John Towsen



Be sure to check out his current blog:
All Fall Down: The Craft & Art of Physical Comedy

John Towsen & Physical Comedy

• Began performance career at the age of seven acting in a skit with Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason on The Red Skelton Show.  Subsequently acted in over twenty television shows and as many commercials, working alongside such names as Gary Moore, Julie Andrews, Kaye Ballard, Alice Ghostley, Myrna Loy, Claudette Colbert, Robert Preston, Tab Hunter, Ed Wynn, Claude Rains, Walter Slezak, Kate Smith, Shirley Booth, Margaret Hamilton, Patty Duke, and Joseph Papp.

• Studied circus, clown, commedia, theatre movement, and improvisation at NYU (Hovey Burgess), Ringling Brothers Clown College, the Valley Studio (Reid Gilbert, William Burdick, Tom Leabhart, Joe Martinez), the Dell’Arte School (Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, Jon-Paul Cook, Joan Schirle, Frank Condon), and the Center for Circus Arts (Gregory Fedin, Nina Krasavina), and many other places and people.

• Author of Clowns: A Panoramic History (NY: Hawthorn, 1976) and multiple articles for Yale Theater, Mime Journal, and other publications.  Ph.D. from NYU in Drama.

• Performed physical comedy and clown-theatre for fifteen years or so, most of it in partnership with Fred Yockers, including work with several circuses.  Also partnered with Jim Moore, Zeke Peterhoff, Joe Killian, Michael Zerphy, Jan Greenfield, and others.

• In 1975 co-founded with Fred Yockers the clown-arts organization If Every Fool, Inc., sponsoring touring shows, workshops, and festivals. Artistic Director of NY International Festival of Clown-Theatre (1983, 1985).

• Developed the first full-length college course in physical comedy — combining technical skill, improvisational work, and character & plot development — at Ohio University (Athens) in 1982. Taught it there for 5 summers, plus at Ohio State University (Columbus), Colorado Mountain College (Breckenridge), the Institut d’Art Dramatique (Rabat, Morocco), the University of British Columbia (Vancouver), Princeton University, and for six years in the Acting Program at the Juilliard School. Students have included Laura Linney, Drew Richardson, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Jane Adams, Michael Hayden, Andre Braugher, and Michael Stuhlbarg.

• Awarded 1989 NEH Summer Seminar Fellowship to study Anthropology of Humor at the University of California, Berkeley.

• Received 1989-90 Fulbright Research Fellowship to France to do research on physical comedy. Studied in the clown stage at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq, years after having retired from performing,

• Taught at Ringling Brothers Clown College (Baraboo, 1994) and for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit (New York City, 2003?)

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