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Clown tutorial – balloon twisting, part 3

Clown tutorial – balloon twisting, part 3

Welcome back!  Hopefully, by this time you’ve had an opportunity to purchase some balloons (260Q), purchase a pump, and inflate some balloons, and try twisting a simple dog. Now we’re going to add to your repertoire.

There’s an old joke about a clown who boasts, “I can twist  over 100 balloon animals!” only to have his partner deflate his ego with the response, “Yes, and they’re all dogs.” There’s a grain of truth  in that old joke. For instance, if you take the basic dog that we did  last time, and shorten the ears, and lengthen the neck, and instead of a dog, you have a  horse! Make the neck even longer, and use a Sharpie marker to add spots, and you have a  giraffe. Instead of a dog, inflate the balloon only half as long, and make very short (1 inch) legs, and a very short (2-3 inch) body, and you have a  mouse. Make a mouse with a long (inflated) tail, and it’s a  squirrel. Hopefully, you get the picture.

Before moving on, there are a few pieces of advice I’d like to pass on. First,  always “burp” your balloons. What’s that? After each twist, squeeze the remaining length of balloon to push the air further into the tail, inflating it (and releasing pressure on the next spot). This makes the balloon less tight, and less liable to pop.

When they do pop, how do you handle that? In a  funny, clownish way, of course! For instance, one of my favorite moments from Clown Camp 1998 was when Hooligan was making a balloon hat for Murf the Surf (love that name) as part of a skit — the balloon pops in the middle of the routine! How did  Hooligan handle it? In a calm, matter-of-fact voice, he declares “We’ll just have to make another hat now, won’t we?” and keeps on twisting. I’ve done various things when a balloon popped, such as acting as though I’d been shot, looking around for the source of that strange, loud sound, blaming it on a flock of very fast, low-flying geese with very sharp beaks, looking at the child and explaining that it’s pop art (a joke that the child rarely gets, but that the parent accompanying normally groans at), etc.

Now, there are a lot of other animals to make.  My favorite 1-balloon creation is actually a parrot on a swing (which doesn’t look like a dog at all, and uses different techniques to create it). There are multiple balloon creations. There are other techniques, such as roll-throughs and ear twists, which you can use to make bears, and cats, and birds oh my!

For us to adequately cover all of these things will take dozens of articles.  Which we’re not going to do right now. Bear in mind that this series is meant as an overview. For more in depth, I strongly recommend the book Captain Visual’s Big Book of Balloon Art, and the BalloonHQ.com web sites. Both are worth their weight in gold to balloon twisters (how do you weigh a web site? very carefully). Perhaps in the future we can re-visit this topic in depth.

Next time, we’ll start looking at the basics of sleight of hand (magic!), and see how clown magic differs from “magician” magic. See you then!

Bibliography for  twisting balloon animals


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.

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