Five things you (probably) didn’t know about Mump & Smoot


Even if you’re a die-hard fan of Mump & Smoot, there are still “some things” about the clowning duo that might surprise you. For those of you not versed in the world of Ummo or who have yet to see Something (playing at The Cultch until June 2), no need to worry as the facts below are spoiler free and simply give you a look behind the grease paint. Enjoy!

1. Ummonian (the language of Mump & Smoot that’s part gibberish and part creative language) is completely made up on the spot – every night.

John Turner (Smoot) spoke with The Times Union (NYC) and explained:

“The gibberish is improvised on the spot. Although we do have a number of words and objects that are named, and as time goes on, we have phrases that are repeated. It does have rules though. They’re more active rules than syntax rules, however. It requires emotional grounding, for example. You have to know what you’re saying, because it’s largely an emotional language. It’s more or less a set of actor’s awareness rules.”

Mump & Smoot's language Ummonian is made up on the spot!

2. Both Michael Kennard (Mump) and John Turner (Smoot) have parents in the medical field.

Michael and John are both sons of doctors. Turner even considered a career in the medical field until he decided to shift gears and pursue a career in entertainment. Ironically, a doctor’s office plays a significant role in their first feature-length work Something.

3. John Turner originally hated clowns.

John Turner (Smoot) originally hated clowns!

In his interview with the Times Union (NYC) John Turner revealed:

“I didn’t like clowns very much. But then I had the mime/clown confusion, which I don’t anymore. I never had any idea . . . until Mike talked me into taking a clown workshop against my better judgment.”

4. The legendary Richard Pochinko was their mentor.


Richard Pochinko, Paris 1970

Kennard and Turner became friends when they both enrolled in the Second City Training Centre, where the legendary Richard Pochinko became their mentor. Pochinko worked closely with the duo and encouraged them to develop a 20-minute short called Jump The Gun which premiered on May 13, 1988 (fittingly Friday the 13th).  Their clowning style, which focuses on archetypal characters of a manipulator and a victim, has been credited with their studies with Pochinko. Unfortunately, Pochinko passed away in 1989 and never had the chance to witness a full-length Mump & Smoot performance.

5. The picture we used in our Mump & Smoot in Something poster is from 1992 (proof that the power of analog photography stands the test of time)!

Mump & Smoot image from The Edmonton Fringe (1992)

Mump & Smoot in Something (2013)

Mump & Smoot runs at The Cultch until June 2. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

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