Clown: But the puppy boy! He hurts with the mallet and the balloon - boom!
Mr. Plotz: Get back to that water tower!
Clown: Oh, please no, I'm not a well clown!
Kids' parties, especially birthday parties, are tons of fun for everyone attending. But when parties are your job, they can be decidedly more stressful. When it comes to kids' parties, the entertainers are perhaps the people who suffer the most. The kids can be jerks, the adults can be jerks too (especially the Obnoxious Entitled Housewife), you're expected to stay in-character (and unless you're a freelancer, the rules for your character are often strict), it doesn't pay too well, it's not exactly a "glamorous" job... it seems as if every single factor of the job is conspiring to make each performer miserable. That's what this trope is about.
Clowns tend to get the most abuse. Most people are afraid of them, and their facepaint usually makes them seem less than human, making them easy targets for ridicule. Birthday parties may also be seen as a bottom-of-the-barrel job for clowns, while clowns who perform at circuses or on TV get a little more respect. However, any kind of kids' party performer can fit in this trope, including mascot performers (which can be just as scary to kids as clowns are), jugglers, Stage Magicians, etc.
Sometimes, instead of people being jerks, the stress comes from the kids being afraid of the performer, especially if the performer is a clown or mascot character. The performer will often try to console the kids, but fail due to having to stay in-character.
As a result of all this stress, people who work as birthday clowns or other kids' party performers full-time will often be anxious, depressed, or ill-tempered, though they have to hide it when they're performing. Despite that, this trope is often Played for Laughs, as a form of Comedic Sociopathy.
May overlap with Birthday Party Goes Wrong.
Compare Badly Battered Babysitter, Loser Team Mascot, Goofy Suit, Everyone Hates Mimes, Sad Clown, Mistaken for Clown, and Bad Job, Worse Uniform. See also Monster Clown, Enemy Mime, and Depraved Kids' Show Host when the performer is the one causing the trouble.
- In this commercial for Walmart, a man is performing as a clown at his daughter's birthday party when he accidentally steps on a metal unicorn figure that apparently goes right through his clown shoe. The dad screams out loud, scaring the crap out of the kids and making them scream and run away.
- In Inside Out, Riley is terrified of a birthday party clown named Jangles, and she invents a horrifying Monster Clown that is one of the scariest monsters in her subconscious. However, the real Jangles the Clown is a normal guy who exemplifies this trope. He's revealed to hate his job as a birthday party clown, lamenting that this is what six years of acting school led up to.
- TMNT: Michelangelo has become a children's birthday party entertainer known as "Cowabunga Carl" to make ends meet and provide financial support for his family. He suffers quite the amount of Amusing Injuries during a party where the kids take pleasure in beating him up.
- Norman Snively in Air Bud did this for a living. Buddy sabotaging the party he went to and humiliating him in the process leads him to angrily abandon the dog, kicking off the plot of the movie.
- Final scene of Big Fat Liar: Now working as a party clown, Marty Wolf finds himself assigned to perform at a birthday party. When he announces his presence, none of the attendees have any reaction. But then he is greeted by... the last unaccounted-for (and only indirect) victim of his Bad Boss reign: Masher. Turns out the birthday boy is his son; when he tells Little Mash to "show him your nutcracker," the attendees all erupt in cheers. And yes, Marty's reaction indicates the "nutcracker" was a success.
- After renowned figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels from Blades of Glory is banned, he gets a job as a mascot on "Grublets on Ice".
- Brassed Off had Phil's attempt to support his family as Coco the Clown after the coal mine closed. Everyone treats poor Phil as a complete joke, until he, after one insult too many, goes off on his infamous "Coco the Scab"-rant in front of a church full of children.
- In The Cable Guy, Chip brings Steven to "Medieval Times", a medieval themed restaurant complete with costumed servers. its quite obvious that these guys are not amused with their profession.
- Ghostbusters II: Ray and Winston have to perform at kids' birthday parties in their Ghostbuster suits (while dancing along to the "Ghostbusters" theme) after they were barred from busting ghosts. They're less than thrilled that the fame and recognition they earned from saving New York City is completely lost on little kids who are more interested in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983).
