SKITS

Everything related to skits; design, planning, and execution.

SKITS / INTRODUCTION

Wikipedia has an incomparable introduction to skit design:

CLOWNING FRAMEWORKS
Frameworks are the general outline of an act that clowns use to help them build out an act. Frameworks can be loose, including only a general beginning and ending to the act, leaving it up to the clown's creativity to fill in the rest, or at the other extreme a fully developed script that allows very little room for creativity.

SHOWS
The overall production that a clown is a part of, it may or may not include elements other than clowning, such as in a circus show. In a circus context, clown shows are typically made up of some combination of Entrées, Side dishes, Clown Stops, Track Gags, Gags and bits.

BLOW-OFF
The Blow-Off is the comedic ending of a show segment, bit, gag, stunt or routine. It is the skits punchline.

GAGS, BITS, BUSINESS
"Business" is the individual motions the clown uses, often used to express the clown's character. A "gag" is a very short piece of clown comedy which when repeated within a bit or routine may become a "running gag". Gags may be loosely defined as "the jokes clowns play on each other". Bits are the clown's sketches or routines made up of one or more gags either worked out and timed before going on stage or impromptu bits composed of familiar improvisational material. A gag may have a beginning, a middle and an end to them, or they may not. Gags can also refer to the prop stunts/tricks or the stunts that clowns use, such as a squirting flower.

MENU
Entrées are feature clowning acts lasting 4-8 minutes. They are typically made up of various gags and bits, and usually use a clowning framework. Entrées almost always end with a blow-off.

SIDE DISHES
Shorter feature acts. Side dishes are essentially shorter versions of the Entrée, typically lasting 1 - 3 minutes. Side dishes are typically made up of various gags and bits, and usually use a clowning framework. Side dishes almost always end with a blow-off.

INTERLUDES
Clown Stops or interludes are the brief appearance of clowns while the props and rigging are changed. These are typically made up of a few gags or several bits. Clown Stops almost always end with a blow-off. Clown stops will always have a beginning, a middle and an end to them.

PROP STUNTS
Among the more well-known clown stunts are: squirting flower; the "too-many-clowns-coming-out-of-a-tiny-car" stunt; doing just about anything with a rubber chicken, tripping over ones own feet (or an air pocket or imaginary blemish in the floor), or riding any number of ridiculous vehicles or "clown bikes". Individual prop stunts are generally considered to be individual bits.

Please go to Wikipedia to read much more of this excellent article.

SKITS / SKIT ESSENTIALS

Key Essentials to Remember for a Skit
By Susan Hooper.

Brainstorm
  • Take time to think about what type and theme of skit(s) you want to develop (ie. magic, prats, kids, topical, number of clowns, conflict, parody, ...)
  • Then list all possible idea/concept/themes that revolve around that skit idea
  • From there try to figure out those ideas/concepts/themes can be turned into humor
  • The humor you create for your skit will come from the subject you chose to portray
  • Skits will vary in humor from general amusement, chuckles, or people laughing so hard they cry.
Paperwork
  • If you have computer available then then type your skit(s) out, this will provide opportunity for making adjustments as needed
  • Make typed versions of your skit in outline form at first; later fill in every detail.
  • Make a prop check list
  • Develop a time line with points in music (this especially applies if you are using the music for cueing), this will help to keep a consistent flow with your skit or to make sure you don't run over time.
Music
Some of the essential reasons people have music with a skit is because:
  • You are trying to evoke a certain feeling
  • You are trying to establish the setting of scene and/or character
  • You are trying to provide easy to follow cues/timing/pacing for yourself
  • You are trying to provide effects i.e. Sounds, that you couldn't otherwise express yourself.
  • Talking is very hard to hear, and not everyone speaks English. Think pantomime.
  • Consider bringing multiple formats of music; CD, backup CD, pre-loaded MP3 player.
Props
  • Check items 1-2 days before gig/performance, this will allow for preparation time for props to be fixed, cleaned, or for any purchases that need to be made.
  • Consider bringing back-up pieces that may be essential to your skit or bring tools necessary to fix problems that may arise
  • Only use props that will provide a clear meaning to your skit
  • Props should be colorful and big... ridiculously big.
Rehearsals
  • Have someone record your skit so you can review later
  • Remember to review timing, spacing, interaction and reaction with crowd
  • Work out EVERY detail.
Remember
Skits will change whether it is because you found a joke/idea that would work better/be funnier, a joke/idea didn't get the crowd reaction that you had hoped or you will need to be adjusted ideas/jokes based on current times and trends. If something isn't funny, change it.

This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS

Brief descriptions of skits as examples, for inspiration, or for actual use.

