Friday, November 28, 2014



1. When I first arrive at a party, I am more likely to head toward—
  1. the food and/or drink
  2. the bathroom 
  3. Did I go to the bathroom before I left my house? Have I eaten recently? Contextualize! Then we’ll see if I’ll take yer stupid quiz. 

2. I prefer to be in charge.
  1. false
  2. true
  3. Again, this feels pretty situational. You might be over-simplifying. It’s a comedy blog not Cosmo; please give us some credit for being more nuanced takers of quizzes. 

3. I like—
  1. being tickled
  2. tickling
  3. Who’s asking?  How tall are you, anyway? 

4. I would rather die by—
  1. water
  2. fire
  3. Don’t let me die! 

5. I would most like an audience member to say this to me after watching me perform:
  1. “You are so lovable!”
  2. “You freak me out!”
  3. Wait, is this audience in Calgary? 

6. The audience is—
  1. a new community, a group of great new friends just waiting to happen!
  2. a pack of mindless sheep who will never fully understand what’s so special about me. 
  3. Did we establish whether this audience is in Calgary? 

7. I perform—
  1. to give love
  2. to get love
  3. for fun, shitface. 

8. I am more interested in—
  1. bodily functions
  2. political satire
  3. I’m sick of this quiz. These distinctions feel arbitrary. You are pointlessly, patronizingly reductive. Give me a cacao nib. 

9. How would you rather be seen?
  1. Open, generous and peaceful. 
  2. Smart, strong and focused. 
  3. I’m not taking this quiz anymore! La la la la la! Cacao nib!!!!

10. The love of my life—
  1. makes me laugh
  2. thinks I’m hilarious
  3. wrote this quiz, HAHA JK WHERE’S MY CACAO NIB


If you selected mostly “a”s, congratulations! You are a clown!
AS A CLOWN, you are an open-hearted and giving person, who likes others to take the helm. You want to go where the audience leads you, and you are perfectly content doing fart comedy. On stage, you are what we like to call “stupid”; that is, you are human. You love Gene Wilder and the color blue, and you like it when someone else kisses first, because that is the universe fulfilling its wish for you. 

If you selected mostly “b”s, behold! A bouffon!
AS A BOUFFON, you’ve got a mission: to fuck shit up. You are angry and rightfully so, you have a point, and the audience will be better for you having made that point. You don’t suffer idiots, don’t wait for the phone to ring, and pay for your own margarita. You find Jerry Lewis fascinatingly disturbing, like a car wreck. And, bitch, you love olives. 

If you selected mostly “c”s, Whaaa? YOU ARE THE MESSIAH! 
AS THE MESSIAH, you instinctively understand that the distinction between clown and bouffon is more like a spectrum and less like a binary interactive comedy formula. We are all complicated performers with complicated relationships to the audience. Now, here, you—a trailblazer in a new era of naked comedy—you are one of those confoundingly brilliant performers who defies categorization. Please carry my babies. 

Maybe some of my personal interest in the spectrum idea comes from the fact that no one seems to agree what to call what I do on stage. Some say, “It’s bouffon!” and I say, “No, actually it’s more clown, with some aspects of bouffon,” but really, who the fuck cares. That’s the point here. Who the fuck cares.

Because most people are somewhere in the middle anyway, somewhere on that spectrum between Loving and Needing the Audience as Our Best Friend, and Hating the Audience And Wanting To Hurt Them A Little. We are all scraps of dark and light. We are all interlocking knots of hope and cynicism. The most important thing is awareness about one’s own totally unique relationship to and feelings for the audience, and that shit can shift. The point is to stay on the horse, and keep dancing. 

