________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006


Funny Business: Clowning Around, Practical Jokes, Cool Comedy, Cartooning, and More...

Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Claudia Dávila.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press, 2005.
160 pp., pbk. & cl., $12.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-897066-41-4 (pbk.), ISBN 1-897066-40-6.

Subject Headings:
Clowning-Juvenile literature.
Wit and humour-Juvenile literature.
Cartooning-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Wendy Williams.

*** /4


Q.     "What's the difference between  a giggling grizzly and an amusement park for rabbits?"

R.     "One's a funny bear and the other's a bunny fair."


Are you ready to take laughter seriously? Do you realize how hard it is to make people laugh?  Would you laugh if someone slipped on a banana peel? Do you know who first wore a clown's red nose? Do you have a secret longing to be a clown? Then, would you want to be a stand-up comic (very Seinfeld), a practical joker, a mime, a comic strip artist, or just a clown who goes to birthday parties? Helaine Becker answers all these questions and more - how to use whatever is to hand to make a clown costume, how to create a clown makeup that is special to you, how to use body language to create laughter, and how to draw cartoons.

     Funny Business is attractively packaged, small in size, and contains a wealth of information for young people interested in the business of laughter. As Becker says, "Don't worry if your juggling skills take a while to develop. If you drop a juggling bag in a routine, break into loud, overblown tears." This book could be a great way to amuse potential clowns over vacation periods, and it will give hours of amusement at very little cost, no batteries required. The downside, however, could be the constant requests to be an audience as your little clown or clownette practices endless jokes and pratfalls. But, as Becker points out, clowns with serious ambitions can always go to clown school, such as the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris or the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre in California, which sound like wonderful places to learn how to be funny. Hmm, I wouldn't  mind going to Paris to learn how to be funny - never mind the laughs, just let me practice my pratfalls on those famous cobbled streets - would you think a moustache on the Mona Lisa funny?

     Practical jokes, Clown Fashion 101, and Trips and Falls are all detailed for the potential clown. Did you know that Trips and Falls can be divided into The Classic Trip and the Classic Pratfall? But my favourite joke, listed under Spooky Pranks, involves a cardboard box, some paint, and the pranksters' friends being fooled into thinking you've found a real finger from a dead body in the woods. Ugh! But this is sure to please your budding clowns. We all need a laugh or two in the middle of winter, and so send in the clowns and leave your dignity at the door. Becker's book will provide a great deal of laughs to young people who would like to follow in the footsteps of Jim Carey or Spongebob Squarepants.


Wendy Williams, of Calgary, AB, is a teacher-librarian who now realizes that she takes life far too seriously. She is currently deciding whether to be a classic clown or a cartoonist.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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