Clown Theory: Is it possible for anyone to clown?

March 22, 2014

A conversation from the Clown Theory Facebook Group among world teachers that I find very interesting.

Jon Davison
Is it possible for anyone to clown (presuming they want to), or are there characteristics (physical or of personality) which would prevent some individuals from being able to clown?
Like · Share · March 8 at 12:59pm
6 people like this.
Sian Nikola Thomas Eventually.. anyone can do it I reckon. Eventually
March 8 at 1:12pm · Like
Sian Nikola Thomas Ah.. unless they won't let themselves.. I.e incredibly stubborn even with the best of teachers.. the teacher might give up?
March 8 at 1:13pm · Like · 1
Jon Davison Indeed, but let's assume they do let themselves...
March 8 at 1:14pm · Like
Sian Nikola Thomas Then yes.. eventually.. everyone has a stupid somewhere.
March 8 at 1:15pm · Like · 3
Pravin Tulpule Yesssssssw
March 8 at 1:17pm · Like
Arjav Chauhan I think there are characteristics; however I'd say they are more like restrictions. A clown imposes restrictions on himself. This is a conscious decision to limit your intelligence, instinct, etc. I don't think everyone is capable of this. It's almost like you have to be willing to be less than everyone else. Natural human instinct is to be more than others. This is why I don't believe everyone can be a clown
March 8 at 1:17pm · Like · 2
Sian Nikola Thomas Less is more... presence, I'd say.. more present rather than less intelligent.. tho I get your drift Arjav Chauhan. A good teacher can break it down.. but some students will give up and run through fear.
March 8 at 1:20pm · Like
Jon Davison How about on a more simplistic level? I mean, some people think an actor must be able to project their voice, otherwise they can't be an actor. Could we say anything similar about a clown?
March 8 at 1:22pm · Like · 1
Morgan Afeeling I think anyone can clown, if they follow the process and allow themselves to open up to that state. Whether or not they can perform in clown is a different thing. For some, clowning is a personal journey with no desire to go on stage. I think that possibility is available for everyone. But to be a successful theatre clown, there needs to be some acting skills and training involved to get a message across. If someone wants to clown on the stage, they need to be able to completely open up and share true emotions with the audience. For some, this could be difficult and would hinder their performance ability.
March 8 at 1:22pm · Like · 2
Pravin Tulpule That brings me to a simple question.... is being a Clown a way of life or an acquired trait?
March 8 at 1:24pm · Like · 1
Jim Beauregard I believe everyone is capable of clowning. They just may not know it or are afraid to try it. There are many bad clowns that prevent some from go in on the journey to SMILES
March 8 at 1:24pm · Like · 1
Simon Thompson Ok Jon i'll kick off the discussion. I feel it is possible for anyone to play, whether they would be able to engage an audience, showing delight and beauty is another thing. I work with a number of groups with a variety of special needs and often physicality or cognitive ability may present challenges, but saying that watching them play without self doubt or questioning is refreshing and delightful. For me some of the qualities that are present in clown are, no fear of failure, a desire to play, delight, joy, passion, in fact all the emotional states, the ability to share these honestly and openly, I could go on. So to conclude yep anyone can show or demonstrate elements of clown. After all isn't clown an exaggerated or heightened reflection of all humanity.
March 8 at 1:26pm · Like · 2
Morgan Afeeling we have to keep in mind that there are also many types and styles of clowning. some styles may be more attainable and beneficial to others. The possibilities are endless. From birthday clowns to Lecoq to Pochinko to mime and all the rest. There are hundreds of possibilities.
March 8 at 1:27pm · Like · 1
Jon Davison Pravin Tulpule, or even an acquired way of life?
March 8 at 1:27pm · Edited · Like · 3
Arjav Chauhan Good point Sian Nikola Thomas. If you can't live in the present, you can't clown. What I meant was you can't analyse and predict the consequences of your actions.....that's the "intelligence". How about this; a clown must be "in the dark" and must always be surprised by every reaction.
March 8 at 1:27pm · Like · 3
Sian Nikola Thomas Jon, on the premise of the actor.. most peopke can be taught to project yheir voice. So your question is: what qualities can be taught or are inherent that a clown must have?
I'd say presence, sensitivity and openess (vision) to surroundings, lack of ego. Some people also have a look that is suited to clown, in the way that a ballerina mightvhave a physique that is suited to ballet. Yhough I think that such a look is reluant on finding one's stupid identity.
March 8 at 1:29pm · Like · 1
Jon Davison Simon Thompson: That's actually what led me to ask the question, some work I've been doing with people with learning disabilities. Some of that led me to wonder if some things I've thought to be essential to clowning weren't in fact unnecessary (I'm thinking about things like focus, fixed point awareness, etc.)
March 8 at 1:31pm · Like · 1
Jon Davison Sian, yes, but what if I have no voice?
March 8 at 1:31pm · Like
Pravin Tulpule The Clowns (apparent) failure, clumsiness, goofiness or stupidity engages tne crowd but the crowd actually empathizes with the (poor) clown and doesnt want him to fail..... the clown doesnt really care whether he fails or succeeds... he will step out confidently, irrespective of the expected result.
To portray a Clown , one needs to have this attitude...
March 8 at 1:32pm · Like
Jon Davison Yes, Pravin, I agree that failure or success is ultimately irrelevant to the clown. Can we all acquire that attitude or awareness?
March 8 at 1:34pm · Like · 2
Arjav Chauhan No.....as it's against human nature
March 8 at 1:35pm · Like
Sian Nikola Thomas Jon.. if you are mute then 'acting' text based work would be impissible. I can't think of any disability that would make clowning impossible.
