When clowning, remember to expect the unexpected.
What does that mean?
- Expect things to go wrong.
- Have a plan in case they do!
Do you know what to do if: your nose falls off, your wig falls off, your magic trick isn’t quite so magical, the music doesn’t start on time or — *gasp* — not at all?
Here are some ideas that I hope will help:
Have an emergency make-up kit. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a few items in a zip-top bag. It is a must for those long days when you need to touch up your make-up. Your mouth is usually the area that takes the most abuse.
The nose knows
Extra glue or tape comes in handy too. Once a nose gets sweaty it is hard to make it stick until it dries out. Having a spare nose is a great idea. If you wear a nose on a string, have an extra just in case you bust the elastic.
I’ve got to hand it to you
What to do when you don’t know what to do
Okay, on to the show itself. Now this is where it can get really interesting. What to do when things go wrong in a show? Be prepared to jump in!
I’m a little tea pot
At one point in our show the music would not start on the iPad. Sometimes there is just a ghost in the machine! I could see the panic in the eyes of Hollis (the clown running the music) and Toot (the clown who was waiting for her music to start so she could go on).
If this has ever happened to you it seems like hours of deathly silence! Even if it is only 10 seconds of silence. That is a long time in a clown show with lots of action. I knew my friend just needed 30 seconds or so to reboot. Instinct kicked in and I ran out on stage. I had to fill that GIANT void somehow. In reality, it was just a few seconds, but remember this is what goes on in a clowns mind – perspective can be skewed in that moment!
I performed an old comedy favorite, “I’m a Little Tea Pot”. For those of you who do not know this classic, the clown starts singing the tea pot song only to have two handles instead of a spout. On the third try she figures out she isn’t a teapot after all, she’s a sugar bowl. This routine takes 45 seconds at the most! But it gave Hollis enough time to get Toot’s music back on track and keep the show running smooth.
Keep ‘em laughing
Tell some corny jokes. Grab a clown partner or use the audience to help. Keep telling jokes until the problem gets fixed. Your clown pals can pull you off the stage! If you don’t have any memorized, have a laminated list of sure-fire jokes that anyone can grab backstage in the event of an emergency.
Uh-oh, THAT wasn’t supposed to happen!
What to do if a trick fails or malfunctions?
My favorite was Junior the tramp clown. It was obvious there was a problem and the trick was an epic fail! It was the classic torn and restored newspaper trick. When he realized the trick was not going to work properly, he crumpled it up, threw it over his shoulder and said “Aw, you would have loved it!”
I laughed myself sick at his solution! Sometimes you just gotta bag it and move on with a laugh!
Or if you can, take another run at it. Tell the audience “Wait a minute, let me try that again…” Daredevil circus performers make a career out of missing tricks, getting the audience on the edge of their seats, and trying again! So why not us, clowns, too?!?
One time a comedy whip act I was in had an unexpected turn. As I stood with a real blindfold over my eyes I heard the audience explode with laughter in an unexpected part of the act! “Whats going on?” I chirped. My clown friend Ozzie wielding the whip had caught his wig with the end of the whip and his hair went flying! “There has been a costume malfunction!” he replied in character. The audience came unglued again!
We rolled with it, he got his wig back on, and the rest of the act continued without a hitch.
The moral of the story: Be prepared.
The show must go on. If there is a problem, be ready to jump in and fill in the gap. Keep it all in good humor. Don’t panic.
We are clowns after all; this is a comedy show not the Nobel Prize awards show. In the grand scheme of things, will the audience remember that everything went perfectly? No. They’ll remember the fun they had – so make it fun! Don’t let your stressed-out meltdown be the memory your audience takes home from the show. Laugh and the world will laugh with you.
Before you know it you will be joking about it with your clown friends saying “remember when?!”
Keep reading! Keep learning!
Here are few more of my articles to help your performances and clown club relations:
- What keeps a clown club thriving?
- 5 Ways to improve your clown club
- Make sure the venue knows your club is performing
- Achieve your performance goals
- Planning ahead to reduce performance stress
- What to do in case of emergency
- Send in the clowns when accidents happen
- How to plan a big clown event
- A Kazoo Band is the perfect gig for first time clowns
- Enjoy the moment
- Have the best parade performance ever!
- What is funny?
Mooseburger Clown Arts Education has been running one of the world’s most well-rounded clown schools since 1996. Performers from all over the globe travel to Minnesota each summer for a fun and intensive clown training program. Each aspect of our clown camp is designed to meet your needs and boost your confidence as an entertainer.
Whether you want to join the circus, visit nursing homes, run your own birthday party business, paint faces, or twist balloons, there is something just for you at Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp.
Or call me toll-free to discuss your education and see if Mooseburger is the right fit for you: 800-973-6277
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