Having just returned from teaching a five-day workshop in Canada, where there are many clown teachers and methods but one rather dominant one, I wonder whether we should stop talking about 'The Clown'?
As the process of writing thie Clowning Workbook advances, sometimes apace, sometimes snail-like, the thoughts refine and the questions expand and a larger picture starts to come into view: what is the practical output of training and how deeply does it reflect our assumptions about what those outputs should mean?
I’ve spent a lot of time looking for them, well, looking to see if there are any, testing the ones I’ve found a lot of people subscribe to, but it always happens that as soon as you think there might be something we can agree on, up crops a clown example that contradicts what looks like a universal principle. I still think it’s worth searching for principles, though, underlying structures that we can use to understand how clown/clowns/clowning happens. But those underlying structures are always going to be determined by each person’s own starting point, your own assumptions about the world and what is important, your own search for meaning generally, I suppose. So there will be many different versions depending on your own cultural background (clowns differ greatly across cultures in how they manifest), your own philosophical standpoint (whether that’s explicit or not) and what you believe in. Personally, I try and keep my principles simple, and they are always up for revision. At the moment, what I find most useful is to work with an assumption that clowns are figures which offer themselves as laughter-objects. So a clown is someone we are invited to laugh at, simply. Of course, those who believe clowns don’t have to be funny ill disagree with me, so I won’t be claiming to have defined all clowns/clowning/clown. The idea of the clown as object-of-laughter means that it is irrelevant whether this happens through means of reproduction of repertory or standard material/acts/gags, or by means of response in-the-moment to an audience, or by both means simultaneously (my preferred way). That’s why, for me, the article in this thread doesn’t help me at all, as it is looking for principles in the wrong place in my view. It is looking to define the clown through those aspects which seem to be immediate and in the present, but for me that leads down to a dead-end, one that I have got stuck in myself in the past. The way to get out of those dead-ends, I think, is to be brave and question whether the results are really good or not, or reliable, and not to rely on a belief that one has discovered the ‘truth’. Thinking that one has discovered the truth is, of course, very tempting, and seems to be prevalent in some clowning practice, perhaps due to the large impact that studying/experiencing clowning can have on a person at a subjective level, especially in the early encounters with it. This subjective experience might lead to placing quite a lot of stock in the feeling that the clown can be personally transformative, and therefore a path to knowledge and wisdom. Which it can be, but then again so can pretty much any human endeavour. So I would be suspicious of claims to sacredness or wisdom that set clowns/clown/clowning apart or above other human activities, and the idea of universality often accompanies the mindset of ‘wisdom’.