Wednesday, 21 June 2017

"Clown Readings" Bibliography

Here is the full bibliography, listing all the sources cited or collected in "Clown Readings"

Abbott, Bud and Costello, Lou (1944) Lost in a Harem (Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer).

Adams, Patch (1993) Gesundheit! (Vermont: Healing Arts Press).

- (1998) House Calls (San Francisco: Robert D. Reed).

- (2007) Interview on Roda Viva, 9th April 2007 (TV Brasil),, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Allen, Tony (2002) Attitude: Wanna Make Something Of It? (Glastonbury: Gothic Image).

Anderson, Franki (2009) Fools Gold,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2011) Interview by telephone, 13th December 2011.

Angelo, Henry (1828) Reminiscences (London: Henry Colburn).

Anderberg, Kirsten (2005) ‘Women Street Performers and Sexual Safety’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Armin, Robert (1972) Collected Works ed. Feather, J P (London: Johnson Reprint Corporation).

Arratoon, Liz (2011) Review of Slava’s Snowshow in The Stage, 19th December 2011,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Aspa, Jordi (2009) ‘La Integridad del Círculo’ in Zirkolika, Revista Trimestral de les Arts Circenses no. 21, Summer 2009, p.33.

Astruc, Gabriel (1929) Le pavillon des fantômes (Paris: Grasset).

Atkinson, Rowan (1992) Visual Comedy, a lecture by Rowan Atkinson M.Sc. (Oxon.) (Tiger Television).

Auerbach, N (1990) Private Theatricals: the lives of the Victorians (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press).

Ball, Lucille (1951) I Love Lucy Pilot Program, unaired episode (CBS).

- (1952) I Love Lucy Season 1, Episode 52, 22nd December 1952 (CBS).

Balderas, Elizabeth (2009) Letter to El Chamuco, reproduced at, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Bandolier, Adolf (1890) The Delight Makers (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company).

Barker, Clive (1977) Theatre Games (London: Methuen).

Basch, Sophie (2002) Romans de cirque (Paris: Robert Laffont).

Baskervill, Charles Read (1929) The Elizabethan Jig and Related Song Drama (Chicago: Chicago University Press).

Baudelaire, Charles (1855) ‘On the Essence of Laughter’ in The Mirror of Art (1955) tr. & ed. Mayne, Jonathan (London: Phaidon Press).

Baugé, Isabelle (1995) Pantomimes (Cahors : Cicéro Éditions).

Beeman, William O. (1981) ‘Why Do They Laugh? An Interactional Approach to Humor in Traditional Iranian Improvisatory Theatre: Performance and its Effects’ in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 94, No. 374, Folk Drama (Oct. – Dec., 1981), 506-526.

Bellocq, Éric, Lavenère, Vincent de et al. (2004) Le chant des balles (Vic-la-Gardiole: L’Entretemps).

Bellos, David (1999) Jacques Tati (London: The Harvill Press).

Billington, Michael (2008) Review of Varekai in The Guardian, 10th January 2008.

Boese, Carl (1931) Grock (La vie d'un grand artiste) (Universum Film AG).

Bogdanovich, Peter (1972) Leo McCarthy Oral History (Los Angeles: American Film Institute).
Bolton, Reg (1987) New Circus (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation).

Bouissac, Paul (1972) Clown Performances as Meta-semiotic Texts in Language Sciences 19, 1-7.
- (1997) The profanation of the sacred in circus clown performances, in Richard Schechner and W. Appel (eds) By Means of Performance 194-207 (Cambridge: CUP).
Brecht, Bertolt (1955) translated by Geoffrey Kelton (1998)The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent, in Collected Plays: Three (London: Methuen).
- (1994) Mann ist Mann (trans. By Gerhard Nellhaus) in Collected Plays: Two (London: Methuen).

Brinn, David (2011) ‘It’s not just clowning around with Slava and his Snowshow’ in The Jerusalem Post, 13th August 2011,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Brown, Ismene (2011) Review of Slava's Snowshow in theartsdesk, 29th December 2011,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Brown, Maria Ward (1901) The Life of Dan Rice (New Jersey: Long Branch).

Bryant, Arthur (1952) The Age of Elegance 1812-1822 (London: Collins).

Buten, Howard (2005) Buffo (Arles: Actes Sud).

Caillois, Roger (2001) Man, Play and Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press).
Cairoli, Charlie (1966) The Milk Number at The London Hippodrome,, date accessed 29th December 2011.
- (1973) The Milk Number at Cirque Bouglione, Paris,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Calvi, Nuala (2011) Interview with Slava Polunin in The Stage, 16th December 2011.

Cameron, Anne (1981) Daughters of Copper Woman (Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers).
Campardon, Émile (1880) Les Comédiens du Roi de la troupe italienne (Paris: Berger-Levrault et Cie).
Carlson, Marvin (2003) ‘The Golden Age of the Boulevard’ in Joel Schechter (ed.), Popular Theater (London: Routledge).

Carse, James P. (1986) Finite and Infinite Games (New York: Random House).

Cashin, Pat (2011) Clownalley (

Cazeneuve, Jean (1957) Les dieux dansent à Cibola (Paris: Gallimard).

Ceballos, Edgar (1999) El Libro de Oro de los Payasos (Mexico DF: Escenología).

Cenoz, Clara (2009) Banana!, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2011) Interview at Escola de Clown de Barcelona, 20th November 2011.
Chai, Barbara (2011) ‘The Red-Nosed Revolution’ in the Wall Street Journal, 1st November 2011,, date accessed 29th December 2011.
Chamberlain, Franc and Yarrow, Ralph (eds.) (2002) Jacques Lecoq and the British Theatre (Oxford: Routledge).

Champsaur, Félicien (1901) Lulu, Roman clownesque in Basch, Sophie (2002) Romans de cirque (Paris: Robert Laffont).

Chaplin, Charlie (1916) The Pawnshop (Mutual Film Corporation).

- (1921) The Kid (First National).

- (1928) The Circus (United Artists).

- (1931) City Lights (United Artists).

- (1936) Modern Times (United Artists).

- (1964) My Autobiography, (London: The Bodley Head).

Chekhov, Michael (1953) To the Actor (New York: Harper and Row).

CIRCA (2006-11), date accessed 29th December 2011.

Claretie, Jules (1881) La Vie a Paris (Paris: Havard).

- (1888) Boum-Boum (New York: William R. Jenkins).

Clay, Alan (2005) Angels Can Fly, a Modern Clown User’s Guide (Newtown, Australia: Artmedia Publishing).

Clowns of America International (2006) 20 Years of Laughter (Nashville: Turner Publishing Company).

Cohen, Moshe (2005) ‘A Short Look at Clown and Zen’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2007a) ‘Conversations with Roshi Egyoku: The Three Tenets’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2007b) ‘Conversation with Roshi Bernie Glassman’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2007c) ‘Conversations with Egyoku: Joy and Zen’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2012) ‘The power of the (clown) Nose’, in Sacred Mischief,, date accessed 11th January 2012.

