On Halloween of 2012 an angry, over the top, comedic clown was birthed out of the pages of author and comedian Jake Aurelian‘s books. Ripper the Clown, a dead wrestler, has made an appearance in every one of Jake’s books…and his headquarters? The Fischer Theatre in Downtown Danville, Illinois.
Jake grew up with inspiration from his parents to write. His mom would write his stories as he told them. The award winning author he has become was conditioned and ready to take on the world at an early age. Although he always knew he wanted to write, it wasn’t until 2009 when the right story came along and his career took off. Too Politically Sensitive: Since When Is Murder Too Politically Sensitive follows the story of Michale Callahan – the Investigations Commander over a nine county area in East Central Illinois who oversaw the fourteen-year-old unsolved murder case of a young, newlywed couple, Dyke and Karen Rhoads in Paris, Illinois. The project took over three years to complete and consisted of gathering information, researching, writing and rewriting.
At the same time Jake was writing the serious “true crime” book, he was also working on another project – a lighter one. A collection of short stories entitled Dead Wrestlers, Broken Necks & the Women Who Screwed Me Over: A Main Event of Fiction and Photography. This is where Ripper the Clown made his first appearance as the dead wrestler from the book title. In one short story, the narrator turns around and there’s a sleeping clown in his backseat–which kind of foreshadowed Jake’s future as a clown. This collection of stories was published in 2011.
Next, Jake was ready for another crime story – this time completely fiction. Living Well is the Best Revenge: DB Cooper & The G-Heist Gang & The Missing Two Million is about a gang who pulls off a robbery but then loses the money. The story is about the demise of each gang member and is told in first person narration which is Jake’s preferred method of writing. “I like to give stories from that perspective. It’s a nice twist in relation to the narrator told as true crime. So many readers think it’s real. People will google the names to find out.” Groucho Marx’s secretary read it and only knew it was fiction because of the names of the characters. Of course, Ripper makes an appearance. In fact, one of the police officers working the case quits the force and becomes the Clown.
Then came the unconventional series that brings us Ripper the Clown as the main character. The Life & Mimes (& Zombie Apocalypse) of Ripper the Clown: The Autobiography of an Unconventional Zombie starts the series. Next came The Life & Mimes (& Various Times) of Ripper the Clown: The Autobiography of an Unconventional Time Travelor, and this year the final book of the series, which was inspired by short stories Jake had previously written – The Life & Mimes (& Alien Invasion) of Ripper the Clown: The Autobiography of an Unconventional UFO Abductee – was released. Each book starts with the same story, but takes different twists and turns based on one certain event. While the books are all fiction, they all have moments in them that came directly from Jake’s life. For example, being pulled over while dressed as Ripper the Clown…or the time Jake was almost hit by lightening while standing on the Fischer Theatre stage. “Each book has a different take on the same story. They all start the same and then take a different direction. I like using random, weird encounters from my actual life.”
On top of all the writing, Ripper has become a regular on the many comedic stages around Vermilion and Champaign Counties. Many of his stories stem from his writing and visa versa. He has won a total of sixteen awards for his books and been a finalists several more times. “I write what I like and perform what I like. To have books acknowledged is validation that I’m doing something good and positive.”
My favorite thing about Jake’s books is that he references Danville in all of them. He uses street names and landmarks without ever naming the city. You can find his books on Amazon here, as well as the Fischer Theatre bookstore and the Downtown Danville Farmers’ Market.
As if Jake couldn’t be more involved, he also runs a film company entitled Norjak Films. (Norjak was the FBI investigation name for the D.B. Cooper skyjacking; since D.B. Cooper appears in all of Jake’s books, he named his film company after the unsolved investigation.) He started by creating commercials for sponsors of his comedy shows and it has grown from there. You can find all of his commercials and videos here. On top of commercials, he has over 400 shorts featuring Ripper the Clown.
Jake has many inspirations including our very own Dick Van Dyke. “Dick Van Dyke’s comedy has always been near and dear to my heart; for my whole life, I have respected and loved the silent film and classic comedians–Dick Van Dyke, W.C. Fields, Phil Silvers, Harold Lloyd, Groucho Marx, John Belushi, and Stan Laurel to name a few–who performed and made people laugh with situational and relatable humor and not the cheap contemporaneous style of comedy that is unfortunately prevalent today.
“All of these comedians have inspired me, but to say that Van Dyke has been an inspiration to me would be an understatement. I have mentioned Van Dyke in the majority of my books, and once I started performing myself, a lot of Van Dyke’s Rob Petrie mannerisms started organically appearing in Ripper’s character. Watching Van Dyke’s obscure, under-appreciated and brilliant film, The Comic, inspired me to produce some modern day silent films.
“Van Dyke was a master at one-sided phone calls, and I really love doing similar skits where you only see and hear Ripper’s reaction to the call; I utilized this routine in my Cell Phone Zombies comedy film wherein the clown calls Dick Van Dyke from his childhood home … and wherein I actually tripped on a piece of concrete and took a tumble at the house–that was thankfully caught on tape! I even mentioned Van Dyke in my one attempt at comedy rap when I performed with Djembe Jake Duncheon at Sleepy Creek Vineyards; I sneaked Rob Petrie’s complex line from ‘The Gunslinger’ episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show–‘singer turned slinger turned dancer turned rancher turned parson turned sheriff’–into the rap and not just because it’s funny but because, as a performer, I’m always looking to grow and redefine myself, I knew that line would be a true challenge to recreate– especially in a rapid fire rap performed live.”
So pay attention to yet another amazing talent that Danville is lucky to have. I can’t wait to see what he does next!
Peace & Love,
Stay up-to-date on what’s going on! Click here & hit “LIKE!”