Category Archives: clowns

I Love to Laugh

It began in childhood with the Red Skelton Show.    Every Wednesday night it a was a refuge for me.  And refuge was a critical idea for me.  I was a child hiding a terrible secret from the entire world.  At times I hated myself.  Twice as a teen I came very close to choosing suicide over life.  The person I most needed to hide from was myself.  And humor helped.  Red Skelton’s gentle humor helped me to not only escape from myself for a while, it taught me to laugh at my own foibles and not take things quite so seriously.

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In my college years I discovered humor in written form.  Mark Twain swiftly earned my utter devotion as I read not only Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but Roughing It, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Mysterious Stranger, and The Autobiography of Mark Twain.  You know, there are a large number of things in Mark Twain’s humorous books that make you cry, that make you angry, and make you think deep thoughts.  I basically discovered that humor is a way that smart people choose to think of things which helps to keep you sane and basically un-suicided.

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A beautiful portrait by artist Emily Stepp

It is obvious that some people become very skilled at humor because they have used it all their lives to fight the darkness .  Robin Williams is only few years older than I am.  In many ways his life has paralleled my own (obviously minus the wealth and fame in my case… but what would’ve happened if Robin had become a school teacher?)  I have depended on Robin Williams’ movies to keep me going, giving me insights in how to talk to kids, how to be a parent, and how to empathize with others.  Of course, I haven’t yet taken some of his movie advice.  I never put on a mask and a dress to deceive my own children.  But only time will tell.

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I obsess about humor and how you create it.  I gorge on things like the works of Dave Barry.  Do you know who he is?  Florida newspaper columnist who writes books about everyday life and the fools who live it?  I have to do a post on Dave Barry, because he makes me laugh so hard that milk shoots out of my nose, sometimes when I am not even drinking milk… believe me, I don’t know how that works either.

 

 

I love to laugh.  It makes the world right again.  I have laughed an awful lot for almost an entire lifetime now.  I treasure all the funny people I have known.  And I need to continue to try to make people laugh up until the very end.  Because the world is too often not a funny place.  It can be full of badness and sadness and suffering.  And as Mark Twain  so aptly pointed out, “Against the assault of laughter… nothing can stand.”

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Filed under autobiography, clowns, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing humor

When the Old Mind Wanders…

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When the old mind wanders…

They tell you you’re just too slow.

But thoughts like mine drift everywhere,

And the edges of the universe… are a place to go.

 

Maybe I should write in red.

And argue with the voices

That rhyme inside my head.

And break the rhyme scheme 

Here and there

Because of what they said.

Eden

Or maybe I should write in blue

Because I’ve been thinking in the nude

And laying all my secrets bare

Which really might be rude.

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But the old mind wanders…

In the form of a poem,

And breaks and squanders

Tallest waves in mere foam.

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Filed under artwork, clowns, goofy thoughts, humor, nudes, Paffooney, poem, poetry, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Quest for Acceptance

We all are on a Quest to find our place in this world. We labor hard at trying to get other people to see us as the people we think we are.

Of course, we always fail.

The problem is, first of all, that we are not even remotely… usually… the person we think we are. Sure, we put that clown paint on our face in the mirror, and we think we look funny. But since sitting in front of the mirror we ate a sandwich and smeared the red around the lips. and we rubbed our left eye with a gloved left hand and didn’t even realize it.

The first wide-eyed child we meet screams and runs away from their parents. To her we looked like some sort of vampire clown who eats children for lunch.

And the parents threaten to call the police because they insist we were leering, not knowing we suffered gas pains at the moment because that damned sandwich had red peppers in it, and we are allergic, now approaching intestinal distress.

So, we run and hide for a while.

What’s that, you say? I’m not talking about you? That never happened to you?

Well, it didn’t really happen to me, either. It was a ding-danged metaphor gone rogue and taking over the post just like you would expect an evil vampire-clown to do.

Harker Dawes, owner of the worst hardware store in Iowa.

