The classic American clown partnership of neat whiteface Mike Snyder and grotesque auguste Billy Vaughn pictured here with Ringmaster Danny McCallum.
A clown today is one of various types of comedic performers, on stage, television, in the circus, rodeo, childrens & birthday party entertainers and buskers. Though not every clown is readily identifiable by appearance alone, clowns frequently appear in makeup and costume, as well as typically unusually large footwear, oversized or otherwise outlandish clothing, big or otherwise unusual nose, and enacting humorous sketches, usually in the interludes between major presentations. The clown's humor today is often visual and includes many elements of physical comedy or slapstick humor but not exclusively. For instance, Wavy Gravy's comedy is often cerebral, spiritual, or even political in nature. In many cultures, depending on the individual, a clown is considered scary or even frightening, although such is not the purpose of one.
The word clown comes from words meaning "clot" or "clod" which came also to mean "clumsy fellow", according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Clown is both a noun and a verb, and can also be an adjective (clown bike, clown shoes, clown white, clown gag and so on). Clown is also used to refer to anyone who provides entertainment in a clownish manner. Among professional clowns, "clown" often refers to the character portrayed, rather than the performer. This usage is somewhat rare outside of the professional clown and/or theatrical community.
is a form of entertainment which has appeared in some manner in virtually every
culture. In most cultures the clown is a ritual character associated with festival or rites
of passage and is often very different from the most popular western form.
A popular early form of clown was the fool, a role that can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt and appears as the first card in the tarot deck. Most fools suffered from some physical or mental deformity, and were given to the local landlord as a charge, because their families were unable to look after them, and the surrounding communities often feared them. They were the butt of jokes, and their masters had the power to inflict violence upon them and even take their lives. However, being perceived 'idiots' they were often the only people in court who enjoyed free speech, and during the 16th century, especially in France, actors began to train as fools often in order to have the ability to make satirical comment. This is mainly where we get the contemporary idea of the court jester, immortalised and romanticised by actors such as Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. There is evidence of the 'wise fool' similar in function to the jester in many other cultures.
The clown of this era and eras previous to it were also associated with jugglers, who were seen as the pariahs of society alongside actors, prostitutes and lepers, and thus (at least in Europe) wore stripes, or motley - cloth associated with marginalised people such as the condemned, with strong associations of the devil. Jugglers often used attributes of the clown, and the later court jesters often danced, performed acrobatics and juggled.
the 16th century the Commedia dell'arte
also became a huge influence on perceptions of the clown in
· "Clowns are the pegs on which circuses hang." — P.T. Barnum
· "A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast." — Groucho Marx
There are three basic traditional types of clowns, The whiteface, the auguste and the character. In circus, each of these types can wear a makeup that is either neat (slightly exaggerated) or grotesque (wildly exaggerated). There is no single absolute definition of what constitutes each clown type, with international performers encompassing an extremely wide range of styles, not to mention the classical and modern variants of each type.
Neat whiteface, Glen "Frosty" Little by Jim Howle.
The whiteface clown uses "clown white" makeup to cover his or her entire face and neck with none of the underlying flesh color showing. Features are then usually painted on in either red or black.
The whiteface clown is traditionally costumed far more extravagantly than the other two clown types. They often wear the ruffled collar and pointed hat which typify the average person's idea of a "clown suit".
Whiteface clowns often play the part of the 'top banana' or 'first banana' though there are numerous non-circus examples of a 'top banana' sans whiteface make-up:
Some circus examples include Pipo Sossman, Francios Fratellini, Felix Adler, Paul Jung, Harry Dann, Chuck Burnes, Albert White, Ernie Burch, Bobby Kaye, Jack and Jackie LeClaire, Joe and Chester Sherman, Keith Crary, Charlie Bell, Mike Snyder, Tim Tegge, Jimmy James, Kenny Dodd, Frankie Saluto, Tammy Parrish, Pennywise, and Prince Paul Albert.
