Justin Lane has carved a career out of making people laugh, but building up a children's entertainment empire from the tender age of 13 is no joke.
The 25-year-old has always been fascinated with clowning and it landed him his first paid gig as a teenager with veteran BJ the Clown.
He quickly made a name for himself in the industry as the loveable, quick-witted Cornflake the Clown.
By the time his 21st birthday rolled around the Mt Albert resident's business Cornflake's Magic World had grown so much he was able to employ a troupe of clowns.
It's a love of making others happy which has kept him in the game and seen him perform more than 4000 shows over the past 12 years.
While other teenagers were out getting into trouble Mr Lane was at home practising his tricks and sending off invoices.
"It's funny but clowning actually made me mature a lot quicker," he says.
"I knew how important it was not to mess up because I really appreciate a birthday party is a one-off event.
"It's really important to people."
A genuine affinity with children and the ability to think on your feet are what it takes to cut it in the clowning industry, he says.
"There's a whole heap of psychology behind magic. It's all about timing, working out your audience and knowing how to relate to them."
That trick also comes in handy when dealing with people who suffer from coulrophobia - a fear of clowns.
"It's not a huge problem. I'm quite good at talking kids around and letting them see that I'm not scary."
There will always be a place for clowns, he says.
"Whenever a kid meets a clown it's almost like they're meeting a celebrity and adults can't help but laugh and smile too as you're cracking jokes."
One thing the joker is serious about is not turning into an old clown.
He plans to hang up his oversized boots before the magic runs out.
"I don't think it's good for Cornflake the Clown to be 40. Not because I think I should be growing up and getting a real job, I just like the idea of having a young, fresh clown instead of a crusty old one."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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