by Dahni, wannabe clown in training
© 2014, all rights reserved
When we generally think of a clown or clowns, we instantly imagine performers with makeup and exaggerated features such as big feet, red noses and large mouths and wildly bright costumes. But they are much more than this and may perform in a variety of styles and methods.
One definition is: “A clown is a comic performer who employs slapstick or similar types of physical humor such as the use of props, facial expressions and imitated or made-up voices. Clowns often appear in mime style, relying on makeup, costumes, and facial expressions without the use of voice. Clowns have a varied tradition with significant variations in costume, mannerisms and performance.” from Wikipedia.com
Traditional clowning is, appropriate for large audiences where their outlandish costumes and over-exaggerated makeup and gestures can be seen at a distance.
Clowns and even the class-clowns are usually thought of as either a fool or simply, behaving foolishly. Even the words “fool” and “foolishly” can be more further defined as those not inhibited in acting by what is not considered normal and childish if the the performer is not a child. But the appeal of clowning for many is that these very sights and sounds and actions are what we often can relate to or what we might be thinking and feeling IF we could or would be allowed to act and express ourselves this way.
But the roles played by clowns are usually as fools or we think them foolish. Everyday actions and tasks become extraordinary—and for whom the ridiculous, for a short while, becomes ordinary. In my opinion and that of many others, this style of comedy (popular the world over and rich in history) is, a necessary medicine if you will because, it speaks to our flawed nature as imperfect beings and part of the human condition.
I use the word “medicine” with intent. In the Bible, we read:
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…”
Proverbs 17:22a King James Version (KJV)
In the movie, ‘Patch Adams,’ starring Robin Williams, he plays the part of the real Dr. Patch Adams of the Gesundheit Institute (a real name and a real hospital). There is a scene in the movie where Patch is entertaining a sick child in the hospital, along with the child’s grandfather. Patch is caught in the act by Dr. Walcott, Dean of the very college, Patch would like to graduate from and become a doctor. And Dr. Walcott is also, head of the hospital, where Patch is, ‘clowning around.’
“Do you wanna tell me what it is you think you’re doing?”
“Oh. Uh…just getting a few laughs, sir. The American Journal of Medicine has found that laughter…increases secretion of atecholamines and endorphins…which in turn increases oxygenation of the blood, relaxes the arteries…speeds up the heart, decreases blood pressure…which has a positive effect on all cardiovascular and respiratory ailments…as well as overall increasing the immune system response.”
Immediately following this, Dr. Walcott is not impressed and is visibly angry. But the grandfather in the room with his grandchild, turns to Dr. Walcott and says:
“Smart clown, eh?”
Bold text = script notes from: Patch Adams
Indeed, what was written in the Bible, thousands of years ago, has been proven and verified by medical science, in the 20th century. But like Dr. Walcott, I have at least once or twice in my lifetime, met one or two individuals that seem to have no sense of humor at all. I feel sorry for them because of, both the fun they are missing out on and their being cutoff from the physical, mental, and emotional benefits, humor provides. For the exact same reasons most of us enjoy clowns and clowning around is, why some want to be clowns and clown around. It is simply a lot of fun and funny. You cannot separate the word “funny” from the word, “fun!“
But with the fun comes effort, a lot of effort! Jonathan Winters once said comedy can be a lot of fun, but when you are out there on a stage with everyone looking at you; expecting something from you, “Well, that’s hard work!”
A clown in the sense of exaggerated makeup, props and costumes was, The Banana Man. He did not tell jokes or even speak, he just made the sounds of the instruments he pretended to play and just sang in a high falsetto voice, “la dee dee da” and occasionally, would offer up to his audience, a soft happy laugh.
The Original Banana Man – A. Robbins
The original Banana Man was A. Robins – Adolph Proper (c. 1886 – Dec. 17, 1950). He used A. Robins as his stage name to prevent his parents from being embarrassed. His father, a textile wholesaler, thought entertainment was not a respectable occupation. Robins began as a chalktalk artist while a teenager in Austria. A chalktalk artist is one that usually tells a story while drawing on a chalkboard or some other flat object with often, colored chalk. This takes a lot of effort! But Adolph dropped his first name and selected Robins because, it was similar to the name of his favorite artist, Rubens, and because, it is pronounced the same in different languages. “Smart Clown eh?” As a joke, he said, “Robins is a Proper name.” Robins toured the world, and didn’t use any spoken comedy to avoid translation problems. “Smart Clown eh?” His vocalization was all abstract sounds and laughter. In 1928, he appeared before King George V and Queen Mary. He also gave a private show for the Duke of Windsor and two guests. He made his home in the United States in 1911. He entertained American Presidents including President Roosevelt and his family. While young, he toured Russia as a musical comedian, playing some instruments and simulating the sounds of others like a ventriloquist. He retained some of his musical comedy in his famous act that was built around producing a large quantity of objects from his coat. He produced 300 bananas, three watermelons, six pineapples, four oranges, two dozen neckties, a broom, an oboe, twelve mandolins, a cigar box, a trash can, a hatchet, a music stand, and other items as he invented new effects. Robins said, “there is a reason for everything that I do. I don’t just pull out the broom. No. First, I slip on a banana peel. I get very mad. Then I pull out the broom and sweep it up, so. There must be some sense in clowning. It must be crazy, but there must be some sense in it, just the same.” According to his obituary, “his study of the art of clowning indicated to him that a good clown must honor himself [herself]. He used to play on a musical instrument, imitating its sound by his ventriloquist’s voice. Then he would bow, doff his hat, and turn the hat into a bowl of flowers, which he then accepted with gratitude.” Robins invented and made all his own props and costumes. It took him two hours to load all his props into his costume, which weighed 75 pounds when he was ready to perform. His routine lasted about ten minutes. A lot of work mentally, emotionally and physically, for just a few minutes of laughter.