Accompanying a circus clown, as part of a troupe, or as one of a clown duo, there is often another clown character known as an auguste, but the auguste's role is different from the other clowns: he is the "straight man" in most gags. The Auguste is so self-important that the audience inevitably takes the other clown to heart as their protagonist. 'The Great Bongo' (of the duo Bongo and Clownzo) is an Auguste clown, which moniker he might assure you means "dignified and respectable". In classical European circus the auguste wasn't considered a clown because, technically, his or her role was different. The Auguste (schlimazel in Yiddish) is the one who gets the pie in the face, is squirted with water, is knocked down on their backside, sits in the wet paint or has his or her pants ripped off.
Some non-circus examples of an Auguste:
Some circus examples include Albert Fratellini, Lou Jacobs, Jeff Gordon, Chocolat (from the duo Footit & Chocolat), Bario (from Dario & Bario, Greg and Karen DeSanto, Tom Parrish, Billy Vaughn, Chesty Mortimer, Gijon Polidor, Nicolai and Michael "Coco" Polikov, Charlie Rivel, Alfredo Rastelli, Chuck Sidlow, Toto Johnson and Mitch Freddes.
The character clown, adopts an eccentric character of some type, such as a butcher, a baker, a policeman, a housewife or hobo. Prime examples of this type of clown are the circus tramps Otto Griebling and Emmett Kelly. Red Skelton, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin would all fit the definition of a character clown.
The character clown makeup is a comic slant on the standard human face. Their makeup starts with a flesh tone base and may make use of anything from glasses, mustaches and beards to freckles, warts, big ears or strange haircuts. The most prevalent character clown in the American circus is the tramp or hobo clown.
Some non-circus examples of character clowns:
· Ed Wynn
· Bob Einstein's Super Dave Osbourne
· Jim Varney's Ernest P. Worell
· Don Novello's Fr. Guido Sarducci
· Lily Tomlin's Ernestine the Telephone Operator
· Andrew Silverstein's Andrew Dice Clay
Some circus examples include Barry Lubin, Tom Dougherty, Bill Irwin, David Shiner, Geoff Hoyle, John Gilkey, Peter Shub, Poodles Hanneford, Bluch Landolf, Larry Pisoni, John Lepiarz, Bobo Barnett, Happy Kellams, Fumagalli, Charlie Cairoli, Bebe, Jojo Lewis, Abe Goldstein, Rhum, David Larible, Oleg Popov, Rik Gern and Bello Nock.
In clown duos, Clowns often rely on the Joey & Auguste framework, or Manipulator/Victim. The Joey & Auguste Framework is often used widely in such comic works as Looney Toons. Simply put, the two clowns, who for whatever reason are competing for survival, desperately rely on each other; without each other, they live a meaningless, and perhaps even more perilous adventure. For example, when Sylvester finally catches Tweety Bird (or thinks he does) he becomes so ridden with guilt that he nearly commits suicide.
The Ringmaster relationship is the addition of an ur-manipulator, or ur-victim to this chemistry. This often takes the form of a mutual enemy or nemesis. An example of this situation might be as follows:
A husband comes home late, he's drunk, and has a collar covered in lipstick. His wife wants to know where he's been, and a manipulator-victim relationship occurs. Suddenly their child enters the scene, and the dynamic changes in an attempt to avoid traumatizing him/her. The child wants to know why there's a strange man in their bedroom, and the manipulator-victim dymnamic shifts during the next argument. Then it turns out that the child has constructed this elaborate ruse in order to steal cookies and watch late-night TV without notice, giving him ur-manipulator status.
This is an example of a ringmaster situation. Clowns in the ringmaster position are often character clowns, where Joey and Auguste duos are typically made up of a Whiteface Clown and an Auguste.
Native Tribes have a rich history of Clowning. Eric Davis is a clown in
In this tradition, masks are made of clay while the creator's eyes are closed. A mask is made for each direction of the medicine wheel. During this process, the clown creates a personal mythology which explores his or her personal Experiences and Innocenses.
