In Clown, Nothing is Sacred 3.12.20
In the world of Clown nothing, absolutely NOTHING is sacred. Clowns have no filter. How could they? For a Clown is a child. And do children censor themselves? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I hear hilarious stories from friends who are parents of the "inappropriate" behavior of their child in public. An actor friend of mine described the time his well behaved 4 year old son out of nowhere began shouting at a diner "where's my fucking fries!" His parents and everyone who heard this could do nothing but laugh. Why? For his delivery was innocent and there was clearly no malice behind it. He obviously overheard someone at some point use the curse word and he simply repeated it just like any impressionable child would. Clowns are also impressionable. Clowns also deliver performances with an incredible innocence. There's an exercise I learned from Philippe Gaulier that I often do in my class - Your Clown has to curse at the audience with the pleasure of a child trying to impress their parents with the amazing new words they've just discovered! Those who succeed at this exercise are the people who play against the vulgarity and play the opposite of what the words actually mean. In fact those who succeed the most don't even play the opposite they simply just say the words as if they were a child. For Clowns do not have the intelligence to put a "point of view" on what they are saying and doing. They just do it. They just say it. It just happens. So therefore: how could a Clown be offensive? We often wonder why one performer will get away with saying or doing something and another won't. Why is this? Execution. Delivery. Intent. The latter of these three being the most important. What is the intent? What is the intent behind what you are saying or doing? A Clown doesn't have an agenda. A Clown doesn't have "something to say." A Clown never intends to hurt anyone with their performance. Supposedly "inappropriate" things might happen but that's not the Clowns fault for the Clown is just naively following their impulses. With that in mind I will say this: There is no better time than now to be a Clown. If your a performer/Comedian/Writer who is maybe a little afraid of PC culture you should study the art of the Clown. Clowning at it's best allows you to go to the most shocking, uncomfortable, scary, disturbing places, taking the audience on that ride with you without ever upsetting or offending them. So how exactly does this happen? Through joy, pleasure and most of all through lightness. No one loves a heavy handed Clown. And allow me to hold my hands up right now and say in my performance life I have fallen into the trap of being a heavy handed Clown on numerous occasions and what happens when this happens? I lose the audience. I bore the audience. I might even scare the audience. And the show dies. But on the night's when I'm light...Boom! It's magic! It's freedom! It's a Clown who can get away with saying or doing anything! Yes, I've lost count of the amount of times in my performance life people have approached me after shows and said "Ed Malone how do you get away with that?" I get away with things because Clowns at their best will often play with the pleasure of a mischievous child. You might not approve of what their doing but you can't help but love them all the same. Some of you might say "wait a second Ed, that's all very well and good but are you saying that I can just go on stage and do and say whatever I want and if it offends or disturbs the audience, simply say, well I was clowning" No. That's not what I'm saying at all. Again, I go back to my point about intent. A Clown would never go on stage with the intention of upsetting or disturbing anyone. If that did happen A skilled Clown would deal with it in the most beautiful way. In fact I just recently created an exercise on this very subject. I call it: "How to lose an audience in 5 seconds and then win them back!" The idea is The Clown enters the playing space and without realizing it does something completely offensive that loses the audience immediately. The Clown sees this and through her or his charm immediately wins them back. If the Clown is genuinely shocked like a child who has "done something wrong" the audience will inevitably forgive her or him. FACTS. Because everyone loves innocence. Everyone loves vulnerability. Everyone has empathy for the lost little girl or boy. So the next time you find yourself walking the tightrope of what's deemed "acceptable" in performance circles ask yourself "Am I light? Am I innocent? Am I playful? Am I having fun? Am I exuding joy?" If you can honestly answer "Yes!" to all those questions then your conscience is most certainly clear.
