feel like your life is just one big circus? Try dressing up as a
clown for a living As one of the most popular and sought after clowns
in Hawaii, Chris Teijeiro started off his career as "Chris Da
Portagee Clown", doing 'Plantation Style' humor, which involved a
good amount of ethnic jokes. A little over a year ago, the Clown
Persona underwent a transformation, and the Portagee portion of the name
was ceremoniously dropped. "Chris Da Clown" emerged
reborn, ready to entertain Hawaii's kids with his Balloon Olympic
Shows. With mall appearances, birthday gigs, a schedule full of
bookings, and a new baby girl on the way, things have only gotten better
for Dis Clown since his Regenesis. Hawaii is definitely ready and
waiting for Chris to send in Da clown.
Hawaii411 sat down with Chris (without makeup) and his pregnant wife Mere
(due in December) at Elephant and Castle in Pearl City, and enjoyed a nice
dinner and informative insight into This Clown's Life.
How did you get into clowning?
Chris Da Clown: It was kind of an accident... In High School Drama class. The
Homecoming theme was a circus, so naturally the drama class were the clowns, and my mom made me a really nice costume... I did the parade and at the end of the parade my math teacher asked me to come to her kids party. I said 'No, I don't think so.' and then
she said 'I'll give you $35 bucks'. I just started doing it from there.
Hawaii411: Where did you grow up?
Chris Da Clown: Wahiawa... Leilehua High School.
Hawaii411: Any role models? Ronald McDonald or Bozo the Clown?
Da Clown Facts:
- Da Birthdate? Chris Da
Clown was born August 20, 1961.
- Da Clown's Favorite food? Zippy's Chicken and Chili Plate.
- Da Clown's Favorite Recent Movie? Barbershop
- Da Family Status? Married to Mere, expecting 1st child
- Da Email Address? firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Da Clown: Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Dick van Dyke... But locally Rap Replinger, Frank Delima... I used to do Frank Delima stuff word for word. Professor Fun was a big help. I actually stage managed his show at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel Sunday
brunch show. That was early eighties... Actually maybe even late 70's.
Hawaii411: Do people recognize you without the costume on?
Chris Da Clown: Only when I talk... They hear my mouth. Once they
hear my mouth... and sometimes when I walk. I walk kinda clown footed cause I'm so used to wearing the size 22's. Size 22 Nikes,
yeah... You gotta custom order it...
Hawaii411: Is it true what they say about guys with big shoes?
Chris Da Clown: Yes, guys with big shoes have big... socks.
Hawaii411: Do you feel naked without the clown suit?
Chris Da Clown: Without it, yeah, kinda.. It's different yeah. Without the nose
actually. You put the nose on and you get the voice. You get that Clown voice when you put that nose on.
Hawaii411: Are you always funny? Or does it just turn on when the suit goes
Chris Da Clown: Pretty much just when the suit goes on. It's work, but now it's
a lot more play. When the suit goes on I get a lot funnier just
to let you know.
What makes a good clown?
Chris Da Clown: Sour Skittles... Sour Skittles definitely help. I eat like a
pack a show, it's terrible. Sugar rush. It keeps me salivating, cause I talk constantly. I mean Constantly when I put the clown
suit on I just never shut up, and so it gives me a little sugar rush and I feel clowny. Just having fun!
Chris Da Clown: I realize my approach is a little bit different now - it's more
about making people happy, not making people laugh. I finally learned that difference. There is a diffence between the two. A
laugh lasts a few seconds and that's it. Happy lasts forever, cause when you have a happy experience you'll think back to it
and you'll be happy again. So happy is better than laugh..
Hawaii411: What's the step before laugh?
Chris Da Clown: Giggle. Or the sympathy laugh. Or the smiles!
The key to being a good clown is enjoying it, and remembering it's about the kids. It's not about the show. It's not about
the clown.. It's more about the kids having fun, because once the kids are having fun then the parents will have fun. Then
everybody has fun.
What do you do when the kids get out of hand?
