One of the world’s first clowns was Joseph Grimaldi. You can pay tribute to him by dancing on his London gravesite. No joke – musical tiles were installed over his grave so when you dance on it, “Hot Codlins” plays – a tune the clown was known for!
Clowns can be both fascinating and horrifying depending on who is viewing them. The idea of a clown, meaning “rustic fool” in zanni, has been around since the times of the Egyptians, perhaps even earlier than that. Professional jestors, or fools, these entertainers brought joy to prince and peasants alike. The image we associate with clowns today – crazy outfits, white face, colorful wigs – really only came about in the early 1800s when Joseph Grimaldi begain to build up the characteristics of the modern clown. Throughout the 19th century circuses and schools alike tweaked their versions of the comedic foil and the image of the clown evolved into our Ronald McDonald’s and Bozos.
While the profession of clowning has the sole intention of entertaining the masses and bringing joy to people, clowns have caught a bad rap in recent years. This is mostly due to mainstream horror films such as Stephen King’s “IT” and “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” casting them in more vicious roles. Not helping the image any was notorious serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, who spent many hours as a clown alter-ego. Add onto this, the pop up occurrences around the world of groups dressing like clowns to intimidate people or create chaos and you can understand why some fear them.
Mostly, the fear is influenced by observation alone. If you see something in the media that is portrayed as harmful, you may begin to fear it. For instance, when “Jaws” came out, people were afraid to swim in the ocean, even though they had never even encountered a shark in their lifetime. It’s a simple avoidance of what you think might hurt you but bad occurrences are unusually rare and often baseless.
In the end, love ’em or fear ’em, our fascination with these jovial characters will never fade.
Conversation Ice Breaker Factoid: Clowns have their own lingo such as: clown alley – a place backstage where clowns dress and store props, boss clown – the main clown, carpet clown – the clown who begins his performance from the audience, first of may – a novice and truper – a seasoned vet.