2023 is full of in-person workshops in many different places, each group and place with its distinctive characteristics, interests, concerns and issues to explore.
Weekend Workshops at London Clown School
Venue: Bold Elephant, 21 St.George’s Road, London SE1 6ES
Cost: £130 for one weekend
Time: 10am-4pm Saturday and Sunday
To book your place, email email@example.com for details on how to enrol
Maximum: 18 participants per workshop
London Clown School
Dates: Spring 2024 tbc
Venue: tbc in London
Cost: £350 per week / £900 for all three weeks
Time: 10am-4pm Monday-Friday
To reserve your place, email firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how to enrol
Week 1 – Training Clowning
1. Feeling and Laughter – I (Don’t) Feel Funny / That Was(n’t) Funny
2. Performing Clowning – That Was Supposed To Be funny
Week 2 – Creating Clowning
3. Skills and Unskills – Being (Un)impressive
4. Clowns in the Theatre – Being Meaningful/less
Week 3 – Performing Clowning
5. Creating Performance – However You Want to Clown
6. Performing Your Clowning – Wherever You Want to Clown
Clowning #3 – Skills and Numbers
9th-10th December 2023 - London
“How do I clown using the skills I have? How can I integrate clowning with what I am good at?"
How can we bring together your own particular way of clowning (your stupidity and craziness) with the discipline of a particular skill, the things you are good at. These might be ‘recognised performing arts’ which people habitually pay money to go and see, like music, dance, circus. To they might be eccentric abilities with no ‘value’ such as waggling your ears, crossing your eyes, or singing while gargling water; that you might entertain your friends with at a party.
How can you be both a stupid, incompetent clown and at the same time remain focused on the skill, without simply being ‘bad’ at something?
There are numerous ways to clown even while being a virtuoso (you don’t have to be a virtuoso!), where your skill presents itself in surprising and unthinkable ways.
I have dedicated much of my explorations in teaching to the question of how to create clown material using individual skills, from circus to dance and music.
This workshop is suitable for those with an interest in clowning and have a minimum level in a performance or eccentric skill.
We will aim to cover the following:
what makes your skill ridiculous?
generating clown performance material: wrongness, disruption, surprise
assessing your individual discipline and skills from clown points of view
clown scripting: structures, formats, paths
generating clown performance material with individuals’ disciplines
performance of compositions using first principles of clown/audience dynamics of laughter response
By the end of the workshop, individual participants should each:
have gained an understanding of how the conditions of clown performance may apply to their own skill (at whichever level of skill they are)
generated sufficient clown material relating to their discipline to continue working
have begun the work of creating a piece of clown performance intended for public display
Fundamental Dynamics of Clowning - “the pleasure of laughter”
Residential Weekend Clown Course
near Kiel, Germany
Friday 19th - Sunday 21st July 2024
Begins Friday 6pm
Ends Sunday after lunch
Venue: Klöndeel Begegnungsstätte e.V., Noorweg 15, 24857 Loopstedt, Germany
This workshop dives into the fundamental dynamics of clowning, how to make yourself and your friends look stupid so we will love and laugh at you. How to celebrate being an object of laughter.
Converting our habitual fear of ridicule into the pleasure of laughing at ourselves, we can use it to make others laugh and experience the freedom clowning. How do clowns do what they do, how does your stupidity make you a success, and how does the unthinkably ridiculous come about?
When you really look, most things are ridiculous: our bodies, our movements, our ideas, our emotions, our words, our relationships, the universe. The only aim in clowning is to turn failure into success, fear into laughter, suffering into joy. We don’t need to change ourselves, just look at everything from another perspective. It’s a human thing to do, so anyone can do it.
Clowning is sometimes shrouded in mystery but in reality it's a very simple mode of performance. This workshop uses simple exercises rooted in laughter response in order to access clowning in the most direct manner possible.
Workshop fee: between €430-€455
Includes: Workshop, accommodation and full board
Shuttle from and to Bus to Schleswig Station arrival/departure
Continental breakfast/daily organic main meal/evening meal
Individual arrival from 5pm, latest 6pm on Friday 19th July
Departure Sunday, 21st July after lunch
Participants: minimum 10, maximum 14
Click below to book your space!
