The infectious laugh, the black and white make-up and the moptop hairstyle are what make Clown Dimitri so unique. This Swiss clown has been entertaining us for more than half a century, and I truly adore him for more than his name.
About Clown Dimitri
Dimitri began his artistic career as an acrobat and pantomime in Ascona. But it was not long before he got into singing that he discovered his knack for playing instruments. In fact, he plays ten instruments - sometimes all at once! In the 1970's, his career took off when he started touring Switzerland with Knie, the national circus.
Ever since, Clown Dimitri has been performing his popular solo acts on the stages of four continents.
The center of gravity for Clown Dimitri has always been Ticino. In the small town of Verscio, he founded the very first theater in Ticino in 1971. The reputable Teatro Dimitri is a school for theater which includes a cultural center and a theater stage. I have good memories of this wonderful place because as a teenager, I attended one of the summer programs.
I remember that it was lots of fun to practice everything from facial expressions to silly walks and handstands. Alongside us, there were regular musicians, dancers, jugglers and actors who would practice their acts. Scuola Teatro Dimitri was buzzing with energy. (Please do not ask me to show what I learned all these years ago!)
A Highlight: Porteur (1962)
One of Clown Dimitri's oldest performances is also one of his best. It is mind boggling that one never tires of repeating the same act - even after more than 50 years! But when I saw "Porteur" again as part of DimiTRIgenerations, it felt like it was his very first performance.
In a televised interview, Clown Dimitri confesses that he likes traveling abroad. "It feels like a triumph when I can make someone laugh abroad. Because here in Switzerland, I am well known and people will laugh even before I have done anything funny."
The Latest Act: DimiTRIgenerations
In the latest performance currently on tour, DimiTRIgenerations, Clown Dimitri is joined by his two talented daughters Masha and Nina, his nephew Samuel Müller Dimitri and by a close family friend, Silvana Gargiulo.
"We are a harmonious family, and we are truly having fun on the stage. This genuine excitement rubs off on the audience," explains Clown Dimitri. I can attest to that as I caught myself laughing tears!
It amazes me how agile and bright Clown Dimitri still is, despite his tender age of 79 years. Together with his family members, this Swiss clown routinely wows the audience with his simple yet heart-felt acts. Hardly any props are needed or words are spoken, and it becomes clear that comedy connects us all.
"A clown is like a child, because a child is basically naïve and innocent. These characteristics make a child comical, and it is essentially what a clown is looking for," Dimitri explains.
The musical interludes by Nina Dimitri and her acoustic guitar create a perfect balance. Nina's soulful singing takes the audience on a journey to Spain and Bolivia - places where she lived as a young adult.
There are no signs Clown Dimitri will be retiring anytime soon: "It is a privilege of the clown profession to be able to perform it into old age."
Take my word: My name may be Dimitri as well, but I truly adore Clown Dimitri and his comedy. (And I know you will, too!)
(Portrait photograph copyright Adriano Heitmann, DimiTRIgenerations photograph copyright Jean-Daniel von Lerber)