When the circus can’t come to town, what happens to the clown? It’s not exactly the sort of profession that lends itself to working from home. Tweedy The Clown has found the answer to this predicament, setting up shop in the Barn Theatre, Cirencester and performing a weekly show as part of their Behind The Barn Door series. Tweedy’s been a big hit in this household since we successfully took 15 small humans to see Tweedy and the Missing Company of Sherlock Holmes for Crotchet’s birthday earlier this year. Tweedy’s Lost & Found is now a real highlight of the week for the munchkins so there were no surprises for guessing who Crotchet chose when she was given the task of writing a biography of a famous clown as part of a circus-themed home learning project. (This is an actual project set by their school, not another one of Mummy’s attempts to teach them using stagey resources, although she has clearly used it as an excuse for a blog post!) Tweedy gamely agreed to a Zoom chat with a 6 and 8 year old, and the result is our inaugural isolation interview!
“I’ve always been a bit of a clown”
We thought we’d started off gently with a question about when he got into the business but apparently this one’s a tricky question! Tweedy says if you ask his Mum she’ll say “all his life” but he reckons he’s been clowning properly since leaving school at 17, when he got his first job in a pantomime. He is quick to cite Laurel and Hardy as his main inspirations and has now set the munchkins a homework task of watching them on YouTube.
“It was really difficult to find out how you become a clown when there was no internet”
Despite saving up the money for clown school, and getting in, he never actually attended because the school closed down! Back in the dark old days without the internet it wasn’t so easy to just find a job as a clown so he wrote to lots of circuses asking how to get into clowning. He got a reply from Zippo’s Circus who said the best way to learn is to be around other clowns. They initially took him on as a publicity clown (which involves going around schools drumming up business for the circus) but in his first week the main clown (Zippo himself) got stuck in traffic so Tweedy ended up going on. They liked his act so they gave him a job .
“It is quite difficult to start with but if you persevere it becomes lots of fun and it’s really worth it”
When asked whether he finds it easy being a clown Tweedy admits that it can be hard at first, especially when you don’t know what people are going to find funny. When he started out at Zippo’s there were times when he would come out of the ring realising nobody had found it funny, but the best way to learn is to get on a stage and try things out. Clowning is unique in this sense because, unlike other circus skills, you need people to learn to do it. You can’t learn to make people laugh without an audience.
“You get to buy lots of toys and go “oh, it’s for work”…then claim it off the tax man”
There was no hesitation when Crotchet asked Tweedy why he wanted to become a clown. Who wouldn’t want a job that involves playing all the time? You can also get away with being quite naughty when you’re a clown. Broken something? Never mind. People just sigh and say “oh, he’s a clown”. And as an added bonus, toys are tax deductible! Even if it wasn’t his job, Tweedy’s convinced he wouldn’t be able to stop clowning because it’s so much fun.
“I like a lot of the dangerous things”
What’s Tweedy’s favourite circus act (apart from clowns obviously)? The answer is “anything dangerous” and results in some more YouTube homework for us, this time in the form of Bello Nock performing the Wheel of Death. Nock is a fellow clown who Tweedy describes as a friend and “bit of a hero”. We’ve done our homework, so here’s Bello and Annaliese Nock on Britain’s Got Talent……
“I like to try everything”
When it comes to his own act, Tweedy likes to learn a little bit of lots of different things and practises something different every day. When we interviewed him, he was sitting in front of an impressive array of string instruments, all of which he can play well enough to be funny. It’s the same with circus skills. He can do a bit of most of them and has even been shot out of a cannon (which is one of the few things that makes him nervous) although he’s best known for doing tricks with ladders. The one thing that defeats him is flexibility, so don’t expect him to incorporate contortion into his act any time soon. (In a not entirely subtle attempt at bagging a job in his next show, Quaver assured him that she is very flexible.)
“You’ve just got to make the most of this weird situation”
When asked what he thought of coronavirus Tweedy’s response was “boooooo to coronavirus”. More pragmatically, he says it’s necessary to make the most of these strange circumstances. He should be travelling with the circus at the moment but he’s having fun doing his online show and finding other things to do. He also has loads of time to practise, so maybe he will actually emerge from lockdown as a contortionist after all. He has been stretching but declares it to be “really sore and boring”.
Tweedy’s Lost & Found is based on Tweedy’s first ever solo stage show. He had lots of different clown routines and needed a way of tying them together, so settled on the setting of a lost property office. He was planning on revamping this show anyway, so when lockdown happened he decided to do a TV version. Although the munchkins were technically in charge of the interview, Mummy couldn’t help asking about how this works during lockdown. It’s genuinely streamed live from the Barn Theatre and is all done in compliance with social distancing. He comes straight in onto the stage and all the techies have their own separate booths, with perspex around them. There is also a microphone set up so that they can interact, because we all know that a clown needs an audience.
“Calm down ladies”
Although Mummy did try to steer the munchkins towards sensible interview questions, she did quite enjoy Crotchet’s query about why Tweedy always says “calm down ladies” in his show. (She genuinely has no idea and is perplexed every time it happens.) He says his wife told him off for that the other day. It comes from his live shows, where ladies sometimes get excited about a flash of the leg. Quaver doesn’t understand why this is restricted to ladies so Tweedy’s homework is to incorporate a gender-neutral version of the catchphrase into his next episode!
“People found it funny so I kept it in”
Quaver’s burning question was about why Tweedy gives things silly names like “poo poo paper”. Unsurprisingly the answer is because they’re much more fun. If he calls something daft and it gets a laugh, the name inevitably sticks. His collection of inanimate sidekicks has increased during Lost & Found, but he’s yet to decide how many might become permanent features of any show. He can’t go anywhere without Keef the Iron of course, but he suspects people will be expecting a whole entourage next time he gets out on tour. We just hope that Steven the Social Distancing Broom can be retired soon!
Tweedy’s Lost & Found also features video cameos from special celebrity guests. Crotchet asked Tweedy who he would most like to make a guest appearance. His answer was comedian Lee Evans, a big hero because of his very physical brand of comedy. When asked who they would most like to see, Crotchet requested Oti Mabuse and Quaver (in an even less subtle attempt at bagging herself a starring role in Tweedy’s act) said herself! Tweedy could help her with this one. Fans can send in photos and videos to be featured in the opening credits by tagging the Barn Theatre in Twitter or Instagram posts with the hashtag #TweedyTime.
“If you’re not having fun the audience can normally tell you’re not having fun and then they don’t have fun either”
Since the munchkins are putting on their own circus performance as part of their school project, they finished up the interview by asking Tweedy whether he had any advice for them. His top tip was to “practise and have fun”. It’s clear that he has loads of fun whenever he’s performing and this is absolutely infectious. Inspired, we headed off for a fun afternoon of clowning and lion taming, and Quaver will be paying close attention to the credits of this week’s Tweedy’s Lost & Found!
Tweedy’s Lost & Found is streamed live every Wednesday at 12pm. You can also catch up on past episdes on YouTube.