Tag Archives: clowns

For the Love of Sad Clowns

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This is my latest clown picture, inspired by my newest fascination with Puddles’ Pity Party on YouTube.  Like all my clown pictures, I am fairly sure that my number one son will tell me it’s a creepy clown.  He has never liked clowns.  When he was still small we took him to the pre-show at Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus which at that time was Meet the Clowns.  We met the men… and women… and dwarves… in the face paint with the loud personalities and huge red smiles.   I was charmed, as always, but number one son spent most of the time behind my pantleg, peering around for sneak peaks at the clowns.  He was actually shivering most of the time.

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But me, I love clowns.   Always have.  Especially the sad clowns.  The hobo clowns.  Red Skelton playing Freddy the Freeloader, Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp, Marcel Marceau, the peerless mime, and Emmett Kelly Jr. as Weary Willie.  There is something deeply poetic and resonant about a clown who makes you laugh by his outward actions but manifests deep feelings and an underlying sadness on the inside.  It is a metaphor for the whole of life in the human world.

Puddles walked on to the stage of America’s Got Talent and engaged everyone first with his silent-clown mime routine, and then grabbed everyone right by the heart by singing a song about drinking and swinging on the chandelier with such emotion and operatic power that, by the end of the song everyone was standing, everyone loved him.  Singing clowns with a sad song help us keep our own little boats afloat on a vast and stormy ocean of life.  The song buoys us up and makes it bearable to tread water a little longer.  I am at a time and place in my life where I really need that.

I love clowns.  Especially sad clowns.  Particularly when they sing.

I dare you to watch these videos and not fall in love with Puddles.  That’s the point of sad clowns.  They make you laugh at the sad and serious things that tear people apart.  And by doing that, they put Scotch Tape on the tears and put you back together.

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Shakespeare Knows Fools

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The fact that Shakespeare was a master of the art of creating and mocking fools does not really help decide the question of who Shakespeare really was.  A stage actor who owned a theater in Elizabethan times and apparently focused on being the bit player, the butler, the second man on the castle wall in the great plays, would certainly know enough of flim-flam, being a con man, or artfully throwing turds at kings and queens in ways that get rewarded rather than beheaded.  But a nobleman who has unpopular and unwelcome-but-probably-wise insights into the back-stabbing-goings-on of the royal court of England would equally be capable of putting the most memorable of critiques of humanity into the mouth of the fool or the clown in the great stage-play of life.  Even the most depressing and violent of the Shakespearean tragedies is enhanced and made pointed by the presence of the fool and the comic relief.  In some ways everything that Shakespeare wrote was a comedy.

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Whoever Shakespeare was, he shared Mark Twain’s overall assessment of “That damned human race” and often declared all men fools in the eyes of the playwright.  Puck’s observation on humanity is delivered about not only Bottom and the other poor players who carry on their vain attempts at performing Pyramus and Thisbe while Bottom magically wears the head of an ass, but also the easily fooled lovers who mistake their true loves for one another, and even the clueless mortal King Theseus of Athens.

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In the play within a play, Nick Bottom wants to be not only his own role, Pyramus the romantic lead, but argues that he should be Thisbe, the lion, and Pyramus all at once, making a satire of human nature and its overreaching ways that we could only pray Donald Trump will one day watch and magically understand.  In fact, Shakespeare’s entire body of work is an extended investigation of foolishness versus wisdom, and with Shakespeare, the verdict always goes to the fool.

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The plays of William Shakespeare are filled with fools doing foolish things… and fools being accidentally wise. (Think Jacques in As You Like It giving his famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy in which he elucidates the seven ages of man.)  There are fools too who prove to be wise.  (Think of the ironic advice given by the jester Touchstone in As You Like It, or the pithy commentary of King Lear’s fool).  The fools in Shakespeare’s work are not merely the comedy relief, but the main point that Shakespeare makes about humanity.

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Whoever the man was who wrote the plays of Shakespeare, he was someone who had a deep understanding of the basic irony underlying all of human life.  And someone with that vital sense of the bittersweet, a philosophy of life that encompasses the highest heights and lowest depths that a soul can reach, is someone who has suffered as well as known great joy, someone who has experienced loss as often as profit, and has known real love as well as real hatred.  It is the fool that Shakespeare shakes us by the neck with to make us recognize the fool in all of us which makes the plays resonate so deeply within us.  It is watching the path of the fool unfolding that makes us shake our head and say to ourselves, “Yes, that is what life is really like.”

