Global Clown Congress Descends on Toonalook Point
TOONALOOK POINT, EAST COAST AUSTRALIA: Circus lovers of all ages were treated to an unexpected day of delights as a softening of COVID-19 domestic travel restrictions, the Queen's Birthday long weekend and a decent southerly swell coincided with the arrival of a contingent of clowns, seemingly from the world over.
First to arrive on the scene was renowned circus tramp Otto von Griebling, who cut a mournful figure, waxing his clown-board under Toona Point Road’s solitary street light in the pre-dawn darkness.
Otto, who paddled out off the beach, rode several waves on the end section in an exaggeratedly mournful manner, suggesting that his was a lonely existence indeed. Early rising onlookers were said to be close to tears and in agreement that there is nothing sadder than a sad clown.
This melancholy prelude revealed itself to be classic Big Top-style emotional manipulation, as by the time von Griebling had performed the deadman’s kickout on his third wave, several tiny cars swerved comically into the Toona Point carpark and began disgorging implausibly large numbers of occupants.
As many as twelve representatives of the famed Brazilian clowning and tumbling fraternity were seen falling out of a single early-model Suzuki Swift.
Witnesses report up to twenty of these swarthy jesters aggressively challenging passers-by to smell their lapel flowers, elbowing each other out of the way enroute to the jump rock and getting their unfeasibly large shoes stuck between boulders, all the while uncaring of the audience’s reaction, indeed seemingly blinkered to the existence of others.
Impressively though, a troupe of surfing Charivari Clowns of unknown origin turned on a splendid routine of acrobatic manoeuvres and spirited jumps off a mini trampoline and vaulting horse positioned on the high tide ledge, and out into the lineup, whereupon they paddled south around the headland never to be seen again.
By 9.00am, the scene at Toonalook was one of no-holds-barred comic gaiety. And as the traditional circus tune floated out over the lineup, local clown Barry Cornell was sighted pedalling furiously along the foreshore on a bike the size of a small briefcase, angrily denouncing the number of clowns who had invaded his break.
According to spectators, Cornell approached a trio of Japanese Harlequins performing a humorously synchronised stretching routine on the foreshore and accosted them.
“You’re all a bunch of clowns” Cornell shouted theatrically, “And I'm going to throw this bucket of water over you.
“Oh yes I am!”
The more the terrified Harlequins protested that Cornell not douse them with the bucket of water, the more animated and insistent Cornell became, until after a protracted back-and-forth he finally threw the contents of the bucket at them.
Much to the delight of onlookers, and puzzlement of the Harlequins, the bucket contained not water, but confetti!
Upon which Cornell bellowed his famous catchphrase, one that circus lovers have come to love and cherish: “That’ll Learn Yers. Now Fark Orf Ya Farken Arse Clown Caaarrnts!” before taking a deep bow and acknowledging the appreciative roars of laughter from the gallery.
As the tide dropped and the swell became less consistent, several custard pie skirmishes were reported from the lineup, the most intense exchanges occurring when local full-time Real Estate Agent and part-time clown Matty Sherman approached the lineup from the north on a Stand Up Paddleboard with a unicycle and a separate set of handlebars, giving the appearance of a bike that comes apart.
The contingent of local clowns politely applauded Sherman's follies but the moment he edged into the takeoff zone, there commenced another crowd favourite: the time-honoured ‘chase’ routine, involving wrong turns, mistaken identity, doubling back, asking the audience if they knew Sherman’s whereabouts, the classic reversal where the pursuer momentarily becomes the pursued, and finally a satisfying climax whereupon they set upon Sherman with most convincing mock violence.
Despite the physically draining nature of the clowning routines – the pulling away of chairs at the last moment, the construction of balloon animals, the retrieval of puzzlingly long legropes from the tailgates of various Subaru Foresters – the impromptu Toona Point carnival lasted from dawn to dusk: as one troupe of clowns wearied of performing, there appeared an inexhaustible supply of replacement clowns willing to take their place.
One notable exception was famed French Pierrot clown Bernard Delfont, who spent the day slouched against the bonnet of his Citroen clownmobile, responding with ‘Pffffft’ and a flicked cigarette butt in the direction of anyone who asked if he was intending to join the frivolity in the water.
By nightfall, however, the clowns had dispersed and the circus had moved on. In a fitting bookend, Otto the melancholy circus tramp was last to be seen. Illuminated by the spotlight glow of Toona Point Road’s solitary streetlight, Otto performed a sublime version of the hopping-on-one-leg-help-I-can’t-get-my-goddamn-zipperless-wetsuit-off-over-my-clown-booties-routine before overbalancing and exiting stage left down a dark embankment.
And when Otto’s pitiful cries for help finally faded, the only trace of the day was a scattering of assorted rubber chickens along the high tide line.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is two mates: illustrator David @maccatoons McArthur and writer/designer Gra Murdoch. Their first surf trip out of Vicco was in a borrowed parent’s car to the NSW South Coast. They forgot the tent pegs so Macca slept in the car while Murdoch constructed nightly lean-tos against park benches with their Springer surfboards – surfboards that had flown off at high speed near Cann River when the soft racks gave up the ghost. The low point was either sleeping under a bush in a Wollongong CBD beachfront park or the speeding fine. The highlight was emerging out from the bush track one morning and seeing perfect, empty Pipe peel both ways.