I’m a performer, and I abuse myself. Every performer has a pet clown, and mine is called Shandy. Hi, I’m Ally Houston, a man to who if the words, “What is your debut Glasgow International Comedy Festival show about?” were asked would reply, “It’s a bit of stand up that I’ve been honing these past few years, followed by a self contained musical about the abusive relationship I have towards my pet clown Shandy. Thanks for asking, mate.” They might say, “That sounds like the same old stuff I see week in week out on “television” and “the internet”. What makes you so special, mate?” A short pregnant pause would ensue, as we each assess any real and potentially fatal violent or homoerotic undercurrents in our insistence on using the word ‘mate’ when patently neither of us harbours friendly feeling for the other. “Let me explain,” I purr.
Some say that Shandy was born a lamb, and shaved, and raised as a clown in a disputed territory in what is now the Yemen. Others that the circumstances surrounding his birth are deliberately shrouded by the Vatican, or at the very least by me. One thing is for certain, I have a very close and dysfunctional relationship with Shandy. I was born and raised in Glasgow, and so Shandy has undoubtedly absorbed parts of this fair city. “The red nose of some of the old drinkers?” you ask cheekily. “That would be telling,” I say, wagging my finger. We are now on more cordial terms and feel no need to call each other mate. “A sense of crushing despair and every indication from those in charge that things are as bad as you think and bound to get worse?” you ask, cheekily. “Yes,” I say. For you see, Shandy is in crisis, and is close to breaking point.
In telling the story of me and my pet clown, I hope to fire a warning shot across the boughs of those who would deny their own clown, deny others’ clowns, refuse to rejoice at all in clown. Abuse thrives in isolation. Cut someone off from their support network and they become vulnerable. This describes the plight of the comedy audience member, trapped in their chair, unable to speak out, but also the performer, trapped in their skin, searching for answers.