Awards, Press & Reviews
2013 Clorox Mini-Grant
2013 Parents Press Best of the East Bay Award
Best Circus Arts Summer Camp
2012 CA$H Grant
2012 Parents Press: Best of the East Bay Award
Best Circus Arts Summer Camp
2012 Best of 2012 Award GigMasters
Fake Off Season 2 on TruTv
By Adrian Baumann
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @thewillitsnews
POSTED: 06/24/2014 06:32:55 PM PDT
“I hope that they see something they thought was impossible become possible,” this is how Slim Chance, AKA Douglas McNeely, 43, describes what he wants kids to get out of his performance.
Slim Chance, head of the troup eof artists and performers, ClownSnotBombs, spoke Thursday morning while setting up for a yearly workshop. The clown troupe teaches a variety of circus arts and general stage skills to local kids during the workshop.
Among the tools of the trade being unpacked by the troupe were unicycles, juggling pins, Chinese yo-yos, stilts and all other manner of clowning gear.
Based out of Berkeley, the troupe performs mostly in the Bay Area, but has toured the western United States and makes frequent trips up to Willits, and a few other Mendocino towns, along with tours of the west coast. Slim Chance, a slight and flexible man with huge bushy mutton chops is the leader of the bunch, and its founder. He and two other members of the troupe, Squeaky the Clown, AKA Kristen Parks, and Jordan Joel (no stage name) from Little River, taught about eight locals kids how to walk on stilts, unicycle, and juggle. The troupe commented that previous years turns outs had been better.
Bryce Koishor-Darr, 15, of Redwood Valley said, “It’s really awesome, it’s a great chance for everybody to learn how to juggle because juggling is a wonderful thing.” His younger brother and sister, as well as his parents were all intently practicing their circus skills though Bryce was far and away the best juggler.
The training was followed Friday by a show, also at the Little Lake Grange, in which the troupe was completed with the addition of Ben Goldstein on piano and other instruments, Carlos Kampf, on guitar, and Ruckus Muckus AKA Kathy Diebold playing a clown, and a dancing cactus flower.
The act was a surreal mixture of clowning, performance art, dancing, contortion, circus arts and live music all wrapped up in a spaghetti western theme. The Real Sarahs, a local folk musical duo, opened for the clowns.
The nearly wordless performance began with the clowns assembled on stage, discovering that they were being watched by the audience. The act was geared towards young children, with several youngsters enthusiastically shouting along, pointing and laughing.
However, there were a few Easter eggs for adults, such as the moment when the clowns, finding themselves lost and thirsty in their imaginary desert, resorted to drinking from a playful dancing cactus, and then proceeding to have a psychedelic trip, complete with strobe effects from the stage lights, much to the bewilderment of the children and the amusement of their parents.
Sawyer Early, age 3, sat in the first row laughing and asking for explanation from her mother Valley Sawyer. Afterwards Valley Sawyer said, “I’m glad I brought her to see it. This was her first live theater experience and she really enjoyed the music, that was her favorite part.
The troupe is a non-profit, and funds itself through a mix of ticket sales, fundraising and some sponsorship. Though, they will soon be putting out a CD of original music composed by Kampf and Goldstein for their shows.
Slim Chance came to clowning relatively late in his life, after a stint in the US Navy during the first Persian Gulf War. He describes a rough period in his life after he got out of the military which turned around when he became a clown, “I love it. When I learned 17 years ago how to walk on stilts it changed my life, it changed my perspective,” says Chance.
“I had a lot of problems when I was young, and a really unhealthy life style when I was in the military,” said Chance. “And this has completely changed my perspective on what it means to be healthy and to actually be able to express yourself in an artistic manner and push yourself to that next level.”
Swirls of Fun: A Spaghetti Western
There’s no pasta consumed onstage in the scaled-down family version of A Spaghetti Western, a comedy set on the frontier that, in part, pays homage to two Italian film icons: director Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone. Nonetheless, the Feb. 22 performance at the Freight & Salvage will feature great music and silliness, promises Slim Chance, founder of ClownSnotBombs, the innovative Berkeley-based circus troupe behind the production.
“In the full version we actually eat spaghetti as a cure-all for the things that pain you,” said Chance, in a telephone interview.
Accompanied by an original musical score, A Spaghetti Western follows eight characters blazing a path westward while chasing the American dream but leaving large piles of pasta in their wake, “revealing the paradox of human progress,” according to the troupe’s website.
