By: Dune Johnson (AKA Looney Dooney)

Dune has devoted his life to delivering joy, wonder, laughter, and togetherness to families worldwide.  He has been a professional clown, a magician, juggler, stilt walker, game show host, and was one of the Ronald McDonald’s of the world for over 20 years.

(This was my very first professional birthday on my own in 1977, when I was 16)

For Family Entertainers; Joy is Our #1 Commodity

Yes, we perform balloons, face painting, games, magic, juggling, storytelling, and so much more.   We arrive in brightly colored costumes, we paint our faces, and we become completely different characters; but these are simply the tools to help us do what we do.

If your goal is to bring happiness, then there is nothing better than giant bubbles, but there are so many ways to bring happiness.

If you want to celebrate a birthday child; then then balloons and face painting are fantastic tools, but the celebration of that one beautiful human is the key.

Joy isn’t hard to achieve.

Webster’s online dictionary defines Joy as:

  • The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desiresDELIGHT
  • The expression or exhibition of such emotionGAIETY
  • A state of happiness or felicityBLISS
  • A source or cause of delight

We should always remember that the skills we work so hard to develop are simply the tools that we use to help bring happiness, well-being, delight, and gaiety (or in another word…joy).

When I first became Ronald McDonald, I thought I could never fill those shoes (because I wasn’t the guy on TV).  However I found out that I was wrong.  Here is an excerpt from my latest book,  “The Timing of Chicken Feathers.”:


However, I have to say that for my first two sets of appearances as Ronald, I really didn’t feel comfortable acting as the television Star.  I basically felt like I was “Dooney” wearing the clothes of “Ronald”, and trying to act like him.   Then, I attended my first national seminar at Hamburger University in Chicago, where I met my personal hero Aye Jaye.  He was a lifelong carnie, a circus clown, and he is the father of the National Field Ronald McDonald Program.  He basically made the program what it is today (at least that’s my perspective).

On our first day of classes, Aye Jaye, asked all of us new Ronald’s to participate in an exercise of shouting out qualities that we felt a clown should possess or portray.  He then wrote our answers in a list on a chalkboard (I still use this exercise in my clown classes today).  We came up with things like:  Friendly, Funny, Silly, Happy, Crazy, Helpful, Entertaining, Talented, Smiling, Fun, Colorful, Zany, Coordinated and/or Uncoordinated, Magical, Heroic, Loving, Joyful and Professional.

Next he asked us to call out qualities that were not considered clown-like, such as: Hateful, Hurtful, Angry, Nasty, Spiteful, Bullying, Threatening, Serious…you get the idea.

Finally, Aye Jaye pointed out that clowns are simply examples of the most positive aspects of the human character.  Obviously, we are all human, and don’t portray these good characteristics all the time.  However, when we are “in face” (any time after our makeup is on), we should do our very best to try and act like a good human.  Therefore, the corporation was not asking us to actually “be” the Ronald from the television commercials (they knew that we could never do that).  What they wanted us to do was to be the most talented people possible at portraying the best of the human condition.  We were asked to commit to this ideal, and that’s all.  If we made the decision to do our best to be true “clowns”, then we would meet the goal of portraying Ronald McDonald.  From that moment on, I never had any problem with answering this question, “Are you the real Ronald McDonald?”  The answer is always, “Of course I am…there’s only one”.


I’d like to challenge you to think of yourself as an ambassador of Joy no matter what you do in your work.  I’d love for you to develop that skill, raising the level of joy; whether you are a plumber, a secretary, or a teacher.

“If you are joyful, do not worry about lukewarmness. Joy will shine in your eyes and in your look, in your conversation and in your countenance. You will not be able to hide it because joy overflows.”    ― Mother Theresa 


Dune Johnson aka Looney Dooney is the foremost family-fun expert, and has devoted his life to bring joy, laughter, and togetherness to every event he does.  For more helpful tips to creating joy in your family events; visit his blog, or read his latest book, “The Timing of Chicken Feathers.”