Those that do and would do it, come to it from a variety of circumstances. Some as children often left alone, developed voices and characters and the such of comedy, to often entertain themselves, even to as if to, have, someone to talk to in their long times of loneliness. Some found a way to stop bullies and the like, for it is next to impossible to bully someone if you are laughing at them. You might poke fun at them, but to beat them up, just might stop them from entertaining you. Low or even healthy self-esteem, yields the same benefits to the clown, the would-be-clown and to those just clowning around and this is, the sound of others laughing at you or with you. For anyone that has ever performed anything for a group of people, you know how exhilarating pleasing others can be. A measure of self-worth passes as the symbiotic relationship between performer and their audience unfolds. Some people are so shy and so nervous before they perform, it is a wonder that they ever force themselves to do so. Some performers relate to their characters and project the people they want to be or hide the person they do not want anyone to discover.
The clown and the lovers of clowns gravitate towards this because, it is fun and is supposed to be funny. When effective, all parties experience a ‘high’ and like most happy things, we want to repeat this over and over again. Clowns and their comedy is not a science or like some chemical formula as, combining 2 parts of hydrogen and 1 part of oxygen = H20 or water. What works one time may not always work every time. What works with one audience may not work with every audience. Clown art is just that, an art and as an art, it takes a lot of work and practice. Performing is very exhausting mentally, physically and emotionally. What goes up, must come down, even the performer. They get tired and need to relax; re-energize. Like every single human being, we all want to do our best and are filled with thoughts of anxiety. Did they or do they like me? Will I remember what I’ve prepared? Will I be able to replicate this again? Will I be able to tap my source of inspiration, for new material?
Some, to unwind or in hopes of going back to their special clown place, turn to anything they believe will help them get there. This is a form of self-medicating that most of all of us have tried at least once. Our body chemistry is not identical. We may need stimulation to help us relax.
Others made need to be relaxed in order to become stimulated. The more this is done, the more the body craves and requires it, even refusing needed nutrition, for another fix of funny. Comedy can be addictive. Addiction can lead to even more and more problems. This naturally occurring cycle of highs and lows; up’s and down’s is, increased in those that regularly perform. They work hard to be ‘up’ for the audience and often don’t know when or how to shut down or shut off the flow. This is compounded when they meet others on the street that have some measure of expectation, for them to be ‘ON.’ Always being “on” is, impossible to maintain! This leads to even more problems that no amount of money or fame can provide. Performers are often masked, masking their loneliness, anxiety, and depression, for their brilliance in being “on.” It’s like being alone in a crowd. Everyone sees you, but few know who you really are. Privacy often, seems to not exist.
The clown “fool” is always at risk that people will not respect them, understand their efforts, intelligence, their feelings, their courage in allowing others into what most of us mostly, always keep private, and masking their own imperfections; their own humanity. Some people kick clowns. People masking their own imperfections often transfer this to the clown that only wants to entertain them, make them laugh, love and be loved. It takes a lot of effort to refrain from your art, when others lose respect and want to kick the clown. It takes a lot of work to remove yourself from clown kickers, not just for your own self-respect, but for the self-respect of everyone.
Besides those “clown kickers” (those that think they will build themselves up, by putting others down) and those that, for whatever the reasons, seem to have no sense of humor, no funny and no fun, there is another brand of so-called comedy that some are interested in and seek to oblige others with. This is the egregious, but made to be all too common use and over-use of expletives. I am no prude, but it does not require a lot of effort to use language, fraught with four letter words. Comedy requires skill and timing, effort, imagination and many other functions of the human mind, that we equate with an intelligent human being or a genius.
It does not require much intelligence or effort to point out other people’s weaknesses; imperfections or to induce others to laugh at others, putting them down, instead of building them up. Because of this tendency in our human nature, most clowns would rather you kick them, then to ever kick others down! And because of this, most clowns are very charitable and very giving people. They know and understand what it feels like and live with what it is like, to be thought of as a fool and treated as fool. They champion the weak, the innocent, the lonely, depressed, the down-trodden, the common people; the little people.
Perhaps one of the greatest things a clown does is, challenge what we perceive as the beautiful people, the successful people, the power people, the right people, the smart people in charge, the wealthy people and even the famous people. In and with their foolish costumes, make-up, props and routines, they clearly point out and point towards the facts that we are all imperfect beings, fools and clowns. Even the parables of Jesus Christ in a sense, were designed to if not enrage people, then at least to get them to think. Comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, must have really miffed people, a lot! Why not something bigger? Why not a watermelon seed or some elaborate temple or the Vatican in Rome, with its Sistine Chapel and art by Michelangelo?