March 8 at 1:35pm · Like
Morgan Afeeling as long as we can be true to our feelings, and show them without hindrance, and imposing them onto the audience, then we can share all emotions and the audience will be with us every step of the way
March 8 at 1:35pm · Like
Pravin Tulpule What a coincidence..... I am jut in the process of writing a small piece entitled " For another morning awaits!".... thats the spirit of Clowning, as I understand..... another morning awaits........
Can I post it here, with the admin's permission?
March 8 at 1:36pm · Like · 1
Morgan Afeeling And as a mute, as long as you feel the emotions and share them truthfully with the audience, then you wouldn't need a physical voice to share it. your emotions and body language are the voice
March 8 at 1:37pm · Like
Jon Davison and what if you can't feel your emotons?
March 8 at 1:37pm · Like
Jon Davison Pravin Tulpule, please do
March 8 at 1:38pm · Like
Sian Nikola Thomas I believe we can all reach that level of awareness.. wether or nit we want to is another matter.
March 8 at 1:38pm · Like · 2
Morgan Afeeling I think that in that case clowning is especially important. clowning is the ability to open up and bring your inner emptions to light. if that was a diffuclty for someone, then clowning could help them
March 8 at 1:38pm · Like · 2
Simon Thompson Jon I have also had a development in my approach to facilitating clown with special needs groups, as often they are not as hung up on social conventions therefore what we considered essential tools for teaching clown are not so important. Saying that don't throw away anything, maybe it's more of a process of learning a little more in depth personal knowledge of our students so we can almost tailor an individual approach that is rooted with some solid building blocks. I'd love to chat some more on this topic maybe outside this thread. 
March 8 at 1:42pm · Edited · Like · 2
Jon Davison Morgan Afeeling, I tend to agree, but.... maybe someone just is like that - not in touch with their emotions? Should I as a clown teacher expect them to change? Should I presume that they will be better people if can change them? Or can I find a way for them to clown without them having to be someone they are not?
March 8 at 1:42pm · Like
Sian Nikola Thomas THERE'S the nub of the question!!
March 8 at 1:44pm · Like · 1
Sian Nikola Thomas Do they have to be intouch with their emotions to cliwn? How do you define if soneone is intouch with their emotiobs? They may simply not be abke to show it? Can someone with autism clown? I'd say yes. I'd say that an ibability to express emotion can be very funny.
March 8 at 1:46pm · Like · 1
Simon Thompson Why would we want to change anyone? As guide's, facilitators, teachers we should be no more than a conduit that allows/enables the individual to find, explore and play with what's inside them.
March 8 at 1:47pm · Like · 2
Jon Davison Yes, it was that idea that clowning could 'help' that made me bring that up. It's an idea which runs through so much educational practice, but I feel instinctively drawn away from that.
March 8 at 1:49pm · Like · 1
Morgan Afeeling I don;t think a goal for an instructor is to "change" the student. They are thier to inspire them and to facilitate their curiosity. A great teacher guides students to learning and understanding and doesn't hand over knowledge. They create inquiry. when teaching clown, if you give the steps to clowns and offer guidance, then your students will follow in the ways that are best for them.
March 8 at 1:50pm · Like · 4
Holly Stoppit I have a lot of things to say about all of this. My dissertation was about doing clowning with people with depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder and I will be doing clowning with people with schitzophrenia in a few weeks, I think I may have even more to say after that... I think the key to teaching clown is to embody the clown. A clown plays with their audience, right? So as a clown teacher, I use my clown's sensitivity to pitch my teaching to the individuals in the room. I believe everyone can clown and my job is to get them clowning from the place they find themselves. There is no special place to get to first. Just start where you are. What is it to you, to "clown"? Jon Davison
March 8 at 2:42pm · Like · 2
Simon Thompson Hi Sian Nikola Thomas, here's a little about Autism in particular Asperger's, People diagnosed on the Spectrum can indeed show emotion it's often not done through what we term as the normal routes. They do have trouble recognising facial expressions and this is where social stories really help. Another trait is often a very strong sense of honesty almost to the point of being deemed as unfeeling. I have had some amazing results with Clowning with groups on the spectrum. It really goes back to those basic building blocks and a facilitator who can guide and enable. I would urge any clown to work with a special needs group as it's a humbling and enormously educational in the area of humanity. 
March 8 at 2:48pm · Like · 4
Jon Davison Holly Stoppit, I'd love to read your dissertation, is it 'public'? Your question 'what is to clown?' is, I think the key to this.I find myself constantly simplifying my teaching, often when I find that, for example, a person or several are unable to do a particular exercise. This often makes me think, 'is that exercise, or the thing I think the exercise will teach, really necessary?' Is it part of what clowning is by 'definition'? My answer is frequently 'No'. So right now I'm wondering what will be left? And will what's left tell me what I think clowning is?
March 8 at 3:15pm · Like · 3
Holly Stoppit I love the fact that I don't know what the exercises are actually going to teach THIS group in THIS room. I love that, for instance, I've been playing The Game (where the whole group just copy and build upon what they see / feel) with groups for over 20 years and I'm still learning new stuff every time I play it. My dissertation is not public. Yet. I'm being encouraged to publish, but it'll need a mega amount of work to get it into a state where I'm happy for it to be read. I write like a clown with boxing gloves on.
March 8 at 3:21pm · Like · 3
Jon Davison Any chance of private read?
