It’s hard for a clown to cut a break sometimes.
For some reason, kids, and the occasional adult, tend to run the other way when they see the grease paint and big red nose.
A term has even been coined on the ‘net for those who have fear of clowns –– coulrophobia. And it hasn’t helped that too many horror films have been made featuring a smeared red smiley-faced psychopath in clown costume. (Jigsaw, The Joker from The Dark Knight, anyone?)
Lawrence Bourgeois hopes to change that image.
Known by his other moniker “Pingo,” Bourgeois has created a new act that combines clowning with his other favourite past time, music.
“Basically the Clown ‘n’ Country Music Show is country music played by clowns,” said Bourgeois, a former Vernon and Armstrong resident who now lives in Kelowna.
“This is truly family entertainment. The story is about a clown who is not making it as a clown, but finds he is a better musician. It’s classic country. There’s lots of one liners, and it’s clean comedy.”
The mix of clowning and country also blends well together, and is a natural fit to what Bourgeois hopes to achieve.
“Our goal is to bring live, classic country back to small community halls,” he said. “We want to work with service clubs such as the Army Navy Air Force, the legion, community halls and organizations, and to raise money for them.”
Bourgeois has rounded up two local musicians to help him in this latest endeavour, including Vernon vocalist/keyboardist and recording studio owner Betty Ann Northup and Enderby bassist Jerry Hutter (who once toured with Gary Fjellgaard.)
Bourgeois is the main “clown.”
Originally from Manning, Alta., Bourgeois’ exposure to clowns was mostly at the rodeo. However, his experience as a musician goes back to when he five years old, when he was handed his first guitar. He started touring professionally at the age of 15, and has been involved in the business –– off and on –– ever since.
After moving back to B.C. in the mid-’80s he began playing in numerous bands, and in ‘92 he formed Pingo, named after a hill made of permafrost, performing in the Royal Canadian Legion lounge circuit for many years.
“I got the name Pingo after travelling to the north in the ‘60s,” explained Bourgeois.
After producing The Country Music Story, a stage act dedicated to the origins of country, in 2005, Bourgeois got out of the music business, saying he found it difficult to find other musicians willing to commit the time.
It was after visiting Hutter, and receiving further encouragement from his wife, Barb, that he came up with Clown ‘n’ Country.
“I was told to get back into music, as that’s when I’m happiest. When I thought about what kind of show I wanted to do, the clown idea came up. It was a way to make other people happy.”
The Clown ‘n’ Country Music Show makes its Vernon debut at the Army Navy Airforce Unit 5 (The Hangar) Thursday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance at the ANAF Spitfire Lounge, by calling 250-470-7366, or visit www.clownandcountry.com. Tickets are $25 at the door. A portion of the proceeds will be will be donated to the ANAF Unit 5 renovation fund.