The rodeo clown has one of the most dangerous jobs in all of show business. A rodeo clown is a courageous and hard-working cowboy, or animal wrangler, dressed in wild costumes — almost always oversized and consisting of loose fitting layers of clothing to protect them from, and to distract, rodeo bulls, broncos, etc. The looseness of the layers allows a rodeo clown to shed portions of their attire in the event of its being snagged -- as on an enraged bull's horn. This professional — whose highly dangerous job is to protect other performers from bucking horses and charging bulls while at the same time entertaining the audience with the antics of a clown — might tell you: "Druther lose a shirt than lose my life".
There are two distinct types of clown characters, which originated in Commedia del Arte but which still hold some favor today, Pierrot and Arlecchino.
The Pierrot, or "French clown", derived from the commedia dell'arte character Pedrolino - the youngest actor of the troupe, deadpan and downtrodden. Although Pedrolino appeared without mask, Pierrot usually appears in whiteface, typically with very little other color on the face. Like Arlechinno, Pedrolino's character changed enourmously with the rising popularity of pantomime in the late 19th century, becoming Pierrot. This clown character prefers black and white or other a simple primary color in his or her costume. (le Pierrot is often female, and has also been called "Pirouette" or "Pierrette". When Bernard Delfont was made a life peer, he chose "Pierrot and Pierrette" as the heraldic supporters of his coat of arms.).
The tragic Robert Hunter song "Reuben and Cerise" mentions Pirouette twice, in symbolic colors:
...Cerise was dressing as Pirouette in white
when a fatal vision gripped her tight
Cerise beware tonight...
Cerise is Reuben's "true love", but Ruby Claire was a temptress:
...Sweet Ruby Claire at Reuben stared
At Reuben stared
She was dressed as Pirouette in red
and her hair hung gently down...
Both women have names which translate as "red", but reuben's true love is dressed in pure white, the other, to whom he played his fateful song, is the "lady in red" this symbolism might imply that Reuben was Pierrot's companion, Arlecchino:
Harlequin, or Arlecchino, a character originally from Commedia dell'Arte, is a "motley" clown — in "commedia", Arlecchino always carries a cane to "whack" the other performers, however this is normally taken off him by the other performers and used against him. This is believed to be the origin of "slapstick" a form of physical comedy. A slapstick (battacio in Italian) is a prop with two flat flexible wooden pieces mounted in parallel, the two sticks slap together when the implement is struck, causing a slapping sound, exaggerating the effect of a comedic blow. Despite the slapstick, Arlecchino is not malicious, but mischievous, the slapstick being a classic example of carnivalesque phallic imagery (see also the commedia masks' noses). Like a cross between the characters of Puck and Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Arlecchino is spritely and adept at the same time as being clumsy and dim, and is normally the 'messenger' character in a comedy — the catalyst for mayhem. Arlechinno has a female counterpart, Arlechinna, or Rossetta, however more often he is in love with the character of Columbina, a straightforward and intelligent maid, who is usually given the prologue and epilogue. Arlechinno has other derivatives with slightly different features: Traccagnino, Bagattino, Tabarrino, Tortellino, Naccherino, Gradelino, Mezzettino, Polpettino, Nespolino, Bertoldino, Fagiuolino, Trappolino, Zaccagnino, Trivellino, Passerino, Bagolino, Temellino, Fagottino, Fritellino, Tabacchino, whose names could all be considered funny-sounding names, even to an Italian. Arlechinno's name is probably from "hellech" "inno" - little devil, "inno" is little, so "Trufflino" is little Truffler, Trivellino is (Arlechinno's) "little Brother". The Harlequin often loses much of Arlechinno's character during pantomime, as he becomes more of a ballet character, stripped of dialogue and subversive content to a wide extent.
