Sunday, November 30, 2014

Your Delicious Physical Comedy Thanksgiving Leftovers

[post 393]

Some of you may have noticed that I've been away from the blog (and Facebook) for a few months. Not to worry, just busy on other projects that I realized wouldn't get done if I overdid the multi-tasking thing. I'm plotting a return in the new year, but didn't want my favorite holiday to go by without thankfully sharing a few delicious morsels plucked from Cartoon Heaven. Yes, a few days late, but we all know they taste better that way.

And if you like these, then you may want to check out these earlier holiday treats you may have foolishly missed:

As always, click on any image to enlarge, and then you can even view all the visuals as a slide show.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Your No-Work, All-Play Physical Comedy Labor Day Bonus Packet

[post 392]

You've worked hard all year, you deserve a break. Luckily, another (American) holiday is upon us, and you know what that means. Time to clean out my files and share some more physical comedy cartoons and jokes. And if you like these, then you'll want to rewind to these earlier holidays goodie bags you may have foolishly missed:

The type on some of these can be hard to read, so click on any image to enlarge, and then you can even view all the visuals as a slide show (though without the jokes).


A woman is walking down the street with her little boy. A man approaching them slips and falls on a banana peel. She screams with laughter. The little boy says, “Mommy, mommy, what are you laughing about?” She walks up to the man and says, “Excuse me -- would you mind doing that again? My little boy didn't see it."


A man buys a talking bird for his wife's birthday.  It speaks seven languages and costs him $5,000.
"Well, did you get the bird I sent you?" he asks her that evening.
"Yes," says his wife.  "I already have it in the oven."
"What!  That bird could speak seven languages!"
"Then why didn't it say something?"


Jim Anderson was a writer who was on the edge of disaster. He had written nothing in years that was any good and he had become an alcoholic. His apartment had nothing in it but a typewriter, a table on which it rested, a chair, and, in a second room, a bed.
One night, as he lay on his bed in an alcoholic daze and was thinking he would have to hock his typewriter, he heard a steady tap-tapping from the other room, as though someone were using his typewriter. He was too far gone in his stupor to check — so he fell asleep.
The next morning he found, next to his typewriter, a beautifully typed movie script. He looked over it curiously and was galvanized by its extraordinary quality. It was much better than anything he could ever have written. He brought it to his agent, who, with the greatest reluctance, consented to glance at it. The agent was caught up at once.
"Jim," he said, "this is great. I don't know how you did it, but I'm sure I can sell it."
And sell it he did — for a large sum.
Thereafter, Anderson periodically heard the tap-tapping of the typewriter, periodically found another great script, periodically sold it for increasing sums of money. He grew rich and famous and lived in a wonderful mansion on the coast with everything his heart could possibly desire. In his new quarters, scripts continued to be turned out by his mysterious benefactor.
But by now his curiosity overwhelmed him. Who was writing these scripts for him? One night when he heard the tap-tapping, he sneaked into his study, and there at the typewriter was an elf in the usual pointed hat. Said Anderson, "Have you been writing these scripts?"
"That I have," said the elf.
"But why?" asked Anderson.
"Because I love to," said the elf.
Anderson said, "Do you realize what you have done for me? I was on the point of suicide and you have made me rich and famous and happy and I'll soon be married to the most wonderful woman in the world. Is there nothing I can do for you in exchange?"
"It's not necessary," said the elf. "I'm happy, too."
"But let me give you something: a house, special food, anything your heart desires. Anything." 
"In that case," said the elf, "there is something. Can you put my name down as co-author on one of these scripts?"
And Anderson said, "Co-author?!?  Fuck you!"

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Report: "The Clown In You" by Caroline Dream

[post 391]

If you perform as a clown, variety artist, physical comedian — whatever you want to call it! — you've no doubt taught workshops. Sometimes workshops are a more dependable source of income than performing. Such is life, but the result is that some teachers, and they may be excellent performers and instructors, never get beyond a few sure-fire hours of classroom material, guaranteed to entertain, and more often than not liberally borrowed  from their own favorite teachers.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this, I've done it myself, and the experience for the student can still be a valid one. There are, on the other hand, teachers who dedicate years, even decades, to developing their curriculum and their teaching sensibility. They are more poised to go deeper into the material and to offer full-length courses that cover far more ground and potentially bring the work closer to a performance level.

