Rejected from the Richmond International Film Festival, Brown Frown The Clown is putting on his own competing film and comedy event, the Rock Hard Film Festival featuring his short film Rock Hard With The Clown, at New York Deli tonight. RVA’s R. Anthony Harris spoke to Brown Frown’s alter ego, Mike Shea, to figure out what the heck is actually going on with all this.
I am sitting here trying to remember how I met local comedian and performer Mike Shea. All the way, way back to 3 months ago — I saw the trailer for his short film Rock Hard With The Clown and thought, “What the fuck is this? Is this local? We have clowns in Richmond? Should I be worried?” I had too many questions, so I asked to meet up.
Mike is different. His movie is really funny. He didn’t seem dangerous.
Since that meeting we have released the full film (which you can enjoy below) and partnered up on what should be a killer live music/art/comedy show, which is happening tonight at New York Deli in Carytown with a bunch of other comedians. Hope to see you there.
I interviewed Mike, and we thought it would be fun to present it as if Mike is Brown Frown’s agent. That worked for a few questions, but I guess there is a blurry thin line between the clown and the person, so the interview ended up going off the rails a bit. Enjoy!
R. Anthony Harris: As his talent agent, who is Brown Frown The Clown?
Mike Shea: He was a Halloween costume that got way out of control. He’s now a child prodigy standup comedian and musician who completed his first film in October 2021, while only 12 years old.
RAH: Where did you meet him and what was his audition like?
MS: In 2009, he started crashing college parties in The Fan. His audition was telling jokes to party-goers who weren’t in on the joke. They would say he failed his audition. He got slapped his first night out. He quickly moved to doing standup, which was safer. Fewer slaps.
RAH: Does Brown Frown have a secret talent?
MS: His secret talent is that he’s actually talented. His stand up is funny, the music is catchy, and the film is shockingly good. That’s the biggest twist with the first film: it doesn’t suck nearly as much as you would expect. I know I have an uphill battle reaching new audiences, because on paper the idea is so stupid — a musical about a cough syrup addicted clown. But the film is shot very well and the acting is great and the music is incredibly well produced. I had a great team of local artists who elevated my stand up alter ego to a new level. I am over the moon to have this opportunity to promote him with RVA Mag to reach a new audience.
RAH: Do you think he really wants his wife back, or is tortured because he secretly loves men?
MS: His love life is quite the roller coaster in the first film, eh? I don’t think his love of men is secret. Brown Frown loves everyone openly and equally, because his need to feel loved in return is insatiable. But he’s particularly obsessed with his first wife, or at least the idea of her. I see him as a cartoon character forced to suffer real world consequences, so he becomes addicted to cough syrup and relationships to cope.
RAH: Just curious. How many hot dogs could Brown Frown pull out of his underwear and eat in under, say, three minutes?
MS: He likes to enjoy his meals, which is why he’s lost every pie-eating contest he’s entered.
RAH: “My Ass Is Bare” might be the most beloved song in Brown Frown’s catalog. As a clown that might secretly love men, is this a double entendre — a la an invitation that his ass is actually ‘bear’?
MS: He’s a total bottom and that’s no secret. I think he has other, stronger songs too, like the one featured in his upcoming short film, Clown Needs a Rock Fix. It’s my favorite so far. I have his former band, The Kisses, to thank for that. RIP.
RAH: In the short film Brown Frown eats a testicle. I am afraid to ask, but that was just a prop, right?
MS: No, it was not. I had ten pounds of sheep testicles flown in from Indiana.
RAH: Noted! OK. Dan Oldman was maybe the greatest actor no one knew or cared about. There is an ‘in memory’ dedication at the end of the movie — did anyone attend the funeral?
MS: Old Man Dan, played by Dan Oldman, was by far the most annoying cast member. He faked his death to try and inherit his son’s house. He doesn’t understand how estate laws work.
RAH: What did The Collector do with Brown Frown’s pinky toe, and why did he give back his testicle?
MS: Nice try, narc. I won’t be building your FBI profile for you. I need to keep The I-95 Collector at large so I can keep using him in future films.
RAH: Very good Mike, you are very good… Ok so you are working with RVA Mag on the Rock Hard Film Festival (RHFF) that will be happening at New York Deli during the Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF) — which one is going to have more drinking, naked people and dancing?
MS: I can only confirm that at least one person at the Rock Hard Film Festival will be drinking, naked, and dancing. You’ll have to show up to find out who that is.
RAH: When did you get into acting?
