Clowning Around

Clowning Around

Tommy the Clown and the Hip Hop Clowns make their debut on the east coast on Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore. He encourages young people to take a positive outlook on life and stay away from violence, gangs and other negative forms of expression.

<b>How did you get your start? </b>A friend of mine at work asked me to be a clown at her daughter's birthday. She said I would be perfect because I act silly and goofy. I really didn't have any problems being accepted as a clown. I never took dance lessons, so whatever I did just came from within. That's what Krumping is all about, it's a Freestyle form of dance, taking your energy and channeling it through dance.

<b>Why did you start Tommy the Clown and the Hip-hop Clowns? </b>The clown identity came from me starting as a birthday party clown in 1992. The kids that I'd meet at the parties wanted to come to other parties and dance with me, so it made sense for them to come as clowns as part of the show. The costuming and face paint design became a way for the kids to be creative and create their own identity and the face paint became like a mask so they were able to let down their inhibitions and perform without fear.

<b>How has audience reaction changed over time with your performances? </b>I don't know the exact time, but when I really noticed it was when everywhere I went, the kids would all want to dance with me and start calling me by my name. Since the release of the film "RIZE," my audience has expanded past my South Central neighborhood and has traveled around the world.

<b>What has been your best memory when it comes to performing? </b>After performing at a concert, I received an e-mail from a gang-banger that next day, saying he was really moved by my life story and performance. You see, I always tell my audience to stay away from gangs, drugs, violence, peer pressure and say yes to education and positive forms of expression. He said he turned down his homies' phone call when they wanted to go out gang banging that day. He had the courage to say "No." I get so many of these stories of how kids are turning away from fighting and turning to Krumping.

<b>Describe your act: </b>Me and my hip hop clowns take to the stage and freestyle to current social conditions.

<b>Biggest influences: </b>God and young people.

<b>Best compliment about a performance? </b>Hard to pick a favorite, because the response we get is always so positive. But anytime I hear someone who has decided to change their life around is like hearing the compliment for the very first time.

<b>Anything special about the upcoming show? </b>We are introducing the next generation-my 5-year-old son TJ.

<b>Future Plans: </b>To open the Tommy the Clown Dance Academy and allow kids (dancers/non-dancers) to come into an environment where they can not only learn about dance, but apply their talents and gifts. The academy will teach graphic arts, set design, costuming, and everything else that goes into a Tommy the Clown production.