Clowning around is serious business for ‘Uncle Ting Tong’

Uncle Ting Tong joins in the Merdeka celebrations.

PETALING JAYA: Nearly 20 years ago, Roslee Yusof made a decision to swap his full-time job and a fixed salary to become a clown and performance artist. He has no regrets.

Enduring the heat and even rain under his makeup and costumes is not an ideal job for a 53-year-old man but Roslee, better known as “Uncle Ting Tong”, doesn’t think twice when it comes to putting on a show.

The father of three sees it as a way he can earn a living while staying close to his three children who suffer from thalassemia.

The lanky and bespectacled man tells FMT that he has never seen his children as a burden.

“We have to carry on, face our challenges and never waiver. We have to be strong because they (his children) are entrusted to us by God.”

The family lives in a small apartment in Damansara Perdana and his children are always by his side.

“At least if something happens, I am there. When it is time to go to the hospital, we all go and that is why I cannot have a full-time job,” he said, adding his children need to go for blood transfusions every month.

“It’s the same for them. They cannot have a full-time job because they follow me around.”

The family has a small roti canai stall in Uptown Kota Damansara.

Roslee, who has always had a passion for entertaining, is not stingy with his knowledge and has helped train over 50 clowns throughout his career, 10 of whom are professional clowns.

He performs mostly in Uptown Kota Damansara and also runs a roti canai stall in the area.

This is how he supplements his income as he does not always have the option of going out to perform, especially when his children fall sick.

“Sometimes if there is no supply of fresh blood, my children have to wait for a week and during that period I need to look after them as they become weak, dizzy or suffer from muscle pain.”

More than 50% of the family’s earnings, he said, goes towards his children’s medication and treatment.

“There are days where you can earn more and days when you earn less. But it is enough for food, treatment and transport,” he said, adding luxury items are out of the question.

Their cramped apartment has three rooms, one of which is being used as a storeroom. His two daughters sleep in one room, he and his wife sleep in another room while his son sleeps in the hall.

“If we can earn more money, I want to renovate my house.”