Life Lessons From Bozo the Clown

Neil StraussNeil30 Comments

Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2008

I’m writing because, today, I lost a good friend, Larry Harmon.

Larry passed away this morning at the age of 83.

Larry was best known for having portrayed Bozo the Clown for 50 years, while franchising the character across the globe. We had planned to publish a book on his life, The World According to Bozo, to kick off a publishing company I recently started with two other authors and Rolling Stone writers.

Like millions of other children, I’d grown up with Bozo the Clown. Since his first appearance on TV in 1949, and for every decade afterward, he has held a virtual media monopoly on clowndom. Practically every famous clown since, from Ronald McDonald to Krusty the Clown, would not exist without him.

When I first sat down with Larry Harmon to talk about his book, I expected to hear a tale of hardship and decadence. I thought this would be a book about the frown behind the smile. But I was wrong.

Because Larry was Bozo.

And Bozo was Larry.

There was not a frown behind the smile, but simply another smile.

For three hours over dinner, Larry regaled me with stories of speaking with John F. Kennedy weeks before his assassination; of running for president himself, during which two assassination attempts were made on his life; of choreographing a dance routine with Fred Astaire; of training for space flights at NASA; of decorating Clark Gable’s house; of searching for the cannibals of New Guinea who allegedly consumed Vice President Nelson Rockefeller’s son; and even more incredible tales.

Just when I began to believe he was making some of these stories up, Larry pulled out photographic evidence. And, sure enough, there was Bozo in full clown makeup in New Guinea with a tribe of cannibals.

But what struck me about Larry wasn’t just the stories. It was who he was as a human being. As he spoke, Larry’s face was red with excitement, his energy boundless, his smile unceasing, his patience superhuman, his perspective on life bright and sunny. I’d never met a happier, more energetic, more enthusiastic 83-year old.

On my birthday, he left a greeting on my answering machine in his Bozo voice, because he knew it would thrill me. And this wasn’t unusual for him: anyone who recognized him – and anyone who didn’t – was treated to a full Bozo show. The waitresses stopped at our table constantly that first night just to hear his stories, which Larry, wearing a plastic Bozo watch, was only too happy to tell again.

As long as he was making someone smile, Larry was happy. And I told myself, when I grow up, I want to be just like Bozo.


Because if, like Larry, you always see the best in yourself, the best in others, and the best in the world around you, you will not only be much happier than those who hold the opposite view, but you will radiate a warmth and charisma that will preserve your youth and attract others more effectively than the priciest plastic surgery. In Larry’s own words, the best way to live is to ‘just keep laughing.’

Some believe fresh air, exercise, and a balanced diet is the secret to a longer, healthier, happier life. Others believe in botox and face lifts. I believe in Bozo.

Larry Harmon, thank you for making this world a better place.

‘As long as there’s sex, there are going to be kids. As long as there are kids there’s going to be a world. As long as there’s a world, there’s going to be a Bozo.’ –Larry Harmon, 2008

30 Comments on “Life Lessons From Bozo the Clown”

  1. Wow, I wish I had an opportunity to meet Bozo. The book should still be written in memory of Bozo. I’d love to read about his life. People like Bozo are examples of true happiness.

  2. Neil

    In itself that is a sad story for the fact that we lost a great guy like that who made the world happy. Your story about him that I read through my myspace was and is very strong and powering in itself. I have to thank you for writing that page about Larry becasue it is so powering and I really enjoyed reading it as well. Once again that you Neil.

  3. I wish someone talked about me in a similar way when I wasn’t here. Nice words for a marvellous person.

  4. Hello there,

    First of all I know I’m probably another guy congratulating you for your good work. Before my good admiration I have for you where everything started reading the book the game and now i’m taking the challenge which is changing my life.

    But what I do admire on you and I look up to you is that you that the humam being as consideration. You care about other in such way, and this text above is touching because you get to know someone deep, there personality, there soul. This is what you are interested in.
    You are a great guy mate. I hope all the success in your life.

  5. This is sad, theworld needs more people like Bozo. I guess the moral of this story is to adopt a positive, carefree, fun, enthusiastic and happy context throughout life and the world would be a better place.

