Infinite pockets

There is a clown tradition of having coats with vast pockets capable of holding incredible amounts. You may remember Harpo Marx pulling ridiculous objects from his coat, or having hundreds of table knives falling from his sleeves. I remember the old Felix the cat who carried his “bag of tricks”. And it’s not too far from Inspector Gadget having exactly the tool he needs embedded in his body. It’s a form of magic. And magic is fun.

Here is a great example. Adolf Proper, the original Banana Man from vaudeville. He worked under the stage name A. Robins, and could draw an entire music shop from his coat.

Of course pulling rabbits out of hats is wonderful when it’s live. For animated characters the magic is clearly fake, so it needs to be clever or funny in some other way as well.

Quote of the day.

From the book Fools, Clowns  & Jesters:

The first clown was a “clod”, a clodhopper, a witless oaf who in time learned cunning… but who at first was pitiful and in a sense miraculous, for the derangement of his mind was a visitation from God.  His antics, like those of the Fool in the Morris Dance, had a lunatic logic of their own that could not be shared by a more rational – allegedly more rational – people, who were awestruck by the uncomfortable thought that perhaps the pitiful clod was the only one in step with life.”

Alan Wykes, Circus!

Soupy Sales meets Krusty the Clown

I am currently reading Soupy Sez the autobiography of Soupy Sales.  Soupy was another television pioneer who had a local “kids” show.  I put “kids”  in quotations because it also became popular with adults.  I’m sure he was at least a partial inspiration for Pee-Wee Herman.

The book is light reading, entertaining and informative about early TV production.  He described sharing a dressing room with performer from another show, who happened to be a clown.  The similarities with the Simpson’s clown character is unmistakable.

I had my own dressing room, but I shared the bathroom and shower with a guy who did a clown show there in the morning…  He had just finished taping when I would come in.  I’d talk with him while he took a shower, and it was fascinating to watch.  It was like seeing a Sherman Williams paint sign come to life.  Clowns wear something like eight different colors of makeup, and while he took a shower the colors would just stream down his body.  I found that fascinating, and one day he asked me what the big attraction was.  “Well” I said, “it’s the idea that you spend all that time putting on the make up and then you get in the shower and the colors all run down your drain.  Your character runs down the drain.”

“Yeah” he said, “but the difference is the people know me as the clown.  When I take off this makeup I can go to a bar, pick up a girl, and I can get drunk and nobody knows it’s me!  But if you do it, they know it’s you.”

“Yeah” I replied “but when you go in for a raise, they say ‘nuts to you.  We’ll pick somebody else up.’  Do you think Ronald McDonald gets a raise? They say ‘nuts to you.  Bring in another guy.’

Well the guy hadn’t ever thought about that and it blew him away.  He was never the same because he was always afraid that if he asked for something they were going to get rid of him.  And you know what, eventually they did.”

I like that story all by itself, but I have some follow up thoughts.  Tomorrow I’ll explain how Soupy missed an important concept. For that click HERE

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