The Pickle Clowns: New American Circus Comedy

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Southern Illinois University Press, 2001 - Performing Arts - 175 pages
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The Pickle clowns have performed to great acclaim with Cirque du Soleil, Circus Flora, and the Pickle Family Circus in dance concerts, one-person shows, and plays by Beckett, Brecht, Fo, O’Casey, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Molière. For the first time outside a circus ring, the Pickle clowns reveal all about their popular comedy acts, their eccentric dances, and the state of the circus in the United States and abroad.


This volume offers conversations with the clowns themselves, Lorenzo Pickle (Larry Pisoni), Willy the Clown (Bill Irwin), Mr. Sniff (Geoff Hoyle), Queenie Moon (Joan Mankin), Ralph Deliberate (Donald Forrest), Ms. Wombat (Andrea Snow), Pino (Diane Wasnak), and Razz (Jeff Raz). Also interviewed are Ramona the Tap-Dancing Gorilla (circus choreographer Kimi Okada) and artistic director and choreographer Tandy Beal. Four clown acts are included to best demonstrate both the unique humor and craft of the Pickle clowns.


The Pickle Family Circus began in 1975 in San Francisco as a clown-centered, cooperative one-ring circus, far more intimate than circuses heralding themselves as “the greatest show on earth.” Clowning comics in the spirit of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, and Laurel and Hardy, the Pickles prove that a small circus can be innovative and provocative, adventurous and hilarious. This collective history of the Pickle clowns, recorded in their own words and featuring fourteen illustrations, constitutes a unique account of the art of clowning and an introduction to some of the finest comedians of our time.

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About the author (2001)

Circus historian Joel Schechter is a professor of theatre arts at San Francisco State University and is author of Durov’s Pig: Clowns, Politics, and Theatre; Satiric Impersonations: From Aristophanes to the Guerrilla Girls; and The Congress of Clowns and Other Russian Circus Acts.

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