When a Clown Uses an Animal Prop

The strolling clown has a whole class of animal helpers available to her. She can pull out a hand puppet, spring puppet or finger puppet. He can display a rubber chicken or plush animal. Even invisible animals can show up in clown acts. Here are some ideas for making your animal of choice come alive.

 It all has to do with giving your animal its own persona or character.

 Make your animal look interesting. Not just cute but try for odd or even outrageous. Can the animal be decorated or props added? Add a shiny top hat or an awkward purple bow or, maybe, a pitchfork, depending on who your animal is going to be. A snake with a motorcycle helmet and Harley neck scarf is much more interesting than an unadorned one. A squirrel with a miniature monkey riding on his back is odd.

 Pick a name that fits with your animal’s oddness. It should evoke fun and make people laugh. Every time I meet a pig named Pork Chop I always groan; it’s so mean and true at the same time. My snake with the motorcycle helmet could be called Boss, Rattles or maybe Worm. My favorite name for a male dog is Dude, and because of that name, I can picture him wearing sunglasses.

 So where did Worm or Dude or Pork Chop come from? Provide a compelling origin story for your animal. Maybe you found your skunk as a little pink baby hiding under a rock and you raised him in your sock drawer; his name is Sox. Maybe Worm showed up in your bath tub one day alone and afraid. People like to hear about animals, even pretend ones, rescued from certain death and raised in a nice home.

 So what is your animal like? What does he do for fun? What does he eat? Share snippets of bad, interesting or hilarious behavior or characteristics for your animal. Warn people that your pig likes to bite toes so watch out. Worm, the scary snake, likes to hide in purses so hold yours closed. No-No the mouse is so shy. Dude loves to eat broccoli.

 Allow the animal to show affection. He should look directly into the eyes of the people he is entertaining and also look at you that way. For some reason, when an animal shows affection to a person it is interpreted as true honest affection, unfettered from the constraints of being human. People really believe it means something when an animal singles them out. Maybe No-No comes out only if he sees someone he likes. Maybe Sox the skunk likes to kiss pretty ladies on the cheek. Worm the snake might look scary but when he meets someone he admires, he can’t stop staring.

 Finally, have your animal do something unexpected before you move on.  If Sox the skunk is a spring puppet, you can propel him up into the air. Maybe you put Worm the snake back into his box and he slithers back out through a hole. No-No the mouse may squeak excitedly and you explain that means he needs to find a rest room.

 So clowns, as you stroll, share your animal friends with your audiences and make sure the animals have personas as compelling as you do. Interesting clowns always have even more interesting friends.

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