April Fools

Social Distancing Challenges Tiny House Clown Movement

Clowns in tiny house communities are finding challenges, and solutions, in the age of social distancing.

April 1, 2020

Clown communities have their own unique response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Photo: Giggles the Independent Clown Photographer and Paul VanDerVerf. License: CC BY 2.0.

In 2017, BuildingGreen reported on the community of clowns who had settled in a tiny house cohousing complex in Portland, Oregon. They quickly became indispensable members of the community, modeling humor, tolerance, acceptance, and the ability to optimize resource and energy efficiency by cramming seemingly impossible numbers of clowns into their brightly colored tiny house and rideshare cars. But in the age of COVID-19 and social distancing, how are the clowns—and the community—holding up?

BuildingGreen spoke with the community and the clown’s representative, Cowboy Biscuit Ears, via Zoom. “Howdy, howdy, pardners!” he exclaimed, “Hope you are super duper!” When asked about the close quarters that social distancing has forced upon all of us, Biscuit Ears said that it was no problem for clowns. “We are a very close family. Hey, we’re used to this,” he said, while moving someone’s red and green striped pant leg and yellow clown shoe out of his face. “We are all doing great here in lovely Portland!”

Larry Woodrow, the clowns’ neighbor, says the clowns have been an inspiration and sums up the community support: “We will all get through this,“ he said. “It’s just good to know we have clowns protecting us all and making good decisions regarding health and social distancing.” Laura Johnson, co-isolating for the foreseeable future with Woodrow due to an unfortunate extended dating mishap, tentatively agreed while trying to avoid the camera and forcibly pushing Woodrow’s flannel-covered arm out of her face. “Yeah, the clowns are great.” Said a visibly irate Johnson, “At least someone is making good decisions.” Undeterred, Woodrow continued, “Yeah, we had to cancel our weekly community unicycle lessons,” he said, “That was a bummer, but, c’mon Laura, online juggling classes are still on. I almost have the three-ball cascade down. You have to admit that is impressive considering the space in here.”

Eightball Droopydrawers, who’s been teaching the juggling course, has been a role model to all, said Cowboy Biscuit Ears. “Due to Portland’s rainy weather, she’s been streaming most of the juggling classes from their tiny house, and that is no easy feat in these challenging times, but on the rare nice day, she is outside on the community green … juggling, and keeping at least six feet away from everyone,” he said. “If anyone gets too close, she’ll squirt a warning from her daisy boutonnière, even in the middle of a five-ball reverse cascade!”

Being a gregarious, people-oriented group, social distancing has not been all rainbow wigs and custard pies for the clowns, or for the tight-knit tiny house community. Sad Boy Jonny has taken this particularly hard, said Cowboy Biscuit Ears. Visibly moved, and missing his neighbors, Sad Boy Jonny popped into view of the Zoom camera, crying, removing his tattered tophat and dabbing his eyes with handkerchief after handkerchief.

As with most people struggling to flatten the curve, shopping has been the real challenge for the clowns. Normally, everyone likes to cram into the group’s polka dot Volkswagen Beetle for a trip to the co-op, but realizing the severity of the situation, the clowns decided to send only Nurse Baggydrawers out for shopping. Cowboy Biscuit Ears told BuildingGreen, “Baggy was the natural choice.” She is the snappiest dresser, he added (she has a signature bright pink outfit and matching shoes) and is careful to be considerate of other shoppers’ needs. “Nurse Baggydrawers wears a mask that protects her and others, and carries a massive sanitizing wipe with her everywhere she goes. It’s nice to see the public treating clown-based healthcare professionals with reverence. People seem to give her more than the requisite six feet of space without being asked.” She returned from her last foray to the Circus Supply store with a three-month supply of organic popcorn and circus peanuts. She even stopped in to do some shopping for the vegan Woodrow, purchasing enough beans to last months, a decision Johnson laments.

“We are happy to help our neighbors and are very self-sufficient,” Biscuit Ears said. “And all this home cooking has really brought us together. We’ve had our popcorn popper and cotton candy and Slushee machines running non-stop for the past week.” This is a tradition of closeness he hopes will last well past any quarantine.

Along with family bonding, getting more exercise outdoors has been one of the unforeseen benefits of social distancing to both the community and the clowns, according to Cowboy Biscuit Ears. The clowns have led by example, not only through their juggling but also by making sure to get out every morning as a family … before piling back into their tiny house. According to Woodrow, “Rain or shine, the clowns are out walking their balloon animals or riding their miniature bikes …. It is truly inspirational.” Said the mechanically inept Woodrow, “I’ve even been trying to get my old bike back up and running!”—to which, Johnson whispered, “Good luck with that.”

Johnson’s co-isolation experience has been so motivational that it has turned her life around. She has been so inspired to spend more time outside of the tiny house that she has taken up running and walking by herself—for hours and hours on end. “I’ve never really been one for exercising, but at this rate I’m going to be a friggin’ Olympian by the time this quarantine is over.”

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.