Musing on the nature of humor and clown

by | Oct 27, 2016 | Clown

Not long ago I wrote a post on constructive versus destructive humor focusing in on if the humor was at someone’s expense or globally uplifting. This was before the whole creepy clown phenomenon exploded into the mediascape, internet waves telegraphing the concept to disparate corners of the western cultural world. I still hold faith that in some cultures, people will recognize the creepy clown simply as a creep with a mask who is too scared to show his or her real face. The media coverage is stunning, raking in front page coverage in the journals de repute.

It would be semi-OK if these cowardly acts were confined to the prankster mode that generated it in the first place. According to the history one article compiled, the first sighting of a creepy clown in the woods was a publicity stunt for a low budget horror film. Somehow that has now escalated into a stabbing in Sweden, weapons brandished in Germany, definitely not a prankster matter.

It’s not as if the clowning world didn’t have enough on it’s hands already with the new modern phobia of coulrophobia, scared of clowns. Thanks Ronald, Bozo, It….

When I quizzed a gaggle of middle school theater students, they described their fear: “we don’t know who they are” “we don’t know why they are hiding.” Yet in the annals of many a clown teacher’s notebook, one will find notes to remind the students that good clowning comes from within, not from what you put on. Clowns don’t pretend, they don’t act, they have fun, they humorize their reality, they put their audiences above them, they embrace their mistakes and failures.

In response to the creeps, a few journalists have re-explored the historical nature of clown, jesters, fools, those with permission to criticize the powerful, dating all the way back to the pharaohs. A few have ventured into a less visible yet very real world, that of the sacred clown, the wise contrarian, the disburser of crazy wisdom that keeps the community in balance, a part of indigenous communities across time found in just about every culture.

There are no lack of responses from the clown community themselves, with a number of wonderful articles reminding folks of all the great reasons clowns are vital.

I’m musing on the nature of humor, the principle tool of the trade. After all, humor is a sense that we all possess, a part of our expressive nature. Yet few of us have capacities of this nature, and, outside of a few physical theater and clown schools, where does one develop this ability? It’s not that we lack the capacity. It’s just not recognized as a significant player in the general currency of the realm.

If I were to generalize, I would suspect that most people, associate their sense of humor with the receiving dial. I would also suspect that this is because most people assume that in order to share humor, you need to say something funny. That humor is most naturally expressed non-verbally is not widely known.

I have always found it rather Funny that humor is referred to as a sense, yet it’s not in the pantheon of the five, or even of the mysterious sixth. Does that mean it’s the unspoken seventh?

Is humor a sense? some form of feeling? Has that question ever crossed your mind? Allow me to quote no greater authority than Startrek, more specifically, Saavik, the Vulcan officer in training in the second movie, Wrath of Khan,

“Humor, it is a difficult concept, it is not logical.”

Indeed humor is generally speaking, not a logical, nor a rational thing. Humor is generated by feelings and heart. My take: it’s one of the flows of energy that we channel in life; a channel on the Joy frequency spectrum, one that is deeply intimate with our Original Nature.

Could it be that our original nature offers humor as a pathway to celebration, as an appreciation, an affirmation, a joyous expression? That’s my take. Then I consider how our human nature twists that sense of humor towards fear, the whole making fun of people, the mean stand-up comics and how this also makes people laugh. In a way, bringing us full circle to the creepy clowns. Is humor a double edged sword? One that can be swung in any number of ways? Or is it that if one considers that humor is generated from joy, one needs to consider what is en-joyable. If a person finds en-joy-ment in making fun of others, in scaring others? If they find this fun, or funny how does one consider this? My first impulse is to demonize them, until my Zen master buddy Nocando reminds me: “Who are the creeps?  If they’re the guys I sit with in jail, they’re just seeking connection/attention in the broken ways that have been beaten into them.”

In the midst of my creepy clown reading, I read a piece that differentiated joy and pleasure, pointing out that pleasure is most often a self-centered happiness, whereas joy is shared happiness. Putting aside the veracity of the statement. If one applies that analogy to humor, more specifically, to the motivation of the humorist, it offers some perspective to the discussion. In the creepy scenario, it’s pretty clear what’s motivating the action hardly suggests the intention to celebrate the space we share? Rather than seeking to bring people together, it seems destined to separate them apart.

Even if one can explain the negative connotations that clown is attracting these days, how to resolve it? How to differentiate between those seeking to help bring the world into balance, and those looking to stir up chaos, between the poseurs and those embodying humor. A brain exercise I engage in frequently, looking for another word for clown, for the funny people we love to love…the world sure needs them.

Other posts