Join the party
Misery loves company — and a nearly 7-foot sad clown armed with hugs and pop coversBy JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor November 08. 2017 1:08PM
Q&A with Puddles Pity Party (and If you go...)WHO: Puddles Pity Party
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 So. Main St., Concord
TICKETS: $35 to $45
By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor
Puddles Pity Party, the big, sad clown who expresses his sadness through cabaret-tinged covers of hit tunes, shares his thoughts about being on “America's Got Talent,” embracing the awkward and (not) wearing makeup.
You call yourself Puddles Pity Party, but you seem to offer as many hugs as tears. What do you consider your mission?
Fellowship! We're all in this together. My other mission is coffee and pie!
What does make you so melancholy?
My Meemaw always said, “Life is a series of disappointments.” I'm afraid that outlook overtakes me more often than it oughta.
Conversely, what makes (or would make) you happy?
Cuddles. Coffee. Pie. In that order.
Does the stage makeup give you anonymity in your daily life? Do you get approached when running errands or getting a bite to eat?
What makeup? “Approached” is my middle name.
How has being on “America's Got Talent” and playing around the world changed you?
I've been knockin' around the world with my Pity Party for a few years now, finding fellowship wherever I go.
Performing on “AGT” this summer introduced me to so many new friends and Płers (his fans). It warms my heart to have more friends in more places.
What do you say to people who think you're Brad Roberts (most known for his vibrating low notes in the hummed chorus of folk rock band Crash Test Dummies' mid-'90s hit)?
You've got this Vaudeville mix of theatricality and musicality. When and how did you craft this persona?
That's just who I am. I'm a song-and-dance man. I once put on a musical production of “The Magnificent Seven” on my Pawpaw's shrimp trawler. A very limited engagement of one performance. I played all the parts. Pawpaw loved it. Meemaw said, “Don't quit your day job.” I was 11.
You manage to make a very tall person with presence somehow shrink with vulnerability. What's the hardest part of that performance?
The hardest part is saying goodbye to everybody when it's over.
How do you keep that crown perched off-kilter on your head?
That crown has a job to do and does it well for the most part. But every now and then the crown decides to clock out mid-performance.
Will you ever perform without makeup or do a reveal like rock band KISS famously did?
What makeup?? KISS is LEGENDARY, by the way.
Iconic artists like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Sia all have had that quirky side to their performances. Who inspires you, and why?
I'm inspired by anyone who is doing their thing. No matter what people may say about it. That takes guts.
Anyone in particular you'd love to meet or sing with?
Abraham Lincoln. I hear he had a high, lonesome style of singing. Super funny guy, too.
Earlier this year I “spoke” to Tapeface, another performer who was a contestant on “America's Got Talent” and makes it a practice not to speak. Although you and he have very different talents, you both capitalize on these awkward moments that can turn tender. Is an audience's initial discomfort also uncomfortable for you?
“Awkward” is my other middle name. I don't mind awkward moments. It's not that uncomfortable really. I'm assuming the Płers are on board when they walk in. I always assume everybody is on board. Why wouldn't they be? People are awesome. So is Tapeface. Stay weird!
How many followers do you have on Facebook and Twitter now?
Not followers ... friends!
Lastly, could you tell me where you reside, how old you are, and how tall you are?
I consider myself a citizen of the world. I'm as old as I feel. I'm about 4.5 cubits tall, give or take. Tall enough to know it's time for coffee and pie!
His sadness is written all over his face. But don’t ask how he feels; he won’t say a word.
He’d rather sing it, and when he does it’s an operatic catharsis that soars toward the balcony seats and then rumbles into the depths of the orchestra pit.
It’s enough to make you forget he’s a clown.
Well, almost. It’s kind of hard not to notice the loose-fitting white jumpsuit with black piping, the tiny gold crown perched at a tilt atop his head and the black lines that make the corners of his eyes and mouth droop. And there are those daubs of red paint under his eyes that look like tears of despair have bled from the inside out.
If misery loves company, then Puddles Pity Party — dubbed the sad clown with the golden voice — is the dejected host of a vaudevillian hug fest, offering commiseration with covers of pop and rock hits including “It’s a Heartache” (Bonnie Tyler), “Mad World” (Tears for Fears), “House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals), “The Sound of Silence” (based on rock band Disturbed’s version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic) and a mashup of Queen’s “Under Pressure” and “Let It Go” (by Idina Menzel from the “Frozen” soundtrack).
His version with Postmodern Jukebox of Lorde’s hit “Royals” has garnered more than 22 million views on youtube since it was posted in 2013, and this past summer he performed the song, along with Sia’s “Chandelier” and Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself,” on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
Though a bit despondent, Puddles Pity Party is a far cry from the clowns in pop-culture circles lately, from the movie “It,” based on Stephen King’s dark tale of the maniacal, red-nosed Pennywise to the FX television series “American Horror Story: Cult,” where creepy clowns are terrorizing Sarah Paulson’s character.
With Puddles, there’s humor, longing, absurdity and an infectious sense of vulnerability that has drawn over 33,8000 followers to his Twitter account in the past five years and taken him to festivals and halls around the world.
Puddles was born under a different name but now finds comfort in being a universal face of empathy. It’s a guise that purposefully brings awkward moments and then unexpected tenderness. On “AGT,” when he first walked on stage, there were murmurs and looks of confusion from some audience members as the non-talking Puddles wasn’t able to field judge’s questions for a few moments.
Which made it doubly disorienting when the 6-foot-8 clown suddenly let loose in song in a strangely compelling outpouring of isolation and longing: Here’s this big guy somehow shrunken by sadness. Watch the audience, and weirdly enough, you see people go from skeptical to supportive: Yeah, he’s a clown, but, hey, he’s hurting. Aren’t we all?
“It’s a sad and beautiful world,” says the swing-noir clown who on his Facebook page lists “cryin, feelin’ down, bananas and walnuts” as band interests; his ability to “eat a whole onion in 15 minutes” under the awards category; “dirt, Chapstick, applause and hungry as influences; and his gender as “plural (neutral).”
“I’m not for everybody, but I may be for you,” he sums up on Twitter.