Clowns in the Moonlight

A terrifying clown image
A terrifying clown image

The Rise of the Evil Clown

Cole Porter once famously wrote "all the world loves a clown"...but do we?

We live in age of smashed illusions. Iconic emblems, once beacons of respect and tradition have been exposed and found wanting. From the Royal Family to the priesthood, a veil of awe has been ripped away and the stark humanity behind is now all too visible. Could it be that modern audiences are too cynical to take anything at face value any more…even the seemingly innocuous vision of a clown? Over the past few decades there has been a steady growth in the public perception of the clown as an object of menace and suspicion.

While associations of clowns with creepiness may not be a recent concept, what is new is the way the evil clown has become popularised. There can be little doubt that the bad clown is now firmly entrenched as a cultural icon. There’s even a new word, coulrophobia, invented in the 1990’s, to describe a fear of clowns. It seems people everywhere are coming out of the closet with their secret horror of clowns. Distorted versions of the classic circus clown now appear widely in popular culture, from cartoons such as The Simpsons ascerbic Krusty the Clown to horror rap duo, Insane Clown Posse and Stephen Kings terrifying shape-shifting monster Pennywise the Clown from the horror novel IT. In the modern visual lexicon there are few visions as disturbing as a clown gone bad.

Where has this new cultural shift come from? Prior to Bob Kane’s disturbing clown-like Joker in the Batman series, an evil clown image could scarcely be found. Is it a media driven phenomena or merely an unmasking of a latent phobia? In seeking an answer, there are perhaps three main areas worthy of exploration; the decline of the circus, an underlying psychological aversion to and suspicion of the ‘mask’ and a modern cynicism, manifested by a social attitude of scornful or jaded negativity toward entrenched cultural icons. Partly shaped by popular culture and partly by our own fears, it appears bad clowns are here to stay.

First Macdonalds commercial. Note the evil clown. (Poor quality)

The Degradation of the Big Top

The traditional circus is no longer in vogue. Once emblematic of optimism, fun and entertainment it now carries an air of shabbiness and decay. By association, some of this negativity may reflect on the image of the clown. The 1950’s were probably the last heyday of the great travelling shows when the trapeze was in full flight and clowns were emblematic of fun and positivism and enjoyed widespread popularity. The MacDonald’s Corporation launched its hamburger chain television commercials in 1963 with Ronald MacDonald, the world’s most recognizable clown [played by Willard Scott of Bozo the clown fame]. Since then there has been a slow decline in the popularity of the circus, in large part due to competition from a diverse range of entertainment along with a growing public aversion toward animal acts, once a mainstay of the circus.

Mr Jolly and Mr Jelly, from the BBC series 'Psychoville'
Mr Jolly and Mr Jelly, from the BBC series 'Psychoville'

A hundred years ago almost all clowns worked in the circus. With the decline of the circus, clowns have lost their natural home and have been cast adrift, left to appear occasionally as children’s entertainers at fetes, parties or as an adjunct to advertising campaigns. Yet even here the clown is losing popular ground. Popular media representations of the evil clown have influenced public perception. For example, there is an episode of The Simpsons where Homer builds Bart a “clown bed”-- a bizarre, garish construction with a clown’s face for a bedhead. Scary enough, but when night falls, shadows play upon the bedhead and the clown becomes a terrifying and nightmarish image. A clown outside its performance context can appear odd and menacing. As actor Lon Chaney once said, “ there is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight”.

Like carnivals and gypsy caravans, the circus has long carried the mythology of the outsider . It is often perceived as a world unto itself, possessing the faint whiff of seediness and the bizarre. Circus people were seen as a strange, nomadic tribe of acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns and itinerant workers, belonging to nowhere in particular. The old cliché “run away to join the circus’ was suggestive of escapism—a departure from the weight and responsibilities of reality and normality.

Sadly, the veneer of show biz glamour the circus may have once possessed has eroded and it is now regarded as a quaint anachronism rather than a compelling source of entertainment. Although it still survives in its various guises, in some cases given new life by a new formula [Circus Oz for example], as popular entertainment, it has in large part lost both its status and its commercial cachet.

