It’s been a while since I wrote something “philosophical” on here (funny, since that’s the whole purpose of this blog), but after reading Buzzfeed’s recent article “11 Reasons You Should Love Clowns,” I felt my fingers itching to contribute my two cents.
I was in Vegas in November 2011 with a bunch of my girlfriends I’d known since kindergarten. Half of us decided to go and watch Mystere by Cirque du Solei. As much as all the acrobatics are excellent to watch, I was mesmerized by one of the featured clowns in that show, the ‘Big Baby ‘ (the late Francois Dupuis). Everything he was doing was just SO SIMPLE that I couldn’t stop laughing (ie. he’d stand on the stage and just look at the audience and laugh). That’s it! I was in awe of how he’d mastered simplicity, something that is so hard to do in the world of performance. Unfortunately, my friends did not think he was anything special and when I tried to explain what being a clown truly means, I got the ever-unsatisfying brush-off answer: “Well, that’s just weird.”
As someone who went through a clown and mask workshop a couple years ago, I am very sensitive when people start talking about clowns because what many people think of when the word ‘clown’ comes to mind usually has nothing to do with the true nature of clowning. Articles like the one posted on Buzzfeed don’t help. True, the reasons the article lists for loving clowns are things I would consider to be true (we are great with kids, we don’t shy away from daring clothing, we do have a range of facial expressions), but these reasons for the most part are superficial and don’t get to the true heart of a clown (not to mention most of the clowns pictured in the article are TERRIFYING! No wonder people are afraid of clowns!).
What is the true heart of a clown? Let me try to explain this by citing my own clown, Dot (sidebar: I speak of Dot as a separate person to myself, though we are inevitably intertwined as we share the same body; this is something all of us who went through clown workshops do, so get over it). Dot is an incredible flirt and will give away her (ie. my) phone number to willing strangers, she loves pink and green (but mostly pink), and she’s obsessed with stripes (how ironic). She doesn’t smoke and will tell you directly that smoking is bad for you if you happen to light up in front of her. She can’t juggle very well, but when she does manage to catch all the balls, regardless of how little time she’s spent juggling, she is super excited. And if she doesn’t catch all the balls… well, she pretends like she does.
Dot also has feelings, very strong feelings that can change in the blink of an eye, like any human being. The difference between an adult and a clown? A clown actually shows how s/he is feeling at any given time. Happy? Jumping off the walls. Sad? Crying her/his eyes out. Afraid? Cowering in the corner. Clowns do what we as adults are afraid to do: they embrace and project their vulnerability to the world.
It’s because of this vulnerability that it’s hard for me when people say they don’t like clowns because being in clown does not mean just putting on a wacky collection of clothing and red nose, and getting all up in people’s faces while acting silly; that can scare people and is the reason why good clowns learn to be super observant and cautious when approaching people. Being in clown means taking one’s inner-most self and putting it out in the world to be inevitably stomped on. In a way, a clown is very much like a child, open to new experiences and seeing their entire world as one great, big adventure. Dot actually reminds me of me when I was about 7 years old, that time in my life when I was old enough to have opinions but hadn’t developed the inhibitions to conceal how I was feeling, that time when I wasn’t afraid to play, to climb trees, to ride my bike, to tell boys that I liked them. Being in clown means ultimately being brave and owning your story. And not only owning it, but sharing it as well.
So, according to Buzzfeed, there are 11 reasons why you should love clowns. To sum up, I’m going to give you 8 more:
1. They take the simple in life and make it profound
2. They can make you laugh
3. They find wonder in everything
4. They turn failure into success
5. They portray all extents of the human experience in a way that gives the audience some release and catharsis
6. They will be your best friend if you let them
7. They are brave
8. They are human