I went to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Clown College in 1975. Among the subjects I studied were mime (Shut up. It was cool in 1975.), juggling, makeup, circus history, and clown gags.
Oh, and acrobatics.
You know, stuff like tumbling, vaulting, trampoline, and other life-threatening activities. I was absolutely terrible at acrobatics. In fact, I hurt myself on the very first day of class. We were lined up to do vaulting (which I cannot even type, much less do). I was nervous, and with good reason, seeing as how I had never done such a ridiculous thing.
We were to run up to the mini-trampoline, jump on it, then dive over the vaulting horse into a forward roll on the mat.
As we lined up, the assistant headmaster said, "Be sure to shoot your arms straight into the air as you come up off the mini-tramp. It'll give you enough height to clear the horse."
Seemed like a good idea to me.
Unfortunately, he neglected to tell us to tuck our heads as we hurtled toward the mat headfirst.
Can you guess the rest?
Yes, I landed flat on the top of my head. As I lay on my back on the mat, I thought, "Wow -- it's not just an expression; you really do see stars."
The headmaster helped me up and told me to walk it off. That was his general remedy for everything. Landed on your head? Walk it off. Sprained your arm? Walk it off. Broke your leg? Walk it off.
I quickly realized that I was not going to be the star of acrobatics class, so I settled for the goal of not killing myself. I succeeded at that -- I even succeeded at learning to do a backwards somersault on the trampoline, as long as I was strapped into the harness.
And then? I was practicing a ladder gag, a classic slapstick gag where one clown is on the top rung of a freestanding ladder, which is being held up the other clown. The other clown lets go, and the ladder clown leaps off, straddling the ladder, and does a forward roll.
I was actually pretty good at that gag, until one fateful day, when the ladder swerved to the side. My foot landed wrong, the ladder landed on my foot, and the rest of me landed on the ladder. I lay on the mat (a position with which I was familiar) when the headmaster grabbed my foot and started twisting it around vigorously.
"Eet's okai," he said, "walk eet off."
I took one step and knew I wasn't walking anything off. Someone called an ambulance, and I got an all-expenses -paid trip to the Venice Florida ER, where my severely sprained ankle was wrapped up tight.
I did the big graduation show on crutches.
I have since avoided anything remotely resembling acrobatics, until now.
I'm taking Pilates.