The thing is, I have always wanted to be a storyteller. And not just any storyteller, but an extra-funny, goofy-clown of a storyteller. And not a vampire-clown either.

But it’s not easy to be funny every day.

I was the teacher that middle-school kids loved because I had a laughing classroom. I used humor to get the point across. And most of my discipline strategies were to head off bad behavior before it actually happened. Get them to laugh rather than act out.

But even then, there were bad days and sad days sprinkled into every week.

Of course, now that I am retired, I no longer have a captive audience to play to and force to laugh at my jokes with the threat of perpetual after-school detention.

The only audience laughing at my jokes now is the imaginary one in my head. And maybe the three people who read my Twitter tweet-wittiness. And of course the six or seven people who bother to actually read my posts on WordPress.

I have twenty books published, the first of which, displayed above by plastic Batgirl, is Catch a Falling Star. That one is about an alien invasion of a small town in Iowa by totally incompetent aliens. The aliens get blitzen-schmuntzed when they kidnap a child specimen from the town who turns out to be more dangerous to their way of life than any Navy Seal could manage, and accidentally leave one of their own tadpoles on Earth to be adopted by a childless farm couple.

The book won two awards from the publisher, Editor’s Choice and Rising Star Awards, which basically means that they appreciate all the money I spent on editorial services and marketing advisors. The book is not a best-seller. In fact, I have made sixteen little dollars on it since it was published in 2013. And I-Universe Publishing does not send out a check for less than $25, so they are still holding on to my money. And very few people read my books. Fewer still buy them.

Anyway, we keep trying. We are on a Quest. And some day, some way, somebody is bound to accept us. As what is yet to be determined.

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Filed under autobiography, clowns, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, novel writing, writing humor

Classroom Clownery (Not to be confused with Sean Clownery… He’s James Blond)

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See Dick?

See Jane?

See Sally?

See Dick run?

See Jane run?

See Sally…?   Wait a minute!  Why don’t I remember Sally?

Did Dick forget to feed Spot and Spot was forced to kill and eat Sally?

No…  I had Dick and Jane books in Kiddy-garter and they did have Sally in them.  And Spot never killed anyone.  But with all the running she did, Sally did not do anything memorable.  If my teacher, Miss Ketchum, had told the Spot eats Sally story, I’m sure I would’ve remembered Sally better and learned to read faster.

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But I actually did learn to read faster because there was a Cat in the Hat, and a Yertle the Turtle, and because Horton the elephant heard a Who, and a Grinch stole Christmas.  Yes, humor is what always did it for me in the classroom.  Dr. Seuss taught me to read.  Miss Mennenga taught me to read out loud.  And in seventh grade, Mr. Hickman taught me to appreciate really really terrible jokes.    And those are the people who twisted my arm… er, actually my brain… enough to make me be a teacher who taught by making things funny.  There were kids who really loved me, and principals who really hated me.  But I had students come back to me years later and say… “I don’t remember anything at all from my classes in junior high except when you read The Outsiders out loud and did all those voices, and played the Greek myth game where we had to kill the giants with magic arrows, and the stupid jokes you told.”  High praise indeed!

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I think that teaching kids to laugh in the classroom was a big part of teaching them how to use the language and how to think critically.    You find what’s funny in what you learn, and you have accidentally examined it carefully… and probably etched it on the stone part of your brain more memorably than any other way you could do it.  And once it’s etched in stone, you’re not getting that out again any time soon.

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Humor makes you look at things from another point of view, if for no other reason, then simply because you are trying to make somebody laugh.  For instance, do you wonder like I do why the Cat in the Hat is trying to pluck the wig off of Yelling Yolanda who is perched on the back of yellow yawning yak?  I bet you can’t look at those two pictures positioned like that and not see what I am talking about.  Of course, I am not betting money on it.  I am simply talking Iowegian… a totally different post.

But the point is, humor and learning go hand in hand.  It takes intelligence to get the joke.  Joking makes you smarter.  And that is why the class clowns in the past… the good and funny ones… not the stupid and clueless ones… were always my favorite students.

