Film Review: Clown Service

August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Released: April 16, 2015; Short, Comedy; Written and Directed by: Tig Notaro; With: Stephanie Allyne, Tig Notaro, Nathan Barnatt, Angela Trimbur

Do you love Tig Notaro? Did you love her when she did all of these things? Did you love her when she wrote for Inside Amy Schumer and appeared in the brilliant Cancer Excuse sketch? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions (AND EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T), please, please, do yourself a favor and check out the completely charming Clown Service.

Clown Service is the story of a woman (Notaro) who, couch-bound and pizza-ful after a nasty break-up, decides to hire a clown. Just for her. Just to cheer her right up. Giggles (Nathan Barnatt) is dispatched by the psychotically-cheerful receptionist (Stephanie Allyne) whose melodious use of the clown company’s tagline (“Hi! Thanks for calling Funny Business where it’s our business to be funny…and that’s no funny business!”) will stick right in your head for hours after the film’s over. It’s immediately clear that Giggles has troubles of his own (likely both personal and professional), but he really gives Tig’s gig his best shot. And Tig finds a little bit of a kindred spirit in the winsome, albeit not terribly funny, Giggles.

This is a clean film that’s shot without any technical bells and whistles. Its real visual power is in its representation of standard protocol. Giggles and his dispatcher communicate with a two-way radio, like any good employee would with any good dispatcher. Giggles hops into his clown car (wearing his clown shoes, natch) and tosses a clown head on the car’s roof to signify his intention to deliver some hilarity. Tig never flinches in her request for a clown or in her lie to the dispatcher about having a party so that she can order one. There are no clever winks, nudges, or asides to the camera. This film is clear and honest through-and-through. And that’s why it’s funny.

When Giggles enters Tig’s house, he gives a great clown laugh and says, “Who’s ready to have some fun?” Without batting an eye, from her couch flush with junk food, wearing yesterday’s pajamas, Tig announces, “Me.” Because she is, man. She needs to laugh. And, as it turns out, she may also need to hang out with someone who’s even sadder than she is.

I should give a quick shout-out to Jonathan Dinerstein, the music producer who brilliantly crafts a score that is part sweeping drama and part carnival. It pairs beautifully with the subject matter here, which is kind of a feat.

While this short is delightfully absurd and a little surreal, at the end of the day, it’s about the healing power of a little connection. You will smile your face off.

  • Leah Gehlsen
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