The circus then, and by association the clown, is increasingly perceived as a phenomenum of the past, in danger of irrelevancy and thus obsoletism. However in the case of the clown, there may not be a danger of dissappearance so much as morphing into a new, less amiable identity. The strong visual cues of the clown image seem now to ellicit an alienating, rather than an amused response, from children.

The Clown and His Mask

There are few clowns who would deliberately sport a mask of evil. Rather, the evil motif is something dreamt up independently of real working performers. A clown’s make-up is his trademark, subject to copyright and depending on the act, can range in expression from the pathos of melancholy, through to mischievous, grimacing or exaggeratedly happy.

Modern images of classic clowns can be traced partly back to the 16th century Italian Comedia del'Arte , an improvisational theatre group which created clown characters such as Arlecchinno [or Harlequin]. The figures of the Comedia del’Arte, though comical, and sometimes grotesque in style [often based on carnival masks], were also oddly elegant and lacked the garishness and obvious clumsiness of modern clowns.

Apart from the Comedia del’Arte influence, classic modern clowns, of which the evil clown is a distortion, developed from three main types emerging in the late 18th, early 20th centurty; Whitefaced, based on the French Pierrot a nd specialising in dexterous juggling and acrobatics, Auguste, exaggerated both in features and clumsiness and the American sad tramp/happy hobo, exhibiting pathos or mirth.

There are of course some famous clown performers who developed an individual style, such as Harpo Marx and Charlie Chaplin. However, neither of these figures inspired the same fear as the classic clown, perhaps because they didn’t rely upon a stylised, mask-like makeup to convey their characterisations. Evil clown representations appear to be confined mainly to the distortion of emblematic circus clowns, which are easily identifiable. Clown types present the audience with a mask of false emotion.

Some psychologists suggest that clown features are too extreme to instill comfort. “Because reading facial expressions has long been a key to survival, our inability to discern a clown's expressions (and true intentions) underneath the accoutrements raises automatic suspicions” [Psychology Today Magazine]. This can be particularly true if a clown is encountered out of context. At a circus or carnival the intentions of a clown are more easily understood—he is there to entertain, to play the fool, according to type. A clown cannot be easily read beyond his performance value—the impression becomes that of an impenetrable mask.

In his essay The Uncanny , Sigmund Freud discussed the emotional motivations behind that which elicits creeping horror or dread; "the uncanny is that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar". The clown is familiarly human and yet is in some aspect inhuman or a grotesque parody of human. He is “ the familiar made strange”. In appearance he is absurd and distorted and in action he represents disorder, creating mayhem and violating taboos …and yet he is us . From a Freudian perspective, coulrophobia or a feeling of 'uncanniness' towards clowns, stems not from the alien, but from the deeply familiar, rendered alien, thus posing a threat to identity and causing a rattling of our repressed and unconscious cage of fears.

A recent study of 255 children aged four to sixteen by the University of Sheffield found that clown images painted on and the walls of a hospital ward were universally disliked by the children, with even the oldest children finding them scary. According to the study, some children perceived the images as ”frightening and unknowable”. The children saw clowns as belonging to another era and felt far more comfortable with more contemporary designs. Nor does a fear of clowns extend only to children. In 2006 the Isle of Wight arts and music festival in Britain abandoned its clown theme because ticket holders were apparently afraid of clowns. At present, there seems to be an almost schizophrenic relationship between clown and audience; that of the traditional fun entertainer and the newer ‘evil’ motif, with the latter rapidly gaining ground as the predominant paradigm.

A Cynical World: Suspicious Minds

The American Heritage dictionary describes modern cynicism [as opposed to the ancient Greek version] as: an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others . Certainly it does seem that few things are taken at face value anymore, at least in the Western consciousness. There is a generalised suspicion and distrust of entrenched institutions like government, the church, media and at least a questioning, if not mocking, of past values and practices. Whether this apparent cynicism is due to a developing psychological sophistication or merely a greater emphasis on self-interest or some other factor, is unclear, but there is an evident need to scratch under the surface of the matter. People are more inclined to wonder about hidden agendas and look around for the sub-text.