“The fool performs a sacred role in the community…
a teller of truth standing naked in the marketplace…
confronting the powerful with playful disorder.”
Ken Feit, “itinerant fool.”
And while I’m on the subject of “why not” and the “kingdom of heaven,” Jesus told people that if they wanted to enter Heaven, they had to become like little children. Most clowns are just chronological adults that have never stopped being kids. They are like Peter Pan Forever. Most of us think that when we become adults, we are supposed to put our toys away. An adult with toys or acting childish, well, that’s just foolish or that’s a clown or a fool. Have we forgotten “playtime?” Remember, that’s how we learned and grew. We were curios and imaginative, remember? In most of our hearts, we love our pets and little children, grandchildren and just kids in general because, we seem to believe it is perfectly acceptable to act this way, because pets and kids are involved. We cherish our baby-talk and jumping in the pile of leaves with the kids because, well, we are working with children. Nope, we love it because, yes, we love our pets and kids, but we also enjoy acting like them! Hey, after a rain, what are puddles and mud for, if not for splishing and sploshing and oozing? A clown just does this more frequently and we laugh, marvel and in a sense, would love to be just like them or at least more often. Clowns bare personal invitations to all, Come and Play. It is like parental permission that it’s OK to forget yourselves to just be yourself! Clowns for the most part love children and children love them. They are kindred spirits. And children are, incredible sources for clown material and to test material!
For material, it is too bad and too sad there is not more appreciation for, any books on or any movies on, the humor and comedy routines that are loaded in the Bible! God is quite the clown Himself! If I were a clown. If my TV was broken. If the Internet was down. If I dropped my smart phone into the water and it was sizzling, smoking and smoldering. If I had no one to talk to. If I had nothing else to do. I f I did not believe in, ever read or own a Bible. I think I would check into some cheap motel and start reading a Bible for FREE, left in the top drawer of most nightstands by, the Gideon’s. I would look for all the funny stuff; humorous stuff, and all the outrageous clown comedy that IS IN IT!!!! Have you ever heard the story about the conversation between God and Moses? Well, for background, people believed that if you ever saw the face of God, that pure life form would kill you. Now if that is not already funny to you, then keep reading. Well, God, in order to communicate, had to communicate in ways in which Moses could understand. So Moe (my short name for Moses) looks up and all he sees is, the “hind quarters,” of God running by. In our vernacular or common language, he saw the butt of the Lord. Imagine being the people of Israel. Moses comes down from the mountain and his hair has turned white. He is holding two tablets. People asked him why he had been gone so long and what happened up there. Imagine yourself being Moses and saying, “I just saw God’s ass, running by me, in a flash!” OMG, God is a clown? Lots more material in the Bible!!! Well, why not? If He created the heavens and the earth, would not this include comedy, clowns and clowning around!
The origin of the word “clown” is, uncertain. It first appears around the 1560’s and may come from a Scandinavian linguistic root meaning “clumsy, boorish fellow” (Icelandic lunni and Swedish kluns). A similar term also exists in North Frisian — klönne and in Dutch-“kluns“, meaning, “clumsy person”. The meaning of clown as a fool or jester is c. 1600. “Clown,” as a verb appears much later — the early 20th century — and may be linked to the music hall.
The prefix coulro- may be a neologism (a newly coined word or expression) derived from the Ancient Greek word κωλοβαθριστής (kōlobathristēs) meaning “stilt-walker.” Although the concept of a clown as a figure of fun was unknown in classical Greek culture, stiltwalking was practiced. The Online Etymology Dictionary states that the term “looks suspiciously, like the sort of thing idle pseudo-intellectuals invent on the Internet and which every smarty-pants takes up thereafter”.
Some people have expressed a fear of clowns, circus clowns in particular. Im sure the book and the movie inspired by the book ‘It,’ by Stephen King, did not do much to dispel this fear. I for one found his character, Pennywise the clown, as played by Tim Curry, pretty freaky! And the Youtube videos of the ‘Killer Clown’ are, pretty troubling! But the word ‘coulrophobia,’ has been chosen to describe this fear.
The term is of recent origin, probably dating from the 1980s, and according to one analyst, “has been coined more on the Internet than in printed form because, it does not appear in any previously published, psychiatric, unabridged, or abridged dictionary.” However, the author later notes, “regardless of its less-than-verifiable etymology, ‘coulrophobia,’ exists in several lists.” Leave it to fear and the preying on of our fears, to screw up a wonderful thing, clowns and the art of clowning.
But by now, I hope you realize there is more to clowns and clowning than just makeup, costumes, and exaggerated body parts. Starting with some of these types, lets explore this art form and see how one thing and one person led to many things and many people.
Emmett Leo Kelly
Emmett Leo Kelly (December 9, 1898 – March 28, 1979) was an American circus performer, who made the memorable clown figure, “Weary Willie”, based on the hobos of the Depression era.
