Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's Not Easy Being A Clown

It's not easy being a clown...

In addition to my Jobs as Gas Station Clerk, Waiter, and Unpaid Blog Author, I am also a "Professional Balloon Entertainer", operating under the Nom De B'loon of Mr. Twister.

Mr. Twister is also the brand name of a fishing lure, but I think our products are different enough to avoid any trademark lawsuits. Anyway, when I tell people about what Mr. Twister does, they frequently respond, "Oh, so you're like a clown?"

I never know quite how to respond to that. In many ways I am "like a clown", and by the most liberal definition, Mr. Twister is a clown.

But I use what is possibly the most restrictive definition of clowning, having come from the Old School of clowning under the strict tutelage of Bill "The Preacher Man" Campbell. In the Campbellian School, a clown is a Holy thing, a sacred alter-ego shrouded in the symbolism of Death and Rebirth. The makeup and costume ritual is a transformation, the "Death" of your human form (the white paint), and the birth of a New Creation, which is not human, but something else, neither male nor female, perfectly innocent and benevolent. When not in character, references to your clown are made in the 3rd person, and the separation of the person you were from the clown you have become is further reinforced by an imposed silence while in character. Clowns of the Campbellian School do not talk, but do everything in mime.

There are other schools of thought out there, of course, but this is the one that was impressed on me as a college youth, and I honed my clowning skills for years in this mode. When my friend Scott graduated from college, he created a separate troupe, unaffiliated with our previous troupe, but sticking to the same High Principles of Clowning. I even starred, in character, in a (very, very short) Short Film entitled PSA, which was screened at the Nashville Independent Film Festival. (I was credited as "Frank Goodman", though. Don't try looking for me on IMDB. I'm not there.)

Clowning in this fashion is very hard work. VERY hard work. Imagine playing charades for hours, with people who haven't been told that you're supposed to be playing charades, and doing it while wearing clothing or makeup on every single square inch of your skin. The only people who have it worse are professional mascots, who do much the same thing, only wearing even hotter suits and portable solar ovens with misplaced eyeholes turned over on their heads.

Like any other Serious Artist in the world, I am disgusted, simply disgusted, with the lack of respect for my Art. A look around the TV dial brings you Bozo and his pathetic cousin Krusty, Pennywise, and, on the less discriminating late night cable, the Killer Clowns From Outer Space. And let us not forget "Killer Clown" John Wayne Gacy, and the shock-music group Insane Clown Posse, who are horrible on a lot of levels, and there are many other instances I'm sure I have overlooked. These corruptions, along with many well-intentioned but poorly trained and occasionally terrible looking clowns, have created an atmosphere in which this beautiful art is turned into something sick in the minds of many.

I know that some people are terrified of Clowns. This is something we learned in the Campbellian School. How to approach people, how to recognize when to back off, or just leave. I have met a couple of Clownophobes, and as odd as it seemed to me, I learned to accept that they could not be within ten feet or so of me while I was in makeup, even if they knew it was me; even if I broke character and talked to them. (it's OK, in that circumstance, to break character, even among serious Campbellian Clowns.)

I can accept the Clownophobes, what bothers me are the people who Hate clowns. The teenagers at my church are topmost among clown-haters in my mind right now, but there are many others - even my own siblings, who were placed as teenagers in a very awkward situation with the very clown troupe of which I was a part. (I wasn't with the troupe at that gig - I don't know if that made it better or worse) If you so much as mention the word "Clown" around many young people you get an instantaneous, occasionally visceral, negative reaction. I can't really blame them, I guess. We of the Campellian school are a small minority, and are hardly representative of clowning in general.

Anyway, this whole hornet's nest of emotion was brought up by the picture below, guaranteed to get a rise out of both clownophobes and Campbellian clowning purists.

...
...
...
...
...
......................
.................
..............
............
.........
......
.....
....
...
..
.


This post To Be Continued Tomorrow, when I explain what this is a picture of....

2 comments:

Mrs. Flitt said...

O.K. so this is a bit of a tangent for this post, but I got my balloon hat picture of the day and with it was this link...I thought you would appriciate it...

http://www.youtube.com/inflatableminute

CarroTop Rainbo said...

Hey Frank,

Enjoyed your recounting of your clown adventures past and present. Others share similar philosophy as your formal-informal training... fortunately we're allowed to speak. Keep 'em smilin'! :)