Europe there is a tradition of "entree clowning" where the troupe of
clowns usually comprising of "whiteface", "auguste"
and a "character" perform a set routine; "The Busy Bee" (in
German, "Beinchen Beinchen
Gib Mir Honig"),
"The Bon Bon", or "the Ghost" are
just a few regularly performed in European Circus. Water entrees and Paste
(soap) entrees are also staple diets for these audiences. Up until the eighties
reprise clowns in
The European Rastelli family of clowns featuring all of the traditional clown types: character, classic whiteface and the novelty of "twin" augustes.
There was for many years a tradition of families of clowns all working together (such as the Rastellis, the Francescos, The Alexis, and many more), but with the economics changing, it is no longer viable for many shows to afford a large family unit. These are slowly disappearing.
Circuses have recently been faced with stiff pressure from animal rights groups for alleged abuse and mistreatment of animals, as well as the competitive pressure from popular new live action versions of children's television programs. In response, American circuses at least, have begun to lean towards shows based specifically around the clown as a marketable character and personality. This has promoted a new class of "Celebrity Clowns" like The Big Apple Circus' Barry Lubin (Grandma), Bello Knock or David Larible, headlining recent Ringling Brothers tours, and garnering significantly larger shares of the a shows's operating budget than their fellow performers. This return to clown as central theme in circus is mirrored in the likes of Cirque du Soleil, which commonly uses clowns as a central thread to link their acts and give their shows structure. The myriad smaller independent and underground circuses around the world have always relied upon the clown as the primary staple in their retinue. 
It has been said "clowns can do anything", mostly because clowns have such wildly varying performances. "Everyone knows" a clown can do magic, juggle, balance things on his nose and do backflips, but clowns might be called on to do just about anything. [or play an accordian ….]
In the circus, a clown might be convinced to perform another circus role:
· Walk a tightrope, a highwire, a slack rope, or a piece of rope on the ground, though in the last case, the predictably unpredictable clown might be just as likely to wrestle around on the ground with it, as if it were a boa constrictor.
· Substitute himself in the role of "lion tamer".
· Act as "emcee", from M.C. or Master of Ceremonies, the preferred term for a clown taking on the role of "Ringmaster".
· "Sit in" with the orchestra, perhaps in a "pin spot" in the center ring, or from a seat in the audience.
· Anything any other circus performer might do. It is not uncommon for an acrobat, a horse-back rider, or a lion tamer to secretly stand in for the clown, the "switch" taking place in a brief moment offstage.
As with any ancient artform, fools, clowns and other related artists have developed customs, traditions and even superstitions regarding their chosen avocation. Many of these customs are widely held, and considered fundamental to the Art of Clowning.
Longtime stars of the Cirque Medrano, the legendary clown trio of Albert (auguste), Francois (whiteface), and Paul (character playing "contre-auguste") Fratellini.
As with any ancient artform clowns and other related artists have developed many widely held customs and traditions regarding their chosen avocation. The most fundamental of these holds that each individual clown has the informal, exclusive right to their costume, makeup and other unique performance attributes that contribute to their particular character and that must not be infringed by other clowns. Despite no enforcement through intellectual property or similar laws, this code of non-infringement is nonetheless respected by professionals. This practice is of such great importance that it is often referred to by clowns as simply "The Code."
Professional clowns typically do not make disparaging remarks about other clowns, not only because this is considered petty, but because of the tradition that "a knock is a plug", in other words, to mention a poor performer by name is to provide that performer with undue advertisement.
It is common for clowns to avoid the use of blue face paint, as this is considered bad luck.
Clowns do not wish each other good luck, an old show business custom, however, among clowns the expression "knock 'em dead" seems more prevalent than the customary expression, "break a leg." Wishing a fellow performer "good luck" is considered a jinx. it has been suggested that this stems from the Bouffon Tradition.