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When You Can’t Laugh at the Clowns

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It is sad that Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey will be closing for good this coming May.  I have personally gone to the circus and enjoyed the spectacle under the big top (though actually in arenas) about fifteen times, first with my parents and then with my own kids.  I loved the elephants, the wire-walkers, the lion tamers, and I laughed at the clowns.  And now that will no longer be possible.  I have gradually lost more and more of the most important things in my life as I have gotten older.  I lost mobility with arthritis.  I have lost financial security through health problems.  I have lost the ability to do the job I devoted my life to and so deeply loved.  And now I can no longer laugh at the clowns.

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The problem is not that there are no clowns left, even though most of the greatest ones, Emmett Kelly, Bob Keeshan, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and the man who played Bozo, have all passed on.  The problem is not that my kids are afraid of clowns, scared to death of people who aggressively get right up in your face while theirs is covered with grease paint (especially since my kids are now grown and can sock the clown in his painted mush if he gets too close).  The problem isn’t even that the clowns are not funny any more.

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The problem is that the Clown in Chief has killed the laughter.  He has become an agent of instability and chaos.  When he is mocked brilliantly by Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, he has to mount a tweet storm on Twitter and uses his limited twit-wit to angrily denounce and threaten and belittle instead of laughing at the jokes as other politicians like the current President and Vice President have graciously done, even sometimes using self-deprecating humor to get in on the jokes themselves.  Even notoriously humorless political clowns like Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin have more grace in ignoring mockery and smiling at insults than this Great Orange Face that we put in charge of the country’s most serious business.

The ability to laugh at oneself is a very serious thing.  When the whole “golden showers” business made it into the national debate, this manic moron did not make it seem mere political hum-buggery by laughing it off.  No, he got deeply offended and defensive, the same way a person who is actually guilty of the accusation would react.  So, if it is not true, the Crybaby in Chief has only bolstered our belief that it is most probably true.  As ridiculous as the accusation sounds, you have to admit that Trump’s behavior in the past makes you at least entertain the possibility that it is a true thing that he has done.

And now, he has over-reacted again, this time to the very real concerns raised by Congressman John Lewis, an honest-to-God civil rights hero, with cruel and crusty criticism that lowers my respect for Trump as well as lowering all future expectations.  The man isn’t even sworn in yet, and he has already shown such bilious badness in his character that I truly dread living in this country under his rule.

I am a man who lives to laugh, and laughs to live.  That is how I overcome the things that bother me as well as the things that hurt me.  I use laughter as medicine, not as a weapon.  And I hate to see the viruses in our society that I have always been able to inoculate myself against with humor become totally drug-resistant in that way.

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Clowns (An Edited Re-Post from 2013)

ClownheadWhen you are small, there is something intimidating about a man in strange clothes and a garish pattern of white and red and blue all over his face.  What is he hiding?  What does he want?  Why does he squeeze off a blast from that ridiculous little horn with the big red squeeze bulb right in your little-boy face?   His big floppy shoes suggest monstrous feet.  Why does he have such a big mouth with red paint all around it?  “The better to eat you with, my dear!”

But clowns have a purpose for those of us who are no longer frightened little boys.  They parody our actions and exaggerate everything.  They look like us, sound like us, and behave like us if only we are able to look at ourselves times twelve or thirteen.  They are essential to our lives and our happiness.  Why, you ask?  Because, my friend, we should never take ourselves too seriously.  If we look at life only through serious eyes, we will never get enough of weeping.  When we fill up too many balloons full of air with our face painted on them, balloons of self-importance, as serious adults are wont to do, then we need to find the maniac with the pin.  He’s not always a professional with face paint and floppy shoes.  Sometimes he is the mailman, the local grocer, or even your deadbeat brother-in-law.  But the point is, no matter how scary he sometimes seems, we all depend on the clown.  We all need the foolishness of the most foolish among us.  It keeps us sane.

