© Copyright 2024, Daffy Dave

July 2010

Mom's Minute: Send in the Clown

Clowning around is serious business for "Daffy Dave" Mampel, who has been a favorite on the Bay Area party circuit for nearly 20 years. The 48-year-old minister-turned-clown, who lives in Palo Alto, performs at as many as 250 parties and events a year, singing, juggling, doing magic and, most importantly, making kids laugh. He's also a Family Favorite Hall of Famer.

Why did you become a clown?

Growing up, I was definitely the class clown and always entertained my sisters. As a minister, I was already working with a lot of kids and youth groups and Sunday schools and camps. That's one of the reasons my first church wanted me to be pastor. But I realized I just wanted to focus on entertaining kids. I loved it so much and was good at it. I look at it as a ministry, in way – making kids belly laugh and opening up their imaginations.

What's the worst thing that has happened at party?

I just did a show at the Stanford graduate school carnival. I had a dad come up and say, "My kid was laughing so hard, he peed on my feet." I've had that happen at least 10 times. And then there are the kid hecklers.

There are kid hecklers? What do they say?

They yell and try to get my attention, and it interrupts my lines. Or, it will be a 9-year-old boy trying to act cool in front of his friends: "I know how you did that." It happens less now. They're laughing so hard there's no time to heckle.

When are kids too old for clowns?

I don't think you're ever too old for clowning. Look at Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. Kramer from Seinfeld is a clown. Jim Carrey is a physical comedian.

I zero in on 4- to 8-year-olds, but my favorite show is a family show, kids plus a whole group of adults who are either laughing at their kids' reactions to me or at a joke that has gone over their heads. I like innocent clown humor, about the comic foibles of being human. Everybody can relate to that on some level.

Do you run into kids – or adults – who are afraid of clowns?

Oh, yes. People are supposed to be afraid of clowns. In many cultures, clowns were there to scare kids on purpose so they would run to their elders for security and wisdom. The white-faced clown started out as mocking death. It's the same principle as telling scary stories. It's good for kid to be a little scared. It makes them feel alive.

— Janine DeFao