Psychosomatic Sad Clown Syndrome?

one of my blog posts that is just notes really, typed spare thoughts (and possible repetitions from previous blog posts) – Yup, I do the hard sell.

Are comedians misanthropes, miserablists or depressives anymore than other occupations? Since the suicide of Robin Williams, I have been mulling over that popular image of the clowns weeping off their stage make up, the echo of the laughter of the crowd still bouncing about the canvas as they sink into silence, or booze, or both.

Is this a portrait that an audience enjoy imagining, a punishment for the people who dare to make people laugh. Does envy make some keen to presume misery is the essence of a stand up. There is the much told tale of a clown visiting a doctor in the hope of having something prescribed for their misery, and being told they should go and see Grimaldi, the punchline is, “but doctor, I am Grimaldi”. Oh, the desperate romance of the laughmaker who cannot laugh.

There is a draw in being seen to be bleak, it can add depth. Life is absurd, and it’s finite, what is the point of being happy? Constantly, being drawn to the bleak side can be alluring, just as poets may be drawn to drink in the hope that the intoxication may make them rhyme like Dylan Thomas, or the music journalist is drawn to hard drugs and jacuzzis in the belief it will release the Hunter S Thompson that lies tethered within.

Most stand ups I hang around with are, if not normal by the standards of being suitably, commutingly, nightclubby normal, normal-ish. There may be an exaggeration in their moods, but that comes from the extremes of the “working” day and night. I have to put working in inverted commas as, if you really deem that stand up is work like work is for many people who actually work, you are doing it wrongly or shouldn’t be doing it at all. It may be a grind at times, it may even be a bore, but it should not be a clock in, when will the day end so I can have fun scenario that others face. It shouldn’t have the same possibility of groundhog day repetition or quite the same loops of squabbles and feuds over correct use of personal mugs.

There are a few who are in therapy, some drink a bit, many are in states of childhood even beyond middle age, but who isn’t now, we live in an age of toys. It is the exaggeration of moods that can make diary entries, twitter updates, blog posts, seem like nervous breakdowns when they can often just be that extreme reaction to a sudden moment of audience judgement or failure to elucidate an idea on stage how you had imagined it.

Many comedians are in psychoanalysis, but they are doing it themselves, sat by the automated toilet on a bustling, crisp fragrant, Virgin train. We need to try be interesting to interest people, so maybe the scab picking is a little overzealous. If you don’t make it bleed, maybe you won’t find the routine that lies within. (urgh, that image is unpleasant, sorry)

Each experience has to be squeezed and pinched for potential use on stage. The comic knows something has gone awry when life is occurring and you have become so disengaged from it that you no longer have enough interest in it to try and turn it into your work. When my flat flooded with sewage, my second thought was, so how does this become something to say to an audience? “Is it a one liner, a routine, or a full length show?”, he wondered aloud, as the water board attempted to claim that shit covering the floor and walls was rain water. You know, that shitty rain with toilet paper in that sometimes falls in Autumn. John Kettley used to warn you about.

I am not sure what personality flaw is required to desire the approbation of strangers nightly.

Tony Hancock is the great doomed Grimaldi of the post war period. His appearance on Face to Face and morose nature is still picked over now, but I remember Galton and Simpson, his great writers, saying their main memory was of the way he would roll around on the floor, laughing at his favourite jokes in the script.

As I wrote before, I think stand up is the disease and the cure. Perish the thought, but we may be less fascinating than we had hoped. For many afflicted with depression, there is not the ironic counterpoint that they make people laugh in theatres.

The stand up bit is easy, it is the rest of the day, the bits that aren’t about stand up, writing or general showing off that are tricky. It is the humdrum and necessary human bits that make things really difficult. Sometimes it is easier to do a routine about opening milk than it is to open milk. (I have no idea why I wrote that, I have little difficulty opening milk and have never had a routine about it).

Sometimes, it is easier to perform a routine about the problems of existing than it is to exist… (that will do it, bit pretentious maybe…END)

I am off around the UK and beyond for Autumn and Winter tour – London, Manchester, Nottingham, Belfast, Aldershot, Dublin, Cardiff and on and on. Norway soon, US and Australia dates for 2015 should be up soon. Dates etc HERE

New 3 hour DVD HERE

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3 Responses to Psychosomatic Sad Clown Syndrome?

  1. Reblogged this on Chris Purchase – Comedian, Friend, Lover, Legend and commented:
    I’ve been trying to write a post like this and Mr Ince has articulated it perfectly

  2. liliannberg says:

    A stand-up isn’t really a clown, Robin. A clown rarely speak, hides behind a silly mask and does stupid things. People laugh at him because he’s a bumbling idiot, which he isn’t of course, Stand-ups don’t have to behave like idiots to get a laugh, they can be smart and informative. What they have in common with clowns is the need to make people laugh. That’s hard work. What’s worse, fans expect stand-ups to be hilarious off stage as well, no one expects that from a clown. Still, as you said so wisely – “stand up is the disease and the cure”, though no prophylactic against depression. And that’s no laughing matter.

  3. Gerry Kinsella says:

    I have suffered depression throughout my adult life (and I don’t mean feeling sad) and yet apparently I am the funniest man ever to have lived. You can’t look at me without smiling and every time I meet anyone new it’s only a matter of time before they start telling me to be a stand up. ‘ No mate, seriously I see stand up all the time and you are pissing over all that shit, seriously you HAVE to do it.’ Of course one would never demean oneself in such a manor but I do think humour has a lot to do with truth and sometimes the outsider can see into the crowd a little clearer.

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