Whereas the spoken word is the chief medium of communication between an actor and his audience, a clown must often rely mainly on pantomime, which is acting without words.
The clown depends, therefore, on gestures and body language to interpret what he is doing and thinking and such gestures are exaggerations or caricatures
of normal action and movement.
If the clown is happy, he not only smiles broadly but he also jumps up and down, hugs himself, and may turn cart-wheels. If he is sad, he sits down with his head between his knees, shakes all over from sobbing and finally takes out a big, red bandanna handkerchief and starts to blow his nose - but there is a big hole in the handkerchief!
A few other traditional clown actions are these:
- Running: Move arms like pistons, bring knees up to the chest, and pause to indicate breathlessness. Don't cover too much space; run in place.
- Pain: If struck by an object, fall or jump in the direction propelled by instrument. If hit in the seat, arch body with head and legs extended backward. If struck on the head, stagger forward like a chicken trying to catch up to its head. Open mouth widely and yell, or act as if yelling, while placing hands on sore spot.
- Odors: Hold nose.
- Fear: Cower, cover head with arms or hide behind a person or object. Shake and tremble.
The "Mime" wears a white face but, unlike the Whiteface Clown, not all of the skin must be covered. Instead the make-up resembles a mask, just covering the face but not the ears or neck. Features are simple, similar to the Whiteface "Pierrot" character, usually in black and red.
The history of pantomime can be traced back to classical farce in the Middle Ages and has evolved slowly into what we know today as "Mime."