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Clowning Around With Marco

Editor's Note: Ms. Bennett is an AEBC member living in Brampton, Ontario and Associate Editor of the CBM.

Marc Proulx, also known as Marco the Clown, is on a mission to create smiles--at everything from birthday parties and weddings to fundraisers and seasonal celebrations. For the past ten years, the Brantford, Ontario, resident has been juggling, joking, yodeling, singing, dancing, cartwheeling and balloon-making his way into people's hearts. He also performs ventriloquism, with such characters as Sesame Street's Grover and Bruno, a chocolate Labrador of his own making. His guide dog, Felix, is also in on the act. While Marco wears a painted face, size 24 shoes, and a navy blue clown suit with multi-coloured patches, his four-legged companion sports a piece of multi-coloured denim on his back to match the hue of balloons. When Felix is not sleeping, he barks on cue during songs and jokes, and even jumps up into the air to catch treats. All to make someone's day!

Proulx first considered working as a clown in his adolescence after he became blind. Not only did he know someone who worked as a clown and who encouraged him, but his personality was also well suited to the job. Clowning served a crucial purpose. "It was my way of dealing with losing my sight," Proulx says, "instead of drugs or alcohol. Plus, I have a lot of energy and love joking around." Since he had difficulty finding other employment, Proulx joined Brant Clown Alley (BCA), a group of entertainers whose aim is to develop and improve members' skills through workshops and practical experience. Through BCA and similar outfits in Toronto and Hamilton, he learned to make animals, Spiderman, a Harley-Davidson and a ballerina out of balloons, usually by following each step hand over hand. To get to events, he either car-pools with other clowns or gets a ride from family/friends. While he typically works alone, it's not unusual for other clowns to join him at weddings or Canada Day celebrations. Summer is the busiest time of year, with up to 14 gigs a month in July and August; in wintertime, there might be two per month.

Apart from entertaining, Marco the Clown uses his gigs to educate others about blindness. He takes a sign with him to public events that reads: “I'm Marco the Clown / Here to entertain / And this is my guide dog / Felix is his name / I'm visually impaired / I do not see / So please let me know / If you need a balloon from me / I might juggle or jump / Or I may sing a song / I'll create with balloons / And it won't take me long!” Since he can’t see if children are butting into line for balloons, for example, this is one way to indicate to parents to keep their kids in check. Sometimes he also asks for assistance. Marco has also adapted the birthday party game Pin the Tail on the Donkey to Pin the Tail on the Black Lab--Felix!

For Proulx, it’s all about providing pleasure. “When I first got into clowning, I took my ventriloquism dummy Bruno to a restaurant, where he flirted unashamedly with the waitress. It’s fortunate I had good orientation to the restaurant, because before long we were going to different tables. We had the whole place in stitches.” Clowning is sometimes also one of the hardest things he’s done. “At one summer event, a father brought his seriously ill three-year-old son to me,” he recalls. “I lifted him up in my arms and began singing to him. When I returned the boy to his father, the Dad was weeping, because it was one of the few times he had seen his child smile.” Proulx pauses here before continuing, “Three weeks later, I got a call inviting me to the little boy’s funeral, where I attached a helium balloon to his casket.”

Marco the Clown is always striving to improve his skills, such as ballooning and juggling. He’s forever looking for new jokes and tricks, and has just started getting up on stilts. While the self-employed entertainer would like to be financially independent and attend a Texas college to study “the psychology of clowning”, his work is currently only part-time and he continues to receive a disability pension. Still, he’s thinking big. When I asked him about his goals for the future, his immediate response was “to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.” When I asked what that record might be, he quipped, “Stiltwalking or unicycling, of course!”

Did I mention that Marc Proulx is also a father, former Big Brother and star athlete? Perhaps it’s only natural then that he got into clowning--something that thrills children and requires great physical agility. He’s also an accessibility advocate in Brantford. Proulx believes that you have to reach for the stars in order to actually get one. “The impossible is only the untried,” he says. Whatever the future holds for him, it will no doubt be eventful.

For more information about Marc Proulx, call 519-304-2277 or email: jumpy.juggles84@rogers.com

Comments

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Hello Marc, just read your website and want to congratulate and thank you for the wonderful job you do with children. We enjoyed you and Felix very much at the Toyota Boshoku children's Christmas Party Dec.9 at the Quality Inn.
Thanks again!