This Saturday’s noodleless matinee, while tasty and filling, Chance assured, is more of a variety show with jugglers, clowns jump roping on unicycles, and cowgirls and cowboys on stilts. Faeble Klevman directs the ensemble who easily shift between roles during the show, one minute deftly executing an act of daring physical comedy, the next minute playing the accordion or juggling cowboy hats.
Leone’s celluloid spins on the American West not only launched the acting career of actor and director Clint Eastwood but defined the Spaghetti Western genre in the 1960s. Eastwood didn’t inspire A Spaghetti Western, according to Chance. “Not per se, but definitely Sergio Leone and his overall sensibilities did,” said Chance, better-known to his mother by the moniker Douglas McNeely.
He cited in particular Leone’s 1975 spaghetti western They Call Me Nobody, which starred Henry Fonda and Terrence Hill. “It was real slapstick,” said Chance, a veteran of the first Iraq war, who double majored in Arts For Social-Change and Anti-psychiatry before finding his calling as a clown. Along the way he taught himself how to escape from a straight jacket: “I discovered I was double-jointed.”
The Spaghetti Western genre, so called by dismissive foreign critics who thought the films poor cousins of Hollywood westerns, were low-budget productions, usually employing a few relatively unknown American actors, which were filmed in Rome’s Cinecittà’s studios and in Spain. In these films the West was portrayed as a stark landscape of whitewashed villages, lonely dogs, and whistling winds in which grizzled villains squared off against squinty heroes in ponchos and bandanas. According to the Spaghetti Western Data Base, an online almanac of all things spaghetti western, Italians call such films (westerns Italian style). Popular in Japan, they are there called Macaroni westerns, the website said.
Music plays a major role in A Spaghetti Western, said Chance, as Morricone’s score played a key role in Leone’s western films. Joining the ranks of similar celebrated film and music dynamic duos — think Hitchcock & Herrmann or Fellini & Rota — Leone & Morricone’s first effort with Eastwood, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), showcased the composer’s music, which was as unusual as the director’s visuals. Eventually Morricone scored over 30 Italian westerns, employing an eclectic group of sounds, layering trumpet, electric guitar, or harp with whistles, cracking whips, and gunshots.
“The music was instrumental in setting the feeling that you’re in this place,” said Chance, who founded ClownSnotBombs in 2006 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. “It [the music] was a way of transporting us to that frontier, a place where you can do anything with your imagination and a little bit of work. Overall, the script, the acting, the music all worked together.”
That’s what ClownSnotBombs members sought to achieve in creating A Spaghetti Western, Chance said. “The show is not a parody of the Sergio Leone film. What we’re trying to convey is emotions and levity ― while going for the slapstick.”
Clowning Around With Clown Troupe, “Clown Snot Bombs”
by TANYA SILVERMAN on Sep 3, 2012 • 8:00 am
“Slim Chance,” of Bay-Area Clown troupe “clown Snot Bombs,” (or Clowns Not Bombs) Explains Sustainable Props, Skills Sharing, Unicycles and the Laughter-Filled Life of a Clown
By Tanya Silverman
So, is it “Clown Snot Bombs” or “Clowns Not Bombs”?
Slim Chance explains that this name is an “either-or” situation. The “Clowns Not Bombs” approach reflects their inspiration from skills-sharing ideas and self-sustainability. As for the “Clown Snot Bombs” interpretation, Slim came up with of this idea while he was in an all-body cast, healing from breaking his back in Croatia. He sketched out an image of this unique phrase, laughed at it, and passed out from the pain. When he woke, he saw the drawing, and once more laughed and passed out.
Active since 2006, this Bay-Area based clown troupe mixes their eclectic talents. Slim’s partner, Kristin Wunder Squirrel, had quit her job as a scientist at Stanford to start performing with him, and they have been going strong ever since. These two, and the other members of Clown Snot Bombs, are inventive with their many acts. During their Wizard of Oz show, they incorporated a bubble-wrap road that they danced along on. Full of musicians, Clown Snot Bombs orchestrate a mixture of gypsy and klezmer music, and even some weird pop numbers. They collectively perform choreographed unicycle shows. They also utilize costumes like a stilt unicorn and or giant narwhal. Apart from just the animal costumes, Clown Snot Bombs is an inter-species troupe; Petunia, their wonder-dog, performs with them, and they have also welcomed goats that jump through hoops, as well as a chicken hypnotist, to share the stage. These clowns put on shows for assorted audiences and venues, like adult circuses around the Bay Area, school events, the San Francisco Pride Parade and the Oregon Country Fair.
