Kurt Vonnegut on clown gags

Over at the Pat Cashin’s most excellent Clown Alley Blog, he posts and paraphrases Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for clown gags.

They are quite good, and worthwhile remembering.

If you’d like to read more, it’s from the book [amazon_link id=”0385334230″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Slapstick[/amazon_link]  which is available on Amazon.

PLEASE NOTE:  Pat wrote to explain that the rules are NOT from Slapstick, and not about clown gags per se- but about writing.  Pat paraphrased them.  My bad for not checking it out further.  The rules are still excellent and worth following!

[amazon_link id=”B000JWI6AK” target=”_blank” locale=”US” container=”” container_class=”” ]SLAPSTICK A NOVEL by Kurt Vonnegut[/amazon_link]

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the audience at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every moment must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your character, make awful things happen to them—in order that the audience may see what they are made of.
  7. Perform to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your clowning will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your audience as much information as possible as soon as possible. Your audience should have a complete understanding of what is going on.

One comment

  • Adam,

    To the best of my knowledge
    Kurt Vonnegut never mentioned clown gags in his life. These are Vonnegut’s tips for writers, which I’ve amended very slightly after I realized how easily they applied to clown gags.

    They aren’t from the book Slapstick, that’s just the clowniest Vonnegut image available to accompany the post.

    In fact, it’s basically a drawing of Bill Irwin on the cover of Kurt Vonnegut’s least favorite Kurt Vonnegut book.


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