- In Shakes the Clown, Shakes is forced to perform at children's birthday parties (which he hates) because he doesn't have a TV show.
- Swingers: Struggling actor Rob bemoans the fact that he was reduced to auditioning for the role of Goofy at Disneyland. Far worse, he didn't even get the job. "They were looking for someone with more theme park experience."
- Uncle Buck had the scene where he organized his nephew's birthday party. The boy's parents had already arranged for Pooter the Clown to appear. He arrives drunk and ornery. Buck punches him to make him leave.
- In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg's uncle Gary is an entertainer at children's birthday parties. At one point, he arrives late to his wedding, still in costume, because the kids weren't letting him leave.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden, professional wizard, occasionally has to put on magic shows when his usual Occult Detective work dries up. In one short story he specifically mentions having exhausted his magic at a birthday party as a reason why he can't fight a troll.
- In Good Omens, Aziraphale attends Warlock's 13th birthday party as a stage magician, and quickly discoves his 19th century patter is no match for rowdy 90s kids spouting homophobic abuse.
- Subverted in the Discworld Fools' Guild Diary, where birthday clowns have ways of dealing with difficult children, including a Pie in the Face of the kid who keeps saying "very amateurish", Gruesome the glove puppet, and the story of the creature that lives under your bed and eats fingers. The Guild is not wholly opposed to the Monster Clown stereotype...
Dr Whiteface: A clown leaving a children's party can look back safe in the knowledge that he will see smiling faces behind him, and will have left the little ones with memories that will last them forever, particularly at around 4 am.
- Barry: In season one, it's revealed that struggling actor Sally hosts princess parties for little girls to bring in extra money. She takes a call during one gig and accidentally swears in front of the kids.
- The Brittas Empire:
- In "Brussels Calling", Tim is forced to take on the role of "Mr. Jolly" for a children's party held at the centre. He makes it very clear that he doesn't want to be in his role, terrifying the children with what horrific consequences they could get from a pool that rats have swum in and badmouthing them to Gavin.
- "Snap Happy" features an unnamed pirate children's entertainer, who has had very bad experiences with Carole's son Ben - one of his previous parties (and his ability to do Punch and Judy shows) was ruined when Ben got ahold of a Flymo, and when Carole eventually convinces the pirate to let Ben be a guest at his current party, Ben proceeds to have a never-ending screaming fit, ending with him holding several girls hostage in exchange for party bags. When the pirate tells Carole what has transpired, Carole just calmly condemns the pirate for letting Ben get at the party bags before punching him in the face.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: While not their main job, while undercover in Florida, Holt and Jake worked at a games complex that threw birthday parties for children. When Jake got promoted to manager, he gave Holt the job of entertaining for the kids' parties.
- Cobra Kai: Tough-girl Tory has to get a job to help support her family. She's shown in a dressing room with several other girls, implying that she's a stripper, until she comes out dressed like a fairy-tale princess for a little girl's birthday party. In a twist on the trope, it's not the kids who give her grief, but The Rival Sam who just happens to be there and mocks her mercilessly.
- Dead Like Me had an episode where Mason got a job as a clown. He gets hired to by the man that he is supposed to reap. The man gets angry at him for his unprofessional behavior. The realization that he just killed a man at a child's birthday party causes Mason to start drinking again.
- Impractical Jokers: In "Smushed," Q's punishment was to be a clown at a girl's birthday party. As part of the punishment, Q had to humiliate himself and make the kids root against him in various ways, such as by breaking a small trampoline and smushing the cake with his hand. The Jokers also secretly gave one kid an egg to throw at Q whenever he felt like it. The kid threw it at some point in the middle of Q's "performance." At the end, the kids were told to smush Q's face into the cake, and they did so excitedly.
- Jimmy Kimmel Live!: In a 2016 show, Benedict Cumberbatch did a sketch where Jimmy Kimmel hired Doctor Strange, thinking he was a children's entertainer, for a birthday party.
- Killing Eve: Neither Villanelle or Felix enjoyed their very brief stint as clown performers at a child's birthday party in France. The job (after Felix made a mess of it and she had to finish the job, and shot and killed Felix too) leads her to tell Konstanin that "management sucks."