Caroline Dream is one such teacher. A transplanted Brit, she lives and works in Barcelona, and not so coincidentally is married to Alex Navarro, who writes the excellent Spanish-language blog, Clown Planet. They have often taught together, and no doubt bounced ideas around, much to our benefit. Caroline is very active as a performer — I've seen her and she's quite good — but she has also dedicated herself for many, many years to teaching, and now to writing about it.
Unfortunately, there are still teachers who use physical or psychological abuse as part of their training method, believing that this profession is not for the weak spirited. That may be so, but having taught clowning for over a decade, I have come to believe that such abuse, albeit used as a means of releasing the clown in students, for many acts merely as a deterrent and for some can create lasting damage.

Long story short, The Clown in You is a very useful book for the serious student of clowning (professionals included) as well as for beginners. It is, as the subtitle promises, "contemporary clowning," aka the "personal clown" or the "clown from the heart." There is very little on clown gags, no formulas for creating material. It really is about using your own innate joy, silliness and, yes, stupidity, to forge a clown character unique to you. As the old saying goes (no, I don't know who said it first), clowns characters aren't created, they are uncovered.

We've built up civilizations, eradicated many threats to our survival, invented a myriad of objects to facilitate our existence. We have also created a cultural heritage, dominated natural resources, explored space, etc. But, even so, we have never ceased to be stupid.

The first half of the book seeks to define the key attributes of the clown, drawing especially on the playfulness and imagination of the child, while also outlining the defense mechanisms that make it difficult for the would-be clown to surrender to all that frightening freedom. It's a book, and devoid of video examples, so this can get a bit theoretical, but in the second half Caroline walks us through a lot of clown exercises with very helpful examples, enriched considerably by the insightful side coaching she was doing as the exercise progressed. This is not intended to be a manual, there's no step-by-step do this, do that, but the actual classroom experiences are invaluable in understanding the work.


I teach a three-step process that I call "absorbing failure." Absorbing failure begins with the recognition that something has failed; the clown then feels the failure internally (admitting vulnerability), before externalizing the feeling and playing with it.... 

But don't take my word for it. Those of you who will be anywhere near the New York City area next weekend (Sept. 6th & 7th) should seriously consider taking advantage of Caroline's first-ever workshop in the Big Apple at the New York International Clown-Theatre Festival. The festival continues for three weeks with a stellar line-up of performers, plus more workshops by the likes of Eric Davis, René Bazinet, and Aitor Basauri. Don't say I didn't tell you!

You can purchase The Clown in You here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Will Zach Galifianakis Flunk Out of Lecoq's? Will Louis C.K. Help?

[post 390]

From my friend the inimitable Julia Pearlstein comes this intriguing news item:  FX cable tv has contracted to produce ten episodes of Baskets, co-created by Louie C.K., Zach Galifianakis, and Jonathan Krisel, and starring Galifianakis as an aspiring clown who flunks out of "a prestigious Paris clown school" but lands a job working for a rodeo. Perhaps not coincidentally, I know that Louie C.K. came to Avner "the Eccentric" Eisenberg's one-man clown show in NYC last year and loved it. Avner, by the way, did not flunk out of Lecoq's.

Here's the article from The Hollywood Reporter:

The cable network has picked up to series Baskets, a comedy starring Zach Galifianakis co-created by the Hangover star, Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. FX has ordered 10 episodes of the single-camera comedy, with production set to begin in 2015 for a series debut in 2016.

The comedy follows Bakersfield man Chip Baskets (Galifianakis) as he pursues his dream, against all odds, to be a respected clown. But after an unsuccessful enrollment at a prestigious clowning school in Paris, the only job he can find is with the local rodeo.