Copeau, Jacques (1990), Texts on Theatre, edited and translated by Rudlin, John and Paul, Norman H. (London: Routledge).
Cortés, Edouard (2007) El Pallasso i el Fuhrer (The Clown and the Fuhrer) (Televisió de Catalunya).
Cosdon, Mark (2010) The Hanlon Brothers: from daredevil acrobatics to spectacle pantomime, 1833-1931 (Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press).

Coward, Simon and Perry, Christopher Woodall (2009) Bob's Full House (Dudley: Kaleidoscope).

Crane, David and Kauffman, Marta (1994-2004) Friends (NBC).

Dauven, L R and Garnier, Jacques (1971) ‘Fellini’s Clowns’ in Le Cirque dans l'Univers #81 (Club du Cirque), trans. by Goodman, Diane in (1978) Mask, Mime & Marionette, vol. I, no. 1, Spring 1978: 41-4 (New York).

David, Larry (2000-2011) Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO).

David, Larry and Seinfeld, Gerry (1989-1998) Seinfeld (NBC).

Davis, Janet M (2005) ‘Bearded Ladies, Dainty Amazons, Hindoo Fakirs, and Lady Savages:

Circus Representations of Gender and Race in Victorian America’, Lecture at the University of Virginia 5th-8th October 2005,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Davison, Jon (2008) The Phenomenology of Clown, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2009a) The Dramaturgy of Clown, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2009b) An Encyclopaedia of Clown, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2010) Clown Training Today, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Diercksen, Laurent (1999) Grock: un destin hors norme (Bévilard, Switzerland : Laurent Diercksen).

Denis, Dominique (1985) Le Livre du Clown (Strasbourg: Éditions Techniques du Spectacle).

- (1997) 1.000 gags de clowns (Strasbourg: Magix Unlimited).

Dickens, Charles (1837) The Post-humourous notes of the Pickwickian Club (London: E. Lloyd).

Dimitriev, Yuri (1967) The Soviet Circus 1917-1941 (Moscow: Progress Publishers).

Disher, Maurice Willson (1925) Clowns and Pantomimes (London/New York : Benjamin Blom).

- (1937) Greatest Show on Earth (London: G. Bell and Sons)

Double, Oliver (1997) Stand-Up: On Being a Comedian (London: Methuen).

- (2005) Getting The Joke (London: Methuen).

Dromgoole, Nicholas (2007) Performance Style and Gesture in Western Theatre (London: Oberon Books).

Dryden, John (1811) The poetical works of John Dryden, vol. 2, eds Warton, Joseph and Warton, John (London: Rivington).

Duranty, Louis-Edmond (1995) Théâtre des Marionnettes - Répertoire Guignol du XIXe siècle (Paris : Actes Sud).

Durwin, Joseph (2002) Coulrophobia and the Trickster,, date accessed 29th December 2011.
Eisenberg, Avner (c. 1980-2011) Exceptions to Gravity (live one-man show).
- (2005) Eccentric Principles,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2011) Interview with Christopher Lueck, 3rd February 2011,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Evans, Mark (2006) Jacques Copeau (London: Routledge).

Feldberg, Robert (2010) 'Banana Shpeel is a Cirque du Soleil attempt at vaudeville’, review of Banana Shpeel at The Beacon Theater, New York (in The Record 27th May 2010).

Fellini, Federico (1970) I Clowns (Radiotelevisione italiana).

Findlater, Richard (1978) Joe Grimaldi: his life and theatre (Cambridge: CUP).

Fisher, John (2006) Tommy Cooper – Always Leave Them Laughing (London: Harper Collins).

Fleisher, Julian (1996) The Drag Queens of York (New York: Riverhead Books).
Franc-Nohain (1907) Les mémoires de Footit et Chocolat (Paris: Pierre Lafitte).

Franconi, Victor (1855) Le cavalier, cour d’équitation pratique (Paris: Michel Lévy).

Fratellini, Albert (1955) Nous, Les Fratellini (Paris: Éditions Bernard Grasset).

Fratellini, Annie (1989) Destin de clown, (Lyon: Éditions La Manufacture).

- (1997) Article about Annie Fratellini in L’Humanité, 2nd July 1997.

Fratellini, Valérie (2002) ‘Ça mange quoi, un clown? Soliloque d’une dinosaure’ in Jeu: revue de théâtre, no. 104, (3) 2002, p. 109-15,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Frediani, Aristodemo (Beby) (1930) Mémoires d’un clown (Paris: La Liberté).

Frichet, Henri (1889) Le Cirque et les Forains (Tours: Alfred Mame et Fils).

Frost, Anthony and Yarrow, Ralph (1990) Improvisation in Drama (Palgrave Macmillan).

Fumagalli (2011) Le Miel et la reine des abeilles (The Honey and the Queen Bee),, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Jané, Jordi (1996) Charlie Rivel (Barcelona: Generalitat de Catalunya).

Jané, Jordi and Minguet, Joan M (eds) (1998) Sebastià Gasch, El Gust pel Circ (Tarragona: El Medol).

Gardner, Lyn (2009) Review of Le Cirque Invisible at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, in The Guardian, 5th August 2009,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Gaulier, Philippe (2007a) Le gégéneur/The Tormentor (Paris: Éditions Filmiko).

- (2007b) The King of my School,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

von Geldern, James and Stites, Richard (eds) Mass Culture in Soviet Russia (Indiana: Indiana University Press).

Gehring, Wes D. (1990) Laurel & Hardy: a bio-bibliography (Greenwood Publishing Group).

Gervais, Ricky (2006) Ricky Gervais Meets ... Larry David (Channel 4).

Gervais, Ricky and Merchant, Stephen (2001-3) The Office (BBC TV).

Gervais, Ricky, Merchant, Stephen and Davis, Warwick (2011) Life’s Too Short (BBC TV).

Girolamo, Mercuriale (1569) Arte Gymnastica libri Sex. in Toole Scott, Robert (1958-1962) Circus and Allied Arts: a World Bibliography (Derby: Harpur & Sons).
Goffman, Erving (1990) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (London: Penguin).

Goncourt, Edmond and Jules de (2005). Journal des Goncourt, volume 1: 1851–1857 (Paris: H. Champion).
Gordon, Mel (1983), Lazzi (New York: Performing Arts Journal).

Goudard, Philippe (2005) Anatomie d’un clown / Lire et Écrire le cirque (Vic-la-Gardiole: L’Entretemps éditions).

Grantham, Barry (2000) Playing Commedia – A Training Guide to Commedia Techniques (London: Nick Hern Books).

- (2006) Commedia Plays – Scenarios, Scripts, Lazzi (London: Nick Hern Books).

Grock (1931) Life’s a Lark, (London: William Heinemann Ltd).

- (1957) King of Clowns (London: Methuen).

