Last Sunday's (the 6th) Grimaldi Service at a small church in East London
was a red-letter day for clowns worldwide. About a hundred old-school
red-nosed clowns made the sombre trip to darkest Dalston to pay their
respects to clowns who died in the last year and to thank God for the gift
of laughter in a bizarre ceremony presided over by the eccentric Reverend
Clown Roly, resplendent in a garish red lumberjack shirt with oversized gold
Despite Clowns International's assurance that the ceremony would appeal
to all clowns, "irrespective of religious conviction," the service was devoutly
Christian and renegade clowns' attempts at subversion were ruthlessly
thwarted. A purple-haired clown in polka-dotted trousers joined the Vicar's
cross-bearing procession with a toilet brush held high; there was a scuffle
and the clown's nose string snapped. The Reverend Clown Roly made a quick
appeal to the clowns to "respect the sanctity of worship," but had to resort
to crude threats involving a devout clown's oversized thumb before the unruly
mob settled back into the pews. There was also a horrifically obese
green-haired parody of a Cistercian monk who farted for the amusement of
children. The organist looked nervous and thumbed his music book entitled
The Reverend Clown Roly led the motley congregation in an act of
confession. The crowd, dotted with inflatable saxophones, violent bursts of
hair and miniature top hats solemnly bowed their heads and begged mercy for
the times they had "failed to see the joke and lost our sense of humour and
"Lord have mercy" tumbled out of wide white lips. How many of these people
had lost their sense of perspective? What did that mean? Why did they need
to confess? I shook my head to clear it of images of clown porn --
professional jokers running The Edge with little girls -- horrible, horrible.
Guilt screamed out of the clowns' eyes and I couldn't look. Everyone was
relieved when the organist played the opening of Alleluia and mothers used
the time to locate and count their children.
But all too soon it was over and we were subjected to two crazy bigoted
clowns reading apocalyptic excerpts from the Bible. The first, wearing a
flat cap and hula-hoop breeches, and with sad white lips read a terrifying
extract from the Old Testament.
"There is a time for WAR!" he screeched, "There is a time for HATE!" Some
of the children began to cry and a little black girl squealed and ran outside.
The second reader bored everyone senseless with a marathon reading from the
New Testament. Then something about a banker burying money in a farm or
something. It ended with someone being thrown into the snow on Christmas
After this ordeal the congregation was treated to a wonderful poem by RL
Sharpe and a procession of candles in memory of Joseph Grimaldi, "the
greatest British Clown," who died in 1837. As the candles crossed the
church, the Reverend Clown Roly intoned the names of those who had died since
the last Grimaldi Service.
"Freddy "Peanutz" Lee," he intoned. "Anne "Poppolino" Sacco, Bernard
Randolph of the Crackpots..." Then the local schoolchildren gave the clowns
a present and the congregation recited the Clowns' Prayer with emphasis on
the bit about "the most precious gift of laughter," and "our children
rebuked in their self-importance and cheered in their sadness."
We filed out of the church to the "Hot Codlings Polka" and most people went
straight to the schoolhall where the clowns were doing a quick show. But I
felt sorry for God and went round to a friend's house instead. It couldn't
have been a good day for Him.