Chris Da Clown: Usually I just ask them to not do whatever you're doing. Usually
the ones that are the biggest problems, you'll just put em on your side. Then they'll start helping you. I'm the good guy..
I'm the guy that's giving you balloons. Don't mess with me. Bother the waiters. I give away free stuff. They like me
usually. I don't have a lot of problems getting hassled, because we give as many balloons as you want. Most places you get one
balloon and that's it. With me, you can have as you want, so I usually stay on their good side.
Hawaii411: Are there times when you bomb out with the kids? or are
you just that damn funny?
Chris Da Clown: Years ago when I used to do a "show" where they would sit there
and watch me and I would do magic and comedy or juggling and it was like "Watch me juggle", or "Watch me do magic"... It's a lot
harder to get them to sit down and watch the show. Now, my show is... I do nothing. It's the Balloon Olympics and basically what it is is... I used to tell a lot of portagee jokes and a lot of
plantation humor, right? But I got away from all that, and I started to realize that there were so many other things you could
do, because some people have a negative aspect when they look at it, you know?
Frank Delima mentioned that in his interview with us...
Chris Da Clown: Yeah, I read that. He mentioned about Lee (cataluna, who wrote a
negative article about ethnic comedians) and... I was in that article too, and I was a little miffed. But then I realized that
it wasn't necessarily her opinion, because her album had some questionable stuff, but she's putting out an opinion that a lot
of people have. And whether I agree with the reason they're offended or not, it doesn't
change the fact that they're offended. And so I started to realize that. Yah, I was making
some people happy but others were like 'Oh God, it's that clown.' So I realized that I have to find something else that I do. And
I thought, 'What else do I do well?' Well, I make balloons and I play with kids. And now basically we have a bunch of contests,
giant prizes, and we have fun! They get to unravel toilet paper and pop balloons...
Hawaii411: Hey what are you going to do now that the dock workers are on
Chris Da Clown: This could pose a problem in my show... Well I'm using a lot more
Balloon contests and slowing down on the toilet paper. (laughs). Kids love toilet paper though.. The one place they can play with
it without getting in trouble is at my show. I just set up an area where we
can play. We have contests and games and it's entertaining for people to watch. There's a lot of humor and
jokes going on but for the kids... They don't have to sit there - they ARE the show. So I don't worry about
bombing anymore because it's like 'Let's have fun, and we all have fun.'
You are giving away all your best clown secrets...
Chris Da Clown: >Laughs< There's no real secret. There are more than enough
birthday parties out there to support a whole lotta clowns in Hawaii.
Hawaii411: How many clowns are in Hawaii?
Chris Da Clown: Offhand? There are about 8 that make a living with it... About
50 that are between the non-professional and the semi-professional. The ones that just do it for parades. There
are 2 different clown clubs.. I'm not actually a member of any, but I've gone to things and taught Balloon Classes... There are a
lot of clowns out there... The more the merrier, cause the only way you learn to be a good clown is by doing it, and the more
clowns there are, the cheaper it gets and more people can hire clowns. Then there's more work for everybody. You can never have
too many clowns. They give you a reason to smile.
Hawaii411: If 2 clowns run into each other, is there ever like a 'Clown
Chris Da Clown: No.. But with Clowns and Mimes you'll have a problem (laughs). But
Clowns and Clowns - We all pretty much get along. Once you do it for awhile you realize it's not about beating anybody else. It's
about being the best clown you can be.
So local humor has always been a part of your act?
Chris Da Clown: It was my WHOLE act. Chris Da Portagee Clown was basically my
Dad in a Clown Suit. With all the jokes it was more of a stand up clown. Now I'm more of a clown clown, now that I've made the transition away from the plantation humor. I did it for years and if I offended anyone, I'm sorry.. But it was a good niche for
me, because I was the only guy speaking pidgin english as a clown. The first one to put the DA in his name. Waianae,
Nanakuli, Wahiawa, Waialua, Waipahu... I was real popular. I never did any shows on the other side of the Island it seemed
like. Now I'm branching out, a little more mainstream. Now I can work the malls and stuff since the name change.
