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 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.
    • Trick or Treat
      • Silent Clowns
      • Talking Clowns
    • 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
        • Suited to You
        • Spring-loaded Hat Trick
      • 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

      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.

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