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!


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