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS / BIG ACTS

  • Balloon one-upping
    Act length competing balloon twisters skit performed to "anything you can do I can do better" as performed by Andrew and Susan.
  • Skate bully
    Quick inline skating skit performed to "I've got a brand new pair of roller skates", features bully, girl with crush, and a de-pantsing. As performed by Andrew and Susan.
  • Hardware band
    Saw player, along with oil can drums, pipes and mallets, etc.
  • Performance Art
    Fixed location absurdist piece Like Redmoon. Actor engages in some slow pointless incomprehensible action repeatedly.
  • Karaoke for the deaf
    Fake but plausible sign language routine accompanying a well-known song, with a simple chorus that audience starts to pick up.
  • Exploding Oven
    Any variation of classic recipe gone wrong skit, as done by Three Stooges and Bozo.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS / VARIOUS

  • Parody of major circus act
    like Dim Wits. Done with best intentions, clowns gradually realize how hard it is.
  • Human Marionette
    One clown pretends to control another shorter one using invisible strings.
  • Millionth Customer
    Customer for some reason doesn't want the attention. Maybe was robbing store, or is otherwise criminally wanted.
  • Laughing gas
    Clown moving a prop tank of "laughing gas" (perhaps for a clown dentist) accidentally sprays whole audience.
  • Plant delivery
    Recurring delivery person gag, where plant is dramatically more withered each time they come out. Starting with flamboyant flowered plant, ends with delivery of pot of dirt with wilted sticks, maybe dumped on head of recipient.
  • Oopsy Dropsy
    Trying to hold several things, such as juggling clubs, accidentally drops one. Picks up dropped thing but at same time accidentally drops another, and so forth. Eventually nearly gets last things but drops all trying. Sometimes "accidentally" kicks away thing on ground while reaching for it. Can be performed with kid where kid innocently picks up and hands dropped thing back to clown, but clown drops another while taking it.
  • Human pinata.
    Fat clown eventually burst with candy.
  • Gorilla costumes
    Gorillas vs. giant banana costume. Review Ernie Kovaks.
  • Water and Confetti.
    Water is bolder, but Confetti or glitter are more visible.
  • Seltzer bottle
    Clown "accidentally" squirts audience while chasing other clown. Seen in Russian bit where other clown had flaming hat.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS / POP CULTURE

  • Clown Idol
    Weight lifter, violin and dog, Giant magic, Bad singing, ... Let audience vote on which clown to kick off. Possible recurring gag, through elimination cycles.
  • Clowns Got Talent
    One-off quick acts, like Gong show.
  • Pop culture
    Parodying any current pop-culture is automatically cool. Beauty and the Geek. PooBahs, TeleTubbies, Barney, Spider Man, MySpace, ...


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS / SPORTS

With its familiarity to a wide audience, inherent props and costumes, and many opportunities for pathos, pratfalls and non-verbal physical comedy, SPORTS is a particularly rich area for circus clowning. Skits can be developed for each of several major sports commonly known locally. Skit length may range from one minute, through two minutes, through long center ring act. Skits may include occurrence of running gag. Skits may include audience member. Skits may include audience cheering, team rooting, superfan involvement.

A compendium of skit ideas for various sports can be found here, assembled over the course of several brainstorming sessions with clown cast, and review of sports comedy history and numerous movies.

This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS / THEMES

Possible themes for doing multiple skits on a single theme through entire circus show:

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS / PIES

  • Unaware duck
    Any case where the intended target inadvertently ducks at last instant, maybe to pick up a penny or otherwise distracted or pratfall. Object hits person behind. Possibly villain or otherwise emotionally invested other actor.
  • Pies Pies Pies
    Clown performs a song which repeatedly contains some phrase on which other clowns pie them.
  • Backfire
    One clown tries to get the other to say some keyword or do some action in order to pie them. Eventually backfires, such as door opens pushing pie back into self.
  • Tricked
    One clown plays trick on another successfully, getting them to say some keyword, or perhaps sit on pie surreptitiously placed on seat.
  • Giant pie on catapult
    Funny absurdity of scale, backfires onto villain.
  • Pies don't solve everything
    Remember.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / SKIT IDEAS / MAGIC

  • Hat from rabbit
    Large unstuffed rabbit doll, filled with collapsible hat.
  • Suicide rabbit pulled from hat by noose
    Fake start of standard routine, but rabbit doesn't answer...
  • Flattened Rabbit
    Comes out of accidentally crushed hat, or pressed shirt.
  • Clumsy magic show
    Any magic bits but having unintended results. Classic example is clown does something obviously wrong but is unaware (animal gets away, picks wrong card, ...), kids laugh, but somehow trick works anyway to everyone's suprise.
  • Cheating magic show
    Clown performs standard trick successfully (such as silk draped object on platter disappears, or shell game), then accidentally reveals secret (such as object glued on platter, or ball under all shells).
  • Dr. Flamo musical candles
    Performer says they can musically play an arrangement of different height candles, just like Champagne glasses. Then passes hands over them varyingly, wailing song using sounds of pain.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / WALK-AROUND GAGS

