INTERVIEW: Brian Foley, Clown Extraordinaire

In character

What do you love about being a clown?
The joy it brings me and others, the freedom it offers me and inspires in others.What is your clown name?  How did you choose it?
I have performed as various characters–some named Otto or Bouk, but mostly, I believe clown is about telling the truth. So, I’m Brian.

Do you take on a different persona when you clown? 
My characters like Otto are based on other people, but when I’m really clowning purely, I’m just being honest about my strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and sense of humor. So I exaggerate things about me, but it’s all me.
Where did you get your circus education? 
I had a wonderful clown teacher in college named Stephen Ringold. He taught me much about pure clown and how difficult it is to find in oneself. Then I worked with many teachers like Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley, Barry Lubin, Larry Pisoni, and many, many others. My peers and colleagues also taught me much as I was fortunate enough to work beside them on many jobs.
How do you come up with your routine?
Honest answer–I find a toy and I play with it. Then when I have some ideas, I find a piece of music and add that in. Then I perform it in front of an audience for a while, and make lots of mistakes. I come back home and think about the mistakes and why it’s not working. I then look for the most truthful answer. The key to unlocking the routine is usually in there. I also ask myself the questions I would ask my student–what is my character’s relationship to the audience?, etc.
What do you do when people are afraid of clowns?
When it is children, usually they’re not afraid of me. But I would give them space or let them decide that they like me. When it’s adults, I educate them. Clown is a verb. I can clown in any article of clothing or without makeup. If you’re scared of makeup, you’re not scared of clowns. You’re scared of makeup. That’s different.
How can someone go from being interested in clowning to being where you are?
Well, my path began in the theatre. I had a good solid foundation in dance, music, acting, and more. I can control my body, am comfortable onstage, and had some skills to begin with.  Then I made a point to seek out good teachers, and study with them. I practiced very hard, auditioned for theme parks and cruise ships and other performance jobs where I could improve my circus skills, and then I began developing my own material–both solo and with a partner. After proving myself as a performer with potential to my teachers (who were also well-connected in the markets I wanted to break into) they began recommending me for work. And because I worked hard to do a good job, I rose up the ranks.
– Cailey

Out of character

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