♫ Send In The Clowns ♫

Although I have not watched much of the impeachment trial, I have read various analyses and watched a few clips.  Yesterday afternoon, I wrote my thoughts on what I have alternately referred to as a dog-and-pony show, and a three-ring-circus.  With that in mind, I thought this song, or at least the title of it, perfectly appropriate for tonight.

This is a song written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night. It is a ballad from Act Two, in which the character Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life.

The “clowns” in the title do not refer to circus clowns. Instead, they symbolize fools, as Sondheim explains …

“I get a lot of letters over the years asking what the title means and what the song’s about; I never thought it would be in any way esoteric. I wanted to use theatrical imagery in the song, because she’s an actress, but it’s not supposed to be a circus.  It’s a theater reference meaning “if the show isn’t going well, let’s send in the clowns”; in other words, “let’s do the jokes.” I always want to know, when I’m writing a song, what the end is going to be, so “Send in the Clowns” didn’t settle in until I got the notion, “Don’t bother, they’re here”, which means that “We are the fools.”  As I think of it now, the song could have been called “Send in the Fools”. I knew I was writing a song in which Desirée is saying, “aren’t we foolish” or “aren’t we fools?” Well, a synonym for fools is clowns, but “Send in the Fools” doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

Clowns … fools … either one works equally well in Washington tonight.

Send in the Clowns
Judy Collins

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air,
Where are the clowns?

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move,
Where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns?

Just when I’d stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines
No one is there

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry, my dear!
But where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns
Well, maybe next year

Songwriters: Stephen Sondheim
Send in the Clowns lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

30 thoughts on “♫ Send In The Clowns ♫

  1. Love this song!
    Here’s a snippet. Sondhiem when working on this song wrote it in such a way that Glynis Johns an actor not a trained singer could draw her breath in for the next line, hence the way the rhythm of the song rises and drop. When you see a performance the song is interspersed with acting, hence on stage as a musical it works better with actors.

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  2. Your great write up and the opportunity to study the words for once bring me to a greater understanding of the lyrics. It’s a song I’ve always loved. Trump rather spoils it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, David. I’m glad you discovered something new, for usually it is you who teaches me new things about music! Yes, Trump rather spoils everything, doesn’t he?


  3. Thanks for sharing!!.. as the song says, the clowns are already there… were is P.T. Barnum when one needs him… 🙂

    “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato

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  4. YOU are on a roll, musically, this week!! What a perfect choice of a song in view of the circus that is appearing in the Senate. No offense is intended to Judy Collins, but…this song NEVER sounds better than when it is sung by Barbra Streisand!! “The Broadway Album” was released in 1985 and the album contains at least a half dozen Sondheim songs including this one. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to attend the Timeless Tour in New York City in September of 2000 and hear her perform this song! If memory serves me correctly it was in July 2019 that you featured “Don’t Lie To Me” from her “Walls” album…excellent choice that! I most likely added a lengthy comment then, but that was prior to her Madison Square Garden concert in August 2019. How I wish that I had been present then to hear her parody of “Send In The Clowns” that was about Trump! She had performed a similar version during a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in 2016 about 8 weeks prior to the election. I do not know if you could locate the latter, but the former you can because…I had written down the specifics of where I had come across it. Google, if you wish, http://www.wmagazine.com aug. 5, 2019 barbra streisand dedicates “send in the clowns” to trump. Watch the included video and be entertained by the best!! You will enjoy it, bigly! Thank-YOU!!

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    • Ha ha ha … y’know … last night when I was putting this post together, I remembered that Barbra Streisand had covered it, and I thought of you … I thought, “Ellen will want the Streisand version”. So, I went and listened to it, but after having just listened to Judy Collins’, Streisand’s … as much as I love her voice … just didn’t quite measure up, so I didn’t offer both. I had a feeling you would be disappointed … I’m sorry, but it was late and I was tired. However, now that my curiosity is piqued, I will go in search of the parody version … had I known about it last night, I might well have added that! Stay tuned … you just never know … 😉


      • Surprisingly, at least to me, there are those who are not Barbra fans. “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” – Poet, John Lydgate though made famous by Abraham Lincoln. Since you have many followers to please, it is a given that not all of them will be pleased all of the time and it would be an act of futility on your part to try. No, my dear lady, I am not disappointed…but you know that it is also a given that I will choose a Barbra version over any other and voice that opinion…loudly! I might have been a wee bit disappointed that you felt Barbra’s ‘didn’t quite measure up’, but I owe that to your extreme fatigue. Hopefully, you were able to locate the parody, I loved it! That said, Frank Sinatra did a good version of this song as well. As always, Thank-you!


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