The Age of Being Real

Nick Wilkins: The Art and Heart of Five Decades as a Clown

April 20, 2023 Rhonda J. Miller Season 1 Episode 1
Nick Wilkins: The Art and Heart of Five Decades as a Clown
The Age of Being Real
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The Age of Being Real
Nick Wilkins: The Art and Heart of Five Decades as a Clown
Apr 20, 2023 Season 1 Episode 1
Rhonda J. Miller

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It's bringing joy day-by-day that keeps Nick Wilkins thriving as a professional clown 51 years into living his dream.
The 67-year-old entertainer, balloon artist and entrepreneur based in Bowling Green, Kentucky got his early training in the family magic show. Then he  trained and worked at Ringling Bros. Barnum  & Bailey Circus in Florida.
Returning to Kentucky, he grew his business by entertaining children, adults and corporate clients as a clown and through his Balloon-A-Gram company.
Clowns are not immune to the trials and tribulations faced by humans everywhere.  Sickness, loss of loved ones, broken relationships.
Wilkins found the skills, or natural instincts, he uses in being a clown can help get through the difficult times. Once, while driving his mother to a chemotherapy appointment at Vanderbilt Hospital an hour away in Nashville, a gust of wind from a passing truck pulled her wig off her head and deposited it in the middle of the road.
"We laughed and just laughed and laughed," Wilkins recalls. "I went out there and picked it up like it was an animal and gave it back to her. You take tough times and try to live through them with some type of humor."
When he teaches young people the skills of clowning like stilt walking, makeup, juggling and responding to a "scene" with humor, it's also about a positive attitude. Students are not allowed to use the word "can't."
Wilkins has seen creativity in young people fade over the past 10 or 15 years, as more students in his workshops seem to struggle to find their own sense of humor. He suspects that's from too much time on social media.
He guides them in understanding the priority of connecting directly with people. That means no phones during a two-week summer camp, except to call home occasionally, and no TV.
In student workshops, parades, birthday parties, corporate gatherings or just greeting the mailman, Wilkins loves to drop a dose of humor. So in response to a question about when he's going to retire Wilkins says, "Yeah, I retired last week. I put a new set of Michelin tires on my van."
Sprinkling humor at every opportunity is just how lives.
"I'm definitely a jovial individual. I enjoy cutting up with everybody," he says. "In this world today there's so much negativity, I just want to give 'em a chance to stop their brain for enough time to just laugh and smile."
And he plans to keep doing that because being a clown is not a job he can retire from.
"It's more than a job. It's a passion. I mean, clowning is right here," he says, putting his hand on his chest, ". . . from your heart."
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You can read more about Nick Wilkins on Next Avenue, a digital publication of PBS, based at Twin Cities PBS.
https://www.nextavenue.org/a-clown-about-town/

Support the Show.

Music for The Age of Being Real is "Kites Over the Ocean" by the Kentucky Standard Band from their album "Angels of Mercy."
The Age of Being Real is created by writer and audio producer Rhonda J. Miller.


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Show Notes

Send us a Text Message.

It's bringing joy day-by-day that keeps Nick Wilkins thriving as a professional clown 51 years into living his dream.
The 67-year-old entertainer, balloon artist and entrepreneur based in Bowling Green, Kentucky got his early training in the family magic show. Then he  trained and worked at Ringling Bros. Barnum  & Bailey Circus in Florida.
Returning to Kentucky, he grew his business by entertaining children, adults and corporate clients as a clown and through his Balloon-A-Gram company.
Clowns are not immune to the trials and tribulations faced by humans everywhere.  Sickness, loss of loved ones, broken relationships.
Wilkins found the skills, or natural instincts, he uses in being a clown can help get through the difficult times. Once, while driving his mother to a chemotherapy appointment at Vanderbilt Hospital an hour away in Nashville, a gust of wind from a passing truck pulled her wig off her head and deposited it in the middle of the road.
"We laughed and just laughed and laughed," Wilkins recalls. "I went out there and picked it up like it was an animal and gave it back to her. You take tough times and try to live through them with some type of humor."
When he teaches young people the skills of clowning like stilt walking, makeup, juggling and responding to a "scene" with humor, it's also about a positive attitude. Students are not allowed to use the word "can't."
Wilkins has seen creativity in young people fade over the past 10 or 15 years, as more students in his workshops seem to struggle to find their own sense of humor. He suspects that's from too much time on social media.
He guides them in understanding the priority of connecting directly with people. That means no phones during a two-week summer camp, except to call home occasionally, and no TV.
In student workshops, parades, birthday parties, corporate gatherings or just greeting the mailman, Wilkins loves to drop a dose of humor. So in response to a question about when he's going to retire Wilkins says, "Yeah, I retired last week. I put a new set of Michelin tires on my van."
Sprinkling humor at every opportunity is just how lives.
"I'm definitely a jovial individual. I enjoy cutting up with everybody," he says. "In this world today there's so much negativity, I just want to give 'em a chance to stop their brain for enough time to just laugh and smile."
And he plans to keep doing that because being a clown is not a job he can retire from.
"It's more than a job. It's a passion. I mean, clowning is right here," he says, putting his hand on his chest, ". . . from your heart."
-----
You can read more about Nick Wilkins on Next Avenue, a digital publication of PBS, based at Twin Cities PBS.
https://www.nextavenue.org/a-clown-about-town/

Support the Show.

Music for The Age of Being Real is "Kites Over the Ocean" by the Kentucky Standard Band from their album "Angels of Mercy."
The Age of Being Real is created by writer and audio producer Rhonda J. Miller.