Five Things Every Successful Clown Must Do

By Derek Manuel

Clown by Bryan Prindiville


1. Understand the Humorous Nature of Tragedy

People have always found pleasure in the misfortune of others. You should understand that many people today dislike and mistrust clowns implicitly and will enjoy your suffering especially. Use this to your advantage by exploiting the blurry line between comedy and tragedy.

Clown by Bryan PrindivillePeople will laugh if you lose your balance on a carelessly discarded banana peel. The greatest clown I ever met, Professor Nimrod, could slip, flail about and tumble to the ground, bounce on her backside, and land on her shoe bulbs, only to slip on the same peel again. It would have made Pratfall the Clumsy proud.

However, if you sever a tentacle and lose a great volume of ichor, the audience will have reactions ranging from shock to terror and nausea. That’s not how you want your performance to end.

2. Have Confidence in Your Ability

To be a successful clown, you have to believe in your power to entertain and deceive. Remember that when you are performing for people, you are playing a character.

You should frequently make “eye contact” with members of the audience. This is one way to communicate your character’s confidence in its plans before they fail for foreseeable reasons (e.g., stepping on the business end of a rake before releasing a pie). It can also express sadness (e.g., realizing that a handshake is not a peace offering, but merely an electrifying ruse).

Even though the eyespots on your cephalic tentacles don’t really resemble human eyes on close inspection, the camouflage is sufficient at performance distances. My dear friend Professor Nimrod was able to secrete the perfect quantity of slime around her eyespots so that they glistened and shimmered in the low light of the bigtop.

It may be reassuring to realize that many humans are uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact and will look away quickly. Those who are too stupid to look away often make easy prey.

3. Use Props and Costume to the Fullest

You have to understand how your shoe bulbs change shape and size over the course of the season, in response to both your life cycle and variations in your diet. Chasing prey on shoe bulbs comically large enough to crush bones is pure folly, and not in a good way.

Use of the electric palm sucker and the florotoxin gland also require study and practice. Professor Nimrod and I once spent a lovely weekend savoring a captive human. We learned that different doses of florotoxin produce different effects on the primitive and poorly organized human nervous system. A demisquirt temporarily paralyzes the entire body. Two squirts yield powerful hallucinations resulting in shrieking terror, while three and a half squirts get you hysterical laughter. If you want to become as strong, flexible, beautiful, and curvaceous as my partner Professor Nimrod was, you will need a balanced diet of both fearful and entertained flesh.

Never use more than four squirts of florotoxin. This will bring instant death to even the largest prey, and consuming the flesh of a dead human will plunge you into a profound depression.

4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Years ago, clowns could feed at circuses with impunity. Modern circuses are large commercial affairs, with audiences too big and diverse to sit idly by while you eat some of them. No matter how hungry you are, don’t do it.

After the show, you can often catch a single family off-guard as their aging automobile refuses to carry them away with the rest of the herd. However, if you have fed in a circus parking area recently, it will be in your best interest not to do this again for some time. So how do you keep yourself alive while honoring our pact with the dread Order of Ringmasters?

Use your wings. Those things that cover your beak and get in the way when you’re eating are called “suspenders” because they’re made to suspend you in the air! Once you have selected your next meal at the circus, get to the highest position you can, jump off, and follow them home on the breeze. You are a clown. Act like one.

5. Construct an Inconspicuous Hive

I feel like this should be obvious by now, especially to those of you who are familiar with my history. But a growing contingent of clowns is actively spreading misinformation, so I’ll debunk one of the most destructive myths you’ve probably heard.

The Old Fools Clan tells us that it’s wrong to take more humans than strictly necessary to survive. They say we should live in the woods to avoid temptation and disguise our hives as things that occur in nature, like mushrooms or anthills.

Talking about this philosophy, I’m reminded of a joke. You’ve probably heard it before.

What happened to the happy, peaceful clown who expended all of her protein building a beautiful mushroom-shaped hive?

This is what happened to her. She came home one day and found some humans who had been hunting in the woods. The humans had found her huge mushroom and, being sentient life forms, knew that mushrooms don’t get that big. They had beat on it and kicked it until the love of her life, Professor Nimrod, came out, and when they saw Professor Nimrod, they shot holes in her beautiful, strong wings. They hacked off her vibrant shoe bulbs with their hatchet and tore out her cephal ic tentacles. And the happy, peaceful clown could do nothing but hide behind a tree and watch her lover’s beak open and close, over and over, until it stopped. Then she felt like a filthy coward who didn’t deserve to call herself a clown.

I got tired of being that joke. Now, I build my hive in the dark closet no one ever goes into, the dusty space under the bed, or the restroom with the flickering light. I eat anyone I want to eat, Ringmasters be damned. Almost everyone’s been to a circus at least once.


Five Things Every Successful Clown Must Do © 2015 Derek Manuel
Clown Illustration © 2015 Bryan Prindiville