Mark Gindick: Death Defying Schtick

Rich with humor, honesty, & historical sweep, this show blends a major American clown’s deeply personal narrative with historical context of physical comedy. From award-winning clown, Mark Gindick, the only clown who achieved featured-performer status in the circus “trifecta” Big Apple Circus, Ringling Bros and Cirque du Soleil, comes a true-life story about a father and son’s too-brief relationship and the historic roots of mocking death through comedy. Part masterful and hilarious clown-show, part memoir, part TED-style talk, the show targets an audience of students and general public who enjoy circus clowning, its history, technique.

After years of working with students, FCT has discovered that overcoming family hardships, especially death, is THE most discussed item in post-show reflections. With its humorous but poignant approach to death, Gindick will engage students on this tough topic. Through published studies, psychologists are now confirming what clowns have known for millennia: Humans can think death is funny. Gindick proves this through historic & newly invented clown routines about death.

When his dad dies of cancer at the age of 51, teenage Mark already overcome with grief & loss, uncovers a family secret: all the men in his family die at 51. In trying to create a life that would make his late dad proud, Mark excavates his memories. Was his conventional dad unknowingly training Mark to become a circus clown? Mark fulfills his destiny to make people laugh,& sees his comedic style emerging from fear, pain, & the anguish of losing a father. As this densely entwined piece builds to its climax, Gindick’s searing reminiscences flow into laugh-out-loud clown routines. Mark periodically dons his “professor hat” –i.e he shares his breadth of knowledge, delivering a master-class in the historic relationship of comedy to death. For example, a memory of his dad inspires a personal “bit” that Mark created for a circus tour. As the laughs subside, Mark parallels his own bit with a classic routine, demonstrated as only a virtuoso clown can.

Gindick’s collaborators are Adam Koplan, Founding Artistic Director, who is co-writing, with Jessi D. Hill directing. FCT received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to develop Death Defying Schtick. The show will receive a workshop at the Breman Museum in Atlanta, GA in December, 2022.