Red Skelton as: ‘Freddie the Freeloader
Richard Bernard “Red” Skelton (July 18, 1913 – September 17, 1997) was an American entertainer best known for his national radio and television acts between 1937 and 1971 and as host of the television program The Red Skelton Show. Skelton, who has stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio and television, also appeared in vaudeville, films, nightclubs, and casinos, all while he pursued an entirely separate career as an artist. He developed many character as shown, ‘Freddie the Freeloader,’ and was a master at adlib and props. Just give him a situation and a hat for a prop and you had a show. Red skeleton once introduced A. Proper, The Banana Man on one of his shows.
The original Clarabell the clown – Bob Keeshan
Three actors played Clarabell the clown. The first was Bob Keeshan, who later became Captain Kangaroo. Clarabell, wore a baggy, striped costume, communicated by honking a horn for “yes” or “no” and would also spray fellow cast member Buffalo Bob Smith of The Howdy Doody Show, with seltzer. Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo would sometimes feature both Clarebell and the man who continued A. Robbins’ act as the Banana Man.
These are just a few of the many ‘traditional’ clowns that have brought enrichment and inspiration to many people and much of their work is still available in books and videos and etc. and they continue to influence new performers.
The next group of traditional clowns we know as, ‘mimes.’
Marcel Marceau (22 March 1923 – 22 September 2007) was a French actor and mime most famous for his stage persona as, “Bip the Clown.” He referred to mime as the “art of silence,” and he performed professionally worldwide for over 60 years.
Shields and Yarnell
Shields and Yarnell were an American mime team, formed in 1972, consisting of Robert Shields (born March 26, 1951) and Lorene Yarnell (March 21, 1944–July 29, 2010). Shields was born in Los Angeles and graduated from North Hollywood High. At the age of 18, while working as a street mime and performing at the Hollywood Wax Museum, Shields was seen by Marcel Marceau, who offered Shields a full scholarship to his school of mime in Paris. His apprenticeship was short lived as, he felt the need to develop his own style and pry mime loose from its artsy pedestal. Shields soon returned to California, working in Union Square, San Francisco. Shields and Yarnell performed heavily in the San Francisco area and later developed their act for TV. One of their signature characters were like live mannequins or robots. Since they did not speak, and did not blink during their performances, they were known for their robotic movements. Not blinkers, they were “the “clinkers.”
Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966) was an American actor, vaudevillian, comedian, filmmaker, stunt performer, and writer. He was best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname “The Great Stone Face”.
The Keystone Cops of Kops
The Keystone Cops (often spelled “Keystone Kops”) were fictional incompetent policemen, featured in silent film comedies in the early 20th century. They were doused in oil, tossed off rooftops, launched into the ocean, butted by wild animals and plastered with pie. Their wacky “Kopwagon” was, rigged to handle outrageous chases, near misses, collisions and explosions.
Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English actor, comedian, and filmmaker who rose to fame in the silent era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona “the Tramp” and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry. His career spanned more than 75 years, from childhood in the Victorian era until a year before his death at age 88.
One of his greatest gifts left to performers, those in the future and for the world is, a song he wrote. Especially for the performer, it gives both great comfort and encouragement to any that would heed its wisdom.
by Charlie Chaplin
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by.
If you smile with your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying.
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile-
If you just smile.
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying.
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile-
If you just smile.
Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy were a comedy double act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of thin Englishman, Stan Laurel(1890–1965) and heavyset American, Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). They became well known during the late 1920s through the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous Hardy.
As with Laurel & Hardy, the Keystone Cops, groups of clowns came out. Such were the brothers Marx.
The Marx Brothers: from top to bottom and left to right, Zeppo, Groucho, Chico and Harpo
The Marx Brothers were a family comedy act that were all actually, brothers. The brothers were included in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list of the most significant screen legends, the only performers to be inducted collectively. The core of the act was the three elder brothers, Chico, Harpo, and Groucho. Each developed a highly distinctive stage persona. The two younger brothers, Gummo and Zeppo, did not develop their stage characters to the same extent, and eventually left the act to pursue other careers. Gummo was not in any of the movies; Zeppo appeared in the first five films in relatively straight (non-comedic) roles. They were also very musically trained and talented, specifically, Groucho played brass and woodwind instruments, Chico the piano and Harpo, the harp.
There were family and friends of clowns, clowns like, the Three Stooges.
The Three Stooges: top to bottom & left to right: Moe, Curly, Larry, Shemp, Joe & Curly Joe
The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the mid–20th century (1930–1975) best known for their numerous short subject films, still syndicated to television. Their hallmark was physical farse and slapstick. In films, the Stooges were commonly known by their first names: “Moe, Larry, and Curly” or “Moe, Larry, and Shemp,” among other lineups depending on the films; there were six or seven Stooges. Moe and Larry were always present until the very last years of the ensemble’s forty-plus-year run.
There were Our Gangs or Little Rascal, children clowns.
The Little Rascals or Our Gang
Our Gang (also known as The Little Rascals or Hal Roach’s Rascals) is, a series of American comedy short films about a group of poor neighborhood children and their adventures. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach, the series is noted for showing children behaving in a relatively natural way, as Roach and original director Robert F. McGowan, worked to film the unaffected, raw nuances, apparent in regular children rather than have them imitate adult acting styles. In addition, Our Gang notably put boys, girls, of color, together as equals, something that broke new ground, according to film historian Leonard Maltin. That had never been done before in cinema, but has since been repeated after the success of Our Gang.
