Why did Stephen become a clown?
After I tried out for the club in 1998, the board had told me they would call me the next day to let me know if i’d made it or not, and nobody called. Two days went by and nobody called, I was pretty sure I didn’t make the club, but the next night there was a show I went down there just in case. I saw Jessie Smedberg at The Aqua Bowl before the show, and he said “hey congratulations on making the team”, I was confused and said “but nobody called me”, and he responded, “oh whoops, sorry about that, and hey you’re doing the clown act tonight.” I said, I’ve never done the clown act, and I don’t know how to do the clown act. He replied, “sure you do, you’re Phil Smith’s brother.” So that is how it all started!
Everything I learned about the clown act, I learned from my older brother, Phil, when I was growing up, and from Jessie Smedberg when I first joined the team.
What was Stephen’s favorite clown act that he remembers but did not participate in?
My brother used to do this hilarious act where he played the role of a baby. He would tie a white sheet up to look like a diaper, and he had one of those bottles they use to suckle baby cows and horses as his baby bottle. He’d walk across the dock with this baby waddle that was just too hilarious.
The other clown would play the part of some poor mother that was actively trying to lose this 230lb beer bellied baby. I love the image of my brother, who probably weighed 80 pounds more than Ted Galaty, jumping onto him with his baby costume for hitch-hiker. I don’t remember Ted the Shred ever falling, he was pretty ripped.
I also love some of the classic pieces of the clown act, like the minnow in the ear. I incorporated those into my act, and I think my brother got those from Lance Krolczyk.
What was Stephen’s favorite clown act that the he participated in?
I loved doing clown act when I first joined, I was in it with Jessie Smedberg and later with Jane Wilcox. In those days I was really into experimenting, and we’d come up with pretty much a whole new scenario every show, except for a longer stint of “the cheerleaders” with Jane.
I loved doing the clown act with Drew
For sure my favorite clown act was doing the pickle salesman with Drew Milkent. I loved doing the clown act with Drew because he was so damned enthusiastic about it. If I ever wanted to sit one out he’d have no part in it, but those were probably the best clown acts–the Eastern European accent, the pickles versus zebra cakes, and the velociraptor impression. The pickles were $1 a piece, or two for $5, and sometimes I would sell every last one of those pickles. A few times I sold some shots of pickle juice too!
The little things make memories across generations
The whole time I did the clown act I would wear a water polo helmet that my brother also used when he was a clown. That headgear must have a combined total of 20 years of shows, I love that helmet.
On watching the next generation
I think Dalton Roth is hilarious. Every time I see him out there, I lose it. I also find it absolutely ridiculously ironic and ridiculous that after all those years doing the clown act with a fake European accent, there is now a clown, [Jansci Smithing], who is actually from Eastern Europe.
It is a pretty amazing tradition and feeling that you are part of something greater than what is before your eyes.
I think it is a pretty awesome tradition. I grew up watching the clown act show after show during the summers, and for me it was a huge honor to follow in my brother’s footsteps. My brother, and all those guys down there were my heroes back in the day, then suddenly one day to be one of them was pretty powerful. On the flip side it has been very humbling to receive the same kind of reverence from the younger ones; Drew, then Peter, then Dalton. When they say things like how they loved watching my clown acts when they were growing up and how they thought I was the greatest, in my head I am thinking well they never saw the crazy dudes that came before me.