I have not been in front of an audience this large for over a decade.

I had forgotten the sense of disorientation that sweeps in when you first walk out. The naked exposure that comes from being the focus of attention under those powerful lights. Regular gig-goers probably don’t appreciate that the man on stage can really see nothing of them – certainly to start off with, anyway. A few dim faces in the front row, some shadows – but that’s it. That’s why musicians like dry ice so much – it lessens the exposure. That, and the psychological barrier of a mic stand.

It takes me a few seconds to adjust. I feel vaguely undressed in this situation without an actual guitar in my hand. Again – more psychology. But I tell myself that there is nothing to be afraid of.

In many ways this is my natural habitat.

“And a big hand, ladies, gentlemen and children… for our willing volunteer!!!” cries Bippo the Clown.

But in so many ways it is not.

There is a small ripple of applause around the big top. Bippo the Clown is unsatisfied with this, and calls for more, which he gets. Bippo the Clown always gets what he wants.

I cannot say that I am a particularly circusey person, although I have been once before when I was about 5 years old. Having volunteered to bring the Toddler and her friend this afternoon to see what it was all about, I resolve that one day, in some way, she shall pay.

It is a very good circus. There is a man who spins plates, another man who walks along a wire, and a girl who does all sorts of lithe things on a flying trapeze. The animals all look happy and healthy and not like they are trained with electric prods. They give performances of varying competence. The Shetland pony walks around the ring and then stands on a stool, which is very clever for a Shetland pony, and makes all the children go ‘aaaah’. At the lower end there is a small terrier who unfortunately brings to mind the time when Short Tony insisted that his dogg could do tricks.

I resolve to mention this to Short Tony when I get home. If a career change is required, he will be able to join the circus with his dogg.

The clown rubs my stomach. He is desperate to find something amusing about me, so he is clutching at straws to imply some imagined rotundity.

At times like this you basically have two choices. You can stand at the back and snarl, or you can throw yourself into things and be a good sport for everybody’s entertainment. I am getting used to the spotlights now, and see the children’s faces ringside.

“Now – our volunteer is going to be our new clown!!!” cries Bippo the Clown.

“What?!?” I snarl.

At the back of my mind is the nagging thought that we are half way through the circus and there have yet to be any custard pies.

“Now – I want you to do exactly what I do,” exclaims Bippo the Clown, running front of stage and jumping around like a loon.

The audience goes wild with laughter. I stare around the auditorium. There is a short pause. I trot front of stage and jump around like a loon’s awkward younger brother.

The crowd laughs sporadically, apart from the LTLP, who is hooting like an owl in a BMW.

“That was very good,” lies Bippo the Clown.

I shrug, modestly. Clowning is clearly in my blood. It is good to have made a contribution to everybody’s day, and now I will sit down and resume eating my jelly babies.

“Would you like to see some more?” cries Bippo the Clown.

18 thoughts on “The heat from the spotlights surprises me.

  1. I’m not rising to this one. Just ‘cos the silly fish jumps into the boat, I don’t have to whack it with the oar.

    Suffice it to say that you should keep the costume, Jonny. It’d be a pretty elegant way to set expectations with everyone you meet as to the likely effectiveness and/or humour value of whatever it is you happen to be doing at the time. Imagine! No-one would ever be disappointed in you ever again…

  2. Z says:

    No custard pies in the face? You’re not a real clown until you’ve had a custard pie in your face. And did you have full make-up on?

    I don’t mean eyeshadow and mascara, obviously, not that I would make any judgement if you do usually go around with make-up on, which, if you do, I shall tactfully never mention again unless it’s to compliment you on your shade of lipstick. I mean clown face make-up.

  3. JonnyB says:

    For goodness sake. I did not go to a circus dressed as a clown.

    That would have been ASKING for trouble.

  4. Asking for trouble is the ground state of your existence, Jonny. Just because a clown suit would be redundant does not make it entirely superfluous…

  5. Z says:

    Ivan has a good point. You have been known to ask for – indeed, to demand – trouble.

    I think you had a great big red smile painted on your face.

    By the way, where’s everybody else? Think they’ve got something better to do on a Sunday, do they? Fools.

  6. I feel[1] your pain jonnyb!

    [1] O.K. acknowledge in a sympathetic[2] sort of way.
    [2] Not too much – you wuss!

  7. Pat says:

    Well done Jonny! A Monsieur Hulot in embryo.
    Myself I used to ignore the audience and concentrate on the exit sign at the back until the day when an elderly person on the front row trumped loudly which quite undid me. Sadly – until that moment – the play had not been a comedy.

  8. ajb1605 says:

    I have a feeling there’s going to be a part 2. There’s got to be, don’t you think? You get to the cliff-hanging end of the post and hear the distant “dum dum, dum dum dum diddle dum” rising from Walford.

  9. I am surprised that going to the circus so soon after your mass intake of red meat that your carnivorous self didn’t go straight for the jugular…

    …I’ll just get my baggy coat shall I?

  10. Megan says:

    I’m curious as to the eventual psychological effect on the children. It’s well known that clowns induce psychosis (not with me natch as I’m not a sissy, but I have heard on good authority that clowns are pants-wettingly frightening), so does having JonnyB stand up and do a sort of mating-dance-of-the-great-awk thing in company with a clown reduce or increase the incidence of mental trauma among the young?

  11. guyana gyal says:

    The next thing we know, you’ll be getting all super-starry on us, showing off about hanging out with Bozo and Mr. Galliano’s folks.

  12. Seriously, Megan – is there anything Jonny does that does not increase the incidence of mental trauma among the young? Watching Jonny perform a mating ritual would be traumatic enough for adults, let alone kids…

  13. spazmo says:

    Clearly, that clown had a good nose for professional self-preservation – if he had made you ride a bicycle around the ring a few times, that would’ve been it for his career.

    You’d be the headline act, Jonny. Or should that be “The Amazing Mr. Bungles” ?

  14. Richard says:

    At my Dad’s company’s gala when I was about 7, a clown made me go on stage in front of hundreds of children and then made me play some bagpipes. Instead of a real chanter with a reed in, which would have been impossible for all but the most hot-housed musical kid to play, it had a plastic tube to blow into, a bit like Peter Frampton’s vocoder thing on “Show me the Way”. It was all wet with spit and I cried and refused to join in. Unfortunately a picture of this incident appeared in the house magazine and I was scarred for life. Bastard clowns.

  15. Oh, and by the way…

    I have not been in front of an audience this large for over a decade

    …for future reference, a jury does not count as an audience, no matter how hard they were laughing at you.

  16. guyana gyal says:

    Ivan, are you teensy-eensy bit jealous?

  17. Miss b says:

    Update your blog already 😛

  18. Sam says:

    I think this occasion would have been a good use of that beef. The children would have loved it.

Comments are closed.