#13 - The Clown Diaries - Bouffon
My three flatmates have all gone out which means I can be sassy and naked at the computer. Coffee in one hand and a baguette in the other. A nude, sober, feminist Anais Ninn-in-practise. It’s that time of the evening when the house doesn’t reek of vegetables. My flatmate, (the one that resembles Gaston from Beauty & The Beast but in the ‘On Ice’ version), really loves to wake up at 6am and cook a mixture of broccoli, cauliflower, eggs and mushrooms in a huge pot which means the house constantly smells of flatulence.
This precious 'alone time' gives me the opportunity to work out my Bouffon costume for tomorrow. Currently it is a cross between Nigel Farage, Leigh Bowery and the Pope. Considering I’ll be performing on Good Friday I am praying that my Irish Catholic family don’t find out.
Whilst school has been speeding past and annihilating us from every angle our weekends have been crucial in keeping us all mentally stable. If the trains don't work weekends in Etampes consist of getting pissed on rum by the castle, climbing the on the sand dunes or late night poker sessions in someones kitchen. When the trains finally do work everyone jumps on the first available train to Paris. The benefit of living in a tomb-like town is that the days when you are able to go out to the city you truly appreciate it.
Paris is built by the characters you meet and the visiting raconteurs who spill into it turning the place you’ve considered home on a completely different axis. Despite how small Paris is, there is always a small backstreet you’ve never noticed that holds some charming bar or a bistro that does expert brunches which you don’t need to queue for.
However, Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris was wrong when he imagined there was nothing more gorgeous than walking through Paris in the rain. There is. There is seeing Paris in the rain, whilst you are sitting indoors. Several weeks back I had to walk through the Marais at 3am in order to get home. It was the equivalent of being pissed on by a Giant Elephant. A French Ganesh. Everything was so wet I couldn’t tell what was the effect of the good looking man walking next to me or the absolute apocalypse of water that was going on above.
Friends outside of the school have been a blessing when school gets too much. From my french saviour Pierre who looks how you imagine every Pierre in France looks, except without glasses and tighter trousers, who has taught me the art of rhum, whisky and champagne tasting, to my friend Lolita who can find a fantastic budget restaurant in Paris in a heartbeat. I was lucky to learn that my god sister lives here - singer Florence Morrissey. She dresses like she’s come out of Narnia in the Seventies and speaks in a soft cadence which makes listening to her incredibly calming. She also doesn’t like wearing socks, which I find weirdly endearing. You should check out her music. It’s been my rock when I’ve been suffering from Gaulier induced cry-athons.
At school the last three weeks have been incredibly exciting. Bouffon is one of Gaulier’s most popular modules and our class grew significantly with new pupils who had travelled from Canada, Australia and Brazil.
For those who ever feel limited in what they can and can’t write about and perform onstage, I’d recommend studying Bouffon. In just three weeks it has opened a door that I never thought I’d be capable to open and think about comedically: the ‘do not touch’ ideas, the concepts that one considered ‘too dark’, ‘too horrific’, ‘too soon'. Bouffon is not Clown - it’s innocent, idiotic, kind brother - Bouffon is sinister, sharp, clever and ruthless. The humour comes from the shock and the daring. It’s not about saying the darkest, most vulgar things, it is about challenging authority - punching up, not down. It’s smart: A well thought through provocative heckle - delivered by those who wouldn’t traditionally be allowed in the venue in the first place, the outsiders of society.
As a writer is has evolved the way many of us write and devise ideas in class. Suddenly comedy and political writing about subjects such as the US ‘rape insurance’, ISIS, paedophile rings and gun laws all become possibilities. "Nothing is impossible as long as the pleasure is good, the spirit is good and the target is high up".
Gaulier stresses that you can’t pick on something merely because you think it ‘might be shocking’ . It has to be a good parody and a good parody is through incredible knowledge and understanding of what you are parodying. The accent needs to be spot on, the words need to be exact and if you wish to parody a current political issue, your knowledge needs to be vast in order to hit the nail on the head and say something really shocking and thus, bouffon.