Many Great Screen Clowns NEEDED Writers and Directors.

By Ira Seidenstein

April 7, 2024

The Co-Producers of DESILU PRODUCTIONS HOLLYWOOD: Lucille Ball (1911-1989) and her husband, Desi Arnaz (1917-1986) pictured reading at home, USA, circa 1955. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Many Great Clowns NEEDED Writers and Directors.

Many of my blog/essays focus on some video evidence that happens to validate my proposed viewpoints. One of those ideas is that great Clowns needed and worked with Writers and Directors who knew very well or truly understood Clown and Comedy.

Since early 2024 I have accumulated enough evidence that I can feel exonerated regarding a few topics which are my pet peeves.

Mel Brooks at his desk. Winner of the EGOT – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

Some of my topics of interest are: a) What may be amiss in much of the teaching of clown, generally, reveals that ‘the teaching of clown’ can serve as a metaphor for a malaise now embedded in Society; b) several of my threads that I have Posted evidence for are: Dance Is Physical Theatre; Non-Clown Clown; and, How To Clown, etc. Plus the more socio-political Posts are: Today’s Sense of Humor Test; and, Have Fun Kids.

Since 2022 most of my Posts are on Clown Secret Group on FB. If you put any one of those thread’s title and my name into the fb search several of the videos will appear. If you are a Member of Clown Secret Group you can use the Group’s search to locate Posts since 2022.

I have also Posted numerous times regarding a few of many of the greatest clowns who transitioned from live Stage performances to Screen performances. To accomplish that transition the evidence shows that those truly great clowns absolutely needed and depended upon Writers and Directors first and foremost.

Mel Brooks; Carl Reiner; Jerry Seinfeld.

Brooks and Reiner met as co-writers for the Clown Sid Caesar who worked in television for ten years. Reiner created a TV-Sitcom inspired by his experience writing for Sid Caesar’s shows. Reiner’s creation was The Dick Van Dyke Show. Reiner is the Father of Director Rob Reiner. Brooks and Reiner remained friends for 70 years until Reiner passed away (in 2020 age 98).

Every evening, Mel Brooks leaves his home in Santa Monica, gets in his car and stares down Los Angeles’ notorious rush-hour traffic to go to Carl Reiner’s house in Beverly Hills. There, the two comedy icons do what they like to do most these days: chat, eat dinner together and watch the long-running quiz show Jeopardy!” (The Guardian 20 February 2020) Notably, they also watched a film every night at Carl’s.

As I have noted in my Posts great clowns also relied upon gifted and intelligent Producers. Those clowns also relied completely upon collegial professional relationships with a team of Actors who intimately know the crafts of Clown and Comedy.

Although the work of a Producer in Stage or Screen is not a clear cut role such as Director, Actor, Writer, Designer etc. the Producer is absolutely a key element to any production of Stage or Screen. The Producers Hal Roach and Mack Sennett  were two of the greatest Producers of Clown for screen.

Chaplin assuredly was perhaps the single greatest Clown who excelled and combined his work as Lead Actor; Screenwriter; Director; Producer.  Those who were closest to his combined excellence are: Woody Allen; and, Jerry Lewis.  

Many other great Clowns worked in the four roles – leading actor; writer; director; producer occasionally but rarely in all four roles in any one film or TV series. Notably, Chaplin could and did write some film ideas on a restaurant napkin. Perhaps a sentence or a few. That was enough for him to have a creative seed to then make his earliest short films. His feature length films required a different evolved process.

Martin & Lewis acted in 17 movies directed by 5 formidable Directors: George Marshall; Hal Walker, Norman Taurog, Joseph Pevney, and Frank Tashlin!! The 17 films had a variety of Writers. Importantly during those 17 films Jerry Lewis learned virtually every single job on a film set. He became an avid photographer and passionate to learn everything about film making. Eventually he taught a film directing course at USC. In that course one student was George Lucas; and auditing the course as a student was Steven Spielberg.

Clown and Film Maker Jacques Tati

For this blog I want to emphasize solely the combined creativity of Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis. Curtis was Atkinson’s early Director and Co-Writer. I have selected just a few very short videos with either Curtis or Atkinson briefly discussing their collaboration including anecdotally how they first met and began to collaborate.

I have written several other blog-essays that deal with particular examples of the relationship between the roles of: Clowns; and, Writers; Directors. For example see my blogs regarding: Lucy; Sid Caesar; Jerry Lewis; etc.

1.Five Minutes of truth with Rowan Atkinson’s great colleague Richard Curtis -video below

      2. Atkinson and Curtis – video below

      3. Curtis tells about creating Mr Bean – video below

      4. Atkinson in interview tells of Mr. Bean’s beginning and demonstrates the act that Curtis first saw the night they met – video below

      5. Richard Curtis discloses his work as Writer/Director/Editor – video below


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      Ira Seidenstein