Clowning Around

As I mentioned, I love to tell stories. I love to entertain. If I can make you laugh, it makes my day (and if you’re just being polite, I appreciate the encouragement.) 

My mom says that I should be a stand-up comedian. My boyfriend says I tell tall tales. Fibs. I extrapolate. Make things more interesting. Change the wording. I say that I said something, but in reality, I didn’t. I thought it. The wheels in my mind were turning, but I chicken out. I say something more polite or less complicated. Something bland, but later, I’ll say I said it. I was brave. I spoke out —loud and proud, everyone laughed, and I was happy. 

My final semester of college, I took a clowning class (Yes. They have those. Don’t judge me. My major was just as real as yours — we’ll get to that post later.) It was a lot of fun, and I find myself drawn to the lessons I learned: 

“You’re just a clown on a stage with nothing to prove.” 

A clown doesn’t try to be funny. A clown is going about her or her life when a problem occurs, and they must solve it — most often, in an unexpected or creative way. The funny part is that they’re being themselves. Just a clown. Living a clown’s life. Solving clown problems. No matter how bad things get for a clown, they always get better. They always find a solution. 

As a clown, you also have to find the game. You have to develop a relationship with your audience. What do they find funny? What do they want to do? You get to play and be imaginative. It gives you the chance to be a kid again—to give yourself permission to enter a simpler world. You may have things to do, places to be, clowns to see, but at the end of the day, things will work out (even if you don’t think they will). 

“You’re just a clown on a stage with nothing to prove.” 

Stop trying! (I get this note a lot. Just be. Just do. Don’t try.) Vivian, you’re trying so hard. Don’t try so hard. 

I’ve always been a try hard. I hold myself to a high standard. I’m type-A. I’m a perfectionist. I love lists and planners and spreadsheets. I love to find order. I like when everything is in its neat and tidy place. I like when you can see the outcome. No variables. This yields this, and will always yield this. 

Meanwhile, life is not like that. Life is the exact opposite. Life has all the variables, and just when you think you know the outcome, life punches you in the face. Hard. Then in the stomach. Then for good measure, kicks you in the groin, and while you’re doubled over in pain, you learn something. As much as you plan, things will never happen exactly how you predicted. 

You have to find the game. You have to learn to dodge the punches. Go with the flow. When something changes, you don’t mourn the loss of your carefully curated data. You throw it out and start again. You try something new until you find the game, and as soon as you think you’ve got it, the game changes. It’s not funny or fun anymore. You’ve got to figure something out — determine the new rules. At the end of the day, no matter how busy you are, how many places you have to go, how many things you have to do, how many people you have to see — you’ll find a solution. You’ll learn the new rules or make them up. Everything will work out. Maybe not how you planned. Maybe not how you wanted. Maybe it won’t seem like it at the time, but you’ll learn. You’ll grow. You’ll stretch a bit outside of your comfort zone. 

While that’s all well and good, you have to have fun. Who wants to play a game that’s not fun? Anyone up for the world’s most boring board game? No takers? Well, fine. 

You have to give yourself permission to play. To not only find the game, but also enjoy the game. When life laughs at you, laugh right back. Loud and proud. Ha. HA. HA! 

At the end of the day, you’re just a clown on stage with nothing to prove. You have dreams, aspirations, goals, plans, and by all means – DO THEM. Go forth. Conquer all. Just don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re a clown. You’re going to mess things up. Things will get BAD. 

You’re going to try to fix a busted pipe — erupting water shooting out in all directions — with a bandaid. It might work. Bandaids always make everything better. It probably will work. At least for a second, then you can go onto your next idea. You need something stronger – duct tape! Duct tape fixes everything. That has to work! You try it. Nope. Didn’t work. What next? Maybe bubble gum. You chew one after the other — creating one huge mound of bubble gum. It’s the largest mound of gum anyone has seen. It takes a lot of effort to amass such a wad of gum, but you do it. You’re the best gum wadder in all the land. You proudly take this world-record gum mass and plug the hole. The water stops spewing in every direction as you smooth the gum into the cracks. You did it! Now, about cleaning up all this water…..

You make mistakes, but you find a way to fix it. You can’t beat yourself up about them or get upset that you didn’t think of the best solution at first. You’re just a clown. Living a clown’s life. Solving clown problems. One step at a time. Things will get BETTER, and if they don’t….

You’ve got nothing to prove. 

This is my mantra. When I get nervous before an audition, I think: “You’ve got nothing to prove.” You prepare as best as you can. You have your plans and ideas, but you have to let them go. You walk into the audition room, and you go from there. There are so many arbitrary decisions made in art, and only a few of them are things that you could have changed. You are who you are. You’re the one who tried to fix a giant leak with a bandaid. You’re also the world’s most experienced gum wadder. Somedays, that’s just what they’re looking for. Somedays, it’s not. 

Now, you’re not going to go into the audition room and show them you’re the world’s most experienced gum chewer. You’re just going to be you. You’ve got nothing to prove. Take a deep breath, and let it all go. All of your expectations for the situation. All of your careful plans. All of your hesitations and trepidations. You’ve got nothing to prove. It will be okay. You’re here to have fun. You’re here to find the game. You’re here to play. 

All the world is your stage. Have fun. Laugh it up. Be loud and proud. Be you. Tell a little fib. Make someone’s day. You only have a certain number of rotations around the sun so you might as well make them count. No matter what happens. You’ll find a solution. You’ll make it work for YOU because that’s all you can do.  Allow yourself to just be unapologetically you. When all is said and done, you’re just a clown on a stage with nothing to prove. 


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