This I know: using either of the terms “clown” or “bouffon” in front of people who don’t know what they mean is a bad idea. People who don’t study/perform clown/bouffon always assume the worst. When you speak to others about what you do, call it “comedy”, call it “this weird shit I do on stage”, call it “fucking crazy, you have to come.” FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T CALL IT CLOWN. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014


The story goes like this: in the Middle Ages, the freaks were exiles. The deformed, the mentally handicapped, the insane, the different. They were not welcome in the village. They lived in the swamp. But they watched and learned. They studied the “normals” who hated them. And once a year, for the Feast of Fools, the freaks were invited into the village to perform a special show for all the regular folks. And what a show they put on! It was a dazzling song, full of songs and skills and spectacle. But it was also tinged with the hate of being spit on and treated as less-than. A good freak had to toe the line: how you trick the audience into paying attention to you, and still manage to make fun of them.

Like clowns, bouffons have to be taking the temperature of the audience at all times. But unlike clowns, a bouffon does not consider the audience his best friend. The bouffon has an agenda. The bouffon wants the audience to know: you are not as smart as you think you are, you are not quite as cool as you want to be, there is someone more clever in this room, and that someone is MOI

A good bouffon is a good clown, with an axe to grind. 

Hopefully you’ve seen a great drag queen at some point in your life. She had stubble and her wrists were too thick, but goddammit there she was, in glitter and wig and eyelashes out to eternity. And she had a comeback for every drunk heckler she met, and she sang like a dark angel, like some beautiful genderless voice of truth that is undeniable, that tugs at everyone’s heart equally. You knew she didn’t give a shit about you, but she liked your adoration. She let you stay and listen, if you behaved yourself. She might have been a target of mockery somewhere offstage, but in this dingy cabaret, she was queen and king and god and goddess. 

Bouffon is a beautiful inversion. The bouffon laughs at you. You may think you’re laughing at the bouffon, but you’re actually laughing at the bouffon laughing at you.

So which one are you, clown or bouffon? How can you tell? Wait for it; there’s a quiz coming! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Now I’m back in Hollywood for a while. The coffee is just not as good here as it was up in the Pacific Northwest. It’s fine, it’s just nowhere near AS good. But it’s sufficient for our purposes today. 

So between you and me, I’m a clown. I do and lead workshops in interactive comedy. I work on the clown-to-bouffon spectrum. What does “clown” mean? What does “bouffon" mean? What does “clown-to-bouffon spectrum” mean? What does a “wet cappuccino” mean? Does a pumpkin latte have pumpkin in it, or just pumpkin spice? 

Let’s touch on some of these questions! 

Like a lot of anxious Americans, I was terrified of clowns when I was a child. Garish, oversized, loony… like the kids’ menus that I also hated: designed for kids, but some kind of kid I did not recognize—an idiot that grunted only at primary colors, flashing lights and hot dogs. Clowns were not for me. 

But I’ll tell you what was for me. Every year my family went to the Renaissance Faire in Sterling, New York. And I will always remember the monk.

I was 7. My family and I were wandering between stalls that hocked chicken legs and faerie wands, and suddenly, a monk in a hooded robe was in front of me, right in my face. He had dark dark brows, and dark dark eyes, staring and scowling and almost touching he was so close to me. So I stared and scowled back. We began to circle each other. A small crowd formed around us, interested and entertained. They laughed at Little Girl and Monk, mano a mano, just scowling into each others’ faces like crazy. 

That monk was a true clown. He came out into the “audience,” pulled me into the show, and we had a blast together. And then he was gone. 

Can’t that be what “clown” means? Just someone really funny, who’s being funny on purpose, for everyone’s pleasure? 

There are a lot of reasons why the way I define “clown”—vulnerable, often physical, always interactive comedy—is not the way everyone understands it. Remember, back in Europe hundreds of years ago, all the circuses were one-ring. Clowns in those circuses could be more present with everyone; they could do small, subtle things. But in the USA everything always had to be bigger, and so in the late-19th century American circus impresarios created the 3-ring circus. Clowns in those circuses had to be more exaggerated, just to be seen. Shoes, noses and hair got bigger, colors got brighter. And thus we have the horror show of circus clowns that infect the popular consciousness today. A kind of clown that was never meant to be seen up close. 

