A couple of clowns
Buddy and Button have been clowning around Calgary for more than 30 years
By Nathan Kunz, Contributor
Bud ‘Buddy’ Edgar’s 33-year career all began because he needed to keep his hands occupied.
Edgar was trying to kick his habit of smoking and needed something to replace the cigarette in his hand. Having seen a young Steve Martin juggle in his routine, Edgar decided to give it a shot as well.
“I would go take the dog I had down to the corner, he’d run around and I’d have a smoke,” Buddy recalls. “Instead of that, I’d start juggling.”
After adding a borrowed unicycle and a second hand clown costume to his repertoire, Bud Edgar became “Buddy the Clown.” In October of 1983, his wife Sheila donned the makeup to become “Button the Clownette” two years later in order to fill overlaps in Buddy’s schedule.
The couple’s transition to clowning was a natural one, with Button taking after her entertainer father, and Buddy always having a knack for being the centre of attention.
“My family’s not surprised that I do this.” Buddy says. “They just wonder what took so long.”
Buddy and Button were married in 1980 after meeting at a ski club. Nine years later, their daughter Amy was born. Following the entertaining route of her parents, Amy has since become a stand up comedian who performs with the Crash Test Comedy club in Calgary.
Though the couple share an occupation in full-time clowning, they don’t perform as a duo. Instead opting to create separate acts, each including a different set of showcased talents.
Button’s central act, for example, is ventriloquism, a skill she acquired from a clown school attended in 1987. The minute she read the ad, she was positive it was something she wanted to pursue, and her faithful sidekick puppet, Monkey, has since become a staple in her act.
Monkey, decked out in a banana vest and red fez style hat, was purchased in 1989. When present, the puppet interacts as an individual in conversation, swapping conversation points with Button and reminding her of anecdotes she has seemingly forgot.
Buddy and Button’s 30-plus year career has meant the enduring of certain fads within clowning, most prevalently with the widespread “creepy clown” movements, popularized first by Stephen King’s ‘Pennywise’ in the novel It, and recently with the public appearances of “killer clowns” in North America.
“It comes and goes,” Button says of the passing fad. “My theory is if people would just stop reacting, it would go away.”
Despite the recent movements departure from the mainstream, the concept of creepy clowns is nearly certain to endure into the future. It’s persistence, as explained by Button, is thanks to its absurdity in concept.
“It’s like the killer bunnies in Monty Python,” says Button, “You take the diametric opposite of what you think, make it scary, and that’s supposed to be impactful.”
The pair’s lasting devotion to their craft has now spanned three continuous decades, offering them the unique opportunity to perform for multiple generations of the same family.
“We’ve come an interesting circle because people will say ‘I want to hire you because you did my birthday when I was a kid,’” says Buddy.
After 30 years in the field, Buddy and Button’s love of performing has endured through tough economic times, mainstream fads and countless bandwagon clown careers. The trick to keeping it fresh, according to the two, is always putting the audience first.
“I can do my show 300,000 times, but it might be the only time they see it,” Button says. “So do I just go through the motions? No.”
“The focus is not on your problems or what’s going on in your life,” Buddy added, “The focus is entertaining the people.”
Though the tough economy has taken a toll on business, the Edgar’s are reluctant to prophesize an end to their clowning days.
“We’re at a point now where it’s pretty slow and we could just go ‘meh,’” says Button, “But you know what? It’s so much fun. You’d be ending something that you don’t want to end.”
“I was in here a while ago and I rode my unicycle and I did the Texas Skip, and I filmed it and put it on Youtube,” Buddy says of his rehearsal space in the Rosemount Community Centre. “The reason I did it, and this is true, is I just turned 69 in October. My point was I’m pretty spry for an old guy. And now I look foreward to be 70 so I can do it again and be better at it.”