Grandpa’s Comedy Kit

Here’s a blast from the past:  This was an experimental clown act I developed using a full face mask I designed and constructed in Berlin.  I included the piece in my final project, for my Masters in Fine Arts in Physical Theater in Tuscany.  The show was a four person one-man show, called “Meet the Silverstones.”

grandpa and milk 2 sw

Meet Grandpa and his Instant Comedy Correspondence Course…

Watch what happens when our hapless hero tries to follow a recording’s instructions for classic practical joke  using a shoe borrowed from a victim spectator in the audience.

From whoopie cushions, to peanut cans filled with spring loaded snakes, chaos ensues.  The harder Grandpa tries to be funny, the more the comedy backfires in this hilarious and poignant five minute contemporary clown piece which questions the nature of comedy itself.

Scotty Walsh created this mask and character during his residency with Familie Flöz in Berlin in 2013.

Recorded at Villa Godiola in Tuscany, Italy.  2014.

SANCA Summer Circus Festival

SANCA is Ten!

This summer I was invited to perform and teach a workshop at a ten day circus festival called, “SANCA is Ten!,” hosted by the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Seattle.  This was a particularly special opportunity for me, because I had been among the first students and instructors at SANCA when it was just beginning, well, ten years ago. Since that time it has gone on to be easily the largest circus school in the United States, housing a Flying Trapeze tent and occupying nearly a full industrial block in South Seattle.

SANCA24

SANCA is an important place, not only because of its size, but also its mission.  It was founded by (real life superhero) Jo Montgomery, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Seattle Children’s Hospital, with an eye on combating childhood obesity.  SANCA has gone far beyond merely addressing childhood obesity, though, and enriches the lives of children and adults of all shapes, sizes, and levels of ability and disability on a daily basis. Additionally, on any given day, world class circus artists, both emerging and established, can be found training or teaching (or both).

SANCA24

After a performance one evening, a family introduced themselves and said that about eight years ago at a SANCA outreach program, I taught their two year old daughter (who has a disability) to throw a ball. She’s been going to SANCA ever since and has even taken up the German Wheel, far surpassing her Dr.’s expectations!  It was very nice of them to let me know. It is easy for things like that to get lost in the shuffle, but it is a great reminder of the power of circus, both physically and psychologically.

SANCA12

While I was there, I was fortunate to be living at the Museum of Curious Things founded and curated by my longtime friend Matt Baker.  It is a well put together exhibition, and houses, among many other strange things, a teddy bear made of belly button lint and a beak of a dodo bird.  Waking up every morning next to a Jackalope was an adventure, even by my standards!

SANCA26

After a show on another night, I received a great comment from the critically acclaimed dancer and choreographer, KT Niehoff.  She said, “I liked it because you went one step too far, and then went a giant leap further.”  A few nights later she brought her God-son to the show and gave me another memorable comment.  She said, ”Thanks for rocking my God-son’s world. I’m never going to hear the end of it.”

You’re welcome, KT. You are welcome!

FixedI also celebrated my birthday while I was there, and it was a treat to spend it with some old dear friends, Chuck Johnson (my first and greatest Coach) and Jo Montgomery, as well as Ben and Rachel (Duo Madrona), Mick Holsbeke, and Matt Baker, who have all gone on to be the toast of the Cabaret, Circus, and Variety scenes.

Duo Madrona and I were once in a small troupe called the Banana Moon Circus, and Rachel whipped up a Banana Cream pie for old time’s sake.

SANCA 25

It was an opportunity to see new work from both old friends and new friends; It was a treat to see “A Book is not a Ladder,” the new show by The Acrobatic Conundrum (which really got me thinking about the role of text in contemporary circus) and “BONKERS!!” by IMPulse Circus Collective (which lived up to its title, allowing their quirky personalities to shine).  I also had a memorable experience collaborating a bit with a promising (and always up for anything) young clown named Zach Holmberg.

Conundrum IMPulse

Zach

I’d also like to thank Chelsea & Co, John Cornicello, and Circus Now Seattle (a wonderful Circus Advocacy group), for the photographs and support, in general.  And a special thanks to magican Louie Foxx, for (just like the old days) saving me at the last minute with his knowledge, generosity, and awesome collection of stuff!

SANCA20

Looking back on the whole festival experience brings to mind the famous line from one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life.  ”Remember, no man is poor who has friends.”  So, congratulations SANCA, and thank you, for enriching my life, and the lives of so many others, for ten years.  And, thanks for the wings!

friends1Chuck and JoLove, Scotty

The All-Male Rapunzel Pantomime

Scotty Walsh & Co do it again!

This time in an original All-Male British-style Christmas pantomime. Don’t miss the princess with reeaallllyy long hair, an evil ballet-dancing witch, a talking cat and, of course a prince – who rides a magnificent wooden horse.

This pantomime was written and directed by Scotty Walsh and not only did it feature an impressive and rarely assembled cast, but it even included important lessons about nutrition and vegetables!

Starring Jared Graham as the Prince, G. Ben Fred as Dame Gothel, Scotty Walsh as The Husband and The Cat, and Mickey Londale as Rapunzel!

“Honey” by Dario and Bario (1920)

This classic clown scene was created by legendary clowns Enrique and Dario Meschi around the year 1920.  Almost 100 years later, the routine still holds up very well.

“Honey” by Dario and Bario (1920).  Performed by Scotty  Walsh, Chloe Whiting Stevenson, and Mickey Lonsdale.  Directed by Joe Fenner of Switzerland’s Dimitri School.

I hope you enjoy!

Classic Clown Scenes

I recently, along with Chloe Whiting Stevenson and frequent comic partner Mickey Lonsdale, performed two classic clown scenes.  In clowning, it is normal to spend enormous amounts of time and energy searching for new and original ideas.  So, it’s nice every once in a while to suspend the quest for new comedy and just work with what has stood the test of time.

Our first scene comes from the 1920s and features a white clown played by Chloe, the Auguste played by me, and the ringmaster played by Mickey.  The scene is called Honey, but it has gone by many other names including, The Queen of the Honey, and The Busy Bee.  It is the story of one clown’s desire to get honey without having to work for it. And he gets it alright!

This scene may have originally been played by the great clowns Dario and Bario, however, it is possibly much older than that.

Our second scene is from the 1950s and had a bit of Three Stooges style gratuitous slapstick violence that we had to work hard to update.  The scene is called The Waiter and the plot is beyond familiar.  Two clowns establish a restaurant, select a customer, and chaos ensues.   In this scene, I play the White and Mickey the Auguste.  Mickey and I had to add a lot of business to this scene, since the classic script doesn’t do much in the way of explaining the physical gags which take place.  I think our most successful addition was the “bring the Bavarian cream pie and step on it!” bit.

This scene is attributed to Clown legends Nino and Mimile, but the idea no doubt stretches back at least to the Commedia dell’Arte, if not further.