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(Frequently Asked Questions)
Compiled by "Rocky" & "Cheesecake"
|Dana "Cheesecake" Montgomery & Myke "Rocky" Hutchings|
|How do I become a clown?|
|What types of clowns are there?|
|Tramp / Hobo|
|What skills does a clown need?|
|What type of makeup should I use?|
|Where do I find clown costumes?|
|What about them big, floppy shoes?|
|Can I go to Clown College?|
|Are there any clown groups / unions I can join?|
This list was created in order to answer a number of the questions which we as clowns get asked on a regular basis. We hope that this helps budding First of Mays in their quest towards making themselves to be the best joy bringers they can be.
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How do I become a clown?
Practice, hard work and determination.
No really, the first step is that you have to want to be a clown. What does this mean? Do you enjoy making people happy? Do you like working with people, particularly children? Do you have a sense of humor? Does seeing people smile and laugh with you and at you make you feel fulfilled?
If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, than you may be good clowning material. To be a clown, it has to come from your heart. You have to throw yourself into the character of the clown, you have to view the world through the clown's eyes. Clowns are supposed to be funny most of the time, it's their job to bring joy to people's lives through their antics, whether it is a pratfall or a clever play on words. Look at what makes you laugh, what tickles your funny bone, find out why it makes you laugh then see if that can be applied to other situations.
One word of caution though; people get caught up in the fact that clowns do funny things and believe a string of pratfalls, practical jokes and mix-ups is clowning. One quote Rocky likes to use is "Clowns don't do funny things. They do things, funny." This means that you have to look at how you could do regular, everyday things in a funny and entertaining way. To become a clown you have to look at the world through a clown's eyes. One good example of this is Gracie Allen, who took things literally to their logical ending.
Another word of caution. Clowns make things funny at the expense of themselves, never at the expense of others. If there is ever a bad thing to happen (getting a pie in the face, getting sprayed with water), it is to happen to the clown, it is the job of the clown to get the laugh through his or her reaction or get the sympathy from the audience.
To be a clown, you have to be a clown.
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What types of clowns are there?
Funny ones and unfunny ones.
There are three basic types of clowns; whiteface, auguste and character. There is a rough hierarchy of clowns, the whiteface is the top of the ladder, the auguste is the middle and the lowly tramp (a type of character) is the bottom rung.
|Whiteface clowns (for more information see the Types of Clowns page)|
|Whiteface clowns are the clowns that have their entire face covered in a base of white makeup and then have their facial features highlighted by colors of makeup. Whiteface clowns are often the more serious of the clowns, they are often skilled in doing certain items, be it juggling. They take pride in showing up the auguste clowns and tramps. There are two types of whiteface clowns: Neat (Classic) Whiteface and Comic (Grotesque) Whiteface. One main key to whiteface clowns is that no skin should show through their makeup or costume, the effect of the overall look is of a doll come to life.|
|Neat (Classic) Whiteface|
|Neat whiteface clowns are often seen as the classic whiteface clowns with small features which only highlight the facial features and not exaggerate them, they also do not usually wear wigs, only having a skullcap to cover their hair. (The classic French Pierrot clown is a good example of this). Whiteface costumes are often very simple and regal looking and are well coordinated suits. These clowns are often very regal and proper in appearance and character. This character is traditionally very skilled (they can juggle, perform magic or play a musical instrument). Their characters are portrayed as being smart and tormenting to the auguste clowns.|
|Comedy (Grotesque) Whiteface|
|The comedy whiteface clown (like Rocky) is similar to the neat whiteface in only that the skin is covered entirely in a white base of makeup. However, their facial features are more exaggerated (broad wide mouths, bulbous noses) and they are often seen with a bright colorful shock of hair. The wardrobe of the comic whiteface is still fairly well coordinated but more exaggerated than the neat whiteface. These clowns think that they are as skilled as the neat whiteface, but often fail. Grotesque whiteface clowns are not as knockabout or as fallible as the augustes but are more exaggerated characters than the neat whiteface. Ronald McDonald and Bozo are good examples of comic whiteface clowns.|
|Auguste Clowns (for more information see the Types of Clowns page)|
|Auguste clowns (like Cheesecake) are
more human looking than whiteface clowns in that their base makeup color is a fleshy pink
or tan. However their facial features are often grossly exaggerated with makeup (patches
of white around the eyes and mouth, bulbous noses) and wild hair colors. The best way to
describe the garb of the auguste clown is as being a "tailor's nightmare",
oversized, brightly colored mismatched clothes are the norm for auguste clowns. Auguste
clowns are the knockabouts of the clown world, they are often seen as the buffoon and
An offshoot of the auguste clown is the European Auguste clown, which is a very human clown. Very simple makeup - flesh colored base, white to lightly highlight the eyes and mouth, no wig. A simple costume consisting of bright but fitting clothes, presents a clown that is very close to being a human being.
