A clown's job first and foremost is to make people laugh, although they also may attract attention, sell goods or services, or communicate ideas. Amateur clowns perform as a hobby, often working as volunteers in hospitals and nursing homes. Professional clowns are highly trained and usually have several skills. Their performances may include balloon sculpture, magic, puppetry and ventriloquism, juggling, acrobatics, storytelling, balancing acts, music, stilt walking, or unicycling. Most professional clowns are proficient at word play and must have a quick wit to interact with their audiences.

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