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A day in the life of a clown

On the art form that gave us Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean


Published: 27 Aug 2021

Time taken : ~10mins

What do clowns say about us? Why do we need clowns? Four clowns tackle the difficult questions about their purpose, existence and value to society.


About the four types of clowns

The true OG: Joey aka the white face clown

While the history of clowns can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece and Egypt, most modern clowns developed out of European theatrical traditions, namely pantomimes and the Italian commedia dell'arte (comedy of the profession). Joseph Grimaldi, an influential English performer during the 1800s, is often credited as the father of modern clowning. He helped to expand the role of the clown in British pantomimes, creating and popularising the signature white face make-up used by most clowns today. Grimaldi was given the nickname ‘Joey’, which is still used today to refer to white face clowns.

The iconic red nose: Auguste clown

Named after the German slang word for buffoon, the Auguste clown is often seen as the foil to the Joey clown, known for their slapstick tricks and performance. While the Joey clown is often in pristine clothing and characterised by confidence and wit, the Auguste clown is an unrefined and clumsy character with exaggerated make-up and oversized clothing. Their identifiable red nose, paired with their make-up and clothing, help to portray their silly and hapless nature. 

The funny and sad: Tramp clown

Originating from the USA, the Tramp clown is said to be modelled after the hobos along the railroads of North America during the Great Depression. While tramp clowns can be either happy or sad, they are generally characterised by frowns and unhappy face presented through make-up, alongside patchy and dirt-covered costumes. Off shoots of the tramp clown include the hobo clown and its female counterpart, the bag lady.

The all-in-one: Character clown

Arguably the broadest category, a character clown simply refers to any clown which takes on an eccentric character, parodying human roles, occupations, or stereotypes. In contemporary popular media, the personas of Charlie Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Sacha Baren Cohen (Borat) can all be considered character clowns. The highlight of these clowns are how they parody specific characters through behaviours, make-up and costuming. 

Performing credits

Joey clown: Catherine Ho
Auguste clown: Sandeep Yadav
Tramp clown: Tan Weiying
Safe-distancing character clown: Wendy Toh

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