Mump and Smoot’s Creators Discuss the Clowns of Horror
Michael Kennard and John Turner on blood and languages.
Image courtesy of High Performance Rodeo
Mump and Smoot, notorious and beloved clown characters created by Canadians Michael Kennard and John Turner, have been performing across North America for more than two decades. They’ve been described as delightful and nightmarish, sweet and demented, and have been compared with famous duos Laurel and Hardy and Vladimir and Estragon.
We had a conversation with Kennard (Mump) and Turner (Smoot) as they prepared to open their latest full-length show, Mump and Smoot in Anything With Knooma at Alberta Theatre Projects this month.
How do you explain Mump and Smoot’s enduring popularity?
John Turner It’s totally character- and relationship-based work. It’s based on love and fun. I don’t think that sort of material ever gets tired. Even when we go to our darkest places, it’s still based in fundamental, universal issues.
Why are you the “clowns of horror?”
J.T. Right at the beginning, the press defined us as horror clowns or clowns of horror. Once it was coined, the term just exploded. It’s the thing everybody thinks of. We got to Edmonton [Fringe] and, at first, they wouldn’t let us perform in our assigned theatre that first year because they’d heard we used more than a gallon of blood for each show. But we reassured them and were allowed to go ahead.
Michael Kennard But it wasn’t like we didn’t like being horror clowns – we loved it. We liked the juxtaposition of it.
Why are Mump and Smoot shows so bloody?
J.T. We’re both a little subversive. We wanted to reinvent clowning, and we were both big horror fans before we even met. We wanted to make it as exciting as possible.
Why do you create your own props?
M.K. It started out of necessity. You can’t just go out and buy an arm-stretcher, so we had to figure out how to make one. Plus, we were producing shows on $1,000, so we did everything ourselves. Lighting design, props – everything. We loved being hands-on, so, when you go on stage, there’s a feeling that everything’s been created from you and your imagination.
Does Ummonian [the gibberish language spoken in Ummo, the parallel universe Mump and Smoot inhabit] have linguistic rules?
M.K. No, but there are set words for certain things. “Poodugs et sloobs” is spaghetti and wine. A lot of the gibberish words we come up with are based on feeling. If you say “poodugs et sloobs” and think “spaghetti and wine,” it actually feels like “spaghetti and wine.”
Mump and Smoot in Anything With Knooma, presented by ATP and One Yellow Rabbit as part of the High Performance Rodeo, runs Jan. 20 to Feb. 1, atplive.com. High Performance Rodeo runs Jan. 7 to Feb. 1, hprodeo.ca.