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A clown today is one of various types of performer in the circus and rodeo, normally appearing in makeup, costume (typically large footwear, oversized clothing , bright colors and patterns), wig and fun nose, and enacting humorous sketches, usually in the interludes between major presentations. The clown's humor today is basically visual and includes many elements of slapstick.

Clowning is a very ancient art form, which appears in some way or other in virtually every culture. An early form of clowns was the court jester, a role that can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Though most jesters suffered from some physical deformity and were often the butt of jokes, they were also the only courtiers who enjoyed free speech, and could speak their minds to the monarch. Usually...

Each individual circus clown has the informal right to a costume and makeup that may not be infringed by other clowns. Despite no enforcement through intellectual property laws, this right is always respected, and even extended to individual routines and acts. All clowns (at least in Britain) have their faces painted onto eggshells and no two eggs can be alike.

There are several different types of clowns, including:

  • the traditional clown: with white face, e.g. Joey Grimaldi and Marcel Marceau; also called a Pierrot.
  • the grotesque clown: who uses exaggerated make-up and costumes.
  • the character clown: who adopts the character of some common type, often a policeman or a hobo. Prime examples of this type of clown are Emmett Kelly and Charlie Chaplin
  • The rodeo clown has one of the most dangerous jobs in all of show business. He must protect other performers from bucking horses and charging bulls while also entertaining the audience.

Some famous clowns:

Some other clowns:

Clowns have frequently been portrayed in movies, television, and novels. While clowns are generally believed to delight children, many kids are frightened by their strange appearance and seeming violence. See evil clown.

The word clown comes from words meaning "clot" or "clod" which came also to mean "clumsy fellow", according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

See also: Commedia dell'arte

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