Friday, August 14, 1998

If clowns were like visual artists

In keeping with our clown theme, the Sarasota Arts Review is proud to interview Rufus Chucklehead, a recent graduate of the Ringling Clown College.

You seem angry.
I am angry.

Clowning is an ancient tradition.

OK. And you're angry because?
You see a clown in the circus, you think what he's doing is easy. But it's not.

I never said --
Clowning is a vast field, a vast body of knowledge. Sad clowns and happy clowns. Birthday clowns and rodeo clowns. Physical comedy, character comedy, pratfalls, underpants jokes. It doesn't just happen. It has to be mastered.

OK. So?
Clown college cost me 175 thousand dollars.

Cost you? Or cost your parents?
Cost me, OK? That's what I owe on my student loan.

It's worth it. It's a choice I've made. I'm a professional. I went to a professional school. Like a doctor, lawyer or an architect. I just happen to be a clown. I've invested a great deal of time, money and effort mastering my profession. Now I need to earn some money. I don't buy into this "starving clown" crap. I want to make money. I need to make money!

So the world owes you a living?
Exactly. You see what I'm saying?

Uh ... You've graduated from clown collge. But you haven't found a job.
No! Ringling Brothers won't hire me. Feld Entertainment. Toby Tyler. None of em. You see what's wrong with that?

You're stuck with a big student loan.
No! That's not the point. The point is -- we've got to support clowns. We've got to support the circus. Sarasota is, traditionally, a circus town, right?

But supporting the circus -- and supporting you. They're the same thing?
Yeah, of course they're the same thing!

But a clown who's not part of a circus --
Exactly! That's what's wrong! That's the problem! Let me show you my act.

He vomits. Then eats his own vomit.

What'd you think?

I ...
You're not laughing. You don't think it's funny.

I ... no. Sorry.
You should laugh! It's funny!

I don't think it's funny. Sorry.
Don't patronize me, you media hack! You didn't laugh because you're ignorant! Clowning is an ancient tradition going back to the Roman Empire and before. You need to understand Harlequin. You need to understand Guignol, Punch, Pagliacci, Pierrette and Pierrot. You need to understand clown history. If you don't, you have no right not to laugh!

I suppose so. But how do you deal with people who don't --

CLOWN hands him a sheet of paper.

Here's my clown statement.

Clown statement. OK.
Read it!

You read it.

Clown snatches paper back. Reads.

"Clown Returning to His Own Vomit deconstructs the traditional paradigm of the clown qua clown in terms of the implied patriarchal hegemony of clown, circus act, audience. The transgressive act of eating vomit, within the context of a circus "act," begs the question of the meaning of that act. Clown qua clown is revealed as a legacy/effigy of depersonalization and disassociation creating cognitive dissonance in the viewer's apprehension of the "act" and the dominant culture as a whole." Get it?

Yeah, I guess so. It's still not funny.
That's because you're ignorant! You hate clowns!

No I don't. You're just not funny.
Pay my student loan!


Thursday, August 6, 1998

Clown College Reunion


Various CLOWNS are hanging around in costume. There's a shitty table with cheap Hawaiian punch and plastic cups. A cheap vinyl banner reads KLOWN KOLLEGE WELKOMES GRADUATES. The Clown College was obviously not well funded -- especially its spelling department. That said, there's a rough, working class esprit. Then RONALD MCDONALD walks in -- in full regalia. It's like Hitler walking into a delicatessen. The talk and laughter dies. They look at him with open hostility.

BEPPO: Well look what the cat dragged in.

The CLOWNS turn their backs on RONALD -- go back to talking.

RONALD: Hi guys.

They ignore him.

RONALD: Hi guys.

CHUCKO: (raspy, Tom Waits-esque delivery) We heard you the first time, Corporate Clown.

BEPPO: Fucking sell out.

RONALD: Hey. I can’t help it if I’m successful!

FISTY: No. I’m sure you earned it. Sucked Mayor McCheese’s cock or something.

RONALD: What’s your problem?

CHUCKO: You! That face you’re wearing is a rip-off.

RONALD: What do you mean rip-off?

CHUCKO: What do I mean? Shit. You’re Bozo the Clown with a few modifications!

BEPPO: Yeah, asshole. You ain't worthy to lick Bozo's big shoes.


FISTY gets in RONALD's face.

FISTY: And you can thank your lucky stars Larry Harmon ain’t here, pal. He’s got a can of whoop-ass with your name on it. Extra large economy size. He told me personally.


RONALD: What are you saying?

CHUCKO: What am I saying? Well. The long and the short of it. The gist in a nutshell. (honks bicycle horn) Fuck you, Corporate Clown.

BEPPO: Yeah. How can you live with yourself?

RONALD: Hey, come on. Gosh, you guys are dark. Hey. You're clowns! You're supposed to spread happiness!