“I think most people are afraid of Steven King more than afraid of clowns. Or maybe John Wayne Gacy. Between the two of them, they haven’t helped our public image.”
This clown troupe takes a very sustainable, DIY approach to their own props and costumes. “We always make our own stuff,” Slim explains. “We find what we can and re-fashion it and just try to incorporate things that are found objects.” If they are not using recycled goods, these clowns obtain a lot of their costume pieces from thrift stores; many of their materials for props originate from the dump one block away from their home base. When Slim and Kristin conjure an idea, she will make the costumes, he will make the props, and then they will work on the script together.
At the moment, Slim is working on converting a unicycle into a horse for the next show. He admits that the lifestyle of a clown demands a large place to live in, as you will just end up with lots of big, ridiculous items lying around, such as the six-foot banana that hangs from his ceiling.
Slim Chance himself is a multi-talented clown. He can twist balloons into anything from dogs to flowers to snakes to monkeys to cats to giraffes to hats with monkeys or hats with flowers. He can juggle anything from fire to banjos to basketballs to knives to plungers. He teaches clown workshops, and dresses up as a Jesus-Zombie for punk-rock cabaret shows. He has performed for relief workers in New Orleans, and toured Europe with the Cyclown Circus.
Lately, the members of Clown Snot Bombs have been keeping their act local, staying around the Bay Area. Remaining based in their own community, this stationed approach grants them a chance to refresh their ideas and come up with new material for an audience that is familiar with their act.
Apart from his performance career, Slim Chance is also a Navy veteran, part of the reason for the “Clowns Not Bombs” title. As for his inspiration, Slim Chance says, “It all comes from Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers… and professional wrestling. And, the band Kiss.” While he is not a fan of Insane Clown Posse, he does find it interesting that their fans, a.k.a. juggalos, have been put on the FBI list.
When asked his thoughts on people who are afraid of clowns, Slim Chance explains, “I think most people are afraid of Steven King more than afraid of clowns. Or maybe John Wayne Gacy. Between the two of them, they haven’t helped our public image.”
That being said, Slim Chance has a very positive approach to being a clown. For instance, if you learn a skill like juggling, you will learn to incorporate your hardly-used left hand (or right if you are a lefty), as well as gain an amazing amount of dexterity. Juggling also has psychological benefits, which Slim describes as a “conversation in your brain hemispheres that people don’t usually get to enjoy.” He claims that being a clown is a way to make life fun for yourself, and fun for others, and that, “There’s nothing more rewarding than making people laugh.”
The Clown Snot Bombs troupe being featured in this upcoming movie, Unicorns, by Leah Meyerhoff
April 1st 2013
Many thanks for performing at the benefit Monday night. I hope everyone wants to see these guys in action in the Spaghetti Western. I loved your tensely pent up scene. Fascinating to watch it play out and wonder where it is going. I’m going to see the show and your presence in the benefit was fresh and welcome.
Judy Finelli, SF Circus Center
July 6th 2012
Bravo Clown Snot Bombs
Families at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a children’s museum in Sausalito, loved the Clown Snot Bombs performance. Part variety show, part suitably silly skit, the show took place in an outdoor setting that is filled with cool things for kids to do. Rather than wandering off to other activities, though, they stayed through the entire 45-minute show, shouting back responses to the performers and groaning or clapping as the action dictated. The story centered on an evil woman who wanted to capture the lone remaining ostrich-like bird on earth in order to make its skin into a purse. Volunteer kids dressed in costumes and paraded around as endangered animals while the audience decided the fate of the villain. (They decided not to send her to prison.) The costumes and props were fun and despite the wind, the clowns juggled and rode a unicycle. The talented musicians also deserve mention. They played original compositions on a wide array of instruments. The peppy music set the pace for the performers.
Rose Kelly, Bay Area, Discovery Museum, Sausalito, CA
Mission Bay Block Party 6
Younger members of the UCSF community enjoying Mission Bay’s Block Party 6.
