ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Alright! Who's the Clown?

Updated on September 2, 2015

It’s been said, the world loves a clown. But that statement isn’t entirely true. On the popular sitcom Seinfeld, one of the leading characters, Kramer, has an irrational fear of clowns.

The fear of clowns is a real phobia called Coulrophobia and some researchers believe it is more prevalent than once thought.

The term is of relatively recent origin, thought to date from the 1980s and there are even websites dedicated to it. Even so, very little scientific research has been done on the subject.

But at the other end of the spectrum, clowns are common characters at circuses, parties, Halloween and other events. Many have made being a clown into a successful career. Outlandishly costumed clowns perform magic, juggle, make balloon animals and entertain with comical acts.

A stereotypical clown often sports a large, bulbous red nose and wears grossly oversized shoes that look more like gunboats. Their main goal is to make people laugh, with the exception of rodeo clowns who are indispensable in protecting riders from broncos and bulls. It can be a challenging, but rewarding occupation.

Historians have traced the art of clowning back thousands of years. A pygmy clown performed as a jester in the Pharaoh’s court during Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty about 2500 B.C. Court jesters have performed in China since 1818 B.C. In fact, throughout history most cultures have had clowns.

The origin of the word “clown” is uncertain, but thought to be derived from a Scandinavian or Teutonic word for “clod,” meaning a coarse, boorish fellow. Throughout the middle ages there were fools and court jesters.

They were often skilled magicians, musicians, mimics, dancers or acrobats. Early fool costumes usually had a hood with donkey ears and a tail. This identified as an object to be ridiculed, not taken seriously. The hood and tail eventually became a three pointed cap with bells at the ends and became the symbol for jesters.

One of the most famous European court jesters was Nasir Ed Din. One day the king looked in a mirror and began crying when he saw how old he looked. Those present in court at the time decided they better cry as well to mollify him. When the king had dried his tears, everyone else turned off the waterworks as well, except for Nasir Ed Din. When the king asked why he was still crying, he replied, "Sire, you looked at yourself in the mirror but for a moment and you cried. I have to look at you all the time."

Philip Astley is credited with establishing the first English circus in 1768 and also creating the first circus clown character known as Billy Buttons. His comical act was based on a popular tale of a tailor, who was totally inept in the art of horse riding and kept falling off. The act soon became a traditional part of most circus performances for the next century. Variations of the routine are still being performed.

Joseph Grimaldi (1778 - 1837) a theatrical clown, is considered the Father of Modern Clowning. He elevated the whiteface clown to a popular status and starring role replacing Harlequin. He grew up in the theater, designing elaborate tricks and special effects. Grimaldi was also known for his comic songs.

There is a legend about the origin of the Auguste Clown, although it’s doubted by most historians. The legend tells of an American acrobat named Tom Belling performing at a German circus in 1869. Belling was adept at doing comical exaggerated impressions of the show manager by putting on ridiculously oversized clothes.

When the manager caught him in the act one day, Belling took flight, ending up in the circus arena and tripping over the ring curb. Embarrassed, he hurriedly tried to exit the ring and again tripped, much to the audience’s delight. The audience applauded enthusiastically and repeatedly shouted "auguste!" which is German for fool. Thus, the Auguste Clown was born.

The typical modern clown with oversized shoes ruffled collar and painted face originated in Germany after a character known as Pickelherring.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I was just clowning around.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I enjoyed the wonderful historical info on the clown. Voted awesome and up. Great job!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)