Please send an email to email@example.com (or the workshop organiser if stated) and I will send you details of how to pay.
I do not usually refund payments made (either whole or part payments) but I can offer you:
The chance to use your payment towards a course or workshop at a later date within one year of the original courser.
If the workshop fills up and there is a waiting list, you may receive a refund if your place is taken by someone on the waiting list.
These options can only be taken if requested at least 48 hours before the start of a course or workshop. If you cancel within 24 hours or do not turn up without notification then you should pay any outstanding fee.
This policy is to protect the viability of courses, whose costs and numbers of participants need to be confirmed in advance.
I try to keep all prices as low as possible (I haven’t forgotten how difficult it can be to be a student). That’s why there is a single price, with no discounts or concessionary rates.
Help Organise a Workshop Near You
Would you like to do a workshop with Jon Davison near you?
Why not collaborate in organising one?
Choose the length of workshop – most typically either a weekend (Saturday and Sunday) or a five-day (Monday-Friday) – and how many hours a day (six hours is a good maximum)
Decide on a venue for the workshop – ideally a clear space of around 10 metres x 10 metres or similar.
Agree on a minimum and maximum number of participants – between 12 and 16 is ideal.
Agree on a price per participant that will cover Jon’s fees, travel and accommodation as well as venue hire (remember to include either you as a free participant or taking a commission).
Collaborate with Jon on publicising the workshop, managing the venue and answering enquiries. Also on finding accommodation for Jon.
Collect payments from participants.
What they said... some experiences of workshop participants)
I want to share with you that for me personally, I experienced deep joy every day. I woke up crying with happiness and thankfulness Saturday morning. It has been decades since I’ve felt so much lightness and joy…. I am breaking out of my own mental prison. Yippeeeee! I hope to share the clown spirit with others. Thank you for being you.
Thank you Jon. Some takeaways and things I really appreciated and enjoyed: your honesty, practicing laugh and silence awareness, listening for laughter if my “funny idea” fails, moving when there is silence (dealing with on stage emotions), so many ways to clown, useful grounding tools, being less abstract or storyish, clowning within a script, the individual and group feedback was very useful.
I felt safe, curious and open to try things. It is great how you see the clown in us and genuinely desire to magnify it. Your honesty and interest in each of us is apparent. Jon you are full of life and experience and it is beautiful that you are teaching/sharing at such a reasonable rate. I would take your workshop again because I know I can get more out of it each time. I highly recommend. What a great group of folks you draw in, hope to have you in Reno one day soon. Cheers (Audry Townsell, Los Angeles, 2023)
Oh my goodness, Prof. Davison!!
Your class is really fucking hitting home… I understand the value of doing what’s real, responding to what’s real in the room!
Your class is the class that just keeps giving, even after its conclusion. I am very pleasantly surprised. Already in one day, I am applying so much to my “real” life. Fascinating!
(Mona Hanouni, Los Angeles 2023)
Jon is a brilliant teacher and is able to bring out courage in people by focusing on the tasks of exploration rather than getting something "right". Jon welcomes all human interactions, interruption, confusion, and questions. Play is not limited to simply saying "yes". There is an excellent introspectiveness set from the beginning without it becoming paralyzing. Where all feelings are correct.
(Andy Ross, Bristol 2023)
Not having any previous experience in clowning or theatre, I was quite apprehensive and I really had no idea what to expect. Jon led the workshop through fun and engaging games which loosened me up and I managed to let go, and to just go for it quite quickly. Everyone was easy going and really nice to hang out with and you find yourself getting to know each other quickly. I found the workshop gave me a lot more than I had anticipated, giving me more confidence in my day to day life. I definitely recommend checking Jon's workshops out, it's a win-win situation.
(Paul Gadd, Bristol 2023)
This was an active, fun, funny weekend. Lots of laughs and many varied stimulating activities to reveal the clown. Works well for experienced performers and brave beginners!
(Helen Herman, Bristol 2023)
“It has deffo been a challenge to come to terms with life outside of the glow of clown school. (but I guess life has to change as a result!)
It was wonderful! I'm still pretty new to performing, and I was worried about feeling too out of depth, but the whole thing felt so natural and logical (and novel in a massively exciting way)- which I think was very much down to the delicate way that you taught, (and how unified (most of) the group was). I was blown away by the line you managed to tread between letting us discover things and guidance. How open you were and the levels of honesty it felt like we reached, without being brutal.