Hawaii411: When did you make that name change?
Chris Da Clown: I was in the process of doing it about a couple months before Lee
came out with her article. So many people called me up because they were furious about that article.. I got so much work from it
that I kinda kept the Portagee for awhile. 2 months later though, we actually killed the clown live on the radio on KCCN FM
100 on the morning show. We electrocuted him.. Drowned him.. Threw him out of the
building... did all kinds of great things. Old clowns never die... We become Shriners. So we did the big
name change and it's been about a year, year and a half. I was already changing the show and getting away from the plantation
humor, and now I never thought I'd see the point where there was absolutely no racial humor... There's local humor, but absolutely
no ethnic humor. After doing the joke book and all, that's what my whole show was about.
Hawaii411: Where can you get that joke book now?
Chris Da Clown: Borders Books, and Local to Da Max at Pearlridge.
Hawaii411: What other products have you released?
Chris Da Clown: I did a CD years ago called 'I tend to offend' and that sold out. We went for the shock value thing - It didn't really work. I
shouldn't have put the clowns face on it because it wasn't a CD for kids. It was a CD for adults, and we went for the shock
value of the clown... But it sold, and the person who produced it made money. Then we did the joke book. The joke book is still
in print but eventually that will be changing. We got some new Chris da Clown things coming up, but until they're finished and
Da Clown: I was the super nerd in school. You know how everyone wants to
be a jock.. wants to be smart. I was an idiot.
Hawaii411: Come to think of it, I didn't know too many 'I wanna be a clown'
Chris Da Clown: Uh huh... It's really funny, cause I saw my first grade teacher
and she told me that in first grade I said I wanted to be a clown. And I was like 'Wow, I never knew that'.
Hawaii411: <to waitress> Yeah, I'll wrap this up to take home to the wife
and kids... That potato is a no-no for me.
Chris Da Clown: When you're wearing a fat suit, nothing is a no-no to you.
Hawaii411: If I wear a fat suit to work they'll look at me funny.
Hawaii411: Do you think you could do stand up as 'Chris Da Comedian' without
Chris Da Clown: I've done stand up straight - it doesn't work as well. But I've
done standup as a clown doing standup about being a clown, and that worked really well. But out of the costume I'm not that
funny. It's really weird - I could be feeling as sick as a dog and I'll put on that costume and I feel fine. Just give me my
Skittles and my nose.
What's the most memorable event that you've done?
Chris Da Clown: I did a wake once, and they didn't tell me it was a wake because
they know I wouldn't do it. But the people really wanted me there and so I'm doing the gig and I'm like the magic word is 'Happy
Birthday!' And the guy looked and me and he waved and I looked across and I saw the picture and... That was a memorable one. I
did a School for the Deaf and no one told me it was a School for the Deaf. So no one is laughing and I'm like 'Should I slow this
down?' Then I see this guy on the side doing the sign thing.. I have done more strange gigs than the average human being. Other
memorable events would be the Children's Ward at Kapiolani, Telethons... It's neat doing a 1 year old birthday party and I've
done the parents one year old birthday party. Those are always fun and I've done a lot of those.
Hawaii411: Do you get to get out and meet people?
Chris Da Clown: Oh yeah, I get to meet people and it's neat to have
total anonymity. I can see them later and walk past them in a movie theater line.
Hawaii411: Do you cater to all age groups?
Chris Da Clown: Well, the kids don't sign the check, and you gotta keep everyone
happy. 10 years ago I was more of an adult clown... The kids
were there laughing at one part of the show. Now I really enjoy the kids because when you can make a kid just fall down laughing,
they are really having fun. They aren't gonna give you the courtesy laugh. They're
gonna look at you and say 'I wanna go back to da bouncer now.' Now it's a lot more fun. They get
lathered up at my show now - In the beginning they're kinda calm. You build up and by the end of the show it's like "Who wants to
win a dolphin?" and it's frenzy feeding - kids foaming at the mouth going "Yeeaarrrgghhh!" Kids are the most fun.
