Crotchy The Masturbating Clown
Testing the limits of self-expression
Published July 30, 1999 in Whoa!

Way back in 1995 -- when many of you reading these words had never heard of the Internet, weren't connected to it, and certainly didn't utilize it to publish random crap about your dog -- public access television was one of the few media outlets that allowed anyone to widely disseminate information. Public access TV gives everyone a voice -- even if no one is listening. It doesn't distinguish between the local activist who produces a show highlighting corruption and the ... well ... the masturbating clown who reviews porn videos. In other words, it was and is a First Amendment proving grounds.

See also...
... by Mat Honan
... in the Whoa! section
... from July 30, 1999

In 1995, school bus driver/washer-cum-actor-cum-masturbating clown Scott Harrold tested those grounds, debuting a little show called Cosmic Comedy on Lincoln, Nebraska cable access television. The series featured Harrold, a.k.a. Crotchy the Clown, reviewing adult films -- complete with clips -- while dressed in clown garb. The local citizenry was dutifully appalled, but nothing could be done, as the show didn't meet the legal definition of obscenity. Without an obscenity judgement, Cablevision, the local carrier, found their hands tied and had no choice but to air Cosmic Comedy.

Then, on September 24, Crotchy jerked off on camera. The dust is still settling.

Why did he do it? What would lead a clown to masturbate? Publicly, that is. According to Crotchy his act of onanism came at the behest of his viewing public. More specifically, his female viewing public.

In the weeks leading up to his ... um ... cobra charming display, Crotchy aired a tape of a woman masturbating (not legally obscene), provoking "favorable comments from male viewers about that episode, but at least one female viewer complained that Harrold's videotapes focused too much on female nudity and that they should include more male nudity" (Quote courtesy of the Nebraska Court of Appeals). That's right, Crotchy was just giving the people what they wanted: A clown who rubbed the rutabaga on-air.

So, on September 14, 1995 Crotchy stopped by the Lincoln Cablevision office and dropped off his tape for the week. The tape (later to be known as Exhibit 1) featured Harrold as Cozblah, another of his clown characters, rambling incoherently and grunting into the camera for almost 15 minutes. Then the tape abruptly cut to a shot of Harrold dressed as Crotchy, or -- to be exact -- in Crotchy makeup but otherwise naked, reclining in a chair and punching a clown of an entirely different sort. He masturbated for about a minute and a half, failed to blow his wad, muttered something about the performance being "for the ladies," and that's it. Court documents do not mention whether he was wearing oversized shoes at the time.

Cablevision aired the tape on the 24th, but they also called the cops, who promptly cited Harrold with distributing pornography.

Shortly thereafter, Crotchy was convicted by a jury of his midwestern peers, fined $1,000 and fired from his bus driving/washing gig with the Lincoln public school system. He took his case straight to the people, writing letters to the paper, claiming that he would "fight this obscene mind control to [his] last breath."

And fight it he did, successfully appealing the decision.

In October of 1998, the state court of appeals overturned the verdict, labeling Crotchy's performance strange, weird, graphic, unnecessary, distasteful, indecent, offensive, bizarre and disgusting...but not obscene. It looked like, for the moment at least, the world was a safer place for masturbating clowns.

But it was not to be. Perhaps fearing that the airwaves were about to be overrun with legions of clowns all shaking hands with shorty, prosecutors took the case to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which would rule once and for all whether clown masturbation was a crime.

For Harrold to be found guilty of distributing pornography, the content of his show had to be obscene. Obscenity has three criteria: (1) the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole must appeal to a prurient interest in sex, (2) the material is patently offensive because it offends contemporary community standards relating to the description or representation of sexual matters, and (3) the material is utterly without redeeming social value.

The most important of the criteria is the stipulation that the material would have to appeal to a prurient interest in sex. Even if material is offensive and devoid of any intrinsic value, as long as it is not prurient, it isn't obscene.

In other words, to be obscene, Crotchy's performance had to be a turn-on to somebody, somewhere. The Supreme Court found that it probably was -- or at least it was intended to:

"An examination of the videotape supports the jury's conclusion that the videotape appealed to a prurient interest. Harrold's masturbation is clearly depicted. In fact, Harrold's genitals are the primary image visible on the screen during his masturbation. The masturbation sequence is introduced on the videotape by the statement that it is 'for the ladies only.' Similarly, when the sequence is complete, the narrator states, 'I hope you enjoyed that, ladies.' Harrold's trial testimony further establishes that the inclusion of the masturbation scene was intended to address a complaint from a female viewer that Cosmic Comedy had not featured enough male sexual activity. Taken together, these facts certainly support the conclusion that Harrold's masturbation was an attempt, however misguided, to sexually appeal to women."

The court's decision seems to center on Crotchy's Beastie Boys-esque statement that his performance was "for the ladies," finding that Crotchy must have thought that he was going to turn on a lady somewhere by showing himself conjugating the Latin root. And perhaps that was just what he was doing. Who can say what motivates a masturbating clown?

At press time, Crotchy's lawyer Robert Hays (his phone number is 402-441-7631 if you would like to give him a ring, gentle reader), a public defender in Lincoln, declined comment, not even wanting to tell this reporter whether or not the case would be appealed. Crotchy himself maintains an (understandably) unlisted phone number. The Cablevision people just seem to want the whole thing to go away.

Thus, it is unclear whether Crotchy plans to take his case to a higher court or merely zip up and walk away from the challenge. We can only hope that Crotchy can and does appeal to a higher court, and that the court will rule in his favor. For if there is no place in the world for a masturbating clown, soon there may be no place for any of us who display slightly unusual proclivities. So good luck Crotchy, wherever you are. And rub one out for me.

See also: Clowns Who Spanked It Through the Ages

Mat Honan is a Senior Editor at GettingIt. He, too, has been called Crotchy the Clown -- but for entirely different reasons.