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Trainspotter

With economy in shambles, clown Mike Kramer takes his act underground to the subway

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When Mike Kramer lost his gig performing at events for a health insurance firm last October, he realized it was time to stop clowning around.

 

Above ground, that is.

 

With the economy a shambles and work drying up, the 50-year-old Brooklyn clown decided to take his act to the rails.

 

"I had always traveled to gigs in my clown suit so I figured let me start doing an act on the trains," Kramer, aka Kooky Kosmo the Clown, said Tuesday.

 

"I can start handing out cards and making some money at the same time."

 

His decision is paying off.

 

Kramer has been pulling in up to $150 a day since he devoted himself to turning frowns into smiles on subway trains. He's also secured a host of new gigs from straphangers dazzled by his underground circus act.

 

"It's been really wonderful," Kramer said. "It's nice knowing that I can go out at any time and make money."

 

Kramer, a trained actor, has been working as a clown since 1996 when an instructor told him he seemed like a natural.

 

Initially, Kramer took the compliment as a snub.

 

"I got really upset when she told me that," Kramer said. "I thought she was saying that I couldn't act."

 

Days later, Kramer enrolled at the New York Clown Academy to earn his stripes.

 

Over the next 12 years, Kramer's career took off.

 

He started doing shows, performed at birthday parties and opened his own clown company. He was doing 300 gigs a year and raking in dough.

 

Kramer even performed multiple times at Lincoln Center with a mime troupe, he says.

 

"It was pretty amazing," Kramer said. "I had one year where I earned over $100,000."

 

Business dried up fast last year as many of his corporate clients cut back.

 

The first day Kramer decided to perform on the trains, in his signature red and yellow clown suit, he was terrified.

 

"It's very scary going down there in a clown suit," said Kramer, who lives in Kensington.

 

His act, a mix of miming, magic tricks and comedy, drew only a tepid reaction from subway riders at first, but it quickly become a hit.

 

Kramer drew laughs from dozens of straphangers Tuesday after he pulled a massive bra out of his back pocket to wipe his nose, made a handkerchief disappear and pulled a partially inflated balloon from his nose through to his mouth.

 

"I think he's damn refreshing," said straphanger Paulette Lipton, 58. "What a way to earn a buck."

 

Kramer said his experience has taught him two key lessons.

 

"The first lesson is that there are ways to make money if you're creative," Kramer said. "The second is that people are really and truly generous."

 

BY Rich Schapiro

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

March 18th 2009

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