Category Archives: TESC
The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, USA – Justin Graduated with a BA in 1996 with an emphasis on the Expressive Arts (Performance and Production)
I got a call around 11 AM from California. A mom’s travel plans had fallen through, so she was looking to surprise her son with a pie-in-the-face delivery that evening. She used to plan elaborate theme parties for him, so when he had heard the news he remarked, “You’re not coming? What, no clown either?”.
Quickly google-ing, she found a clown offering “a twist” on traditional birthday clown services: C’est Moi!
Jonathan is turning 23. He’s a senior at Evergreen, my alma mater. He’s the proud father of a 6 week old. I asked him, “Is it too early to ask what you’re doing next?”
“Graduate school,” he answered without hesitation.
“Well, there is one economical alternative in post-baccalaureate certification I can recommend: the food handlers’ permit!” (said while donning fingerless dishwashing gloves)
His mom originally scheduled me for a 6:30 delivery, but pushed it back until after 7.. which coincidentally had me arrive during the middle of another epic hailstorm.
As the 6th month approached I realized that I had some hot gigs on the burner, so I put off my recap until after the April Fool’s service. Then I waited until I had something to report about the Spring Break Clown Camp… Pretty soon it was Summer Clown Camp, and then it was National Clown Week. That’s when I found out that all of her sites had been hacked and she was not able to do the follow-up article after all.
Now it’s been 14 months since the first article. Here are the updates I was going to share with Becky Cortino.
In “Launch”, Michael Stelzner emphasized the power and necessity of collaboration, and his examples and suggestions helped me focus on a better collaboration strategy. Per the suggestions in “Launch”, I have continued to seek out and involve Other Great People and “exchanging offerings” with them. Notably, I actively recruited successful peers and industry experts to visit the local clown alley, the Red Nose Brigade. I convinced Guinness World Record Winner, Alex “the Zaniac” Zerbe, to give a skill share workshop. He later called me needing a pie-in-the-face consultation for a regional library promo video he was shooting.
Each year around Halloween I spend time working with the scary clown stereotype instead of against it. I did three consecutive years at the Tumwater Halloween House. On the third year the owner also accepted a pie-in-the-face, and I inaugurated a scarier look complete with prosthetic teeth.
In 2011, I negotiated with several non-profits for an 11 night run as a scary clown in a Haunted Firehouse. In addition to cash and logo placement on the flier, one perk was a pair of season tickets to a local theater.
I sponsored a successful 10 week “First of May” internship with an Evergreen State College student, who studied clowning through a Marxist feminist lens. This gave me a chance to reflect on suitable reading and viewing lists. Books included: “Pie any means necessary” (the Biotic Baking Brigade), “Clown Girl” (Drake), and “the Death of Ben Linder” (Kruckewitt). I shared videos ranging from Danny Kaye in “The Court Jester” to Chaplin’s “the Circus” to the inner city Krumpin’ Clowns of “Rize” and the spacey clowns of Cirque du Soleil. She accompanied me on a variety of gigs: a parade, a birthday, a drive-by pieing, several workshops and spring break clown camp. I introduced her to a half-dozen members of the local clown community, and she interviewed them for a wider perspective on the craft.
My Laughter Yoga practice has also grown beyond the free weekly club meeting at the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation (OUUC). A PE teacher from Elma hired me to give a lecture-demo for her school’s staff meeting, and the Olympia Occupy Solidarity Social Forum invited me to give two workshops.
Since April Fool’s fell on a Sunday this year, I coordinated with the minister, worship arts committee, and eight clown confederates on a church service around the theme of “How Humor Serves the Soul”. I led a Laughter Greeting & Laughter Meditation portion.
Several Sundays later I led a church service at the OUUC on the topic of “Laughter: opens minds, fills hearts, and transforms lives” partnered with another Certified Laughter Yoga Leader. We made the connection between the church’s mission statement and the use of laughter as a tool to achieve those goals. After the service I was approached by a man from a smaller church to the south. They don’t currently have a minister and they share the responsibility for a weekly message. His official title may be President of the Board, but he was actually also a talent scout. He offered to hire me to do a service for them.
I was the “2011 Best of Olympia” Staff Pick in Tacoma’s Weekly Volcano for “Best Pie (in the face)”.
I also got good publicity by offering a free class in “Esoteric Red Nose Clowning” at Waves, a local dance studio, as part of their Community Event Nights. A reporter from Olympia Power & Light attended, and his article made the front page.
I hosted a spring and a summer Clown Camp. I taught a total of eleven students, and I was able to bring in five additional part-time counselors. The larger success, however, wasn’t the number of students who actually enrolled, but the scope of the advertising I was able to achieve by partnering with the Parks & Recreation department. They published several photos with the camp description in their catalog that went to thousands and thousands of locations. The school districts allowed me to send fliers home to students because the parks department is a non-profit organization. After the spring camp I decided to upgrade my flier and made a deal with local illustrator, Chelsea Baker. She stays busy drawing a 4 panel comic every day. It was the best advertising investment I’ve ever made.
