Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Knie Circus Museum

[post 299]

It seems every time I take a bike ride I make an interesting discovery. Yeah, I know I said I wouldn't be posting until I got back to New York next week, but there I was in Switzerland on Thursday, cycling the loop around Lake Zurich, and as I entered the town of Rapperswil, this is what I saw on the other side of the road:

Needless to say I paid my three Swiss francs ($3.20, or about 1/10th the price of a meal in Zurich) and went in. Despite the generic "Circus Museum" title, this is actually a collection devoted to Circus Knie , the national circus of Switzerland which, I soon learned, makes its home in Rapperswil and even operates a small zoo there.

It's a modest collection, but well worth the visit if you're in the area. Clown costumes, posters, tons of photos, video, artifacts... but all annotations in German. Here's a slideshow for all of you museum aficionados . [Use controls at bottom of Scribd window to view full screen.]


This was all cool enough, but this is a physical comedy blog and I like me some actual funny performance — and figure you do too. You're not exactly sitting at home wishing Towsen would write you up a museum review, now are you... honestly?

So of course I got my hopes up when I saw the video kiosk whose button was set to CLOWN. Only the screen was frozen. Far be it for me to despair! Much like the Tiresias of old, I blindly stuck my hand deep into the entrails of the wooden kiosk box, and lo and behold I eventually managed to push the right buttons on a DVD deck hidden in the shadows, emerging victorious — much like the raider of the lost ark of old — with the videos found below. Of course I proceeded to shoot them off the monitor with my phone camera (sorry for the glare from the screen but....), perhaps violating Swiss law and jeopardizing the billions I hold there in a joint account with Mitt Romney (more on that after January 20th)‚ but hey, you're worth it. And all I'm doing is publicizing Knie and Rapperswil, right?

So here's a funny bit of the legendary Swiss clown Dimitri trying to clean an elephant. I love it when clowns get their comedy from what's actually going on in the circus.

 A lot more on Dimitri here.

This entrée by Freddy Knie and Gaston was another exciting find. Fred (aka Freddy) Yockers, my clown partner of ten yesteryears, saw the Knie Circus in the 70s, loved it, and was fond of quoting Freddy Knie's "ooh-ee, ooh-ee, ooh-ee" (sp?) trademark sound. And here I was on a bike ride discovering it for the first time nearly forty years later. (It's in the dressing room scene at the 0:15 mark.) History aside, these guys are good. Probably the best clown boxing scene I've ever seen.

Before posting this and risking indictment by the World Court, I checked to see if this was on YouTube. Nope, but instead I discovered pretty much the same material being performed by Gaston and, this time, his brother Rolf. (If I have the chronology right, they are sixth generation Knie family performers, but check out the Circopedia article here.)

I'd rate Freddy the better clown, but there are some real nice new additions in this version, plus the video quality is, er, slightly better.

So the moral of this story is: get off your ass, hop on a bike, and start exploring, he proselytized.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You must watch closely: in but version the two august are rolf knie and gaston. In the first version Freddy is the man in the black suite. its rolf that makes the ooh ee sound: and actually hes a great august: with gaston toghetere probably the best classical clowns i've seen. The refferee in the second version is noone else then pipo sosman himself without his whitefacemakeup!!