Haifa, University of (2006) ‘Medical Clowning Studies’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Halperson, Joseph (1926) Das Buch von Zirkus (Düsseldorf: Lintz A.-G.).

Hanna, William and Barbera, Joseph (1954) Hic-cup Pup (Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer).

Harris, Paul (1996) The Pantomime Book: The Only Known Collection of Pantomime Jokes and Sketches in Captivity (London: Peter Owen).

Helm, Alex (1971) Eight Mummers’ Plays (London: Ginn).

Henderson, Jan (2008) ‘Philosophy of Clown’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Hicks, Bill (1989) ‘What you reading for?’ in Sane Man (Sacred Cow Productions).

Huizinga, Johan (1970) Homo Ludens; a study of the play element in culture (London: Paladin).

Hutter, Gardi (1981) Joan of ArPpo,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Jando, Dominique (2008) The circus: 1870-1950 (London: Taschen).

- (2009) ‘Behind the Scenes at the Circus’, talk and panel discussion at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 31st March 2009,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Jara, Jesús (2004) El Clown, un navegante de las emociones (Sevilla: Proexdra).

Jigalov, Andrei and Csaba, Albert (2009) The Sweets,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Johnson, Bruce ‘Charlie’ (1993) The Tramp Tradition (Kenmore: Charlie’s Creative Comedy).

- (2000) ‘Early Female Clowns’ in The Clown In Times, Volume 6, Issue 3.

- (2010) ‘History and Philosophy’ in Clowning Around, March/April 2010 (World Clown Association)

Johnston, Chris (2006) The Improvisation Game (London: Hern Books).

Jonson, Ben (1641) Discoveries Made Upon Men and Matter, ed. (1892) by Schelling, F E (Bosotn: Ginn).

Kapoor, Raj (1970) Meera Naam Joker (My Name is Joker) (R. K. Films).

Karandash (1987) Karandash (Moscow: Москва искусство).

Kaufman, Andy (1980) Appearnace on The Letterman Show, 24th June 1980 (NBC).

Keaton, Buster (1920) Neighbors (Metro Pictures).

- (1927) College (United Artists).

Kelly, Emmet and Kelly, Beverly (1996) Clown (New York: Buccaneer Books).

Kemp, Barry (1979) ‘Bobby’s Big Break’ in Taxi Season 1, Episode 18 (Paramount Television).

Kendrick, Lynne (2011) ‘A paidic aesthetic: an analysis of games in Philippe Gaulier’s ludic pedagogy’ in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Vol. 2 (1), 72-85 (London: Routledge).

Kerr, Walter (1975) The Silent Clowns (New York: Alfred A Knopf).

Koller, Donna and Gryski, Camilla (2008) ‘The Life Threatened Child and the Life Enhancing Clown: Towards a Model of Therapeutic Clowning’ in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 5 (2008), Issue 1, pp. 17-25,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Kramer, Mimi (1998) ‘Hot Ticket to Nowhere’ in The New Yorker 21/11/1998.

Lane, Lupino (1945) How to become a Comedian (London: Frederick Muller).
Langdon, Harry (1924) All Night Long (Mack Sennett-Pathé).
- (1925) Boobs in the Wood (Mack Sennett-Pathé).
- (1926a) Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (First National Pictures).

- (1926b) The Strong Man (First National Pictures).

- (1927a) Long Pants (First National Pictures).

- (1927b) Three’s a Crowd (Harry Langdon Corporation).
Laurel, Stan and Hardy, Ollie (1929) Unaccustomed As We Are (Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer).
Le Roux, Hughes (1890) Acrobats and Mountebanks trans. by Morton, A P (London: Chapman and Hall).

Levine, Josh (2010) Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good – Larry David and the Making of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm (Toronto: ECW Press).

Lily, Peta (2011) ‘The Dark Clown - In pursuit of a different kind of laughter’ (unpublished article).

Little, Kenneth (1981) ‘Clown Performance in the European One Ring Circus’ in Culture 1(2): 67-72.

- (1991) ‘The Rhetoric of Romance and the Simulation of Tradition in Circus Clown Performance’ in Semiotica vol. 85(3/4): 227-55.

- (1993), ‘Masochism, Spectacle, and the “Broken Mirror” Clown Entree: a Note on the Anthropology of Performance in Postmodern Culture’ in Cultural Anthropology, vol.8, no. 1: 117-29.
- (2003) ‘Pitu’s Doubt: Entrée Clown Self-Fashioning in the Circus Tradition’ in Schechter, Joel (ed.) (2003) Popular Theater (London: Routledge), originally published in The Drama Review 112 (1986): 182-6.

Louvish, Simon (2001) Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy (London: Faber and Faber).

- (2003) Keystone – The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett (London: Faber and Faber).
Makarius, Laura Levi (1974) Le sacré et la violation des interdits (Paris: Éditions Payot).

Mamet, David (1998) True or False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor(London: Faber and Faber).

Margueritte, Paul (1886) Pierrot, assassin of his wife in Gerould, Daniel (1979) ‘Paul Margueritte and Pierrot assassin of his wife’ in The Drama Review, XXIII (March): 103-19.

Mariel, Pierre (1923) Histoire de trios clowns (Paris: Société Anonyme d’Éditions).

Martin, Steve (2008) Born Standing Up: a comic’s life (London: Pocket Books).

Marx Brothers, The Four (1933) Duck Soup (Paramount Productions Inc) in (1972) Monkey Business and Duck Soup (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Marx, Harpo (1959) appearance with Milton Berle on The Kraft Music Hall (NBC: 14/01/1959).

- (1962) Harpo Speaks! (New York: Limelight Editions).

Mass, Vladimir (1930) Makhno’s Men in von Geldern, James and Stites, Richard (eds) Mass Culture in Soviet Russia (Indiana: Indiana University Press), 139-141.

McKerrow, R B (1910) The Works of Thomas Nashe, 3 vols (London: Sidgwick & Jackson).

McKinven, John A. (1998) The Hanlon Brothers (Illinois: David Meyer Magic Books).

McManus, Donald (2003) No Kidding!: Clown as Protagonist in Twentieth-Century Theater (Newark: Delaware).

Meisner, Sanford (1987) On Acting (New York: Vintage Books).

Melville, Jean-Pierre (1946) 24 Heures de la vie d’un clown (24 Hours in the Life of a Clown) (Melville Productions).

Mendoza, Rubén (2010) La Sociedad del Semáforo (Traffic Light Society) (DíaFragma, Fábrica de Películas).

Metcalf, C. W. and Felible, Roma (1992) Lighten Up – Survival Skills for People Under Pressure (Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley).

Milazzo, Franco (2010) Review of Le Cirque Invisible at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, in Londonist, 10th August 2010,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Monkhouse, Bob (1993) Crying with Laughter (London: Century).