- New Girl: Jess runs into her ex Paul at a children's birthday party. She confesses how pathetic her life has been since they broke up, and that she's in the midst of a walk of shame. Paul, holding a large bag and dressed nicely, is assumed to be a married father who has his life together. Jess is proved wrong however, as in Paul's bag is a clown costume and he's been hired for the party. Paul admits his life isn't as together as Jess thought, and he doesn't have a wife or kids either.
- Subverted in Parks and Recreation: Andy initially doesn't want to take a job at a kid's birthday party, and doesn't have any songs that are child appropriate, but he soon creates the character of Johnny Karate, and enjoys the work, even eventually becoming the host of a children's TV show.
- Pizza: Ronnie McDoggle from 'Freaky Pizza' episode was ordering Small Hawaiian Pizzas from the Fat Pizza shop on the phone, while the kids are mucking around, threw party foods at him, causing him to lose his temper.
- A Saturday Night Live sketch featured Bobby Moynihan as Dodo the Birthday Clown, hired for a One-Person Birthday Party for a 51-year-old man named Ernest (played by Louis C.K.). Dodo awkwardly performs his usual happy clown shtick despite Ernest's lack of energy, with Ernest at one point walking away to the bathroom to pee, but still keeping his eyes on Dodo. Some other costumed performers show up at Ernest's door, but Dodo bluntly tells them, "You don't want this." and shuts them out. At the end, Ernest invites Dodo into the kitchen to chop him into pieces and put him in the fridge, and Dodo willingly goes along with it, remarking, "That seems about right."
- So Random!: The “jobs you wouldn’t want to have over the holidays” series of sketches features Danny the Dreidel, a guy dressed in a goofy dreidel suit at a kid’s Hanukkah party. The kids have no interest in anything he does or says until they decide to pick him up and spin him, which makes him cry.
- In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, soon after Kimmy is hired as a nanny for Jacqueline's kids, she is tasked with planning a birthday party for her son Buckley. Thinking that he likes superheroes, she throws him a hero themed party, except it turns out that Buckley actually likes supervillains. Fortunately, her friend Titus works as a knockoff Iron Man impersonator on Broadway. She has him over so that Buckley can beat him up with baseball bats and gold clubs. To quote Titus on it: "I've made less for worse".
- Victorious: In "The Diddlybops", Tori and her friends get talked by Sikowitz into performing music at a kid's party. They dress up in awful food costumes and sing a dumb song about their favorite foods, and though it delights the audience, all of them are miserable doing it and Jade even grumbles that their thousand-dollar payment isn't enough. To make it even worse, one of the kids makes them an Instant Web Hit, and they're unable to live their normal lives without being recognized as the Diddlybops.
- FoxTrot: Roger was once forced to play a clown at the birthday party of his CEO's five-year-old son, because "Bozo services" are in the terms of his employment contract. While the party itself isn't shown, a bruised, scraped, and food-splattered Roger leaves at the end of the night with the CEO both thanking him for an impressive performance and begging him not to sue over "the little radio-controlled airplane incident."
- In the Under the Umbrella Tree episode "Singing Telegrams," Holly and Iggy get a temporary job delivering singing telegrams. Their first telegram is for a little boy's cowboy-themed birthday party, where the kids lasso them and force them to sing their song again and again, while the second is for a baby, who pinches their noses very hard. The telegrams they sing for adults – one at a wedding, and one to celebrate a woman's weight loss – don't go any more smoothly.
- Magic begins with the player character bombing as a magician, being jeered at by the kids and running out in tears, resulting in throwing away their equipment.
- Max: An Autistic Journey: In the Max's Birthday DLC, the manager at the fast food restaurant dresses up as a clown to entertain Max and his friends for Max's birthday party. Unfortunately, he doesn't count on four of the kids (including Max himself) being afraid of him. They all start panicking and running around. The manager is shocked and runs away, forcing the player to control Max's dad to talk to each kid and calm them down.
- Cracked: "I Am A Clown: 5 Truths You'll Wish I Didn't Tell You" is about the dangers that a birthday clown for hire experiences on the job. The hours are long, the performers get so little rest that they often take stimulants, adults can get flirty (or worse) with the performers, the cotton candy machines are extremely dangerous, and more.
