The wonders of the internet! I am always amazed at the simple things in life and how technology has enabled us to talk and record conversations and interviews with people all over the world. Today I was talking to and did a great interview with clown/teacher/author Joe Dieffenbacher who resides in Oxford, UK. His professional work as a clown spans over 3 decades and he has taught at some very prestigious schools as well. His new book “Clown ~ The Physical Comedian” is a great textbook for working on a clown show.
Like many older performers, Hall ran away to join the circus.
Correction: “I didn’t run away to join the circus,” Hall said. “I walked two miles to the circus.”
That was 70-something years ago.
Hall first saw the Ringling circus in 1948. He was 17 years old, managing a sideshow of human oddities with the likes of the Armless Girl, the Boy with Three Legs, Priscilla the Monkey Girl and her husband Emmett the Alligator-Skinned Man.
And then in 1959, a letter came from Ringling. Hall said he’s proud of the work he got to do for the “Greatest Show on Earth” in the 1960s.
“It was the last big big sideshow that was ever done anywhere,” Hall said.
When asked if he could get in touch with his fellow Ringling performers of yesteryear, Ward Hall says it’s about 40 years too late.
“The sword swallower is gone, the bearded lady that we had there — she’s gone,” he said. “The giant, Eddie Carmel is gone, Ward Hall — he’s almost alive, but not really,” he said with a laugh.
There’s a white wrought iron archway that reads “International Independent Showmen’s Garden of Memories.”
It’s where Ward Hall has a plot to be buried. It’s where a lot of his friends and colleagues, some of whom worked with him at Ringling, are buried as well. You won’t find them under their stage names. You’ll find them under their real names.
Hall said that unlike him and his friends, Ringling won’t die.
“I don’t have any idea what it might be, but somebody, somewhere, sometime is going to revive that title,” Hall said.
Herman Ootics, the Clown: History, Culture, and Clowning
A Lecture by David Carlyon
Thursday, January 10 6 pm
BGC, 38 West 86th Street
The whimsical reference to hermeneutics in this program title is itself no whimsy. Instead, it introduces a challenge to cozy cultural narratives about “the clown.” The various and intrinsically related cliché—clown as kiddy favorite, sad clown, happy clown, scary clown, and that academic pet, the trickster—have little to do with the work of a comedic performer. In this lecture, David Carlyon will dig into those faith-based clichés to examine how clown and culture influence each other.
David Carlyon was a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus clown, after the Army and Berkeley Law School and before acting in New York and acquiring a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He has published scholarly work on performance, 19th-century culture and politics, and Shakespeare. He wrote the award-winning Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard Of, and is on the Speakers Bureau of the New York Council for the Humanities
Ambrose Martos has performed standup, clown, improv, sketch and dance around New York City and the world. He was a finalist in the BBC Open Mic competition at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival and once had his roller skating disco act described as “brave comedy” by ABC’s Diane Sawyer. Ambrose is a regular host and performer at New York City’s best vaudeville reviews and has performed on the largest cruise ship in the world for Royal Caribbean. Ambrose plays the lead role in the indie film Lutoski Fish Sticks. He is a 1997 graduate of Clown College, a member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit and part of the comedy trio Happy Hour.
Part 2 – Interview with Hovey Burgess by Jim Moore from Jim Moore.
Here is Part 2 of an interview I did with circus historian, book collector, teacher, juggler Hovey Burgess. Hovey Burgess literally wrote the book on Circus Techniques (1976) which is still in print. Carlo Mazzone-Clementi considered Hovey his colleague working with him at New York University and American Conservatory Theatre and spending endless days and night exploring Commedia Dell’Arte. He has taught at some of the finest professional conservatory programs in theatre. He taught at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, Ultimate Clown School, Dell’Arte, and is a forty year veteran of New York University where he first introduced the concept of Circus Arts in the theater curriculum, an idea which quickly spread to theaters programs across America. He also taught at The Juilliard School, American Conservatory Theatre, Sarah Lawrence College, National Theatre for the Deaf, National Theatre School of Canada, and the Israeli National Theatre for Youth. Hovey was circus choreographer for the motion picture Popeye (1980) staring his former Juilliard student Robin Williams.