Clowns do ethnography: an experiment in long-distance comic failure

Barnaby King, Richard Talbot

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    This paper examines the role of clowning in practice-as-research, and explores tensions between aspiration and execution in interdisciplinary projects. It draws on documentary assets (video screen grabs, photographs, texts) from a version of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis devised online and presented at The Light in Leeds as Ugly Scenes (Performance Studies international, Psi#18). It is also an experiment in writing ‘for’ and ‘as’ idiots, bringing together four interlocuting voices: those of two academics ‘in conversation with’ their antagonists and clown-esque alter egos, Kurt Zarniko and Teddy Love. The performance involved collaboration between academics and artists in the UK, USA, and Greece in the form of online auditioning, online devising, and collaborative writing. Formed into an international company, the group used open-source software (Google Docs, Skype, and Snagit) as platforms that offer productive arenas for live performance and improvisation. These platforms have an inherent potential for technological calamity (which is understood as fruitful in clown and comic modes). The actual staging of this work by this international but amateur outfit presented numerous obstacles, comical ‘failures’ and shortcomings, and there remains a wealth of material that offers a rich resource for a visually striking critical reflection.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)64-77
    Number of pages14
    JournalComedy Studies
    Issue number1
    Early online date23 Jun 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2014


    • carnival
    • clown
    • ethnography
    • failure
    • participation
    • play
    • playfulness


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