FISTY: You too, right? So ... Kill yourself. That'll make us happy.

They laugh.

RONALD: You hate me. You really hate me.

BEPPO: No shit, Einstein.


BEPPO: "Why?" Jesus, look at the fucking martyr, Why do you think? Cause we're good at what we do and we're starving to death. Clown-wise, you suck donkey dick -- and you're fucking rich!

RONALD: I don't suck!

BEPPO: Ahhhh! There's a picture of you next to the word "suck" in the dictionary.

RONALD: Why do I suck? (beat) In your opinion?

BEPPO: Why? Come on! That magic you do on TV? You hold out your fucking hand. There's a sloppy edit. All of a sudden there's a fucking hamburger. I hate that shit! It’s not real magic. It’s a fucking camera trick!

CHUCKO: You make the rest of us look bad.

RONALD: No I ...

CHUCKO: Yeah, you do, Ronald. Fake magic. (solemnly) That’s against the clown code.

CLOWNS: (in unison) All glory to the sacred clown code.

They honk their bicycle horns in unison.

RONALD: Clown code? I never understood that ...

CHUCKO: No shit, Corporate Clown. It's in code. We're fucking clowns so we understand it. You ain't no clown. So you don't.

RONALD: (weakly) I am too a clown!


They laugh.

CHUCKO: Listen, Ronald. Let me 'splain it to you. You're fucking simple-minded. So I'll make it real simple. (walks up to him, puts arm around his shoulder) See. If I cover you with black shoe polish, that don’t make you a black man. If I cover you with white face, that don’t make you a clown. Wow. (looks at him) Nice job with the lipstick.

RONALD pushes him away.

RONALD: Yeah, yeah. Very funny.

FISTY: He's been practicing.

BEPPO: Yeah. Ever since he put on his mommy's dresses.

The CLOWNS laugh.

RONALD: Yeah. Ha-ha. Laugh it up, Mr. Superior. You're a clown and I'm not.

CHUCKO: Exactly. We have reached a meeting of the minds. Now get lost and stay that way.

RONALD: I've got a right to be here!

CHUCKO: No, you don't. This is a clown thing. You wouldn't understand.

RONALD: Yeah, yeah. So what makes you a clown?

CHUCKO: Man ... If you gotta fucking ask you’ll never know.

RONALD: I'm a clown, OK? I went to clown college!

BEPPO: Come on. Jerry Lewis went to medical school. That don't make him a fucking doctor.

CLOWNS: (in unison) La-la! Nice lady!

CHUCKO: Face it, Corporate Clown. You were the worst. Bottom of the class.

RONALD: I ... I wasn't the worst.

CHUCKO: Jesus, OK. Think back, Ronald. You graduated 299 in a class of 310. So what? Strictly speaking, those other 11 clowns were all "special needs" types enrolled for tax purposes, so they don't count.


CHUCKO: Face facts, jerk. You were a fuck-up at pie throwing, a fuck-up at seltzer, a disgrace at pratfalls. I could go on, but you get my drift. You got a clown diploma. It don't mean shit. You ain't no clown.

RONALD: I can do magic!

CHUCKO: Sure you can.

RONALD: I can do magic!

BEPPO: What are you gonna do? Pull a coin outta my fucking ear?

RONALD: (taking out deck of cards with a McDonalds logo on the back) Pick a card. Any card.

CHUCKO: Fuck you, Corporate Clown. Like we trust your deck?

RONALD: OK. And I'm sure you all brought your own ...

Instantly, the CLOWNS all whip out decks of cards. Each clown removes one card.

CHUCKO: Your move, Corporate Clown.

RONALD: OK. Uh. You. (points to FISTY - closes eyes) Ace of spades.

FISTY: Three of clubs, dickwad.

RONALD: OK. (points to BEPPO) Four of diamonds.

BEPPO: Suicide king.

CLOWNS: (in unison, with disgust) Ahhh, fooey on you.

They all throw their cards at him.

RONALD: Come on, guys. There's more to clowning than magic! There’s comedy!

BEPPO: You ain’t funny.

RONALD: There’s juggling!

FISTY: OK. Juggle.

FISTY throws him three oranges. RONALD tries to juggle – then fumbles. The oranges fall to the floor.

FISTY: Three strikes you’re out.

RONALD: OK. (thinks) What about pratfalls?

CHUCKO: Don't hurt yourself, asshole. We ain't insured.

RONALD: Watch this!

He does a half-assed backflip. He flings himself into the table. The punch bowl and plastic glasses go flying.

RONALD: Owww! My back! My fucking back! Oh God, it hurts!

The CLOWNS watch as RONALD is wheeled into an ambulance on a gurney.

RONALD: I can't feel my legs! I can't feel my legs!

CHUCKO: Now that’s funny!

They laugh.