Learning from a Street Clown

Clowns fascinate me, especially the European clowns that have the type of flair that just seemed to whisk me away to so some magical place.

Their makeup was little – if any – but their charm could melt the hardest of hearts and put you in touch with the child deep inside you. Often these clowns would perform silently. With perhaps squeaks, grunts of either approval or none approval. The world of a clown is surreal but yet very funny or perhaps sometimes sad. They can touch you on so many emotions.

To watch a clown perform well on the streets is rare but can be most rewarding. Their props can be minimal yet their interaction with people and the environment around them is central to a good performance. If you have a stereotype image of a clown in your mind, you need to shake it off and look deeper into the world of clowning.

We have a great deal to learn from a good street clown. First, there is their ability to build a crowd simply with curiosity. Curiosity – the wonder of life itself. Wow! This is no small subject. Past and future as presented in the present by a performer who is playing the fool. No need for loud noises or abrupt shouts and screams just the pure, intense drama of being in a moment.

I fell in love with this discipline and started my own studies into clowning. I attended clown workshops – some better than others. I watched clowns on TV. The likes of Tommy Copper, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. I also became a big fan of Robin Williams in the Comedy TV program called Mork and Mindy – here he played a character of an alien called Mork who was visiting planet Earth. It did not really surprise me to discover years later that Robin Williams actually started off as a street performing mime artist.

Studying clowning shifted my own reality – when I looked at people around me, every day people I could spot the clown within them, both sad and happy. I started to look at my own character and in time this became of central importance to my showmanship.

To become a great show person you will have to develop a great character and one that the world can relate to. Studying clowning is going to help you do just that, discovering the clown within you and exaggerating that character and bringing him out for the world to see is a key ingredient to any good street show.

The hardest part of clowning is making yourself vulnerable. Really, if you did not try, you may find it very difficult. The streets are full of highly skilled performers, magicians and actors but often they seem to hide behind their skills just like stereotyped clown hiding behind his makeup.

The acts that stand out above the rest always allow you see their humanity! Okay, it may be exaggerated after all it is a show but none the less they take their show to the next level by doing so.

In everyday life, we can learn a lot from getting in touch with our inner true self. Who are we if we are sad, happy, lost, content, confused or focused.

Studying clown can bring about healing as well. It can be deep work and not be taken lightly but if the work is done well I do believe it will create not just a great character, not just a great show but a show that can bring healing to anyone who watches. A show that helps the audience forget their troubles and worries and be whisked away to a magical place. Here your audience is able to see the child in themselves through the performer’s eyes.

Now that to me, ladies and gentlemen is when showmanship becomes an art.

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