Though these lyrics weren’t written by him, they perfectly match the story of the music’s composer, summarising Charlie Chaplin’s lifelong commitment to his art and the consequence of his suffering personal life. Obviously, Chaplin was not best known for being a composer. Yet, as his films progressed, Chaplin gradually took on the roles of composer, actor, writer, director and, most surprisingly of all, sole budget fund: The Great Dictator’s budget came totally out of his pocket. However, like all clowns, whilst work and his love life subjected him to great stress and pain, this does not mean The Tramp was a lie and Chaplin was forever an unhappy man. His famous quote reads “I like walking in the rain because nobody can see my tears,” yet here’s the truth: clowns can be happy sometimes.
When you take the position of ‘the clown’, it is often perceived that you are ‘putting on’ this persona to barricade your internal suffering: sadness is a weakness for a person who wants to make the world laugh. The ‘sad clown’ is now a cliche of contrast: the laughing man who cries at night. However, whilst this is largely true, it does not mean that the ‘clown’ is a false persona: it is a chance to express yourself in the joy of performing.
For me, it is genuine and is as much an escape for me as anyone else. In the ‘clown’ position, I genuinely enjoy it and it is not me hiding from my own emotions. In fact, to those around me in the rehearsal or performance space, it is almost as if nothing is wrong, the atmosphere is so alive and enjoyable. At this point, I should say that this also doesn’t mean I don’t care about my problems, I’m just having fun. Admittedly, this can go a very different emotional route if I realise that I have become annoying for others. This is why I am very thankful to those who make me feel comfortable enough to express myself this way, even if it can get out of hand every now and again.
Charlie Chaplin, largely on his own part, led a very difficult life and most likely more unhappy than happy, but do you really think he didn’t enjoy fooling around? Old home footage from his archives shows a man who knows how to have fun, away from the meticulous perfectionist he brought into the workplace.
There will always be ‘the tears of a clown’ but, when they are just playing around or performing in the company of others, that is their time to enjoy themselves; they’re not pretending.
It is something that means an awful lot to me.