Laughter is the best Medicine (Clowning)

George Carl (1979)

Más videos ►★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★George Carl (1916-2000) en su presentación en el Clown Festival del Circo Real Djurgarden de Estocolmo. Marzo 1979.

Posted by ClownTube on Wednesday, 27 May 2015

One of the world’s greatest visual clowns George Carl. Genius of silent comedy.



The Francescos family, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with. See Circus Administration.

audrey hepbern

Laughter is the best medicine!

A wonderful and logical statement by the equally wonderful late, Audrey Hepburn, who suffered terribly in the latter years of WW2 in Holand,  facing starvation at times. Some current statements by the British media say that 25 per cent of children have mental problems. This is truly astonishing and unbelievable. This was not the case so many years ago but there are too many influences via the media, ‘modern’ lifestyle and family break-ups to cause this anguist. Laughter is the greatest of medicines and we have so little of it now that is wholesome. I say, let children be children, let them have simple joys like slapstick and fun, let schools be fun and lessons be fun – and stop showing them horrible dark film contents!

The Art of Slapstick and Clowning

The art of Clown slapstick comedy has been passed through the ages. A first class book to be recommended would by ‘SLAPSTICK!’ by Tony Staveacre, and published by Angus Roberson Publishers of; 16 Golden Square, London WIR 4BN, in 1987. This well compiled book is absolutely packed with information and wonderful artistes and much detail that I was not aware of myself. The chapters include; Tumbling Through the Ages – Physical Encounters – Best Foot Forward – A Magnificent Shambles – Props, Traps, Tricks and Flaps – Sparring Partners – Inspired Lunacy – and so much more.

The point of clowning through the ages is covered well and shows a changing persona. In my view the central point is, as shown by Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, and better circus clowns is for the Clown to confront pomposity and the seriousness of life. A comic ‘mirror’ of life then. Slapstick Clowning is a critique of violence and, like the old cartoons, the clowns get up again like all the creatures get up again even after being run over by a truck! In other words the art is mocking violence by saying ‘nasty violence should not happen, and only pretend violence is acceptable’. The pie in the face, for instance; this action says that a plate could break ones nose but a soft cake or soap on the plate will not? This is understanding true art to inspire thought. Film and television violence is shown to proudly reflect realism and ‘truism’.  Personally I believe this inspires more violence and not less and can act as a teacher for the like minded.

Our laws clearly say that we must not mock authority and this is right but humour can be used and is used to criticise. It can mock authority in saying that life should be more fun and laughter but as part of a rehearsed theatre rather than in realism. A pie in the face of a real policeman is not funny at all – and very nasty – but the same action to a pretend policeman on stage in comic clothing could be funny within a proper sketch format, even a real policeman might find that funny! (my childhood comic books contained this kind of slapstick). So proved the actions of Charlie Chaplin (who was misunderstood). Surely, from an artistic point of view, it is saying to an audience ‘enjoy fake violence but do not laugh at the real thing?

The book ‘Slapstick’ lists many wonderful artistes over the past 200 years or so such as the following: Abbott and Costello (brilliantly funny and great film stars who acted comic policemen in their film ‘Meet Jeckel and Hyde). One thinks of; Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine, two of the original radio ‘Goons’ and great Variety acts. George Carl, who performed many times before the Queen with his wonderful silent clown act. Charlie Chaplin – who started with the theatrical Fred Karno’s comedy troupe in British Variety. Tommy Cooper, The Crazy Gang, Charlie Drake, Benny Hill, Buster Keaton, Lupino Lane, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Max Wall, ‘knock-a-bout’ Norman Wisdom, Billy Dainty, and George Formby who performed great slapstick in some great films – a real star – and so many more.

I am most impressed with the old style of visual slapstick suitable for all ages as seen at times in the classic and so well scripted American comedy Fraiser. The character Niels is a natural clown.

All the above were great ‘clowns’ who knew the art of clowning at its best. Of course circus clowns over the past 200 years are in the hundreds, some troupes numbering perhaps 20! I have produced a little booklet with ‘gags’ that children might try for party fun that are simple and can be worked well – best with a partner. Old gags as it were, but clowning should not stay in the past there is always room for invention provided it sticks to the rules! The rules? My view is, the word ‘clown’ should mean ‘for children’ with humour for children. ‘Clowning’ can be for adults as shown by the above great personas but I do think the word means ‘for children’ or childishness. Modern clowning seems to suggest that the persona is manic or crazy. This to me is wrong. Good clowning is just simple minded or better, childish.

This very interesting article appeared in the Daily Mail on its ‘Answers to Correspondence’ page. ‘The actual slapstick was made up of two wooden strips which when flicked sharply gave a slapping sound without causing bodily damage to the recipient. Nowadays, the name of the item has become a generic description for all forms of physical comedy, such as the custard pie in the face. The silent films made considerable use of this and slapstick is still popular in the circus world. Many standard clown routines go back centuries, and still cause roars of laughter’. Thanks Daily Mail!

