Clowning Around with Elisabeth Helland Larsen
Our recent release Life and I sensitively explores the inseperability of life and death. The book is full of colorful illustrations and the narrative is direct but uplifting, which should come as no surprise as author Elisabeth Helland Larsen is a professional clown. Larsen is a member of the European Federation of Hospital Clown Organizations, and has worked hard to bring smiles to children in hospitals, refugee camps, and orphanages over the past 20 years. We spoke with Larsen below.
What is the most important thing that every clown should know?
A real clown has a big heart. They love to meet people and create magical moments. A real clown is happy with not being “perfect” and making a lot of mistakes. A real clown knows that everything is possible and everyone is unique!
What are the kids’ favorite skits, jokes, and acts these days?
Children are the same all over the world. They love to play and improvise in a universe of imagination through story-telling, poetry, humor, and music. They are masters in the art of playing, which is something that we often lose as adults. Clowns never grow up, and they are able to tune into the children’s wavelengths with their creative and artistic tools.
If you could clown around with a character from any children’s book, who would it be?
I think my clown is happy to be herself and meet the people around her. But sometimes she can be a little bit like Pippi in Astrid Lindgren’s books.
What do clowns eat for breakfast?
Clowns eat pancakes with blueberries and white clouds for breakfast!
Is a clown only a clown when they are dressed up and made up? Or is a clown always a clown?
Just there are many different styles of music, there are many different styles of clowning. If you hold a guitar in your hand, you don’t necessarily know how to play it; it’s the same in the field of clowning. You can put on a costume and a red nose, but, for me, serious clowns work hard to develop their own character based on who they are and what their talents are. To be a clown is a lifetime project and most clowns were educated at a clown schools, as clowning around is a proper profession.
Can you tell us how you became a clown and when and why you decided to work with children?
When I was small, I loved many to dance, act, draw, juggle, play music, perform magic, meet people of all ages, be free, decide my own rules, meet friends, be absurd and ironic, laugh and cry together with others—and all these things are possible to do as a clown, even as a 43-year-old! I love it, and—most of all—I love to use my artistic skills to meet children in special environments like hospitals, refugee camps, and orphanages. All children should have a safe childhood with a lot of love and playing!
How did the book Life and I started?
Since I am a clown in hospitals and get to see how close life and death are, I really wanted to write something about this. I think it’s important to talk about death and avoid the taboos around it. If we have a more balanced relationship to death, life may become even stronger. This book is the first in a trilogy: the first one is about death, the second one is about life, and the third one is about the clown. It’s my whole life in three children books and it have been a gift to work with the very talented illustrator Marine Schneider on all three.
Pictures taken from Life and I, Portrait by Ingeborg Refsnes