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3508-03052011141710-Dumbo With Clown Faceclown_faceWhy then did I have to take it upon myself to give the world clowns?  After all, that is precisely what I am doing as a writer.  I am physically miserable with my six incurable diseases.  I have diabetes, arthritis, hyper tension, psoriasis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, and I have a prostate the size of a cantaloupe.    I can’t walk without a cane.  I can’t breathe while I’m walking.  I can’t pee without pain.  I can’t draw as much as I’d like. And I have already been forced to retire from teaching… the single greatest thing I ever did with my foolish little life.  Oh, and every night while I’m trying to sleep, I itch the top layer of skin off all my most sensitive anatomical parts thanks to the gift of psoriasis.  I have every reason to just curl up in a ball and cry.  But that’s not what a clown does.  A clown picks himself up and dusts off that rusty tin can that he keeps his sense of humor in.  He takes a pinch of clown snuff out of the can along with the rusty pin and induces an eye-opening sneeze of monstrous proportions.  A clown looks at the world around him with newly enlarged eyes and sees all the really absurd things that are there.  He looks at the way high school students act.  He sees politicians like Ted Cruz strutting around like a peacock in the U.S. Senate.  The clown sees injustice, moronic balloons with Ted Cruz’s face on them getting bigger and bigger and probably presidential, people on Texas roadways turning road rage into performance art, and even the contradictory things the clown’s wife says to him in little cartoon speech balloons that never seem to agree with each other and fight back and forth until they fill up the entire Cartoon Panel of Real Life.  The clown sharpens that sense of humor, that crooked little pin, until it is balloon-popping razor sharp.  It suddenly becomes time to pop a few balloons.

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There are clowns in my writing not just because I like to write humor, but because it is the only way I can truly fight back.  I must crack a few jokes.  I must take a few metaphors and push them and pull them until they are so out of shape they form a picture of Ted Cruz’s face.  I must puncture things and blow things up.  I must toss sarcasm-berry  pies at Ted Cruz’s face.  (Actually, I love Ted Cruz.   What wannabe humorist wouldn’t?  He’s such an easy target.)  I must mock things and ape people.  I must sock things and grape people… waitaminnit!  Grape people?  Is that what a one-eyed, one-horned, giant purple people eater eats?  I must do all the funny foolish things that a foolish funny clown can do to make the tears turn to laughter and pain to be ignored.  Ted Cruz to be ignored too, if possible.

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I have a riff or two to do on the clown heroes who inspire me.  Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and even Charlie Chaplin.  But maybe that has to wait for another day… another post.  As teachers and other clowns must always be aware, the attention span of the audience wears out quickly.  If you have read this far, you are getting sleepy… sleepy (Michael Beyer is the funniest writer you ever read and you will not remember that I am the one who told you so).

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Playing the Evil Clown Game

One of the biggest dangers of Presidential elections is that one of the fools running for the office has to get elected.  So, how do you decide which of the many evil clowns are acceptable to elect?  It is critical to know what jokes and pranks they are most likely to pull on the American people if given the opportunity to run the show in the Bigtop.

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For instance, Mr. King’s observation here is not a joke.  Senator Cruz is infected with corporate vampirism because his corporate masters are the ancient Nosferatu brothers known as Charles and David Koch.  For years now, these Libertarian vampire overlords have been sucking money out of the middle class and their thirst for more green blood from this country’s financial jugulars is unquenchable.  Cruz is against Obamacare because it puts limits on healthcare-for-profit excesses that prey upon the elderly and the infirm to make their zombie hordes.

But I have spent a lot of time harping on the bad clowns that want to be president.  I haven’t given much time or thought to the good clowns, or the less-evil clowns.  In the Republican field, one has to look for the Stephen-King clowns that have eaten fewer children.  Using “It” as the yardstick, Marco Rubio and John Kasich seem to have cooked fewer kiddies into gingerbread than the majority of the field.  is (3)

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I might also point to Rand Paul, even though he has gingerbread dough on his chin and frosting for hair, except that Wednesday I condemned him as an idiot.  Libertarians do get the concept of what freedom could actually mean if watered and nurtured like a flower.  But unlike his goofy father Ron, Rand uses weed-killer instead of water.