- (1998) Over the Limit (London: Century).
Moshaeva, Ekaterina (Antoschka) (2006) World Parliament of Clowns,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2011) Interview by telephone, 20th August 2011.
Murray, D L (1930) Candles and Crinolines (London: Cape).
Murray, Simon (2002) ‘“Tout Bouge”: Jacques Lecoq, Modern Mime and The Zero Body. A Pedagogy for the Creative Actor’ in Chamberlain, Franc and Yarrow, Ralph (eds.) (2002) Jacques Lecoq and the British Theatre (Oxford: Routledge).

- (2003), Jacques Lecoq (London: Routledge).

Musson, Clettus (2003) World’s Best Clown Gags (New York: D. Robbins and Co).

Nachmanovitch, Stephen (1990) Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art (New York: Tarcher/ Penguin).

Northbrooke, John (1577) Treatise against Dicing, Dancing, Plays and Interludes in Shakespeare Society (1843) Early Treatises on the Stage (London: Shakespeare Society), p. xvi.

Nose to Nose (2011), date accessed 29th December 2011.

Opie, Iona and Peter (1969) Children’s Games in Street and Playground (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Page, Patrick (1997) 150 Comedy Props (London: Patrick Page).

- (2005) Book of Visual Comedy (London: Patrick Page).

Pallapupas (2011) F.A.Q.,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Paret, Pierre (1959) ‘Entrée de Grock’ in Le Cirque dans l'Univers #34 (Club du Cirque), trans. by Towsen, John (1978) in Mask, Mime & Marionette, vol. I, no. 1, Spring 1978: 25-39 (New York).

Parson, Elsie Clews (1923) ‘The Hopi Wöwöchim Ceremony in 1920’ in American Anthropologist 25: 156-187.

Partido del Trabajo de México (2009) Party Political Broadcast,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Patkin, Max and Hochman, Stan (1994) The Clown Prince of Baseball (Texas: WSR).

Peacock, Louise (2009) Serious Play - Modern Clown Performance (Bristol: Intellect).

Pelling, Kate (2009) Boo!, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2011) Interview in London, 16th August 2011.

Perrodil, Edouard de (1889) Monsieur Clown (Paris: C. Dalou).

Petit, Lenard (2011) Clown Workshop for Actors,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

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Poliakoff, Nicolai (1962) Coco the Clown: by himself (London: Dent and Sons Ltd).

Polunin, Slava (2001) Interview with Natalia Kazmina, translated by Julie Delvaux,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

- (2011) Interview with Alexander Kan, Arts Editor of the BBC's Russian Service, 22nd December 2011, BBC News online, date accessed 29th December 2011.

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- (1954) Jean-Gaspard Deburau (Paris: L’Arche).

- (1956) Oleg Popov in France URSS (April 1956 No 127).

- (1962) Entrées Clownesques (Paris: L’Arche).

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Riehn, Wolfgang (2009) ‘Shaping the Future Intelligently or with Stupidity?’ World Parliament of Clowns panel discussion at the World Culture Forum, Dresden,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

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Robbins, Norman (2002) Slapstick and Sausages, the Evoluiton of British Pantomime (Devon: Trapdoor Publishing).

Robinson-Holden, Joey (2011) Interview with the author, London, 15th August 2011.

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Sedita, Scott (2006) The Eight Characters of Comedy (Los Angeles: Atides Publishing).

Serafimovich, Alexander (1935) The Iron Flood (New York: International Publishers).
Schechter, Joel (1985), Durov’s Pig (New York: Theater Communications Group).
- (1998), The Congress of Clowns and Other Russian Circus Acts (San Francisco: AK Press).

Scheck, Frank (2010) ‘Clown flop lacks a-peel’, review of Banana Shpeel at The Beacon Theater, New York in the New York Post 22nd May 2010.

Shadyac, Tom (1998) Patch Adams (Blue Wolf).

Shepherd, Simon and Wallis, Mick (2004) Drama/Theatre/Performance (London: Routledge).

Shepherd, Simon and Womack, Peter (1996) English Drama: a Cultural History (London: Blackwell).

Simon, Eli (2009) The Art of Clowning (New York: Palgrave Macmillan)

Slavsky, R. (1980) Vitaly Lazarenko (Moscow: Москва искусство).

Stephen, Alexander M. (1936) Hopi Journal, 2 vol. (New York: Columbia University Press).

Stott, Andrew McConnell (2009) The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi (Edinburgh: Canongate Books).

Strehly, Georges (1900) L'Acrobatie et les Acrobates (Paris: Delagrave).

Sylvander, Beril (1984) ‘Looking For Your Clown ... And Finding Yourself’, first published in 1984 in Art et Therapie and reproduced at, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Tati, Jacques (1967) Cours du soir (Specta Films).

Tarlton, Richard (1884) ed. Halliwell, James Orchard Tarlton’s Jests (New York: AMS Press 1973).

Taylor, Millie (2007) British Pantomime Performance (Bristol: Intellect Books).

Taylor, Paul (2011) ‘Slava’s Snowshow at The Royal Festival Hall, London’ in The Independent, 23rd December 2011.

Thayer, Stuart (1997) Traveling Showmen (Detroit: Astley & Ricketts).

Ticketmaster (2011) Comments on Slava’s Snowshow,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Toothaker, Christopher (2011) ‘Shhh! Mimes tackle traffic chaos in Venezuela’ for Associated Press, 8th October 2011,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Toulmin, Vanessa (2007) Interview on Making History, 10th April 2007, BBC Radio 4,, date accessed 29th December 2011.

Towsen, John (1976) Clowns (New York: Hawthorne).

- (2011) All Fall Down, the Craft and Art of Physical Comedy,, date accessed 21/11/2011

Valentin, Karl (1976) Der Reparierte Scheinwerfer (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag).

Vàzquez, Gerard (2006) Uuuuh! (Barcelona: Proa).

Wallett, William F (1870) The Public Life of W F Wallett, the Queen’s Jester (Kondon: Benrose and Sons).

Webber, Kimberley (1996) Circus!: The Jandaschewsky story (Sydney: Powerhouse Publishing).

Welsford, Enid (1935) The Fool: His Social and Literary History (London: Faber and Faber).

Wiles, David (1987) Shakespeare’s Clown (Cambridge: CUP).

- (2003) A Short History of Western Performance Space Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Winnicott, D.W. (1971) Playing and Reality (London: Penguin).

World Clown Association (2011) ‘Clown ministry’,, date accessed 29th December 2011.
Wright, Barton (1994) Clowns of the Hopi (Arizona: Northland).

Wright, John (2006) Why Is That So Funny? (London: Nick Herne Books).

Yengibarov, Leonid (1963) Путь на арену (The Path to the Arena) (Armenfilm).

Zaporah, Ruth (1995) Action Theatre: The Improvisation of Presence (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books).

Zola, Émile (1881) 'La Pantomime' in Le Naturalisme au Théâtre (Paris: G. Charpentier).

