The proverbial tears of a clown? The sadness behind every famous funny bone? Absolute nonsense, according to Ross Noble, who reveals instead that it's just taken him a while to become "a real human being".
"I think the only reason it's highlighted is because it's weird to have a theatre full of people all rolling around laughing, to bring so much happiness into other people's lives, if you haven't got happiness in your own," he reflects. "It's the contrast of the two that people notice."
Ross Noble plays clown Stitches, a role he was determined to play straight for laughs
Stand-up favourite Noble isn't laughing this week, though. Instead, he's playing it very straight as Stitches, the undead clown in black comedy-horror of the same name, killed off macabrely at a children's party in the first scene, who returns to wreak vengeance in ridiculous ways. This is Noble's only third foray into screen comedy but, as he explains, the role was a no-brainer:
"The problem for comedians is that people either want you to play yourself with a hat on, as it saves them time writing, especially if the script's not funny, people think the goodwill for a comedian might carry them through.
"Or comedians see comedy as not being as worthy as acting, and they want to be taken seriously, or they just want to be 'act-ors'," he adds with a lovey flourish.
"When it's black comedy or horror, the mistake a lot of people make is they try to hard to make it funny, rather than go straight for the truth. Even though Stitches is an undead clown who comes back and kills people in ridiculous ways. I still tried to make it as real as I could."
Noble - almost unrecognisable as a clown with murderous intention
Noble follows in a long line of screen clowns, the most iconic of which he cites as Michael Keaton's Beetlejuice - "I wanted to make it as far away from Beetlejuice as possible, bring it down, be small and controlled. So instead of thinking there's Ross with a hat on, people see something else. That's really important to me."
Noble is evidently one of those comedians who doesn't feel the need to prove himself on screen - as he explains, his trade of stand up has become much easier for him, since people stopped thinking "Who's that man? Is he on drugs, with all that crazy stuff?
"I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I'm the straightest human you're ever likely to meet, I just happen to have an imagination, if I talk about something, it flies off... but now if I go off on a tangent, people now think it'll be fine, it's just Ross."
Plus, Noble has many more connections with reality than he used to have, at contrast, he feels, with many of his made-good peers...
"What happens to a lot of comedians is they have a real life, they have a job, they experience the real world, then they get recognition, they start to earn money, start to live a life that no longer bears any relationship to a) the people they're playing to and b) the person they used to be, so they either have to talk about the person they used to be, pretend they're still that thing, or they just run out of things to talk about, it becomes very bland, or they talk about what it's like to be in that position.
Ross Noble "didn't have a life" when he started doing comedy, that came later
"What's happened with me is because I started when I was 15, I went through that whole thing where all I did was stand-up, I didn't have any life, any hobbies, literally all I would do was watch movies and do stand up, so I didn't exist really as a human being. When I was on stage, that's all I was.
"I didn't see Saturday night telly for about 15 years, I didn't know what people watched, all that just passed me by, people going out to restaurants...
"But now I've got more things to talk about. As time's gone on, I've met my wife, taken time off, done other things, had a family, had a dog... I've become a real human being."
Stitches is in UK cinemas today. Watch the trailer below...Suggest a correction