Teachers and professors don’t need to be clowns. However, they do need to engage their students. If you have more than 20 minutes of rigorous teaching, the student cannot anymore pay attention to the teacher. So the teacher has to change the adult mood to the child mood by humor, and that is why you need the humor in teaching.

Have clowns to be teachers? Let’s start by acknowledging that there is a big stigma around the word “clown”. In the States clowns are associated with ax murders, rapists, and political incorrectness. While it’s just the goal of a real clown to make fun of the audience and expose hypocrisy in humanity. Clowns mock all the things they think are crazy about the world, people, systems, relationships, religion, class, race, gender, everything. Sometimes it’s difficult to get away with telling people that they’re assholes, have them laugh and then later realize that they were the brunt of the joke.

Other artists are very often a little bit of both. In literature, each piece of writing is a world of its own, both in its topic and its form and approach. You have to leave your own head and enter the world inside the writer’s mind. Imagine yourself as an urban design consultant in another galaxy with its own laws of physics. You have to learn the topography of an alien planet, its light and dark phases, its temperance and turbulence, its culture and history. Only then can you determine if the city that’s being built is too large or too small, whether there is enough public space for housing or recreation.

9 thoughts on “The Teacher’s Obligation to Entertain vs. the Entertainer’s Obligation to Teach.

  1. lots to think about here Urban…goal of a real clown to make fun of the audience and expose hypocrisy in humanity. …clowns are frightening…i think Malcolm Gladwell once said something about attention…after 7 minutes people don’t listen…i like the imagining of being an urban design consultant…have a joyful day ~ smiles hedy

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  2. Lots of people are afraid of clowns; they’re magnifying mirrors.Urban design consultant was the best metaphor I could come up with to describe the mental process that connects the reader with the writer. Enjoy the weekend. Urban.

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  3. I have to wonder if the teacher and entertainer HAVE to accomplish both teaching and entertainment to have REAL success. I’ve been purely entertained without really learning anything (maybe). I’ve also been taught things without being entertained (again… maybe). But it is as you say, a balance of both teaching and entertainment must be achieved for either one to have lasting meaning to someone. On the entertainer side, I’ll point out Robin Williams. I liked his standups and his movies. He was very capable as both comedian and actor. I think – to your point – that he always had a message in whatever he was doing or saying when he was “on stage”. So, he was always teaching on some level. I had a high school teacher (physics and chemistry) that was outstanding, and a big part of that was that he made everything fun and intriguing. Even the most serious of things (safety during lab) he would try to keep a bit lighter without letting the gravity of the safety requirements get lost on us. I can honestly say that the enterainment aspect of his teachings is helped so much of it stick. I became “technical” because of him, I think. At the very least, he exposed me to it and showed me that I had a talent for technical things.

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  4. Such an interesting discussion to have. It certainly makes sense for teachers to break up their content with humour or even just lightheartedness- I know my best teachers were always able to break up the monotony! I do really agree that other artists are a bit of both. It kind of reminds me of the lucretius delivering his Epicurean philosophy with the honey of poetry- having humour in art can definitely make the teaching moments easier to swallow. Great post and food for thought!

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