For hundreds of years, we lived in a world where clowns were popularly understood to be funny and whimsical ... or, at the least, not absolutely freaking terrifying. Pop stars sang songs like “Everybody Loves a Clown” and “Send in the Clowns.” Parents hired entertainers in colorful satin outfits to do magic tricks and make balloon animals at their children’s birthday parties. Ronald McDonald sold us hamburgers. Emmett Kelly and Red Skelton were TV staples. We had a tacit cultural agreement not just to tolerate clowns, but to look forward to having them around.