Saturday, October 30, 2010

"The Clown Hierarchy"

I was trying to explain the clown hierarchy to an actor friend today. It's really strange but to me very clear.

When I think about hierarchies, the vast majority of folks within them, have no idea where they sit within the hierarchy or that there even is a hierarchy.

For instance, I grew up outside of San Francisco. There is a very clear hierarchy, that people from Northern California feel superior to people from Southern California. Which is funny for me, being that both my parents grew up in Los Angeles and moved us all to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was a mere 3 months old. So I feel superior to my parents...

So when I started college, having grown up thinking the Souther folks were surfers and really lame, I was shocked to find they had no notion that we felt one way or another about them. In general they liked us. Weird. And weirder still, they are pretty nice people.

So, we were having cofee, I was explaining there is this feeling that at the top of the clown heap, the stage clowns. The guys that do all the adult clowning in New York City. Then we have the circus clowns and gosh, Cirque du Soleil clowns are more sophisticated than the take a pie in the face Ringling Clowns.

Then we have the political clowns, the ones that often perform without clothes. Clowns that do the Fringe festivals and tiny theaters in the big cities. The clowns that do school assemblies, the clowns that do libraries and park and rec., the birthday party clowns, the parade and hospital clowns and of course the clown clubs.

Yikes! I hate this list but I was so sure of it when I was young. When I came out of Ringling, I thought my poo should be bronzed. Funny thing though, I started doing everything and anything right away. I broke all boundaries, I wanted to perform and I wanted to make money, clowning, that list was useless to me, wherever there were people gathered, I wanted to do shows.

Because I live in San Francisco a city known for it's intense tolerance by being intolerant of people that disagree with it, I am snooted upon by the clown school here. It's pretty amazing, I could pull out my resume from my back pocket and talk a good game but I realize I have no use for this kind of prejudice, being dismissed, is really rude and you also never know what you might be missing if you just said hello to someone.

I think the most wonderful thing about clowning, you can do it when you are 60 or 70 and you are retiring from your job (I meet people all the time that are retiring and have always wanted to be clowns. God Bless 'em!). You can make children smile in a parade, or walk in a room full of sick children and give out coloring to all of them. You can do it on stage, in the street, on TV or in a living room.

Hierarchies require a lot of rules. Clowns break rules, that's the rule!

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