Sometimes there were two clowns, one straight and one not seeming to have his head on straight. Both were necessary and brilliant to make them brilliant.
Abbott and Costello
William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello were an American comedy duo whose work in vaudeville and on stage, radio, film and television made them the most popular comedy team during the 1940s and early 1950s. Their patter routine, “Who’s on First?,” is considered one of the greatest comedy routines of all time and set the framework, for many of their best-known comedy bits.
Sometimes a clown seemed to be from someplace, other than earth. :)
Jonathan Winters as – Maude Frickert
Jonathan Harshman Winters III (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013) was an American comedian, actor, author, and artist. Beginning in 1960, Winters recorded many classic comedy albums for the Verve Records label. He also had records released every decade for over 50 years, receiving 11 nominations for Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album during his career and winning a Grammy Award for Best Album for Children for his contribution to an adaptation of The Little Prince in 1975 and the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Comedy Album for Crank(y) Calls in 1996. With a career spanning more than six decades, Winters also appeared in hundreds of television show episodes/series and films combined, including eccentric characters on The Steve Allen Show, The Garry Moore Show, The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters (1972–74), Mork & Mindy, Hee Haw, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He also voiced Grandpa Smurf on The Smurfs (1986–89) and Papa Smurf in The Smurfs (2011). Winters’ final feature film was The Smurfs 2 in 2013, which is dedicated in his memory. In 1991, Winters earned an Emmy Award for his supporting role in Davis Rules. In 1999, Winters was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. In 2002, he earned an Emmy nomination as a guest star in a comedy series for Life with Bonnie. In 2008, Winters was presented with a Pioneer TV Land Award by Robin Williams. Winters also spent time painting and presenting his artwork, including silkscreens, and sketches, in many gallery shows. He authored several books. His book of short stories, titled Winters’ Tales (1988), made the bestseller lists. He dealt with depression, nervous breakdowns and bipolar disorder for much of his life and said, as a youth, he developed characters and voices just so he had someone to talk to. One of his most beloved and enduring characters was, Maude Frickert (as pictured above). Winters was a pioneer of improvisational stand-up comedy with a gift for mimicry, impersonations, various personalities, and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of creative energy. Winters was one of the first celebrities to go public with a personal mental illness issue and felt stigmatized as a result. According to Jack Paar, “If you were to ask me the funniest 25 people I’ve ever known, I’d say, ‘Here they are—Jonathan Winters.'” He also said of Winters, “Pound for pound, the funniest man alive.”
Sometimes they were individual clowns of color or whole teams that played baseball. Sometimes they were individuals like Meadow Lark Lemon and the Harlem Globetrotters that played basketball. Besides their skills as artists of clown-comedy, they were skilled at sports and did as much, for civil rights in this country as, any other civil rights organizer or leader. Sometimes, the clown was a woman that opened doors for many others in general and many other women.
Lucille Ball was given the opportunity to do her television series only because, of a clown routine that she performed. The television networks originally rejected her request to do a series co-starring Desi Arnaz, her Cuban born husband. They did not think the public would accept the two of them together. To prove the concept would work, Ball and Arnaz went on a tour of theaters and made a pilot film. The basis for their act and pilot film was a musical clown routine created by Pepito the Spanish Clown. Pepito supplied them with the props, including a gimmicked cello, and taught Lucy how to do his routine. The success of the act and the pilot film convinced CBS to allow the couple to try their series. Ball later repeated Pepito’s musical clown act in episode 1 of her series, and he performed some of his other routines as a guest star on episode. 2 Her writers were familiar with the art of clowning and incorporated clown routines into her script. Clown acts performed on her show include: ‘Slowly I Turned’ episode # 3 and Otto Griebling’s ‘Tree Delivery’ routine, episode #4 In one episode she performed the traditional ‘Mirror Clown’ act with Harpo Marx episode #5. In an episode of “The Lucy – Desi Comedy Hour,” Lucy plays a tramp clown joining Red Skelton in a Freddie the Freeloader #6. 6 The two do a song-and-dance number and then perform a pantomime set in a restaurant. She clowned around with our impersonated other clowns. The influence continues to move us and others!
From the top: Lucy portrays Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Little Tramp’ Bottom Left to right: Lucy & Red Skelton & Lucy and Harpo Marx
Sometimes the clown was a storyteller, comic and balloon artist.
Wally Boag (September 13, 1920 – June 3, 2011) was sometimes referred to as the ‘Clown Prince of Disneyland,’ which is the title of his autobiography, but most people would probably classify him as a comedian. However, any variety arts family entertainer can learn from and be inspired by his career and accomplishments. Wally did have a tremendous influence upon other entertainers. In their autobiographies, Julie Andrews and Steve Martin each paid tribute to Wally and his influence upon them. When Julie Andrews was twelve-years-old, she was an audience plant in Wally’s act in a review called, “Starlight Roof.” When he asked if anybody would like a balloon sculpture he had just completed, Julie would come up on stage from the audience. After he gave her a balloon dog, he would ask what she did when she wasn’t in school. She would reply, “I can sing – a little.” Then she surprised the audience by singing “Polonaise” from Mignon with an F above a C. Comedian, Steve Martin worked at Disneyland when he was a teenager. When he had a chance, he would visit the “Golden Horseshoe Review” to watch Wally at work. In the foreword to ‘Clown Prince of Disneyland,’ Wally’s autobiography, Steve wrote, “So, Wally, thank you. Thank you for being the first comedian I ever saw; thank you for letting me train by watching you; thank you for teaching me about staying fresh and giving the audience everything you got. I like to think as you inspired me, I may inspire some other kid who loves comedy.”
