Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
There’s always something funny going on at the Hanewall home.
Face paint, oversized clothes, big shoes ... it’s all normal in the lives of working clowns. And in this house, Luan (“LU-CEE”) and her husband, John (“The Incredible Luther”), both fit that bill.
Luan Hanewall began clowning 23 years ago as a way to spend time with her husband. The pair attended Clown Camp in 2000 and are now members of the Jesters, Jokers & Joeys Clown Alley of Southern Wisconsin. They are also involved with the Midwest Clown Association, which encompasses seven states.
When she’s not performing in whiteface, Hanewall is the assisted living administrator at Swifthaven Community Assisted Living in her hometown of Edgerton. She holds a degree in social work and gerontology from UW-Whitewater and has spent her career working with the elderly and adults with cognitive delays.
She and John live in Janesville and have three adult children—Karmyn (Matt) Schreier, Zachary (Jessica) Gutzman and Luke Hanewall—and two dogs, Lincoln and Huck.
For a video that shows Luan Hanewall transforming into LU-CEE, visit GazetteXtra.com/ multimedia.
1. When did you first decide you wanted to become a clown, and how did you get into the business? My husband’s parents were clowns, and I wanted to do something as a couple. I saw how much fun they had, so I asked John what he thought about clowning. To my surprise, he said that we should give it a try. It was a slow but steady learning curve with many changes in the beginning.
2. What is your clown name? Would you change it? What is the best clown name you’ve heard? My clown name is “LU-CEE,” which is just short for my given name—Lucille. John picked his name from the college he attended (Luther), and they went well together. I would never change it; it’s who we are now. There are many wonderful clown names, so if I have to pick one, it would be another couple I love, “Tiddily and Wink.”
3. Does your personality change once you put on your face paint? Yes. There are three different types of clowns: Whiteface, Auguste and Tramp. Each type has its own personality, which makeup and costume defines. No matter what kind of day you’re having, once you put on the makeup, the whole day changes. In some cases, your voice changes, too.
4. Are you a happy clown or a sad clown? Does each person’s individual personality factor into that decision? Do happy people sometimes clown sad, or vice versa? I am a happy clown. Early in my career, I was a Whiteface clown, which is a beautiful clown at the top of the hierarchy—nobody’s fool. Since I have aged, I have become an Auguste clown, which is a funnier, mismatched clown that is often the brunt of the joke. My husband is also an Auguste clown, which allows us to have a lot of fun during our performances. Many clowns are what we call Tramp clowns, which are defined as “sad” clowns such as Emmett Kelly. Many would describe them as down on their luck.
5. Can you share one of the strangest experiences you’ve had while clowning? Early in our career, we were hired to do a birthday party for a little boy who was turning 1. Upon arriving, we noticed no one spoke English but us. It didn’t matter. Humor translates to all languages, and it was a great learning experience.
6. Do you have a “clown mentor,” or is there a specific clown you try to emulate while performing? John’s mother, Peggy, would be both of our mentors. She is the best clown I know, and neither of us would have had the success we have today without her. I would also say my husband is also my mentor. He is able to write the best skits or come up with great ideas for characters and costumes and pushes us to be better and better.
7. People would be surprised to find out that I: Do not like to be the center of attention and go to great lengths in my everyday life to avoid it. However, when I put my makeup on, anything goes. I would say clowning is an art, and it takes much more than putting on makeup to become a clown.
8. What is the most difficult thing about being clown? What is the coolest thing about being a clown? The preconceived notion that people have about clowning, and the negative press clowns get around Halloween. It takes more than makeup and a costume to become a clown. The coolest thing is that, once the makeup goes on, there is a freedom to act silly and push boundaries. Also, clowning can take you everywhere if you want it to. You can travel all over the world, make wonderful friends who become family, and you stay young.
9. Did you attend clown college? Yes. I was lucky to attend Clown Camp in 2000 in La Crosse. We continue our education yearly by attending the Midwest Clown Convention, and we learn from other clowns.
10. How much prep work goes into each show? What has to be done before you honk your first horn? Designing a face and costume design comes before any performing is done. Each outing requires you to develop new routines and costumes. Makeup takes about an hour to apply on a good day, and when you’re done, you have to take off the makeup and put everything away. It’s a process.
11. What makes you laugh? My family. They are extremely funny, and I laugh all the time. Many people take life so seriously. Everyone is funny in his or her own way, and everyone should learn to laugh at himself or herself.
12. What is your most prized possession? I have a scrapbook that my sister Cindy made for me when I turned 50. She died a few years later, so it is very special to me.
13. In your opinion, is it possible for an introvert to become a clown? Why or why not? I know several clowns that would consider themselves introverted. Makeup will do wonders for you. When in costume/makeup, no one knows who you really are—which can be a curse or a blessing. But it does give you freedom from your everyday life.
14. There are quite a few people who are afraid of clowns. Why do you think that is? Most people who fear clowns had bad experiences when they were younger. I have a rule that if I notice someone fearful of me, I never approach them regardless of what others think. Sometimes small children will smile from afar. That’s good with me.
15. Do you have any superstitions? Only one: Get out of bed the same way you got in.
16. Do you have a specialty (juggling, balloon animals, etc.)? Face painting and being the “Incredible Luther’s” assistant. My husband does balloon twisting.
17. What is the first questions people ask when they find out you’re a clown? “Are you a real clown?” I’m never sure how to answer that.
18. Aside from circuses or children’s parties, what other employment opportunities are available for clowns these days? Fundraising, educational programs, parades, Christmas parties, weddings, church, conventions.
19. How many people can you can fit in your car? 20. I drive a Ford Explorer.
20. Share something that is a common occurrence in the life of a clown that most non-clowns just wouldn’t understand. I think it would be the amount of work that goes into being a clown. We love doing what we do, but many hours go into the performances. Sometimes it’s really hard to get your makeup on and go out and entertain others. But at the end of the day, “the show must go on.”