MS: I put on puppet shows for my sister when I was four. Instead of building a treehouse, I built a one-person theatre out of giant building blocks. I still put on performances with only one or two people in mind today. “This one’s a Winston joke” or “Erin would laugh her ass off at this set.” Sometimes I write jokes that only one person in the audience will understand. I do that often for my friend Jameson, who plays the Bartender in my first film. He booked me at a comedy show in 2019, and I showed him a clip of the worst stand up routine I had ever seen on YouTube. I told him I was going to do that person’s set verbatim and bomb on purpose. He laughed at my threat.
However, neither he, nor the audience, laughed much when I followed through on that threat.
RAH: Tell us about your standup. What routines or jokes did you have that killed it? Which ones never caught on?
MS: Brown Frown started as an experiment of doing the opposite of what the other stand up comics were doing. They were trying to make the audience laugh. I tried to make the audience cry and they laughed even harder. The studio with whom I made the films want me to push the “real” moments more, when Brown Frown acts more human.
We actually had a two-hour argument about it today while we were editing the upcoming second film. I’m terrified of completely taking down that comedy pall, which means I should probably do it. I might meet their expectations with the third film, which I am currently writing. It’s gonna be dark. Shakespeare-level tragedy, and per their advice I might push it even further.
RAH: What’s it like being an actor/performer here in Richmond? Are there opportunities?
MS: There are opportunities with me! I want to collaborate with more musicians. I don’t see why I can’t use Richmond the way John Waters used Baltimore. We don’t have to move to LA or New York to do cool stuff.
RAH: Rock Hard With The Clown has won several awards on the festival scene. How has that experience been for you?
MS: Festivals all over the world. Though none have given me the opportunity that RVA Mag has. Y’all are the best publication in Richmond, maybe on Earth! (please write more articles about me).
RAH: Where did the character of Brown Frown The Clown come from?
MS: He’s a way to make fun of myself. I take my worst attributes and dial them up to eleven after putting on some clown makeup. He does it for me so I don’t end up back in the psych ward.
RAH: Do you like clowns personally?
MS: No, I hate clowns.
RAH: Are your parents proud?
MS: I don’t like talking about Brown Frown with them. I wish I could make art they were proud of, but I’m too deranged to create something mainstream. I’m kind of embarrassed that he came out of my head. My sister will ask how Brown’s doing, though. The answer is always the same — he’s a mess.
RAH: Brown Frown is performance art and theatre. What are your favorite movies or Broadway shows?
MS: I hate musicals as much as I hate clowns. I watch a lot of television, to the chagrin of the studio I hired for the film series. They are smarter than me, which is why I hired them, but we argue a lot because I am stubborn in my stupidity. I find most movies boring. I think television is putting out the best content today. The worst thing a creator can do is to bore an audience, and television taught me how to avoid that.
RAH: Do you have any other characters?
MS: I love Old Man Dan, who makes an appearance in my first film. He is the opposite of Brown Frown. Brown Frown is hilarious because he has no idea that he’s funny. Old Man Dan thinks that he’s hilarious but his jokes are terrible. The unawareness that both characters have of themselves is what makes them funny, not what they say. I have another character, Rosie O’Shite, who is in the film I’m currently writing. She sucks and I hate her.
RAH: Tell us about the Rock Hard Film Festival.
MS: I submitted my first film to the Richmond International Film Festival, assuming I wouldn’t get in. It’s an international festival, so for them to select a local film, especially one as long as mine (39 minutes when most shorts are 10–20) is unreasonable. Only three short films were selected this year, all of which were under 15 minutes. I did, however, get an Honorable Mention, and I am extremely grateful for that.
However, gratitude is not funny, so I founded my own film festival out of spite, which will be held next door to RIFF on the same night. It’s later in the night, though, so there’s no actual overlap. I’m only pretending to be a jerk for the laughs.
RAH: Is Tony, me, fun to work with?
MS: I get major Brown Frown vibes from you, Tony.
RAH: Am I pretty? … Mike? Mike!
Follow the adventures of Mike Shea on Instagram HERE
The Rock Hard Film Festival is TONIGHT. Join us on at 8pm at New York Deli for comedy by Lucy Bonino and John Thomas; music by Brian Mann, Brown Frown the Clown and Katy Perry’s Plastic Bag; and films by Katy Perry’s Plastic Bag, Mu Cuzco, Happy Case Scenario, Brian Mann, and Brown Frown the Clown.
Buy tickets: brownfrowntheclown.com
Presented by RVA Magazine
Photos by Kimberly Frost