Bilingual clown translates as funny

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Even in a parking lot, Chulo the Clown can create magic. With a few dance moves, twists of balloons and a merry monologue, he entranced a group of children huddled on a West Side bench on a recent chilly day. But Chulo whose real name is Carlo Corral has another weapon at his disposal, as he demonstrated at a recent birthday party for 7-year-old Mauro Sanchez-Hernandez.

"Feliz cumpleanos!" ("Happy birthday!") Chulo yelled to the delighted Mauro, who speaks Spanish as well as English. For central Ohio's growing Latino population, Chulo one of the few known bilingual clowns in the area offers a way to entertain kids without sacrificing language.

It's especially important to use Spanish in social settings because children speak English at school, said Justino Escalante, whose three grandchildren were entertained by Chulo at their birthday parties. "Our roots are in Spanish," said Escalante, 50. "We don't want to lose our roots."

Organizers of the Ohio Hispanic Coalition's annual Dia de los Ninos (Children's Day) have hired Chulo because he engages and motivates children in their own tongue, said Julia Arbini Carbonell, president and chief executive officer. "We are validating traditions, so we must validate the language as well," she said.

Chulo also happens to be funny. His antics would translate in any language. Whether he is transforming a balloon into a light saber while humming Darth Vader's ominous theme from Star Wars or leading a chorus of bell ringers in a round of Happy Birthday to You, he keeps the crowd laughing. Corral, who also leads a children's ministry at Southwest Grace Brethren Church, came as naturally as anyone could to being a clown.

His aunt and mother hired a magician to perform at his second birthday party in his native Guadalajara, Mexico. A few years later, the man married his aunt. When he was 8, Corral started working as his uncle's assistant. The work helped ease him out of his shyness.

"As a clown, I can come and talk to anybody," he said. "Without the costume, I have to push myself to talk to somebody I don't know." During the week, Corral, a 34-year-old father of two, is an interpreter with Delaware Municipal Court who teaches classes in English as a second language. He transforms into Chulo during weekends.

Chulo loves performing and making people laugh in any language. But for Spanish-speaking performances, he doesn't translate for the occasional English speakers in the crowd.

After all, he says, "You lose the punch line when you say it in English."