Clowns are also notoriously lucky, to the degree that many superstitions are inverted with a clown, and curses placed against a clown will inevitably benefit the clown and curse the curser. Clowns often hold the only position in society where they can get away with outright blasphemy against the clergy and government.
Frameworks are the general outline of an act that clowns use to help them build out an act. Frameworks can be loose, including only a general beginning and ending to the act, leaving it up to the clown's creativity to fill in the rest, or at the other extreme a fully developed script that allows very little room for creativity.
Shows are the overall production that a clown is a part of, it may or may not include elements other than clowning, such as in a circus show. In a circus context, clown shows are typically made up of some combination of Entrées, Side dishes, Clown Stops, Track Gags, Gags and bits.
"Business" is the individual motions the clown uses, often used to express the clown's character. A "gag" is a very short piece of clown comedy which when repeated within a bit or routine may become a "running gag". Gags may be loosely defined as "the jokes clowns play on each other" Bits are the clown's sketches or routines made up of one or more gags either worked out and timed before going on stage or impromptu bits composed of familiar improvisational material. A gag may have a beginning, a middle and an end to them, or they may not. Gags can also refer to the prop stunts/tricks or the stunts that clowns use, such as a squirting flower.
Entrées are feature clowning acts lasting 4-8 minutes. They are typically made up of various gags and bits, and usually use a clowning framework. Entrées almost always end with a blow-off. (The blow-off is the comedic ending of a show segment, bit, gag, stunt or routine.)
Side dishes are shorter feature acts. Side dishes are essentially shorter versions of the Entrée, typically lasting 1 - 3 minutes. Side dishes are typically made up of various gags and bits, and usually use a clowning framework. Side dishes almost always end with a blow-off.
Clown Stops or interludes are the brief appearance of clowns while the props and rigging are changed. These are typically made up of a few gags or several bits. Clown Stops almost always end with a blow-off. Clown stops will always have a beginning, a middle and an end to them.
Among the more well-known clown stunts are: squirting flower; the "too-many-clowns-coming-out-of-a-tiny-car" stunt; doing just about anything with a rubber chicken, tripping over ones own feet (or an air pocket or imaginary blemish in the floor), or riding any number of ridiculous vehicles or "clown bikes". Individual prop stunts are generally considered to be individual bits.
A clown duo might employ a number of cooperative "bits" to help them create an improvisational performance. Using this technique allows both clowns to participate in what looks like a well-rehearsed sketch, but might well be a mere placeholder/spacefiller for a missing act, or used to cover "prop failure" etc. Particularly in a Circus or Variety show, clowns are often relied on to perform "at the drop of a hat" and a well-prepared clown will not only have a large repertoire of bits, but will remain alert when off-stage. In accordance with the well-known "show biz" tradition that "The Show Must Go On", the best clowns will always be ready to save the day, even in the midst of a tragedy — such as an injured performer.
In "Pete and re-Pete", the first clown narrates the gag, the second "repeats" the main elements of the first clown's exposition:
"I see you bought yourself a new hat"
— "Yeah, a New Hat (big happy smile of contentment with his battered stovepipe hat)
"Get it uptown?"
— "Yup, Got it Up Town, oh Yeah, you're not gonna get a Fine New Hat like this one down town" (taking the hat off again for another satisfied look at the hat, and rocking up on to the balls of his feet and back on his heels, proudly).
"You can say that again"
— "OK: Got it Up Town, yeah, not gonna get one of these downtown" (another proud look at the hat, picking an imagined piece of lint from the torn brim of the bedraggled Fine New Hat), yep, nothing like an Up Town Hat."
"Uhuh ... they pay you much?"
The first clown narrates the gag, the second repeats main elements of this exposition, and finally delivers the punch line.
In the routine called "that's good/that's bad", the first clown narrates the gag, the second responds alternately with "that's good / that's bad":
"I found a dog."
"That's good" (noncommittally).
"It wasn't a hot dog though" (showing the dog).
"That's too bad" (looking at the dog, wistfully).