How do we become a Clown? 2.19.20
You don't need a red nose to be a Clown. You don't need over-sized baggy pants to be a Clown. You don't need juggling skills to be a Clown. You don't need to be an acrobat to be a Clown. You don't need face paint to be a Clown. You don't need Sideshow Bob Hair to be a Clown. So what DO you need to be a Clown? You! That's it? Yes, that's it. Just you. All you need to be a Clown is you. Sounds easy? It should be, but so many of us when exploring the art of the Clown fall into the trap of playing a "shitty little character" to quote Philippe Gaulier. It's a lot easier to hide behind someone else than to willfully show your own idiocy to a paying audience. Most people are too embarrassed, too ashamed to do that. But the Clown is never ashamed, The Clown is never embarrassed. Therefore the performer behind the Clown shouldn't be either. "The shitty little character" is cute, safe and often too clever. A Clown is not cute, not clever and certainly never safe. A Clown is an idiot. A beautiful idiot. All the Clown knows is laughter. All the Clown understands is laughter. When the Clown hears the laugh they follow it to the end of the earth. The Clown will repeat the same stupid, silly gag over and over again as long as it gets the laugh. And the Clown doesn't care how the laugh comes or why the laugh comes. For in the world of the Clown there is no good or bad, just the laugh! So what happens when the Clown doesn't get the laugh? What then? Does the Clown die?! No. On the contrary. In this situation The Clown can actually become funnier and funnier. How? By accepting and embracing the "failure" the Clown shows their vulnerability, beauty, and stupidity to the audience, the audience then falls in love with the Clown's humanity. And everyone is happy. Again it sounds easy doesn't it? But again, so many of us struggle with this. A joke/gag/routine doesn't land, we get defensive, angry with the audience, or we close our hearts becoming shy and afraid to look the audience in the eye. Or we just freeze up, becoming catatonic. I understand all of these defense mechanisms only too well because I've used them myself so many times! And that's when the Clown does indeed die. So how do we avoid this when playing Clown? We do just that! We play! We never forget to simply play. Clowns can play their way out of anything. Just like a child can. Indeed, The essence of Clown is to be found in the child. The seven year old. Your charming, silly, lovable seven year old who had Mom and Dad in the palm of your hand with whatever game you played. This is what I emphasize in my Clown Class. The sense of play. STOP TRYING TO BE CLEVER. DON'T BE CUTE. AND LET GO OF WANTING TO BE SAFE. Just play. Don't judge what happens when you play. Just follow your impulses, see where they take you - see how the audience responds and either continue or change from there. Speaking of the audience, never forget this: They, the customers are always right. Always. And your Clown is always seeking their approval. Always. You are taking them on your Clown safari one step, one moment at a time, like your holding their hands or like their holding yours. Your Clown is constantly checking in with the audience. There is no 4th wall in Clown. Audience. Audience. Audience! Your Clown lives and breathes for the audience. What do I mean by checking in? Simply this, you do something - i.e. pick your nose. Pick your nose, then take a moment to check in with the audience - as in LOOK at the audience to see what they think of it. If they don't understand something you do, you don't move on. You do it again. And again. Until they get it! Until they love it! I'll say it again: The Clown lives and breathes for the audience. And rest assured, the majority of people you perform in front of will want you to succeed. People are nice. Audiences are nice. Very few people go to shows wanting someone to fail! So allow your Clown to fall in love with the audience. And what of the work itself? My advice is this: Don't pre-empt the great Clown routine. Allow the great Clown routine to find you. Let go of wanting to control your material. Take risks. No, actually don't take risks, allow the risks to simply happen. And they will simply happen, if you trust. Trust. Trust your Clown. And your Clown will appear. Often what you think is hilarious about yourself is not at all. Allow the audience to tell you what your funny is. This is the heart space you want to get into when playing Clown. Note how I didn't say head space! Heart space. Clowns have big hearts. They are not very intelligent in the heady sense so why would you the performer want to impose your boring heady intelligence on to a Clown. Of course I understand the fear of being bad - the desire to want to show the audience how great a writer, artist, creator you are etc. But why not show them your soul instead? Why not embrace the failure (if failure occurs!) and see where that takes you? As to quote Philippe Gaulier once more "Beautiful things begin in the land of the bad." Live in that place for a while. Go on stage and bomb, flop, fail. And be open about it. Get comfortable with it. Enjoy it! Swim in the shit! Yes, enjoy the failure, relish it, and I can almost guarantee you that overtime that will lead you to success, growth and freedom. Does this sound scary to you? It shouldn't be. It doesn't have to be. Try it. NOW! And let me know how it goes...