Shakes the Clown

1992, R, 83 min. Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Starring Bobcat Goldthwait, Tom Kenny, Adam Sandler, Julie Brown, Florence Henderson.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 24, 1992

What the heck is it about clowns that makes them so easy to ridicule? Like Spike Lee said, maybe it's the shoes. In his directing debut, stand-up comedian Goldthwait plunges us head first into the seamy world of Palukaville, a town populated by beer-swilling, coke-sniffing clowns from hell. Shakes (Goldthwait) is a children's party clown, tormented by both alcohol and the fact that he lost his big chance to star in a local children's television show to the evil, stunningly unfunny Binky (Kenny), a coked-out, Jokerish parody of bad taste and moral ineptitude. When Shakes' manager is found clubbed to death, all the clues (like the bloody imprint of Shakes monogrammed juggling pin imbedded in the corpse's forehead) point to our jittery hero, and despite all the damn clowns floating around, nobody's laughing. As you may have guessed, this is an exceedingly dark comedy, and much of the film's warped humor comes out of situations that in any other film would be pathetic. Shakes is like Tennessee Williams with polka dots and red rubber noses. It's this very sense of a reality just slightly left of center that makes Shakes the Clown work as well as it does. Goldthwait is great as he trembles and stutters his way from one ghastly screw-up to the next, seeking assistance and understanding from his clown cronies and his girlfriend (Julie Brown), a woman of epic stupidity. Like Tim Burton's surreal Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands, Shakes has it's own twisted sense of logic, one that's easy to buy into and maintain. The film lags at times -- some of the gags seem hurried and ill thought-out -- but for a novice director like Goldthwait, there are surprisingly few of these rough spots. If you're a fan of clowns and their relentlessly stupid theatrics, this film may not exactly be what you bargained for, but if you don't mind a little scotch and water (and, of course, vomit) with your squirting flower, Shakes the Clown is a wonderfully weird two hours.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Bobcat Goldthwait
Moontower 2014, Day 2: Bobcat Goldthwait
Moontower 2014, Day 2: Bobcat Goldthwait
When the 'Cat shrieks, we listen

Anne Harris, April 25, 2014

From the Vaults: God Bless Bobcat Goldthwait
From the Vaults: God Bless Bobcat Goldthwait
The comedian-turned-director discusses "Sleeping Dogs Lie"

Marjorie Baumgarten, June 1, 2012

More Bobcat Goldthwait Films
Call Me Lucky
Bobcat Goldthwait directs doc about fellow comic Barry Crimmins

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 7, 2015

God Bless America
Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed this seething comedy, which he describes as a "violent movie about kindness."

Marjorie Baumgarten, June 1, 2012

More by Marc Savlov
The Marksman
Liam Neeson is the action man again in this border thriller

Jan. 15, 2021

Beautiful Something Left Behind
The hard path to healing when kids suffer a death in the family

Jan. 8, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Shakes the Clown, Bobcat Goldthwait, Bobcat Goldthwait, Tom Kenny, Adam Sandler, Julie Brown, Florence Henderson

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle