Wavy Gravy on Sacred Clown
Wavy Gravy (a.k.a. Hugh Romney) is a social activist clown who also is the director of the circus and performing arts summer camp Camp Winnarainbow. He likes to be known sometimes as a ‘Temple of Accumulated Error’. Much more about him at his website: www.wavygravy.net
Wavy: “You want me to speak on the sacred clowns. Some clowns were discovered as in the early churches, especially then a clown or a fool…and we have to separate somehow the fool and the clown. I think that the clown is elevated and more formal sacred clown than the fool, although their sacricity… I mean sacred is sacred is. But they would choose a pope, and it was written on the money in Notre Dame “the number of fools is infinite”. The number of clowns i think is a little more restricted.”
Sacred Clowns. Of course, my first dealing with the sacred clown was in the Native American vector, first through the Hopi, their Sacred Clowns, both with the Mudhead, muddy looking dudes with the round heads, and the Koshare, which are black and white striped with triangular pointy ears going off the top of their head.
I’ve never been a Koshare but I have been an honorary Mudhead with some Hopis that the Lama Foundation… What I was asked to do is to make fun of the stuff that is sacred and I guess if you do that and you’re not a clown you’re kind of risking your life. I risked my own life lining up for a blessing leading off the Longest Run, which is an event that was put on by Dennis Banks and the Native American community. These runners were about to run to Sacramento, and I got in line. I had an arrow going through my head when Dennis went to tie in the eagle feather. He looked and there was this arrow going through my head. I think he was contemplating my demise when Bill Wapepah, now demised and what a great leader of the Native Americans in the Bay Area, patted him on the back and said “Relax Dennis, he’s a clown”, and Dennis immediately relaxed and allowed me to do what I do, which is essentially to cause people to have the trainwreck of the mind experience.
To blow the mind. To be a person who puts a jukebox in the jungle, or a seashell in the middle of the top of a mountain in the desert…or.. on a desert tortoise I once in golden letters inscribed on his back ‘souvenir of Miami Beach’ and set him off to wander and they are prone to do and he would come upon somebody and crack their brain. I think that that is one of the great services of the cosmic clown, the mystic clown.
You just, the becoming is not like you’re summoned somehow into a great hall with elderly saintly clowns sitting around. It’s just that your heart lights up one day I suspect, and each initiation I suppose is different. Contemporarily it’s very similar to the acid tests in that each initiation is designed and tailor made to the subject and you fall into it, or stumble, trip or pratfall. I don’t know how to explain it better than that.”
Moshe: “What about the Hopi? I went and talked to them a bit. I met a man who was half Hopi and not initiated into a clan and thus willing to talk to me. He told me that everybody in the communtiy clowned, that they would clown four or five ceremonies in their lifetime, that they would just take on that ceremonial role. Do you think that everybody can have sacred clown moments?”
Wavy: “I hope so, but some more so than others
…as the universe desires them to do. I think that the universe, I would be proud to be in the annals of the sacred clowns. I think that Al Franken is a sacred clown of the moment. Patch Adams come to mind for sure, how about your own self from time to time , mmmhuh (nodding at me).”
Moshe: :Well that is what I mean, is it something that you take on or off?”
Wavy: “I don’t think YOU take it on, I think that you get hit in the face with an invisible cream pie, and if you acknowledge it and surrender to it, interesting things will occur.
But the minute you try to hold it and grasp it, like any truth, it just turns to jello. Or as (Paul) Krasner would have it, into silly putty. He’s a sacred clown for sure. And Lenny Bruce was definitely a sacred clown, as was Jonathan Winters. The closer you get to the edge of the edge: the Monty Python as a unit were a flying wedge of sacred clowns. The Committee in its day, Second City for sure, and I think that it’s easier ‘en masse’.”
Moshe: “Have you witnessed street actions of sacred clowns?”
Wavy: “Oh absolutely. I’ve entertained the idea a phalanx of Santa Clauses, but I’ve never actuated, except for my own Santa Claus… I’ve been arrested as Santa Claus, as the Easter Bunny, as a political Sacred Clown also. I got to, in my Santa Claus, or Insanity Claus, atire to give Brian Wilson his new legs on the tracks at Concord. His legs were severed during a protest against the Concord Weapons Station and instead of stopping the train, they decided to speed up and take off his legs. We had some really nice…. fitted him right on the tracks. We sat him down and the leg-fitter guy was in an elf suit and installed his legs. That was one of my great Santa moments. I was also arrested as a big bird, and that ought to be something during the bird flu, we need to come out with a sacred bird to help people make that adjustement. Pretty scary. There is a lot of fear out there and it’s the job, one of the jobs of the sacred clown is to help dissolve fear with laughter.”
Moshe: “It’s hard (being a sacred clown)?”
Wavy: “It’s hard and that is why the daily show is so important, and they do it every day. John Stewart is certainly the “Chez moon” (shaman) in that vector and the people who go to make up that gas-stalt have taken on… the hurricanes and they are right close to the edge of the incident. Usually tragedy plus time equals comedy, but they don’t wait so long; and that’s where the chances are. When you take the chance. when you succeed it’s positively holy and healing.”
Wavy tells a short story about Lenny Bruce…
Wavy: “He stood on the stage at Carnegie Hall and said “Well Von Meter is f***ked”.
Moshe: “Lenny Bruce said that after JFK was killed?”
Wavy: “Von Meter was the guy who made all the money doing JFK impersonations, that’s all, just a couple of lines but….”