Nomad Clowning – Improvisation & Adventure


A few words about randomness.

In 2013 I sold off my furniture, packed my backpack, and headed off to see the world, low-budget style.
I’ve hitchhiked across more than twenty countries since then. I’ve discovered cultures and communities I didn’t even know existed.
People everywhere have welcomed me into their worlds, and helped me understand them.
I’ve learned how to be more in the moment and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances, even when I’m confused and frustrated, and I’ve always found people along the way who were friends to me and helped me find my way.

I call what I do ‘improvised adventure‘.

Improvisation is a fascinating process. I feel like it is one of the defining elements of exploration. When I don’t have a predetermined destination, I feel like my horizons are wide open. Anything is possible, even what I can’t imagine. That’s the big thing about improvisation. Making as much room as possible in my life for things I can’t yet imagine.

I started to think about improvisation in intellectual terms when I was learning to be a clown at university. That’s right. I studied clowning. Not all clowns are scary murderous monsters. It’s a real thing grown-ups study at university. Kind of grown-ups…

I had a tutor who was all about improvisation. He used to say ‘improvisation is a collaborative process. If you want to move the story forward, remember these two words; yes and…
We would spend hours doing exercises where we would just create stories with one ‘yes and’ after another.
“Lets go to the zoo.”
“Yes and… we’ll climb into the monkey cage.”
“Yes and then we’ll dress the monkeys in suits and ties!”
“Yes and then walk down the street with all the monkeys in suits and catch a bus downtown..!”

‘Yes and’ became a mantra for me. It’s a philosophy. It applies to all kinds of collaborative processes. When someone offers you a creative idea, embrace it and enlarge it.

The opposite of ‘yes anding‘ is blocking. That’s when someone offers you a creative idea and you disregard it or oppose it. Blocking kills stories. Blocking shuts down collaboration.
The ‘yes and’ philosophy is all about keeping creativity alive and nurturing ideas.

My clowning professor loved to remind us: ‘if you don’t take risks nothing happens’.

Lots of crazy, weird, nonsensical stuff comes out of ‘yes anding’. That’s the whole idea. The thing is, if you want to come up with new ways of doing things, you need to embrace ideas that seem strange or even scary.

So how does this ‘yes and’ business apply to real life adventures? Sure, it might work for making up silly stories, but is this any way to run your life?
How do you know you will achieve a good outcome?

Don’t think about that too much.

Think about this: backpacking with oversize clown shoes is tricky.

Traveling with a ‘yes and’ philosophy leads me to strange places. It takes me out of my comfort zone. It stretches me as a person.
There are no guarantees when you improvise. Things rarely go the way you imagine, and that is kind of the whole point.
Plenty of silly, pointless stuff happens. Lots of time and energy goes into making narratives that lead nowhere and end abruptly. If you collaborate without censorship, if you seek to discover the unknown, things are going to happen that are inconvenient at best. But that’s what adventure is isn’t it? It’s a voyage into the strange.

When the road is muddy. When I’m alone and feeling sorry for myself. The days when I hold out my ideas to the world and get blocked… on those days I long for a more predictable story. But then I think about all the time I spent living as if I had a map of my future, and I remember why I started this improvised adventure in the first place. I like to be surprised.

The way I see it, nobody’s life is truly predictable anyway. Not in the reassuring comforting way we would sometimes like to fantasise. There are no real guarantees. No real certainty. That’s a realisation I think we all have to have at some point. We got to let go of our delusional belief that there is some sort of destiny ahead of us. That the universe has a plan for us.

Accepting and embracing the random nature of existence doesn’t have to be an act of surrender or despair. Letting go of certainty doesn’t mean life has no meaning. Life is what it is and will be. We can choose to block out the crazy nonsensical stuff life throws at us, or we can say ‘yes and… let’s make reservations and take the formally attired monkeys to the opera house.’

If I’m going to be real, and accept that life is mostly beyond my control, then I’m going to try to do it in the spirit of a clown.
While I figure this shit out, I’ll keep bouncing around, pulling faces and doing prat-falls all over the place in my outsized shoes until things make more sense.
I might be confused, but at least I’ll have a few laughs.



Manny here, the guy who makes this blog.

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