Galifianakis, C.K. and Krisel (Portlandia, Saturday Night Live, Man Seeking Woman) co-wrote the pilot. Emmy-nominated writer Krisel, who also directed the pilot, will serve as showrunner, while Galifianakis, C.K., Blair Breard, Dave Becky, Marc Gurvitz and Andrea Pett-Joseph will exec produce.

"To say Zach's portrayal of the lead character Chip Baskets is hilarious/unique/riveting/fascinating would be an understatement," FX president of original programming Eric Schrier said. "We can’t wait for the world to meet him."

Baskets, picked up seven months after the pilot was first announced, marks the first project to come from C.K. and his Pig Newton banner's overall deal with FX Productions. Baskets joins an FX/FXX comedy lineup that includes C.K.'s Emmy-winning comedy Louie, Archer, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, You're the Worst, Married, The Comedians and Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. The show is the fifth comedy series FX has picked up this year, joining The Tracy Morgan Project (FXX), The Comedians (FX), Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX) and Man Seeking Woman (FXX), bringing its roster to 11 series across both cable networks.

For Galifianakis, the FX comedy marks his latest TV foray. His small-screen credits include Bored to Death, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job and appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang!, Kroll Show, Brody Stevens: Enjoy It and hosting Between Two Ferns, among others.

Galifianakis is represented by CAA, Brillstein and Jared Levine; C.K. is with 3 Arts; and Krisel is with CAA.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dancing While Sitting: Up and Over It

[post 389]

I always hesitate to post a viral video since it's already been seen by millions, no doubt including many of my readers, but there are 7.2 billion people in the world, and yesterday's viral video is forgotten by tomorrow, whereas this here blogopedia is eternal, give or take a few years, so....

The performance is by Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding, the video by Jonny Reed. and they go by the name of Up & Over It They describe themselves as "nouveau folk deconstructionists," whatever that means, but my guess is you physical comedians will enjoy what they do with movement and rhythm. Like some of my recent posts, they use a table, but not for acrobatics!

Here's my favorite example of their work (or you can watch it full screen here):


Just to show you they don't always stay close to a percussive surface, here's Three Little Words, a dance piece with more movement through space, even a few basic chair and partner acrobatic moves. Not bad, but not good enough or original enough to have garnered them much attention on its own. 

You can see more of their videos here.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More Table Comedy Acrobatics: Les Pauwels

[post 388]

Two posts ago I highlighted a strong table comedy acrobatic act by Zahir Circo. I also linked to a couple of older posts where I shared earlier versions of this kind of act. Now comes another predecessor,from the French tv show La Piste aux Étoiles, a three-man, three-table act by Les Pauwels, who hail from an eight-generation circus family.  Some real nice stuff, including a triple peanut roll under the table!


Again, for you table fans, here are the links to my previous posts on table comedy acrobatics:

You'll see that the kicking the other guy until you're too tired to kick any more was done by the guys on the Colgate Comedy Hour in the Tables are Funny post.

Thanks to Jessica Hentoff and Lionel Lutringer for the link!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Purrkour and Kindness

[post 387]

I've written a lot about parkour and its relationship to physical comedy, especially here, but also in all these other posts, so I can't resist sharing the feline version, "Purrkour,"a brilliant piece of filmmaking by Robert Dollwet. (Thanks to Riley Kellogg for the link!)


If you have cats (we have four) and have ever tried to train them, you know whence comes the expression "it's like herding cats." Or to put it another way:

But it is possible, as this behind-the-scenes video demonstrates:

Which leads me to the whole controversy today about cruelty to animals in the circus, with prevailing sentiment being unilaterally against the work of animal trainers. Belgium, for example, has totally banned the use of wild animals in circuses! Now I'm all for the humane treatment of animals, but this blanket condemnation is simply unfair to most animal trainers.

And that leads me to one of my favorite stories about training animals. It's by Antony Hippisley Coxe from his excellent book A Seat at the Circus (1951). He was an historian, not a circus performer, but decided to try his hand at training — you guessed it — domestic cats. Real interesting stuff with a very funny ending, so much so that I bothered to scan it for you and put it into this pdf. Worth the 10-page read!