Rubio is a Spanish-speaking Latino from Florida who actually knows what it is like to grow up brown in white America.  He gets it that Hispanics are considered second-class citizens and are to be talked down to as ignorant children that only need to be firmly told what is good for them, and expected to accept the poison pills without complaining about the taste.  He does get that immigrants have needs, and he is willing to help a little with one hand while he builds a wall against Mexico with the other hand.

Kasich actually said some very un-Republican things about illegal immigrants, suggesting they work harder than most people and get less help or benefits than anybody else.  He is for amnesty for hard-working immigrants who are already here, and intends to only wall off the ones who aren’t here yet.   He knows that undocumented workers have bolstered the economy of his home State of Ohio, and he he doesn’t want to get rid of them in Ohio, California, Texas, or anywhere else where they help the profit margin.  He will make them legal and then just pay them far less than they are worth, the way corporate America has been doing to middle-class white folks since the 1980’s.

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If you should choose Alfred E. Newman’s twin brother Scott Walker as your playing piece in this life-or-death Elect a Clown for President game, you should know that I will oppose you to my dying breath.  He has destroyed education in Wisconsin, and he not only destroys teachers’ unions, there is some evidence that he actually eats teachers for breakfast.

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I would like to warn you that I truly believe the only way to win this Evil Clown Game is not to play it with Republicans.  But I know there are enough people in the evil-people/stupid-people coalition to elect a Republican as the next President.  It is my prayer that we are at least smart enough to elect one of the not-so-evil clowns like Rubio or Kasich.  Our planet will be the loser if we elect another flight-suit-wearing rodeo clown like we did a few years back.

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Laurel and Hardy Politics

Now, you probably know that I would not ever actually watch the GOP Presidential debates.  I am not a sadomasochist looking to seriously torture my own brain, especially the logic and ethical centers of my brain.  But you cannot help but get some highlights (or more properly, low-lights) from the news.   And the most telling thing that struck me about the bits and pieces of the clown-alley massacre that is called a Republican debate, is that the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are re-incarnated and running for president.  Compare these two images.

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I mean, you see it, don’t you?  Rand Paul is Stan Laurel.  He has the same eyes.  The same rubbery mouth and chin.  Chris Christie is Oliver Hardy.  Notice the double chin.  The porcine eyes and pig-like smugness.  They have the same political facial tics and brain spasms.

Rand Paul is a Libertarian at heart.  That means he has no earthly idea how things work.  He would just dismantle government if he had his druthers, and he firmly believes that government should keep its hands off everything.  No foreign policy.  No protections from the predatory practices of free-market businesses.  “Leave it alone and it’ll come home,” is his philosophy.  And when he gets in trouble for his mistakes, he scratches the top of his head with one hand while he holds his hat in the other and cries.

Chris Christie is a political bully.  His bluster and bombast attacks lazy folks like public school teachers.  How dare they think they can unionize in his State and demand better wages for the hard job they are doing trying to live up to the high testing standards that he has imposed?  He is angry practically all the time.  When his revenge policies get called out by the news media, he blames others for the problem and throws a tantrum.

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But, wait a minute.  I have seen that pattern in other places too.  The bully and the idiot!  That could be Abbott and Costello too!  Well, of course, Paul and Christie look more like Stan and Ollie.  But the debate had more than its share of “Who’s on First?” routines in it.  Maybe Bud and Lou are reincarnated too in Ted Cruz and Rick Perry.  Ted is bully enough to filibuster and shut down the government when he doesn’t get everything he wants.  And Rick Perry cannot remember three things at the same time.  And they are both from Texas.  That definitely smacks of comedy duo.

In the singular argument that made the news reports between Rand Paul and Chris Christie, they had a spat over government surveillance that had to be a comedy routine.  Rand Laurel cried that he didn’t want government wiretaps to snoop into the business of everyday Americans, though somehow he still wants to collect private data from “terrorists”.  How does he do that, precisely?  Passing a law to make all terrorists wear a bell around their neck so we know who to spy on?

And Ollie Christie came back at him that he could not be considered a patriot if he didn’t allow government spying on everybody to root out the bad apples.  Rand Laurel rebounded with an insult that pointed out that Ollie Christie committed the unforgivable Republican error of hugging Obama during the Hurricane Sandy debacle.  And Ollie Christie tossed a last word back at him with the bombastic equivalent of, “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”

I have to think about this all very carefully.  I may have been too hasty in my judgments.  Perhaps the GOP Clown College debates are something I would get numerous yuks and giggles out of.  I may have to consider actually watching the next mess.

