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Blog: How To Clown

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A few weeks ago I was talking to Mr H Carr after our WRITERS' GROUP about CLOWNING. Yes, that's right, I am DEAD CLASSY. He'd been on a course to learn about it in France, so it turned out to be the FRENCH type of clowning i.e. not being very funny while looking sad, as opposed to not being very funny while pretending to throw a bucket of water over someone.

He'd been told that the KEY to any kind of performance is to give the impression to the audience that you're enjoying it. Even if you're in character as someone miserable (i.e. like a SAD CLOWN or something) you have to convey to the audience that the human you underneath it all is happy to be there, and then THEY will be happy to watch you. I thought this was quite interesting as it made me think of all the old-time comedy GREATS who do exactly that. Obviously Morecambe & Wise do this to the XTREME and its obvious just from watching them but, as Mr J Dredge pointed out when I was telling him about it, so did Les Dawson, whose ACT was being curmudegeonly but seemed to be enjoying it too. As long as you think the person on stage is having fun then YOU will too.

I was pondering this again on Wednesday night when The Gags In My Act and I went to The Wanstead Tap to see Mr John Otway. Regular readers will no doubt be thinking "PHEW! You have only seen Otway about 800 times so far in your life, you need to top up" and you would be almost right. I reckon I've seen him about 50 times, but then I've only been going to see him for about 25 years so cannot be blamed for such a low score.

Seeing Otway is ALWAYS a treat, but especially so this time as he was playing a) not far from our house and b) in a LOVELY Beer Bar which was FULL of tasty beers! The actual gig was excellent too and we laughed and cried in pretty much all of the same places as we ALWAYS do. This is what made me think about the CLOWNING thing - whenever I watch Otway I am filled with ENORMOUS JOY, largely because of the ENORMOUS JOY he projects from the stage. It's pretty much the same set every time - a LOT of the gags have been exactly the same for the ENTIRE QUARTER CENTURY that I've been going - but he always seems to take fresh DELIGHT every time he does them. For instance, there's one NEW bit (NB by "new" i mean "has been introduced in the current century") that he does as if he's JUST thought of it and I still find hilarious despite having seen it at LEAST five times before. It works because, as Monsieur Le Chief Clown would doubtless say, Otway gives the very definite impression that he really IS enjoying it.

I suppose it's a fancy way of saying that FUN breeds MORE FUN, which certainly applies to the great man. We had a fantastic night - the only downside is that now we have nearly THREE MONTHS before we go and see him again - how will we survive?

posted 28/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett

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