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Clown Devising Workshop

Every Thursday 6.30-8.30pm
at Apiary Studios
Coming soon! - please let me know if you are interested in coming to this. We will start soon: once we have enough people.
Jon Davison
London Clown School

Following on from the popular success of the weekly clown workshop on Mondays (we've only missed one Monday since starting in April last year) I am happy to announce a new opportunity for all to develop their clowning.

The Monday class has been covering everything from discovering the joy of being stupid in front of others to the work of coming up with workable ideas for performing in public.
There's so much to do in such a short time that I've decided to open up a new class to focus on the devising aspects of clowning, leaving Mondays freer to work on the dynamics of clowning and enjoying your own stupidity and thereby making others laugh. That doesn't mean there will be no devising at all on Mondays, nor that Thursdays will ignore the essential need to actually perform your material as stupidly and funnily as possible. But it will allow for some more in depth work to take place in both areas.

The need for training in devising clown material

It’s all very well experiencing clowning in a workshop situation, where the teacher sets up the frame and conditions, but quite another matter when you come to perform in front of audiences out there in public. Learning the dynamics of clowning won’t be enough. Something else is required. Other kinds of comic performers habitually spend a lot of time and effort on ‘material’. Stand-up comedians worry over joke structure, sketch comedians search for strong premises for their ideas. Why should clowns be different? Popular misconceptions suppose that clowns just get up there and are funny just by being true to their inner selves. But looking inside yourself won’t really save you.

There are countless practical ways of devising material appropriate for your clowning. Awareness of and understanding of these is far preferable to just hoping the clown you ‘found’ will survive the real stage situation. These forms and structures of clown material also derive from simple notions of what clowns actually do. At the moment, my favourite terms for what clowns do are ‘wrongness’, the ‘unthinkable’, the ‘unexpected’ and the ‘obvious’.

This workshop is ongoing, drop in, continuous, unending - basically every week - so you can come regularly or occasionally or just once. It works for different kinds of people: you might have just started clowning and want to try performing in public; you might want to get back to it after a time away, or revisit your material and improve it or change it.

So now you will be able to dedicate even more time to clowning. Come to both days or just one. It's up to you.

Time: Thursdays 6.30 – 8.30pm
Venue: Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Road, London E2 9EG
Cost: Single class £15; or £50 for four classes paid in advance; or £60 for five classes paid in advance; or £110 for ten classes paid in advance

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Coming soon! Clown Studies

This will be the first of its kind. I started running these classes way back in 2006 when we opened the Barcelona clown school. It felt like an innovation then. No one was really teaching clown history or theory or analysis. To me it seemed self-evident that thinking and knowing about clowning could benefit your performing. Or that it could be a worthwhile study in itself.

Ten years later, and still no one is offering clown studies in this way, anywhere, as far as I am aware: neither in private clown schools nor in universities, despite all their talk of embracing ‘popular performance’.

I flirted with the academy for a number of years (aside from my experience setting up clown workshops myself), teaching and researching at high-level drama schools which had become part of the university system: the Institut del Teatre in Spain and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Britain. I learned much from my students in Barcelona and had great opportunities to research in London. But I realise that the academy is destined to remain a dead end as far clowning goes, insofar as no one is likely to take the subject seriously enough at an institutional level.

So after years of trying to forge a niche for clowning, either through systematising its teaching or by trying to set up an MA in clowning, I now prefer to put my energies into my independent teaching. Over the last year, the London Clown School Monday workshop has become well-established. We haven't missed a week, not even for Xmas. People come regularly or occasionally, and there is always a mix of old and new faces. Each participant gets to explore as they wish, whether it's discovering the joy of being stupid in front of others, or preparing performance material to try out in public. One of the many advantages of this format is that it avoids the crushingly standardised control of education today with its targets, aims and objectives. So there’s not a hint of "by the end of this course you will have learned x". As a teacher, it’s not my business to bet on what you may learn, nor when you may learn it.

So, now it’s time to offer, in a similar sustained way, an opportunity to explore the other side: the history, theory and analysis of clowning. Every week I receive requests from students needing advice, guidance and tuition for their projects, dissertations and theses investigating clowning. It's hardly surprising, given universities' long-term failure to invest in clowning.

This new initiative will offer a programme of studies in 2 formats:  
- a weekly drop-in class held in London 
- an online class, also following a weekly pattern

I’ll also continue to offer one-to-one tutoring, guidance or supervision either in person or online.

Clown Studies Syllabus
This falls into four broad areas: theory, history, analysis and personal research project.

General questions - What is clown? What is funny? How can we talk about clown? What is clown’s relationship to comedy? to humour? How do we know what clowns are? What are they for?

What is clown’s history? How are clowns specific to their time and place? Why do different meanings become attached to clowns according to their time and place? What is a Shakespearean clown? A circus clown? An auguste clown? A personal clown?

Using practical observation of the work of clown performers, live or on video/film, contemporary or historical, how can we talk about them? What is the vocabulary of the clown critic? How can we answer the question ‘why is this (not) funny?’

Compiling a short project on a theme of your choice, in any presentation format (except clown performance itself) that can be stored or recorded for future clown students to consult.

Provisional expressions of interest:
Please get in touch if you are interested in any of these options and I will keep you posted on developments.

Best wishes,

Jon Davison
London Clown School

Friday, 27 November 2015

Monday Clown Workshops

Quite a few people have been asking me recently what the clown workshops held every Monday are all about (including some people who come regularly).

There are two main aims as far as I am concerned (participants might have other aims, of course). One aim is to work continuously on a better understanding in practice of what makes clowning happen. As the years have passed, I have more and more come to the conclusion that it’s all rather simple. So simple, in fact, that it’s easier to clown than it is not to clown (people often say comedy and clowning is so difficult, but maybe they’re wrong). You just have to create the right conditions. So that’s what I hope to do in a workshop: set up the best possible conditions for participants to clown, and, crucially, to understand how it works. Increasingly, then, I’ve preferred to whittle down what used to be a whole mountain of games and exercises into two or three fundamental forms, which can help you access the dynamics of clowning as directly as possible. And those forms, or dynamics, are derived in turn from the basic premise of clowning, which is to be the object of laughter for others.

My second aim comes from the fact that it’s all very well experiencing clowning in a workshop situation, where the teacher sets up the frame and conditions, but quite another matter when you come to perform in front of audiences out there in the world. Learning the dynamics of clowning won’t be enough. Something else is required. Other kind of comic performers habitually spend a lot of time and effort on ‘material’. Stand-up comedians worry over joke structure, sketch comedians search for strong premises for their ideas. Why should clowns be different? Popular misconceptions suppose that clowns just get up there and are funny just by being true to their inner selves. But looking inside yourself won’t really save you. There are countless practical ways of devising material appropriate for your clowning. Awareness of and understanding of these is far preferable to just hoping the clown you ‘found’ will survive the real stage situation. These forms and structures of clown material also derive from simple notions of what clowns actually do. At the moment, my favourite terms for what clowns do are ‘wrongness’, the ‘unthinkable’, the ‘unexpected’ and the ‘obvious’.

