Slapstick Clowning and Clowns

The great film producer Cecil B de Mille (who produced the film The Greatest Show On Earth featuring Ringling Brothers circus) was reputed to have said; ‘the clowns are the tent pegs that hold up the Big-Top! A good description if a bit suspect in logic! Real slapstick clowning

Please see my other thread on ‘Slapstick Clowning’. It would seem a bit sad now that, in Britain anyway, big clown entrees are not to be seen much if at all. Billy Smart (prior to 1971) would tour a number of twelve ‘big entree’ clowns along with ‘track’ – outside the ring – clowns numbering another twelve. The trend in modern circus seems to be more ‘Holiday Camp humour’ and away from good clown entrees and large troupes. Some circuses only tour, perhaps, one clown and some none at all! (Strange). I agree with Mr. de Mille.

Only the wonderful world of circus is left for the promotion of fine pure childish humour, for television it is now full of suspect ‘in-your-face’ coarse, brash, rude and totally unsuitable comedy for children. Even the old family entertainment of Pantomime is also using coarse humour at times not suitable for children. Some TV children’s shows seem to be hosted by very loud presenters (why do thay have to shout?).

Fabulous example of real slapstick – fast comedy with exceptional talent


Vi presento The Five Sorellettis – Mio Papa Aurelio – Mio Zio Bruno Medini Clown Bianco – Mio cugino Gabriele Medini con il costume Bordeux – Mio Cugino Pino Medini in costume verde e io – costume Blue – Questa entrata creata per il pubblico americano a avuto un enorme successo nei anni 60 abbiamo lavorato nei spettacoli televisione più importanti negli stati uniti e riviste teatrali le più note di qul epoca e stato un numero che ha dato molte soddisfazioni e stato un vero peccato che abbiamo dovuto fermare questa bella imprese perché io e mio cugino Gabriele eravamo stati chiamati per fare il militare in USA ed era il periodo del Vietnam e quidi siamo venuti in europa ma il militare abbiamo dovuto farlo comunque e quindi la troup si e sciolta. Comunque più che un entrata clownesca era un numero comico acrobatico e a me ogni volta che la guardo mi ricorda il più bell perieodo della mia vita assieme a i miei cugini che per me son come due fratelli – ho voluto riportare in vita il mio papa e il mio carissimo zio Bruno e farli conoescere a tutti i miei giovani amici di facebook – grazie per aver dedicato 5 minuti del vostro tempo per vedere questo filmato.

Posted by Frank Bogino on Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Fine traditional clowning should be totally universal and totally acceptable – trusted even. Over the past 150 years there have been so many outstanding routines devised in circus and upon the stage – why are they being ignored – forgotten? Circus clowns should be fine acrobats and musicians. Make-up should never be frightening but just funny. The basic age old form of comedy applies with the ‘straight’ man or feed, who could be the ringmaster or be one of the troupe who was traditionally the white faced clown, acting as the ‘butt’ or the feed of the gags. The clowns, or correctly called ‘the augustes’, are the ones who fall about. The term ‘gag’ means silent comedy as in cartoon capers but great talking humour is there to. (During our personal touring shows we used one great ‘patter’ routine perfected by my grand-father 100 years ago that still had the children loving it with great laughter).

So let us protect all good things for children like the traditional clown persona. Some modern promotions of circus have failed in protecting, or forwarding its real image (specially to the media!) and seem to have forgotten its roots that it of child comedy to cheer and please children.  Peope wish to see clowns being clowns.  Great art in clowning makes children happy and what could be better than that.

The following named Professor takes this view:

Professor Andrew Stott.

Andrew Stott, an English professor who, ‘specialises in clowning culture’, says that fools always had a tenuous grip on life and society. “The medieval fool was continually reminding us of our mortality, our animal nature, of how unreasonable and ridiculous and petty we can be.”(This I may agree with but not the following).
But the past fifty years has seen growing concern over “stranger danger” and a suspicion of those who want to spend time around children.

“We’ve come to question the sexual motivation of somebody dressing as a clown, of grown men who choose to dress in a full clown costume,” says Stott. Plus, he adds, “There’s something tragically unfunny about the vast majority of people who do clowning.”

In Professor Stott’s opinion and because he is a Professor he must assume to know more than the millions of children brilliantly entertained by great circus clowns for that same 50 years he talks about.

Anything pure and wholesome that children may appreciate must be destroyed by the so-called itellectual ruling classes. Of course beyond the subject of wild animals circus voices are mute in any form of defence!

‘The vast majority of people’! I suppose he must include all schoolteachers, playgroup leaders and leaders of the Brownies and the Boy Scouts! Professor Stott also fails to acknowledge, absolutely, that there are many lady clowns! Perhaps he thinks these might have strange thoughts about children too. Mr Stott! The vast majority of circus clowns are of a circus family and have children themselves!


Special notes:

The Sandow Clowns have never needed to be members of associations or groups. We have always taken the view that formed groups (to have meaning) should be voiceful and to forward the members interests of the particular group. For instance,  Clowns International were established many years ago. We were surprised a couple of years ago seeing a large page article  appearing in a broadsheet national – with photos – quoting the group saying; ‘clowning is dying and our members are down to 100 or less from many times that number’. Having spent a lifetime in promotion I know that the general public are only interested in ‘success’ stories and do not want to hear about sufferings of others unless it may be of concern to the public. They are only interested in successes in show-business. Why the management of Clowns International would think such an article of benefit is strange to us. During our tours we found no lessening of interest. How many are children’s entertainers? How many are what I might consider circus clowns as described above. I would cordially invite members of Clowns International to post open views here, this website is to ‘promote!. The Sandow Clowns have now retired from tours after many successful years – we are only interested in what might be best for clowning, the art of clowning and its participants. 

The point being, the whole group is encompassing, clowns non-clowns even, and to include the word ‘International’ so to state that ‘members are less than 100’ could not be helpful in my view. There must be many hundreds of children’s entertainers across the world leaving aside professional slapstick clowns. Perhaps Clowns International has less than 100 members but the world-wide number of performers could be many times over.

 Circus Image

Author: Tom Sandow

born into showbusiness - full life entertaining, management, agency, engager of acts and artistes - show producer presenter.

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