March 8 at 3:23pm · Like · 1
Holly Stoppit oh my god! That a terrifying prospect, I will have to think about whether I can let anybody see my baby before it's properly cooked. (That sentence is a prime example of this clown academic's work)
March 8 at 3:26pm · Like · 2
Jon Davison let me know, genuinely interested, and it must be good if you got your MA!
March 8 at 3:27pm · Like · 2
Jim Beauregard Holy and others, I think this conversation is a good exercise for it identified many idears, opinions that we have as clowns and shows there is no one answer to solve the riddle. What works for me may not work for anyone and my specialty is Magic.
March 8 at 3:53pm · Like · 1
Jan Henderson iMy response to a teacher "changing a student" in terms of their nature, - is never to try , ( even if you try , it's impossible) My goal is to facilitate a process that allows the student to accept everything about themselves- warts and all - to embrace the problem , if you will- because the clown persona is all about the Truth. This includes them accepting their clown's cleverness, because no matter how clever, there's always something they don't know, are "Innocent" of - and the smarter they think they are the more they have to lose, and the greater potential for comedy. This goes to the essence of a clown character- performing skills, and structured writing are another matter.
March 8 at 7:26pm · Like · 5
Ivan Biolley Hello everyone! I believe the clown borns with the person, exactly as the musician, dancer, painter, teller, and all the basic arts borns with the human, I mean everyone has a singer, dancer and painter inside, depends on you if they live or not.
So I believe there is three things that can avoid that you become a clown:
Your conscious determination for not be a clown.
Your fear to the ridiculous and what people can say
The most important: the ego
March 8 at 8:03pm · Like · 2
Sue Morrison Lack of authentic connection to self and audience. I believe clown is a place you work from, whatever genre you are working in....
March 8 at 8:38pm · Unlike · 7
David Monzonis Quail Yes.
March 9 at 5:37am · Like · 1
Hilary Ramsden Back to traits of a clown: This may seem crass but I have a fondness for ears which stick out (I unfortunately do not have these) which, with the addition of a hat, give a person a definite advantage in assuming a clown appearance.
March 10 at 11:54am · Like · 2
Timothy Gray I'm not sure what a 'clown appearance' is. I've seen a plastic shopping bag spinning in the street look more like a clown than any human being I know. There is no physical characteristic for a clown. This is nonsense. And limiting. 'Good' and 'bad' appearance is an entirely social construct. And the clown is without - literally 'with out' - society. The popular image of the clown (ie: big shoes, red nose, blah blah blah) is nothing more than that. Someone liked someone's mask, used it, someone else used it, lots of people used it, people keep using it. But it signifies nothing other than a mask which now has entered the popular consciousness.
I hope one day we can move past these cliches and realize the only physical characteristic of a clown is the human body.
March 11 at 11:14pm · Like · 3
Timothy Gray As for 'is it possible for anyone to clown', I offer this from T.S. Eliot...
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
March 11 at 11:20pm · Edited · Like · 4
Jon Davison Timothy Gray, I agree that clown appearance is a social construct (history of noses, costumes, etc.), but then I'd say we human beings are also socially constructed (gender, culture, etc). And f the clown stands in some kind of relationship to that human being which s socially constructed, then the clown is also a social construct (as a set of behavours, a mode of being, etc.). Unless you want to say that clown somehow stands for non-socialised truth, in which case I'd disagree and say that's impossible. So I think you're right about the plastic shopping bag but Hilary Ramsden is also right about the ears.
March 12 at 4:47am · Like · 2
Sue Morrison thanks, Timothy.
March 12 at 8:52am · Like · 1
Timothy Gray Clown stands for non-socialized truth. Clown is primitive. Has no social consciousness. Has no understanding or respect for status, because that's a social construct. Clown is with out society.
March 12 at 10:11am · Like · 1
Jon Davison But clown must also be in relationship to society, so cannot escape being socialised
March 12 at 10:42am · Like · 1
Timothy Gray I'm actually not sure what you're trying to say, Jon. Clown can be in relationship with everything, which it is, without taking on the properties or characteristics of the other. It would cease to be clown.
March 12 at 10:53am · Like · 1
Jon Davison I mean that relationship implies that the two parts are in some way different or opposite. In clown's case, seemingly paradoxically, it is non-socialised in opposition to that which is socialised. This is a binary where that which is seen as non-socialised is, at least in part, defined by its opposition to the socialised, in other words it depends upon its opposite in order to define itself, and is therefore only definable in this way, which makes it part of that socialised system.
March 12 at 11:07am · Like · 1
Timothy Gray I'm too stupid to understand what we're talking about now. And I've just eaten a lot of pancakes and bacon and my tummy is full.
March 12 at 11:15am · Like · 3
Jon Davison You're not too stupid, I'm not explaining what I mean very well. I'll try again in another moment. 
March 12 at 11:17am · Like · 1
Randy Christensen Original question: "Is it possible for anyone to clown?" Short answer: "no. I've worked with some of those people."
March 14 at 12:19am · Like · 2
Jon Davison Randy Christensen, and what are the reasons why these people can't clown, in your opinion?
March 14 at 4:32am · Like · 1
Raymond Keane Because they don't want to.
March 14 at 5:08am · Like · 3
Jon Davison Raymond Keane, the original question included the phrase 'presuming they want to'.
March 14 at 5:14am · Like · 1
Adriana Jiménez Moles yo creo que es posible si cuentas con una existencia, conciencia, voluntad y un verdadero maestro.
March 14 at 9:50am · Like · 2
Tuba Heatherton Does the clown have the (in)appropriate point of view...?
March 14 at 11:34am · Like · 1
Eric J. Kolb Narrow mindedness is the only thing that comes to mind that could prevent an individual from being able to clown.