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Why You Should Shoot Yourself in the Foot Rather Than Vote for Donald Trump

I confess.   I am subject to the annoying liberal belief that if I check my facts and make properly reasonable arguments, I can save the world from all the political idiots and partisan clowns that are filling the American scene with horse poop.  Of course, I just got back home to Texas from a week-long visit to Iowa, and in both places there are people that I respect and love that feel that everything conservatives and even Tea Party Republicans say on Fox News makes sense.  How deluded can you be?  It almost makes a loony liberal communist anti-Christ like me start using the other word for poop.

political insanity  The problem, I believe, lies in the -ists and the -isms.  For example, racists and racism or anti-Zionists and anti-Zionism (words that I believe Hitler chose to describe how he felt about ants who were from Zion… or something) are -ists and -isms.  The kind of -ists and -isms that makes people from Iowa argue that the Confederate flag represents culture not hatred, even though that particular flag killed a large number of Iowans in the “Hornet’s Nest” at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 in Missouri.  Iowa was on the Union side.  That war, by the way, was a war of rebellion by the South who wanted to be a separate nation so they could keep buying and selling people like they were pet hamsters and working them like they were mules.  (See what I mean… loony liberals let facts get in the way of all the really cool ideas?)

My children and I had a discussion of -ists and -isms at the Burger King today, because the Princess didn’t want to sit next to her brother, because… well, brothers are stinky and bother you and she would just end up being unfairly in trouble for pouring her medium soft drink over his head.  We talked about how people are prone to let prejudices control their behavior instead of using civil, loving, Christian values.  The Princess was being a seat-ist and subject to seat-ism.  And then we noted that if she hopped from seat to seat, she would be a repeat-ist seat-ist.  And if she took a real disliking to the seat, she might turn into a seat-ist beat-ist.  And if she obsessively tried to clean the seat of big-brother cooties, she was being a neat-ist seat-ist.  And we got a good laugh at the expense of seat-ists everywhere.

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And taking Donald Trump seriously as a presidential candidate this last week is the same stupid thing.  The man opened his mouth during his announcement speech and proceeded to spew horse poop about Mexicans being rapists and drug-dealers and other criminals coming across our borders to take our stuff and rape our women and do all kinds of evil horse poop… because he was reading from a carefully researched speech foot-noted with crime statistics… or possibly because The Donald would never just speak boat-loads of horse poop hatefully off the top of his head.  (Notice I resisted the temptation to use the other word for poop three whole times!  I am a slave to political correctness and need to be called out for it.)

I learned a few things about immigration over the last decade of being an ESL teacher (English for non-English speakers).  If you come from a properly white-skinned country like, say, Finland, you have a relatively easy time immigrating to the U.S.  If you come from a brown or black country, you face a barb-wire-shrouded mine field in the form of a legal immigration process, and once you make it legally to this country, any little slip-up or typo… even those you don’t make yourself… can get you re-classified as illegal and deported.  Parents are deported away from their children.  Children get deported even though they were born in this country and speak only English.  My own Filipino wife is still not a citizen after twenty years of marriage.  And most of those “illegal immigrants” that so disturb The Donald (and Ted Cruz, and Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry. and the rest of the Republican Clown Alley) do important jobs that employers have a hard time filling otherwise.  If they are actually illegal, they pay into the system in the form of income tax and are unable to claim any benefits because they risk discovery and deportation.  Thinking these hard-working, under-loved people are all criminals is horse poop.

But enough with the horse-poop discussion.  I hate when my posts end up full of poop.  Donald Trump is the worst kind of -ist and full of the most terrible kinds of -isms.  If you shoot yourself in the foot, it will heal, at most, in a couple of months.  If you vote for Donald Trump, you may end up having to live in a horse-poop factory for four years.  Do you really like man-made horse poop?  It is a lot more toxic than the organic stuff.  (Dang!  Even loony-liberal political correctness doesn’t keep the danged poop from piling up!)

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