Clown – Failure

"For a clown, failure is a possibility. A clown’s life is all about tuning the flop into a top"

Clown history

It is not easy to identify the exact historical evolution of the clown. There exist many similar characters in several different traditions, one of which is the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte tradition from the 16th century.

The role of the clown, as was that of the jester, has often been to turn a mirror on power and humanity and this role has been considered sacred in several cultures. The circus clown presumably emerged around the year 1800 as a character whose purpose was to fill the intervals between different acts of vaulting – the dominant circus skill at the time. Soon thereafter, the clown began to develop independently into characters such as the white clown and Auguste. Since its appearance the clown discipline has expanded and in contemporary circus, you rarely see the traditional clown with his red nose.

Something called the » modern clown » has emerged through the work of different clown masters and their schools, and is now fully integrated into contemporary circus and in the stage training of circus education. One tendency is to work with a grotesque form of humour with a concentration on social criticism.

Here, the focus is not slapstick and performing tricks, but to shine a spotlight on social vulnerabilities and the many things we are not allowed to do according to the norms that govern society. Another tendency in contemporary circus is to show the person behind the extreme performer. This is often done through the aesthetics of the clown and his attitude towards failure and success. A typical example exists in the work of Cirque Petit where » anti-tricks » are used. These stunts are not arduous in reality, but they are performed and presented as the most difficult and fantastic tricks in the world.

Excerpt from "Inside a Circus Heart"

It is a success! I casually notice. I cannot enjoy it. Behind every success, a letdown awaits I know it. It is always like that. Better not to get too excited, or the fall will be too great. And fall you do. Better be prepared to handle it.

The clown sees my strained expression in the midst of everyone celebrating. He stands in front of me with a look so hard to decipher.

Are you waiting for the fall again ? Why don’t you turn it around like I do ? For us clowns, even failure is a possible triumph . The success of a clown depends on being able to turn a flop into a top.

Then he is gone. I am left standing and slowly start to unwind my life filled with one failure after another. It hurts to have to remind myself of all the clumsy and stupid situations I have gotten myself into. But when I straighten out the tangles I slowly see a pattern… That failure there led me to rethink things and forced me to change directions. And that in turn led me to
choose a whole new path, which proved to be the best imaginable.

In retrospect, every knot, which I have experienced as a cruel defeat at the time it occurred, now proves to have led to success, or at least to a new opening. From now on I will cherish every flop and look for success in it. Miss Fortune!