March 14 at 3:42pm · Like · 1
Randy Christensen My "short answer" was "no. I've worked with some of those people." My longer answer now -- I believe that everyone can develop skills and abilities and learn new sensitivities, but not everyone will be "successful" at clowning - being able to think creatively "in the now," being in touch with their own inner process while also being attune to their audience, being inner conscious while being in communicative relationship with others. I used to say, "anyone can learn to clown," but then I worked with a gal for months who just struggled and fought within and without, working & TRYING to assimilate clown methods, thoughts and processes: striving to be authentic while also letting that "child within" come on out to play. After numerous classes, experiences, and clown interactions -- she stopped. She quit. I wanted to argue with her and say, "you CAN do this." But, honestly,now I think some people are born with it, and some are not. All can learn clown skills and techniques. All can improve and grow. But, "is it possible for anyone to clown?" I guess the answer could be "yes. ...poorly." But, not effectively. It is a way of thinking. It is a way of being.
March 17 at 12:57am · Edited · Like · 1
David Monzonis Quail Someone said,to me after show,Not funny.and No i did not laugh!at a debate,beside his wife.I did like it! As on stage,everyone that tryes to move something inside for those people that is present!Castellano: se me acercaron unas personas,depues de la actuacion de varios clowns.dice uno:no me gusto,la mujer al lado,si me gusta mucho. Quienes os subiis al escenario,teneis mi respeto por mover algo dentro de cada uno de nosotros los miramos y admiramos,ese arte! Gracias por leer! Dvd
March 17 at 7:34am · Like · 1
Jim Beauregard I view it like this. To be a clown, magician takes talent. Anyone can put a face on and not be a good performer. My analogy I would like to share with you I learned so thirty years ago when I began my studies in magic is and applies to clowning also
Magic is entertainment directed to the human spirit through imagination. It takes time and a lot of practice, rehearsals to develop a show and be good at it. Some don't want to put in the time. Some think clown is twisting balloons. To be a good entertainer takes work thats where some don't understand and they fail, get discouraged even rude. So not everyone can be a clown.
March 17 at 8:21am · Like · 1
Randy Christensen Interested in your thoughts on "my thoughts", Jon.
March 17 at 9:59pm · Like · 1
Jim Beauregard Randy Christensen I like your comments also
21 hours ago · Like · 1
Jon Davison Randy Christensen, I recognise what you are saying, those experiences are familiar to me, and I then feel that it is not possible for someone to clown, at least not in that moment. But there always remains the possibility that that person may 'get it' at some point in the future, maybe in 20 years, maybe in the next second... But I suppose what I was wondering was whether there was anything which would permanently stop someone from clowning.
7 hours ago · Like · 1
Sue Morrison I have found is someone is not stable .. Then certainly in the process of clown through mask, they should not continue. I think it is something that should take you closer to yourself, and a few a couple of times in the say, 30 years, I would say this is not good for you. My teacher used to say everyone has a clown within, and I think on some level that is true, but can everyone "do it", not sure. There may come a moment, and it will happen, but to do it " on call", I agree with randy.
6 hours ago · Like
Holly Stoppit From a psychological standpoint, I think it's all to do with the Self structure. Clowning (and certainly Clown Through Mask) challenges the Self structure. Whatever rigid beliefs you've formed about yourself are illuminated through the process of learning clowning. This can be immensly liberating if handled with care and respect, giving people a chance to step out of their story and find something else to be. When we no longer lock down to our rigid beliefs, "I am like this" then we free up possibility. Clown can offer this, I've experienced it and I've seen it in others in my classrooms. Now.... I believe there are some people who would not benefit from having their Self-structure shaken up in this way. For some people a rigid self-structure is the difference between being alive and being dead. But is this examination of and willingness to transform the self-structure a vital part of becoming clown? Or is it just a wonderful by-product?
6 hours ago · Like
Holly Stoppit I have come across several hundred Guallier students in my time (this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's more than 20) who have been damaged in some way by Phillipe's harsh teachings. I know the man's a genius and he just wants what we all want for our students- to see then shine beyond anyone's expectations- but if the student already has a flimsy Self-structure, Phillipe's words seem to get in and cause a path of utter destruction. From what I've heard described to me, it seems like a baptism by fire. I believe there are more gentle ways and I'm trying to find them. For me this means offering a lot of nurturing activities so that my students can learn to nurture themselves and give and receive nurturing from each other. We dance, we play, we sing until the room feels safe enough to do "the work" (It's all "the work" in my eyes). Clown can be a powerful tool for transformation if handled in the right way.
6 hours ago · Like
Jon Davison Holly, good question. I'm not sure whether that transformation of the self-structure is at the core or is just a by-product. My own tendency is not to interpret clowning when I see it as something to do with the self, although I know one could do so. And I also feel that I have seen or experienced clowning which does not do that self-structure-awareness-thing...
6 hours ago · Like
Holly Stoppit I think for me it is rapidly becoming the core of my work. Having trained for three years as a dramatherapist and then just completed 5 weeks clown through mask training with Sue Morrison in Canada (everyone should do this course), I'm clear that this exploration of the self is what I have to offer. Perhaps it is a question of taste, but I'm much more interested in the deeper realms of clown and the courageous vulnerability it takes to do it and I'm fascinated with the impact this can have on the self-structure. There are sooooo many styles of clowning though which is brilliant and means there is a way that everyone can clown... Hoorah!
5 hours ago · Like
Jon Davison But the question of who does the teaching and how is slightly different. It might still be true that everyone can clown, even if not everyone finds the right teacher for them.