Faculty, staff, students, and friends and neighbors of UCSF were treated to a beautiful sunny afternoon surrounded by great food, jugglers, the Farmers Market, free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and fantastic music! (10-11-2012)
December 31st 2012
On behalf of all of us at Compass Family Services, I would like to thank you for your support of homeless and low-income families. The December holiday party was a wonderful event, and the children were thrilled with your walk around performance with juggling and stilt walking, You truly brightened the holidays for these families! We could not do the work that we do without the support of our community, and we at Compass are very fortunate to have you and your team as a valued community partner.
Erica Kisch, Executive Director, Compass Family Services, San Francisco, CA
July 29th 2012
I heard about the ClownSnotBomb team from a friend who had attended a show at The Children’s Discovery Museum and raved about them. As the organizer for the San Francisco Marathon Munchkin Kids Run I know I needed to put the fun in our fun run. I knew Doug and Kristen and the ClownSnotBombs team would be the perfect addition to our pre-race warm up routines. Some of our kids were joining us for their first run ever and we wanted to make sure it was a positive experience. The ClownSnotBombs silly stretching and hilarious routines were off the chart funny. They not only warmed our kids up but they joined the munchkins at the back of the pack on unicycles and juggling all the way. They also joined us at the finish line, handing out medals to our finishers. Doug and Kristen are an absolute delight to work with. They are generous with their time, their talent and take circus art and performing to a whole new level. We look forward to working with them again next year.
Jane Tobin, Munchkin Kids Run Coordinator, SF Marathon
April 6TH 2012
This past Friday, I made my way to the Exit Theater (two blocks away from Powell St. Bart) to attend a prime-time circus show performed by the Circus Troupe, ClownSnotBombs. The theater itself was a small stage featuring colored spot lights and a brick background. The show was simply amazing, filled with lots of laughter, giggles and smiles-everything you would imagine coming out of the imaginative world of creative theater. The show featured a live band that played ‘clown’ music and the clown artists themselves included jugglers, acrobatic performers, unicyclists, slapstick clowning and lastly a person dressed in a chicken costume. … In conclusion, I was very happy to have been able to see this circus show as it showcased a wide range of talented people who I found to be very entertaining and with that, very passionate about their creative work.
Nelson Baltazaar. Nelson’s Literary Corner
New Traditions April 29th 2012
This past Saturday afternoon, I attended a circus show featuring ClownSnotBombs, a local circus troupe. The show was at New Traditions Elementary School in the city’s USF/Panhandle. The stage’s backdrop featured a very colorful piece of circus artwork thereby enhancing the overall visual appeal of the stage itself. Coupled with the awesome performances by all the members of ClownSnotBombs, the visitor’s attendance was very much a worthwhile one. The art of physical theater coupled with imaginative play surely requires great skill, focus, talent, and love, and these performers certainly had it all. The audience consisted of primarily children who were dazzled by everything from the jugglers to the audience engaging creativity of SAM Luckey, whose costume and gestures prompted the attention of and curiosity of the kids.
Nelson Baltazaar. Nelson’s Literary Corner
A Spaghetti Western: The Best in Physical Theater
Upon entering Stage Werx, I leave the bustling street of Valencia and all its novelty for the imaginative world of physical theater. The local circus troupe, ClownSnotBombs, premiered their latest creative work, The Spaghetti Western, in this tiny theater. Despite the theater’s apparent
small space, the cast did an amazing job utilizing the available area to deliver a wonderful show featuring the very best in physical theater. Both small children and adults were dazzled by acrobatics, comedy, juggling, solo mime games and unicycling. I was especially entertained by a cactus figure that later dies or is transformed into a black and white exotic creature that performs animal like gestures and circus tricks. All this fun and excitement was coupled with a unique arrangement of music, which served to really enhance the creativity unfolding before the audience. One cast member doubled as a musician, used a drum called a doumbek during this particular scene involving the exotic creature.
Crocker Art Museum Sept 2nd
ClownSnotBombs was awesome at our Little Buckaroos Family Festival at the Crocker ArtMuseum! Their sets and costumes were top notch and the added effect of live music made the show so much fun to watch. The clowns were great to work with and very flexible. The kids loved the unicycles and the juggling. There were some daring twists and turns all done on one wheel!! We also loved that they had opportunities for the kids to get on stage and try their little hands at some clown tricks. All in all a great day and we would have them back anytime.
Rika C. Nelson, Manager of Public Programs, Crocker Art Museum