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Quit clowning around--said this Calgary couple, never.

One senior couple in Calgary won't quit clowning around--seriously.

One night back in the 1970s, Bud Edgar went to a concert at the Calgary Jubilee Auditorium featuring the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

But it was the opening act by a then little-known stand-up comic named Steve Martin who stole the show for Edgar. Martin kept Edgar in stitches with his "wild and crazy guy" routine, walking on stage with an arrow through his head and accompanying jokes with juggling and banjo playing.

"I loved his comedy," recalled Edgar, who was a Southern Alberta Institute of Technology student in the architectural drafting and building development program at the time of the concert.

The show convinced Edgar to learn how to juggle, a distraction which he says helped him quit smoking. He borrowed a unicycle, learned to tell a few jokes, and then a female friend gave him a clown suit and asked him to perform at her son's birthday party. Buddy the Clown was born that day, and in 1983, Edgar began performing at small venues like day cares, eventually quitting his construction manager's job to launch a career as a clown.

His wife Sheila joined him as a "clownette" a couple of years later. The pair recently marked their 37th anniversary as "a couple of real clowns", performing professionally full-time after attending a "clown school" in the U.S. They have also taught at clown and variety arts schools in Alberta and the U.S.

Shows for the Edgars, who often perform separately, have evolved over time, relying less on clown makeup and more on roping and magic tricks as "cowboy" and "cowgirl" characters. Sheila performed initially in makeup as Button the Clownette and then learned to do ventriloquism with a sidekick called Monkey.

"The most interesting thing for most people is that we actually make a living from it," she said.

The couple has performed at the Calgary Stampede, Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, at hospitals and senior's centres, birthday celebrations and on TV: there was even a trip to Dubai for the opening of a water park. Daughter Amy got in on the act too, doing stand-up comedy shows of her own.

"She didn't stand a chance," said Sheila. "When you live in a house of clowns, what are you going to do?"

Edgar has been photographed in costume with actor Gregory Peck, former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach and current Premier Jason Kenney. The Stelmach photo, taken after Edgar lassoed the politician, is posted on the couple's website www.buddy.ca, billed as the day Bud became Alberta's "premier roper." 

Edgar says he enjoys "being a show off" during performances, something he attributes to growing up in a large family. "I'm the middle of nine kids: I need the attention." 

A quote on the Edgars' website cuts to the heart of what motivates him. "If I can make one person laugh, pee in their pants or spit out their drink, then I have done my job."

The clowning Calgarian does lament that movies and TV productions featuring "killer clowns," such as the movie made from Stephen King's popular novel "It," have tainted the image of clowns. He believes it has contributed to some youngsters reacting in fear to clown characters, although it occurs less often in recent years, he says, now that he mainly performs without makeup as a Roy Rogers-type character. 

"One of the advantages of doing that is the kids aren't afraid of it," he said.

But his wife thinks the killer clown impact has not been that big a deal, suggesting there have always been a few people who get scared by costumes of any type, even when someone dresses as the Easter Bunny.

With the pandemic (hopefully) waning, Edgar says bookings are picking up again. And although he is 74 and Sheila is 70, the Edgars are in no rush to give up their clown careers any time soon.

"I'm hooked," said Edgar. "I can't see myself retiring."