Canadian clowns, Mump and Smoot (with Thug), were in Whitehorse tonight in a revival of their first show together, Something. I was led to believe it was going to be scary, or disturbing--but these were not scary clowns. While there are some grotesque moments, there’s a charming show beneath the grossness. It stems from the deep friendship between characters Mump and Smoot, developed more than twenty years ago by John Turner and Micheal Kennard.
On stage, there is a sense that Mump, a bit rule-bound and dictatorial, is trying to be a mentor to Smoot, or a father-figure. Smoot, on the other hand, is young, innocent, full of whim, silly even, more uncontrollable–like a child. His voice even sounds a bit like Elmo from Sesame Street, though he can easily scowl at the audience and berate them just as much as Mump. But the two clowns cry together, miss each other, play together, and are true friends–even if they play doctor and (unintentionally) hurt each other. It’s not Laurel and Hardy I think of but Abbot and Costello. Or even George and Gracie.
Our audience was completely charmed by these two–and I laughed through the whole thing—there’s really only a few moments that you can stop laughing. Sometimes you are laughing at what the clowns are doing to other members of the audience. The Audience serves as the fourth member of the show, and completely unpredictable. John and Mike, afterwards in the talkback, referred to what the Audience does at their shows, as “gifts.” They don’t know how the audience will react, but they take whatever the audience does and uses it in the show. This is why the show is different every night. Sure there are several “acts” they go through–but the audience determines paths they will take in the act.
Yes, there are some grotesque moments, but comedy and the grotesque have often gone together. Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein comes to mind as comedy exploring inside Horror. We all still laugh–in fact fear makes us want to laugh all the more. Movies that play with death, or that use a dead body as a running gag, or that find humor in zombies (see Sean of the Dead). Saturday Night Live’s spoof on Julia Child severing her own finger while doing a live cooking show–this is what they mean by grotesque, or even horror. Mump and Smoot really don’t go beyond that barrier towards horror. There is nothing so realistic that it makes you gag. Thug, played by Candice, is perhaps the scariest of the three, and she doesn’t say a thing–which is why she’s kinda scary. She’s completely unpredictable.