Clowning around by oneself can be fun but having others to join in the merriment is pretty awesome too. If you belong to a clown club (alley) then you surely have been able to join forces with other clowns to perform skits or just entertain a crowd at a local gathering. For spectators it can be a real treat to see the variety of clowns with different looks, talents and personalities. Taking this idea into a professional act can be a whole new ball game opposed to clowning as a group in your club for fun. Clowns in a circus act know the importance of team effort to ensure a great show for the crowd. Many personalities must come together and agree on skits and routines, which sometimes can be difficult. We are going to be a little more specific in this article and talk about a 2-person act by sharing a little inside scoop from the Tippy and Rustopher show.
We gave a little history of these two clowns in the article “Clowning around from the pros”, so we pick up our story there.
Dan aka Tippy had been working as a solo act and also as a team with his pal Doo Dah for some years, even teaching a clown class with his friend. Doo Dah retired from the clowning business and Tippy continued working a solo career. Tippy as a character was developed over the years and is a very class act, white face clown who’s skill set include magic, juggling, balloon twisting and Master of Ceremonies. At over 6′ tall Tippy is not one to get lost in a crowd, his charm and quick wit delight people of all ages.
Russ aka Rustopher mostly worked solo prior to meeting Tippy but did team up with friends on occasion. Rustpoher is a happy hobo and defiantly a character all his own. The persona of an overgrown child is evident as he performs his magic, silly stunts and tells goofy stories of his child hood as he twists a balloon animal. With his love for making people laugh, Rustopher wins the hearts of his audience.
How they met.
Tippy and Rustpoher met one year during a National Clown week event and immediately hit it off. With similar styles of humor and a desire to always be professional, even at a free event, these two made fast friends. Dan had recently re joined the local clown alley, which was hosting this event, and Rustopher had friends in this same club who had invited him along to have some fun. A few months down the road Rustopher was again invited to another club event, this time he and Tippy started playing off of each other and things really started to click.
Building a show.
Realizing the similarities in their shows, these two decided to combine acts at the next club function and see how it would go. The show went great and even members of the clown club swore if they didn’t know better they would think Tippy and Rustopher had worked together for years. Dan and I both feel blessed to have found such a great partner but also know we had to work hard in creating a professional act and not rely on dumb luck. Dan being the white face was naturally the boss and Russ the hobo would be the comic foil. This is a formula used by successful comic teams such as; Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Burns and Allen just to name a few. This idea helped start the team off in the right direction.
Re defining the characters.
Tippy and Rustopher already had a life of their own and now must blend these two personalities on stage. Tippy would often refer to his days with his pal Doo Dah that fit into the story line of a magic trick. While watching a performance, Dan’s wife picked up on this and mentioned it might be time Doo Dah’s name be left out of the new act. Listening to family and friends can be a great way to improve ones act as the performer can sometimes be too close to the bit to see the flaws. Not wanting to loose these valuable story lines, Dan and Russ quickly whipped up a character of their own, named Uncle Boffo. Uncle Boffo taught Tippy and Rustpoher magic and often loans them props and has become fodder for ridiculous family stories. Uncle Boffo is only referenced and does not exist in the stage show…. yet. Having the same uncle, the team realized another change was necessary; they must some how be related. Their onstage presence is reminiscent of Wally and the Beav from the Leave it to Beaver show, so making the two brothers seemed only natural. Mama Tippy is also referenced in their act, which is a nod to all mothers with ridiculous sons. This new format to the show allows constant growth and a wealth of story lines based on family history. Often times the names of family members mentioned in their show are names of their real clown friends.
Having similar skills and level of expertise is helpful in building routines in the show, the challenge lies more in keeping true to the clown character traits, the white face being the straight man and the hobo the buffoon. Both Dan and Russ want the audience to have a fun, magical experience as they spend time with Tippy and Rustopher therefore writing routines to showcase both personas takes a great deal of respect for each other and checking egos at the door. We both get our time to shine, Tippy comes off polished and well rehearsed in his magic despite Rustophers’ bumbling nature to muck things up and Rustopher loves to hear the howls of laughter at his horseplay. With both creators starting out as magicians, the audience is treated to high quality magic and some illusions often disguised in an ordinary looking every day item like a paper bag. Many hours are spent on dialogue, back-stories and how to take an old joke and make it new again. Writing comedy is actually very hard; things are often funnier in thought than when acted out. A joke, funny skit or routine sometimes takes months to hone before it is ready for the stage. The magic in the Tippy and Rustopher show may seem easy but actually is a result of many hours of practice to get it down until it appears second nature. Even with all the practice things can go wrong but keeping a level head and being good at improv, Dan and Russ pull through even the toughest of goofs. One thing that separates pros from amateurs is the ability to rise above the mistakes and come out looking good on the other side. We often joke that while some people are finding a cure for cancer we are finding new ways to make something into a clown gag.
All the hard work, hours of planning and scribbling ideas on restaurant napkins is realized with the laughs and applause of the audience. Having a professional show didn’t happen overnight and to stay on top of our game we know the hard work will continue if we want to give people a show to remember. We hope to not only make audiences happy but to share our knowledge with others who love the art of clowning. This clown duo have even teamed up to teach clown classes, hold workshops for magic and clowning conventions and now are happy to share their experience here at Clown Antics in the hopes others will benefit.
Thanks for staying tuned and we’ll see ya real soon!
Tippy and Rustopher.