This workshop is ongoing, drop in, continuous, unending - basically every Monday - so you can come regularly or occasionally or just once. It works for different kinds of people: you might be just starting clowning; you might want to reinforce your understanding of clowning, or get back to it after a time away; you might want to start performing in public; or revisit your material and improve it or change it.

Time: Mondays 6.30 – 8.30pm
Venue: Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Road, London E2 9EG
Cost: Single class £15; or £50 for four classes paid in advance; or £60 for five classes paid in advance; or £110 for ten classes paid in advance

Jon Davison 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Documenting Clown Training

This paper was presented at Salford Comedy Symposium ‘Documenting Comedy’ on 13th May 2015, hosted by University of Salford and Media City UK, Salford

Documenting Clown Training

I want to ask some questions about the nature of clowning, or a particular part of it, which arise when we consider the relationship between clown performance and its possible documentation. By doing so I will also reflect upon the nature of documentation itself.

What do we mean by clowning?
What do we include? Exclude? The term is multi-connotational and sometimes hotly disputed. It depends on who you ask, clowns or clowning are:

-          ‘A clown who doesn’t provoke laughter is a shameful mime’ (Gaulier 2007a: 289)
-          It's okay not to be funny. Clowns do not have to make people laugh‘ (Simon 2009: 31)
-          Clowns are sad and exhibit ‘shabby melancholy‘ (Stott 2009: XVI).
-           The key feature uniting all clowns is their ability, skill or stupidity, to break the rules (McManus 2003: 12).
-          Etymologically, in 16th England, clowns those who do not behave like gentlemen, but in ‘uncivil fashions‘ (French Academy, 1586).
-           ‘a quest for liberation from the “social masks” we all wear‘ (Murray 2003: 79,  on Jacques Lecoq).
-          ‘the main similarity between clown and Zen is that if you are you are thinking, then you are not where you want to be‘ (Cohen 2005);
-          ‘Clowning is about the freedom that comes from a state of total, unconditional acceptance of our most authentic selves‘ (Henderson 2008).
-          Some believe clowns are responsible for bringing rain to the crops: ‘they also fast, mortify themselves, and pray to Those Above that every kind of fruit may ripen in its time, even the fruit in woman’s womb‘ (Bandolier 1890: 34).
-          Some ascribe such powers to their taboo-breaking: ‘This “wisdom” magically acquired shows well that this is a question of the breaking of a taboo’ (Makarius 1974: 63).
-          Some think that clowns are a socially useful way to control traffic, since they ’can achieve what traffic police cannot achieve using warning and sanctions [...] by employing artistic and peaceful actions’ (Toothaker 2011),
-          Others believe that to be a clown is to sink below human dignity: ’I'm going to earn something, even if it’s as a clown’ (Partido del Trabajo de México 2009).
-          Some have believed clowns could stop wars: ’The laughter of Bim and Bom almost stopped the Russian Revolution’ (Schechter 1998: 33).
-          Alternatively, they might find themselves on the side of governments: ’Nikulin replied: “Who will be the subject of our parody? The government is marvellous”’ (Schechter 1998: 15-16).

The list is much longer. Clowns have been seen as revolutionary, reactionary, avant-garde, universal, marginal, irrelevant, fundamental, dangerous, harmless, immoral, exemplary, skilled, chaotic, wealthy, poor, innocent, cruel, scary, joyous, melancholic, or as fulfilling any number of social, artistic, cultural or political functions as can be imagined.

There is one particular definition of clowning I want to look at here. It has its contemporary source in the experiments by Jacques Lecoq with clowning in the early 1960s: the flop... the eliciting and re-eliciting of laughter. Laughter as a response to the failure of the clown to make us laugh, which is the job, the agreed contract between clown and audience. And that this laughter should be as a result of our finding the clown himself the joke.

This definition or practice has been hugely influential, indeed dominant, over the last half century of contemporary clowning, and forms a pillar of clown training, in many, though not all, clown pedagogies.

Over the last half century clown workshops and training, since Jacques Lecoq’s experiments teaching clown in the early 1960s, have arguably gained prominence over clown performance itself. Clown teachers command international respect and power, aesthetic and financial, which very few clown performers can aspire to. In the workshop, theories, orthodoxies and philosophies have become established which often make transcendent claims to ‘truth’, in a manner that general actor training has done for some time.

Despite remaining a relatively isolated niche in the fields of performer training and comedy performance, this new-found boost in the value assigned to clown training and its practitioners has also visibly filtered into the public arena, via tributes paid by household names such as Sacha Baron-Cohen, or Edinburgh Perrier award-winner Phil Burgers (Dr Brown) and others to master clown teachers such as Philippe Gaulier.

However, outside the confines of the clown workshop, very little is known about just what the value of clown training might be. Are the experiences of students and teachers of clowning alike, which are often reported to be ‘life-changing’, destined to lie neglected as traces in the personal memories of participants? Or can they be documented and disseminated in such a way that a wider audience might share their insights?

So, how can we document this clowning? How can we document a flop?

Before addressing that question, I want to briefly ask what a document is.

What is a document/documentation?

Etymologically, a document means (early 15c) "teaching, instruction," from Old French document (13c.) "lesson, written evidence," from Latin documentum "example, proof, lesson," in Medieval Latin "official written instrument," from docere "to show, teach" (see doctor (n.)). Meaning "something written that provides proof or evidence" is from early 18c.

document (v.)
1640s, "to teach;" see document (n.). Meaning "to support by documentary evidence" is from 1711.

In Library and Information Science,

a document is, according to Suzanne Briet’s influential “What is documentation?” (1951) a theoretical construct, "evidence in support of a fact." (Buckland, Michael (1998). “What is a digital document?”)

In a Court of Law

I have to provide proofs, or documents, to convince you of the probability of my argument. These might be material evidence - signed papers, photographs, audio recordings, bus tickets, phone bills, scientific experiments, forensic tests. Or witness statements converted into written and signed statements.

Either way, the document’s function is to aid proof of an argument.

Clown documentation

If we take this sense of a document as only being a document as such when it serves the purpose of demonstrating, or proving, something, how does this then apply to clown documentation?

Imagine this: I have witnessed some clowning, some good clowning, but a friend of mine wasn’t there to see it. How will I explain and convince my friend of the value of the clowning? How can I show to those who were not present why it was good, or why it was clowning, or perhaps more objectively, why, or when we laughed?

If you’ve ever done, seen or trained in clowning, you may have had the experience of trying to recount your experience to someone who wasn’t there. ‘Oh it was so funny what they did, one of them was smiling then he stopped and we all laughed, then the other one left and it was hilarious!’