- Animaniacs: In "Clown and Out," Mr. Plotz hires a clown for Wakko's birthday, not realizing that Wakko is terrified of clowns. The clown keeps trying to be nice to Wakko, but Wakko still sees the clown as evil and abuses him with Amusing Injuries.
- Subverted in Chozen, where Crisco and Ricky's birthday party gigs aren't glamorous, but they bring in money and help them land jobs with a major children's entertainer (who, alas, turns out to be a Depraved Kids' Show Host.)
- The Fairly OddParents!: The Oh Yeah! Cartoons short "The Fairy Flu" has a clown at Tootie's birthday party who snarks about how he currently regrets his career choice.
Clown: No, Mom, I don't need college. I'm going to follow my dream and become a clown.
- Played With in the Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes episode "Strings", when the Four end up having to get regular jobs. Susan uses her force-field powers as a children's entertainer. The kids the viewer sees are gleeful about the fun of riding down an invisible slide and Susan doesn't seem too unhappy about the situation. However, a couple of women appear nearby, commenting cattily on how far she's fallen. Susan turns them invisible as revenge.
- Johnny Bravo: In the episode "Johnny Bravo Meets Farrah Fawcett", Johnny obtains a Smarmy The Dinosaur outfit to infiltrate Little Suzy's birthday party, seeking to get cozy with Ink-Suit Actor Farrah Fawcett. Johnny's bad luck kicks in, as he cannot remove the headpiece to receive a kiss from Farrah. Then the excited kids knock him supine, and proceed to turn Johnny's tummy into a trampoline.
- The Loud House: Ironically this trope doesn't apply to Luan, who oftentimes works as a birthday entertainer and can roll with the punches, managing to work within the themes of the parties she's booked at. Rather this is the focus of the episode, "Funny Business", in which some of the Loud siblings try to work as her assistant and tend to flub things. Eventually Lincoln takes a turn and ends up taking some pratfalls at one of the parties. This goes over well with the kids to Luan's chagrin. But when he takes a party solo for a goth girl, this trope comes into play since, well, goths don't tend to be fans of pratfall comedy. Luckily Luan saves things by performing as a mime which Maggie, the goth girl in question, and her fellow goths all enjoy.
- Robot Chicken: In the skit "Girl Toys", Jem appears as a washed-up, middle-aged White-Dwarf Starlet still cruising around in her old van from the 80s and performing for kids' birthday parties.
Jem: (playing a guitar off-tune and singing badly) The wheels on the bus go quack, quack, quack, open and shut, beep, beep, beep...the driver on the bus goes swish, swish, open, quack, bus, beep, beep...that's how it goes!
Little girl: No, they don't! You're ruining my party!
Jem: (still singing) Little stupid bitch better shut the f**k up...
- The Simpsons: In the episode "Homie the Clown", there is a scene where Homer (who has gotten a job as a Krusty impersonator for the episode) has to perform at Milhouse's birthday. There, he is forced to degrade himself by letting the kids throw cake at him while he dances, with Milhouse's dad forcing him to keep it going until the party ends.
Homer: Being a clown sucks. You get kicked by kids, bit by dogs, and admired by the elderly.
- South Park: In "Hummels and Heroin", various children's entertainers begin overdosing in South Park. Among them include people in costumes for Peppa Pig and Swiper from Dora the Explorer. The boys discover that residents from the retirement village have been dealing their opioids to said entertainers, who need the substances to get through the events they're hired for.
- Spongebob Squarepants: While not exactly a party, a similar trope happens in Krabbyland where Mr. Krabs decides to make a playland for kids in order to gain more money. Naturally he doesn't exactly splurge and the playground equipment is just made from whatever materials he can find. What's more he promises the kids a visit from "Krabby the Clown", but has Spongebob entertain the kids as the "Krabby Patty burglar" while he counts the money he gained from the kids. The kids aren't impressed until Spongebob accidentally hurts himself. Thus willingly inflicts harm on himself to keep the kids occupied. When Krabs unsurprisingly cheapens out on Krabby the Klown (which is just him with a tomato painted blue to look like a rubber nose), the kids revolt, beat up Krabs and take their money back.
- "Okay kids, it's been great performing for you. Tropo the Clown needs to take a rest now... for a while. Where's the booze?"