It was my 3rd year pieing at Festival of Purim and 2nd with a large entourage of clowns. The rabbi was on sabbatical, but I’ve already pied him twice. This year I stayed for the whole megillah.
It’s come down to a “Go Big or Go Home” mentality. Technically, it’s a “Go Big and THEN Go Home” thing. If other clowns sometimes offer a 2nd clown, I like to offer half a dozen. I like to arrange a multi-clown team to accommodate the balloons, Laughter Yoga, singing, dancing, and piñata bashing. Clown OVERKILL is really my favorite thing. It’s especially efficient when we’re doing one-on-one activities like face painting and balloon twisting.
Some clowns work in pairs. I like to roll about 5 deep whenever possible. I keep a clown in every corner and one in center stage. Guess who gets center stage.
I was flattered when Ned Hayes asked me to provide some professional face painting to support Kids at Play during Sunday’s Sand in the City. It also provided another opportunity for intern “Crystal” to shine.
In email exchanges before the event, I quickly found out that an emergency comedy consultation was in order. They let me know they were providing two palettes of Diamond FX 12 Essentials with four #2 & four #4 brushes. It’s the same palette I use. However, the Hands On Children’s Museum (who sponsors the event) had suggested that painters be prepared for 2500 faces over the course of 7 hours! [uh… six faces a minute?!]
I would get way more brushes of varying sizes and shapes. And sponges. And baby-wipes. Just saying.
Especially if you let kids say ‘Tiger’ you need to get a square foot of orange (for example) up in a hurry.
Sidebar: if the paints are not depleted I might suggest you trade those for (a portion of?) the labor of my assistants. Those clowns have been using my paint!
Luckily, it made sense to them, and we had enough paints AND brushes to cover many many faces. Of course, we didn’t serve anywhere near the estimate. In the end, I was able to bequeath my used palette to Crystal and accept a brand new & unopened one as a perk.
“Justin is the consummate professional clown. He loves his work — and it shows! He knows his way around kids, makeup, crowd control, and parents. What I love most about working with Justin is that he strives to create a complete atmosphere of fun — with pies, music, professional props, and all the accouterments. Justin is great to work with — and I highly recommend him to anyone who wants to have a GOOD TIME !!!” Ned Hayes
Then I rushed home to get into clown and gather supplies [pies, Coke & Mentos, and water balloons]. I had a previously booked party for that evening. The client had called Marie from Sustainable South Sound asking whether I would extend my coupon from last year. She was especially excited when I further offered to bring Crystal as a Buy One Get One special.
This is “Crystal”, my First of May Clown intern. Because I first discovered my clown at Evergreen, it has long seemed a natural move to become a clowning mentor for other greeners. So I decided to offer to sponsor either an internship or (as in my experience) an individual learning contract.
http://www.evergreen.edu/individualstudy/internshipinformation.htm < Find or List an Internship Here
I posted a position on Wednesday, August 9th. On Friday, August 12 I got a response:
This is your future employette, MBC.
I have a deep respect for clowning and particularly the history of clowning, as archival research and humorous entertainment are my most developed passions. I live in Olympia Washington and I am ready and willing to work to help you ensure the success of your clowning empire. I am attending a second year at Evergreen starting in late September.I will gladly send you a resume once I am on a computer that contain’s that coveted file. Please let me know if this position is already filled so that I may devise a plan to usurp the throne. I have studied clowning for three years at Wavy Gravy’s summertime circus Camp Winnarainbow in Laytonville California.
We met on the 16th and she worked her first gig on the 21st. We did a five hour face painting gig for the Love Our Local Fest: Northeast Neighborhood Block Party, and I soon found that she possesses mad skillz with paint and brushes.
By the 29th of August I had a 2nd potential intern contacting me. However, we soon discovered that unless the position was a full-time paid position she couldn’t pursue it.
I look forward to the day when I have more than enough work to cover all my expenses and can afford that kind of intern!
I immediately rewrote the internship description to clarify:
Assist the clown at parties and other events. Support the clown archives: written/ photo/ video documentation.
Position is on-call. No guaranteed monthly wages. Each meal is a banquet, every paycheck a fortune.
This is a hands-on, work-related learning experience. It is not a job-job. Opportunities for compensation will be handled with a fair mix of Show & Business.
Undecided about a costume for my premiere/finale as a Lincoln Elementary employee, I looked for some inspiration on the Camp Thunderbird info sheet. It said: “Water is Off Limits” and that resonated with the global angst about the BP-Gulf of Mexico Disaster, so I dressed in hip waders and brought my blue buckets.