Personally I had been clowning since the age of twelve and then turning summersaults upon my family trampoline – a great ‘prop’ for comedy. Note: I am using the term ‘clown’ but in artistic history, the ‘clown’ is really the white faced person who is supposedly intelligent and master of the ‘funster people’ who should be, as tradition states, Augustes. These are the knock-a-bout baggy pants personas with the face make up. But this tradition has been sadly lost because even circus, in this country and America, use the term ‘clown’ to mean the whole area. So basic intellect takes command again over purity.

Children are depressed because only for the lack of happiness and laughter – nothing else!

So if 25 per cent of our children are suffering some kind of depression what a statement of our times. Mom – Dad – we were not depressed were we? We had fun in the most simple of ways via simple enjoyments. (Music is a great happiness creator but even radio seems to avoid quality joyful music and Supermarket stores must play a poor selection. One wonders why. I would think it might be best to keep customers in the store rather than drive them out. Likewise, modern circus likes loud ‘pop’ music when great tunes should lift a shows content.)

So, quality circus clowning should play a leading part – to make children happier through good wholesome laughter. Our media dwells constantly on the darker side of life and children see and read it too. Film producers and jounralists should know that children see all things much larger than adults be it good things or bad so nasties seem very large. For this reason good clowning has large nonsensical props – children see large props as funny. I.e., the prop is funny even before the use of! The fall apart comedy car is classic. It seems a trend in modern circuses to present comic routines more pleasing for adults or what may be seen in a nightclubs or holiday camps using adults from the audiences as ‘props’ in various ways. In other words, adults are used to gain laughs for the clowns who are not doing anything really funny. Children seeing, perhaps, their relations used in this way may not see the humour but feel embarrassment instead. (This year one circus has received poor press due to some acident). Quality circus clowning should be like the old cinema cartoons, loved by all ages. There are many persons within show-business itself and even the circus side who think by putting on a face make up and looking and sounding stupid it is ‘clowning’! A traditional circus qualified clown is not a children’s entertainer with a magic trick, or a street artistes juggling something, a clown is an accomplished performer at all circus skills (perhaps an ex-acrobat) who can work amazing things into the comedy. Finally, facial make-up is supposed to be laughable, along with funny clothes. It is never meant to frighted. Some clowns go overboard with this – mostly outside of circus. Parents! You have a right to moan! Content should please you.

This top photograph is from the touring 1970 programme of the original Billy Smart’s showing the fantastic clowning of the Francescos brothers and family from Italy. Some of the finest and funniest clowning I have seen. It meant exceptionally hard work. Two big entrees of music and slapstick at its very best.

This letter appeared in The Daily Mail during August of 2008.

I am disgusted the way that film makers have wrecked the reputation of Batman films altogether. ‘The Joker’ would drop laughing gas bombs on the city, mess up art galleries, turn Gotham’s fish into Joker fish but now he’s getting his smiles from using knives and scaring people – please! Everyone knows that the Joker fell into a vat of chemical acid that bleached his face white and his hair green. And everyone knows the Joker’s ideal weapon is either a flower that squirts acid or a pistol that launches a flag saying ‘bang’ on it. I am a big Batman fan. I have seen every film up until this one and now I don’t want to see the ‘Dark Knight’ (Christopher – aged 11 years).

Post to the national press:


The national press story of 10th November 2016 – my response.

Apparently one of the countries leading circuses have decided against ‘clowns’ and ‘clowning’. How sad! Surrender without a fight after so long. The art of clowning is ages old and should be innocent fun. Facial make up should never frighten and I have made this point elsewhere. The correct terms of course are; ‘clown’ meaning the white face master in charge of the troupe, the other current rather incorrect title of clown should be ‘auguste’ meaning the fall about micky taking simplistic humourist that all children can associate with. The idea for daft make up is the augustes way of mocking authority as we might conclude currently, persons rather grotesguely adorning themselves with frightening tattoos! Too many professional persons are using clowns personas some of which have never been near a circus have no knowledge or attempt to try the real arts of slapstick and tend to use overmuch facial make-ups to please the individual ego rather than the viewing public. These persons are performing in the streets and at galas. I am afraid one must, yet again, venture to the European continent to see big circus touring really professional old style clowns and clowning. I have placed one or two videos on this website and more can be seen on YouTube – be selective!


Putting other clowns in the shade said the press!

The Sandow Clowns received enormous local press cover over the years, this copy was from Normanton in Yorkshire. Why are we suspect about fan-followers? We have never received a poor press for any of our actual performances anywhere! But, one fan wrote to a journal saying our stage and make up looked dark! There was a logical reason, the lighting was poor! Quite frankly the level of culture from circus fan followers are now at a very base level! I could print examples here but chldren may read it.


Author: Tom Sandow

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

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