I've always seen clowns as the essence of the macabre, and I appreciate them as symbolic representations in rites of preservation, which is what carnivals are, at the heart of it. And I've never been afraid of demonic clowns, or mannequins, jesters, harlequins. In the context of Gothic romance or commedia dell'arte, when the horror elements are openly there, they never frightened me. They intrigued me, fascinated me, made me hunt for puppets with silken clothes and porcelain faces. Clowns that would steal my soul or devour my heart with their sharp, pointy teeth I like.
But having thought about it more, real clowns actually do frighten me. Clowns meant to entertain children (a rather grotesque practice, if you ask me, when the archetype originally portrayed the Devil), ordinary men dressed up in big shoes and perverse make-up, handing balloons to little kids... scary. When I was a child there was a clown on TV, in the children's show I watched every day. And some how I knew - I suspect I'd heard my mother talk about it at some point - that the actor, the man playing the clown, had died of cancer. There was a dead man playing a clown in my TV. And not just any clown; I vaguely remember that he was supposed to be the saddest or the most unfortunate clown on earth (he's a clown and he's really really sad - isn't that funny? cause, you know, clowns are supposed to be funny, ha-ha)... He was always really sad, kind of suicidal, really, lamenting his misfortunes. And the more I think about it now, the more surreal it seems that they actually broadcast this to children. Probably still do, because it was really popular.
And I have no doubt that it's scarred my psyche. Much more than the animations from the DDR I grew up with, which also were all really sad. Sorrowful.
I still don't get the mime thing, though. Probably because I've never seen a real live one.