For the last two summers I traveled to France to stand on a classroom stage and have a Frenchman with a drum tell me how I’m falling short, like, for instance, how “my words sound like a fart in a bath.” I got a triple zero for that one and needed to “get off the stage... immediately.”
And I’ve become a better writer for it.
École Philippe Gaulier is not the only place I’ve studied clown, but it’s where I’ve encountered my flaws most intensely. Within two days of class instruction, I knew where I stood and what was standing in my way. Either teachers told me directly or I discovered it from the pleasures of bombing.
It’s rare to find that level of honest feedback. They never said I couldn’t succeed; they were simply saying that what I was doing wasn’t it. There’s no middle ground at the school. Either your performance is worth an eighty-euro ticket or it’s worth zero. Mediocre is the same as bombing, which is a wonderful starting place for invention.
Through clown I’ve learned to be (more) comfortable not knowing what to do next. It’s a practice to enter a performance, or a writing project, not knowing what will happen. Besides, knowing all the answers from the start is boring, so, “Fucking boring. Triple zero. Get off the stage.”
Often Philippe would tell people, “You have the eyes of a fascist.” I understood this as: you think you’re going to impart your ideas upon us with your stupid words. All words are stupid, in fact, and you should use as little as possible. The most important thing is to make us feel, concisely.
This has helped me a lot with writing. Each unnecessary word is weighing down the sentence and lulling my reader to sleep. Getting preachy and overly pedantic? If the readers could bang a drum and kick me off a stage they would. Instead, they’re just thinking of the fight they had with their partner, the dishes they must wash, or their upcoming colonoscopy.
I now like to start every project with the base assumption that I am an idiot. I know nothing and the task is to fill the project with images and insight, as well as notes from trusted people. I try to move my ego aside, like a clown does, because then all those images and insights, and notes are simply fun toys to be used, if fun, or discarded, if not. It’s just all input and play.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve had some uncomfortable moments saying “my stupid words” and having a group of writers look at me in horror. It’s not an attack of low confidence, I’m simply reminding myself, that words are beside the point. The main objective is to not be so fucking boring.
Lauren LoGiudice is an accomplished comedian, actor, and author of Amazon Kindle Best Seller Inside Melania: What I know About Melania Trump by Impersonating Her. Lauren's work work has been featured by The New York Times, BBC, among others and her TV and film credits include Veep, Brave the Dark and Galaxy360. Moth StorySLAM Champ. In addition to her comedy album, Misfits: A Comedy Album you can also hear Melania Trump’s Rockin’ Right-Wing Christmas Album, available on all major streaming platforms. Follow her on Instagram @laurenlogi