It was certainly the most generous teaching I have had the pleasure to experience in my life. Within this environment, I felt safe (and compelled) to explore myself in places I had never known myself to be before. And I watched other people do the same. This felt like unlocking a new voice that had been dormant inside of me.
I have found within the ideas and philosophy of your teaching of clowning a new clarity in thinking around ideas I have been stuck with for a long time. Including ways of thinking about my own painting practice that has been in a consistent struggle with its relationship (or lack of) to an audience.” (Jessie, London)
“Your workshop (including your philosophical musings within) touched me in a deep way. For a while I have been feeling confused and wrongly accused by feedback about how I need to "think less and do more" or "follow my impulses", and also unhappy about my unpleasant experiences working in a group, and while of course you wouldn't know all of these going-ons and they are not "solved" or anything, I think my confidence took a hit from these experiences and in your workshop I felt a sense of relief, self-acceptance and an acceptance from others.
I felt so moved especially when you were talking about how we spend all this time trying to make people do things when each of us is our own person, but also your general approach of encouraging us to give observations (instead of judging statements) of each person's actions/words/expressions, and accepting our varied interpretations as valid.
I think this environment was also created when you told us to just chill when we have nothing we want to test for a reaction (it's so stressful to feel like we gotta do something all the time and the framing of "testing for a reaction" is really useful!), and when you encouraged us to try new ways of being in the space when we're just not feeling it.
I found the workshop to be an excellent introduction to a perspective on clowning that is freeing and clear. What I found to be the greatest strength was that the exercises were paced and scaffolded well such that they were do-able (really made the atmosphere encouraging instead of disappointing) and delivered the intended learning within the day itself (no need to wander and wonder until the day we mysteriously get 'it'). The language you used was clear and avoided misunderstandings/confusion, and the goals of the exercise were never hidden from us for no good reason (as in, you were clear on what we didn't need to do and what we needed to do, and there were no annoying surprises).
Oh, and I really felt so tickled by the idea of imaginary clowning which you classified someone’s clowning examples as -- it's been on my mind and a source of inspiration. I love it.” (Jia Min, Singapore)
“I find your teaching style is very concise and to the point, yet you are still sensitive to peoples emotions during the workshops. To kickstart was a rigorous name learning game, again, rigorous – I could name everyone in the room within two minutes. This is so important, I have been to other workshops that do not focus on this and it really does have an impact throughout the workshops so thank you. It is clear that your knowledge of Clowning is substantial and thorough, which guided us and gave factual information to back up the practice throughout. I also find it fascinating that you are able to join in with laughter in the audience- we are still funny to you! You are professional and clear, yet very much up for having a good time as well and this shows." (Beth, London)
My first clowning teacher Jon Davison conducting a workshop across the continent. His lessons gently tame my rigid imagination and creativity, allowing me to draw spark inspiration from the little scenes of life. It would be great if as many people in our country could have access to this interesting field as they wish. Woah I have so much to study...! (Soleá Soyoung Kim, Korea, 2021)
“I am trying to explain why the set up of the clowning classes work for me. I thought it was “because I get no assignments”. But I actually do. I think it is because I don’t feel judged.” (Rosemarijn Dumont, Care Clown, Belgium, 2020)
“Jon invites us through a door into the agility of our imagination. His ideas and exercises are simple, playful, whimsical, and work in deep moment-to-moment awareness. But please look around at other online miracles as I don’t want this one to get over crowded.(Peter Shub, Clown, USA/Germany, 2020)
“I played my first small solo and managed to apply some of the ingredients of your method.
It was fun! And it worked! The feedback I got:
•You seemed very relaxed in stage
•There was always laughter
•It was so stupid!
•The audience always felt safe and recognized.
