Battles, Blows and Blood: pleasure and terror in the performance of clown violence
This article will explore the performative structures of comic violence enacted by, and on, clown bodies, drawing on filmic examples such as Chaplin’s The Kid (1920) and The Circus (1928), Fellini’s The Clowns (1970) and McMahon’s Stitches (2012). Focusing on trips, falls and blows and the exaggeration of these through repetition, escalation and sound effects the article will examine the way violence can be constructed and presented as comedy. Comedy violence has a long and colourful history in popular performance and is performed by clowns with joyful anarchy, gifting the audience the vicarious pleasure of witnessing scenes that they would be unlikely to enact. However there is also a darker side to clown violence which can be found in parodies of the horror film genre. The 2012 film Stitches, directed by Conor McMahon, provides examples of clown violence blended with exaggerated horror effects in terms of blood and suspense. The forms of mild violence perpetrated on the titular clown, Stitches, prior to his accidental death echo the comic violence of circus clowns but the violence he perpetrates as he seeks posthumous revenge are much more violent whilst still echoing the techniques of repetition and escalation found in earlier more joyful incarnations of clown violence. This article will, therefore, explore the ways in which clown violence can be read as joyful transgression or as threatening anarchy which speaks more to trauma than pleasure and how these positions relate to the society in which the violence was created.
The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
Citation : Peacock, L. (2019) Battles, Blows and Blood: Pleasure and Terror in the Performance of Clown Violence. Journal of Comedy Studies,
ISSN : 2040-610X
Research Institute : Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Arts