5 hours ago · Like · 1
Jon Davison And while we're talking clown teachers, I'd say that Gaulier's approach is actually the one which most challenges self structures, which is most challenging to rigid egos, whereas some other approaches can be too 'safe' and only reinforce protective shells and comfort zones.
5 hours ago · Like · 2
Holly Stoppit yep, granted. But as a person who used to have a very flimsy self-structure, I can say that I couldn't learn from these via negativa teachers. My inner critic was simply too loud and promenant to take the risk to fail in front of these harsh outer critics. That's what I'm hearing from Phillipe's students, if they already have a strong yet flexible sense of their Selves, Guallier provides excellent training. But he does nothing to help those students without that predisposition.
5 hours ago · Like
Holly Stoppit It's a fine balance between risk and safety and I'm enjoying the challenge of trying to find it for each individual in each group.
5 hours ago · Like
Richard Cuming This morning on the train a man in a suit got up to leave as the train was coming into the station. The strap of his laptop case hooked onto the armrest of the seat in the aisle. He didn't notice and continued to walk forward. By then other passengers were queuing behind him, and started accidentally banging into each other. By chance the refreshment trolley was wheeled into the carriage so everyone had to turn round and use the other door of the carriage. Of course none of them wanted to clown, but the small accident caused them to clown. What's more leaving the train they all tried to pretend this hadn't happened, reverting to the everyday mask. The characteristics of not appearing foolish made them foolish. The rigidity made them clown. It was accidental of course, and I have been in a similar situation many times.
5 hours ago · Like · 1
Jon Davison Holly, interesting point. So are you saying that someone with a weak self structure, in order to clown, first needs some kind of strengthening before moving on to 'flexibilising' and putting n doubt that structure through clowning? Whereas someone with a strong sense of self merely needs to 'flexibilise'? That would seem to make sense. But on the other hand, my experience of via negativa teaching in clowning (as a student with Gaulier, and observing other teachers, and using it a lot in my own teaching) is that when the student who resists that method, who has a hard time with it and doesn't 'get it' is the one who shows a rigid ego structure (at least in that moment). Which leads me to wonder if the rigid ego is not a consequence of a weak sense of self? (I'm not expert in psychology so please excuse my probable mis-use of terms.) Also, I remember that it was a miniscule number of people who had problems in that way with Gaulier, I think the whole Gaulier-is-dangerous thing is pure myth. All methods and teachers sometimes provoke rejection from some participants, but that doesn't necessarily put the method into question, I would say.
4 hours ago · Like · 1
Jon Davison Richard Cuming, sounds like a hoot, wish I'd seen that! As you say, several elements of clowning were present, but were all elements present? Did people laugh? Did the 'clowns' acknowledge their own stupidity and failure and take advantage of it in order to make others laugh?
4 hours ago · Like · 2
Sue Morrison Native American concept of clown: to face all sides of the self, and laugh at the beauty of your own ridiculousness.
4 hours ago · Like · 4
Moshe Cohen I have been following this discussion for a while and have avoided commenting because the question is to difficult a set-up for me....everyone has a sense of humor. check or almost check. same thing about expressing their sense of humor, but zen again, that just brings the debate around to what is clown or not, and that is up to most anyone's definition of clown...and i am in there with Sue's last comment (Richard was my teacher...)
4 hours ago · Like · 1
Jon Davison Moshe, I agree with you on this coming back to the question of what we think clown is. I think all my questions lead there, at least at the moment!
3 hours ago · Like · 1
Jon Davison Moshe, I've had or seen plenty of bad learning experiences but that doesn't mean i have to publicly denounce the teacher as invalid. If we all did that then there'd be a hell of a lot of invalid teachers out there! (clown or otherwise)
3 hours ago · Like
Moshe Cohen Jon I was just responding to your comment that it was a miniscule number of people who had trouble with Monsieur Gaulier...that has not been my experience...
3 hours ago · Like · 1
Moshe Cohen and I have removed that comment as I agree no reason to publicly denounce...
3 hours ago · Like · 1
Holly Stoppit Just for the record, I do not denounce Phillipe, I've seen the fruits of his method in many of the clowns I've had the pleasure of directing. They are on the whole bright, fearless, courageous idiots. But I don't think his style of teaching is for everyone. From my considerable experience as a clown student (having been studying for somewhere in the region of 30 years!) I can say the best clown training for me, comes with an element of unbridled, unapologetic nurture. And I find that the people who are drawn to my teaching have the same need. I specialise in clowning for mental health. There, I said it. Niche.
3 hours ago · Like
Holly Stoppit But back to the question. There are now so many different ways of learning clown, it is possible for everyone to find the right teacher for them. So yes, anyone can clown if they want to.
3 hours ago · Like
Richard Cuming Well Jon, intention and audience are important questions here aren't they? My answer from the 2 minutes I had was that some people clearly acknowledged their foolishness, shrug or made a face, some didn't but the acknowledgement was in the attempt to pretend it hadn't happened. Some of the specatotors were amused, and some were immersed in their spreadshhets, newspapers, books etc. None of them deliberately played with it or developed it. I was fascinated as a spectator. Obviously much more to be said about intersections with real life and so on.
3 hours ago · Like · 1
Richard Cuming And my experience of Gaulier was of a very different order, and no I wasn't a star student, I think he once said that I was good today, but his via negativa, his refusal to explain or define was, for me, empowering and allowed me and others to discover it, whatever 'it' is, for ourselves.