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Filed under clowns, goofiness, high school, humor, irony, kids, philosophy, teaching, word games

Silly Names

Meet Harker Dawes. He’s a ne’er-do-well businessman, a fool, a bungler, a clown, and his job is comedy relief as a support player in multiple novels of my Hometown Novels Series. I would contend that he is the kind of character I can’t write a good story without. And why does he have a name like Harker? Well, it’s Charles Dickens’ fault.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you’ve never read a novel by Charles Dickens… Why the heck not? I mean seriously… A Tale of Two Cities is one of the best novels ever written by anyone. The history, themes, and tightly woven plot threads of that novel… pale in comparison to some of the funny names Dickens uses to tell that tale. Jerry Cruncher, porter for Tellson’s Bank, is also a grave-robber in his spare nights. He is constantly losing his temper with Mrs. Cruncher for “flopping against him” (which is how he characterizes how she prays for him). He is an essential clown in that narrative. Prim and proper Miss Pross is Lucie Manette’s hand maiden who is so fiercely loyal she ends up taking out the vengeful villain of the tale, Madame Defarge, for threatening her precious Miss Lucie.

And that notation is just the beginning of the long list of silly names used for critical supporting characters in his books. There is a wealth of them in every book you pick up; Uncle Pumblechook, Herbert Pocket, Abel Magwitch, and Joe Gargery in Great Expectations… certainly not leaving out Philip Pirrip (Pip) the narrator and main character of the tale.

Wackford Squeers is the perfect name for the abusive headmaster of Dotheboy’s Hall in Nicholas Nickleby.

A Christmas Carol not only contains Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit, but also Old Fezziwig, a former boss who loves to dance at the Christmas parties he throws.

David Copperfield has wonderful character names like Edward Murdstone the evil stepfather, Wilkins Micawber the ne’er-do-well surrogate father figure (based on Dickens’s real father), jovial Mr. Dick, and the slimy, villainous Uriah Heep.

The multi-syllabic names he uses are not only comical or sinister or both, but uniquely descriptive of the characters themselves, defining for us in nonsense syllables what those characters seem to be all about.

So, that is why his name is Harker Dawes. It stands in for, “Hark, there will be guffaws.” The perfect moniker for a very imperfect man.

In the same book as Harker, you can find heroic Agnes Brikkleputti the social worker who chases four orphan runaways from Chicago to Norwall, Iowa and risks death in a blizzard to bring the orphans their medications. She is the putty that holds those four bricks together.

So, you should not be surprised if you read something Mickey has written and you run across a silly name. It is evidence that he might be Dickens reincarnated.

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Filed under characters, clowns, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

The Case for the Clown

The criminal was led into the courtroom in chains and forced to sit in a box made of metal bars so his influence would not reach out and harm anyone by drawing their sympathy in.

“Mr. Prosecutor,” said the learned judge, “what terrible crime has the perpetrator been charged with?”

“The alleged perpetrator!” objected the defense attorney, a mousy old man who looked like a cross between Santa Clause and Robert E.Lee because of his white beard, stern face, and a twinkle in his eye.

“Shut up please, Mr. Badweather. You will have your turn to speak.” The judge banged his gavel smartly to emphasize the shut-up-ness of his overruling.

“Your honor,” said the prosecutor, “Mister Pennysnatcher Goodlaughs stands accused of being a clown.”

“The people of the State of Texas, home of the free, land of the brave, and place where cowboys can hang their hat on the antlers of a moose they shot in Canada, will prove that Mr. Goodlaughs did willfully, and with malice of forethought, commit acts of supposed humor in order to make people laugh. And we will further prove that in a time of very serious things, he intentionally made light of very serious matters and the very serious men who try to turn those serious things to their exclusive… err, sorry, I mean… everyone’s benefit.”

“Your honor,” said the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, “I would like to request a new venue for this trial. My client will not get a fair trial here.”

“Sir, your stupid request is rejected on the grounds that Mr. Goodlaughs cannot get a fair trial anywhere. We are all conservatives, and are therefore incapable of having a sense of humor. Continue, Mr. Prosecutor.”