Hawaii411: With your baby (little Chloe) coming in December, I think
you're gonna have a whole new perspective.
Chris Da Clown: It's already started to affect the way I look at things and the
way I do things... In the last year or so the show has changed so much - so kid oriented - Actually some people ask 'Eh you don't
do the portagee jokes any more... I do 'em on request, but I have so much more fun doing it the other way around.
Same thing happened to Eddie Murphy - He's changed a lot.
Chris Da Clown: Yeah. Your approach changes and you realize it's not so much
about getting a laugh now. It's about making people happy. I like it now that when I leave or when I come into parties they're
like "UNCLE!" That's like the ultimate compliment. Or I'll leave a kid will run up and give you a hug. Before I was more a
comedian in a clown suit. Now I know that I've finally become a clown.
Hawaii411: When did you start doing this professionally?
Chris Da Clown: I started charging in '75 and probably full time in 83 when I
said this is all I wanna do. I've been a clown since '75, but back then people were laughing at me - not with me. I've been
funny the last... 10 years maybe >Laughs<.
Hawaii411: Do clowns have a subculture? Do they get together to learn?
Chris Da Clown: There used to be quite a subculture of clowns and jugglers...
Hawaii411: That sounds scary!
Chris Da Clown: Acrobats, gymnasts... and we all hung out together and go out to
Queens Beach in Waikiki and juggle and do gymnastics.. It was a weird little street renaissance faire culture thing and I don't
know if it's still there... but no, not really. We see each other and say 'Ey, howzit going... and well.. not as much
Clowning Class. Tell me about Clown class.
Chris Da Clown: I used to teach classes with the Hawaii Academy of performing
arts. And it was neat - it was the art of clowning, it wasn't to make you a clown. Just to teach you the things that clowns do, why they do them, what makes people laugh and what doesn't. They
were classes for kids. We taught self esteem and hand-eye coordination... When you can juggle 3 balls, I'll tell you what,
you are on top of the world. I didn't learn to juggle until later, and there an accomplishment there... It's just the
silliest feeling, but it helps and it makes you feel better. I did things for them, I did some things for the public
library - teaching juggling workshops and then some balloon things and stuff. But there are classes out there, but I find that the best
way to do it is experience. Get some books, get some videos from mainland professionals who are schooled clowns. Circus technique
books, and things like that. Then go out and do it. Talk to other clowns -
most clowns will help you out. People come up to
me and say "How do you make that balloon, How do you make this balloon?" and I tell people "When I'm doing public gigs, come
stand right on the side where I have my line and I'll show you as I'm doing
There's only 5 ways to
twist a balloon. Everybody
knows those five ways, it's just a matter of putting them together and you gotta have time to do it. So as far as classes,
I don't think you need a class - you just need to start doing it. Go out to fairs and hospitals and things for kids cub scouts.
Start from there and it'll build and you'll find out if you want to be a "clown" or if you just want to be able to make balloons
for the kids in the neighborhood or when you go to a birthday party. I know a lot of people - that's what they do. They're practicing lawyers and dentists and when they go to family
parties they'll bring a little pump and they'll make some balloons and just have fun with it. So you'll see if you want to
become a clown just by learning the trappings of a clown. A lot of people want to be a clown because they want to make money as a
clown... You can make money as a clown but you'll never be a really good clown until you're not doing it for the money. I
stopped being a clown for a coupla years actually. I got to the point where I wasn't enjoying what I was doing. I was making
good money, but it was like more of a nuisance to do it. That's not cool. When a clown isn't enjoying the kids, the kids aren't
having as much fun and it's like "Why are you doing this?". So I stopped for awhile. You gotta love doing it. Learn the basics..
Buy a Balloon book. Go to Balloons and Things and buy a balloon book or go to Borders Books and buy a balloon notebook and a clown book and have fun with the kids in your neighborhood. Figure it out from there. I took classes here and
there, but I
had already started doing it and THEN I started looking for things - you go to
conventions, and you go to camps...
Hawaii411: Clown Camps?