"He's really friendly ..."
"Oh, that's good" (agreeably).
"... with people's legs."
"Well that’s bad" (appalled).
"He doesn't eat much."
"That's good" (nodding agreeably).
"He sure poops a lot though."
"That's bad" (that stinks expression).
"That’s good" (of course it is).
"No that's bad: he did some jail time for the last housebreak."
"Okay, then that's bad" (willing to be corrected).
"No that's good: it was his second offense. He's gone straight now."
"That's ... uhhh ... good?" (confused now).
"No that's bad, he's gone straight for your pastrami sandwich!"
This bit is also seen with other "good/bad" interjections: perhaps "that's fortunate/unfortunate" or even (with a pair of two "Surfer Dude" clowns) as "Dude that rocks!/Man, that bites".
Note that a clown would likely choose the word pastrami rather than corned beef, because pastrami is a funny word and corned beef is not. So clowns prefer:
· monkey wrenches to "spanners"
· doohickeys to "gadgets"
· kitchen gadgets to "small appliance"
· monikers to "nicknames"
and a clown would much prefer to be
· fidgety than "restless".
Each clown has his own gags or bits, these techniques are used to share gags with other clowns that are unfamiliar with the material, by using "Yes, and..." techniques ("Yes and" has become a technique commonly taught in "improv" classes) such as "Pete and re-Pete", and "That's good/that's bad", the clowns avoid conflicting gags, supporting each other in whatever they may say, and keeping the performance flowing.
It is considered bad improvisational form to "deny the proposition" as in:
"Hi Dewey, looks like you got yourself a new pair of shoes"
"No, Tiny, these are my regular shoes."
Contradiction tends to stop the show, "killing" the "comedic momentum" crucial to keeping the attention of the audience.
The "Pete and re-Pete" act has also been used in the Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror III"
See main article under Famous clowns.
clowns found fame beyond the circus walls, including Emmett
Kelly, Coco the Clown and George Carl, an
American clown who found great success in
See main article under Clown Mass.
In Catholic Churches, priests will sometimes dress up as clowns to say Mass, or will be assisted by people dressed as clowns. This is an illicit practice.
· Poor Clown by Charlie Rivel
· Behind My Greasepaint by
· Bert Williams - A Biography of the Pioneer Black Comedian by Eric Ledell Smith
· The Book Of Clown by George Speaight
· Bring On The Clowns by Beryl Hugil
· Clown, My Life In Tatters and Smiles by Emmett Kelly and F. Beverly Kelly
· The Clown In Times (Volumes 1-6) by Bruce Johnson
· Clowns by Douglas Newton
· Clowns by John Towsen
· Clowns Of The Hope - Tradition Keepers and Delight Makers by Barton Wright
· Felix Adler by Anne Aull Bowber
· The Fool and His Scepter by William Willeford
· Fools and Jesters At The
· Greasepaint Matadors - The Unsung Heroes of Rodeo by Jeanne Joy Hatnagle-Taylor
· Grimaldi - King of Clowns by Richard Findlater
· Grock - King of Clowns by Grock
· Here Come The Clowns by
· Jest In Time: A Clown Chronology by Bruce Johnson
· Life's A Lark by Grock
· A Ring, A Horse And A Clown by John H. McConnell
· Russian Clown by Oleg Popov
· The Tramp Tradition by Bruce Johnson
· Hammond, J.
· Woven Gods: Female Clowns and Power in Rotuma (book review)
· Handelman, D., Models and Mirrors: Towards an Anthropology of Public Events 
· Little, K., Clown Performance in the European One-Ring Circus. Culture, 1981. 2(1):61-72.
· Rudlin, J., Commedia Dell'Arte; An Actors Handbook
1. ^ "The Power Clown", Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2005
3. ^ MODELS AND MIRRORS Towards an Anthropology of Public Events. Retrieved on 2006-05-20.
· Shrine Clowns
· Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns.
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