An Ontario-born clown returns to her Sask roots

Stage by Charles Atlas Sheppard


The Glories of Gloria Revue
The Artesian
June 3-4

We don’t get too many clowns in these here parts.

Close your eyes for a second and conjure an image of a clown. Chances are Mooky Cornish doesn’t match your picture of a balloon-twisting party clown, or the drink-debauched Krusty of Simpson’s fame. I personally conjure up Bobcat Goldthwait’s 1991 black comedy Shakes The Clown (“the Citizen Kane of drunken clown movies,” Scorsese called it).

Cornish is so old-school we’ve forgotten there ever was such a thing as vaudeville travelling stage performers. But there were — and there still are.

Mooky isn’t just a clown. She’s a Cirque du Soleil clown, having been the lead clown in Varekai (2002). She’s also an internationally renowned comedian, performer, puppet-master and pianist.

But right now, Mooky and her partner Sara Ski have landed in Regina and say they’re here for the long haul. Sara (“pronounced Saw-Ra, not Sair-Ra; Saw-ra with an accent”) is an international artiste in her own right, often appearing with Mooky as a fellow performer or musical accompanist.

Mooky and Sara have already introduced themselves to the Farmer’s Market crowd in downtown Regina and Regina Beach. They’ll also appear in The Red Nose Knows Show as part of the Cathedral Arts Festival on May 26. Mooky is also the special guest hostess at the Prairie Puppetslam Cabaret on May 31. But her formal introduction to her new community will be her variety extravaganza The Glories of Gloria Revue.

All those upcoming gigs are at the Artesian. They should’ve just given her a room in the back and a Carol Burnett cleaning lady outfit.

If that’s not enough Mooky-time for you, Cornish is sticking around Regina to create a television pilot based on her character, Gloria, about a girl who runs away from the circus and moves to Saskatchewan to MAKE IT BIG. She hopes the pilot will turn into a weekly television series.

Geez. A TV series based in a small rural Saskatchewan town? Who has heard of such a thing? Apparently, Mooky didn’t get the memo, where the bright and talented leave Saskatchewan for the big city. She was also blissfully unaware the Brad Wall government gutted the film industry.

“Artists tell me they’re sad there’s no film industry here,” she says. “But art isn’t for the politicians, it’s for the people. I will find a way to make this work.”

Mooky isn’t precisely sure where she is going to get the funding or how it’s going to happen, only that it will happen — which would be very Gloria of her.

The Glories of Gloria Revue is a frenetically paced variety show starring Miss Gloria River of “allegedly prestigious artistic lineage” who wants to put on a really big extravaganza. The show includes puppetry, magic, music and mayhem. There might even be the dreaded audience participation shtick.

The Glories of Gloria Revue is more about character creations than sawdust pratfalls, red noses and honking horns — the comedy is very physical, visceral and immediately accessible to all audiences.

“Everyone will get it and understand,” says Cornish. “It’s very simple. Anyone could do it.”

I doubt anyone could do it. After all, it’s only the masters who can make their craft look simple.

“No, no, I meant people will walk away inspired from the show and want to do their own,” she says.

I imagine hordes of audience members committing comedy on the unsuspecting Regina streets after the show. There are worse things.

Saskatchewan Gravity

Gloria is one of those artistic creations that took years to sculpt on the roadshow of life. Cornish is from a small-rural Ontario town, and became a professional clown in high school. Later, she travelled to San Francisco where she trained intensively in every style of clowning from European Circus clown to traditional Balinese foolery.

“I’ve done pretty much everything except Rodeo clown — which I regret, but I think I’m too old to start running from bulls now,” she says.

Talking to her is like talking to a true scholar of the art of clowning. She rattles off a list of people she trained under. Her knowledge of the clowning traditions of First Nations societies is also impressive, but she’s quick to point out “every culture has a clown.”

Mooky has also taught workshops in clowning. If she sticks around long enough, she might turn everyone into clowns, making Regina into the clown town it deserves to be.

Mooky is no stranger to Saskatchewan. She didn’t throw a dart on a map and decide to come here. She has strong Saskatchewan roots that harken back 116 years to her great grandparents who settled in Patrick, eventually moving to Indian Head. Her father was Saskatchewan born-and-raised.

You can take the clown out of the prairies but you can’t take the prairies out of the clown. So, here she is: Mooky’s home. Give a clown a hand?