Be A Clown! – The Complete Guide to Instant Clowning by Turk Pipkin

Book Reviews – Be A Clown! – The Complete Guide to Instant Clowning by Turk Pipkin, Walt Chrynwski, Chris Reed

Be a Clown - the Complete Guide by Turk Pipkin(Editor’s note: this book should not be confused with the children’s book “Be A Clown” nor Mark Stolzenberg’s Be A Clown, and has no relation to Cole Porter’s classic song “Be A Clown”)

Paperback – 104 pages

A very nice book – light and lively, easily read, many photos, with a good insight into the mind & heart of a clown. This lively, humorous handbook covers all aspects of clownmanship, including makeup, funny faces, costume (including inexpensive clown-size shoes), and props (including a favorite Red Skelton routine, the Bouncing Hankie). Encourages the reader to create a clown persona with many photos and suggestions. Several getting-started routines are included. Develop your own oddball walk, swallow chair legs — you’ll always have a stunt up your sleeve. Written by the towering Turk Pipkin, a 6′ 7″ professional clown.

Includes plastic clown nose (OK for starting, but you’ll want to get a “real” nose). The more I read it, the more I like it.

Table of Contents for Be A Clown! The Complete Guide to Instant Clowning

Introduction: Step Right Up

A very good introduction to the book, and to clowning in general. Italicized entries are sidebars or pull-outs, discussing something of interest, typically a clown bit, skit, or piece of advice — in this instance, the classic balancing a (ping pong ball, feather, cup, etc.) on your clown nose.

  • Who Am I?
  • Balance a Ping Pong Ball on Your Nose
  • The Heart of a Clown
  • Five Great Clown Handshakes

Ring One: Get Ready

To Speak or Not To Speak

Will your clown speak, or be silent? Discussing the pros and cons of each, as well as non-verbal communication, which is vital for both styles of clowning. As an aside, I love the Flea Circus skit! You can see a version of that on film in Charlie Chaplin‘s Limelight.

  • Talking Clowns
  • Silent Clowns
  • Trick or Treat
  • A Flea Circus

Your Clown Costume

Turk Pipkin doing the spring-loaded hatCentral to your clown character, discussing your costume. He begins with hats, which many clowns use — but as he says in Suited to You, if it doesn’t fit your character, don’t use it! You can see the Spring-loaded Hat Trick to the right. He also discusses some inexpensive (and creative) ways to get some clown shoes that match your character.

  • Start at the Top: Clown Hats
  • Spring-loaded Hat Trick
  • Suited to You
  • If the Shoe Fits… Don’t Wear it!

The First Steps

Something overlooked by a lot of introductory clowning books is the walk, or posture, of a clown. Remember Groucho Marx? You should. Remember the distinctive walk of Carol Burnett’s ‘Mrs. H-Whiggins’?

  • Your Own Walk
  • Famous Clown Walks

Make-Up: Creating a Unique Face

Using a minimalist, everyman style of make-up. If that works for you, wonderful! If not, feel free to consult a different book, such as Strutter’s Complete Guide to Clown Make-Up.

  • What Will Your New Face Look Like?
  • Make-Up Tips

Clown props

  • Special Delivery
  • The Bouncing Apple
  • The Bouncing Hankie
  • In a Classy Joint

Think Like a Clown

The essential part of clowning — how to think like a clown.

  • Make ‘Em Laugh
  • Running Gags

Ring Two: Get Set

Clown Skills

A very basic introduction to some of the better-known skills your clown might use, but covering the basics. And the classic Boxing Sketch does a good job of demonstrating how to do slapstick safely and properly.

  • Balancing
  • Juggling
  • Slap, Slap, slapstick
  • A Clown Class: The Boxing Sketch
  • Anywhere

Satire and Parody

  • The Clown Marksman
  • The Clown Magician
  • The Sword Swallower

Clowning With Kids

  • Hey Kids! Shaking hands
  • Balloon Animals
  • Who’s There? (Following in your Footsteps)
  • Afghan Bands: The Story of the Circus Belts
  • A Stunt That Wows!
  • At a Party

Audience Participation

I have to admit, I’m a big fan of audience participation sketches. And a much bigger fan of the Parade of Elephants after seeing it done live at Clown Camp 1998 by Brenda Ahern — it works, and it’s hilarious!

  • The Parade of Elephants
  • The World’s Strongest Clown

The Sideshow

  • Around the Circus
  • More Classic Clown Turns
  • Circus Lingo

Ring Three: Go!

  • Once a Clown
  • Putting It All Together
  • Kiss You! I Hardly Know You!

Appendix: Sweeping Up The Sawdust

Where To Now?

  • Schools for Clowns
  • Equipment and Information


I rate it 4 clowns clownclownclownclown  on a 5-clown scale.


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