Sometimes the student would go on to mentor and inspire others.
Stephen Glenn “Steve” Martin (born August 14, 1945) is an American actor, comedian, musician, author, screenwriter, film producer and voice over artist. Martin came to public notice as a writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later became a frequent guest on The Tonight Show. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurd comedy routines before packed houses on national tours. In 2004 , Comedey Central ranked Martin at sixth place in a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics. Since the 1980s, having branched away from stand-up comedy, Martin has become a successful actor, as well as an author, playwright, pianist and banjo player, eventually earning Emmy, Grammy and American Comedy awards, among other honors. Martin was awarded an honorary Oscar at the Academy’s 5th Annual Governors Awards in November 2013.
In one of his movies which he co-wrote, ‘The Jerk.’ and while filming in part around Nashville, TN, it was reported that he went downtown one day and single-handedly, started a parade with his antics. And one by one, people started to follow him until the whole downtown district of Nashville, TN was, one single mass-of-clown-hood! :)
Sometimes a clown so unique, his own brother tried to steal his act, name and fame.
Gallagher (born Leo Anthony Gallagher, Jr., on July 24, 1946) is an American comedian and prop comic, known for smashing stuff, especially watermelons as part of his act. Gallagher was one of the most popular and recognizable American comedians during the 1980s. He performed 14 comedy specials for Showtime. These shows have been re-broadcast numerous times, notably on Comedy Central. His first special was directed by Mike Nesmith, formerly of The Monkees. His signature sketch is the “Sledge-O-Matic”, a large wooden mallet that Gallagher uses to smash a variety of objects, most famously, watermelons. In addition to the Sledge-O-Matic, Gallagher’s act features a variety of props, including a large trampoline designed to look like a couch. While the Sledge-O-Matic act is an example of physical prop comedy, the act itself (and even its name) is a parody of ads for the Ronco Veg-O-Matic, a kitchen appliance that was heavily advertised on American television from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. Gallagher also uses word play in his act, pointing out the eccentricities of the English language. He wore a lot of hats and poked fun at his own balding head. Sometimes he would show up wearing roller skates.
Sometimes. the parings of stand-alone and brilliant clowns just make sense. Take Jonathan Williams and Robin Williams, for example.
Jonathan Winters “mentor and “comic Buddha” (according to Williams), “But I prefer idol,” quipped Winters and Robin Williams, protégé wearing matching flannel shirt, bow tie and grins.
Sometimes. the parings of stand-alone and brilliant clowns just make sense. Take Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, for example.
Dan Aykroyd, as Elwood Blues and John Belushi as, Joliet Jake – The Blues Brothers
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the original ‘Blue Brothers. The Blues Brothers, more formally called The Blues Brothers’ Show Band and Revue, are an American blues and rhythm and blues revivalist band founded in 1978 by comedy actors Aykroyd and Belushi as part of a musical sketch on Saturday Night Live. Belushi and Aykroyd, in character as lead vocalist “Joliet Jake” Blues (named after Joliet Prison) and harmonica player/backing vocalist Elwood Blues (named after the Elwood Ordnance Plant, which made TNT and grenades during World War II), fronted the band, which was composed of well-known and respected musicians. The Blues Brothers first appeared on Saturday Night Live on January 17, 1976. The band made its second appearance as the musical guest on the April 22, 1978 episode of Saturday Night Live. They would make their third and final appearance on November 18, 1978. The band began to take on a life beyond television, releasing an album, ‘Briefcase Full of Blues,’ in 1978, and then having a Hollywood film, The Blues Brothers, created around its characters in 1980.
Sometimes. the parings of stand-alone and brilliant clowns just make sense, at least at first. Take Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, for one example.
Mike Myers as, Wayne Campbell and Dana Carvey as, Garth Algar in Waynes World
Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in ‘Wayne‘s World,’ a 1992 American comedy film directed by Penelope Spheeris. Myers plays, Wayne Campbell and Carvey play, as ‘Garth Algar’, hosts of the Aurora, Illinois-based public-access television cable TV show, Wayne‘s World. The film was adapted from a sketch of the same name on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
And sometimes such a pairing leads to a feud (real or not). Sometimes, years later, they seemed to have ended the feud (real or not).
Sometimes, just facial expressions are all that a brilliant clown really needs. Take Rowan Atkinson, as Mr. Bean.