On the way up 101 we heard on KAOS that the annual Evergreen Mud Run was scheduled to begin and precisely that moment, so I pulled over and made like a clown going for a stroll on the beach… perplexed, intrigued and astonished to find nekkid ppl running across the mud flats.
Two pics by Laura Killian. The rest of her FLICKR set> http://www.flickr.com/photos/tricyrtis_hirta/collections/72157624134769015/
A couple of pics by Trish>
“There’s some dirty hippies takin’ a hippy mud bath before they gotta gradjamacate today!”
“Is that a Gooey Duck or are you just happy to see me?”
Then we drove to Camp Thunderbird. I made myself useful at the “Circus, Circus” activity station. I had been led to believe that I was expected, that students would learn to walk on stilts, make their own juggling balls, and practice other skills like slack rope walking. There were stilts there. They had decided against the balloon+sand bag juggling ball construction portion of the circus for ecological+logistical reasons. I’d brung my rubber squirting fish in the bucket and gave tutorials with those. I also assisted with stilt fitting and walking and encouraged one girl to add hula hooping to her stilt walking. She could do it for almost half a minute!
A couple more pics by Trish>
I joined the talent show too late to get a hula hoop, so I faked it.
When they provided one I continued to fake it!
Photo by Julie Montgomery of me during Juggling practice with Eloise.
I had ANOTHER new look for the job at the EF school! I picked up this Referee’s shirt at Goodwill during soccer season, and I had intended to take it to Nita to make it more clowny. All it really needed was an assortment of buttons, a wet bandanna, a stopwatch, and an extra loud sport’s whistle! I’m not opposed to having some additional fringe or bells or whatnot added, but it’s not a gotta.
Also I was concerned about the near 100 degree heat. Notice the thermometer in the background. This was an authentic ref’s shirt that features a plastic lining that causes my perspiration to remain a coolant instead of soaking into the fabric. It’s a most curious feeling, however, to be dry on the outside and swimming on the inside. I recommend this type of shirt to any clown who works in the heat of summer, be it parade or outdoor festival or backyard birthday. The ref’s shirt especially conveys some special authority with which you can TELL PEOPLE WHAT TO DO! And they DO IT!
Which almost brings me to the pie-fest portion… first I did an abbreviated indoor show on the stage of the Lecture Hall, featuring an assortment of my usual tricks but also introducing my new baby Orangutan puppet for a mini-lesson on the Indonesian language. [Orang-Utan means Person of the Jungle. Orang-Utang means Person in Debt. “Like You” sayeth the puppet] All those who had signed the waiver were called up on stage and made to perform as a human machine. Then we sat them down and showed them the Pie Delivery page of my website on the big screen.
Okay, let’s go outside for your prize. Hmmm. Many had changed their minds, or realized that they should not sign anything in this country without reading it first.
But a few brave souls stood up and took what was offered.
Then the idea caught on as they wanted to be in charge of the pie-ings.
I still got to do a few…
Actually, no I didn’t personally deliver another pie that day. I just had to stay out of their way and shout out cautions like:
“Be kind! Don’t hurt anyone! Have fun… and LAUGH!”
When my cooler was completely empty and all my paper towels were gone, approximately 20 more faces had been pied. I will take credit for administering and supervising all faces that get pied during my visits even if I did not personally deliver the pies. I think that’s fair. The law would probably hold me responsible.
Some pied peeps didn’t pose for the pic, but I feel secure in claiming the new total to be approximately 210 pied faces (up from 193).
Here’s another one from Fall Arts Walk ’08 I just found on flickr ~
by Ruby ReUseable
It was actually raining outside. I pied one face and called it good.
I had on my foul weather green mock-turtleneck instead of the usual polka-dotted shirt.
While we’re at it…
Here’s an interesting one I got from Miriam Khan. I’m showing EF Students how to twist a balloon doggie in a Lecture Hall at Evergreen.
I don’t have much documentation of that parachute! I wish I had the one where she got pied!
Speaking of pies… I waited almost a year until this guy from the Fremont Solstice festival found me on facebook through our mutual friend, David Raffin, who wrote all those wonderful clown stories.
I’m wearing a mushroom beret that Janeane made.
Thanks for e-mailing this phone camera video!
Audience support helps keep the media flowing.
Any photos or videos you send are good for discounts on future services.
Thanks to Miriam Kahn I got to be the Special Guest at the Olympia EF School on the Evergreen State College Campus.
I worked up some new material for American Games including the first use of my Red Light/ Green Light LASERS!
Miriam consented to take a Pie-in-the-face. Here’s the first picture of me with nearly a hundred students learning to twist their balloons into doggies.