2 hours ago · Like · 1
Jon Davison Holly, yes each to their own teacher. But I have to say that nurturing is in my opinion one of Gaulier'squalities. Itsrare to find a teacher so dedicated to his students and the task of being honest open and free as human beings.
about an hour ago · Like · 1
Holly Stoppit Yes, this I've heard from many others too. But for me, I cannot hear the message if it is delivered as criticism, no matter how clever or funny the put-down. Outer criticism just wakes up my inner critic and all the critics get to have a right old crit...See More
about an hour ago · Like
Jon Davison Yes of course I get what you're saying. So your experience was negative?
13 minutes ago · Like · 1
Kate Kavanagh I think being a clown takes a lot of bravery, and self-awareness. A lot of people say they 'want' to be actors, or musicians, or rocket scientists, but don't have the dedication to pursue these desires through the hardships of making them a reality. Likewise, I think someone might 'want' to be a clown, but not be in the correct psychological place to make it happen?
May 9 at 9:26am · Like · 1
SirColin Herring I know clowns that are genuine rocket scientists. au contraire I say clowns are some of the most intelligent geniuses on the planet. Accomplished Mathematicians, musicians et alii. Clown is great self therapeutic value transcending societal norms. Sinc...See More
May 11 at 6:59am · Like · 2
James Hesla Jon Davison, have you seen Laurel Butler's 2012 essay in Theatre Topics? She proposes that "clown as a radically accessible mode of engagement," that is capable of allowing one to become "critically aware of one’s social conditioning...." Her argument is predicated on "clowning" as a means of self-actualization within certain power structures. While there is a performance element in her pedagogy, it seems that the emphasis is on the self rather than the spectator.
8 hrs · Like · 1
Jon Davison Thanks, James Hesla No, I hadn’t seen that article before. I’ve only managed to access a summary of it at the moment. Actually, I am interested in the possibility of clowning being a theatrical practice accessible to all, keeping it within the field of performance, without the need for theories of the self. In that I agree with Laurel Butler’s idea that clowning can ‘challenge the notion of individual virtuosity in performance’. It seems to me, though, that her use of such a concept of the ‘self’ is not necessarily implied by the practice of clowning, in my opinion. The assumption of such a self, particular one which has inner and outer aspects, comes from practices other than clowning. I think this conflation probably comes from Lecoq’s presumption that the teaching exercises he proposed which were intended to give rise to the flop (the student’s failure to make their classmates laugh, followed by their admission of failure, leading to their peers then laughing at them) were indicators of an inner self which seemed more authentic than the outer one. Of course, one can interpret it thus if one wants, but personally I don’t. Without this assumption, it seems to be difficult to move the practice of clowning away from performance and over to the field of psychology/therapy. But assuming that’s possible, that would presume that every individual’s self has a clown aspect within it. Which brings us to my question: do all individuals have this potential to clown? Or: if a human being cannot access clowning, are they less of a human being? Some performative aspects of clowning prove difficult or nearly impossible for some individuals. What does this imply for the theory of clown-as-self? Or, alternatively, does this mean we should revise what defines clowning so as to include everyone?
7 hrs · Like
Moshe Cohen What do you define as 'performance' Jon?
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SirColin Herring PTSD could be linked to Coulrophobia. There are some people who genuinely exhibit fear especially if introduced to clown at an early age. When 1st contact goes wrong. It's the father Christmas Syndrome where the child genuinely is afraid of this larger than life character that does not fit into the secure "normal" world. Many on the Autism spectrum aren't scared rather outraged at characters outside the parameters of their perfect world. I also find that parents undergo a process of osmosis with their children and I often witness transference of trauma projected toward the child. It is some kind of intergenerational transference that may have undergone many mutations so the current behaviour has little to do with its origin, however linked.
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SirColin Herring Downs syndrome people however adore a clown and play out the part readily.
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Jon Davison Moshe Cohen very roughly I define it as something which happens between two groups of people, whose roles are defined as spectators and performers, and where there is an unspoken contract which defines the expected behaviour of each group (the groups can be just one person). In clowning, i think this contract is specific to the genre, and includes playing with and subverting those roles.
5 hrs · Like
Holly Stoppit hmmm "...keeping it within the field of performance, without the need for theories of the self." hmmm. For me, clown is self. the most vulnerable part of self and to show that part of the self to audiences is not always easy. That shyness can be a block for people wishing to learn how to clown. My workshops are about helping people feel safe enough to come out to play. Through lots of group games and oodles of permission, we make a joyful, safe, supportive space together. Only then do I invite the clowns out to play.
5 hrs · Like
Jon Davison Holly Stoppit, my using the word 'keeping' was a bit lazy, I meant to say that I was interested in looking at clowning as performance, I didn't mean it should only be that.
5 hrs · Like
Holly Stoppit yes but it's all the same thing. I believe for a clown to have a genuinely good open relationship with audience (which I think is the thing defines Clown), they need to have dealt with whatever is getting in the way. The audience can feel when there's a wall between the clown and them and they can feel when the connection is genuine. So my training has a lot to do with looking at the quality of connection between clown and audience and the parallels between person and people.
5 hrs · Like
Holly Stoppit I really believe anyone can clown, but I think some need more preparation than others.
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SirColin Herring absolutely the genuine connection and the group focus accepts the rhythm. For me that is the perfect show and lately more often achieved. Alternatively negativity and contrary behaviour that breaks the focus and rhythm away demands an alteration of the style of deliverance. Having a repertoire stored away is handy and choice of 'incident' is finding your way. Intercultural exchanges require tonal adjustment. Mine has been by trial and error. I've been in these situations before and failed miserably. As I get older the choices become more refined. The last 5 years has been wonderful. Between 1992 and 2000 I abandoned entertainment as my characters had absorbed my "self" and I had to rediscover my self without the clown. During this period, I stopped smoking dope and limited myself to social drinks. 4 degrees and post grad studies later the last 14 years have been a sharp J curve of learning.
