Jango Edwards erhielt heute aus der Hand von Kulturstadtrat Mailath-Pokorny das Goldene Verdienstzeichen der Stadt Wien. Wer Jango kennt wird sich nicht wundern, dass Festakt etwas anders verlief als normalerweise: Für die Ehrenzeichenkanzlei, aber auch für Kameraleute und manch andere Anwesende war Jangos Auftritt eine, sagen wir mal, Herausforderung.
Hier die Laudatio, die ich auf Jangos Wunsch halten durfte. Auch meine Rede begann etwas ungewöhnlich: Mit nix. Also zumindest erstmal nicht mit Reden.
This is about power. This is about freedom. This is about love. This is about things that Jango Edwards has given to us.
One of the lessons I learned from Jango is that you don’t have to do nothing to get all that.
I did nothing now, I just gave myself the freedom to do nothing – and I got all your attention. And you can believe me, it’s hard to do nothing, it takes a lot of courage to just stand here doing nothing. And I got all your attention. Maybe I should do that in the next session of the Gemeinderat. I’m sure I will get an Ordnungsruf, a call for obedience.
Clowns are not funny, Jango says, people are funny. It’s funny to see your reactions, and so we can have great fun together. And it’s the clowns work to have fun, to make people enjoy themselves.
Stanley Ted Edwards, one of the biggest contemporary clowns, no, one of the biggest in history, funder of the Friends Road Show, the “International Festival of Fools” and the Nouveau Clown Movement, revolutionary of the traditional art of clowning, who filled stadiums with his shows, and who also has a strong link to Vienna where he acted in the Kabarett Niedermair, the Kulisse, the Szene Wien, the Circus Roncalli and many others, business man, busker, comedian, actor – known as crazy beer drinker in the Austrian Television show Tohuwabohu -, singer, composer, writer, director of fantastic clowns like Tanja Simma, donor of his huge archive to the new Circus- and Clownmuseum in the second district, teacher of so many clowns – Jango Edwards will now receive the Decoration of Honour of the City of Vienna.
Now you are really fucked up, Jango. Now you are really in the shit. And it’s my fault that you are in this shit now, so I have to defend this decision.
Being in the shit is what clowning is all about. Because when we are in the shit, we have nothing to loose. And when we have nothing to loose, we are free. And when we are free, we are dangerous. We are dangerous for the system, for the powerful, for those who work with the fear of people in order to opress them. And I want to be dangerous. That’s why I became a clown. That’s why I became a politician. Good clowning and good politics have one thing in common: It should help people to feel themselves free. To change the world. To cooperate instead of competing against each other. To fight against fear.
The reason why clowns are so dangerous is that they have a problem with obedience. Not because they want to impose themselves against authorities. It’s just because they are to stupid to obede, and, which is more important, they dont have the slightest problem with being stupid. And that is what makes them dangerous, thats why the jester was the only one that critized the king.
I just want to cite one example: Many of you know the movie “The great dictator” of Charlie Chaplin, maybe the biggest Clown in history. Imagine if this movie had been shown in every single theatre of the Third Reich. Can you imagine that Hitler could have stayed in power the next day? I can not.
As Federico Fellini said, the clown “is a child in power. The clown represents, in the most effective, moving and unique way, a creature that finds itself in a huge and unknown world”.
People who laugh loose their fear in the very moment of laughing. Laughing is a biological process of relaxing our body. And this is where your mind can enter without borders, where you can be open to think very easy things, like “what is the essence of life?”.
The essence of life is love, is solidarity, is being happy about giving love and solidarity to others, is to know that we are all equal, no matter where we come from and what others told us who we are and who we should be.
Thats what Jango lived in his whole life: To give, to love, to make us think about the essence of life, to make us understand ourselves, to have fun. To respect ourselves and others and to disrespect the rules and expectations that are made to make us small and unhappy.
The Nouveau Clowns like Jango Edwards, Leo Bassi, Johnny Melville and Peter Shub, like Gardi Hutter, Nola Rae and Laura Herts who will perform this week at the fantastic Clownin festival in the Kosmostheater, which has become the biggest and best festival worldwide of female clowns, they are not Clowns for children’s birthday partys. In the opposite, they help us adults who learned to be serious, to fight for beeing accepted by the brutal world we are surrounded, they help us to recover our inner child, the freedom we had when we were children.
Friedrich Nietzsche said: „The maturity of man consists in recovering the seriousness with which he played when he was a child“.
And Friedrich Schiller adds: „The human being only plays when he is a human being in the fullest sense of the word, and he is only a complete a human being when he plays.“
The clown is the one that falls, that fails, that loses. And that is the fundamental essence of this art, because it helps us to understand the essence of life.
Just look. We lose, during all our live. We lose our parents. If everything goes well. If things go wrong we die before them. We lose friends, partners, loved ones…memory, health, vision, people lose their hair, teeth, tension in the butt – and other important parts of our body. And I have bad news for you: in the end we will all loose our lives.
Jango says: “There is only one moment of life, it’s the moment of birth. After birth, you start dying.”
And that’s where I understood why the greatest clowns are always the old ones. Because the old ones have already lost much of what there is to lose. And the elderly have lost one thing that every actor and every clown needs to lose: their vanity.
Look at Charlie Chaplin. He was a poor vagabond, a loser, that falls unfortunate in love in the middle of the film, victim of countless injustices. And he always ends up alone and lonely. And guys, I have bad news again: Each of you, each of us will end up alone.
Loneliness is the fundamental constitution of human life. And that’s where I understood why the clown is being loved all around the world: Because he is the incarnation of our only hope. He is a loser, he falls, fails, but he always gets up and starts all over again, even after the biggest losses.
And it’s funny what that thing with losing has to do with love. The Brazilian writer Nelson Rodrigues wrote the following sentence: “Nobody loves truly if he does not think about death.”
You wanna see? Think for a few seconds of someone whom you really love. A few seconds. And then, imagine that he or she tomorrow morning is no longer there, and will never again have breakfast with you. Do you notice how your love for this person changes in that very moment?
Everybody wants to be loved. Everybody wants to be accepted. „I love you“ is the phrase we most like to hear, from our father, our mother, our children, friends, partners. And if it was connected to a raise of our salary, we would even accept it from our boss.
The problem is that most people spend their life putting on masks over masks in order to be accepted. And to pretend that they have no need to hear it: I love you. People tend to say, “Ah, it’s not so important to me anyway“. Clowns do not need that. Clowns are here just to love and to be loved.
Do you love Jango? No, I mean do you really love this old guy with white long hair, with his wrong teeth, with that belly and that strange look doing strange things?
I learned a very important phrase from Jango: “I’ll never be as good as you if I want to be like you. And you’ll never be as good as me if you try to be like me.”
Be who you are, which means: know who you are, live your dreams, and accept being ridiculous, accept your mistakes, your weakness. Accept your belly, your stupidity, your desires, but never stop to ask your neighbor: “Do you love me, even like that?” And therein lies the secret of this art.
Clowns put their dignity at risk, the rules of how society told us to behave, the dignity, the system has provided for us in order not to rebel against this system. And by that they achieve another form of dignity. The dignity to be nothing else than to be ourselves.
I thank you, Jango, for this dignity and for giving this dignity to all who had the luck and the honor to see you. I love you, Jango.