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Well-known for its comic character of pantomime and circus, a clown makes use of slapstick or any form of physical comedy to give laughter. Clowns are famous for their unique makeup and costume, crazy shenanigans, and graphic humor.
See the fact file below for more information on the clown or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Clown worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The English word clown has an unknown origin, but some say it came from a Scandinavian word related to clumsy.
- It was first recorded in the English language in 1569, as clowne or cloyne, meaning “rusting, boor, peasant”.
- The first known clowns were documented from the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt in 2400 B.C. Clowns also started in ancient Greece as bald-headed figures in a supporting role for mimes and farces (a highly-exaggerated comedy skit), making parodies of humorless characters.
- This type of clown also emerged in the Roman mime, wearing a cone-shaped hat and a particolored costume, receiving all the tricks and abuse of his co-actors.
- Not acknowledged as a professional comic actor, clowns were just parts of the medieval minstrel’s (entertainers) acts.
- It was during the Middle Ages when the clown character started to develop, such as the Enfants san Souci, who specialized in comic drama, and the Italian Commedia dell’arte, who based their characters on the “rustic fool” figures of the ancient Greek and Roman theater.
- Arlecchino (or Harlequin), from the Italian comedy theater, emerged in Europe in the late 16th century. It started as a comic valet, or zany, then transformed into a gymnastic trickster with a black domino mask holding a bat.
- English clowns, William Kempe and Robert Armin, started becoming famous during the 17th century because of their travel to Germany.
- Pickelherring, a popular German clown, wore oversized shoes, waistcoats, hats, and costumes with giant ruffles around his neck.
- Pierot (or Pedrolino), the French clown, introduced the classical whiteface makeup during the late 1800s.
- In 1805, Joseph Grimaldi of England, popularized the present classical features of the clown. He started the typical physical tricks, tumblings, and comical whippings.
- During the 19th century, Philip Astley added these buffoons to his shows, marking the beginning of modern circus clowns.
TYPES OF CLOWNS
- Auguste. A German word for “fool”, an Auguste is the most recognizable modern clown, also known as the “red clown”. Tom Belling Sr. popularized the Auguste (Dummer August) character in 1870, where it was seen acting with the white clown. They are usually distinguished as clumsy, happy clowns with a base makeup color of pink, red, or tan, instead of white. Their costumes have vibrant colors and are frequently too large. The Auguste clown was often a joker or a fool, clever enough when following the instructions given by the white clown or dull enough to commit errors intentionally.
- Blackface. Gaining popularity during the 19th century, blackface is a type of theatrical makeup usually used by non-black performers to portray a black person.It became partly responsible for the circulation of racial stereotypes, such as the “happy-go-lucky dark on the plantation” or the “dandified coon”. In the 20th century, its popularity declined in the United States, and years after, was considered to be offensive, racist, and disrespectful.
- Harlequin. Most popular zanni (comedic servant) from the Italian play, Commedia dell’arte, Harlequin is characterized by its iconic chequered costume with a black domino mask and a bat, portraying a cheerful and tricky slave playing with his master and chasing his lover, Columbina. Its name is from a mischievous devil character in popular French plays. Harlequins have six variations: (1) Trivelino or Trivelin, (2) Truff, Truffaldin, or Truffaldino, (3) Guazzetto, (4) Zaccagnino, (5) Bagatino, and (6) Pedrolino or Pierotto.
- Jester. Also known as the Fool, court Jesters were entertainers during the medieval and Renaissance era whose main purpose was to entertain the monarch and his guests. Sometimes, he would perform for the common people at fairs and markets. During the medieval times, their costumes were vibrant, with eccentric hats in various patterns. Their performances include but were not limited to music, storytelling, acrobatics, juggling, telling jokes, and magic tricks. Jesters sing or recite modern jokes about people or events, usually performed in a comic style.
- Mime Artist. A clown who acts out a story through body motions, without the use of speech. Their mime style makeup ends at the jawline, with their necks uncovered.
- Pierrot. A character from Commedia dell’arte which was portrayed by a sad clown who kept on earning for Columbina’s love but got rejected because she leaves him for Harlequin. He performs with a whitened face without a mask, wearing loose white top with exaggerated buttons and wide white bottoms. He has a naive character, seen as a fool, and is usually a victim of pranks.
- Rodeo Clown. Often in a Tramp or Auguste style makeup, rodeo clowns are performers seen in bull riding competitions. They have a distinct style of makeup – using geometric shapes instead of outlining the performer’s natural features. There are two types of rodeo clowns: barrel clowns (lures bulls into attacking the large metal barrel at the center of the arena) and bullfighters (often seen wearing a denim skirt held up by one suspenders).
- Tramp. Inspired by the hobos and homeless people who rode the rails during the Great Depression, Tramp clowns have white makeup around their eyes and mouth. They paint an artificial beard using grease paint, signifying the coal smoke from the America’s railyards. Tramp clowns wear shredded, ripped, and patched clothes with fingerless gloves, appearing to be either happy or sad. They usually get their butts whipped or their faces wet from a squirting flower.
- Whiteface. Oldest of all clowns, Whiteface has the highest status in the clown hierarchy, leaving no underlying natural skin visible – painting their face, neck, and chest white.
- Character Clown. Exists only in clown tournaments, they usually portray a specific occupation, hobby or an iconic and famous individual, with makeup similar to Whiteface, Auguste, or Tramp clowns.
- Evil Clown. A subversion of comic clowns, popularized by DC Comics character, the Joker, in 1940, and in Stephen King’s 1 986 novel It.
- Joseph Grimaldi. He was one of the greatest English buffoons – he had the most contribution in popularizing the clown character. To honor Grimaldi, today’s clowns are often referred to as “Joeys”.
- John Bill Ricketts. He brought the first modern circus to the United States, specifically in Philadelphia, in 1792.
- Matthew Sully. Known for his song, “Four and Twenty Periwigs”, Sully portrayed a Harlequin, a tumbler, and a singer at Sadler’s Wells Theater in London.
- Jean Baptiste Casmiere Breschard. Since the decline of circuses in the United States, Breschard reintroduced these circus entertainers to America in 1807.
- George L. Fox. Dubbed as the “American Grimaldi”, he was the first great Whiteface clown of the United States, who introduced Grimaldi’s antics to the American stage.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the clown across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Clown worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about a clown, well-known for its comic character of pantomime and circus, who makes use of slapstick or any form of physical comedy to give laughter. Clowns are famous for their unique makeup and costume, crazy shenanigans, and graphic humor.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Clown Facts
- Comical Clowns
- Funny or Not?
- Clown Type
- Clowns in Pop Culture
- Clown Gallery
- Clown Lingo
- Grimaldi the Clown
- It’s My Birthday!
- Charlie Chaplin Comics
- Clown Face
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Link will appear as Clown Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 10, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.