Long Live The Clown
Emerging from Cancel Culture, although perhaps best thought of as Accountability Culture, I was suddenly perplexed by how I could best put my foot forward when the World is such a complex ecosystem, with each person living by their unique moral values and backstory.
I want to entertain, potentially educate along the way, perhaps even heal with the stories I create and share, but the comedy clubs often harbor audience members who aren’t willing to leave their trauma at the door.
These little hidden triggers in my performance, taken out of context, and unbeknownst to me, explodes in people peppered in the crowd. I continue to clown with the best of intentions, completely unaware that someone in the darkness is replaying their nightmares in their head and suddenly target me for the pain they are suffering.
I’m not the one who bullied you.
I am not your therapist.
I am a clown.
Your opinion of me isn’t my responsibility.
And yet, my intentions aren’t to cause harm, (unless my subconscious is hiding it really well… I doubt I’m a Pennywise or Gacy kind of clown), I don’t relish in grief and miscommunication.
It was clear that after a decade of trial and error on stage, I had to pause and analyze what it is I want to share with the World, and how to best approach it.
This hiatus in my returning to the stage, although challenging, has been a fruitful endeavor.
First came the withdrawals.
I had grown accustomed to standing in front of hundreds of people and feeling the waves of applause and laughter wash through me, that I didn’t know life without it.
I was an addict.
I had written material to maximize the effectiveness of my performance, and know how to repeat it for other venues, so that I could get my fix.
The best high was when I engineered and weaved a unique performance from improvising with the audience. For one night only. Making people feel like they’ve genuinely experienced something just for them, using ingredients that emerged in the moment.
The thrill of them walking away and thinking “Bloody Hell, that really was live comedy!”
This wizardry had a way of making me feel powerful.
For 5 minutes, 10, 20, however long the set was, they were mine to play with, eating out of my hands, as I was symbiotically feeding from them.
Nothing like exile on the other side of the planet while having amnesia during a pandemic for an abrupt detox and force you to experience crushing loneliness.
Truly the opposite of what my life once was.
With all the comedy clubs closed as I picked up fragments of myself like some sad, slightly sci-fi version of The Bourne Identity, I was suddenly afforded the time, albeit involuntarily, to consider what the Hell I was actually doing on stage.
With the aid of Accountability Culture’s many wounds seeping onto the collective zeitgeist and my sudden purposelessness, I had nothing to do but scrutinize and criticize my work so far.
Much like any artist who returns to look at their old creations, there is both a sense of gratitude from observing your best work at the time, while acknowledging the improvements you’ve made since has transformed you into something far superior.
I cringe at some of the jokes I had, or the anxious style of performance, and the many drunken rants, much like you might shiver when looking at old photos of yourself and seeing the hairstyle you once thought was super sexy and cool.
Here is one of my absolute worst looks, standing next to a rule of not breaking windows, directly aimed at me.
What can I say? I’m a bad boy.
In my analysis, I discovered three things.
- My performance was driven by a need for attention and love, to resolve my own hidden traumas, meaning I was on stage for me, and not for the audience. And although I could create an exhilarating night of comedy, the laughs were always more for me than for them. This is something to rectify.
- My naive, although well intentioned approach, often explored and articulated taboo topics which I was not yet fully equipped to handle, and thus caused unsuspecting harm on audience members. I suppose that is the cost of confident yet youthful arrogance. With a little more consideration, it’s likely that hurt could be translated to laughter and connection, but there is a degree of unpredictability to how the public will interpret your words.
- The third lesson, perhaps my most important; comedians have value in society. The term ‘clown’ has been used to dismiss people as worthless fools, and ‘artist’ often connotes someone who should “get a real job”, and this mentality was perhaps always in the back of my mind. Imposter syndrome maybe.
I had never considered the worth we have until I truly experienced the power of laughter.
There were two instances:
The first, I was in the aptly named town of Laughlin, Nevada to do some shows in a casino. It was a good night, nothing outstanding, but they laughed throughout so I was happy with the job I had done.
I aim for the bar with the attitude of a detective solving a crime, I was still dealing with remnants of my previous manic episode, so this character really was on the hunt for information.
I order a drink, banter with the waitress and invite the person next to me in the conversation. He was slumped, sinking, as if gravity had more of a hold on him. His expression was forlorn, perhaps he had suffered some losses at the blackjack table, and he seemed disinterested in joining us for the chat, until I mentioned he looked like Benny Hill, which amused him.
We chat about nothing, as three strangers do the pass the night, and then, a joke was said, I’m pretty sure it was the waitress who told it. She said something that made him laugh so hard, the heaviness of his face was pulled back. The furrow of his eyebrows lifted, his chin too, and the huge grin now taking most of his face forced his sagging cheeks to rise, as his spine straightened and he sat up tall. He remained in this proud position for the rest of our time together. It was as if I had witnessed someone sipping from the fountain of youth.
It was amazing to see what a strong solid laugh could do to someone’s mood and health.
The second was my own.
I was alone, outside, and the moon was full, channeling lunatic vibes, as I paced back and forth in an imaginary cage, full of sorrow and rage, at my newly found disposition. Angry that all my memories had been taken away, and weighed down from the pressures of having written a script about a pandemic, before one coincidentally happened, which tormented me, making me question what reality was and what my responsibility was in all those millions of deaths.
Madness, I know.
And yet, my reality.
No identity existed when the memories were wiped, I had died, which meant all my loved ones died with me, as I failed to recognize them when I returned.
You can imagine I was in no mood to laugh.
I didn’t even know how to anymore.
Nothing was funny.
But suddenly, I think from a well-timed thought which seemed as though it were someone else speaking, my inner court jester, whispering something from the corner prompter of the metaphysical stage.
I literally felt my body experiencing each and every movement used in creating this laughter, from the pit of my stomach, sending signals upwards, as if I were moving in slow motion.
I guffawed using my whole body.
It’s then I realized I hadn’t laughed in weeks,… months?
I can’t even remember the last time I laughed, and this further fueled my enjoyment of the moment, so I laughed even harder, and this time, it woke up parts of me that I had forgotten about.
Actual shockwaves that made me remember Eric.
I laughed as if I were a group.
I could feel myself now laughing with whomever had whispered the joke, and unbelievably, it was like I was with other versions of myself, be them existing in my body or spread across time and space, past, present, future, habitants of distant memories.
I laughed and I cried, because I realized I had not laughed for so long. Who had I become to forget what laughter was?
The tears streaming down my face and merging with the corners of my huge smile had a taste of the divine, as I was suddenly gifted with some epiphany.
It was at that moment I experienced the absolute power of laughter.
I felt its reviving qualities and I then knew what I could do moving forward.
I could plunge into the darkest wells to fetch those who had forgotten how to smile, and with that, I could finally embrace my role as the clown.
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” – William Shakespeare
I long to be on stage and on movie sets, and share what I have trained my whole life for, and must remain patient, although frustrated, as I wait for the roll of the dice to go my way, and I promise, when I finally get the opportunity, that I’ll use this second chance wisely.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to sharpen my tools, exercise my body and my voices, and although I’m apprehensive about constantly creating online content just for the sake of being seen, I have to do something! Think outside this bloody box damn it!
“Maybe I should murder someone?”
“No, we agreed I’m not that kind of clown…”
“Who’s this we you speak of?”
“There’s no time to dissect the ins and outs of disorderly disassociation! We gotta create our own luck, and hope the eyeballs of some big time director lands on his page, and picks up their phone to give him call, a role, a script! So he can get his next fix, and hear those two delicious words.”