Marcel + The Art of Laughter

“Two of contemporary theatre's greatest clowns...funny, heartbreaking.” - The Guardian

“Jos Houben is so pinpoint accurate with his body, you might imagine laughter dying from dissection.” - The Guardian

“Poignant, Powerful... Recalls Chaplin, The Marx Brothers... Silent comedy that speaks volumes” - Evening Standard


October 27 – November 19, 2017

C.I.C.T. / Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord


Created by and Featuring Jos Houben and Marcello Magni

Coproduction TANDEM – Scène Nationale


From Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, the Parisian home of Peter Brook, comes a poignant two-hander about the collision of clowning and mortality. Jos Houben and Marcello Magni, who starred in Samuel Beckett’s Fragments at TFANA, are comic masters and original members of the famed Complicité. In Marcel, which they co-created, they play an aging physical comedian and an inscrutable, clipboard-wielding nemesis mysteriously enjoined to test him with a battery of absurd tasks. Slapstick meets the limits of age and “all ages laugh and recognize their own absurdity in the comic antics.” – The Guardian


Created by and Featuring Jos Houben

Production: C.I.C.T. / Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord and Compagnie Rima

A comedy about comedy about what makes audiences laugh. Performing in English, Jos Houben dissects everyday life – a baby’s first steps, a man falling in a restaurant, the essence of various cheeses – revealing why laughter is at the core of our humanity.  The Guardian calls it a show about “how a body can make people laugh.”


“Marcello Magni and Jos Houben are two of contemporary theatre’s greatest clowns…
funny, heartbreaking.” – The Guardian review of MARCEL


“Jos Houben is so pinpoint accurate with his body, you might imagine
laughter dying from dissection.” – The Guardian review of THE ART OF LAUGHTER 


“Poignant, Powerful…Recalls Chaplin, The Marx Brothers…Silent comedy that speaks volumes.” – The Evening Standard review of MARCEL

An hour of inspired silliness endowed with a poignant core. Houben and Magni, wonderfully relaxed yet alive to the moment and the audience, keep us in a state of pleasurable suspense wondering what they’ll do next. Although there are neat sprinklings of verbal wit, the root of the laughs this highly skilled pair generate is slapstick. Clever yet elementally funny and marked by a knowing innocence about life and death, MARCEL is resonant entertainment.” – The Times review of MARCEL

“Amusing…Delightfully Imaginative…Precise clowning…
Astounding Mimetic Skills… Showmanship… Laughter is a virtue and a virus.  
It’s not only infectious but also hard to kill. It wants to keep on living. 
That’s a hopeful lesson…” – The New York Times 
“Houben and Magni (both longtime associates of the Complicité company and the director Peter Brook) display a slapstick wizardry informed by Keaton and Fellini.” – The New Yorker

“MARCEL + THE ART OF LAUGHTER offer something very rare — humor in its purest form, presented with no small intelligence and cockeyed goodwill. It is all but guaranteed to give you a lift.” – Lighting and Sound America

“In this topsy-turvy age, clowns run amok around the world…Charm and brilliant, minutely calibrated body language. ‘Laughter enjoys pulling down that which elevates itself too much.'” – Time Out New York 
“Marcello Magni and Jos Houben will make you laugh like a hyena. They light up the stage with humor through the brilliantly skillful use of their bodies and faces and a few props. MARCEL + THE ART OF LAUGHTER work really well as companion pieces, adding up to a thoroughly satisfying theatre experience.” – Brooklyn Eagle
“If you love physical comedy in the manner of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin or, to cite more recent exemplars, Bill Irwin and David Shiner, you owe it to yourself to witness the comedic art of Jos Houben and Marcello Magni.” – TheaterPizzazz
“Not only is MARCEL about Houben and Magni, it details the history of clowning through the slapstick acts of the 19th century music hall and Chaplin.  
We come to recognize our own absurdity in the charming tom-foolery of these clowns. Physical comedy as high art. We end up laughing and touched.” – Berkshire Fine Arts
“A pianist practices day after day for the muscles that guide his fingers to become so flexible that we can begin to speak of the art of piano playing. Actors do exercises to develop their bodies but this has no meaning until they go beyond their muscles. 
Both Jos Houben and Marcello Magni spent years in the rigorous schooling of Jacques Lecoq, and then the demands on each performer in the Théâtre de Complicité, to develop their thoughts, bodies, and feelings to the point where making theatre can truly become an art. 
It is a work of high theatricality that the two – Marcello and Jos – create together as one performing body when they bring to us MARCEL. In THE ART OF LAUGHTER, Jos goes way beyond what he can explain in words, it is in every inch of his finely tuned instrument where a smile and answer take their real place, which leads us into the great unknown. This art is THE ART OF LAUGHTER. Marcello has similarly developed his craft through many living experiences.”  – Peter Brook
“Jos Houben is Belgian.  Marcello is from Bergamo. Like the great cuisines of their respective countries, they are utterly different, but exquisitely mouthwatering. Age old comic recipes combine in the hands of masters render the familiar un-recognisable, and the piquantly absurd, irresistible. Their bodies, tall and long, short and bald, contradict, interweave, commingle and coalesce producing a feast of absurd hilarity and irrational delirium. They are a rare and extraordinary delight.” – Simon McBurney
“Jos Houben and Marcello Magni are two towering figures representing some of the highest form of physical theatre and clowning existing today. They are splendidly brilliant.”
– David Shiner, Lucille Lortel Award, OLD HATS with Bill Irwin.


Join us for our free post-show conversations with artists and scholars that will take place after the
Saturday matinee performances on November 4 and November 11. 

The TFANA Talk on November 4 will feature Tanya Pollard in conversation with artists Jos Houben and Marcello Magni.

The TFANA Talk on November 11 will feature Ayanna Thompson in conversation with artists Jos Houben and Marcello Magni.

Join us for a party after the evening performance on Sunday, October 29.
Every ticket purchased to that evening performance includes a drink ticket for use at the party.


The total running time of Marcel + The Art of Laughter is 2:15. Each production is 60 minutes plus one 15-minute intermission.