Little Matt Interview
(Chewy The Water Clown)
Along the midway, at the New York State Fair, James E. Strates operates a stand called “Hit The Red.”
A guy, with clown face make-up invites passerby’s, well, I should say insults passerby’s, to dunk him in the water.
$2.00 gets you five balls to try your luck.
“Chewy The Water Clown or “Little Matt” as he’s known to the Strates people, sits on that bench, with a non-stop patter, just waiting for someone to dunk him in the water.
“Chewy” talked with us about his job for James E. Strates, at the New York State Fair.
Q - What is your stage name? What do you bill yourself as?
A - I’m Chewy The Water Clown.
Q - How long have you been doing this act of yours?
A - The clown, I started doing it last year. Then I started back this year (2009), about 4 months ago. (May 2009).
Q - How did you know you were up for this job? How did you know you could keep up this non-stop patter up there?
A - You just gotta have self-esteem. Everybody’s different. They all got something to say something about.
Q - You don’t have anything written down?
A - No. We don’t write nothing down. It’s all in the brain. We got papers that got jokes on it, but, we don’t even use ‘em.
Q - How long do you stay in that cage talking?
A - We stay in there 4 hours at a time talking.
Q - Constantly talking?
A - Constantly talking.
Q - I don’t know how you do it.
A - Sometimes, it get’s a little agitated, but, it’s always fun. It’s always enjoyable. It’s something you wanna do. It ain’t nothing, you know what I’m saying, where they have to beg us to come to work. We wanna be here. We have fun doing it.
Q - You’ve always worked for the Strates Shows?
A - No, no, no. My dad is actually a show owner himself, Big Hearted Jerry’s. We just closed it down last year. I own a bunch of games myself but, I actually work for someone in the dunk-tank crew.
Q - Were you doing this clown act in his show?
A - No. I didn’t do a dunk tank. I ran games. I’m a game manager.
Q - When you’re out there insulting people, are you happy when they dunk you?
A - Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Of course you want them to dunk you. You know what I’m saying to you? You don’t want them to feel like a loser. We’re here to call you everything in the book, but to keep it clean, to keep it funny. We got jokes about everybody. We like you to dunk us. That gives you self-esteem. That makes the crowd go crazy. But, that’s what we’re there for, to be dunked.
Q - Do you live on the Strates train?
A - No. I don’t live on the train. I actually have my own house, my own bunk house.
Q - How do you travel from place to place?
A - I brought my car. I drive my car everywhere. There is a train crew. A bunch of the ride operator’s ride on the train.
Q - So you pull a trailer with your car?
A - No, actually somebody else pulls mine. I just drive my car. I got a house-trailer. I pay someone (to pull it).
Q - How long do you think you can keep working at this job? Is this something you can do for 5 years, or 10 years?
A - Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. One of the clowns has actually been here 9 years.
Q - You travel around with Strates 8-9 months a year do you?
A - Yeah, about 8-9 months a year. Actually, the main clown out there, his name is ‘Patches’. He’s the one working the counter right now. He’s been out here 9 years running the same route. Everybody knows him. He’s got friends everywhere. Everybody loves the clown. Every spot we go its like, ‘Hey, how you doing clown?’
Q - Do you harm your vocal cords doing this job?
A - No. Like you change your voice for a week or so, but, it goes right back normal, you know what I’m saying? But, mine, I’ve had throat surgery. So, my voice is always going to be a little bit different.
Q - Did you ever want to join, say Barnum and Bailey Circus, or I should say Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus?
A - Nah. It ain’t like being a regular clown. A regular clown don’t get to make fun of people. It’s humorous. It’s all fun and jokes. We’re here for the fun to make people laugh and have a good time. It’s all about having fun, man.
Q - You didn’t have any special training for this job?
A - Nah, just listening.
Q - Were you like the class clown in high school?
A - I had a few jokes every now and then, not nothing that made me popular in school. It’s just something that everybody I look at I joke about it in my head. It’s addictive. It’s something you want to do. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable.
Q - It looks like awfully hard work.
A - No, it’s not really hard. Actually, it’s pretty easy, laid-back. C’mon we get paid to call people stupid. We get paid to crack jokes on people. It’s fun. It’s fun and games. It’s all good. We get easy shifts. Our boss is nice to us. We always have good breaks. Two, three hour breaks at a time, taking chill back, you know what I’m saying?
Q - You work 8 hours a day?
A - Probably like 6. Maybe 5. I work 5 in the tank, then usually an hour or two in the counter everyday. I work 4 in the tank, then an hour on the counter usually.
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