The tightwire routine

New wine in old bottles

Early in my career, I decided to be a clown. At the time I was bitterly disappointed by the lack of literature on ‘how to be a clown’.

There were only a couple of books. One of which was called Clown Acts Omnibus, or Clown Acts For All.

How convenient,  a book with simple clown acts that anyone could do. As improbable as it was, this was a guide for everyone to be funny. It’s advice was exactly what you would expect in something written for everyone: It was very broad and not very insightful.

It contained instructions for costumes, character development and a couple of simple slapstick routines. One of these routines was a ‘tightrope walker’ bit.

In the tightrope walker routine, the clown entered with two chairs and a rope. They would tie the rope to the back of each chair and attempt to walk on it. They would not succeed. Hilarity would ensue. 

Well. For someone hilarity would ensue. I tried this routine several times without summoning so much as a jaded snort from the audience. I thought it laughable attempting to force a routine from a book. I wanted to take something that I thought to be inherently unfunny and make it work. The most ridiculous part was that despite the routine not working, I didn’t give up on it. 

I kept trying. Eventually, I replaced the chairs with people holding the rope. The routine became less about the shock that I was succumbing to the reality of gravity. It became more about my relationship with the people holding the rope and my disappointment with the fact that they could not hold the rope tight enough for me to walk across it.

Whether beginning a company, writing a book or completing a painting, the creative process is much the same. When doing any of these things, a process, a genre, a niche already exists.There is a path for experimentation and failure.  We start with a framework, a structure and perhaps a goal. We have an opportunity to take something that someone has already done and make it our own. 

What structures, genres or niches are available for you to explore creatively?