Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ramblings: Send Out the Clowns

I hope no one reading this is a clown or mime artist as the following may cause offence: I think you’d look better dead. I believe that shooting a clown should be a legitimate pastime and like crimes of passion were in France, should be exempt from prosecution.
Mime artists were unavoidable this year at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. Every time you turned a corner there was another buffoon dressed in a stripy top and beret pulling on an invisible rope or pulling him or herself up on a nonexistent wall. Their hideous whited out faces would be forming “comedy” expressions and jauntily raising eyebrows whilst I’d be twitching for the Kalashnikov I wished I was carrying. I had strange urges to pop their balloons with my cigarette.
Bizarrely, people crowd around and watch them and even give them money when they pass around their battered hats complete with “funny” wilted flower. This is also known as the “You’re blocking the pavement. Get out of my way!” situation. The words “Nothing to see here, move along!” were sorely needed and I was gagging to shout it out. I didn’t. I try to behave.
I went to see a version of “Uncle Vanya” by Chekov which was performed by a theatrical troop from Los Angeles. It had won an award and garnered rave reviews and was described as physical theatre at its finest. Stupidly I ignored this and thought it sounded fun. It wasn’t. I forgot that physical theatre actually means tomfoolery that wouldn’t keep a child of three entertained for long. I was trapped in a small theatre whilst a group of five grown men wreaked havoc on a Chekov play by turning it into slap stick comedy with a series of clowning moves and weird mimes. That’s an hour I won’t get back. I couldn’t even have a sneaky sleep as the sound of the actors repeatedly falling over kept me awake. It’s just what Chekov intended, I’m sure, when he wrote his witty plays full of angst. I bet he thought to himself: “This play lacks a man slipping on a banana skin, that’s always funny.” Actually a friend of mine slipped on a banana skin once and ended up with a fracture. He didn’t laugh.
I got back to the apartment and posted a review on the Fringe website warning everyone it was dire. The next night I went to see an amazingly good play (with no comedy falls) and the man sitting next to me looked familiar. We started chatting and lo and behold, he was one of the Chekov vandal clowns from L.A. Naturally, I told him it was a great performance. I squirmed a little at my own insincerity but what can you do when you’re trapped in a theatre.
Clowns are horribly scary. Clown phobia even has a name: coulrophobia. If it has a name it must be scary. It’s not just “It” by Stephen King or Ronald MacDonald, purveyor of dead cows and saturated fat, which gives them a bad name. Google John Wayne Gacy and you’ll soon share my phobia. A gay serial killer who dressed as a clown and lured more than 33 teenage boys into his house and stashed their corpses in the cellar? It’s bad enough without the clowning, but with the outfit, that’s just sick. I bet the blood was a bugger to wash off his nylon dungarees and the size 24 shoe prints must have been a dead giveaway for forensics.
Clowns just aren’t funny. I loathe slapstick. I get hives watching Laurel and Hardy. They were fine for silent films but we have these devices now which can broadcast words and dropping a piano downstairs has been superseded in the funny stakes by verbal badinage.
I remember as a child going to someone’s house and they had a series of oil paintings of clowns crying. It was the 1970s. People collected this sort of rubbish. I was horrified and shook a little in my Clarkes’ sandals. I suspect the tears were like crocodiles’ tears, a trick to make children feel sorry for them so they’d come near enough to be dismembered. My mother has a collection of porcelain clowns which are thankfully in a glass fronted cabinet to stop them escaping and killing people in the night. I think she bought them to keep me away, a bit like an evil eye.
It is however safe to get into a clowns car. They always fall apart a bit when they start the engine with the big handle and you can leg it quick before they try and put one on you with their sweaty white gloved hands and big upside down smiley mouths. Don’t be fooled by the innocuous flowers on their lapels though. One step too close and they’ll squirt in your face which is always a bad thing.
Speaking of which, clown porn does exist. I haven’t Googled it, that would be too frightening, but I once accidentally (honestly Officer) stumbled on a program on late night TV about people with sexual fetishes involving clowns. That gave me nightmares: so wrong on every single level. Sex can be messy at the best of times without a custard pie in your pubic hair.
A cautionary tale here also: I was once having a very serious conversation with a tearful woman at work and her mobile phone kept going off, signifying text messages received. Her ring tone was a clown car horn. Always think about you’re alert tones. They can be inappropriate and cause embarrassment in situations of a delicate nature.
So, I advocate burning all the clowns. If you see one, approach him carefully. Sneak up and pop his balloons as a distraction, step on his oversized foot, snap the elastic on his sinister nose and go for his jugular. Always carry a banana skin too in case a clown runs at you. You’ll be doing all of us coulrophobics a massive favour if you fracture a clown somewhere.
I personally am carrying the torch for clown haters and in a couple of weeks I’m going to a fancy dress party as Marcel Marceau. Well, a dead Marcel Marceau, the finishing touch will be a knife in the back and a lot of fake blood. Mime artists and clowns only look better that way. They’re less scary once maimed or injured. You can’t say fairer than that.

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