By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER – There’s an old Saturday Night Live skit that popularized the distinction between things that are “funny ha-ha” and things that are “funny strange.” Things that are “funny ha-ha” are things like comic strips and practical jokes, while things that are “funny strange” are things that are just odd, or absurd on the face of it. Puddles the clown, visiting Vancouver on his Puddles Pity Party tour, falls under the latter category. He’s a seven-foot-tall, sad-looking clown with a beautiful voice whose cover of Lorde’s “Royals” made him YouTube famous, and now he tours the world singing his unique takes on songs and confounding expectations.
The fact that many people experience coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) makes the idea of a touring clown musical act hard for some to get behind. But Puddles’ act is welcoming, and his gentle personality makes the whole thing palatable. In his words, “Every now and then, I’ll meet someone who says they’re afraid of clowns. But once they see my show, they relax and realize that clowns are just like apples. And one rotten apple doesn’t mean that all apples are rotten. Most apples are tasty and sweet. I’m a sweet apple.”
Skepticism is an understandable feeling. Today’s society is a guarded one, making it difficult to open oneself up and authentically take in an experience that might at first seem ironic in nature. Puddles understands this and tries to work towards breaking that concern’s hold on people. As he describes, “It’s easy to get stuck in cynicism and skepticism these days. Maybe it’s from being hurt and trying to defend against being hurt again. My mee-maw used to say, ‘Life is just a series of disappointments.’ And that may be true. But in the between times, there are some glimmers of joy. You just have to leave yourself open. Open to the disappointments and open to the joyful surprises.”
Clowning is an ancient art, with some clowns requiring years of training to perfect their act. Despite being both a clown and blessed with a beautiful voice, Puddles’ training has been fairly limited. “I’ve never had any formal singing lessons. My mee-maw says I came out of the oven singing. Never had any formal training of any kind, really. I’m a big coffee drinker and once took a latte art class with my pal Stu. Does that count?”
So it might be time for Vancouverites to put aside their cynicism, embrace openness and check out Puddles Pity Party. You never know how it might change you. In his words, “It’s my first time in Vancouver. Vancouvians can expect a night of song and dance, sadness and joy and most of all, fellowship. Oh, and free Puddles cuddles after the show!”
Check out Puddles Pity Party March 6 @ the Rio Theatrecomedy, puddles the clown, Rio Theatre