Clown Artist Kenneth Kong Is Done With Balloon Animals
Balloon artist and professional clown Kenneth Kong, aka Clown Sound Sound, talks balloons, girls, and living his double life.
Kenneth Kong works full time at a logistics company. But six years ago, he created his alter ego Clown Sound Sound—a balloon-twisting, magic-making clown whose complex balloon creations of Gundam robots and Chinese deities have won him international accolades, including first place in the World Clown Association’s balloon competition.
How did you get into clowning? I didn’t want to at first. It seemed like a lowly job that required wearing makeup to hide who you are. But I fell in love with balloon art when my mentor on a magic course showed me some tricks. I wanted to get better at it and learn more about clown culture.
What makes a good clown? I used to think clowning was easy, but it’s difficult trying to maintain a calm and cheerful persona. If you have lots of emotional baggage, you won’t be able to perform well. I have to keep telling myself I’m Clown Sound Sound and that I have to let go of my bad moods, and ignore the fact that I’m performing in 40-degree weather or in a messy and noisy environment. It’s about focusing and enjoying the performance. The makeup process alone takes a long time to learn and perfect, so clowning is a big project that goes beyond dressing up and performing. But I like being a performer and being recognized for what I do. You may think I’m successful because I’ve won awards, but my success took years of experience. It didn’t happen overnight. To me, putting on a good show is already a success.
Are children ever scared of you? Of course! But children are also scared of “normal” folks. I’ve learned to work around it, for example, by walking past them without greeting them, to draw them in. A negative atmosphere or crying can spread to other kids, but the same thing happens with a positive atmosphere.
Are girls interested in you because of your work? Maybe if you’re a magician, yes—but not if you’re a clown. If a girl expressed interest, I would assume that she likes my clown persona, not the real me. As clowns, we try not to show our makeup-free faces because they might disappoint both children and adults. Most of my clients don’t know my real face.
Are your parents supportive of your career choice? Yes, they are—to the extent that they want me to be Clown Sound Sound all the time instead of the real me! Being a clown has changed me a lot. I used to be more mischievous, but after starting my clowning career, I began volunteering at elderly homes, orphanages and hospitals. I find getting satisfaction from life easier now that I’ve met many people who have been separated from their loved ones: Lonely elderly people, and unfortunate children. I’ve become a more grateful person because of this, and want to use my ability to bring happiness to others. When I see the smiles on my audiences’ faces, to me that’s more than enough.
Do you worry about people copying your tricks? Earlier this year, I helped my students prepare for some clowning competitions. My friends kept telling me I was being stupid because my students might surpass me, but I wanted them to do well and share the same excitement I felt when I won my first award.
What’s up next for Clown Sound Sound? In August, I’ll be heading to Japan for a competition where I’ll try to make a balloon pug in five minutes. In a previous competition, I came first for making a [Three Kingdoms-period general] Guan Gong-inspired balloon art piece in 12 minutes. Most people think of animals and Disney characters when it comes to balloon art, but I prefer to draw inspiration from action figures and people, like Gundam figures or the Chinese god of longevity. At this stage, many of my peers are working hard to buy flats and set up their own families, but this isn’t what I want. I don’t have any future goals—I just want to continue clowning.