Are you afraid of clowns? You’re not alone. Even famous people admit that clowns scare them, including Johnny Depp, P. Diddy, and Carol Burnett.

Of course, clowns and jesters have been around for centuries. But experts say that 1 in 7 people have some fear of clowns. And it can mostly be traced to a traumatic childhood event, say, being startled by a clown at a circus. Another theory is that many kids see a clown too early, when they’re still learning what a human should look like, and the fear sticks.

But the “creepy clown” stereotype is fairly recent. And professional clowns blame books, movies and TV. They point out that the term for fear of clowns – Coulrophobia was only coined in the 1980s.  About the time Stephen King’s novel “It” was published, featuring an evil clown. It’s also around when the movie “Poltergeist” came out, where a clown doll dragged a boy under his bed. And a lot of scary movie and TV clowns followed, including “Killer Klowns from Outer Space,” and the clown-headboard that Bart Simpson was certain would eat him when he fell asleep. And of course, John Wayne Gacy, who dressed up like a clown, didn’t help matters.

But the working clowns of the world insist they’re all about fun and entertainment and aren’t creepy at all. They point out that what parents say and do can unwittingly make a child afraid. Like one clown at a first-birthday party. When the mother shoved the one-year-old into his arms for pictures, he cried, and she said, “He must be afraid of clowns.” But the truth was, he just needed a nap.

Bottom line: Clowns just want a little respect – and a lot of laughter and applause.