Chris Da Clown: Oh yeah! In the mainland they have conventions, camps, classes,
Hawaii411: So it IS a whole subculture?
Chris Da Clown: Oh, in the mainland it's a lot bigger.. In South America it's
really big. South America and Europe, clowns have respect. It's really a big deal and people will spend hundreds of hours putting
rhinestones on their costumes to look perfect to go to a clown convention for
Hawaii411: Clown Competitions?
Da Clown: Oh yeah! They have those... I was never into competitions because
I can't see trying to be the best idiot... You know? That's what I always tell people... I'm not really a clown, I'm a
Hawaii411: Who would make a better clown, Mazie or Linda?
Chris Da Clown: Linda... Just because Linda's commercials are hilarious. And I
think that after all the abuse that Linda Lingle got after the last election, and all the things that people were saying about
her appearance... She took a lot of stuff. You gotta have a thick skin to be a clown. And often protective padding. Cause
I've been kicked and bitten and stabbed and had pellet guns shot at me. Things happen as a clown, but that's from way back when I
wasn't that funny. Maybe that's why they were doing those things. Now it doesn't happen, but I am fully padded so I'm
Hawaii411: What do you do when you're not clowning around?
Chris Da Clown: Work in my yard, and walk my
Keeshond Husky and my Shepherd Labrador - Manapua and Adobo the dogs.
Hawaii411: You can't name your dog Adobo!
Chris Da Clown: Well, he was mostly black when he was a puppy, so he was like, a
Hawaii411: And he's still around?
Chris Da Clown: Oh yeah. He's my baby. And now we have a cat. So I play with
my animals and work in my yard and write. Write write write.
Hawaii411: Oh, you write?
Chris Da Clown: I write scripts.. Comedy things. And different bits.
Eventually things will take shape. I used to always pitch things to production companies, and they would look at them and make
promises and never come through. Now they look at em, actually film it. They never air any of it but at least I'm getting
closer. It's a progression. Lately, since I changed the clown, my focus has been trying to make that clown the best clown that I
can make. It's a whole different mindset now.
Hawaii411: Clown trivia - I read that they traced clowns back to 3000 BC
(before clowns). There's also a man called Joseph Grimaldi. Who's that?
Chris Da Clown: Grimaldi was supposedly the greatest clown in the world. He was
a very sad man. And there is a story that a guy went to the psychiatrist because he was always depressed. And the
psychiatrist told him "Go see Grimaldi at the circus. He'll make anyone happy." and the man looked at him and said "I am
Grimaldi." That's the story of Grimaldi... Such a famous clown.
Hawaii411: How sad! They say that because of Grimaldi, they call all
clowns "Joey's". So we have something in common.
Chris Da Clown: Joey's and Junior Joey's. Yeah. Joey's are younger clowns.
Junior Joey's are under legal age clowns. Then there are August
and there are Dandy Clowns. I am an August Clown because I don't
wear the white face. A Dandy Clown has a white face.
Hawaii411: You are a Damn Good Clown. Sounds a lot like Boy Scouts.
Chris Da Clown: Kind of. There are different levels.
master and clown extraordinaire Chris Da Clown really impressed me with
his Kodomo No Tame Ni (for da keiki's) attitude. What the world
needs now is laughs and smiles, and like Chris says, if you start with the
children, the adults will follow. Sometimes we forget what it's like
to be a kid, and what it's like to let loose and have a good time - But
it's people like Chris that bring this joy back in the limelight for the
local people - local folks who, thanks to 2 fulltime jobs and 20
hours of sleep a week, forget what life is all about. Catch Chris'
show at Kahala Mall (last Wednesday of every month) or at Sam Choy's every
Tuesday night. It's a whole new show. You can also hear Da
Clowns 30 second movie review on KCCN FM 100 every Wednesday
morning. Better yet, check out www.chrisdaclown.com
to find out more about this crazed clown who is making Hawaii a better
place to be. He's one of the good things about Hawaii (and we ain't
talking about KGMB). Thanks Chris, Thanks Mere, and thanks to little
Chloe. Good luck on your child's birth in December, and keep us