As entertainment, the average clown act is relatively unsophisticated. It relies upon slapstick antics and visual gags and may have become too childish for modern tastes, which are being met by ever more complex modes of amusement. We may simply have outgrown the old fashioned version of the clown. On top of this, as a profession, clowning is no longer lucrative, [except perhaps for those few enterprising enough to capitalize on the evil clown vogue]. It is, in general, low status and low paid.

The question then arises…who would want to be a clown? The stock answer, to make people laugh, is not entirely accepted at face value. Rather there is a lurking suspicion that behind every clown is a middle-aged man with problems. Of course this is largely a media generated image and not necessarily a true representation of clowning at all. Yet it has stuck. So much so that the whole profession is now shrouded in a growing climate of coulrophobia. Clowns have a PR problem.

Criminal Clowns

In the last few decades there have been some isolated but heavily hyped crimes that have provided some meaty grist for the evil clown mill. Foremost among these is the high profile case of John Wayne Gacy, also known as Killer Clown . During a three-year-period in the 1970s, Gacy tortured, raped and murdered more than thirty young men. Until this discovery Gacy had been lauded as a community conscious, generous man who often dressed as a clown to entertain children at local hospitals. During his fourteen years on death row, Gacy produced several oil paintings, many of them disturbing clown portraits. While John Wayne Gacy may not have single-handedly ushered in the evil clown era, his story did perhaps confirm everyone’s worst fears about clowns. Not long after, Stephen King published his enormously successful book IT, which featured a terrifying clown called Pennywise who lived underground and accessed children for evil intent through a system of drains. This further played into a danger–beneath-the-surface meets clowns-with-a-hidden-agenda theme.

Australia too, has not been without its clown scandals. Former Peter’s Ice-cream representative and childrens entertainer Jack Perry , aka Zig , of 1960’s Zig and Zag fame, was compelled to stand down from a 1999 Moomba festival after it emerged he had pleaded guilty to a charge of raping his granddaughter. Clowns were fast gaining a reputation in the media for suspect intent, rivalled only by Catholic priests. More recently, the Internet has spawned a plethora of evil clown websites, further cementing the bad clown meme in cultural folklore.

Images of malevolent clowns are now so commonplace they may soon lose their shock value, if they haven't already. Those sublimated clown fears, which may have been hovering around the substrata of human consciousness have been exposed and turned inside out. Most evil clown imagery lacks all subtlety and belongs in the camp, horror/schlock genre, generating more amusement than terror. While it seems very unlikely this transmutation of clowns from good to bad will ever be complete, it has nonetheless left its mark on our perception and had some significant ramificarions for clowning as a profession.

The future of the classic circus clown is uncertain but in all probability the clown motif will retain it’s split personality and become a widespread and colourful metaphor for good and evil. True clowns will survive the barrage and don’t require gesso and bootblack to define them. Charlie Chaplin, Harpo Marx, and Mr.Bean are all clownish perfomers whose act transcends these superficial cultural markers of what it means to be a clown. The fool in comedy will remain with us, because, although all the world may not love a clown.... we do like to see our flaws and foibles through a humourous lens. It helps us cope...


Berger, Peter Ludwig. Redeeming Laughter : The Comic Dimension of Human Experience (1997)

Bellinger, Martha Fletcher. A Short History of the Drama . New York: Henry Holt and Company (1927)

Bruce Fife, Tony Blanco, Steve Kissell, Bruce Johnson, Ralph Dewey, Ed Harris, Hal Diamond, Jack Wiley, Lee Gene . Creative Clowning, (London, Piccadilly,1992)

Carlin, Flora. Psychology Today Magazine , Jul/Aug 2006, Article ID: 4184

Ryman, Glen. Issues in Contemporary Circus. Master of Arts Thesis (Drama), Queensland University (1995)

Freud, Sigmund. The Uncanny . [Penguin, 2003]

Willeford, William. The Fool and His Sceptre: A Study in Clowns and Jesters and Their Audience (London: Edward Arnold, 1969)

Dr. Penny Curtis, SPACE TO CARE: Children's Perceptions of Spatial Aspects of Hospitals. Research Report. University of Sheffield Ref.No.000-27-0765, Page 19Web Resources

Crime Library. HYPERLINK ""

“Diamond” Jim Parker. Clown Alley. HYPERLINK ""

Arlecchino...'the fool'
Arlecchino...'the fool'

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Comments 28 comments

Freya Cesare profile image

Freya Cesare 6 years ago from Borneo Island, Indonesia

Wow! You dig so deep in this subject.

