Friday, October 03, 2008


"Zoot Allures! If you mess wit zee, how you say, strollers... zee stage clowns zay weeell open up zee can of whoop-ass!"

Ryan Combs "eeping" it up for the camera, oblivious to his wife Romina passing by as Steve Copeland gives Andrew Scharff tips on "closing".

Now it's Steve's turn to "eep", which is not impressing Gregory Parks. Behind them, Jessi does an impression of a Georgia O'Keefe with her crinolin.

Alexander the Jester. Perhaps my favorite performer of all.. such a sweet, gentle man. My feeling is that he is behind many of the pranks in the alley here... he doesn't actively participate much, but seems rather to inspire zany behavior it in those around him.

He has a different approach and style but cracks us up nonetheless with his "gramalot", which makes him sound like a human tape recorder.

A brilliant comic mind, and a top-notch performer but above all... he impresses me more as a man of taste.

Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone getting surprised at the conclusion of their show with an onstage party in celebration of their first wedding anniversary.

Andrew, me and Mark

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Mark Lohr (a MASTER pool player and a closed circuit television viewer) and Andrew "I Have a Date Again Tonight" Scharff on the stage of the massive Kimtom 2008 Clown Festival.

Andrew and Mark discuss how to get in touch with Starburst and whether or not Starkist has the dressing room key.

Andrew Scharff, between shows, intently focused on his Chinese language instruction. Andrew is fluent in several different languages, English is not one of them.

Riley Roam and Kenny Mikey. While Riley is a consummate professional it's really Kenny who "puts it all out there" in front of our Chinese audiences.

Christina Gelsone, Mark Lohr (back to the camera) and Seth Bloom have fun between shows discussing (in gramalot) how high-waisted a pair of men's trousers can or should be and whether or not to add extended nasal flute solos to their shows.

Ryan Combs and Steve Copeland redo their makeup, again, as Gregory Parks practices his water spitting and gibberish in the boys alley.

The highlight of the festival so far: We were treated to the rare opportunity to watch Steve work on his new Cirque-inspired, buffon-based character. This new character is known simply as "Monsieur Balloon-Nose". 

He describes this character as "a happy-go-lucky sort of chap. A 'will-of-the-wisp'. A true 21st century comic everyman that is a little bit you, a little bit me. He is a pure comic spirit that challenges audiences to join him on his journey of discovery, revealing hidden truths about traditional gender stereotyping in Native American trickster mythology as he explores universal themes of balloons, duct tape and noses. 

We identify immediately with Monsieur Balloon-Nose. We are him and he is us. He is each of us, if each of us is someone with an extremely oversized balloon duct taped to his or her nose."

Those of us fortunate enough to watch Steve's transformation sat spellbound. We laughed a lot, cried a little and, in the end, learned what it truly meant to be a man mincing around with something or other affixed to your face by some means.

As soon as this festival wraps up Steve will begin intensive work with Sue Morrison and premier new pieces featuring this "delightful and deliciously wicked" new character at the Plattsburgh Fringe Festival in Plattsburgh, NY.

Expect very big things from this talented young man.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I had the camera with me today but I was too busy to take pictures. Tomorrow. I promise.

Our schedule has been rearranged to make it easier on us and we had huge, fantastically responsive audiences today.

Both Andrew and I worked new gags into our 30 minute show (both volunteer bits and both did very well) and Mark took the opportunity to perform a greatly extended version of his plate spinning bit.

I don't know how things are going in the girls' alley but the boys alley is having a really great time. I get to work with two great partners and laugh with a crew of really talented folks that I wouldn't have had the chance to work with under any other circumstances. We talk about everything from funny things about people's stepfathers to the basis for the local economy.

This trip is just chair-bustingly funny!

My pal Kenny Mikey even has a special word that he can now use to describe things. Ask him about it when you see him!

Mark Lohr and I went out to get dinner last night and found a great little Filipino tavern right across from our hotel that had pretty good Hawaiian pizza but was really notable for the service, the most attentive service that you could imagine outside of a five-star restaurant. Servers stood next to the table with a pitcher to top off our glasses with each sip. In a pizza place!!! When they found out that we were the clowns from America they had a lot of questions for us. Things got less formal and they relaxed and we all just sat and talked.

Later Greg, Jessi, Steve, Mark and I met up after to get a bite after the late bus got them back. We went to another place right across the street but had a problem paying the bill when the staff couldn't understand that some of us were asking them to make change. Luckily, a Chinese/English translator was walking in the street right when we needed them most. 

We have found the entire neighborhood to be filled with friendly folks who know that we are from far away and they all seem eager to pitch in and lend a hand.

We're having a great time!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The festival is up and running, everything is coming together quite nicely.

This is different from previous festivals in that we are all performing together on a single stage in a giant theater on the 9th floor of the massive Super Brand Mall in the heart of Shanghai's upscale Pudong district.

Chinaclowning AND air conditioning?!? Whoo-hoo! And being in a large mall gives us OUR choice of what we'd like to eat for lunch and dinner. We also have access to a Starbucks which, as a hardcore Dunkin' Donuts coffee man it pains me to say, is really a gift from heaven.

Like any festival, there were some bugs to work out but overall I think that this one is shaping up to be my favorite. Andrew, Mark and I have melded our divergent characters, styles and material into a 15, a 20, a 25 and a 30 minute show, all of which seem to be working pretty well. Since we are not a full-time trio it gives us a greater chance to be flexible, shuffle our solo bits around and assist the producers with their scheduling needs.

Our fellow performers are all top notch and it's really a joy to watch them work.

A favorite among all is Ryan, Romina and Steve, who I believe had 100% performer attendance backstage in the wings for their first two or three quick-paced HIGHLY physical slapstick shows.

I'll bring the camera today and try to load some pictures when I get back.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


We had our tech rehearsals today and this festival is unlike any other that China has seen before.

The attention to detail is truly staggering! Nothing is being left to chance; every aspect of the performance is being analyzed so as to present it in the best possible way.

Andrew, Mark and I have (hopefully!) blended our shows together into a cohesive whole that will showcase each of us individually while still taking advantage of the rare opportunity to work together as a trio. Tomorrow morning we'll know if it all worked.

Keep your fingers crossed!

RON SEVERINI: Ringling, 1970s

Photo courtesy of Lee Jarrett

Ron Severini the way I remember him, juggling on the track. I don't remember any of the gags that he was in but I can still see him juggling on the track during come-in.

I thought quite a bit of Ron growing up, after all he was a Boss Clown who came from New Jersey.

I don't know if I'm remembering correctly but I also think that Ron had the first set of juggling clubs that I'd ever seen with a black body instead of the usual white. I thought that looked pretty darn slick back then... and I still do.

Weird what stays with you...