Day 26: Everyday Clowns Cold Reading
Despite my rather unenthusiastic vlog above, today's reading went rather well. Certainly it went better than I had any right to expect given the short amount of time I spent in actually writing the episode. As I indicated in the vlog, I didn't start writing until about 9 PM the night before it was due. It's not something I would recommend, but I did have the episode pretty well plotted in my head so that made it a little easier.
If you're not yet familiar with the concept Everyday Clowns follows a trio of clowns, collectively known as Hysterium, who have been abandoned by their circus at the end of the circus season and are forced to winter in Hoboken, NJ until another circus comes to town and they can go back on the road. Conceived as a webseries, the show is packed full of slapstick, word play and general goofiness. Think of it as a live-action Looney Tunes. Essentially it is a fish-out-of-water story as the clowns have to adapt to the realities of everyday life, but there is an overall story arc that will have the clowns battling a colony of mimes and their evil Master Mime for the heart of Hoboken.
In this particular episode the clowns, having moved in with Hobokenite June Breezes, have discovered they are broke and will have to get ordinary jobs in order to survive. Mr. Fancy Pants, the ringleader of the clowns, needs a new pair of shoes before he can go on job interviews and journeys to the local mall to purchase a pair. The salesman discovers Mr. Fancy Pants has been exaggerating his size 24 feet by stuffing his oversized shoes with newspaper. Embarrassed by his small feet, Fancy finally agrees to try on a pair of plain and very dull wingtips only to discover he can't walk in shoes so small and plain. Unable to accept this new reality, Fancy buys a pair of red and blue sequined platform shoes that are more fitting to his style. Unfortunately, he is accosted on his way home by a gang of mimes who strip him of his new shoes, his balloons and do some serious damage to his face with a well-brandished lipstick. This leads our heroes to the shocking discovery that Hoboken in indeed infested with a colony of mimes determined to take over the world.
Each episode is stocked full with nods to comedians, famous bits, movies and more than a few puns. In this episode there are references to the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, Catskills comedy, Bugs Bunny, Howdy Doody and Jurassic Park among others. Some of the gags are obvious, others are more subtle, but part of the fun of the series is picking them all out as we watch the clowns stumble through everyday life.
I try to keep the episodes around 10 pages, and I finished the first 7 pages of the script by around 12:30 AM Saturday morning. The reading was scheduled for Noon the same day. In those first 7 pages I realized I wasn't going to be able to get all the plot points that I wanted to touch on in this episode. There was just too much going on. I decided to focus strictly on Mr. Fancy Pants’ new shoes and the aftermath. But even that was probably going to take me over 10 pages. I set my goal of completing the story in 12 with two pages dedicated to the purchase of the shoes, one page for the mugging and then two to wrap things up and identify the mime colony. Too tired to continue at that point, I went to bed with the promise I would get up early and finish in time for the reading. By 7 AM I was back at the keyboard and typing furiously. What I hoped to finish in 5 pages took an additional 3, culminating in a total of 15 pages. A quick zip through the script for some cutting brought me down to about 14 pages with just a little spilling over onto 15. Still longer than I wanted, but I was out of time. It was 10:30 and I needed to get ready.
I arrived at the workshop, held at the Golden Road Brewery in Glendale, right at noon. I was the first writer up and the laughs started from the get go, this despite the fact that one of the actor's just didn't quite grasp the intent of the character. The comments following the reading included "yet another strong episode in the series" and "brilliant." I'll take both of those. The criticisms included comments regarding the lack of setup for Billy in this episode. Billy is June's ex-boyfriend who is siding with the mimes. He has a small role in this episode and it was confusing for the readers. One of the readers, who did an excellent job with his part, questioned the lack of pathos and wondered who the audience for this series would be. His concern seemed to be that clowns were just for kids and that there wasn't much to entice adults to tune in, funny though it was. I disagree that clowns are just for kids, and this speaks more to his own personal baggage that he brings to the series. I had a friend who refused to watch The Simpson's or any other animated series because 'cartoons are for kids.' The Simpson's, Family Guy, Looney Tunes and Animaniacs are all cartoons that have a huge adult following. Kids may tune in for the lampoonish behavior, but adults tune in for the inside jokes, the wordplay and the mature humor that the kids don't pick up on. The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Crabbe and Fatty Arbuckle, not to mention The Three Stooges are all clowns in their own right, but have huge adult followings. I think it is the idea of circus clowns with their garish makeup that is coloring his thoughts regarding adults in this instance.
This reader also wished for more pathos or relatability to the clowns, something to give them more weight. I think there is certainly some of that present in this episode with June not particularly happy with her own job; it's just something she has to do to get by in life. Mr. Fancy Pants is obviously distraught when he loses his new shoes and his balloons, something that could have been played up more by the actor, which may have answered the reader's concerns, but it is very hard to make that dramatic turn in such a broad comedy, especially given such a short time span with which to accomplish it. But maybe that's what will elevate the series from good to great. It's something I will have to consider.
The series is not without it's more serious moments, however. Upcoming episodes will deal with Lalo unable to sell his makeup line (Merry Clown Cosmetics) and feeling like a failure. Mr. Fancy Pants will suffer a loss when he receives word that his mentor Jimbo the Clown has died. I think the overall series will have those moments and give us a well-rounded look at the world in which the clowns exist, but the question now is do I need more of those moments episode-to-episode? Maybe if I hadn't waited until the night before the script was due to start writing, I would have found those moments. Food for thought.