Rowan Atkinson as, Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean is, a British television program series of fourteen 25-minute episodes written by and starring Rowan Atkinson as the title character. Thirteen of the episodes were broadcast on ITV, from the pilot on 1 January 1990, until “Goodnight Mr. Bean” on 31 October 1995. A clip show, “The Best Bits of Mr. Bean”, was broadcast on 15 December 1995, and one episode, “Hair by Mr. Bean of London” was not broadcast until 2006 on Nickelodeon.Based on a character originally developed by Atkinson while he was studying for his master’s degree at Oxford University, the series follows the exploits of Mr. Bean, described by Atkinson as “a child in a grown man’s body”, in solving various problems presented by everyday tasks and often causing disruption in the process. Bean rarely speaks, and the largely physical humor of the series is derived from his interactions with other people and his unusual solutions to situations. The series was influenced by physical performers such as Jacques Tati and comic actors from silent films. During its five-year run, the series gained large UK audience figures, including 18.74 million for the 1991 episode “The Trouble with Mr. Bean”. The series has been the recipient of a number of international awards, including the Rose d’Or. The show has been sold in 245 territories worldwide, and has inspired an animated cartoon spin-off, two feature films, and an appearance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.
Sometimes, a voice and facial expressions and impressions make clowning so brilliant, there are no words to describe them. Even with makeup and costumes, the original brilliance still shines through and often masks, the profound mind that lies beneath. Such is, Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey in the movie, ‘The Mask’
James Eugene “Jim” Carrey (born January 17, 1962) is a Canadian American actor, comedian, and producer. Carrey has received four Golden Globe Award nominations, winning two. Known for his highly energetic slapstick performances, he has been described as one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. Carrey first gained recognition in 1990 after landing a recurring role in the sketch comedy In Living Color. His first leading roles in major productions came with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), Dumb and Dumber (1994), The Mask (1994), and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995). In 1997, he gave a critically acclaimed performance in Liar Liar, which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor. He then starred in The Truman Show (1998) and Man on the Moon (1999), with each garnering him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. In 2000, he gained further recognition for his portrayal of the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas and then, in 2003, for Bruce Almighty. The following year he starred in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), for which he received another Golden Globe nomination in addition to a BAFTA Award nomination. He then starred in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), Fun with Dick and Jane (2005), Yes Man (2008) and A Christmas Carol (2009). More recently, he has starred in Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011) and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013).
Carrey was highly criticized for his parody and almost vile portrayal of deceased and beloved actor by many, Charlton Heston, former president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Controversial? Apology given? Yes. Apology accepted? It remains to be seen, but we all make mistakes. We all say and do things we regret. Our memories seems to be long to forget and forgive ourselves and others for flaws. Our memories seem to be short on remembering the good done or that we do.
Clowns are not fools. They may act foolishly, but often behind them is genius, brilliance and profoundity.
“I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is, that you can fail at what you don’t want so, you might as well take a chance on doing what you love! The purpose of my life is to free people from concern…” How will you serve the world. What do they need that your talent can provide? The affect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is!”
“My soul is not contained in the limits of my body. My body is contained within the the limitlessness of my soul. One unified field. One unified field of nothing, dancing for no particular reason except maybe to comfort or entertain itself.”
excerpts from a graduation speech by Jim Carrey
There are many, many other clowns, both that have left us, that remain and are yet to come. There is not sufficient time to mention other personal and meaningful favorite clowns of mine. I have chosen those that have appeared here for their place in my life, their influences and with hopes that you who read here may have, a broader definition and understanding of what a clown is. To me, all I have written of here are, in their varied ways and methods, all clowns and treasures to mankind. Their influences continue to reach us and those to come. I would hope that you too, will clown around at least or aspire to be a clown. This is wholly needed by every person in the world, for wholeness and health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I hope you better understand that clowning around or acting like a fool is not foolish. Clowns are not fools! And if I clown around like most true clowns, I and they, would rather be thought of as a fool and to be kicked like a clown, than to allow harm to others or do harm to any individual!
This post most end. All things must end. Though every single picture or photo here is either black and white or made this way, the next one will be in color. I absorb much, but it often takes me a considerable amount of time to process. This was especially true, at the news of the death of, Robin Williams. Initially, this post was to be exclusively about him or his influence upon my life. So much has been said already, by so many – family members, friends, fellows, shelows’ (my made up word for feminine fellows (shelows) and fans. What could I possibly say more? So I thought, what better way to honor him, than to place him in the company of clowns that came before him, remain and among all those coming in the future.
His death was a shock! His manner of death, more shocking!! Some were angered over the simple reporting of the facts, preferring I guess, to not have this information released at all, just once or to have it sugarcoated that it would somehow, cause less or no further pain. There is a time, for all things and a place, for all things. Information conveyed in a funereal or memorial is not and should not be, the same as in what we expect from the news; from reporting; from journalism. It is the journalist’s whole job to report the facts as long as it is of interest to the public and to get the story right. The public has the right to know the truth, whatever it may be. Opinions are for those that have them, for those that offer them and for those that are looking for them. But that’s not what journalism is, for or about.
We have become too sensitive, too concerned with how others think and how others think about us that we forget or forsake to live. We are afraid to be free instead of free to love. We are concerned with loss and losing, suing and being sued. WE spend most of our lives trying not to fall behind or trying to get ahead. Laughing and laughter is still heard though, laughing at us, all the way to the bank of, Taking Advantage of our distraction from, just being ourselves.