I hate clown. I never think there is something cute with his mask. And yes, inability to reading clown facial expression and the intention behind it make him become more creepy. Maybe it is true evil clown brought bad image for clown in general, but I don't think it is the reason a 3 years old baby crying while seeing Clown, but simply because his face indeed scary to look at.

Well done, Jane. Thank you for good read. ^_^

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks Freya..I really appreciate the comments.

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

I did some clowning ages ago in college. The clown is extreme as you say and childlike. The clown in essence is the ID breaking away and taking over. The ID is at the heart of our ability to create. The ID is also unfortunately at the heart of our ability to destroy. It is a primal force for either good or evil. The Italians in Venice during Carnevale possibly understand this best. Yes the clown goes way back.

How we create the clown because the clown is recreated every time the mask or the makeup is applied and the person goes into that identity says a lot about our society. Maybe we expect the evil clown because the evil clown is more reflective of what we can expect from human nature. Perhaps the overly commercialization of the clown as pointed out by you with the burger chain has created a cynicism that makes the bad clown feel good to us.

Images of clowning go way, way back to pre-Christian times in Europe. There is Punch and Judy. These bizarre characters that are now best remembered as a child's puppet show date back to masked ceremonies with unpleasant leanings such as human sacrifice.

There are also clowns created by famous writers such as Shakespeare's Falstaff. He was and is an over the top braggart,liar and yet strangely lovable in the fact that we the audience see through his antics and know him as the flawed human being he is. He wears the masks of daring-do and heroism and respectability but not too well. We easily reject him but he is still one of us. He is still very human. Even his name says something about him. Falstaff translates easily as False Staff.

Yes the days of the circus are pretty much over and there has been fallout from this on the image of the clown as you say. How animals are treated and trained for and in the circus has come under scrutiny over the last couple of decades by animal liberationists adding more problems to a place that was designed to travel and be fun and exciting. This also I am sure reflects badly back on the clown.

I can't say I hate clowns. I just wish there was more of a balance nowadays between the good clown and the evil one. Yes you are right about Gacy being a really good advertisement for why the clown should go away forever.

Mr. Bean is a simplified version of the clown we can all recognize and enjoy. I prefer Harpo Marx who through his clowning helped to bring Russia in touch with the West. He went over to Russia at a time when the Cold war was still on and the West was only just beginning to make overtures of peace with the then Soviet Union. Harpo and his brothers were great clowns but they were also great humanitarians as well. The Marx brothers come from a Jewish Russian background and grew up in New York. Going to Russia as an entertainer and a spokesman for peace was then really something. Good clown.

Charlie Chaplain made me laugh when I was a kid and for that I am grateful. Modern Times made me think and for that I am also grateful. Good clown.

I am pleased you mentioned Mr.Bean, Charlie Chaplain and Harpo.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

What a great contribution Rod..thanks so much. Punch and Judy and Falstaff are great examples. Harpo is great...I read his biography, but then, I love all the Marx Bros. They were so full of energy and mayhem. "Duck Soup" is just fantastic.

I don't really hate clowns either but I have always found them slightly the made-up mask kind.I suppose a lot of people do, which is how the evil clown motif gained its momentum .

Have you been watching Psychoville on ABC on wed. nights? Lol...Mr Jelly is something else.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

You are very welcome.

Duck Soup is pretty good, yes.

No I haven't been watching Psychoville. I work when it is on but I will eventually get it out on DVD. I would rather do that than jump into the middle of an episode and try to make sense of it. Looks interesting.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

I just realised, I used *great* three times in a row in that post. I've really gotta reign in my adjectives.

Psychoville is interesting..[I'll refrain from saying 'great']...definitely right out there.

