Joanne Roberts of Altus goes by many names – Mrs. Clause, Mrs. Turkey, Mrs. Pumpkin, Fairy Godmother and Elsa, among others. Perhaps her most well-known name is Little Red the Clown.
Roberts has been a clown for 25 years. She attended Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in 1991. She was then trained for six months by a member of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
Roberts said that her inspiration for becoming a clown was vaudeville and early TV comedian Red Skelton.
“When I was growing up, Red Skelton was my idol and I wanted to be just like him,” Roberts said. “I remember he always wore a hat and he would always say ‘may God bless.’ ”
When the circus comes to town, Roberts asks them if they need a clown and they always say yes. Her favorite part of being a clown is the smile she puts on child’s face.
“I wanted to do something for the kids to make them happy,” Roberts said. “Putting smiles on their faces has been my main goal the whole time.”
If she could do anything differently during her time as a clown, it would be to go back and start sooner.
“I worked at the Carson and Barnes Circus last year and got to ride the elephant around the ring,” Roberts said. “It’s exciting. I’m scared of horses, but I’ll get right on an elephant.”
Roberts isn’t just a circus clown. She volunteers her services to schools, nursing homes, libraries, carnivals and many other places. She travels to Frederick and does a show for elementary school students at the The Frederick Carnegie Library every year.
She’s held her own clown school in previous summers, teaching kids how to do face paint, make balloons and how to dress like a clown. She will do it again if she can find a place to hold it.
To see Roberts in action, visit the Altus Community Center for the Head Start Carnival 3-7 p.m. today. The carnival is free and open to the public.
Reach Kathleen Guill at [email protected]