beside the point

interview with buster, joey and coco
By Erik Bindervoet

On Polyinterpretability

So, anyway. The day started slowly, tentatively, hesitatingly, as did the conversation, as did this sentence, like some forgotten, distant fight song from the Caribbean where hurricane Irma was raging at the time. The first to arrive in their favorite haunt for interviews, the shimmering lounge of the Schiller Hotel at the Amsterdam Rembrandtplein, was Joey. I catch him assiduously reading some pages of script for the new show. – I have to make a selection out of it, he says. Because my friends are too lazy to do that. Or too dumb. I might just as well go it alone. Joey goes solo! He roars heartily at this seemingly flippant remark, but touches on an important theme of our conversation, and, who knows, of the entire show, subjectivism or even solipsism. As Jan Hanlo put it: “Understanding is a selection from the existent. Thus to understand something depends on what exists, but the choice from this reality is therefore arbitrary. This last factor (the choice) brings an element of subjectivity into the understanding. To make it in advance very clear that I am no ‘subjectivist’ at all, I would like to recall that, the instant somebody claims something from radical subjectivity, that person annihilates him- or herself. A subjectivist can never claim anything, because a claim that at the same time does not have to apply to somebody else is not a claim. It is nothing. It’s a silence.” So the title is no mean misnomer. It does exactly what it says. And everybody that can pronounce it, understands it, immediately. In doing so. But, to quote the famous clown Grock, “ theory and philosophy aside and practicalities and physicalities first”. Sugar arrives, the stagehand cum stage manager, by force of absence not present at the previous interview, but now all there and bright as ever, except for a small headache, caused by an arrow through the forehead carrying the sign “THIS WAY”, for which he has to see a doctor this afternoon. Buster comes in, complaining of the cold. And of a stiff upper neck. – From the cold? I ask, trying to concentrate on the sensory side of clowning, – No, from practicing my suspenders. – That’s the hardest part, concurs Joey: – Rehearsing. How do you rehearse as a clown? You can’t. How can you seize the moment if it is not there, i.e. not here and now? It’s impossible! Waruuuuuum? Nit möööööglich! Cannot do it! And still we do it. Until we do it again. Time after time. Day in, day out. Anyway, I will do everything differently now. Especially now I have been to a Clowning Symposium in Rijswijk. – Can you tell us a little more about that? – No. Enter Coco, right at this moment, looking very much like chief Twisted Hair, but fitted with an impressive beard and wearing the classy trademark Pointless International sweater, still available at a suitable trading post, shopping mall or sweater emporium near you, if you hurry. Sugar tries to warn me for the good mood Buster is in: – That’s always dangerous. It can swing anytime, he whispers. But there is no sign of that on the horizon. Yet. Everything seems to be totally hunky-dory with the lads. Joey even has a present for Coco, which turns out to be a prop for a secret act that goes under the codename “Shaking the Box” and of which not too much can be revealed at this moment, except that the point of the act is in the title. Suffice it to say that there are strictly no elephants involved. They just got back from a long and exhausting international tour which brought them all the way to France and Belgium and on the brink of intensive contacts with Germany, England and even India. In order not to be recognized on the streets and to remain incognito they have to wear red noses now. But no time to rest on their hardy laurels for them and, though Buster claims that a second show is an impossibility for clowns, a second show is definitely waiting in the wings. – What may we not expect? I ask, looking forward to a bucket of water filled with confetti. – There are no guarantees of course. Everything is under reservation, replies Buster. – But we still obey the same set of rules, argues Coco. – In order to break them, or to turn them around, affirms Sugar. – And nothing pleases. So nothing is allowed. Therefore we won’t use artificial materials or emotional substitutes like little pumps, stamps or bags, states Buster, rather sternly. – But an explosive cigar is something else. That is an effect. And smoking is permitted on stage, allows Joey. – But drinking during the acts or drinking between the acts isn’t. And neither are laughing or swearing. And neither is sex, Coco hastily brings in the middle. – Rule 8a: opinions are divided on that matter. There has to be something erogenous going on, challenges Buster, and he continues: – Though clowns never talk about it. It is not an issue. It is not even a taboo. We just don’t mention it. – But there will be no elephants or naked chicks. We refuse to diversify. There are no female clowns, declares Sugar, almost dogmatically. – Yes, I ask, why is that? Because women are not ridiculous? Perhaps too loveable to be laughable? – I refer to rule number 8a, says Buster. – And there is always the possibility of apprenticeship, m/w, he adds. – There will certainly be flirtations with the ladies in the audience. They will not be short of attention, concludes Joey. – You mean now is the time for a charm offensive after all the bad publicity your sector got by the gangs of terror clowns that roamed the neighborhoods for a while to scare the shit out of the cultural coultrophobes in this country and abroad? – No way! Charm is offensive. We refuse to make it too easy on anybody. Especially ourselves. We argue a lot. And that is good. Why should you agree with everything? I am no advocate of that, exclaims Buster. Is this the mood swing Sugar tried to prepare me for? No. Buster is happy: the situation is so completely and utterly desperate that it’s only doable (and livable) for a clown, he says, wryly. – The circumstances haven’t changed. You don’t change because of it. You won’t change the world with it. There’s still no point in it. – And we’re still international! cheers Coco. – Talking about politics, I retort, are the houses still packed every evening at the specific request of the authorities? – O yes, with or without violence our lovely Mrs. Loyal gets the house packed all the time and we have a different audience every evening, says Buster.– The political climate is very much in our favor, according to Sugar. – Clowns reign supreme. Even so much so that you can replace the word ‘culture’ with ‘clowns’ and not lose a thing. We will even get our own ministry, as a follow up of the ministry of Onderwijs, Cultuur & Wetenschap [Education, Culture & Science] we will have the ministry of Onderwijs, Clowns & Weemoed [Education, Clowns & Wistfulness]. Everything is economized away these days except for clowns, so it seems. – The bottom line is still that we’re just a bunch of actors, says Buster. It is still all about the relationship between the audience and four weirdo’s, four different people. With an outflanking movement we try to escape from some sort of a hermetical construction. The first time you don’t know what you do. The second time again you don’t know what you do, but all the more pleasure if it succeeds. It is a means of passing the time. Time you can use to forget everything. For a while. God knows how. I have a delicate pair of trousers now. I try to keep them clean. I go where the trousers take me. – I just follow my intuition. That’s the only thing you can rely on, says Coco. – I agree, says Joey. – But I always agree with what Coco says. – I am a subjectivist. I don’t know what Joey is, says Sugar. – We just follow Buster, says Joey. – And his delicate trousers.