The vacant grounds of the Rose Festival is a strange scene, but it's hard to imagine a pie-throwing workshop happening anywhere else. In a corner of the carnival early in the morning before it opens, workshop instructor and full-time clown Angel Ocasio wears a white jumpsuit splattered with paint. It's an impromptu workshop, so a few of the other attendees are also clowns, but the rest are Ocasio's fellow Rose Festival employees. (He's the festival's mascot, the Clown Prince.)
Over three decades out of clown college, Ocasio convincingly makes pie throwing sound like a philosophy. To Ocasio, slapstick is basically a form of optimism. "[Pie throwing has] been around as long as comedy," he says. "You get hit with a pie in the face, that's serious stuff. But it's how you deal with it that produces the comedy."
"It's important that you learn not only how to give a pie, but how to take a pie," Ocasio adds. For WW's Classic Comedy Month, that's exactly what we did. Here's what we found out.
1. It's not actually pie.
When we arrive at a patch of dirt by some porta potties, Ocasio unloads a bunch of shaving cream from a cardboard box and spirals the contents of a whole can into an aluminum pie tin. Along with being a waste of food, custard pie is apparently dense enough that it kind of hurts when it gets slammed in your face. Some clowns use whipped cream for their pies, but according to Ocasio, the sugar from it can remove clown makeup.
2. You don't actually throw it.
"Pies do not fly 100 feet into someone's face," says Ocasio. Instead, you have to "place" it on the face of your "victim"—basically, facepalm them with a mound of shaving cream.
3. If you're on the receiving end, protect your orifices.
It kind of goes without saying that you'll want to keep your eyes and mouth shut. Getting a pie shoved onto your face is surprisingly claustrophobic. If you leave the tin hanging from your face, it gives the joke a moment to land. But it also means holding your breath, which is pretty uncomfortable when you're doing it to avoid inhaling shaving cream.
4. Take your time removing the pie from your face.
Getting the pie off your face is where you get to inject your own unique clowning personality. It can happen pretty naturally: When there's a mound of shaving cream over your entire face, you want to get rid of it. "If you get something in your mouth, just blow it out," says Ocasio. "It's a nice comedic effect." You're supposed to pull the tin straight off instead of dragging it down across your face. That way, you'll leave more of the cream intact. One of the other workshop attendees dramatically wiped his eyes clean one at a time. I found myself motorboat exhaling before pulling my sunglasses out from under a layer of shaving cream—a stylistic touch Ocasio had recommended.
5. Get creative.
Ocasio demonstrated several variations on tripping and face planting onto a pie and aiming for someone who ducks. There are infinite ways to pie and get pied, and searching for the unexpected is crucial to the mindset of a clown. "Clowns should see things through the eyes of a child," says Ocasio. "Find a moment to discover something."
SEE IT: Angel Ocasio will be at the Rose Festival's Junior and Grand Floral parades this weekend. See rosefestival.org for details.