Feds Fund Clown School in San Francisco

Terence P. Jeffrey | February 23, 2018 | 3:37pm EST
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(Screen Capture from a CNN report about clowns.)

(CNSNews.com) - The federal government is funding a clown school located in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco-based congressional district that has classes and workshops on “Precision Idiocy” and how to act like a “Buffoon.”

The school, which is called the “Clown Conservatory” and is part of the nonprofit Circus Center, received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the period that runs from June 2017 through May 2018.

The center says that the Clown Conservatory is “the United States' only professional training program for clowns and physical comedians.”

“Clown Conservatory is a multidisciplinary training program in physical comedy, precision idiocy and eccentric acting,” says the school’s brochure.

“Our program’s directive,” it says, “is to foster the super-versatile Human Cartoon.”

The organization’s website lists classes and workshops that include “Character Morphing,” “Buffoon,” and “Precision Idiocy: Micro-Crafting Physical Comedy.”

The summary of the grant published by the NEA says: “The training will help prepare artists to meet the demands of today’s international circus, film, and theater job market.”

This is the NEA's summary of its $10,000 grant to the Circus Center for the Clown Conservatory:

While the tuition for the program is $6,000, the school’s website notes that “need-based” financial aid is available and links to an application for students who want to apply for that aid.

Applicants to the school are directed to fill out the “Proust Questionnaire.”

“The Proust Questionnaire,” Vanity Fair explained when publishing it in 2007, “has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.”

Among the questions the Clown Conservatory asks applicants via the Proust Questionnaire, are: “What do you consider the most overrated virtue?” “On what occasion do you lie?” “What is the quality you most like in a man?” “What is the quality you most like in a woman?” “Which living person do you most despise?”

Since 2005, according to the NEA grants database, this federal agency has given the Circus Center $65,000. This include a $20,000 grant in 2005; a $35,000 grant in 2006; and the current $10,000 grant to the Center’s Clown Conservatory.

The $20,000 grant in 2005, according to the NEA grant database, went to “support the creation and performance of an original circus production by the Center’s professional performing troupe, the New Pickle Circus.” The $35,000 grant in 2006, as listed on the NEA database, does not cite a specific program at the center.

The Circus Center’s website quotes, among others, late television talk show host Merv Griffin praising the Clown Conservatory’s director, Sara Moore.

“Quite truly one of the funniest, most ridiculous delicious humans I’ve ever encountered and she is the hardest working clown in show business!” Griffin said.

The federal government spent $146,000,000 on the National Endowment for the Arts in fiscal 2017, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement.  

President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, sent to Congress in March 2017, called for eliminating federal funding for the NEA, starting by slashing its funding to just $29 million in this fiscal year.

“The budget proposes to begin shutting down the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2018, given the notable funding support provided by private and other public sources and because the Administration does not consider NEA activities to be core Federal responsibilities,” said Trump’s proposal.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee and the full Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected Trump’s proposal. In its report on the appropriations bill covering the NEA, it said: “The committee recommends $145,000,000 for the National Endowment for the Arts.”

“The committee values greatly the longstanding collaborative relationship between the NEA and the states,” said this report by the Republican-controlled committee. “State Arts Agencies support the arts for communities at the grassroots level regardless of their geographic location, providing much of their funding to smaller organizations, community groups and schools.”

“The committee remains committed to supporting proven national initiatives with broad geographic reach,” it said.

In September, the House passed a 1,658-page spending bill that included the $145 million for the NEA. The Senate never voted on that bill, but NEA funding for fiscal 2018 has been approved through the continuing resolutions Congress has so far enacted to fund the government into this fiscal year.

President Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal is again calling on Congress to eliminate federal funding for the NEA, starting by slashing its funding to $29 million in the fiscal year that will start on Oct. 1.

Referring to the $10,000 NEA grant for the Clown Conservancy, CNSNews.com asked the Circus Center: “Why should American taxpayers fund a school for clowns?”

Barry Kendall, executive director of the Circus Center, responded. "Paying taxes is a deeply patriotic act and supporting the preservation and advancement of American culture is one of the patriotic uses of those dollars," said Kendall. "Circus Center is proud of the unique contributions that our professional clown training program makes to the cultural life of our nation, and we are delighted that Clown Conservatory was recognized through the NEA's competitive application process."


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