“We will show numerous instances of Mr. Goodlaughs putting paint on his face to hide his true features or assume the identity of a character not his own. He has repeatedly used false noses, large shoes, and floppy hats to exaggerate his flaws and scare young children. He repeatedly wears polka-dotted clothing to simulate terrible taste and ridiculous lack of fashion-sense. He employs pratfalls and slapstick humor in his performances, things that, if any school-age child would imitate the behavior, might lead to serious injury or even death. And he has even dared to make fun of our glorious leaders, implying that they make mistakes and may even have hurt people. That they act without thinking about anything but their own pocketbooks. In other words, this clown has knowingly made jokes in order to get people to not take things seriously.”

“Your honor, I object to this jury. I object to the fact that it is made up of fifty percent rednecks and fifty percent kangaroos! My client demands a new, more impartial jury!” cried the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Captain Kangaroo and Ronald Reagan.

“Has anybody noticed?” asked the judge, “that this attorney looks like he could influence this jury unfairly? He looks like two people who could lead the two halves of this jury to the wrong conclusion. Bailiff! Take the defense attorney out back and execute him by firing squad.”

After the entire courtroom heard the gunshots go off, the judge then turned to the prisoner.

“It seems, Mr. Goodlaughs, that the defense’s opening statement is now entirely up to you. Do you have anything to say in your own defense?

“I do, your honor. Ladies and gentlemen, kangaroos and Reagan Republicans of the jury, I submit to you that I have never actually been a circus clown, or wore face paint. Not that I wouldn’t if the opportunity presented itself. I merely claim the right to laugh at anything I think is funny… or can be made funny. Whether I am being what you call a clown, a humorist, a cartoonist, a comedian, a fool, a village idiot, or a witty fellow, I believe I have the right to make light of anything. Life is always better when you can laugh. Especially if you can laugh at yourself.”

“I’ve heard enough,” said the judge. “What say you, jury?”

“Guilty!”

“Yes. And I preemptively waive the prisoner’s right to appeal. Sir, you are guilty, and you shall be executed immediately.”

Everyone in the courtroom breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief.

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Filed under clowns, comedians, commentary, foolishness, humor, insight, Paffooney, pessimism

Because I Should Be…

I should be writing more, because 15 books is not enough to contain all of me to leave behind when I die.

I should be exercising more, because I am diabetic and arthritic, and the more I lounge and laze, the more I am not fighting back against implacable enemies.

I should be laughing more, because laughter heals the soul of the many horrendous wounds of every day.

I should be loving more, because people all around me are hurting as much as I am, and they need more of it in their lives, as do I.

I should be caring and doing more,

because the world is sick with Covid and burning from racially motivated injustices and murder. And I feel helpless in the wake of it.

I should be doing many things,

That I am not doing because my power is gone. But I try anyway. And I write bad poetry about it…

…Because I should be.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, clowns, commentary, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, healing, Paffooney, poetry

Polly Ticks

Politics are complicated. Our economic and quality-of-life issues are basically killing us during this pandemic. And you cannot blame it all on the Simian in Chief. Or even on his Mean Monkey Party (GOP stands for Greedy Old Primates). They get a lot more of the justified blame than they are willing to accept without a lot of monkey howls and poop throwing. But not all the greedy evil people are Monkey Party People. There are definite problems with the black spots on the armor of the white knights we were depending on to slay the dragons.

The problems with Herr Twitler, the Chaos Clown have only gotten worse. We failed to hold him responsible for any of the many crimes he has committed. Impeached, but turning impeachment into peachy pie, Trumpalumpa the Oompaloompa is now able to do anything his manic monkey mind can conjure up for him to use against us. We suffer for the crimes of being poor, or a minority, or an immigrant. No matter what he does to us, he will get away with it, and then take away the whistle-blowers’ whistles and turn all Inspectors General into blind-folded privates.