4 hrs · Like
SirColin Herring Losing sight of true self = trauma
4 hrs · Like
Holly Stoppit ability to give true self to others + receive them too = clown / love
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Holly Stoppit Jon Davison I can't see how you can separate performance clowning from life.
4 hrs · Like
Jon Davison From life? Of course not! But concepts of self are another thing
4 hrs · Like
Holly Stoppit hmmm
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Moshe Cohen ahhhh self, what is zat? heck if I know
4 hrs · Like
Jon Davison if only we knew!
4 hrs · Like
Moshe Cohen ahhh but seriously folks, or perhaps not too seriously, self can also be seen as part of the whole, especially in certain contexts...
4 hrs · Like
Moshe Cohen I always enjoy looking at clowning as a verb, an action, a humorous action that is (generally) shared with others. Is this sharing a performance? I prefer not to squeeze it into that context. Is it necessarily clowning? I am never sure. Which comes back to the original question, can anyone clown. as a verb, i venture to say yes, as in sharing humor...as to take on that role, or to be bring it on stage in a formal setting, well, i do not have the answers...
4 hrs · Like · 1
Jon Davison Stepping back a moment from trying to define self, performance or clown, I'm interested in finding ways of talking about what clowning is and does, which don't use that terminology, those concepts of self and authenticity which have dominated the way we theorise clowning over the last few decades. It's perfectly valid, but just doesn't do it for me, so I'm looking for another perspective, that's all.
4 hrs · Like
Moshe Cohen about the self and clown-Richard Pochinko had us channeling archetypal energies with humor to discover/create/grow/expand our clown worlds. That these energies flow through us, or that we channel them, would suggest that we are a channel for more universal energies-is it too far out to suggest that our 'selves' are these energies we channel, that we don't really generate anything...
4 hrs · Like · 1
James Hesla If I can go back a few comments here and think through some of the (very complex and intriguing) ideas you've posed, Jon Davison. I am on board with your assessment of the Lecoq-based clown=failure paradigm. In my view, this genre of clown is very 'popular' right now (picture me making HUGE air quotes around popular. as a caveat, I am writing pretty fast and playing loose with some potentially loaded terms--bear with me). But is is nut one form of clowning. If you look at the scholarly/critical literature on clowning, a number of anthro folks are interested in "clowning" broadly defined in social and cultural contexts, not those framed by a performance. In this former context, anyone is "capable" of clowning, but not everyone engages in clowning. I believe the same might be said for so-called 'theatrical clowning'--it requires a certain aptitude or aspiration that not everyone in my view possesses. Rather than revising what constitutes clowning, I think it may be more advantageous to think of clown as existing in many parallel, but slightly different streams.
4 hrs · Like
James Hesla BTW, I can email you the Butler article in full if you're interested...
4 hrs · Like
Jon Davison James Hesla, yes that would be great if you could info@jondavison.net
4 hrs · Like
Jon Davison That view on theatrical clowning was one I was taught to share, that aspiration was a major factor. But I'm wondering whether the understanding of what clowning is might be able to be so open that it could include anyone (remaining in the theatrical context). I find myself re-defining clowning when teaching it, whenever someone has a problem with some aspect of learning it that I had previously believed to be essential for anyone learning clowning. I'm still not sure how far I can stretch the limits of clowning in this way before it all falls to pieces. That was my motivation for asking the original question.
4 hrs · Like · 1
SirColin Herring studies in film theory reveal the cultural and gender mindsets. The Eisenstein discovery of a] being the first thought plus b] a second means c] is not required. d] a contrasting image is placed where c] should go. Images a+b creates c in the mind, so it is un-necessary. d] takes you to another place. So too with clowning. The tonal montage of impressionism, noir, expressionism then the kurosawa rule breaking technique. Clown is not an academic investigation (to me) rather how the study of other theory applies to clown. Natural Resource Management and Indigenous studies reveal great insights to performance and the natural world. Reading a crowd like an Indigenous person reads the landscape, the behaviour of birds and mimicry of the bush. How humour breaks the monotone and innocence revealed becomes profound.
3 hrs · Like
SirColin Herring Some of the gigs I get are at festivals and 10.000 audience. There are people watching from 100 metres, 5 metres and 1 metre. My shows cater to that strata all at the same time. My script is to make the event seamless, to fill in the gaps. A child cries so I track them down. 99 times out of a hundred they stop crying as I do a soothing routine. This relaxes the distraught mother who gets on with enjoying the festival. And yes Holly love is a powerful tool. Someone is always watching. A good band requires a shout of encouragement and dance (on stilts) in 1 hour, I exhibit 100 moments roving through the crowd reading, reading them. My script is human behaviour. Original behaviour expands my repertoire. 4 hours later, exhausted and dripping with sweat (it gets very hot here from October to March) I know I have touched every single person there and given them a moment each.
3 hrs · Like
Jon Davison Colin, I'm not getting the point as regards to the question on this thread about 'can anyone clown?'
2 hrs · Like
SirColin Herring anyone makes me clown, any pedagogy or entymology makes me clown. The self is the practitioner.
2 hrs · Like
SirColin Herring film theory when applied to vaudeville and burlesque is a pictoral history of the evolution of clown. Psychology, Indigenous fields, all have their excursions that can apply to clown. So I know nothing about Lecoq but more Pirandello. I have drifted away from intellectuallising clown and performance. These days I see clown more as Artisan.
2 hrs · Like
SirColin Herring a craftsmen, a plumber an electrician, only I apply that to crowds.
