I’ve been thinking about eccentricity, and how people react to it. Upon meeting up with my mother recently, she just couldn’t let go of the fact that I was carrying a canary yellow, spotted umbrella, and was gently offering to get me a ‘proper’ one instead. I guess for my mom I’ll always be a weird rebellious son she’s slightly worried about, and that’s okay. I think I’ve lived long enough to know about men’s style. I’ve held jobs where I had to wear a suit, and honestly, I was good at it. I still am, if the need surfaces. So I started wondering about is why I’m carrying the spotted umbrella in the first place. I mean while it’s a perfect clown umbrella, I’m not really clowning on the street, now am I… and it hit me that in a way, I actually am.
From interviews with the greatest artists, there seem to be two distinct approaches to the idea of clowning among them. One is focused on the audience, on inspiring laughter, on masterful technique, that is, on Doing… and the other is focused on Being a clown, stating that everything else follows from that. On finding the inner clown, the inner child, and sharing the joy, freedom and emotional openness from that source. An extreme adherent of the second approach is Slava Polunin, whom I consider on of my role models. He is a true rebel artist, who used the wordlessness of pantomime to evade censorship in Soviet times, and an unwavering believer in creative human freedom, both in the theatre troupes he was part of or led, and in our lives in the outside world. Today, he’s turned clowning into a lifestyle through his “Academy of Fools”, in his words, turning the focus of his life onto finding and exploring what makes human beings happy.
And yes, that spotted umbrella makes me happy. I look at it on a rainy day, and think of sunshine and playfulness. And so do the colorful hippie clothing, the five-toed shoes, or any of the other trappings of eccentricity I consciously decide to allow myself. In doing things my body and my inner child wants to do, rather than what my superego would allow me to do. And yes, people do sometimes stare. I’m sure there is a part of them thinking how nice it must be to be so free and childish. And this is, probably, a degree of clowning. Being that reflective, joyful person that many deny in themselves for fear of societal reprisal, or in sacrifice to an arbitrary self-image of prestige, or a desired gender expression, or whatever else.
I honestly believe that performing a little in my everydays, for myself and the world around me, as an eccentric and a free human being, leads to greater happiness, motivation and potentially success in life. I mean, if I want my brain to find reasons for climbing out of bed, why not help it out a little, by making every day worth living?