At times, while teaching clowning, I venture to suggest that this undocumentability, or more precisely, this undisseminatability, is a good indication that good clowning has taken place. If clowning, at least of this type, is about you, the clown, being the joke, then how could I possibly transmit or explain ‘you’? If on the other hand the pleasure was in the jokes, as in other kinds of non-clown comedy, or the farcical situation, or in the characters, then I would be more likely to be able to convey, to recount to retell the jokes, the stories or the situations to my friend. Even if I couldn’t tell the jokes as funnily as the comedian, my friend would at least have seen that, in the hands of a professional, this material might well elicit laughter. That would be enough to convince my friend that when I say I laughed a lot when I saw that show, I am not lying, nor am I completely mad.

Gaulier argues precisely this, that clowning is not about having good jokes, but the opposite

A question:
‘Why do clowns choose bad jokes?’
If the jokes were good, they would be comic actors. They wouldn’t meet Monsieur Flop. They wouldn’t perform with the feeling of having committed a blunder. (Gaulier: 307-8)

The audience doesn’t laugh at the gag, but at the imbecile who has a moronic idea. (Gaulier: 308)

How can I convey the essence of the clown’s comedy by retelling some bad jokes? Conversely, if the jokes are too bad to be retold, does that demonstrate that they were clown jokes, or at least that any laughter provoked by them in the show was a result not of the quality of the material, but of the quality, if you like, of the clowning?

In short: if clowns have shit material, what can we document? What document, what proof can convince my friend that it was indeed funny and that they really should have been there?

You may say here that I should have just videoed the performance on my phone so I could share it afterwards, with ALL my friends. But will the video be a good enough document for the clowning to hold up in court?

Or, should we just be happy with no documentation? The idea that clowning might be by its nature that which cannot be documented might indeed be appealing... but is it strictly true? Or is it just a bit of rhetoric designed to claim for clowning that unmediated presence so sought after by performance practitioners and scholars?


I want to address the issue of video briefly and perhaps throw a spanner into the works of my argument so far. A few years ago at a performance conference I was presenting a paper entitled ‘describing clowning’. I had been wrestling with how to describe my own practice in order to then make arguments about that practice as evidenced in the descriptions. I wanted to keep at bay any temptation on my part to impose my own preconceptions about the meaning and effect of my own performance work. Searching for a ‘rigorous methodology’ to do this, I had recourse to Gilbert Ryle’s notion of thin and thick descriptions. Grossly oversimplifying, thin descriptions tell us what happened in an event, thick descriptions also tell us what those happenings might mean.  By dispensing with thick description I hoped to remove all trace of my pre-interpretations of the event.

Up until that point I had written several thick and thin descriptions of my performances but had not been convinced of the value of this exercise. During the paper presentation I had planned to show a short video clip of my own clown performance, in order to support my argument about the dynamics of laughter in clowning. When I came to the part where I was going to show the video, I felt that those present would most likely find this boring: watching a youtube clip on a distant projector screen in poor lighting, with poor sound, no context and no sense of what the performance event had actually felt like. That event had taken place in a room crammed full of spectators sitting on the floor and anywhere they could find, in a circus community in London. In an instant there came to mind so many occasions when I had shown to friends and family a bit of video of a show I had done, only to be disappointed by the blank looks on their faces as they tried to figure out what was going on in this little 2D rectangle, and most importantly, just when or why they were supposed to laugh. Excruciating. So I made a quick decision to dispense with the video. In its place I elected to read the thin description of the same event shown in the video clip. Before commenting further on this, I will now repeat that reading.

Thin description of a performance....

The compere says, ‘okay, and so for our next act, please bring your hands together and welcome Jon’, and exits the stage.

The audience applaud.

One second later I enter, taking one step onto the performing area, in the upstage right corner. I am wearing a black suit, a white shirt, black tie, black shoes with white laces. Looking at the audience, I am smiling. I remain there. I bring my hands together in front of me then return them to my sides. Silence for six seconds. The audience applauds again. I adjust my tie a little, after which it is slightly longer than before. I say, ‘Thank you’. Silence for six seconds, during which my smile disappears.

There follow a couple of small laughs from the audience.  I smile and take one more step onto the stage, in a diagonal line towards centre stage. Silence for six seconds. A beer bottle in the audience is heard rolling onto the floor. Six seconds of silence. I turn towards the exit, smiling and saying, ‘bye!’ The audience laugh loudly. I turn back and take another step towards them. In amongst that laugh is a faint single voice which sighs ‘oh!’ I stand, smiling and say: ‘Thanks’. More audience laughter, patchy. I take one more step forwards, and repeat ‘thanks’. More patchy laughter. I take another step as the audience laughs and some applaud. Stopping, I drop my smile and look down at my tie, which I adjust, leaving it longer than before. Silence, six seconds, then more applause (no laughs), I elongate my tie more. Some of the audience laugh, in spurts. I take a step whilst saying thanks. Four seconds silence, audience laugh, I step and say thanks. This again, a laugh and step, then I also laugh, a single burst that ends in a snort. A one second pause and a single hysterical-type laugh from the audience. I look quizzical. I laugh again and say: ‘oh, thank you very much’. A big laugh from both the audience and myself, which I end by faking the laugh. More audience laughs, as I step towards them.

A few more steps follow similarly, I laugh, the audience laughs. I look at the front row to my left, who aren’t laughing. Looking at them, my smile drops, my mouth becomes down-turned.

[The Hive, Hackney Wick, London, on 09/03/13. A video of the performance can be viewed here:]

The semiotician of circus and clowning, Paul Bouissac, repeatedly bemoans the fact that when commentators talk about clowning, they mostly restrict themselves to a few well-worn clichés about what clowns are deemed to engage in (Bouissac 2015).

What Bouissac wants, instead, are detailed descriptions of what particular clowns actually did. Thin descriptions, in other words. His own publications have repeatedly tried to redress this imbalance. Only when we have an accurate description of a routine, Bouissac claims, can we begin to analyse and interpret how the meaning is constructed in a clown performance.

This also chimes with what the clown and fool expert and teacher, Franki Anderson, has to say about observation. One of her exercises consists in one student showing a small performance of themselves as themselves, while their companions (their audience) observe and then recount to them what they saw. Two types of observation are suggested by Anderson; subjective and objective, which coincide with the thick/thin binary. Although not universally so, what many report is that the objective/thin description is the one which offers the descriptee the most useful information. By useful here I mean that this kind of description gives the descriptee the potential to: 1. Recall the action (a kind of rehearsal notes, or script) 2. Recall how it felt to do this performance, and maybe how to regain that feeling when re-performing (a kind of mnemonic for reencountering the clown state, or however you want to call it). What seems surprising about this is that the subjective description does not give the descriptee the tools to rediscover the feeling or state, despite, or perhaps because of, subjectivity’s aim being precisely to capture emotions, states, intentions and motivations.

Could it be, then, that a kind of Beckettian script is what serves clown documentation best? Perhaps. Though I’m not sure that the next time I see a clown show and then try to tell a friend in a pub how funny it was, that I will begin by saying.... a tall figure, sex undeterminable, enters and stands upstage right, left foot first. .....!


