The reputation of the clown is officially safe.
Yes, folks, peel away the greasepaint and you’ll be staring into pitiful depths of a person who is at once depressed, lost, desperate and aggressive whilst suppressing homosexuality, failure and alcoholism. As per.
The clowns in question were the professional personas of four men, Tommy Tickle, Pirate wotnot, Mr Pumpkin and Velco Violence, or something - the latter retired on account of smacking a kid in the face after he was being… well… a kid - and now resigned to dreadful nursing home gigs in front of splay-legged old dears who still think that nice Mr. Chamberlain is Prime Minister.
His house was a shrine to vaudeville, the dead dreams of the magician whose talents weren’t called for in 21st century England. An old hand, his dying stock of trade lay scattered about him like the twilight of the piss-soaked care home which had become his stage. It was desperate stuff.
Pirate wotnot was a right mess, a ball of confused loneliness who was a blatant disappointment to his aged mother. We were privy to her watching him in action, wearing a face like a butcher’s dustbin - his act was diabolical. Pirate Thingy couldn’t even be pissed to don make up and stood there gurning fatuously and flailing his limbs as if being gassed. The children were indifferent to him; he’d the personality of faded indifferent memory. It was all in the eyes, vast pools of angst and fear that will haunt me to the grave. I reckon he collects kitten-heads.
Mr. Pumpkin was a latent homosexual. He seemed like a nice chap, he spoke to his audience as if he was one of them, his concertina-mouth hidden from view by a headset featuring a microphone the size of a football, he lisped and skipped though his set. He was saved somewhat by the fact the children seemed to genuinely enjoy his act, though to watch it as an adult inspired spine-snapping cringing. Mr. Pumpkin had himself a family which confused me; he referred to his wife of 25 years as Mrs. Pumpkin (I wasn’t expecting him to be married, really) and his kids as Pumpkin One, Two and Three (kids too, blimey) but held a rather, well, gay, infatuation with his ailing mother over and above anything. He missed her cuddles when he was feeling sad. It was awful to watch, a grown man who’d never experienced what it was like to be one. Did I mention he had a family?
Tommy Tickle was genuinely funny. A cross between Keith Allen and Brian Glover, he was possibly the shittest kids’ clown ever to have donned a red nose. He terrified the kids, in some cases reducing them to tears, drunk himself to oblivion every night and punctuated his parlance with curses as blue as the deep proverbial sea.
He too was married with kids, but Tommy Tickle had family problems in the form of a wayward 13 year old daughter who lived with Tommy’s former partner. She had a twinkle in her heavily eyelined eye, was bright and affable but was clearing suffering her teenage years without her dad of whom she was very fond.
We see Tommy sloping about town in his clown-clobber, screaming abuse at traffic from his car with a thunderous roar, leaning outside pubs, inhaling two pints simultaneously, one cider, one lager and occasionally making balloon animals to bewildered children. Of all the acts his was the only one that said ‘clown’ to me and he epitomised the clichés therein but he had genuine comedic talent, just not as a kids’ clown.
This may have had something to do with the way he spoke to them, he didn’t talk down to kids, he didn’t patronise them which is perfectly acceptable when one is being an adult, but dressed as a clown and shouting aggressively with a voice that Lemmy would’ve found hard to out-rasp he became a perfect nightmare, the sort of clowns that visit you in dreams with a flick-knife and an erection.
We left Tommy in a pub with his recently expelled-from-school daughter; speed-drinking beer, discussing her future. They spoke to each other with affection, he taking on the role of ‘dad’ amid large gulps of ale. After he while he suggested clowning as a career and handed her a balloon which she took with a smile.
‘Blow into it with the air from your cheeks, not your lungs’, he advised fondly, she seemed pleased with this prospect, but really she was just happy to be with her dad.
I wish them all the best.