I don’t blame anyone for being afraid of clowns. I’m still wary of most people who use the term “clown” freely and unreservedly to define what they do. Really, in this day and age, you’re calling yourself a clown? In PUBLIC? Do you have any understanding of how to connect with an audience in a way that invites laughter and play? Does balloon twisting count? No, and fuck you, clown. You are a butcher, when what we need is a surgeon. 

A clown worth his salt is a clown that really sees the audience, takes in their reactions, makes damn sure most of the audience is on the ride at all times. If the audience is not with the clown, the clown is honor-bound to do something else, or leave. 

If no one is laughing, that is not a good clown. If your inner-child is crying, that is not a good clown. 

There is something kid-ish about a good clown, for sure. A clown is in touch with her most simple self… really, really simple. A clown is a hopeful goofball who delights in something pointless, and whose delight is infectious. We root for the clown to succeed, but she may not. Like so many of us, the clown is not master of her universe. Unlike many of us, however, she remains eternally optimistic. And we love that about her. 

The universe flows through a clown. He seems porous, available; he is a plastic bag blown by the wind. 

LIKABLE. A clown is fundamentally likable. Can we just say that? 

Anything to add? How do you define clown, the good kind? Who's a clown who really does it for you? 

And if they say there’s real pumpkin in the pumpkin latte, then, yes, you should get that latte. Even in Hollywood.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

SANA'S LETTER, August 2014.

Sana lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and wears a hijab. She wrote to me a month before the Edmonton Naked Comedy Lab and asked if I required workshop participants to get literally naked. I answered no, that spiritual nakedness is the only workshop’s only requirement. She signed up. After the workshop, during which she was quite funny, she wrote me this email: 

Hi Deanna,

I had much fun at the workshop. I found it fascinating, and I gained a great deal. I think you're a gifted teacher. Thank you for sharing with us.
I am still grappling with the experience as a whole, trying to make sense of it, trying to understand if it's something I would explore further. I'm trying to understand the underpinning philosophy, I suppose. I mean, why? Why do people find such stupid shit funny? And why would one choose to do such stupid shit? Is laughter, in and of itself, enough of a reason? Is there subtext at all to this humour? I'm especially curious about the darker end of the humour spectrum. 

She asked me if there were books she could read, or any writing I’ve done on these subjects. This blog is for her, and for me, and for anyone who is part of the conversation about comedy that is vulnerable and present and honest and deeply human, about why that kind of comedy works so well, and why it can be so empowering and fun for the performer to perform comedy in this way. 

I have entirely too much to say on this subject, so really, this blog is for me. Thank you, self, for giving me this wonderful gift of a blog! Thank you Sana for inspiring it! And thank you, dear reader, who is here in this moment on this journey with me! We are exchanging among ourselves the most adorably wrapped of gifts, in tiny woven Japanese boxes like the kind they serve sticky rice in. 

This first blog entry comes to us from Room 6 of the Green Springs Inn, a cedar plank motel with attached cozy diner 16 miles outside of Ashland, Oregon, in the Cascade mountains. I have been on tour for 3 months, in Alberta and BC and Oregon and Washington. I have only stayed in a few motel rooms, but this one is the best. Earlier tonight, I had rhubarb pie in the cozy diner while I listened on my headphones to a podcast about a murder investigation. I feel like I am inside Twin Peaks tonight. Tomorrow I am on now my way to San Francisco. My weekend’s shows coincide, apparently, with the World Series, with the Niners in it and everything. We shall see how it all goes. I am feeling mostly pretty zen. 

Here are some of the questions I’m going to meditate on, let’s say in the next few months:
  • What is Clown, what is Bouffon? Which one are you? What does it mean to work on the Clown-to-Bouffon spectrum?
  • Wet dreams: how Naked Comedy seeks to fondle, ingest and penetrate other Comedy realms 
  • Lessons of Touring
  • Just answering Sana’s g.d. questions already; she wrote that email in August! 

Thanks!!! More to come!!!!