Shakes the Clown (1991) — Bobcat Goldthwait honks his own horn

“Look kid. You’re a loser. Your parents had to pay grown men to come and play with you today, because kids collectively, on a whole, think you suck.”

Clare’s rating: Krusty the Clown would definitely hang at the Twisted Balloon

Clare’s review: Look. I make no bones about the fact that I love Bobcat Goldthwait. Sure. He’s been in some really horrible movies and he’s even been really horrible in some really horrible movies. I’m holding on to an affinity for him that’s connected directly to the stand-up he used to do in the late ’80s which, if you haven’t heard, is freaking hilarious. I really wish he’d have given up on acting long ago and stuck with writing and performing his own comedy. Sadly, Hollywood Squares came a calling and over the course of his career he’s managed to careen himself into something worse than being bad — he’s irrelevant. Breaks my heart.

In the early ’90s Goldthwait managed somehow to wrangle up enough money to write, direct and star in a movie that was to showcase his talents in all three areas. What came out of this endeavor is an uneven, poorly assembled, badly acted movie called Shakes the Clown.

However, I tend to find it a pretty rewarding movie to sit through for a number of reasons. The main one is that Shakes the Clown is clearly not really a movie about clowns. I’ve always viewed it as much more of an auto-biographical metaphor of what it’s like to be a stand up comedian. Forget Punchline, Shakes seems much more realistic a chronicle of what it’s like to make people laugh for a living. Not much of a leap in logic to move from clowns to comedians. So it makes sense that clowns, when they’re not being clowns, would hang out it clown bars, get dangerously drunk, get jealous of one another’s successes and lament the failures of their careers. Comedy ain’t pretty folks and Shakes the Clown is one man’s take on just how ugly assed it can be.

Shakes is an alcoholic clown. If you think that’s funny (which I do), the rest of the movie might strike you as rather humorous as well. The clowns in this film swear, take drugs, sleep with strangers… and occasionally commit murder. It’s a comedy, but clearly a very dark one. Tom Kenny, who plays Shakes’ nemesis Binky, would give anybody a clownphobia. He’s not a laughing-on-the-outside, crying-on-the-inside kind of clown. He’s a seething-on-the-outside, rotten-on-the-inside kind of clown. I thought his performance here was very frightening. And since Shakes doesn’t pull any punches, his portrayal of a villainous, evil clown was probably the best one of the movie.

I don’t know that I would recommend Shakes the Clown to just anybody. It’s definitely an acquired taste. There’s no denying that it’s very rough around the edges and that some of the “comedy” doesn’t really work (I’m talking to you annoying Julie Brown) but for less than three bucks on a week night with nothing better to do, it’s worth taking a gander at.

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