating their own kinds of clowning, of performing that's not traditional clowning, but it's still the same range of some who are good and some who are really bad." And for those "good" ones, like C.C. the Clown, laughter from the children at each of her shows is proof that clowning has a bright future. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LISA LONG, ALSO KNOWN AS "C.C. THE CLOWN", SAYING: "Look at the society we live in. How often do you get a chance to really laugh or be silly and have fun?...It's an art form, and that's what's different between that and what you see at Halloween."