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Probably the most heroic clown of modern times is THE CROW. He started off as a comic book character who graduated to the big screen for a couple of movies and then to the small screen for a television show. A man is murdered and his soul cannot rest so he comes back to the land of the living as an avenger, a righter of wrongs. When he is shot up or faces other dramatic moments his face changes and so does his personality. Grease paint appears on his countenance together with other stage make-up we might connect with clowns and clowning. He is dark and not very jolly but certainly no evil clown though he might someday be turned in that direction. The band he heads is known as Killing Joke. Another possibility for the clown that has been realized.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Yes that's an interesting one Rod. I'm not familiar with The Crow but I googled some images and he's definitely clown-like...a very serious looking you say not very jolly. A reworking of the sad/tragic clown?

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Yes a reworking of the sad/tragic clown but not quite in the Pagliacci mold though music is involved. I guess I know more about clowns and clowning than I thought. Maybe we all do.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Maybe..but since your contributions, I'm thinking now I know less than I thought!

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

I have been working with masks and therefore the idea of clowning for a long time now. In my current project I am looking at Venice during Carnevale. A time of mask and magic and the harlequin.

Nothing at all wrong with your article. You did a very good job. Mind you I have seen books thick enough to choke a horse on the subject of the clown and clowning so please don't feel put off.

I'll finish by welcoming you to my nightmare and mentioning Alice Cooper.

I guess clowns and clowning and clown make-up are everywhere in our culture and are not likely to disappear overnight.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Alice Cooper..yes. These clowns keep popping up.

The Carnevale clowns were a lot more elegant, and aesthetic than the clumsy Bozo version...and more you say "a time of mask and magic". Thanks again Rod for you input.

Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago

Or maybe it's not Ellen Burstyn. Maybe it's Louise Fletcher. Not as Nurse Ratched, though. She was in The Exorcist II. I guess you just make me think Catholic. Maybe you remind me of the Virgin Mary. ;)

Okay, clowns. This is a great hub, pardner. Good work. This turn of phrase particularly cracked me up: "a bizarre, garish construction with a clown’s face." I have to track down that episode.

It's interesting that the study found every child to be distrustful of clowns. I'm only 26 and I remember liking clowns as a kid. There were more clown characters on TV in the '80s. Mr. Dress-Up had a clown puppet. And there was a cartoon called The Little Clowns. I guess if kids aren't familiar with clowns as fun things, they're frightening.

A friend of mine is frightened of clowns. She told me it's the masked face that really gets to her. I dunno. I still like them. I even find clown girls hot. Like Giulietta Masina in La Strada. Or this chick, . Yeah. And believe it or not, there's a clownporn movie.

On a more philosophical level, 'cause I don't just want to smear your hub with clownporn: is it really cynical to be distrustful of clowns when there's no good reason, i.e. no institution to invite one, to be a clown anymore?

Later alligator!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hahaha...the Virgin Mary now?!! ...please, stop transferring your freudian/Catholic fantasies onto me. Next you'll be telling me I remind you of your mother...

A clown has to be male to be creepy...and preferably middle-aged, with a truckload of baggage and a bottle of bourbon sticking out of his left pocket.

Unlike you, as a child I did find them a bit disturbing, but then I used to be suspicious of Santa too....beware of men in masks. Maybe I've got a repressed memory in there somewhere.

Thanks for commenting...I always love your responses.

Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago

hehe Your fingers type "please, stop" but your eyes are saying, "please, more!"

Speaking of moms, my next hub will be on that subject. Sort of. Stay tuned.

The clown I don't get is the birthday clown. They usually are boozy, middle-aged men with baggage. Why would anyone want to invite this stranger in facepaint into their own home to hang around their children? Mr.Touchy's balloon snake.

“To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.” - Jack Handey

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Haha..I love the Jack Handey quote.

You're so right about birthday clowns, but then why do parents drag their kids along to sit on Santa's knee...? Hmm.

Check out Mr. Jelly...the perfect example:

I'll look forward to the 'mom' hub...[hope it's not going to focus on mammary glands!]

Oh...and don't believe my eyes, they're compulsive liars...

epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

I could live in your hub space - how much are you charging for rent? My mind is so engaged and enlightened - and you are truly a renaissance woman!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Lol epigramman...thankyou, but you'd better tone down the praise or people will be thinking you're my sock puppet!

Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago

lol thanks for the clip. That guy makes Krusty look cheerful. Strangely, though, I have to admit I'm really keen on seeing his 100 Hands act. Sounds hilarious. If I had children and they annoyed me, I'd consider inflicting Mr. Jelly on them.

Toodles, poodle!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

If you really want to see some of his hands go to his website and scroll down the bottom...there's really only 16.

If you click on 'book me' you wont get what you expected...but you'd have to watch the series to understand....hahaha

Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago

haha have you seen the "Joke Generator" on Mr. Jolly's site? It's hilarious. And his balloon model of hemorrhoids--that's pure art, that is.

I have to find some episodes of this show online.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Not to mention the "reproductive organs"..haha..yes it's too funny.

outdoorsguy profile image

outdoorsguy 6 years ago from Tenn

okay so im guessing that dressing as a clown for a romantic evening is not a good thing.. and here I thought the red nose and floppy shoes were sexy. sigh.....

that said Excellent hub.. really well written. Funny thing I worked a traveling circus for a year. loved every minute of it. though the clowns were a bit stand offish LOL.

the only clown image that every gave me the willies was from a movie were three psychos escaped a mental hospital, stole clown costumes from a circues to escape the cops and followed a boy home who had seen them do it.

once home in the dark the boy looks out the window and there standing under some trees in moonlight are three clowns not moving just watching.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

The movie does sound scary. That was a terrific comment outdoorsguy. I'm fascinated that you worked in the circus and it's interesting that the clowns were standoffish. Self-protective maybe? I read your bio and it seems you've had a very interesting life so far.. I bet you've got some tales to tell.

And no...haha, red noses for a romantic evening aren't recommended, except in exceptional circumstances!

pateye 5 years ago

For me I think the Joker started. The phobia of clowns......think killer punch lines dying laughing....without Batman people may go really berserk over this fear....solution :fight off this crazy phobia as Batman.or Robin .....hey even catwoman.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Extremely well done Miss Jane, I think once the general public gets a notion (e.g. Vampires) there is a natural evolution of the concept. Stephen King has the knack of taking a perfectly normal facet of society and finding its potential for horror.

It's only a matter time before one of those big animal costumed folk at Disneyland and other venues becomes a crazed killer in a King-like yarn and there goes the amusement parks.

Nice to meet you Jane, you raise the bar. =:)

Q-Po 4 years ago

I just read this for the first time, and I really appreciate that this wasn't just a "slam" against clowning in general--I really hate that. I am actually "new" at clowning part-time, and I have given a lot of thought to this subject.

I personally think part of the problem is proximity. White-faced clowns designed their makeup to have their facial expressions seen more easily over distance. With the advent of TV and movies, faces of comedic performers could easily be brought up close, so there was less need of makeup to enhance the features and expressions. When you push someone's distance-desgined face up close, it does look extremely out-of-proportion and unusual. This is even true of other non-clown theatrical makeup.

Also, the best white-faced mask designs are very simplistic. Even someone as exaggerated as Bozo still had a simple over-all look to his face. Auguste clowns had bizarre faces, mostly because they were representing supporting roles in clown acts, and were supposed to focus on one main expression, instead of a whole range of expressions.

Another area, I believe, is what was mentioned earlier about ones upbringing. All children are afraid of foreign, unrecognizable things. The parents are the ones who instill confidence or fear into a situation that a child is experiencing. Young children are frequently terrified by their absolutely favorite character when it is a costume on a person, whether they know the person or not, unless they have been exposed and prepared in advance by their parents.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 4 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Q-Po, Thanks for's good to get the perspective of a real clown, or a clown-in-training. You make some excellent and interesting points about the white make-up and I agree, its too theatrical and not designed for close-ups.

Even when parents do prepare their kids for characters in costume, it can still be scary. As a child, I was terrified of meeting Father Christmas up close at a department store, even though I loved the idea of him.

I'm also glad to hear clowns are still alive and well. I'd hate to see them disappear.

Thanks again for the great contribution

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