The Art Of Clowning

The Art Of Clowning

Why clown's aren't bad and shouldn't be portrayed as such.

Recently a new fear has swept across the United States, clowns. People being scared of clowns is nothing new, but not for the reasons you might expect. These days the world clown is associated with nightmarish psychopaths wielding axes or master villains plotting against Bat Man. This new and frightening stereotype has defiled a noble and complex art form. Many people wouldn't consider it that, but professional clowning evokes many elements of drama, illusion, acrobatics, and other forms of entertainment. To assume that being a clown is easy is to assume that being an actor is easy (and believe me it's not). Yet we as a society have demonized these lovable characters.

It's easy to forgive a child for being scared of clowns at the outset, but this is more of the clown's fault than the child's. Many amateur clowns in hopes of being the most outlandish and zany character in the ring and thus tend to go overboard with their makeup and costume. If you stick a pasty white face, with glaring green lined eyes, and a red mouth stretched all the way to the jaw in a kid's personal space with a blazing orange wig what else can you expect but traumatize that poor kid? This is why more experienced clowns go light on the makeup, using slightly milder colors to bring out their goofy smiles, and brighten their eyes.

From this simple mistake has grown the modern obsession of creeps dressing up as monsterized clowns and spreading mayhem on the public. This to me is an insult to the art and only serves to feed the general ignorance of the complexities of true clowning. There is so much more to this band of bozos than freaking out innocent trick or treaters and freaks putting on obscene gore filled horror attractions.

There are many types and variations of clowns. These variations depend largely on the culture the clown comes from. In this article, I will be focusing primarily on the western variations as seen in circuses in Europe, and the Americas.

The Classic

The Classic or 'white face' clown tends to put on more artistic performances. These clowns go all the way back to renaissance Europe and would travel with performing companies across the continent as a central part in Commedia dell'Arte. Because of language barriers, these clowns would often be mute or portray their character through simple sounds that indicated the character's personality, mood, or profession. The classic clown has evolved since then but the concept remains largely unchanged.

As the name implies these clowns have their face painted entirely white with accents of red and black to exaggerate facial features. These exaggerations range from neat and simple to grotesque which makes the classic responsible for many a frightened child.

Costumes for the classic clown tend to be a one piece suit with a neck ruff. These costumes also made use of various flashy materials such as puffballs, sequins, and padding to exaggerate the character's physical appearance.

The Auguste

Auguste clowns are a more modern descendent of the classic. The performances of Auguste are more comedic than the classic style. Auguste clowns make use of slapstick humor, and wild antics and stunts that leave the crowds rolling with laughter.

Unlike the classic clown, the Auguste doesn't paint his entire face. They instead highlight only the facial features around the eyes, nose, mouth, and cheeks, making use of various shades of red, pink, blue and black.

Costumes for the Auguste can consist of any number of clothing articles usually too small or too big for the wearer. These costumes are designed to exaggerate the clown's unique features, features that most people tend to be ashamed of. The beauty of the Auguste costume design is how it embraces these natural differences. For example putting verticle stripes on a tall skinny person will cause them to appear even taller and skinnier while large wide set polka dots make short, fat figures appear even shorter and fatter.

The Hobo

Hobo clowns are personifications of the stereotypical street bum. They are often given the task of cleaning up after other circus performances.

Makeup for Hobo clowns usually features dark shading around the mouth and cheeks to represent a light beard. They also feature white outlining around the eyes and lips with the nose painted red. The makeup can be applied to make the hobo appear sad, bored, or happy.

Costumes for hobo clowns are made up of shabby mismatched clothing articles often featuring patches and pockets. Unlike most clown variations the hobo does not have the privilege of bright colors or flashy patterns.

Character Clowns

There is an ongoing debate as to where character clowns fit in the profession. Character clowns follow the same styles and mannerisms of the Auguste only put in the context of any number of professions such as doctors, firemen, policemen, hair stylists, animal trainers and anything else that can be made fun of through simple application of gags and slapstick.

An interesting member of this group is the rodeo clown who aside from providing an element of comedy to rodeo helps protect rodeo participants from hazardous situations involving angry bulls and horses. Many rodeo clowns also serve as on hand medics should anyone get hurt in the process of riding these animals.

As you can see, clowning is a much more complex art form than is realized. These men and women with the big red noses and rubber chickens are heroes in every sense of the meaning. They serve to remind all of us that we as humans are funny by nature and that our quirks, mistakes, and differences are something to be proud of. To me, the most remarkable aspect of these performers is how seriously they take their art. To be a clown means you have to have a heart big enough to serve an entire audience of people all with different problems and various degrees of humor. It also requires no small amount of magic need to make even tired parents or bewildered teenagers feel like children again. That's why I think it's important to have a bit of clown in all of us and to make it known as much as possible.

Cover Image Credit:

Popular Right Now

College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.

The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:

“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:


When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:

"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Must-See Movies For Your Summer

Check out these movies in theaters soon!


I can't wait till these movies come out. Going to the movies during summer is a great escape from the heat, giving you a few hours in the air conditioning while enjoying a big tub of popcorn.

Here are a few movies to check out this summer when you want to cool down for a little while:

1. "The Lion King"

2. "Aladdin"

3. "The Hustle"

4. "Men in Black: International"

Related Content

Facebook Comments