Clowning – The Internet Trend

The following informant is a 16-year-old high school student from Upland. Here he is explaining an internet trend and challenge called Clowning. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as GR and I am identified as K:

GR: So, there is this thing on the internet, last year, that clown trend where everyone dresses up as clowns, it went viral. So, at our game that was broadcasted on TV, there where clowns that had weapons at our school during the football game, and I hopped the fence with my friends to go see and there were seven clowns chasing me so I ran out and got caught by the cops

K: I’m sorry, I am little confused, what is this clown trend

GR: Alright, so I don’t know who started it, but the clown thing or clowning, people were just dressing up as clowns and just like scarring people and all that, and people would take it to the extreme with like holding knives and stuff and um.. like it was just weird. And then you like take pictures or videos and post them on social media.

K: Was there a purpose, or do you have to accomplish something doing this trend.

GR: Not really, it was around the time they released the trailers from the rehash of the IT movie and around Halloween too.

K: Oh was it to promote the movie?

GR: No it was just around that time

K: So are there any rules, do you have to dress as a specific clown, or go to specific places?

GR: No there aren’t rules, well…other than dressing as any clown you want and walking around and scaring people, and if you want to post it, post it. Oh and it’s like mostly teenagers and like college people.

K: Okay, so just for my understanding, this Clowning trend was where people dressed up as any clown and went to a public place to scare people… with weapons, or without… and then post it to social media

GR: Yeah, pretty much, it was pretty viral around that time to, a lot of people were doing it.

K: Did you or your friends participate?

GR: No… I did not … but I knew some people … they were my friends, between 15 and 18

K: What did they do specifically?

GR: They dressed up as clowns and went to down town in Upland and the Colonies in Upland, and just walked up to people and scare them and walk around

K: And what was your opinion about this trend?

GR: Honestly I thought it was kind of stupid, there is no point, like you don’t do anything, but my friends liked it.

Context: While having dinner with my cousin, he overheard me talking about the Folklore collection project and chimed in with this story while we ate. It was actually quiet amusing, as he tried to explain this internet trend to a room full of adults and an interviewer who does not understand social media


I really struggled with this piece of folklore. At first, I was not sure if it could be defined as folklore. But when you think about it, it has multiplicity and variation, because there are no specific rules and it’s a viral trend, as well as its arguably artistic communication and it is done in small groups.