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In Music

The saddest show on Earth?

Puddles Pity Party croons and clowns around

Puddles the Clown, has been singing since the day he was born. At least that's what his meemaw told him.

"My Meemaw said I came outta the oven hitting a solid G2-G4," says Puddles. "My pop was always playing records during his martini times in the basement. I was a sucker for those sad Sinatra tunes like 'Wee Small Hours' and 'One For My Baby.'"

Today, Puddles is a sad-faced, fully-costumed, 6-foot-8-inch clown. Puddles created the character in 1999 when he formed an all-clown band in Atlanta called Greasepaint.

Puddles Pity Party took off in 2013 when Puddles – whose baritone voice has been compared to Tom Jones – was featured in viral videos and opened for the Eels during their U.S. and European tours. Puddles Pity Party recorded a cover of Lorde's "Royals" and the video has more than 11 million hits on YouTube.

Puddles Pity Party performs at Turner Hall Ballroom on Thursday, May 7. Bring your hankie.

OnMilwaukee.com: What are your thoughts regarding the fact so many people find clowns creepy?

Puddles The Clown: I think it's a fairly modern phenomenon, just because of movies like IT or the doll in "Poltergeist." And I think it's silly. People aren't scared of all dogs after watching Cujo. And they're not scared of guys named "Jack" after watching The Shining. But they're scared of all clowns based on a couple of fictitious characters? I don't get it. Like most humans, we clowns have feelings. I'm a hugger, not a mugger.

OMC: Were you inspired by a particular clown or performer?

PTC: Lots of great clowns and performers have inspired me over the years: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Scott Walker, Gene Wilder, Freddie Mercury, Tom Waits, Rev. Uncle Laffo, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, Jim Henson's Muppets, Oscar Brown, Jr., Mel Brooks, (David) Bowie… the list goes on and on.

OMC: Do you always wear the same makeup and costume or do you switch up your look sometimes?

PTC: My face is my face. But I do sometimes change my habiliments depending on the nature of the engagement.

OMC: Tell me more about your former band, Greasepaint.

PTC: Back in '99, me and the Rev. Uncle Laffo had a band called Greasepaint. It was all clown plus two monkey-girls. We enjoyed some wild times on the road, including a brief tour with Tenacious D. That success lasted about four years before our cotton candy dealer got busted and the clown car broke down. MonkeyZuma and I did our own thing for a while after that, touring with Aqua Teen Hunger Force Live and The Eels.

OMC: I heard you are shy. Is this true? Does your shyness conflict with performing – or are you not shy on stage?

PTC: I'm not really that shy. I'm just not a big talker. Talking has its place for some. Singing is better for me.

OMC: Do you have an album in the making?

PTC: I've got some songs on the ol' iTunes. But I haven't released a full album yet. It's hard to make time in the studio when I'm on the road so much. But I'm hoping to get some studio time in this year after my U.K. tour.

OMC: How would you describe one of your shows?

PTC: I don't think it's good to go to any party with particular expectations. But I can tell you that when you come to a Puddles Pity Party, it's a night filled with song and sadness and awkward camaraderie that usually results in gladness.

OMC: OK, but what do you hope the audience will experience while at one of your shows?

PTC: I'm drawn to songs that pick the lock. Songs that hit you right in the ticker. Whether they make you cry or lift you up. I hope my music has the same affect on the audience as it has on me. It can be quite cathartic.

OMC: Are you surprised by your success?

PTC: Meemaw always said that life is a series of disappointments, and I grew up always expecting that. So success is indeed a surprise. I am humbled by all the love I receive from Pity Partiers around the globe. It sure makes a lonely guy feel a lot less lonely.


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