And if I die from Covid 19, the terrible Trumpinator will not exactly be convicted of murder. But he is directly responsible. After Ebola there was an extensive pandemic playbook and procedures and protocols in place for the next health crisis. But because the Trumptastic Trumpaloo detected Obama-cooties on it, he threw it all away and fired the special task force and pandemic office.

And it is not even fun to make fun of him anymore. Nothing that used to be funny can still create even a wan smile. And how much of this is my fault?

I voted all Democrats in the last election. I have called most of my Republican, Trumpatater-loving friends doody-heads enough to alienate all of them (though admittedly I used a number of big words so that they don’t know what they mean). I have explained the problems with Trumpapalama and his minions like Devos and Barr on social media until I’m blue in the face, and purple on the inside. But none of that gets rid of the pumpkin-headed Cheeto-man.

I even need to get some of these dividers for the family dinner table. I am beginning to prefer lyme-disease ticks over Polly Ticks. I have had way too much of my blood sucked out these last four years.

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Filed under angry rant, cartoon review, cartoons, clowns, foolishness, humor, politics

A Better Way

When you are in pain, it is better by far to use laughter as medicine than to rely on anger or tears. I need to do this. More now at the end of my life than ever before.

I may not be well enough to write very much, but I can still click on the picture and show you some clowns.

It is surprising to see in my media file how many pictures of clowns there actually are to choose from. I draw clowns a lot.

Mr. Dickens, Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Disney, and Mr. Poe

Not all clowns tell jokes and make pratfalls. Some clowns are simple. And some are profound.

And one clown to rule them all… and with sad laughter bind them.

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Filed under clowns, feeling sorry for myself, healing, Paffooney, wisdom

The Blacklight at the End of the Writing Tunnel

The link above is still capable of giving you a free copy of this e-book until midnight on Tuesday, November 12th, 2019. By all means, click on it and get yourself the free Kindle e-book.

I write this plea as my third free e-book promotion is half-way done. It is, as expected, failing miserably. As of this writing, the promotion using Facebook and Twitter has managed to give away six free books. And one of those is me grabbing a free e-book for my own free Kindle reader on my laptop. So, basically, I can’t give away copies of my own book for free.

But writing this book was not a matter of making myself famous or wealthy or even acknowledged as a good writer. Those are not the things I need. I wrote this story because I myself have been badly damaged by life. I was sexually assaulted by an older boy when I was ten. I had teenage bouts of depression that nearly made me end myself. My sex-life did not develop normally and led to chronic prostatitis and the precursor to “Priests’ disease”, a prostate gland the size of a grapefruit. Yes, it may ultimately end in prostate cancer. And then when I finally made a family for myself in my late middle years, I was besieged by depression again, this time not my own, but others in my family. So, in many ways, I have lived a sad life.

The novel itself is a means to self-healing and recording how I rebuilt myself using love, laughter, and artistry. The singing orphan boy wearing clown paint and singing only sad songs is a metaphor for me and my struggle. The clowns that haunt the main characters’ dreams are also a metaphor. I was always known as the laughing teacher, the one who joked around in class, and let laughing grow into a means of instruction in the English classroom. I used humor to make learning painless. I used it to take away many other kinds of pain as well. The book is about how a family can be healed by someone who has nothing, yet selflessly gives everything to make that family come together and be whole. It is a story, just as the introduction claims, about what love really means.

But the world is stacked against lying truth-tellers like me who make up stories only to heal themselves. Facebook stopped me from messaging everybody who is a Facebook friend whom I wanted to send the book link from Amazon. They called it spamming, which really means, “advertising something on Facebook without paying Facebook lots of money.” I discovered on Twitter that sending the link in DMs makes more of my followers stop following me than it makes followers click on the link to obtain a free book. Ah, disappointment again. At least I gave away three more books than I did on the last promotion.

So, this is like a blacklight, shining on my promotional inspiration. It only shows in ultraviolet the opposite of what I thought I would see. And it resigns me once again to be only ignored as a writer of novels. I suppose it is my proper place in life.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, battling depression, clowns, feeling sorry for myself, humor, novel, novel plans, Paffooney