Shakes The Clown (1991)
Written & Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Adam Sandler
Imagine waking up on a bathroom floor after a hard night’s drinking, an eight year old is pissing over your head into a toilet. You exit the strange bathroom to find you have slept with Florence Henderson (a.k.a. Mrs Brady) who has half of your clown make-up smeared all over her face. Welcome to the world of Shakes The Clown. A world where clowns get tanked at a sleazy bar called the Twisted Balloon, form violent gangs and act in the most appalling manner possible.
Shakes (Goldthwait) is a clown who makes a living from performing at children’s parties in a suburb called Palukaville, a town where there is a disturbingly large clown population. The clowns frequent the local bar where they drink heavily and exchange disgusting banter. Some of this offensive chatter is repulsively hilarious. An elderly, black, female clown boasts, ‘I’ve got that Peanut Butter pussy. Brown, smooth and easy to spread.’
Shakes has a girlfriend Judy (Julie Brown), a champion ten-pin bowler with a comical lisp that becomes annoying after only eight seconds. Judy is concerned Shakes is an alcoholic and fears that he is cheating on her. Exclaiming that Shakes is a ‘weal, wat turd’ she breaks off her relationship with the clown. Shakes is heart-broken and the pain is only increased when he is hit by a speeding bus just seconds later.
His career isn’t going too well either. His clowning partners are concerned about his drinking and pissed at him for constantly being late to gigs. His manager Owen Cheese, after bailing Shakes out of jail for charges of D.U.I, gives him an ultimatum: Clean up your act or your fired. To make matters worse, Shakes has just lost his opportunity to host the local children’s TV show to fellow clown Binky. Binky is the most despised clown in Palukaville, he is a complete A-Hole and considered incredibly unfunny. His performances on TV are disturbingly embarrassing. On top of that Binky is a small-time crook, who is constantly followed by a duo of oafish clown-goons. He is also psychotically jealous of Shakes relationship with the blonde bar-bimbo, Judy.
Shakes’ two best friends are his partners Dink (Adam Sandler) and Stenchy (Blake Clark), a bearded, cigar-chomping clown in a pink dress and padded bra. His friends confront him on his drinking habits. This intervention unfortunately leads to a booze-fuelled bender where the clowns drive around town in a spotty car, harass store owners and ultimately attack a couple of street-performing mimes. You see mimes are the clowns sworn enemies. The three drunken bozos brawl with the mimes while hurling abuse such as ‘You Silent Motherfuckers’ and ‘Learn how to speak!’ This montage is eerily reminiscent of the illustrated story ‘A Candy Cotton Autopsy’ by Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman (this book also served as the artwork for the first album release by Mr Bungle)
This misadventure leads to a children’s party where Shakes becomes so intoxicated that he reeks havoc, traumatises the kiddies and trashes the entire family home. When Owen Cheese hears of this debacle he fires Shakes immediately. Predictably Shakes hits the bottle hard at the local bar. Only minutes after Shakes passes out Cheese discovers Binky amidst a drug deal with some redneck-coke-snorting Rodeo Clowns in a backroom. In a panic Binky kills his boss and frames the murder on our beloved hero Shakes.
When Shakes awakes from his booze-induced coma he hits the road believing he has actually killed Cheese. He is on the run from both the cops and the Rodeo cowboys who wish to destroy all evidence of the murder.
There is quite a few notable cameos and familiar faces in this film including Robin Williams as a mime instructor in a tight body suit that unflatteringly shows off his meat package. It’s odd to find a big star like Williams in such low-budget schlock, but I guess he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to exhibit his beloved mime skills. Adam Sandler appears in one of his early roles. Comedian Kathy Griffin plays Lucy, a cooking enthusiast with a foul-mouth. There is also a small role for veteran character actor Sydney Lassick, who may be familiar from ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ and the bizarre cult flick ‘Sonny Boy’. The movie is also the directional debut of Goldthwait, best known for playing the screeching street-tough in the Police Academy movies.
This movie is definitely not Oscar material, there are technical faults, bad acting, horrible pop songs and many jokes that fall flat on their arse. That said, this movie is a one of a kind experience, there will never be another movie like Shakes The Clown. And maybe that’s not a bad thing, but if you wanna see a movie with drunk clowns, brutality against mimes and lots of vomiting then Shakes is your best bet!