By Ira Seidenstein

May 1, 2013


4 of 40. Missed a week. Travel from Northern to Southern Hemisphere. Then camping. Here’s a hot topic. Maybe scalding. Maybe too much. I have coined two new terms today “Denialism” and “Appropriatingism”. These are just two of the new, pseudo-liberal minded forms of ‘fundamentalism’.
Although I work in various genres and my work crosses over fields such as: theatre, clown, creativity, healing through the arts, social-political activism through the arts; here I will focus a bit on clown and theatre.
It is a very common theme for some years (decades) to refer to ‘fundamentalism’ only with reference to religions. Relig-osity is part of human nature. Basically if one rejects ‘all religions’ one will create one’s own religion. Your religion could be yoga, or meditation, or acting, or clown, or tattoos, or taboos i.e. anything that you become attached to and defend fervently or even surreptitiously.
So, Denialism is the ‘religion’ of denying that anything really influenced you. For example, in clowning, a growing array of clown ‘teachers’ (that is, people who want to earn money from you by selling you their book, or method, or workshop, or school, or beliefs, or cult) – are in denial that there were greater clowns than themselves who set the pace for those of us who follow. Today, Toby Ballantine (son of a clown) posted a photograph of what may be the first clown that I ever saw – on TV. That was Claribel the Clown from the USA TV program The Howdy Doody Show. I am certainly not the only professional clown born in the USA who saw that show and who had to have been influenced in some way by Claribel. The interesting point is that the USA TV in the 1950s was ‘filled’ with clowns of all different types including the ‘traditional’ ones such as Claribel. He may have been the first on TV, or not, but there were a number of other classic/traditional clowns on local TV channels. There were also a huge array of the ‘greats’ such as Milton Berle, Sid Caesar & Imogen Coca, Lucille Ball and company, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason and company, Amos & Andy, Molly Picon, Ernie Kovacs, Ed Wynn, Victor Borge, Phil Silvers (Sgt Bilko), etc. The 1960s brought a whole other genre of sitcoms with an array of clowns – Gilligan’s Island, F-Troop, Hogan’s Heroes, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Carol Burnett and company. Additionally there were the western/cowboy shows many of which had “the sidekick” characters who were clowns including, for example, Zorro. There were plenty of films shown regularly such as The Little Rascals, The Bowery Boys, Ma & Pa Kettle, as well as films from Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Keystone Kops, Harold Lloyd, etc.
In England/UK/Commonwealth countries there were the films of Norman Wisdom, The Carry On films, and the important radio comedians who inspired several generations – The Crazy Gang, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers. Eventually the Cambridge mob yielded Monty Python, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, there were the Two Ronnies, Morecombe & Wise, and an array of ever touring comedians performing live throughout the UK.
Other countries had their great clowns of film, but the USA and England had a prolific vanguard energy of comedy/clowning on TV.
The English language via the Commonwealth and its cousin the USA had a collective power via economics. Thus the clowns of film and TV from other countries were ‘limited’ in their global appeal due to languages less popular than English.
So, by denying such an inheritance as most or at least many clown ‘teachers’ do…. the next step is “Appropriatingism” – the art and religion of making the uninformed (and even many of the informed) believe that clowning started ex-nihlo (out of nothing, out of thin air). ….. just some ideas that you may find thought provoking.
 
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