I have done my best to credit my sources for this post. All content under each picture in bold text is, either from Wikipedia.com or charliethejugglingclown.com. All plain paragraphs are my own work. All pictures and photos used are with or without any known copyright information as to the owners. If you have found anything written or pictured here that you want either credit for or have objections to, please let me know. I believe all content here may be considered, “fair use” under U.S. Copyright Law. I derive absolutely no monetary compensation nor have any promises been made or accepted to receive anything for this post. It is shared here to honor clowns. It is shared for sharing and to be shared. That’s what sharing is for!
I do not know why Robin Williams died, only that he did. It has been opined that along with his depressed state, the medications he was taking to slow the process and effects of his recent diagnosed condition of Parkinson’s Disease, was further depression that possibly led to his death. I do not know. Perhaps no one will ever know what went through his mind at the end, even after the toxicology reports are finalized and made public. But I do know two things. We all need resolve. We grieve in part by the realization that what was filled into our lives is gone and there is now a void; a vacuum; some emptiness. This is a natural response, but it is no more or less selfish or self-centered than the act of self-ending. We all die or will die or will be changed, one way or another because of. our imperfection. If we were not such complex organisms with so many flaws and imperfections, perhaps we could embrace the simple.
In the Bible, it is written, the friend of God (Moses) had expired. God told Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead!” A friend of Jesus Christ’s died. It is written, “Lazarus is dead!” In response to this news, it is written, “Jesus wept.”
“When King Lear dies in Act 5, do you know what Shakespeare
has written? He’s written, “He dies. That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor,
no brilliant final words. The culmination
of the most influential work of dramatic literature is: “He dies. “
It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies. “
And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed
with dysphoria. [a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life]
And I know it’s only
natural to be sad, but not because
of the words “He dies,” but because of the life we saw
prior to the words.”
except from the movie script: ‘ Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium’ as read and played by Dustin Hoffman
Note: Dustin Hoffman played Captain Hook in the movie ‘Hook,’ along with Robin Williams as Peter Banning, that was once the legendary, Peter Pan. Peter had grown up, but in the end, he had not completely grown out, he had just forgotten and had lost his way, but found his way back. We may grow up, but we should NEVER, EVER grow out of the child, full of curiosity, imagination, wonder, brilliance, fun and funny!
Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor, comedian, film producer, and screenwriter. Starting as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid 1970s, he is credited with leading San Francisco‘s comedy renaissance. After rising to fame as Mork in the TV series Mork & Mindy (1978–82), Williams went on to establish a career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. His film career included acclaimed work such as Popeye (1980), The World According to Garp (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989),Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), and Good Will Hunting (1997), as well as financial successes such as Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Night at the Museum (2006), and Happy Feet (2006). He appeared in the music video for Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as therapist Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. He received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards. He has left this earth with four films to be released in 2014 and much content still available.
Williams was inspired by Jonathan Winters’ ingenuity, realizing, he says, “that anything is possible, that anything is funny. . . He gave me the idea that it can be free-form, that you can go in and out of things pretty easily.” His unusual free-form style of comedy became so identified with him that new comedians imitated him. Jim Carrey impersonated his Mork character early in his own career. Williams’s high-spirited style has been credited with paving the way for the growing comedy scene which developed in San Francisco. Young comedians felt more liberated on stage by seeing Williams’s spontaneous style: “one moment acting as a bright, mischievous child, then as a wise philosopher or an alien from outer space.”
To me, there was no one ever like Robin Williams in speed and energy of his clown comedy. He once was asked about the sum and substance of his life to that point, in an interview. In about forty seconds, he told his life’s story clearly, accurately and with such speed, energy and all those crazy and wild voices, impressions and facial expressions one expected from Robin Williams. The interviewer was ‘blown away,’ as was I when I heard it. The interviewer (Larry King I believe) asked him how long did it take him to prepare that bit which was the most incredible thing he ever heard (my opinion as well)! Robin responded, “No one ever asked me this. This is the first time I ever had to answer it.”
I have never found a single place in the Bible that angels have either wings or sing, but Robin once joked, “The reason angels have wings is, that they always take themselves lightly.” Great advice for anyone!
I know that many people believe that if you are going, when you die, you are going to heaven. There is nothing in the Bible that substantiates this deeply held religious belief. But it gives some people comfort to think this way. But if it were true, what a fitting send-off, for Robin Williams, as placed on the Marquee of the Laugh Factory, as shown below.
If God created the heavens and the earth, and formed, made and created man and woman, he also created clowning around. God loves a good laugh! Why wouldn’t or shouldn’t Robin make God laugh?! I would hope that I too, will one day meet him there and Robin will also, make me laugh again. But until that time, we each must fill our own voids, vacuums and empty places with the influences of all the clowns that have come before us, those that remain and with those that are coming. Clown around!
All things end, but as long as there is life upon this planet, we will always need clowns and clowning around! It is health and wholeness, for the human race and it is what makes us human. We are not perfect. We are all fools. We are all clowns of our beautiful and perfect, imperfection. We must evolve and keep on clowning. Live – Laugh – Love!
“We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Excerpt from the poem ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Just I-Magine clowning around,