One of the most fun things I get to do in the entertainment industry is create new characters or recreate a look of a well know person of history. Whether for myself or a client, I truly love the adventure of designing a new look from wardrobe to makeup. Ultimately one must try and adapt the new look to the actual physical characteristics of the subject.
The idea for this article came from a conversation with the father of one of my friends. He is a Vietnam Vet and does many fundraising events for the American Veterans. He has the desire to do shows in the guise of Red Skelton’s character Freddy the Freeloader and wanted me to help him recreate the makeup. I understand that he is a fan of the character and the look but I encouraged him to make a new look for himself. After all, my friends father worked as Santa Claus for many years, donning the old world look and had real reindeer. I assured him that although Santa is done by many, he truly had his own take on Santa and was quite popular due to the realism of the whole show.
Why not copy someones act?
Dressing up as a superhero or movie character for fun at a costume event or to appear as a celebrity look alike is one thing, but please do not steal the look or material of a fellow entertainer for your profit. For example, watching a comedian at a club and retelling the jokes to some friends the next day is fine and may even encourage them to go see that comic live. However, if you then book yourself as a comic and use the material of another performer, that is wrong. Furthermore, this shows no creativity on your part and does not give you any credibility as a performer. Being influenced by a performer and wanting to mimic the same style is acceptable, this goes on throughout history and creates “pop culture” like the British Music Invasion. I personally am influenced by many of the old silent movie comics; Buster Keaton, Harold Llyod and Charlie Chaplin, my style of physical comedy is an ode to that era of entertainment. That being said, I try not to copy any one act in particular but mold routines of my own from the foundation these comedy greats have set before us.
You’ve got the looks!
When coming up through the clown ranks I had great instructors who encouraged all of the students to study other clown makeup as a guide for our face, yet we were to modify things to make them personal to us. Each clown class (Whiteface, Auguste and Tramp/ Hobo) have guidelines for makeup techniques that help define each look. From these guidelines we can then put our own personal touch to our clown face. I am one who always walks to the beat of a different drummer so I naturally stepped outside the rule books when designing my first clown face. I borrowed some of the Auguste techniques to make my hobo face look very unique. For the most part it is a traditional hobo style but maybe a bit more neat then some. This decision has served me well in my 20 plus years of clowning, many of the comments I receive is that I look quite charming and many kids who normally are afraid of clowns adore my character. Based on theses two things alone, I know my choice to think differently all those years ago was the right one for sure. This is why I like to encourage those starting their journey into clowning to play around with ideas, put on the makeup a few times and see how others react to your design. Often a spectator can give us great advice on a routine or look as they are not emotionally vested in things.
Currently on America’s Got Talent one of the acts “Tape Face” is a judges favorite in the lineup. This comedian has created a new look and style to the very classic genre of mime. Even if you have not seen the act, one certainly would recognize his character without any trouble at all, he quite literally wears tape on his mouth. Personally Tape Face is one of my favorite acts this season.
A mentor will help guide a budding performer whether in acting, comedy, music or clowning. Having a few good seasoned performers in my life helped me grow as a performer. To this day I still run ideas by them because I value their input. If you are influenced by a performer, reach out to them even if just by email, perhaps they would be willing to impart some of their wisdom on to you. We hope this has been a helpful entry in our blog page and please feel free to contact us with questions. I feel this is a topic that we will soon expand upon in the near future.
Happy Clowning everyone!