2 hrs · Like
SirColin Herring I call it kinetic art. forgive me if I sound weird and eccentric. For the last 14 years I have organised a parade as its artistic director. I conduct clown schools, go to schools (also lecture at tertiary institutions). each unit I call a pixel and enhance their presentations. Then I create a parade narrative and place over 80 community groups in a meaningful order or narrative. The gathering of people for the parade is a festival in itself. I call them the active and passive components. We start with a bare street add infrastructure, chalk goes out to early arrivals people congregate add marshals security, prominent people. The active community displays itself to the passive community. The pixels come together as I put on my 4 metre stilts. It forms a complete picture I enter 2/3rds of the way through the parade when the crowd is fully 'warmed' up. a single stream of 1500 people winds through15,000 people. At its peak I get a birds eye view, it's chock a block. Everyone is clown at that moment. Take a snapshot as all the pixels break apart back to a street. We clean it up. 500 clowns from all walks of life have thoroughly entertained. Every one forgets their woes and revels in clown and mardis gras. Next week I have to go to another parade and make it happen all over again. Each area is completely different. A few kms away but different dialects. At that one there is 1000 clowns. It's more an experience, a happening than a performance. Don't get me wrong esoteric has its place too, only I ask is it accessible to the common person.
2 hrs · Edited · Like
SirColin Herring everyone can clown, even the coulrophobics
2 hrs · Like
SirColin Herring but then there's the professional clown. Anyone cannot become a professional clown.
2 hrs · Like
Moshe Cohen Nobody for President
31 mins · Like
Jef Johnson Anyone cannot become the professional clown? Wow. Ok. What does that even mean? that you get paid? How much does one earn if one is a good professional clown? 5000€ per hour? More? For a single number? 20,000€ .....or is it a tribe based rite to call oneself a professional clown? Curious. Can you elaborate? I am certain you do not mean a birthday party children's entertainer, right? Because it seems that anyone can and does do that.
15 hours ago · Edited · Like · 1
Jef Johnson Are they forgetting the woes? Or are they remembering the joys?
15 hours ago · Like
SirColin Herring there there , wipe yer mouth Jef
15 hours ago · Like
SirColin Herring dribble has its place
15 hours ago · Like
Jef Johnson The common person is human and what clown refers us all to, even the dreary lot, is a remembrance of a universal human sensation of primal being and stupid unfiltered experience (inner and outer), whether curious, joyful, tearful, poetic...etc....some experience which reminds us that we are not so different but in fact quite similar...behind the social masks and rules....as humans...and in this realization a sense of union comes to us...we are no longer broken or wrong, cast out or hopeless....empathy, surprise, recognition are all stimulators of laughter that is different from the socially polite "oh the clown made a joke" laugh....so, whether "esoteric" appeals to the masses depends on how true the experience. One can do just about anything and captivate and draw profound attention and emotion. It is not only the what but the how, the when and apparent why that catches on. Opinions based on what defines "clown" will undoubtedly motivate some to reply that what matters most is that one does what they should as "a clown." So, again the word...clown...is a word. But no matter the formula or non formula, it comes down to frequency, always. The very primal and revealing feature we as humans most immediately respond to.
15 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 4
SirColin Herring nice
15 hours ago · Like
SirColin Herring • ANYONE YOU KNOW? glibness
• superficial charm
• grandiose sense of self-worth
• need for stimulation
• proneness to boredom
• pathological lying
• cunning
• manipulative behaviour
• lack of remorse
• shallow affect [superficial emotional responses]
• callousness
• lack of empathy
• parasitic lifestyle
• poor behavioural control
• lack of realistic long-term goals
• promiscuity
• impulsivity
• irresponsibility
• failure to accept responsibility [for their own actions]
• criminal versatility 1
• relying on sociological strategies and tricks to deceive
11 hrs · Edited · Like
SirColin Herring It actually describes our current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott
10 hrs · Like
James Hesla Just to complicate the question a bit, I am currently engaged in research in Bali on masked clowns in a sacred context. The dancer wears a half mask that allows them to speak, like commedia masks, although in no way related to or influenced by commedia dell'arte. The Balinese believe in something called 'taksu' which is akin to "inspiration," or "spirit." It is believed that only one person in a particular family can possess or tap into this taksu. For instance, I have been following a family of mask makers, the father, younger brother, and older brother. But the older brother is also a dancer. ("Dancer" is the term used in Bali instead of actor) The older brother would need to retire or die if the younger brother ever wanted to be a dancer. This is obviously different from the kind of question you pose, but an interesting example of the confluence of culture and craft. Furthermore, the character of the mask is a fixed archetype (again, similar to the character types in commedia), so the notion of 'self' is completely irrelevant in Balinese clowning. Not to oversimplify, certain performers are well-known for their clowning abilities, and the archetype is influenced slightly by the personality of each dancer.
James Hesla's photo.
4 hrs · Like · 3
SirColin Herring I have a friend who is currently studying in NZ and is a gamelan master. He went there because a puppet master is teaching. Would you like me to pass your enquiry on? There is a pendopo here in Adelaide for over 35 years. The Adelaide pendopo has a cultural style of the Javanese court and Zyg went to NZ for the opportunity to learn off a master beyond that style.
2 hrs · Edited · Like
SirColin Herring The important thing to consider is the performances go on for days non stop and in the sleep deprivation these characters extract so much more out of the exhaustion of the spectators. Peter Brookes performance of the Mahabarata starts at sunset and finishes at sunrise where the sun is a character in the performance. The ritual and exhaustion takes one to an ether of perception.