A journey through an unusual country to discover what its extraordinary inhabitants have learnt about life, loss, and happiness. Injured, and living on the edge of country town, Judith Lanigan embarks on an unconventional, at moments disastrous, but ultimately inspiring guided tour of this strange land – Clownland.
This is not a textbook. This is not an objective, academic look at an artform. You don’t need to love clowns to love this book. This is not a book that will teach you how to become a clown – though it might help.
This is a guided tour, a travelogue, through a part of the world – Clownland – where we meet those employed in studying the stupid, the ridiculous, the clumsy and deluded, both beautiful and ugly, to hold up a mirror up so that we can laugh at ourselves.
“I found the main thing I noticed, being injured, living back in the ‘real world’, was not just the laughter – clowns are very funny people to hang out with back stage – but more the philosophy, the attitudes to life, that made it such a rich and satisfying world to work in. I missed that,” says author Judith Lanigan.
“At first the book was almost just an excuse to be back in it, until things started going wrong, and I had an opportunity to put the words into practise. Then I started to believe, really believe, that these practitioners of this odd art-form had through their examination of the stupidities of humanity, found some secrets to happiness. So I left my own story in there, to show how it worked.”
Lanigan spoke to about fifty great working clowns. From the post modern to classical, to the naughty girls working in Burlesque, like Christa Hughes and Imogen Kelly, through to the great clown wranglers like Cal McCrystal (the Mighty Boosh, Cirque du Soleil, the Dictator).
“I was searching for what they had learned about happiness,” says Lanigan. “I accepted dares along the way to help me and the reader understand a bit more about clown, which adds a nice epic variable to the story arc through this process of meeting these extraordinary people in odd places, and putting the philosophy I collect into practise, as a test.”
Lanigan says Clownland ends up looking at the theory that the most enduring way to happiness is to know yourself. As ‘Struthie’ from the comedy rodeo clown troupe, The Crack Up Sisters says “be honest with yourself in every conversation you have in your head.”
Judith Lanigan is the daughter of journalist and a detective. She studied her circus speciality – hula hoops – at the Moscow State Circus School and created her signature piece – a hula hoop variation of the ballet divertissement, The Dying Swan which toured extensively to international Arts and Street Theatre Festivals. Lanigan documented her experiences in a book titled A True History of the Hula Hoop published as fiction by Picador in 2009.
Clownland will be available from 1 July 2016 from all good booksellers, and the usual online platforms. For more information, visit: www.judithlanigan.com.au for details.
Image: Judith Lanigan Clownland (supplied)