This all finally brings us back to the flop, and to Gaulier. In his book, ‘The Tormentor’ Gaulier uses a character named ‘Victor Francois’ to illustrate typically clownish behaviour. This Victor resorts to joke shops and, crucially, a written document in his drive to be funny:

Joke shops sell vulgar half-masks, big hooked noses, with (or without) a moustache, big potato-shaped noses, with (or without) glasses, alongside squeaking cheeses, exploding sweets, fake brandy, plastic turds and the Encyclopaedia of Jokes.

I know someone who goes to these shops regularly on Fridays after work. He opens the door and looks along the shelves. He considers carefully. How will I be funny tomorrow? He buys this and that: not too much but just enough to make his friends burst out laughing. He knows exactly what to choose. He longs for tomorrow evening. He has to learn three gags by heart from his Encyclopaedia of Jokes. Ah, his Encyclopaedia! He bought it thirty-five years ago. He has never lost it or left it anywhere. The Encyclopaedia has pride of place on his bedside table. In the evening he reads it before going to sleep. According to his wife, he often chuckles when he’s asleep. [...] His favourite joke is the story of the archbishop who ... he has told it too often. It’s got worn to death... Three new jokes tomorrow.

[...] He admitted to me he was better on the visual and dramatic front, rather than with jokes.

He forgets them.

‘You understand? I begin. It’s OK. Then, little by little, I flounder. I tie myself in knots. I forget the punch line or say it too soon. The surprise effect is lost. I say I’m sorry I got it wrong. Everyone laughs. Unfortunately they don’t laugh at the joke. They laugh at my stupidity. (290)

And so, the encyclopaedia of jokes is the clown’s greatest prop. The idea that one can pluck a joke from a document and then make people laugh with it, is, frankly, funny!

Appendix 1:  jokes as doumentation

This observation might lead us even further, into the territory of jokes, comic material and indeed theatre in general. The pattern is: event, observe event, retell event/re-perform event. Until now I have taken the event to be the original clown performance; the observation being my own in the moment and then in notes plus watching the video afterwards and annotating it – or going to see a show then telling a friend about it - or, in Bouissac’s case, going to the circus several times until he has a detailed description for the purposes of semiotic analysis.

But we can also begin from a non-performance event. Let’s say, my mother-in-law said something to me last Tuesday... and so on. The observation is simply me remembering what happened. And the retelling becomes, you guessed it! a joke. ‘my mother-in-law.....[cite joke

The doorbell rang this morning. When I opened the door, there was my mother-in-law on the front step.
She said, 'Can I stay here for a few days?'  I said, 'Sure you can.' And shut the door in her face.

This is the standard staging of this kind of joke: a presumed event retold.

Of course, it is also the standard pattern for joke-stealing! Watch a comedian, write down the joke, tell it next night. And not just stand-ups. The Fratellinis tell of how their competitors would be lurking in the audience on first nights, paper in hand, ready to steal their new routines and reproduce them tomorrow, in the same bill as themselves, but earlier, thus sabotaging their act.

Of course, according to Brecht, this is also the nature of theatre: a retelling of an event, in such a way as to allow for new interpretations and meanings. Brecht’s image of the witness here [cite] also brings us back to the heart of documentation: the purpose of which is to ‘prove’ (in court) the truth or otherwise of a particular interpretation of the meaning of someone’s acts. In the case of the mother-in-law joke, what, we might ask, would be proved by this ‘document’? that all mothers-in-law are x, y, z..... of course!

This perspective on the nature of comedic material gets us away from obsessing over punchlines and how they work (incongruence, rhythm, timing etc.) such an ‘ontology’ of comic material fits the pattern even better in the case of the less structured or formulaic format of observational comedy. In this light, Jerry Seinfeld is the ‘witness’, and the case to be proved is that, well, isn’t the world a funny place?

Appendix 2: Lenny Bruce

Here is an example which confounds both the nature of performance documentation and the status of performance as proof in a court of law.

Bruce used courtroom transcripts, about the alleged obscenity of his act, in his act, telling the story of how a policeman would come to see his act and make notes on the rude things he said, to be reproduced in front of the judge as evidence in a case.

[This was Bruce’s penultimate stand-up performance of his life, soon after he was convicted, virtually banned from performing, and died of an overdose.]

Jon Davison is artistic director of the clown-circus-pantomime company, Stupididity, co-founder of the Escola de Clown de Barcelona, Visiting Lecturer at RCSSD, author of Clown: Readings in Theatre Practice, and Clown Training, a practical guide, both published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Weekly Clown Workshop in London taught by Jon Davison

Dates: from 13th April until 29th June 2015
Time: Mondays 6.30 – 8.30pm
Venue: Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Road, London E2 9EG 
Cost: £15 per class; or £60 for five classes paid in advance

How to register and pay for the course: please send an email to indicating your interest and to know if there are places available.
This course is suitable for anyone interested in exploring clowning, with or without experience.
Maximum number of students: 16

These classes will start by looking at the fundamentals of clowning, learning to feel and enjoy our own ridiculousness. Converting our habitual fear of ridicule into the pleasure of laughing at ourselves, we can use it to make others laugh and experience the freedom of the clown.

We will also look at ways of devising material for performance, forming and structuring your individual clown idiosyncrasies into clown numbers as well as learning from the classics.

Most things are ridiculous when you really look: our bodies, our movements, our ideas, our emotions, our words, our relationships, the universe. The only aim in clowning is to turn failure into success, fear into laughter, suffering into joy. We don’t need to change ourselves, just look at everything from another perspective. It’s a human thing to do, so anyone can do it. Although only a few will choose to dedicate their lives to it, anyone can experience the clown.
Jon Davison is a clown performer, teacher, director, researcher, writer and musician with 30 years experience. Co-founder in 1993 of Companyia d’Idiotes, he has toured festivals, theatres, tents, streets and bars throughout Europe from Sicily to the Arctic. He trained at the École Philippe Gaulier and Fool Time Circus School (Bristol). As well as performing solo, he is part of the four-person clown/circus/pantomime company, Stupididity, currently touring Not A Real Horse.

He was co-founder of the Escola de Clown de Barcelona, one of the world’s leading centres offering comprehensive clown training programmes covering both practical and theoretical aspects of the clown arts. He previously taught clown, impro, and acting at the Institut del Teatre de Barcelona from 1996-2006, and was a Research Fellow investigating clown training at Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London), where he is now a visiting lecturer as well as working towards his PhD on clown performance.

He is the author of Clown Readings in Theatre Practice published by Palgrave Macmillan, a rich collection of readings offering a wide-ranging and authoritative survey of clown practices, history and theory, from the origins of the word clown through to contemporary clowning. His second book, Clown Training, a practical guide for teachers and students, is due out later in 2015.

For more information about Jon Davison and clown courses in London: