Clowns dressed in full costume attend a Service in memory of celebrated clown Joseph Grimaldi at a church in Dalston, East London on February 2, 2014. The annual service, attended by clowns, is held in memory of the original
Run. Hide. (Andrew Cowie/Getty Images)

First they came for the mimes, and they said nothing.

But now they’re coming for the clowns.

EVERYONE PANIC! There’s a clown shortage! Hurry and stock up on balloons twisted to look like bicycles and balloons twisted to look like bunches of grapes.

Makers of comically oversized shoes and comically undersized cars went into a panic this week when news spread that the United States was running short on clowns. Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger told the New York Daily News that, “What happens is they go on to high school and college and clowning isn’t cool anymore.” According to the Daily News, “Membership at the World Clown Association, the country’s largest trade group for clowns, has dropped from about 3,500 to 2,500 since 2004.”

This is a crisis, people!

Then again, some would say that the only thing more frightening than a clown shortage is a clown surplus. Those people would go on to jump up and down in great excitement, shouting, “Our national nightmare of clowns is finally at an end! Praise be, praise be! I can finally sleep without a light on — the light that I have had in my bedroom for the past fifty-three years, just in case there might be a lurking clown there in a corner trying to pass himself off as a creepy statue.” These people have a point — Stephen King did not add a creepiness that was not already there. In general, if I showed up at your house and told you, “Hey, there’s a strange man in the basement covered in facepaint, with giant shoes, squirting water at your children and asking to be addressed as Bozo,” you would not hesitate a minute and would summon the authorities to your home, and your children would cry and cry and have to undergo years of therapy. But somehow this is all fine, because it’s a convention of the child birthday party. I don’t pretend to understand it.

Of course, as numerous people have pointed out, while the ranks of professional clowns are thinning, there have never been so many part-time, amateur clowns as there are today. From our elected officials to our sports stars, clowns have never been more visible and active in public life. Now if only we could teach them to juggle, we might get somewhere.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.