2010 MICF – James Dowdeswell

Posted on 16 April 2010

James Dowdeswell in My Grandad Was A Clown And Those Are Big Shoes To Fill

James points out early in his show that (like my own brother) he has a lazy eye. However, I must point out that the lazy eye in no way impeded the many sparkles that twinkled therein. What James has in spades is twinkle-eyed charm.

It’s a valuable skill to get your audience empathising with your anecdotes. What also works well, if it’s not too self-conscious, is a gently added wink or twinkle that brings people along with what the comedian finds funny. I frequently add  a few jokes that are for as much my own amusement as that of my audience. Too much of this and it gets self-indulgent. Yet, just the right amount and you’re expanding people’s idea of what’s funny.

I would also point out that James is a big tease. I could easily have enjoyed another thirty minutes of his show in order to have certain of his anecdotes expanded upon.

He speaks about his grandfather’s life, a man who was a profesional clown and worked with Charlie Chaplin around the turn of the previous century. He then speaks briefly about his own journey toward becoming a clown. I loved his stories of childhood play-acting. He mentions he went to clown school, but then tells us very little of what that experience was like. I would LOVE to know what “pie in the face” training is like. Do they get fitted for giant shoes? And on stage he had a big red nose on his prop table that I desperately wanted to see get used. Otherwise the parallel construction of their two lives was brilliant.

The clown Olympics anecdote was stitch in the side funny. If only I could have heard more of his ideas on how clowns would fit into a variety of sporting events.

I am very fond of laid back joke telling styles. James has that delicious pacing which speaks of warmth and confidence. With the particular material of this show, I believe he could add even more exaggerated gestures and outrageous over-statement. This is what we love about the old silent comedies. In particular his re-enactment of his own opening done 1902 style could have used this. Even so it was a beautiful moment on stage giving tribute to his grandfather while demonstrating how he was carrying one family trade forward.

If you have the time, James is well worth a look-in before the comedy festival wraps up for the year.

Peace and kindness,


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