|Tramp/Hobo (for more information see the Types of Clowns page)|
|The tramp or hobo is a clown which resembles a person who is down on their luck, poor and has lived a hard life. Makeup is flesh based with a heavy gray or black beard with white around the eyes and mouth (as if to simulate, wiping soot or dirt from the eyes and mouth). The costume of the tramp clown is usually a dark suit which is in tatters and held together by patches. It is to note that this isn't a dirty suit that is in tatters, but only made to simulate this....A tramp is a clown who is down on his luck and unhappy about his circumstances. A hobo is a clown who has accepted their circumstances and is attempting to make the best of his situation. (Freddie the Freeloader is a good example of a hobo).|
|Character Clowns (for more information see the Types of Clowns page)|
|Character clowns are clowns which have a specific character to them (Keystone Cops, Mad Scientist, Red Skeleton's Mean Widdle Kid), and are costumed to fit the character. One of the major character clowns which has essentially become a class all to its own is the Tramp.|
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What skills does a clown need?
There are no set list of skills one has to have to be a clown, the only real needs are: a good sense of humor and compassion.
Other skills that clowns regularly use are: Magic, Facepainting, Balloon Twisting, Juggling, Storytelling, Ventriloquism, Music. It also helps to know a good number of jokes, one liners and, if you do physical comedy, pratfalls. The key is that the skills have to be used in a clownish and entertaining way and be fun for both the entertainer and audience.
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What type of makeup should I use?
There are several different types of makeup, there is the water-based face paint and Halloween makeup (best used for face painting and Halloween as this washes off easily - too easily). Cream based makeup used for some theatrical uses, this is a smooth makeup based on cold cream, some clowns use it, but again it washes off easily and can be sweated off. The choice of most clowns is to use greasepaint.
Greasepaint is made up of essentially grease or oil, zinc oxide powder and coloring. This makeup is impervious to all but the heaviest of soakings, holds to your face and retains its color well. There are many different types of greasepaint available; Mehrons, Kryolan, Steins and Ben Nye are the most well known varieties, each having it's own formulation which reacts to different skin types. There are also makeup formulated especially for clowns (Apple White, Pro Face, Jim Howle), they are a little more expensive and in some cases requires experience with greasepaint for best use (especially Apple, which takes a lot of work to get smooth). There is no one best makeup, the best way to try these out is to buy small pots of all of them and find out what works best for you.
1) Apply makeup only thick enough to cover your skin, it is not to be a mask, only highlight your features. If you apply it too heavily, it can flake off.
2) Powder your makeup with baby powder or talc. This sets the makeup and prevents it from running. Do not use any powder with corn starch as it can yellow the makeup.
3) Do not apply colored makeup to your upper lip, the upper lip should be white or flesh to provide some definition between your nose and mouth from far away.
The best resource for makeup application is Strutter's Complete Guide to Clown Makeup by Jim Roberts, published by Picadilly Press. To learn how Cheesecake puts on his makeup see the Makeup Application page.
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Where do I find clown costumes?
Costumes can be purchased from clown suppliers, but if you are just starting out and don't know if this is the lifestyle for you, try finding colorful clothes of your own through more traditional means (go to Goodwill or a thrift store, buy a sewing pattern for a clown costume - or a pajama pattern and use colorful clothes). Before you invest in the expense of having a professional costume made or purchased, try other ideas first. Look at other clowns you know for costume ideas before you invest the expense.
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What about them big, floppy shoes?
Professional clown shoes are expensive (perhaps the most expensive of clown items to buy). There are other options to look at: sneakers, such as Converse are available up to size 22, find a large colorful pair and wear your regular shoes inside them, stuffing the space with newspaper or foam to fill out the rest. Doc Martins are available in a wide variety of colors (even florescent orange plaid!). Try painting an inexpensive pair of shoes with bright colors to match your costume.
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Can I go to Clown College?
Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey closed their clown college in the mid 1990's due to the wide variety of other educational choices for clowns. There are currently no schools for clowns out there that operate on a regular basis, however there are clown instructors out there. Check out the Clowns of America International website (www.coai.org) for a list of educators.
Another option is to go to one or more of the many conferences and camps that occur each year.
The best way to educate a clown is to find a clown or group who would be willing to take you on as a student. Call local clowns and ask if there are any local Clown Alleys (group of clowns) around and while you are at it, ask if they would know of someone who wouldn't mind having a student.
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Are there any clown groups/unions I can join?
There are a wide number of groups which you can join. Ask local clowns if there are any clown alleys in your area, it is a good chance to find a group of like-minded people to learn from and network with.
|There are a number of national and international organizations:|
|Clowns of America International|
|World Clown Association|
|International Shrine Clown Association (assuming of course, you are a member of the Shrine)|
|There are also other groups which you can join in complimentary arts:|
|International Brotherhood of Magicians|
|Society of American Magicians|
|Fellowship of Christian Magicians|
|International Juggler's Association|
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