Thursday, 25 October 2012

Just clowning around.

This semester, I'm studying the module 'Popular Performance'; it consists of several weeks' studying of the various types of current performance, specifically comedy including stand up, sketches and... Clowning.

The words 'The Clown' have never seemed so daunting as they did when my friend and I read them on the Learning Network the week before starting lectures. I believe our exact words were: "we have to be clowns?! We have to actually study clowning and BE CLOWNS? Mate, fuck that!" It was terrifying. The thought of having to be deliberately funny in front of a room full of our friends and fellow students (and a select few who dislike us)? Surely that is a reality we'd never willingly face. Yet a week later we found ourselves traipsing along to our first lecture, slightly hungover as per usual and filled with terror...

Clowning is actually unexpectedly awesome. We're looking at Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Young Ones, Morecambe and Wise, etc., our lecturers are a theatre pro and a former clown (from clown trio Zippo & Co, as we discovered today), and the whole "being funny" thing isn't really that scary. There are all kinds of views on clowns being considered funny, and how they go about being funny; "the comedian tells the joke, the clown IS the joke."
   Our lecturer told us "don't try to be funny", which is perfect because I personally feel that the moment people really try to be funny, they're at their least funny - y'know? People never seem to understand when I say: "people are funniest when they're not trying to be." I find my friends most hilarious when we're just sitting around talking. I'll be in hysterics for ages over a comment someone made in a conversation, but I'll watch a comedian for a few hours and mostly I'll just smile... Maybe I'm just strange. But this clowning thing makes sense to me.

This week we had to bring in a jacket (one we "wouldn't normally wear"), a hat and a prop of some kind. I opted for my bestie's tweed jacket, a Fedora that someone randomly chucked at me during BOP a few weeks ago, and a newspaper as my prop. We were given the option to wear a red nose today (the "clown man" lecturer brought two egg boxes full of them) and in duos or trios we worked out a clowning routine. Mine consisted of dropping the newspaper and scattering the pages then reading it upside down, losing my partner's hat when it was actually stuck on my foot, trying to follow dance steps and failing, finding a red nose in my jacket pocket and being so indescribably happy when putting it on... It seemed to go well. Everyone else in my lectures is amazing; we saw two clowns in love, three falling about and injuring one another, two fighting over a newspaper, a duo attempting a dance, and a clown couple leading a tour, among other things. Our lecturer even said at the end of the session: "you're all almost too good. It's surprising. You've set the standard now; I'm really impressed."

After every clown lecture, we've all left with our various bits and bobs of clown paraphernalia stuffed in our bags or in our arms - or if you're me, wearing the jacket and silly hat all the way home. My friend does the same, and I think it's for the same reason - we don't want to say goodbye to our clown characters. My silly, slow, smiley clown chick is so much fun to mess around with, and I hate saying goodbye to her when I leave the studio, so I keep her with me the whole way home.

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