So, I wanted to say thank you and that your method produces something pleasurable for both the performer and the audience.” (Tobi Tambornino, Germany)
“Thank you for the brilliant course. It was wonderful in every way – personally challenging without any terror attached, mind opening, fear conquering. I think everyone should do a clown course to better understand themselves and others. And particularly do yours.” (Dr Dea Birkett, Ringmaster and leader of Circus250)
“Jon is a brilliant teacher!” (Dani Tonks, Wild Play Lab, London)
"Jon is the best teacher I have ever had, and I am a very picky person. He is like the rain that gently falls onto the earth, softly moistens the grass and encourages every plant to grow at their own pace. He never judges people and gives a lot of freedom. He makes scaffolds and you will find yourself making progress and achieving more than you have expected. The way he inspired me definitely boosted my self-confidence and stimulated my creativity. Now I know myself better and I love myself more. Last but not least, all the happiness and silliness you will experience in his clowning course is the medicine for life! We all had so much fun!” (Jingxian Mei, Clown Foundation Course 2018)
"You won't know when you start a clown course what you will discover ... with Jon Davison he makes it wholly about your journey, supportive and a true guide. He has specific and helpful ideas, which he clearly communicates, even more, he has a genuine capacity to facilitate your learning. People say he’s a clown teacher genius. I am saying this too, although I have only experienced 8 other clown teachers. I never want to leave the London Clown School … that’s why I am so happy to keep getting it wrong (this is a bad clown joke)!” (Justine Smith)
"If you can make it and were thinking of going, just go. It's amazing." (Caitlin Day - Nottingham Clown Course)
"I loved how you de-emphasized the individual clown- which has always felt like a difficult way in for me. It was fascinating to see how we arrived at many of the core concepts in clown in a much more intuitive and felt way." (Rebecca Stevens Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)
"thank you so much for all the laughs and the experiences so far...it’s a wonderful class and I’m very grateful to you and the group for the sheer joy of it all. Thanks for sharing your superb gifts and teaching”(Mark Denham - London Clown School student)
"Thanks again for a great workshop! This was my first clowning experience - ever. The workshop made me explore and discover so many new things as an actress and about myself as a person. Learning to laugh at oneself more, and just letting yourself be more stupid, as silly or simple as it sounds, is so rewarding. When you feel idiotic on stage, the audience feels it, they laugh, and you’ve done your job. I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone wanting to extend their acting style, or just experience the art of clowning - you won’t regret it." (Jazzara Jaslyn, actress, Cape Town)
"What a ridiculously funny and informative workshop!" (Nathalie Codsi, Brighton clown student)
“The workshop was fantastic, one of the best things I’ve done since I arrived in England … I am definitely laughing much more and much harder since the workshop!” (Dror Latan, Circomedia student)
“Great fun and a very good learning experience” (Katherine Steer, Brighton clown student)
“I really enjoy your teaching approach... I felt I was eased into the session nicely (as I was a little nervous), but toward the end I felt like we were digging deeper. It was a nice gradient!” (Jenny Haufek, Brighton clown performer and student)
"Some of the most illuminating and enjoyable workshops I've done (and I'm addicted to the things)" (Jonathan Richardson, producer of House of Idiot Comedy Club, and London Clown School student)
"Jon Davison is a great clown teacher" (Lucy Hopkins, freelance physical theatre performer and creator)
"I wish I was in London to do this, the man's a genius!!" (Klara Van Wyk, clown student and performer, South Africa)
What are my intentions when I teach clown?
In a recent workshop I was saying that knowing your intention on stage changes how you impact an audience. Your intention might be to grab attention. To make laugh. Or to create a relationship between clowns.
Then someone asked me what my intentions were. So here are some of my answers:
To simplify clowning and understand how we can get there when we want to
To celebrate laughter and also to allow ourselves not to laugh, inviting us to find a kinder relationship with laughter
To explore how to play our feelings, our interactions with each other in real time
To explore both our honest feelings and responses, and also the fun we can have with faking, pretending and lying – and how the real and the fake play off each other
To honour and to give ourselves places to put our fakeness, our negative judgements, our blockages, our resistances, our failures, our shame
To explore the interaction between what we plan (our scripts: projecting into the future, wondering if people will respond how we want them to) and what actually happens (the performance event: the unpredictable live responses between spectators and performers)
To open the gate to all forms of clowning regardless of ethnicity, culture, identity, family or personality
To challenge the dominant ideology in clowning that excludes and gatekeeps
To dispel mystification in how we speak and think about clown
To acknowledge the power structure already in the workshop between teacher and students
To acknowledge my privilege as a white cis het older male
To be an ally of minoritised identities in the workshop and beyond, using my power and privilege to challenge oppressive behaviour
To explore and share how clowning can reflect on, challenge, play with, or even dismantle our oppressive power structures of capitalism and patriarchy.
