by Kirby LindsayNever fear, Godfrey Daniels will appear…at the 2011 Moisture Festival. The tall, pale clown, with his big red ball and tragic fashion sense, has delighted audiences at Comedy/Varieté Moisture Fest shows since the vaudeville revival series first appeared in Fremont under the “Big Top” (a tent set up on the Fremont Outdoor Movies/U-Park lot) in 2004.
Yet, he may take a year off in the near future, according to Randy Minkler who helps schedule acts for the Festival, and knows Godfrey rather, um, personally. He’s thought about giving Godfrey a rest, to give him time to develop a new act, yet, ultimately, he said, “I’ll keep doing it as long as the audience laughs and reacts.”
The Man Behind The Ball
Minkler lives in Fremont, and considers himself a native Seattlite although technically born in Glendale, California. He started with the Moisture Fest at its inception, having long known the producers through Oregon Country Fair, Du Caniveaux, and the neighborhood. Each year he’s worked backstage, using his construction skills (from his day job) and assisting in whatever way necessary.
He also performs, and sings. At the first Moisture, he performed as the Hypnomatic. Beyond the Festival, he’s developed characters such as uptight Jiffy The Plumber, and an act called “Cooking With Jimbo,” which instructs viewers on how to open a can of beans (Jimbo’s catchphrase: “What’s the big deal?”) He also sings and plays with the Honky Tonk Revue. Minkler would like to develop yet more characters, or more fully realize those he’s created in the past, but the Festival, and touring as Godfrey, take quite a bit of his time.
Where Do Clowns Come From?
When asked about Godfrey, Minkler doesn’t imbue the act with mystery or complex depths – although it is not quite as artless as it looks. While vaguely scripted, “I think of it as being precarious,” Minkler explained, “it’s very simple, but the timing has to be carefully constructed.”
Minkler described the original ‘inspiration’ for Godfrey as “an assignment.” At one Oregon Country Fair, he needed an act for a circus show. Kathy Sutherland helped him create the original choreography, and he built a costume. When asked why Godfrey never speaks, Minkler ingenuously responded that he couldn’t figure out how to make a mouth that moved.
As to his ‘secret identity,’ Minkler said, “Everybody knows. I sometimes wish they didn’t. If I’d know it would last this long,” he explained, he’d have clung to the background.
Over the years of performing, “I’ve developed it, and added,” he explained. He also brought along a protégé, Isak Moon, as a miniature Godfrey, about six years ago. Last year, at the Festival, Armitage Shanks hosted a ‘This Is Your Life’ show that featured Godfrey’s backstory, including his family, a female Godfrey and a baggy-trousered, black-balloon carrying teen Godfrey.
Yet, as beloved as Godfrey has proven to be among Moisture Fest audiences, the innocent charm and subtle wit of the act can sometimes fall flat. About touring Europe, Minkler described the hard work of warming up audiences to the act. He has to let people get to know the character, and once people start laughing, “It’s contagious.” He would like to return to Europe, to try again, and continue to explore the character, and the audiences, with knowledge he’s gained from other performers.
For those who haven’t experienced Godfrey, or those who need their fix (and laughs) check out a listing on the Moisture Festival website for the shows at which he’s scheduled to perform. Who knows, while at the Moisture Fest, you may even see Minkler (and Moon too) if you look closely enough…
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.