  6. Glad to know that someone is looking at people with a different point of view. Keep your eyes open.


  7. Wow
    I always watch Bozo as a kid and never knew what was behind bozo. I would love to read a story about his life. As I read this message I thought of how In a way i’m kind of a bozo myself. I’ve been through a lot though and most people don’t believe my story’s tell they see the pictures.

  8. Beautiful words.. did not leave me with tears but just like you believe in Bozo, I believe it is not necessary to cry to be moved from the inside.

  9. It sucks the man died, but at least he experienced life to it’s fullest and lived a long life. My neighbor also my uncle johnny has recently got sick and is in the hospital on a respirator. He most likely is going to die. Which saddens me but also frustrates me, he’s only like 45. What the fuck? And he has like four kids under 18. Anyways I can relate because I too know a good man who’s probably leaving this world for a better place.

  10. Sorry Neil. I am only 21 but I remember my dad telling me stories of the old shows he use to watch and how he always brought a smile to him. But what we can all learn is that if you have a smile then you can accomplish anything! But thanks for the memories BOZO and hope you get better brother.

  11. Life is for living and larry certinly did that,sounds like he gave wonderful memories to so many.If people have fun memories of us when we pass on what a gift to be rememberd by the world in such a way.

  12. There is no more than the loss of a good friend of painful things.But Nothing better than have a good friend of mine once had a happy thing

  13. Nothing can be more painful than losing a good friend .But Nothing better than have a good friend of mine once had a happy thing

  14. hi neil, i’m italian, i read your book for 2 times and i think like you in every single thinking (i hope you understand my’s not good)
    i learn from you that the game is not only for pick up woman, but is a kind to take life in every moment.
    i send you a big hand on your sholuder and if you will go in sicily you are welcome on my home!
    god bless you!!

  15. very interesting story. I would have guess Bozo’s beginnings were different. Its always nice to read something positive and uplifting. thank you for sharing the story. As one other said, a book about Bozo would be wonderful!

  16. This truly is a shame.

    I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. When I was a wee lad, I had the wonderful opportunity to be on The Bozo Show. I was picked out of the crowd, and tried my hand at dropping ping pong balls in buckets, for everyone on T.V. to see. I only made 3 out of 5, but I was rewarded a yo-yo for my efforts.

    Sadly, I no longer have the yo-yo I won, but I’ve always kept that memory of meeting the clown of all clowns. I’ve grown up thinking that “if you can’t laugh at life, what else are you going to do?” I’m a believer that the seed of that disposition was sown on that show.

    Rest in peace Larry. I’ll miss you, and so will all the children who never had the chance to grace your stage.

  17. Wow that is kind of cool to find out something like that.
    Never even began to think about bozo’s personal life.
    Now I have to go wiki him haha.

  18. So sorry for your loss.
    Coming from Australia and only being 19, I haven’t really heard a lot about Bozo, but from what I have heard, he was, and still is, an icon.
    God bless.

  19. I see you keeping Larry’s memories alive in your heart and through sharing your stories of him with us. Thank-You Neil !
    Very Touching

  20. Very touching. You prove yourself once again as a great writer. I agree with everyone who says that you should write a book on Bozo. I think it would be a great way to ensure that everyone heard his amazing story, as well as an inspiration to people to put a smile on, even in the worst of times.

  21. Neil,
    This article you have written about Larry Harmon (Bozo) just reminds me again how I could have only wished to have played the “Grand Prize Game”! Awesome article man.

  22. It seems like not long ago I was thinking the same thing, about how we should view every aspect of life that it’s the best it can be, as oppose to the typical mid set, that everything could be better, and that we should enjoy it all and return what we can, so that the world will be better. When Larry passed away, you really thought hard about his personality and what you could learn from it, and how to apply it to your life. It’s crazy that I stumbled upon this to apply these lessons to my own life. If the concept of the book is similar to this, I’m buying it if it ever gets written.

  23. Death is a part of life, without death, life wouldn’t exist… Everything would just be forever. I admire good people. I might not of known bozo but this article gives me joy. To know that there are other good people out there is great. Being a good person is what makes life worth living.

  24. hello Neil, i’m from Argentina, my level english es basic still. please, sorry if i speak ill.

    I do not know who was Bozo, but I’m glad to hear names of people who inspire good values.
    Bozo R.I.P.

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