To acknowledge clown history and when it has been complicit in oppression
Clown Workshops with Jon Davison – Method, Aims and Objectives
What happens when you clown in front of others, alone or with others?
The workshops are aimed at all students, teachers, and practitioners of the performing arts whether or not you specialise in clowning.
The workshops are mostly about relationships, between you and others, whether you or they are clowning, or witnessing the clowning. The relationships form dynamically and change rapidly in real time, buffeted about by actions, responses, laughter, the absence of laughter, and our feelings about ourselves and others.
The workshops are concerned with laughter, and the unique relationship the clown performer has with it - when it is present and when it is absent. But it is not concerned directly with the question of HOW to be funny. Nor is it concerned with the question of WHY something is funny. These are not inane questions but they are dealt with amply by others elsewhere.
Laughter is the fulcrum upon which clowning balances. Laughter does amazing things to us, physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. Whilst we are immersed in it, it seems to relieve us of the burdens of norms, expectations and even meaning itself. What a relief!
But it is never under our control. To pursue such domination is a pointless task. But neither is it advisable to discard it, out of fear of not attaining it. Clowns who MUST be funny and clowns who DON’T HAVE to be funny are a turn off.
In workshops we will focus exclusively on what we do and how we feel about it, and we respond to our own and others’ actions. When you really look, most things are ridiculous: our bodies, our movements, our ideas, our emotions, our words, our relationships, the universe. We don’t need to change ourselves, just look at everything from another perspective. It’s a human thing to do, so anyone can do it.
The exercises we will use are my latest attempt to condense the training into the simplest and most accessible form I can. My concern has always been to simplify. Clowning is sometimes spoken about in mysterious tones, with allusions to depths of meaning. Those may be valid conclusions to draw. But they don’t, in my experience, serve as starting points on the journey. We cannot aim directly for such grandiose or abstract goals.
The exercises might sometimes seem so simple as to appear mechanical. By focusing on the simple tasks, we can become more aware of our responses on all levels. Simple meditation techniques work in a similar way. Furthermore, these emotions, sensations and thoughts will make up much of the content of a clown performance, in the absence of an authored, fictional character or narrative (and mostly I regard clowning as inhabiting this ‘fiction-less’ world). Once we start to come to grips with this material, we can see how clowns can create many different kinds of dynamic relationships between themselves, and between themselves and the public.
We will experiment with how you, as a performer, respond to that response from the onlooker. How do you behave, feel or think when the spectator laughs, or does not laugh? Indeed, how do you behave, feel or think upon the mere appearing in front of that audience whose expectations are already formed? Such self-explorations are at the heart of any genre of performance. Focusing on how you, as a performer, respond to your own presence in front of a responding audience, can enrich your work in whatever direction, style or genre you choose, and enable a coming to terms with some of the common struggles that many performers will face throughout their careers.
The workshops are suitable for anyone interested in clowning, whatever your experience. Clowning is something many of have done throughout our lives in informal or social situations, and our experiences will differ widely according to our backgrounds, cultures, and identities. We already know a lot about clowning before we ever set foot in a class or on a stage. All of this knowledge is welcomed into the workshop, without the need for aesthetic unity or discipline.
There are many clown teachers. There are many methods. They do not agree. Here is a quick way to get an idea of my approach:
Words I use: funny, laughter, do, action, task, object, clown, clowns, clown-like, clown-ish, gag, number, act, exercise, pretend, simple, fake, real, why, feel, emotion, think, human, surprise, impact, intrude, disrupt, contradict, shame, love, audience, script, wrong, stupid, look, friend, plan, experiment, science, attention, drama, dynamics, mechanics, conversation, skill, repertoire, fear, ridiculous, conditioning, cultivate, aware, speak ...
Words I don’t use: spontaneous, authentic, sacred, self, inner, mask, truth, the clown, improvisation, play, game, high stakes, universal, difficult, wisdom, transform, art, collaborate, physical, spiritual, problem, status, ensemble, dark, tragic, contemporary, traditional, rule, creative, imagination, fiction, message, personal, mime ...