Every clown needs one or more quick walkaround gags.
  • "Do I look a little pail?"
    While holding tiny toy pail.
  • "It's a lot easier than pushing it!"
    While inexplicably slowly dragging around a large rope.
  • "I'm Under attack!"
    Having a hat with, or holding, an oversized prop tack over one's head.
  • "Did you get your freebie?"
    While passing out cutouts of the letter B.
  • "Free shakes"
    Have a sign, carry a tray with fake shake on it. When people accept, shake yourself.
  • Free Ticket
    Hand out pre-printed "free tickets". Doesn't get you into anything, but the ticket itself is free.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / PREVIOUSLY USED

These skits have been used in recent years at Triton Troupers Circus:
  • Clapping school. (at east twice)
  • Magic Chair (Hypnosis)
  • Mary went for a walk. (at east twice)
  • Save my baby. (at east twice)
  • Brand new skates.
  • Beach Balls (hands up in the air)
  • I'm having a clown moment.
  • Bumbling changing of light bulb
  • Balloon stealing.
  • Pie shop.
  • Wheel of misfortune.
  • YMCA. Head and Shoulders and Knees and Toes.
  • Right-Toe.
  • I Gotta Go Whee
  • Can Can Boys (cross dressing)


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / EXERCISES

  • Brainstorm: What is funny.
  • Pies don't solve everything.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / NOISES

  • Mouth Siren ("Fweeeee").
  • Whistle ("tweet")
  • Slide Whistle ("toooooot?")
  • Old Style Hand Horn ("ooogah"/"honk-honk").
  • Duck Decoy ("quack")
  • Kazoo ("zooty-zoot")
  • Train Whistle ("whooo-whooooo")
  • Cymbals ("crash")
  • Percussion (Triangle / Maracas / Castanets / Cowbell)
  • Electric Keyboard
  • Banjo / Mandolin
  • Custom Plucked Instruments (canjo / cigar box guitar)
  • Violin / Fiddle (Jack Benny)
  • One Man Band (back drums, leg cymbals, ...)
  • Harmonica
  • Saxophone (Bill Clinton)
  • Accordion


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / HUMOR

Jokes, one liners, heckle replies.

SKITS / HUMOR / ONE LINERS

  • That's how old I was when I was your age.
  • Oh Miss, you dropped your smile.
  • I wanted to be a comedian, but I was afraid people would laugh at me.
  • I come from a town that is so small, we have a fraction for a zip code.
  • Be careful what you wish for, you may get it!


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / HUMOR / SILLY JOKES

Every clown MUST be able to tell a number of completely clean jokes.
  • Q. Why couldn't the skeleton cross the road?
    A. Because he had no guts.
  • Q. Why didn't the skeleton go to the party?
    A. Because he had NO BODY to go with.
  • Q. How can you tell if there's an elephant in your closet?
    A. It's hard to close the door.
  • Q. What animal can jump higher than a house?
    A. Most animals, because a house can't jump.
  • Q. What's two things you can't have for Breakfast?
    A. Lunch and Dinner.
  • Did you hear about the fire at the circus?
    It was IN TENTS! (pronounced like INTENSE).
  • Two prunes walk out of a movie, one says to the other, "should we walk, or take a danish."
  • Why did the punk cross the road?
    Because he had a chicken safety-pinned to his cheek.
  • An optimist thinks that this is the best of all possible worlds. A pesimist is worried the optimist is right!
  • Q. Why did the turkey cross the road?
    A. To prove he wasn't chicken.
  • Q. What kinds of truck is always a boy?
    A. A mail truck.
  • Did you hear about the elephant with diareah?
    Its all over town.
  • Did you hear about the man who applied for the job of human cannonball at a circus?
    He got hired and fired in the same day.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.

SKITS / WORKSHEETS

Storyboard Forms

CLICK HERE for a printable 1up STORYBOARD form. Use this form to plan acts/skits. Draw a single frame in detail and describe the action.
CLICK HERE for a printable 2x2 STORYBOARD form. Use this form to plan acts/skits. Draw several frames and describe the sequence of action.

Floorplan

CLICK HERE for a printable gym / circus area floorplan. Use this diagram to plan acts/skits. Note that this is a ROUGH version; places are not exact, equipment is not shown, and measurements are inexact.


This "Clowning 101" content is Copyright 2019, all rights reserved
By Andrew ("Drizzle") Bedno and Susan ("Sweetie") Hooper, Chicago Illinois USA.