Home » Book Reviews » Be A Clown – the Complete Guide to Instant Clowning

Be A Clown – the Complete Guide to Instant Clowning

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

(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”)

Buy from Amazon.com Paperback – 104 pages

Be A Clown – the Complete Guide to Instant Clowning by Turk PipkinA 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

  • 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 CostumeTurk Pipkin demonstrates the spring loaded hat routine

  • Central 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
  • Index

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


Computer nerd by day, professional clown on evenings and weekends (Raynbow), who combines the two by maintaining a bunch of websites dedicated to the history and performances of clowning, such as Free Clown Skits, and comedy such as Best Clean Funny Jokes.
%d bloggers like this: